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Staff Picks: Books

It’s Okay to Read

Children’s author/illustrator Todd Parr will be the guest speaker at the 37th Mary Calletto Rife Youth Literature Seminar this year. Parr is the author of many wonderful children’s titles; his whimsical artwork is distinctive, and always makes me smile. His books have positive, reassuring messages about diversity, self-confidence, and acceptance. One of my favorites is It’s Okay to Be Different.

There is a Meet the Author event on Thursday, Nov. 13 at 6:30 pm at the Central Library, for all ages (free event, open to the public). The Youth Literature Seminar is Friday, Nov. 14 at KVCC’s Texas Township Campus, from 9 am - 3:30 pm (registration and fee required). Please check the KPL website for more information.

It's Okay to Read


I Love You Just Enough

On the last day of school, Heather is looking forward to a summer helping her dad on their Hazel Ridge Farm. While pulling weeds in a field, she discovers a fuzzy, helpless, and frightened baby duckling, who somehow was separated from its family.

Heather wants to help the duckling by keeping it warm and well fed. Her dad tells her that “...the hardest thing that you will have to do is not to love him too much”. After explaining these words to his daughter, she replies that “ I think I can love him just enough”.

She calls her young charge Mr. Peet due to his “peet, peet, peet” vocalizations, and puts the little wood duck into an empty fish tank with a towel, heat lamp, and a screen cover. She then begins a daily ritual of scooping up dragonfly larvae, crayfish and other little pond dwellers which she feeds to him. Mr. Peet grows and begins to explore the house and the farm, and in time teaches himself how to fly.

Summer ends and Heather returns to her friends at school, while Mr. Peet finds friends of his own. The now grown duck comes to visit less often and Heather misses him greatly, but tearfully announces that he will be okay, “...because I loved him just enough”.

This book was written by Robbyn van Frankenhuyzen, and beautifully illustrated by her husband Gijsbert, (aka Nick), both of whom actually still live at Hazel Ridge Farm in Michigan. This narrative is a true account of the wild duck fostering experiences of one of their two daughters in the 1980’s. Through this and other stories, (many of which are in the KPL collection), they relate the adventures of wildlife rehabilitation and how they have cared for many injured and orphaned animals over the years.

I Love You Just Enough is a gratifying picture book that is just right for sharing with your children as the leaves turn to their fall colors.

Also, you can visit Hazel Ridge Farm online at www.hazelridgefarm.com.


Words with Wings

Words with Wings by Nikki Grimes is a short story told in poetic verse. The story is about a girl named Gabriella and, although her grade and age aren’t revealed, she’s probably in junior high.  Each page is a poem with a one or two word title that captures a day in the life of Gabriella who was named after the Angel Gabriel.   Her parents are now separated, she has moved to a new school, and Gabriella uses day dreaming as a way to escape life… separation from her father and being the shy new kid in class.  She day dreams when she hears any particular word and her thoughts are carried away on wings.  For example, the word Dragon takes her riding on a dragon across the sky till the sun dives into the sea.  However, both her mother and her teacher, Mr. Spicer, tell her to quit day dreaming.   “Mom names me for a creature with wings, then wonders what makes my thoughts fly.”  When Gabriella finally does stop day dreaming her mom and Mr. Spicer know that she is unhappy.  Will Gabriella ever return to day dreaming?


I like this book because it is an effective poetry story.  It is interesting that Grimes uses two different fonts to categorize the moods of the poems.  Nikki Grimes is an award winning author and this book received a 2014 Coretta Scott King Author Honor Award.  Kalamazoo Public Library owns many books by Nikki Grimes.


Stories without words

My kindergartener and I recently developed a love for wordless stories. In these books, the plot is driven by the pictures and you and/or your child describe what is happening as you turn the pages. KPL has a lot of these...you can find them in our catalog using the subject heading Stories without words. Some absolute FAVORITES are Journey and Quest, part of a trilogy by Aaron Becker. Journey (a Caldecott Honor Book) begins the trilogy with a bored little girl in a big city who draws a door on her wall and is transported to a magical land and kingdom. Quest continues the trilogy as the girl teams up with a boy she met in Journey, showing in great detail the adventures they have rescuing the king whose peaceful land has been overtaken by evildoers. You can read here how Aaron Becker uses 3D modeling to help build the kingdom, and then fills in the details. His work is so detailed that each time we read the story, we discover new things that we missed all the previous readings (and there are many)! The third one in this series can't come soon enough! We also love author/illustrator Gaëtan Dorémus, especially Coyote Run. Some other authors to note in this genre are Beatrice Rodriguez (Fox and Hen trilogy) and Arthur Geisert (Ice and The giant seed).

 


I'm Brave!

Who’s brave? “I’m brave!” So says the storytelling fire truck in this terrific addition to the series that Kate and Jim McMullan have created about tough-talking vehicles. Not only brave, this vehicle has a personality that is ready for fire, smoke, and traffic . . . a worthy companion to the firefighters who are out there every day, keeping us safe. Bring home I’m Brave for your brave preschooler!


My Teacher is a Monster!

Peter Brown authors and illustrates some of the funniest picture books around! His new title this fall is called My Teacher is a Monster! (No, I Am Not.) In the book, Bobby is frustrated with a mildly strict teacher who asks him to "settle down" in class. One day he goes to the park to forget his troubles and his monster of a teacher is sitting on a bench near his favorite spot! This event changes everything and suddenly it seems to Bobby and to Ms. Kirby that everyone one of us can be a monster sometimes.


Rotten Ralph's Rotten Family

I am a fan of the Rotten Ralph books by Jack Gantos and Nicole Rubel. Jack Gantos has created lots of great work over the years including the Joey Pigza books and Dead End in Norvelt, for which he was awarded the Newbery medal in 2012. A common thread in all of Gantos's work is a warmly twisted sense of humor and the Rotten Ralph books are no exception. Ralph is indeed a rotten cat but his owner, Sarah, consistently shows Ralph her unconditional love. In this latest installment, Ralph sneaks back to the farm to be with his family again. Nicole Rubel's illustrations work so well with the Rotten Ralph stories that it's no surprise she and Gantos continue telling stories about Ralph and no surprise that Rubel has an extensive body of work beyond the Rotten Ralph books. Laughs abound in this latest book for newly independent readers from Gantos and Rubel.


Mister Orange

Linus Muller is the third oldest child of a family of six children living in New York City.  When Albie, Linus’s brother, enlists in World War II, Linus takes over as delivery boy at the family’s grocery store.  Linus quickly learns his delivery route and gets acquainted with his customers.  Linus dearly misses Albie, and to comfort himself, he has imaginary conversations with Albie’s created Superhero, Mr. Superspeed, who fights against Evil and the War.


One of Linus’s routine deliveries is a crate of oranges to a man whose name is unpronounceable, hence, Linus nicknames him Mister Orange.  One day Mister Orange tosses an orange to Linus, but he doesn’t catch it and he trips and falls down the stairs.  Mister Orange helps Linus up and into his apartment for first aid.  Linus is amazed to see that Mister Orange has painted his apartment walls white and bright and light and calm and with colored squares and rectangles grouped together or on their own… dancing in strong colors, bright blue, and red, and yellow… the colors of Superman!  Linus loves the paintings on the walls!


Their friendship grows and Mister Orange tells Linus that he likes Boogie-Woogie music. It is new and exciting, the perfect city music, with rhythms changing all the time.  New York City gives Mister Orange new inspiration and energy.


Mister Orange asks about Albie, who is now in Europe on the warfront.   Only three years earlier Mister Orange escaped Europe because he was afraid he would no longer have the freedom to paint, his art was in danger of being banned by the Nazis, he was scared that he would never be able to make more paintings and that no one would ever see them!  Painting was Mister Orange’s way of fighting back, of finding out how things might be better in the future.  He equates winning the war with fighting for the future, a future where people have their freedom and everyone is allowed to say what they believe and have an opinion of their own.  Mister Orange tells Linus that whenever people have their freedom taken away they always fight back and winning the war means making certain that the imagination remains free and that’s the most important thing of all!  He helps Linus understand that Albie is working just as hard for the future as is Mister Orange; Albie is fighting so that Mister Orange can continue to paint and Linus must be proud of Albie who is helping to make the future possible.  When Linus accuses Mister Orange of hiding from everything that’s real, Mister Orange explains that Imagination is a Powerful weapon, Imagination is Real, Imagination is Necessary.  Everything that exists starts with Imagination; it’s the first step in everything that humans have ever made.


Mister Orange’s character is based on Piet Mondrian (1872-1944), a famous painter who fled from the Netherlands to the United States during World War II.  Mondrian’s paintings were completely new, not the familiar and traditional styles.  He used shape, color, rhythm, to give new ideas to people all over the world. 


Kalamazoo Public Library has several Mondrian art books.  If you’re not familiar with his art, then I suggest checking out a Mondrian book. You can also use Google Images Mondrian for a pleasant revelation of his work and the inspirations derived from his art.


New Baby Books

Parents and caregivers often ask KPL staff for "New Baby" or "New Sibling" books. We have lots of great choices and new titles come out every year. Books are a great way to discuss topics with children and having a new sibling is often a pivotal moment in a child's life. We have informational texts and we have stories about new babies. My favorites are the books that don't make as much of a fuss over the newborn baby as they do over that big sister or big brother.
Maple, by Lori Nichols, tells the story of Maple as she becomes friends with her new little sister.
Pecan Pie Baby, by Jacqueline Woodson is another favorite of mine. Gia wonders if her special bond with her mom will change when the new baby arrives.
New babies are just one of many topics on which we can help you find books to share with your children. Let us know what you're looking for next time you stop in!


PARROTS OVER PUERTO RICO

With exceptionally vibrant collage artwork that gives the illustrations an exciting three dimensional effect, and informative yet not over-bearing text , “Parrots Over Puerto Rico” by Susan Roth and Cindy Trumbore is the true story of the bright green and blue feathered parrots who had lived in Puerto Rico for millions of years before they almost became extinct in the last century.

Their history of survival echoes Puerto Rico’s history as well; well before humans even inhabited the island and when hundreds of thousands of these majestic birds thrived in their nesting holes up in the tall trees.

Parrot numbers started to dwindle when people came in droves and hunted them for food, when invader birds and other predatory animals were introduced into the ecosystem, when settlers systematically cut down their forest habitats, and when hurricanes ravaged whatever precious wild nesting spaces remained.

In 1937, most of the over two thousand remaining parrots lived in El Yunque, a mountainous tropical rain forest. By 1967, twenty-four parrots were found in that same rain forest; by 1975, only thirteen remained.

Luckily, people started to notice their precipitous decline. With aid from the U. S. federal government and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the Puerto Rican Parrot Recovery Program was initiated. And now, after many years of effort by determined scientists, the parrot population has started to grow once more. Currently there are 300 birds in two protective aviaries, and over 150 in the wild.

My husband and I  traveled to Puerto Rico in the late 1980’s, and once again three years ago. On our first two visits, the El Yunque rain forest was on our “must see” list. It’s truly a natural treasure. And even though we didn’t see any of the parrots in the trees above us, just the possibility of getting a glimpse of their vivacious plumage was thrilling enough.

This book won the Sibert Medal in 2014, and is a Junior Library Guild selection.