Staff Picks: Books
Staff-recommended reading from the
Bob Graham’s books always catch my eye... his stories are often about the ordinary things that happen in families with young kids and the illustrations have all kinds of interesting things to look at.
In The Silver Button one thing happens: Jodie draws a duck and then her baby brother takes his first step. But what else is happening? Subsequent pages show other parts of the neighborhood and then we realize that myriad things are happening and all at the same time!
This book is a little unusual, but very satisfying.
The Silver Button
Do you ever listen to “StoryCorps” on NPR? Here it Kalamazoo, it airs on Friday mornings and I’m frequently within listening range as I’m getting ready for work. I’ve read several of the books that Dave Isay, the founder of StoryCorp, has put together from transcripts of some of the recordings.
This new one, Ties That Bind: Stories of Love and Gratitude from the First Ten Years of StoryCorps, is a treasure. The very short, very personal stories are all good reminders of how we are connected to each other and how those connections bind us together in so many interesting ways.
Ties That Bind Stories of Love and Gratitude from the First Ten Years of StoryCorps
“A dark night. Fox breaks into the henhouse. He reaches in. He grabs a chicken!!! He stuffs it in his pocket. Fox runs!”
Uh oh. When fox gets home and pulls that chicken out of his pocket he gets a big surprise. Outfoxed has comical illustrations that add a hilarious angle to this picture book.
Although it still feels like summer today, there are some early signs of autumn. A sure sign of changing seasons can always be found in the Children’s Room of nearly any public library.
Here at KPL there are displays of books about back-to-school, apples, pumpkins, and leaves. One that caught my eye is Leaf Jumpers by Carole Gerber with pictures by Leslie Evans. The linoleum-cut illustrations show a variety of leaves, while the graceful words describe colors, shapes, and textures of them.
Come visit your library and see what’s on display today.
I do love the picture books that Lucy Cousins creates! Her stories and illustrations are perfect for toddlers and preschoolers, featuring strong colors, chunky shapes, and concise yet complete storylines.
The latest is Peck, Peck, Peck, a square yellow book with finger-size holes punched through the heavy cover. “Today my daddy said to me, “It’s time you learned to peck a tree.” But once this essential skill is learned, will the little woodpecker stop at trees? I’ll bet you know the answer to that question!
Peck, Peck, Peck
Stories about spunky kids appeal to me. Bean, the narrator of Jeannette Walls’ new novel, The Silver Star, is one of them. When their mother doesn’t return after a short trip, Bean and her older sister Liz decide to get out of town ahead of the busybodies who will think they can’t handle things themselves. They head to Virginia to re-introduce themselves to their Uncle Tinsley, who they haven’t seen since Bean was a baby. Fortunately, trouble doesn’t follow them. Unfortunately, new trouble is waiting. But spunk and guts and a little sass will take you a long way, as Bean and Liz find out.
The Silver Star
Recently I’ve read a couple of very good books about resistance efforts during World War II in several countries. Shirley Hughes, who is best known for her picture books for very young readers, has now written Hero on a Bicycle for older children.
In 1944, 13-year-old Paolo lives in Florence with his mother and sister; their father has quietly disappeared into the mountains. They are quite certain he is working for the resistance, but no one talks about that. Paolo would love to have an adventure; every night he secretly rides his bicycle through the quiet, dark streets of his town. Suddenly, when the possibility of a real adventure comes to him, Paolo has to make a quick decision. Can he become a real hero?
Hero on a Bicycle
Teddy wears a dress shirt, tie, and suit every day; he has two and alternates them. He’s also pretty sure he’s engaged to Mia and shows his love by sometimes connecting their wheelchairs by a bungee cord because he has a power chair and Mia doesn’t. Teddy and Mia are two of the teen residents of the Illinois Learning and Life Skills Center, a state nursing facility now run by a for-profit corporation.
In Good Kings Bad Kings, a novel by Susan Nussbaum, the voices of Teddy, Mia, and other residents and staff of the ILLC use their own words to tell the heartbreaking story of youth in residential care. I dare you to not care.
Good Kings Bad Kings
Hilary McKay is one of my favorite authors (her series that includes Saffy’s Angel is terrific) and now she’s written a couple of stories for kids who are ready to read short chapter books. Lulu and the Dog from the Sea is her newest. Lulu is certain that the stray dog living on the beach just needs a friend . . and it could be her!
Lulu and the Dog from the Sea
Billy Lynn is a 19-year-old soldier from Texas. After he and his squad are declared heroes as the result of a horrific firefight in Iraq, they are brought home for a whirlwind Victory Tour across the country, ending with a special halftime show at a Dallas Cowboys game. Billy’s youth, questions, and observations about the disconnect between his two worlds gives the reader a provocative look at how we perceive our warriors.
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
There’s been a lot of talk in the book world about this teen title: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. This is the summary from the library catalog: “In 1943, a British fighter plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France and the survivor tells a tale of friendship, war, espionage, and great courage as she relates what she must do to survive while keeping secret all that she can.” It’s a complex, poignant, horrific, and deeply moving story, told from the perspectives of two incredible characters.
Code Name Verity
Hannah’s hands have names . . one is Sadie and one is Ratz. Most of the time, her hands are well-behaved, but sometimes they just can’t help being naughty. When 4-year-old Baby Boy is around, it seems like Sadie and Ratz have more trouble than usua, especially when they get close to ears. Sibling rivalry and general mischief-making are seen here, but it’s very interesting how Hannah realizes that Sadie and Ratz need some time out as she struggles to prove that Baby Boy is not always the little darling that he seems. In fact, by the end of the story, we suddenly have two new characters: Colin and Scraps. Hmmm.
Sadie and Ratz
I have to say that fantasy is not my favorite type of story. However, I felt an obligation to read Goblin Secrets, the latest National Book Award winner (youth category) and was surprised at how much I enjoyed this book! Charming goblins, people with gears in their legs, and a really creepy underground railway kept my attention. This fast-moving story by a first-time novelist is worthy of the award!
“Into the world came ten tiny toes, a hundred times sweeter than one could suppose . . .” This book is just so darn cute! The rhythmic text touches on all the milestones of a baby’s life and the collage illustrations show a whole swarm of babies, toddlers, and other little ones in action. What a great gift this would be for a family with their own new Ten Tiny Toes.
Ten Tiny Toes
When Georges moves to a new apartment building, the last thing he expects is that he will become a spy. Not only a spy, but friends with 12-year-old, coffee-drinking Safer, and his sister Candy, home-schooled kids whose parents allowed them to name themselves. Of course, the story involves spying and lying but you’ll need to read Liar and Spy yourself for details. (And don’t miss the interrupting chicken.)
Liar and Spy
Cookbooks are one of my reading weaknesses; the best ones have lovely photos, recipes that are unique but not silly, and are written with an interesting voice.
The Back in the Day Cookbook has all that. It’s cheerful and fun to read . . . and now my “Bake This” list is even longer!
The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook