Staff Picks: Books
Staff-recommended reading from the
I wonder how many times I’ve read this book aloud. Hundreds, at least. I remember the book from my childhood and I’ve since shared it with children at home and at the library.
How is it that a book published in 1941, with illustrations in only one color, is so loved by kids? Those one-color illustrations in Make Way for Ducklings are certainly a big part of the attraction... the ducks are realistic, the perspectives and angles are varied, and there’s a strong feeling of movement and action. But the story is nearly perfect, as well. Words are practical yet poetic, the conversations between Mr. and Mrs. Mallard are wry; Mrs. Mallard, especially, has a bit of attitude that allows for no nonsense from anyone or anything.
If it’s been a while since you’ve spent some time with Robert McCloskey’s ducklings, visit the Children’s Room for a reminder of the power of a picture book.
Make Way for Ducklings
I heard the title story in Karen Russell's collection of short stories read aloud by Joanna Gleason on PRI's Selected Shorts a while back and greatly enjoyed it. Each of Karen Russell's short stories in St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves is surreal and darkly funny, zooming right along in original and unexpected ways. The stories read like somone recounting "the strangest dream" and you're both laughing because it's so funny and otherworldly and you're really kind of glad that it was just a dream. If you like George Saunders you'll probably love Karen Russell, too. Now I'm looking forward to reading Russell's full length novel Swamplandia, a taste of which we get in "Ava Wrestles the Alligator", the first story in St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves.
St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves
What would it be like to always tell the truth about what you were thinking? This is one of the month long experiments A.J. Jacobs reports on in his book My Life as an Experiment. Jacobs made his name trying to live a full year according to the rules in the Bible and writing about it in The Year of Living Biblically. My Life as an Experiment includes details of ten other challenges he gives himself such as: living by the 110 rules George Washington wrote in a notebook, impersonating an actor at the Academy Awards, and my favorite, outsourcing personal tasks to a company in India. In fact, it made me wonder if I could have that same company write my blog post. Jacobs book is a good, funny, simple summer read.
My Life as an Experiment
Recently, I was reading the May/June 2011 issue of The Horn Book Magazine when an editorial caught my eye. Written by Roger Sutton, Editor in Chief for the magazine, the editorial, titled “Who Can We Count On?” raises several very good questions about reading in general, and specifically, about summertime reading by schoolchildren. These questions are certainly ones that teachers, parents, librarians, and other concerned adults should ponder. Here they are, with some of my own added:
• How many books should one read in a given time frame?
• Should we encourage schoolchildren to read?
• Does reading level (of the reader) really matter?
• Should summer reading schoolchildren be provided with incentives for reaching pre-set reading goals? And, who should set these goals?
• What types of incentives should be offered? (books, burgers, bicycles?)
• Should the number of books read count for anything?
As a librarian in a public library who works almost exclusively with children’s reading habits, I find these questions “right on the money” for insuring success in a summertime reading program or club. At the Kalamazoo Public Library, the summertime reading program for kids begins in early to mid-June, and continues until the last weekend in August. Somewhere close to twelve (12) weeks. The Library offers summer games for children ages birth-entering Kindergarten, for children entering 1st-4th grade, for ‘tweens who are entering grades five through seven, and for teens entering grades eight through graduation. (Don’t worry, adults, there’s a game for you, too!) Each of these games offers incentives at intervals along the way. Each of the children’s games encourages reading books at one’s pre-determined level (usually from the Accelerated Reader program in the schools). Each game encourages reading for a minimum of twenty (20) minutes a day, and also allows for reading at one’s level and for being read aloud to.
This year, incentives and games are going to be more “across the board” than they have been in the past. Readers will earn paperback books, tee shirts, stickers, and colorful beads at pre-set intervals.
Should you bring your child/encourage your child to come to the library this summer and read in one of the games? Absolutely! And, don’t forget to read yourself! What better role model than a reading parent?
Roger Sutton’s editorial concludes with this question: “…creating a second home on the floor of the children’s room…”. Won’t you join me this summer and read, read, read?
I was intrigued to hear on NPR this morning that comedian Demetri Martin has a new book out entitled This is a book and when I arrived at work, and checked the KPL catalog, I was pleased to see that KPL already had a copy of the book available for checkout. Fans of Martin's brand of surreal, stream-of-consciousness comedy will see that it transfers to the page very well. I think of Martin as the Stephen Wright of the current generation of comedians, with a similar absurdist approach, but with a much more upbeat and joyful worldview.
This is a book
My daughter and I have been enjoying a little bit longer read alouds for a while now, and are really having fun with the Clementine books by Sara Pennypacker. Clementine is a third grader who notices things her classmates don't. She solves problems (and creates new ones to solve) in unique ways. Clementine is fortunate to have a teacher who understands her unintentionally subversive personality. With occasional illustrations by Marla Frazee, these are truly funny "feel good" short chapter books that adults will enjoy reading aloud.
Part of the reason my kindergartener daughter enjoyed all of the Clementine books is because she's part of that school culture now. Suddenly those wonderful books about negotiating school and home are very relevant. Some of Kevin Henke's picture books are set in this world. I'm thinking especially of Chrysanthemum and Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse. Like the Clementine books, these longer picture books are a direct connect with the very real situations that adults may have forgotten but are urgently important and entertaining for early elementary school aged kids.
So what DO guys like to read? Just ask Jon Scieszka. He knows all about what young guys like to read and has promised them a whole series of books with short stories just for them.
Volume One is called Funny Business (if you know Jon, you know it all starts with humor) and has ten short stories by some of the funniest writers for kids today.
So what’s inside? Homicidal turkeys, kids swimming in chocolate milk, and a school for superheroes. It’s not to be missed! Also not to be missed is Jon’s website www.guysread.com for more great ideas about what Guys Read.
Guys Read: Funny Business