Staff Picks: Books
It’s the first day of
school and Tess and Gus are the first ones at the bus stop. “Is this the bus for us, Gus?” With each vehicle that comes around the
corner, Tess asks this question and it’s answered by Gus, “No, Tess, that’s a
backhoe” (or taxi or dump truck, etc.). With each page turn there’s a new vehicle, new kids join the group and even some animals wander through. Keep
your sharp eyes on the Bus Stop sign, too! If you’ve got kids
heading back to school, The Bus for Us is
the book for you.
I love these picture books by Geoff Waring
that feature Oscar the cat. In each one, concepts like electricity, growing, physics and sound are explained in a way that is informative and engaging for young children. They are the perfect book to share to answer some of those inevitable "why" questions kids come up with and they've worked well in storytime too! The illustrations are delightful and Oscar's curiosity, entertaining. I hope Geoff continues to make more early science books like these!
After the sudden death of their favorite teacher, three
middle schoolers conspire to get everybody to read one of his favorite books, To Kill A Mockingbird, by
misshelving and hiding copies of the classic first in their town and eventually in libraries
and bookstores far and wide. Lucy, Elena, and Michael publicize what they're doing with posters and social media while making the book scarce until their plan takes on a life of its own. Like Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, I Kill the Mockingbird is a fast and witty read that celebrates the love of
books and reading.
I Kill the Mockingbird
Jake and his toddler friends love to go to gymnastics class! They roll, tumble, stretch and bend.
The kids shown in Rachel Isadora’s illustrations are so darn sweet and their sense of joy and accomplishment is clear.
Introduce your toddler to Jake at Gymnastics and then be prepared to show your own moves!
Jake at Gymnastics
The Snatchabook is an entertaining rhyming story about a small winged animal who secretly flies into other animals’ homes at night and steals their story books, yes, ALL the story books in the town of Burrow Down. Soon, there are no more stories to read, no more pirates on the seven seas, no more princesses trying to sleep on peas, no more tales of dragons spitting flames. Who is stealing all the books?
A little rabbit named Eliza Brown decides that whoever it is, she’s not scared! She’ll catch the thief! Eliza baits the thief with a pile of books and she waits. When the thief arrives she shouts: “Stop stealing all our books, right now! Just give them back, I don’t care how!”
The Snatchabook hangs his head in shame. “A tear rolled from the creature’s eye, and softly he began to cry.” Then he says: “I know it’s wrong, but can’t you see--I’ve got no one to read to me!” The Snatchabook looked so sad, Eliza realized that if he just had a mom or dad to read him stories every night, then he would behave all right!
They hatched a plan to turn a wrong into a right and the Snatchabook promptly returned all the books. Now, if you take a closer look you might just see the Snatchabook, perched happily on someone’s bed...listening hard to each word said.
This book is a great read-aloud. There is an Educator’s Guide with Common Core Activities at JabberwockyKids.com.
The Snatchabook: Who’s Stealing All The Stories?
Do your kids go to school at MLK Westwood? If so, I am confident that they are reading this summer! This sign made me smile when I saw it:
We are having fun with kids at the library this summer; kids are playing the reading games and earning prizes, they are attending the wide variety of programs that are underway, and we seeing a lot of families spending time at the library. Have we seen you here? Kids need to be reading and writing and thinking all summer long and KPL is the perfect place to help with that. Make sure they have plenty of books and make sure that they see YOU reading, too. Be a good role model for the kids around you and READ!
Lightweight but satisfying, Lending a Paw: A Bookmobile Cat Mystery is the first in a projected series of mystery titles by author Laurie Cass, who resides with her husband and two cats in a small community near Lake Michigan.
What appealed to me right away about this book is that the title contained three of my favorite things: Bookmobiles, mysteries and of course a cat. As readers of my previous posts might have guessed, I’m absolutely crazy fond of any literature that is feline related.
What most of you probably didn’t know is that a while back, (I won’t say exactly how many years ago), I had the great fortune of working on the KPL Bookmobile. This book brought back some great memories - our Bookmobile’s devoted staff, the travels to various stops in our community, and most of all the highly appreciative and personable patrons who frequented those stops.
Another desirable coincidence is that the story takes place in Michigan, in the little, tourist town of Chilson.
The mystery centers around likeable, conscientious and free-spirited Minnie Hamilton. She is deliriously happy about landing a job in her favorite town in the country as the assistant director and head of the bookmobile department; which in translation means that she is both the librarian and the driver.
The bookmobile itself is a persistent thorn in the side of her boss Stephen, who wishes that the vehicle simply didn’t exist. However, it was a recent purchase made possible by a generous donor, one Stan Larabee, and cannot easily be disposed of for quite some time.
Around this time, she also finds a cat. Or is it the other way around? She hopes and assumes the attractive feline already has a home, but Minnie can’t find its owner, so she ends up adopting the animal and naming him Eddie. As it turns out, Eddie plays an integral part in the beginning and at the end of this mystery. He becomes a stowaway on the bookmobile’s maiden voyage and ends up charming all the new patrons, both young and old.
While out on the bookmobile’s rounds one day, the cat escapes its confines, acts a little crazed as if searching for something and subsequently finds a dead man with a bullet hole in his chest. That man turns out to be none other than Stan Larabee, the bookmobile’s magnanimous patron; a man not always loved or respected by his family or the community.
After some of her friends and family are questioned and thought to be possible suspects in connection to the murder, Minnie makes a solemn promise to help find the killer. There are many possible suspects in the case, but one by one Minnie exonerates most of them, and then of course solves the mystery, all with the invaluable assistance of Eddie.
A fast read that has some pleasant comedic undertones thanks to Minnie and Eddie’s very special relationship. Cat lovers will no doubt look forward to the next installment in the series.
I certainly am!
Lending a Paw
Parents, friends and relatives – I know you can relate to this story. Who hasn’t seen a child who has given themselves or a child close to them a haircut and yes it is possibly the worst haircut ever. In-between my professional haircuts, I find myself cutting my own bangs – at best it is a hit or miss job.
What happens in this picture book is that big sister Sadie notices that little sister Eva’s hair is too long, too curly, too big – really just too out of control. So one day Sadie asks Eva if she wants her to cut her hair and surprise -- she does. Sadie wastes no time in getting the scissors and the haircut is done.
When Sadie realizes that there is a pile of hair on the bathroom floor it is bad – but Eva likes it! Eva runs to find Mom and Dad who lose their cool. Sadie realizes she won’t be cutting Eva’s hair again and she has to have a consequence. Eva has to get a real haircut. Not unlike when my hairdresser tells me she can cut my bangs in between my regular cut – hum maybe I should hide the scissors – Sadie’s parents are putting theirs where she can’t find them.
Eva and Sadie and the Worst Haircut
I’m going camping this summer, and I can’t wait to be outdoors 24/7 for a few days. If, like me, camping is in you and your family’s future this summer, take advantage of the resources KPL offers as you gather your gear, plan your meals, prep the kids and decide where to go.
We have books about cooking outdoors, camping and wilderness survival skills and stories to help children get over fears of camping and excited about sleeping under the stars. We have plenty of camping directories and even a movie for beginning campers.
Are you a district resident cardholder? You can go to Zinio and read digital magazines like Backpacker or check out shows on Hoopla. (Sign in, click on the Browse page, choose Television, scroll down and find the ‘Travel around the World’ topic.) Find titles such as Ken Burns: The National Parks, and Trekking the World.
What’s your next adventure?
Camping Michigan : a comprehensive guide to public tent and RV campgrounds
Picture books illustrated by Jon J. Muth, like Karen Hesse's Come on, Rain! or Mo Willems's moving City Dog, Country Frog, are favorites of mine. Muth has written and illustrated several lovely picture books featuring Stillwater the panda and friends. The recent picture book release Hi, Koo! is, of course, a book of haiku, and features the little panda bear, Koo, in most of the illustrations. True to form, it is subtitled A Year of Seasons. Though the Summer solstice is very near, Hi, Koo! is a book that gets at universal truths and will please all year 'round.
Come On, Rain! is a picture book about a welcome downpour after a lengthy summer drought in the city. Moms and daughters enjoy the cooling rain after weeks of hot, dry summer weather. It's fun to read about the welcome relief of a summer rain storm whether or not the weather is hot and dry.
Come On, Rain!
It’s okay to be different and this book is about a little crocodile (well, maybe), who has many brothers and sisters with whom he wants to play, but he cannot play with them because they all like to swim and play in the water, but this little crocodile does not like the water. He even saves up his money to buy a swim ring in an attempt to learn to swim, but, it just won’t happen. He gets very cold in the water and he begins to shiver, and then, he sneezes FIRE!
This little crocodile does not like to jump, either. However, he is VERY good at doing other things such as… flying and climbing, and something else that if I reveal it to you will give away the surprise ending! The illustrations by Gemma Merino are uproarious and simply convey the emotions of The Crocodile Who Didn’t Like Water.
The Crocodile Who Didn’t Like Water
When Theodora’s grandfather dies, he leaves her a whispered message and the responsibility to care for her drifty mother, their Brooklyn townhouse, and $463 to hold it all together.
Over the course of this layered story, Theo and her new friend Bodhi work on deciphering the message, which sends them to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Jefferson Market Public Library, the Center for Jewish History.
Under the Egg is an adventure story that gives the reader terrific characters, World War II history, good guys and bad guys, and a lot of wonderful information about art.
Under the Egg
A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd is a delightful book about a quirky, mountain town called Midnight Gulch. Felicity Pickle and her family move "home" to Midnight Gulch where her mother grew up. Felicity and her sister are tired of wandering and hope their family can settle in and stay. As Felicity makes friends and explores, she discovers many secrets about the history of the town's magic and her own family. She may just find that there is still a snicker of magic left in Midnight Gulch.
Natalie Lloyd's debut novel is as enchanting as the picture of ice cream on the cover from Dr. Zook's Dreamery Creamery. She has a beautiful way with words and even seasoned chapter book readers will pick up new expressive vocabulary like "spindiddly" from this book. It's also a great choice for kids who like a non-scary mystery, which is a common request in the Children's Room.
A Snicker of Magic
What's Your Favorite Animal? looks like a new Eric Carle book. And it is. But it's also by Nick Bruel, Lucy Cousins, Susan Jeffers, Steven Kellogg, Tom Lichtenheld, Peter McCarty, Chris Raschka, Peter Sís, Lane Smith, Erin Stead, Rosemary Wells, and Mo Willems. Whew! Each of these Childrens' Lit luminaries expounds in words and pictures on their favorite animal. Many of these two-page spreads will make you laugh out loud. This is a fantastic choice for any fans of these Picture Book power-hitters. I like to read What's Your Favorite Animal? aloud. It's a great way to instigate a discussion about why we like the things we like.
What's Your Favorite Animal?
The arresting photo on the cover of this book caught my eye and I was quickly drawn into the quirky world of George Ohs, who called himself The Mad Potter.
Born in Biloxi, Mississippi in 1871, George Ohs was a largely self-taught potter, making items like no one had ever seen before. It wasn’t until long after his death that the art world came to appreciate what he called his “mud babies.”
The Mad Potter: George E. Ohr, Eccentric Genius tells his fascinating story and is illustrated with intriguing historic photographs.
The Mad Potter
Vacationing on Michigan’s Lower Peninsula’s scenic west coast shoreline is a wonderful choice. More than one hundred years ago Buster Keaton’s family and their vaudeville team vacationed in Bluffton, near Muskegon. Matt Phelan wrote and illustrated a graphic novel titled: Bluffton: My Summers with Buster.
The story, told in remarkable drawings, is about a boy named Henry Harrison who lives in Muskegon year round. Henry hears about the vaudevillians and is captivated by the performers and their animals! He and the young Buster Keaton form a summer friendship and they hang out and play baseball with other kids. When summer ends, kids go back to school, but not for Buster! Buster travels around doing vaudeville acts, then returns to Bluffton the next summer. Bluffton offers a glimpse into the life of one of the world’s most well-known silent screen actors and the few summers he lived on the shores of Lake Michigan.
Go back in time and watch Buster Keaton’s black and white slapstick silent films on KPL’s Hoopla site. It’s accessible directly from the KPL catalog, just enter Buster Keaton in the search field.
Bluffton: My Summers with Buster
Some Bugs written by Angela DiTerlizzi is a new favorite picture book! The rhyming text and the large illustrations make it perfect for storytime and it's a hit with every crowd I read it to, from preschool to first grade! Bugs do all kinds of amazing things and this book shows off those qualities. Full of action words like "buzz, build, make, take", we learn something new about bugs every time we read it. And at the end there is a full spread of bugs with their official names perfect for poring over together after reading this wonderful book! Eeach time we notice something new!
Leo and his mama go to the library every week for Baby Time . . . sharing stories, playing peek-a-boo with scarves, and singing the happy song.
Leo Loves Baby Time is a sweet story, perfectly suited to very young children, with uncluttered illustrations, few words, and a focused plot. If you like this book, also take a look at Lola Loves Stories, which is about Leo’s big sister.
Leo Loves Baby Time
What do you know about “the other Ellis Island?” Between 1910 and 1940, Angel Island was the port of U.S. entry for thousands of Asians seeking a new life in America. Russell Freedman’s new book: Angel Island: Gateway to Gold Mountain tells the story of those who passed through, those who were detained, and those who never made it any further into the U.S. before returning to their country of origin.
Especially poignant are the poems that were carved into and painted on barracks walls: “Nights are long, the pillow cold; who can comfort my solitude? . . . Shouldn’t I just return home and learn to plow the fields?” Discovered by a maintenance worker long after the facility closed, the poems have been preserved and incorporated into the public areas of this National Historic Landmark.
Angel Island: Gateway to Gold Mountain
This is based on a true story. It is World War II and a group of Polish soldiers who are escaping the Germans and Russians by way of Iran purchase a tiny, half-dead orphaned bear cub from a boy. The soldiers name the bear cub Voytek, which means “Smiling Warrior.” Voytek is cared for by Peter and Stanislav and Junusz and Lolek and Pavel… they explain to their sergeant that the bear is their new ‘mascot.’
The soldiers join the British army. The story follows the soldiers and Voytek from camp to camp for five years watching the many different soldiers’ reactions to Voytek. Voytek is a sweet bear. Peter is his keeper and there are a few instances where he aids the soldiers: he carries bombs, he corners a spy, and he entertains. Voytek provides comfort amid the horrors of war. The soldiers have a few other animals: Kaska, a monkey, who rides on the back of a big dog named Stalin and Dottie the Dalmatian.
Soldier Bear has been translated from the Dutch into English by Laura Watkinson. Soldier Bear received the Margaret Bachelder Award, an American Library Association Award given to the most outstanding children’s book originally published in a language other than English in a country other than the United States, and subsequently translated into English for publication in the United States.
Zoe loves cupcakes and she loves princesses, what a combination. She loves making pink cupcakes with sparkles, and she really loves her playhouse where she has tea and cupcakes with her favorite stuffed animals. But of course there is a problem: Zoe’s older brother, Ralph, also loves cupcakes. He wants to eat them and so do all his friends – they want all of the cupcakes and Ralph never asks to eat them he just does! All the cupcakes – GONE.
But the next day, Zoe makes cupcakes and she wishes really hard about being a princess and hopes her wish becomes part of the batter. When she is done baking, frosting and decorating the cupcakes they do look magical. One bite and Zoe realizes they are sweet and sparkly - they are Princess cupcakes and Zoe has become a princess! Her playhouse is now a castle and the tea party is real, her guests (the favorite stuffed animals) can talk. While they are out exploring the magical kingdom the evil Prince Ralph steals the cupcakes, but Zoe plans a special surprise for him. And as the day ends so does the magic.
The next day Zoe works very hard making green cupcakes. Again she wishes very hard for some special magic. When Ralph and his friends rush in for cupcakes something amazing happens. Hum – little green frogs – but Zoe says not to worry – cupcake magic only lasts for a day.
The last page includes the recipe for pink cupcakes and frosting. A fun activity for reader and listener to share after the story ends.
The story and illustrations are just right for a little princess imagination. The cover art with lots of pink, sparkles and a crown on Zoe’s head will surely call to young readers who can never get enough stories about princesses.
Pink Cupcake Magic by Katherine Tegen, illustrated by Kristin Varner
Looking at the illustrations in this picture book, I get some reassurance that we might yet see spring here in Michigan!
A boy in Pakistan competes in Basant, the annual kite festival; whoever captures the most kites becomes “king” for a day.
The story is full of excitement and the artwork adds lovely details, combining to present an exuberant celebration of wind and flight.
King for a Day
Can fruits and vegetables be beautiful? Yes they can! Set in August when's it's "steamy hot", Cheers for a Dozen Ears is a colorfully illustrated counting book that celebrates a family's trip to the farmers' market. This book will make you hungry for fresh tomatoes and beans, watermelons, peaches, and more. I could see using this book to build excitement about visiting the market and the farmers who bring their produce for sale to we lucky consumers here in Kalamazoo. A trip to the market is ripe with opportunities to see text and numbers in action. Why not start with this cozy counting read-along?
Cheers for a Dozen Ears
Isabelle, a young dancer, is the newest girl in the American Girl series. Isabelle by Laurence Yep is the first book in the series, 2 others: Designs by Isabelle and To the Stars, Isabelle have also been published.
The first book, Isabelle, sets up the characters, her family, friends and the setting. Isabelle is excited about starting her first year at the Anna Hart School of the Arts, a prestigious school for the arts in Washington D.C. She can’t help comparing herself to her older sister, Jade, who also attends Anna Hart and is an amazing ballerina. Actually all the kids at Anna Hart are exceptionally talented. Isabelle questions her dance ability and wonders if she can navigate the new school.
As Isabelle prepares with her class for the Fall Festival, she continues to doubt her own ballet ability. What she doesn’t doubt is her desire and sense of style for designing Jade’s and her own costumes for the program. As the Fall Festival draws closer, Jade gives Isabelle some spot on tips for her dancing that allows for her to finally give the performance she has been dreaming of. And Jade and her both have amazing costumes as well. Both Jade and Isabelle are noticed by a professional Director and dancer and are asked to perform in the Nutcracker – a dream come true.
Fans of American Girl will enjoy this new series. The books are fun and read quickly.
It won’t surprise you to learn that Early Bird likes to wake up early. Then she “stands as tall as she can,” and she “takes a deep breath of fresh morning air.” Then we follow her through pages of simple shapes and solid blocks of color as she makes her way to the garden where she finds . . . the Early Worm!
There’s much more to this book than one might expect: strong action words and design elements that support the story line, plus a sweet surprise at the end.
Have you heard of an animal called the tapir, but have little or no idea what it looks like, much less what it’s up to on our fair earth? Well, The Tapir Scientist is just the book to correct this unfortunate state of affairs! With text by Sy Montgomery and photographs by Nic Bishop, it explores the world of this unusual looking creature, whose closest living relatives happen to be the rhinoceros and horse.
The focus is upon the field investigation work of Pati Medici, an animal conservation scientist who is one of the founders of the Institute for Ecological Research in Brazil. It is dedicated to helping endangered animals such as tapirs survive.
The tapir actually existed in prehistoric times and surprisingly, its appearance has not changed much over 12 million years. What has changed is where they live. Once roaming all over Europe, Asia and both North and South America, their natural habitat has shrunk to parts of South and Central America, as well as Southeast Asia. It is South America’s largest mammal, and there are four distinct species all of which are endangered.
Tapirs are rather solitary, nocturnal animals who are difficult to see, much less count, capture, study and track as Pati and her team sets out to do. However, they persevere knowing that their work is crucial, since tapirs play a major role in propagating forest plant life. Being fruit loving herbivores, they eat, digest and then let’s just say “plant” seeds from one area to another. Without them, forests and all the animal life found within may very well disappear.
This book is part of a series by the Montgomery and Bishop team called “Scientists in the Field.” Author Sy Montgomery has taken on many challenges in the past including swimming with piranhas and chasing gorillas among other things. Nic Bishop is a renowned nature photographer. His photos have captured many animals in their full, natural glory. Fun fact: Nic used to live in the Winchell area of Kalamazoo for many years before relocating to New Zealand.
KPL owns a number of titles in the “Scientists in the Field” series, including The Tarantula Scientist, Snake Scientist and Quest for the Tree Kangaroo, as well as a few others. Both author and photographer have won many awards, and their works have been noted as being distinguished examples of the best science books for youth. (Although as an animal loving adult, I too found it to be engaging.)
With it’s lively, information laden text and beautiful pictures, The Tapir Scientist is a wonderful Brazilian animal travelogue!
The Tapir Scientist
Recently, I’ve come across some fascinating non-fiction books for kids. I’ve just finished Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickles, America’s First Black Paratroopers by Tanya Lee Stone.
Full of wonderful photos, this book tells the story of the men who served in the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion out of Fort Benning, Georgia. These soldiers became America’s first black paratroopers and author Tanya Lee Stone uses their story to explore the role of African Americans in the military. This is a great addition to the literature of World War II.
Tanya Lee Stone also wrote Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream, another book that sheds light on a little-known aspect of American history.
Courage Has No Color
Vermont based, veteran children’s book author/illustrator and artist Lizi Boyd’s latest literary effort is a wordless picture book that is deceptively simple. Inside Outside incorporates cool, slightly hidden, die-cut page openings through which readers can catch glimpses of what’s transpired and what is yet to come. This device is used to slyly, yet gently tie in the future and the past to the present, underscoring the continuity of the passage of time.
By means of bright, sharply colored drawings set in a predominantly muted, light brown background, Boyd tells the story of a seemingly self-sufficient young boy doing inside and outside activities over the course of one calendar year. Inside overlaps outside, and outside overlaps inside with each turn of the page, until we come full circle to the initial season once more.
With a collection of animal friends lending a helping wing, paw or claw, the young boy proves that there is no room for boredom no matter what time of year it is. Together they read, make crafts, fly a kite, plant a garden and engage in more activities than I could list here.
This book is great for a “one-on-one” reading session. That way both child and caregiver can pour over the intricate illustrations that show plenty of action both obvious and hidden, and share in the mutual delight brought about by their discovery.
Lizi’s dogs both agree.
From the prolific author of Sarah, Plain and Tall, comes another bittersweet story featuring a young boy named Robbie. Robbie, is an only child; it is summer and his friends Jack and Lizzie are at summer camp. Robert’s parents are musicians who are in the Allegro Quartet. His aloof mother is a violinist and his father is a violist and pianist. They are off on a two month summer tour without Robbie who is staying with his Grandmother Maddy. Maddy and Ellie, his dog, are his two best friends.
Maddy’s house sits on a hill bordered by woods. Maddy’s friends are Henry, who is a doctor and a very good cook. Maddy also has many animal friends who live in the woods, even a bear! One night, Robbie and Maddy camp in a tent on a hill in the starlit woods, but then, Maddy gets hurt! What is he to do?!!! Robbie sends a written message to Henry and stuffs it in Ellie’s collar. Will Ellie find Henry and deliver the message? There is a bear in the woods and Robbie cannot leave his grandma! Read this exciting story and find out!
The Truth of Me: About a Boy, His Grandmother, and a Very Good Dog
Reading a book by Jack Gantos can be a wild and crazy ride, in a good way- you never know what’s coming up next. That’s one of the things I like about his books. He doesn’t talk down to kids, either, or try to sugar coat the world. And he’s funny.
His book for kids and young adults, “Dead End in Norvelt”, won the Newbery Award. Now Gantos has written a sequel, “From Norvelt to Nowhere”. Twelve year old Jack lives in a small Pennsylvania town, with his mom; it’s the Cuban missile era. Jack’s mom arranges for him to accompany slightly mad old Miss Volker to New York City. She’s ostensibly going to pay homage to Eleanor Roosevelt, but Jack and Miss Volker are also on the track of an elusive murderer. And that’s just the start of this road trip story, filled with eccentric characters and lots of action.
From Norvelt to nowhere
This is the Rope is about a young girl finding a rope that later becomes part of an African American family’s journey north to a better life. Jacqueline Woodson does a fantastic job of sharing a migration story through a rope. She transforms a simple rope that tied things on the roof of the car into an essential part of the family’s move. This rope moved to New York City with the grandparents and then to the parents and on to the granddaughter who used it to play jump rope. It held flowers while they dried in the sun, diapers that blew in the New York City breeze and then more things on the roof of the car as the granddaughter was driven off to college.
This is a Rope is a great feel good story!
This is the Rope: A story form the Great Migration
Slipper the cat lives a life of feline luxury in the house of her elderly owner, Mrs. Fluffy Slippers. Unfortunately, all this suddenly disappears when Mrs. Fluffy Slippers moves and during the ensuing commotion the cat is accidently left behind.
Slipper’s immediate reaction is to try to chase down the moving van. But after a while of hard running, she ends up lost and forlorn. After a cold, scary night out in the woods, she decides that she will need to adopt a new owner and so the search begins.
This book, depicted from the cat’s low-to-the-ground perspective, shows Slipper perusing different owner candidates in various settings by initially evaluating their footwear. She first encounters a farm resident, Ms. Muddy Boots, who is quite welcoming. She offers Slipper a fish which is quickly devoured, but the sight of the woman’s charging dog turns the cat off the prospect of living there.
Other rejects include Mrs. Iron Shoes, a rider on a horse with rather large hooves, Mr. Cowboy Boots who rides a large truck which emits too much noise and unpleasant smells, High Tops, an adolescent who is too full of energy and Mr. Big Boots, a motorcyclist who is nice enough to give the cat a lift into town, but whose driving habits Slippers finds to be too terrifying. Finally, in the sea of shoes of passersby, she spots Miss Shiny Shoes, and decides that this young girl would be ideal as her new owner.
The girl brings the cat home and introduces it to her grandmother who just happens to be ....!
Well, you’ll just have to read the book for yourself to get to the surprise ending. Let’s just state that as the saying goes, the rest is history. Slipper’s life once again was very, very good indeed, and (need I say), everyone lived happily ever after.
Lost Cat is author and illustrator C. Roger Mader’s first children’s book. It is a charming tale with wonderfully realistic, pastel illustrations that are sure to be a purr-fect anecdote for any young cat lover!
I'm always looking for whimsical, even fantastical, yet calming bedtime books. That's a tall order sometimes. I want a book that sends little ones off to dreamland with peace and the promise of happy adventures. Dream Animals: a bedtime journey by Emily Winfield Martin is just such a book. The illustrations of beautiful feathered, finned, and furred friends who wait to carry children to the adventures in their dreams, inspire the imagination. And the lovely prose is calming. A great book to relax with before bed!
Dream Animals: a bedtime journey
Redheaded Erik has always tried to do his best, but lately he wonders why everything seems to be going wrong. In soccer he passes the ball to the other team and in class he can’t see what has been written on the chalkboard. His Mom thinks he needs to sit closer to the chalkboard or try to be more organized. When Erik creates a self-painting in art class, he paints his hair green. That can’t be right! Erik has always been a red head. That’s when they discover that Erik might be color blind.
Color blindness, also known as Color Vision Deficiency (CVD) affects a significant percentage of our population. After Erik’s parents take him to the Dr. they are better able to help him cope with his CVD. Letting Erik’s teachers know that many shades of brown, green, gold and orange look very similar to him is the first step to helping him. Color coding at school makes it hard for Erik and other kids who have CVD. Working with the teachers and staff to make changes in paperwork and text books make it easier for Erik to read his school work. Sometimes just writing the color on the color coded items makes all the difference in Erik being able to differentiate between his assignments. For example if the teacher writes on a green chalkboard with yellow chalk, Erik can’t read the board. If the teacher writes on the green chalkboard with white chalk he can read what has been written on it.
The book includes an “All about color and vision” section to be shared and to help readers understand more about color vision deficiency.
It is nice to see a picture book on this topic. I encourage families and care givers to read and share this book.
Erik the Red Sees Green
Have you ever browsed the non-fiction shelves for good books for your preschooler? You should! There are more and more wonderful books about real things that are perfect for very young kids. One of my favorites is Red-Eyed Tree Frog by Joy Cowley and Nic Bishop. The words are just right for a very young child and the photographs are superb.
This is a book I go to over and over, whether it’s for storytime or sharing at home or to recommend to another parent. The next time you’re at the library, ask us to show you some of our favorite non-fiction books.
Red-Eyed Tree Frog
Everyone knows the children’s rhyme – “Old MacDonald had a farm” – and who doesn’t love making the animal sounds and singing E-I-E-I-O as a chorus. There are many picture books of this classic rhyme and I enjoy a good farm animal storytime with Old MacDonald. Imagine my surprise when I discovered a new book, Old Mikamba Had a Farm by Rachel Isadora.
Old Mikamba watches over a wide variety of animals on his game farm in the plains of Africa. Kids will discover a whole new set of fun animals and their sounds all followed by the familiar E-I-E-I-O. On this farm there is a baboon with an OOH-HA-HA here and an OOH-HA-HA there. Other animals like the elephant BARAAA-BARAAA, the zebras WHINNY WHINNY, the warthog SNORTS and the hippo GRUNTS all along with Farmer Mikamba and the many E-I-E-I-O’s. So much fun to see and hear the African animals.
Rachel Isadora, a longtime favorite illustrator of mine, uses bright oranges, yellows and greens of Africa. Old Mikamba is in traditional dress including his hat and sandals. Her collage work of the animals is a wonderful introduction to the African wildlife. Go ahead and sing your heart out with the animal sounds and E-I-E-I-O’s. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
Old Mikamba Had a Farm
Professor Don Tillman is pretty sure that the best way to find a female life partner is to create a thorough questionnaire for women to answer; having the results will streamline the difficult process and present him with the one woman who is perfect for him. Don has a little trouble with social cues (maybe more than a little trouble) so he enlists the help of a couple of friends (of which he has four, if you count one child) to help him behave more appropriately on dates.
The Rosie Project is sweet and funny; Don is a man who doesn’t need to be fixed, he just needs someone to love.
The Rosie Project
I love a magical adventure and this new picture book from Lindsay Ward does not disappoint. A friendly polar bear leaves a note for Emma, asking her to bring a balloon. Emma plays along and what follows is an unexpectedly fun journey and a friendship for Emma and P.B. (polar bear). Through beautiful cut-paper illustrations and charming text, Lindsay Ward tells this lovely story that I'll be sure to share with many kids this year.
Please Bring Balloons
You Gotta Have Art! After reading this simple picture book, the importance of art in our lives is so obvious, you might be inspired to visit an art museum, such as the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts where children age 12 and under are free. Kalamazoo Public Library has many insightful art books for you. We will assist you with finding them.
The Museum is a simple story in rhyme about a girl’s experiences and emotions on a visit to an Art Museum. She is energized and inspired. “When I see a work of art, something happens in my heart. I cannot stifle my reaction. My body just goes into action.” And “Its rhythm exists in all I see. The museum lives inside of me.” The watercolor illustrations blend beautifully with the book’s subject. At the end of her visit, the girl finds an empty canvas and suddenly she realizes that she can fill it anyway she chooses!
Test your art knowledge and see how many art pieces you can identify in this picture book!
Sometimes it's surprising when younger readers ask for scary stories or when their parents say, "I don't know, she just likes scary stuff." Fair enough. For those horror loving youngsters, I am happy to say we have the first book in an exciting new series by James Preller. Scary Tales #1 is called Home Sweet Horror. This isn't a collection of unrelated short stories - like the classic Alvin Schwartz books. Instead, each chapter takes the reader further along into a family's new house and the horrors that lurk within. Take a look at this one to make sure it's not too scary for your young reader. The big blue dot we put on the spine indicates that this transitional reader's reading level is appropriate for 2nd and 3rd graders and up. You can look forward to the next book in the Scary Tales series: I Scream, You Scream!
Think back….way back when you were a kid in the library or at home reading a book. It was your ah-hah moment…. when reading a book struck you as something to remember for the rest of your life. Well, at the library, we as the staff were challenged to think about our stories. So, I went home and asked my daughters what were theirs.
My 24 year old said for her it was when I would visit her school library twice a year to read. I always read The Gunniwolf. The Gunniwolf retold by Wilhelmina Harper is a “don’t go in the jungle” story. It’s a little scary as the little girl after seeing flowers on the edge of the jungle goes further and further in and then meets up with the wolf. She had been so excited by the beautiful flowers that she was singing a song when the wolf rose up. The wolf demanded that she sing the song for him and he would fall asleep. While he was asleep she would try to make her escape….”PIT-pat, PIT-pat, PIT-pat” and the wolf would wake up and chase her “hunker-CHA, hunker-CHA, hunker-CHA”…..The little girl eventually escapes.
Glenna said that all the kids loved it. It made her feel like a superhero for the day. I am so glad to be part of her ah-hah moment…..
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
Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown caught my eye a few weeks ago. This humorous and thought provoking picture book starts out by focusing on Mr. Tiger’s very uptight lifestyle; prim, proper, and oh, so boring! Being unhappy with the phony baloney circumstances of his town (where all the animal inhabitants walk upright and wear dreary, monochromatic, Victorian era clothing), makes him want to turn over a new leaf. He first decides to loosen up a bit by getting down on all fours. Right off the bat, this makes him feel like a brand new, more natural tiger. To celebrate this newly found life’s joy and to let off some pent up steam, he roars his loudest roar ever!
All his animal friends are shocked by this behavior. Mr. Tiger’s new ways are totally unacceptable and against all the proper protocols of their little society. But the animal citizens of this somber and stodgy town haven’t seen anything yet, as Mr. Tiger discards his fussy top hat, his drab suit and his oh, so sensible shoes. Au naturel, he runs into the wilderness to bond with the truly natural world that surrounds him, with his orange, white and black streaked fur on fast, furious and fabulous display.
However there is one drawback to this self imposed exile to freedom; he misses his friends and even the city he escaped from. After a while he returns to see that a lot has changed for the better there; more tolerance and freedom for all. By taking that first risky step himself and leading by example, Mr. Tiger made a positive impression on his friends and they in turn made positive changes in their own lives as well. In short, everyone was much happier being themselves. And that was indeed a very good --- no, a very great thing!
The message of the necessity to be true to oneself, and that by adopting this adage other good things will follow, could not be more clearly expressed than in this simply written, yet visually sophisticated volume.
It’s a Roaring good time!
Mr. Tiger Goes Wild
There is an easy rhythm to Mem Fox’s new book titled: Good Night, Sleep Tight, that makes it really funderful for Reading Aloud. Fox has woven several familiar mother goose rhymes into a story about a babysitter named Skinny Doug who has the job of putting Bonnie and Ben to sleep. Skinny Doug tells a rhyme, and the response is: “We love it! We love it!” said Bonnie and Ben. “How does it go? Will you say it again?” and the reply is: “Some other time,” said Skinny Doug. “But I’ll tell you another I heard from my mother:” When I read this book at story time, the parents automatically chimed in and recited from memory the familiar rhymes, including: It’s raining! It’s pouring! The old man is snoring!
Judy Horacek’s expressive illustrations blend beautifully with the text and the happy time spent with Skinny Doug and the adoring Bonnie and Ben.
Mem Fox, an Australian, is a huge proponent of reading aloud to children. I encourage you to check-out her many other picture books and instructional books at Kalamazoo Public Library. Visit Mem’s website for a multitude of read aloud suggestions, ideas and techniques: www.memfox.net. Happy Read-Aloud!
Good Night, Sleep Tight
How is climate change affecting wildlife? That's the question A Warmer World considers. Of course there are many more questions around climate change that could be at the top of human civilization's priority list. How will climate change affect low-lying coastal communities? How will climate change affect the availability of fresh water? How will climate change affect the availability of food for humans? Since climate change will affect children to a greater extent than it will affect people who are adults now, it makes sense for parents and caregivers to educate our children about what's happening and why. Children and animals have this in common: they didn't create this problem but will need to adapt to it.
A Warmer World
The best picture books are written for everyone, child to adult. Rosie Revere Engineer is a book that all ages will enjoy. I picked it up on a whim this summer because I thought it looked like another great title encouraging girls to pursue careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). That's a topic close to my heart. I recently sat down to read it to my preschooler and I got a little teary-eyed. This is a book that kids will love for it's great rhymes and charming story. But it goes so much deeper than that.
Rosie Revere Engineer is for anyone who has tried and failed and tried again. It's for anyone who likes to make stuff. It's a wonderful book for encouraging girls (or any child) to be anything they want to be, including makers, scientists, and engineers. It's so good for all of us to be reminded that the best things we make often take multiple tries to get right.
For more great titles encouraging girls to be smart, confident, and courageous, check out the booklists on the A Mighty Girl website. We have many of their suggested titles at KPL!
Rosie Revere Engineer
All a book needs is the word pizza, and it will be on my list to read. The author/illustrator duo from Dragons Love Tacos is back with another scrumptious tale; this time involving a funny raccoon that shares my love of pizza. In Secret Pizza Party we follow a raccoon on his quest to eat his favorite food. Raccoon loves pizza so much, he thinks it could be art, I totally agree. I recently had the chance to read this book in a local 2nd grade classroom. They loved it! Broom-bots, secret handshakes, parties, pizza and fun, all wrapped up in a great book. Lots of hands went up after the reading with eager children waiting to tell me that they too love pizza. One insightful reader even said the book had a “Dick Tracy” feel. Check it out, grab a pizza and enjoy!
Secret Pizza Party
“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.
Last month in this spot I wrote about This Is Not My Hat, the 2013 J. Klassen book that won the Caldecott Award. I had seen a picture of the cover in The New York Times Book Review. Even though I don't fall into the recommended age group of 4-8 years, I wanted to read more by Mr. Klassen. Checking the KPL catalog, I discovered I Want My Hat Back. This one, written two years earlier in 2011, is about a bear who lost his hat but, after conversations with lots of other animals, remembers that he had seen it on a rabbit and recovers it. Both text and illustrations make this pleasant reading for children (and others such as myself who might enjoy taking a three-minute vacation from their usual reading patterns).
I want my hat back
Do you have small children who are fascinated by different kinds of vehicles? Are they ready to learn to count? If so, this highly original, very well designed book was made just for them.
Night Light by Nicholas Blechman presents numbers one through ten in a series of riddles asking the young reader to identify what vehicle might possess the number of lights depicted on a totally blacked out page. For example, “2 lights, hovering in flight?” The lights are seen through die cut holes in the opposing page. As that page is turned, a very vibrantly colored scene is revealed depicting the vehicle in question, in this case a flying helicopter. And the holes through which the “lights” were seen revert to ....
Well, let’s just leave those surprises for when you see the book on your own!
Visually appealing and wonderful crafted from beginning to end, I just loved this minute volume. It is certain to shine some brightness into any little one’s day!
Don't you love it when adults open a sentence with "When I was a kid..."? Well, when I was a kid, the Guinness Book of Records was a dense paperback with tiny little black and white pictures and tiny print. And we loved it! Who could forget the guy with the longest fingernails, the longest beard, the person with the most tattoos, and all those other weird world records. The Guinness Book of Records was fascinating, in part, because it was kind of a freak show. Kids still love the Guinness Book. The 2014 edition of the venerable compendium is out now and, as it has been for many years, is a full color, large format edition with lots of photo-illustrations. Guinness World Records itself is a record holder as the best-selling copyrighted book series of all time. You can borrow a copy at the library if you're curious about the world's first digital photograph (earlier than you might think) or the most baking sheets buckled over the head in one minute or the largest ridable bicycle or the largest collection of vacuum cleaners or ...
The Biggest, Fastest, most... Guinnessest!
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 know I'll get questions about how I happened to land on this book, so I'll address that issue right away. I saw a picture of the cover when I was reading The New York Times Book Review and it captured my attention. This winner of the 2013 Caldecott Medal is a story about a fish who steals a hat and thinks he got away with it.*
*But -- did he?
This is not my hat
The Beatles Were Fab (and they were funny) by Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewer and illustrated by Stacy Innerst is a new favorite of mine! This biography, told like a story, follows the Beatles from their earliest days in Liverpool through the ends of Beatlemania. It also includes an historical timeline and a list of sources for more information. As the Horn Book reviewer said, "Youngsters wondering why the band is still beloved by their parents and grandparents will understand after reading the many humorous anecdotes." The charming illustrations include nods to various lyrics and anecdotes, like an address marker for Penny Lane and a Yellow Submarine on one page. My favorite part is the story about the Queen Mother laughing at John's jokes!
The Beatles Were Fab
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
There's been quite a bit of buzz about Suzy Lee's picture book creations in the last few years. They are wonderfully imagined yet seemingly simple picture books that get better with repeated readings. I was excited to see a new book illustrated by Lee and written by Jesse Klausmeier, Open this Little Book. When I opened the book I was glad I did. I don't want to say too much about it, except that it is wonderfully self-referential and is a wonder of design, in my opinion. This book is just perfect for repeated sharing with children. Open this Little Book has its own delicious internal logic and closure that is somehow deeply comforting to parent and child alike. I am hopeful you take time to enjoy it!
Open this Little Book
Paul Thurlby, a British illustrator, is making a name for himself in the children’s book field by (among other things) naming the books after himself. And so we have here Paul Thurlby’s Wildlife. This is a visually rich collection of his wonderfully unique, simple yet colorful, drawings of 23 different creatures, each with a fun fact about the animal that helps make witty sense of the accompanying captions. Every animal is represented in a style that is reminiscent of poster ads from the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s.
One example is “Armed to the Teeth” that informs us that, “Sharks are always growing new teeth to replace those that fall out”. Or how about, “Chill out - KEEP COOL” referring to the fact that iguanas must “...move into the shade to lower their body temperature.”
I read this July, 2013 title during a recent “Tales on the Trail” program that the Powell Branch Library holds along the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail. Kids, both young and old, were wildly interested in the text as well as amused by the cool art.
So, Thurlby’s imaginative fusion of strong visual design with wordplay and fragments of information works well on his intended audience. In fact, it should entertain little readers for more than just a single reading.
This book might also appeal to all animal lovers who are young of heart, for there is far more here than first meets the eye!
Paul Thurlby’s Wildlife
For a child’s view of a day in the life of Stalinist Soviet Union, read: Breaking Stalin’s Nose, by Eugene Yelchin. Sasha is ten years old and is in 5th grade and his father is a member of The State Security, which is the Secret Police. Sasha’s mother is dead, for some mysterious reason she never returned home after a hospital stay. Sasha and his dad live communally in a house with several other families. Everyone is always under suspicion, every spoken word is potentially threatening and nobody knows whom they can trust. Sasha is getting ready for the ceremony to join the Soviet Young Pioneers. A young Pioneer is a reliable comrade and always acts according to conscience. A Young Pioneer has a right to criticize shortcomings. But in his haste while carrying Stalin’s banner, Sasha accidentally bumps into Stalin’s statue and breaks off the nose on the statue! Did anyone see the accident occur? If the accident is discovered, then it is truly a bleak day for Sasha. This story is an excellent portrayal of a day in the life of a fifth grade student and the bleakness of life in the Soviet Union under the dictatorship of Stalin. Eugene Yelchin was born and educated in Russia, but now lives in California.
Breaking Stalin’s Nose
You may have heard that Walter Dean Myers is visiting Kalamazoo for a two-day event next week. We are so very honored and excited to have the chance to meet this wonderful author and the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature! It's a very special opportunity for the Kalamazoo community and I hope many will join us. Myers will join us for a "Meet the Author" evening on Tuesday, August 6 at 6 pm at Central Library and on Wednesday, August 7 at 3 pm at Powell Branch Library. For more information, on the Walter Dean Myers visits, please see our website here.
My favorite Walter Dean Myers book is Looking Like Me. In the book, Jeremy talks about all the people that he is either in relationship to others or because of skills, abilities, and interests. I love this book because the poetry is quite wonderful and Christopher Myers' collage illustrations are colorful and engaging. But I also love it because when I read it to kids we talk about all the things that they are. Runners, writers, artists, dancers, readers, players, swimmers, etc. We are all, each of us, so many wonderful things and we can take on a new persona with each new skill we learn. Our potential is limitless! So tell me, what are you? I'm a reader, writer, and hiker to name a few.
Walter Dean Myers in Kalamazoo
Morning begins with a stretch, wiggle, sniff and giggle as the 3 kids scramble from their beds – Grandpa’s making pancakes. The grandkids love visiting him. Even though it is a rainy day Grandpa plans an outdoor activity. They will be finding colors for his famous Rainbow Stew! The colors of course are in the garden. They all put on their rainy day gear and head outside. They find lots of greens: spinach, kale, cucumbers and then they move through the garden looking for the colors of the rainbow by picking vegetables. When the basket is full, the cooking goes into full swing. Grandpa and the kids cook up a colorful stew from Grandpa’s garden.
The story is told in rhyme with bold colorful illustrations. It is the loving story of Grandpa and his grandkids sharing a special day together. The treat is how to make the rainbow stew which is included at the end of the story.
When I first read this picture book, it reminded me of our very own Fresh Food Fairy, Hether Frayer. She is visiting the Eastwood Branch, for a storytime celebrating healthy foods, on July 25th at 10:30am and at the Central Library on August 23 at 10:30 am. What a fun book to share with your preschoolers and then join in at the storytimes with the Fresh Food Fairy. Enjoy
Are you vacationing in Michigan this Summer? Kalamazoo Public Library has many Michigan travel books. One particularly family-friendly book is: Fun with the Family: Michigan. Hundreds of Ideas for Day Trips with the Kids, by Bill Semion, c.2007. The contents are separated by geographic areas, such as West Michigan-North, West Michigan-South, and Upper Peninsula-East, Upper Peninsula-West… you get the picture…(picturesque!) It includes listings of events, adventures, parks, museums, sports, theatres, places to stay, and restaurants.
I also recommend viewing: Under the Radar Michigan, a PBS television show hosted by Tom Daldin, who has a friendly, comfortable presence and a great sense of humor. UTR Michigan is in its third season. UTR Michigan showcases a different Michigan town in each episode, featuring local places of interest, stories, great people, and mouth-watering foods at local restaurants. UTR is a helpful, convincing site for choosing a Michigan town to visit. Episode 318 highlights Grand Rapids, and, if you want to see a hilarious sight, watch the people pedaling on the Great Lakes Pub Cruiser, it’s crazy! To find out the art of coffee roasting and information about the Can-Do Kitchen, watch the inspirational episode featuring Kalamazoo!
Fun with the Family: Michigan. Hundreds of Ideas for Day Trips with the Kids
I just love Jessica Souhami’s books. I think it must be her background as a puppeteer that makes these folk-lore based picture books so good. Sausages, for instance, is a wonderful story about being careful what you wish for. In Souhami’s newest offering, Foxy!, the storyteller and illustrator puts her own spin on a trading-up trickster tale told in different ways the world over. In this wonderfully illustrated version based on a North American version of the story by Clifton Johnson from 1897, the fox is the trickster and he’s looking for a meal. What an entertaining read-aloud!
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
Missing May is a bitter-sweet story about the after-effects of coping with the death of a most-beloved wife and stepmother named May. For many years May and Ob, her husband, a disabled Navy veteran, lived in Deep Water, West Virginia in a rusty old trailer. They were a childless couple until they met Summer, a distant relative who became parentless at the age of six, and who was subsequently “adopted” by May and Ob.
The story begins after May’s death. May was a very loving woman and both Ob and Summer grieve so desperately that they attempt to find May’s spirit. Cletus Underwood, a kid from Summer’s seventh grade class, befriends Ob and senses Ob’s despair. He tells Ob and Summer about a Spiritualist in a nearby county, so, Ob, Summer, and Cletus begin a quest to find The Reverend Miriam B. Conklin, Small Medium at Large. Do Ob and Summer find what they’re looking for to quell their sadness? You will discover the truth after reading this inspirational story that received the 1993 John Newbery Award.
I'm really enjoying Laurel Synder's chapter book Any Which Wall, which also happens to be the June 27 selection in KPL's Bookworms book group at Children's Room. Bookworms is for kids in grades 1-3 (or there-abouts) with their adults. You can pick up a copy of Any Which Wall at the Children's Room desk. I like this book because it's about magic. It also features Henry and Emma and Roy and Susan -interesting characters who are children of various ages. It's well written and it's pulled me right in. I'm curious what you think about the book, about "common magic", and where you would go if you had a magic wall that could take you to any place and any time.
Bookworms is a free program and a great way to enjoy Summer Reading with other readers!
Any Which Wall
Caution: This blog contains information that just may be too cute for your reading pleasure. If you are disturbed or irritated by anything cute, STOP IMMEDIATELY and avoid any potential future exposure.
Even though I don’t watch much television, one of my favorite shows is Too Cute! on the Animal Planet channel. This program showcases mostly puppies and kittens, (but also occasionally exotic pets), as they are born and develop for the first two to three months of life in various, usually for-profit husbandry households. Each show culminates in the members of the new generation being adopted by their “forever” families. Even though I have watched some episodes numerous times and know that they are slanted toward the “And they lived happily ever after” ending, I still can’t help myself. There’s something about the newborn, no mater what species (well maybe not snakes), that draws me in. Especially so if the producers contrive and manipulate the action to hyper boost the cloyingly sweet “cute quotient.”
But then, a little over one month ago I came upon a book that was “too cute” without the hype. I’m referring to A Little Book of Sloth, written and photographed by Lucy Cooke, a zoologist and founder of the Sloth Appreciation Society. It documents the activities of the real-life sanctuary of Slothville, located in the wilds of Costa Rica, which is devoted to saving these sleepy-looking, engaging, and mellow creatures. The book features some of the “cutest” inhabitants of Slothville, from the orphan Buttercup to Mateo, Sunshine and Sammy, Ubu, as well as numerous other endearing two and three fingered sloths.
Thanks to a uniquely slow nervous system, sloths are known for their lethargic, unhurried movements. They epitomize a lazy, laid back, and ultra chilled lifestyle. But while sloths may look sluggish, they are also quite acrobatic and have the ability to turn their heads around up to 270 degrees, due to an extra neck vertebrae.
Although they appear to be huggable cuddle-bugs as depicted in this volume, sloths do not make good pets and definitely belong in the wild. In captivity, they require special care. For instance, at the Sanctuary, the sloths are given regular baths in a specifically formulated, green leaf tea solution to keep their skin in good physical condition. They also appreciate hibiscus flowers being part of their standard diet.
But don’t despair at your inability to have one of these creatures hang around your home. You can always visit slothsanctuary.com to help an orphaned sloth in need by making a donation, or go to slothville.com to join the Sloth Appreciation Society.
And don’t forget to check out this book. The pictures alone are adorable, precious and may very well lead to you having an absolutely slothful “too cute” day!
A Little Book of Sloth
If you have ever appreciated the incongruity of a little house amisdst high-rise city buildings you will enjoy Mrs. Noodlekugel by Daniel Pinkwater. When two siblings, Maxine and Nick, move into a new apartment, Maxine discovers a cute little house set in the backyard of the their tall apartment building. Meet Mrs. Noodlekugel, her piano playing cat Mr. Fuzzface, and four farsighted mice.
Mrs. Noodlekugel is a short chapter book that’s perfect for early elementary students who are ready to move on from early readers to chapter books. Loaded with Daniel Pinkwater whimsy, this is a book that adults will also enjoy.
What Can a Crane Pick Up? is a perfect read aloud for young children. Author Rebecca Kai Dotlich has written an easy to share book about a high-interest topic for young children. The rhymes in the book perfectly flow from one to the next and even have some unexpected surprises that will have your toddler or preschooler giggling. And then of course you will be giggling too! It's silly in some parts and at the same time kids will know just a little bit about cranes and their many uses after reading this book. I predict it will be one they'll want to read again and again as they study the engaging and colorful illustrations by Mike Lowery. This book is definitely a gem to add to your story rotation!
See the adorable book trailer here.
What Can a Crane Pick Up?
Just when Sunrise Elementary thought the library dragon was gone for good – disaster strikes again.
Return of the Library Dragon by Carmen Agra Deedy continues the story of the library dragon.
Miss Lotta Scales, a dragon also known as Miss Lotty, the beloved librarian, is retiring. She devoted 557 years to her job as the Sunset Elementary School Librarian. On her final day Mike Krochip arrives but he brings disaster.
Mike Krochip brings cartons of MePods along with much high-tech enthusiasm. The disaster is that the books are doomed—Mike Krochip wants them all in storage, no need for books he is creating the children’s cybrary! What? Miss Lotty is mad—fire breathing smoking mad and the Library Dragon returns with a fiery vengeance!
The final battle: Mike Krochip vs. the Library Dragon – who will survive?
A very fun read for preschoolers and early elementary readers on a subject very close to my heart. No question about it, I’m rooting for Library Dragon – GO BOOKS! GO LIBRARY
Return of the Library Dragon
This book is the story of Sam Lewis and the events that unfold during the 33 Minutes until Morgan Sturtz kicks his butt at recess (and then around 60 more minutes of aftermath). The author speaks directly to his tween audience, and gets it right. The voice of middle school is heard loud and clear over food fights, fire alarms and friendships. It’s funny, fast paced, heart-warming and breaking all at once. It’s the perfect book to recommend to kids that are starting to outgrow the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. The lessons in 33 Minutes on friendship and staying true to one’s self will stick with the reader long after the worst day of Sam’s life and his middle school years have passed. I think it would be awesome to have a teacher like Ms. Z who can say: “This sucks….Wait. Be patient. You’re not going to be here forever. And in the meantime, even though you and this place don’t fit together so great all the time, be you.” Now, a sigh of relief from me that middle school has passed and that authors like Todd Hasak-Lowy are writing realistic books for tweens to read during the transition of middle school. Meet Todd at Bookbug in Kalamazoo on May 5 at 4 pm!
The Dark is a brand new picture book from two children's books luminaries: Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen. Laszlo is a boy who is afraid of the dark until he actually gets to know it. The dark lives in the basement but comes to visit Laszlo upstairs in his room one night. Then Laszlo goes down to the basement. All of this sounds terribly foreboding but is refreshingly resolved.
The Dark could be helpful with those ever common afraid of the dark childhood fears. But the way that the dark and Laszlo are presented with language and illustration is well worth the read for any age.
It's no secret that I love Amy Krouse Rosenthal's books. At least it's no secret in the Children's Room. I just love her charming characters and the way she plays with words and typography. My favorites are the books she has done with Tom Lichtenheld. With Amy and Tom together, it's sure to be a great book. The newest is called Exclamation Mark! and it's a great story about the importance of celebrating our differences and being happy about what makes us special. I love that this book teaches such an important concept in a fun way and that in the end the differences between Exclamation Mark and his friends, make the entire group stronger! You can find more of Amy's books here. And more Tom Lichtenheld books here.
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
Every time I stumble across a book like Kathleen O'Dell's The Aviary, I'm amazed that more readers - of all ages - don't read middle grade. The Aviary is very Gothic in setting and tone and simultaneously bursting with colorful characters, a unique combination. There are secrets and magic, plus a good dose of realism and a lesson or two as well. It actually reminded me a bit of Ransom Riggs' Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.
The main character, Clara, is a delightful character: headstrong, adventurous, and incurably curious. I would have enjoyed The Aviary based solely on the premise and setting, but Clara made me love it. Her curiosity was engaging and infectious, ensuring that the reader was never plagued by a dull moment or stale passage, simply because Clara herself was always plotting her next move and going off on some adventure.
Since The Aviary is in many respects a mystery, there are many great elements I feel I can't really comment on in much depth. I can, however, say that every detail in The Aviary comes together quite elegantly and I was left completely satisfied by the ending. I spent much of the novel hypothesizing about how everything fit together... I liked that the mystery wasn't ridiculously easy to solve, but all the pieces of the puzzle were there, waiting to be put together by the reader and the intrepid Clara.
The Aviary is one of wonderful titles that can be enjoyed by a wide variety of readers. It is, plain and simple, a wonderfully written and imagined novel and didn't feel at all confined to one specific reading level. It could easily be a read for the whole family and will appeal to those who usually read young adult or adult titles.
There are 2 things I can say about Dan Gutman he must be big on baseball and he has found a great way to tell historical stories about baseball. He takes a very youthful and imaginative approach to telling Jackie Robinson’s story in Jackie & Me. What kid couldn’t relate to time travel, baseball cards and getting to meet a famous player like Jackie Robinson. Jackie & Me is one of Gutman’s baseball card adventures and it's a great way for a young person to take a look at what it must have been like for Jackie Robinson to break the color barrier back in 1947.
There are several other books in the Baseball Card Adventures like Shoeless Joe and Me, Ray and Me, Babe and Me, and Honus and Me.
Jackie & Me
I love crafting books and crafting blogs and I always have! Nothing gives me more inspiration than reading stories about projects other people have figured out. At least right now with a full-time job and a toddler at home, that's what works for me. Hand in hand: crafting with kids, edited by Jenny Doh, is a book I really enjoyed recently that gave me lots of fresh inspiration for crafting with my girl at home. Not only is it full of inspiring parents who have simple and effective ideas for crafting with children, each person featured is a blogger with a blog full of other ideas. I love it! I've always loved making things but it can be hard as a parent to involve children in the process. As an adult, I can become product-oriented and it's important for me to remember that young children are more process-oriented. They want to experience things, not just get a finished product put together. And in that experience, they can practice all kinds of wonderful skills like fine-motor development, conversation, measurements, etc. If you're looking for some fresh ideas from real parents who craft with their children, this book has plenty. And if you are a parent who just likes to unwind with a craft book, even though you have no intention whatsoever of adding new projects to your long to-do list, don't worry....I'm right there with you and I won't tell. You can just soak up that inspiration and save it for a rainy day when you need the perfect new activity to keep everybody smiling! Happy crafting!
Hand in Hand: crafting with kids
The Fiddles Go On Strike by Bobby Claeys is cute children’s book with a message. It starts out with a child asking is mom how does this or that work. The mom doesn’t know how our gadgets work, they just work. Then one day they stop working. The TV will not turn on, the computer will not work, the toaster will not make toast. Why? Repair people come and find a note inside each broken gadget saying “We Quit” We find out that the Fiddles or as some called them the purple dudes wrote the note. The Fiddles make a statement “BEHOLD! We are the reason your lives are easier. For too long, we have been working without any appreciation. You humans go through each day using your gadgets without even thinking ‘How does this work’” The humans hold a party thanking the Lil’ Purple Dudes. This is a cute entertaining book and especially dear to me as my sons best friend Bobby Claeys is the author. We look forward to more books by the soon to be famous author Bobby Claeys.
The Fiddles Go On Strike
Crows have glossy black feathers with glints of dark blue and purple. Their life span usually ranges from 9 to12 years. Like humans, they can pretty much adapt to a variety of habitats, eating just about anything that their bodies can digest. Crows are highly social and enjoy traveling in groups. They can mimic various sounds and have a highly specialized and evolved language of communication. A flock of crows is called a “murder.” Although worldwide there are 45 different crow species, the ones most commonly seen in Michigan is the American or common crow.
Crows can be noisy, nosy, and downright annoying at times. Because of their raucous tendencies, some people don’t like them very much, and most farmers tend to lump them into the pest category of animals since they are inclined to dine on their crops. On the other hand, crows have also been proven to be beneficial in farm settings since they consume many insect pests that can ruin a harvest.
I’ve always been intrigued and fascinated by these highly intelligent, comical, and mischievous birds. When my husband and I walk around KVCC’s Texas Township campus, we usually see and hear numerous crows. They tend to hang out in small mobs, idling on and around lamp posts or sauntering along the parking lots and fields; forever on the lookout for a scavenging opportunity. They don’t have to look far since college students throw away lots of fast food offerings such as fries or buns, making the entire site an ever changing smorgasbord. The garbage bins seem especially suited for quick crow take-out buffet dining, and we’ve been amused many times by crow dumpster divers in search of their next snack.
As the Crow Flies is a new children’s picture book that was published in December, 2012. It was written by Sheila Keenan and illustrated handsomely by Kevin Duggan, an experienced nature painter. It beautifully captures and celebrates crows and their world in rhyming verse:
“All day long you’re on the go.
You don’t have time to watch a crow.
But we’re here ...and here... and there.
We poke our beaks in everywhere.”
Just a few weeks ago, I also happened to watch a very well made PBS program, originally filmed in 2010, entitled A Murder of Crows, a part of their “Nature” series. It was enlightening, entertaining and made me especially aware of these birds’ high level of intelligence, as evidenced by the fact that they can manufacture and use tools to solve problems.
And since I was on this crow kick anyway, I also read the “J” non-fiction book, Crows: Strange and Wonderful by Laurence Pringle with illustrations by Bob Marshall, who are both popularly known wildlife advocates.
So the next time you are out and about, listen for the familiar “Caw, caw,, watch for streaks of black wing, and you might be fortunate enough to see crows in an entirely different, more appreciative way.
Crows and humans; we are so different, yet so alike!
As the Crow Flies
What do you get when you combine a word and a number? A Wumber!
Wumbers: It’s a book! It’s a game! It’s words cre8ed with numbers! Wri10 by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustr8ed by Tom Lichtenheld this is such a creative and fun book. Each two page spread is a little story. Characters speak through balloon captioned text. The text is so easy and fun that kids and adults will be it over and over.
Samples from the end pages:
- Have you ever tiptoed through the 2lips?
- What question would you ask a 4tune teller?
What a fun book to share plus you may want to try making wumbers yourself!
Wumbers : it's words cre8ed with numbers!
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
I absolutely adored Kyo Maclear's Virginia Wolf. Illustrated by the extremely talented Isabelle Arsenault, this is the story of sisters Virginia and Vanessa as battle Virginia's sadness and anger with imagination and colorful art.
I love that this book has the potential to inspire and guide not only the grumpiest, most wolfish child, but also adults who've also fallen prey to their wolfish tendencies. No matter your age, Vanessa's determination and the beautiful illustrations within Virginia Wolf's pages has the power to inspire and slowly tame the wolf within.
Key Words and Ideas:
Learning to deal with and handle emotion
Using art as an emotional outlet
*Recommended for ages 4-8
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
What are ABCers? They are a spunky group of kids in motion in their neighborhood and the park. They are doing all sorts of lively and interesting activities while learning their ABCs.
ABCers by Carole Lexa Schaefer and illustrated by Pierr Morgan is such a fun ABC book – one which stands out from the crowd not only with the creative use of the letter for the word and activity but also for the kid friendly artwork.
As the kids make a b-line around the park they discover “D is for Dogwalkers, E is for Eek! Squealers” as the dogs greet them. The kids are in constant motion.
Join the fun. It is worth sharing again and again from “ A is for arm linkers to Z is zee end.”
What are the top two most popular books printed in the English language?
The Bible is the number one most popular book printed in English and the second most popular book printed in English is Webster’s Dictionary of the English Language.
Noah Webster was born on a farm in West Hartford, Connecticut in 1758. Noah didn’t want to be a farmer, he wanted to be a scholar. He went to school at Yale and graduated in 1778 and became a teacher. He soon realized there were no books about America; Noah wanted American schoolbooks! America was a new country and America needed a national language and government. Americans were spelling words any way they wanted, the same word might be spelled ten different ways in ten different places. So, Noah wrote an American spelling book so that Americans would spell every word the same way, every time, everywhere. Noah had the publisher put a blue cover on it so that people could just ask for the “blue-backed speller.” Noah’s blue-backed speller taught spelling and it also listed important American dates, town and states! Two years later he published his second book, a Grammar [noun: study of words; rules for using words].
Then Noah had another big idea: to write a dictionary [noun: a book listing words in ABC order, telling what they mean and how to spell them]. His book would be 100 percent American and it would include new American words, such as skunk, dime and tomahawk. He decided to show where the words came from, all the different origins. He began this wonderful dictionary in 1807 and he completed it nearly twenty years later! Noah’s American Dictionary of the English Language was published in 1828. Noah’s words DID unite America! This is a great book and the bright, fanciful illustrations will keep your attention. [noun: the act or state of applying the mind to something].
Noah Webster & His Words
Sitting in front of the town's general store, Ms. Pettway explains to Alex why Belle the mule is allowed to browse freely in her garden. The mule is revered in the little farm town of Gee's Bend, Alabama, for her role in the civil rights movement. In 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. came to Gee’s Bend to speak, encouraging everyone assembled to register to vote. People from Gee’s Bend took the ferry to Camden across the river in order to register. Belle helped to convey citizens from Gee's Bend all the way around - the long way - after racist ferry operators closed the ferry to the people who wanted to register to vote.
Belle is especially revered in the town because she is one of the two mules that served to honor Dr. King's wish that mules from Gee's Bend pull the farm wagon that would hold his burial casket. King had visited Gee’s Bend on several occasions. Community members from Gee’s Bend traveled elsewhere to march in protest with him. Based on a true story, this picture book portrays one moment in the American civil rights movement. The story was passed on to the author by the Reverend James E. Orange, who worked with Dr. King and remembered his connection with the community of Gee’s Bend.
Belle, the Last Mule at Gee's Bend
First of all, I would like to take this opportunity to wish all of our wonderful KPL patrons a very happy and healthy 2013! And to start this New Year off on the right note, I would like to correct a glaring omission that I had committed in the preceding year; amends for which will allow me to once again indulge in one of my absolutely, positively most favorite topics of all...cats!
To be specific, I regrettably forgot to mention in my personal “Best of 2012 List,” a book by well known cat lover and owner Hudson Talbott titled, It’s All About Me-ow (special emphasis on the Me).
Intended for early elementary kids on up (yes, even through adulthood), this particularly clever tome delves into the question of who is truly in control of any household where felines may be in residence. In this case, an older and wiser cat named Buddy welcomes a trio of wide-eyed, innocent kittens into his abode; one that he just happens to share with some naïve, yet well-intentioned humans. Soon after their arrival, Buddy takes it upon himself to train the newcomers as to the workings of their new world. In Buddy’s judicious and experienced opinion, success at being a housecat is all predicated upon the very well known and established fact that humans’ only goal in life is to want to make their feline companions happy. But in order to achieve this lofty aspiration, the cats themselves must take control of the situation from the very beginning, thereby aiding their human housemates in finding the exact, correct paths to feline approved pleasure. The accompanying illustrations to the various hilarious scenarios that Buddy utilizes in educating his young charges are very revealing, and are also evidence of the fact that the author/illustrator really does know his cats intimately!
In my own household, there are three very special and beloved cat occupants; Ollie, the eldest, as well as Graham and Lionel, two littermates my husband and I adopted some eighteen months ago. Upon the latter duo’s appearance, we were quite amazed by Ollie, who at first shunned them, but then took it upon himself to show the little guys just what it takes to be an upstanding cat and thereby fit into our family unit. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if part of their training consisted of something akin to the gospel as advocated by Buddy in this book, since all three have us trained very well! In fact, there isn’t one (reasonable) thing that we would not do to make them happy, from impromptu chin scratches, to sharing a cuddle, to daily group play time. We are crazy about these guys. And that’s because they have taught us that to please ourselves, we must first please them. Love has never been so unselfish!
It’s All About Me-ow
Well, Christopher Paul Curtis has done it again! The Mighty Miss Malone is not only about a girl but its about a family. It's about a family doing everything it takes to survive together and then just doing what it takes to survive.This story is not only about a family's struggles with the economic aspects of the Great Depression but also the political aspects. With this historical fiction Mr. Curtis has proven to me that the fights between Joe Louis and Max Schmeling in 1936 and 1938 were more than just heavyweight bouts. He calls them the perfect storm.
The Mighty Miss Malone
It’s winter, and though there’s no snow on the ground right now in late December, we can pretty much assume that it will get cold and snowy sometime soon. Why not check out some of these new children’s books about winter, get cozy with a cup of cocoa, and read?
I See Winter by Charles Ghigna and Henry Goes Skating by B.B .Bourne both celebrate winter activities—snowmen, sleds and skates. In more of a folktale vein and for slightly older children is The Wind that Wanted to Rest by Sheldon Oberman. Lovely illustrations complement the story.
A chapter book and part of a series is Good luck, Anna Hibiscus by Atinuke. Young Anna goes from her native Africa to Canada to visit her grandmother. It’s cold and snowy there, and new adventures and experiences await Anna.
Spring, summer, fall and winter—your library is a great resource year round!
I See Winter
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!
At the beginning of The Chamber in the Sky, the fourth and
final book in the Norembugan quartet, Brian and Gregory are lucky to be alive.
The Thusser horde have already colonized the minds of the inhabitants of the
Vermont subdivision where it all began after The Game of Sunken Places. Brian
and Gregory, along with their blue-blooded elfin companion Gwynyfer have to
find a travelling chamber that contains the off switch to the centuries-long
game if they hope to make it back to Vermont. M.T. Anderson is a fine
storyteller and funny. What a unique blend of laugh out loud moments along with
genuinely thrilling plot twists and turns. The four-part series will probably be
most enjoyed by 10 and ups.
The Chamber in the Sky
“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
I, as many of you may know, am Hispanic and when my children were small we used to practically live in the library. I’ve always loved the books and movies that I could borrow that supported and educated my children about their Latin heritage. The library just received a book that I fell in love with! The book is called The Dead Family Diaz by P.J. Bracegirdle and Poly Bernatene.
This rollicking book involves every skeleton family in the land of the dead making their annual pilgrimage among the living to celebrate el Día de los Muertos or the celebrated Day of the Dead in Mexico. It is the one time a year when families put up alters to welcome the spirits of their ancestors who will be among them that day. Who’s not excited about the trip ? Little Angelito, who has been told by his sister that the humans have bulgy eyes and squishy skin. This amusing and a quirky twist on learning to accept others is refreshing. The illustrations have a Tim Burtonesque quality that delights.
Espero que lo disfrutas! I hope you enjoy it!
The Dead Family Diaz
Karen Beaumont is the author of several wonderful children’s books. Her books are fun to read aloud. Have you ever spelled a word to someone else as a secret code to keep a child from understanding the discussion?
Karen Beaumont’s most recent book is Where’s My T R U C K? It is about a little boy named Tommy who loses his red truck. He is extremely upset and angry and he goes on a quest to find it, looking under his bed, in dresser drawers, his toy box, his sandbox, even in flower beds and up in trees. Tommy is so distraught he begins to cry and the frantic parents don’t know what to do! Throughout the book, the word T R U C K is spelled out, giving a rhythmic pattern to the text. David Catrow’s illustrations are comical, colorful, and lively.
We have many wonderful children’s books by Karen Beaumont in our collection. Here are a few more of my favorite Karen Beaumont books!
Where’s My T R U C K?
I’ve been a children’s librarian for a lot of years, so am always on the lookout for new children’s titles. One that definitely caught my eye is Princess in Training by Tammi Sauer. One of the most requested topics we get is “princess books” for kids. This book is certainly that, but with a twist. Princess Viola loves to skateboard, karate chop and jump in the moat- not your traditional princess activities. The king and queen send Viola to princess school, with hilarious results, and an ending that is totally satisfying.
I love dogs, and in Boot and Shoe by Marla Frazee, two canines from the same litter, Boot and Shoe, do everything together. They eat together, they eat out of the same bowl, they sleep in the same bed. But Shoe is a front porch kind of dog, and Boot camps out on the back porch all day, which is perfect until a pesky squirrel throws their ordered world into disarray. Wonderful, expressive pictures add a lot to the story, and it’s perfect for new readers.
Dog in Charge by K.L. Going has some of the funniest pictures I’ve seen in a quite a while. Illustrator Dan Santat captures dog and cat personalities to a “T”. Dog is given the task of keeping the family cats in line while their family is gone, and the wily felines prove to be a challenge for somewhat clueless Dog. All is well in the end, and peace reigns.
Check out these and other new kids’ titles just for the fun of it, and to keep kids reading!
Princess in Training
While scanning the new books in the rotunda a couple of weeks ago, I came across The Art of Roughhousing: Good Old-Fashioned Horseplay and Why Every Kid Needs It. Flipping through, I saw detailed diagrams of things I had done with my kids, things my parents did with me, and things I've seen other parents do with their kids. It seemed ridiculous and hilarious how it used four figures to show how to get your child up onto your shoulder. Why a book like this when we all know this stuff? Because we often forget to do it, or we did it with our first child and kind of petered out as others were born and we got older and everything got busier. As I was laughing at the book, I had this realization, which induced a little panic. My two youngest children are now 7 and 9. Was there still time?
Last week, we found ourselves on several occasions, piling the couch cushions and pillows in the middle of the living room floor, scanning through the book, and trying things out. Long live the human cannonball!
The Art of Roughhousing
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
It's time for Music and Make Believe again! This week the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra String Quartet and Kalamazoo Public Library will collaborate to bring you this special program. Preschoolers will enjoy hearing the story, The Maestro Plays, and completing a craft in the children's room. Then we all go upstairs, where the KSO String Quartet will be waiting to illustrate the story again with music. Kids will love the interaction with the orchestra members and the beautiful music.
We'd love for you to join us at one of the 5 Music and Make Believe sessions this week. Tuesday and Wednesday at 9:30 and 10:30 am at Central. And Thursday at 10:30 am at Eastwood.
Register on our website or call 553-7804 for more information.
The Maestro Plays
When I read the new picture book Sky Color, I was reminded of a fascinating piece from Radiolab called "Why Isn't the Sky Blue?". In different ways, Peter Reynolds' new picture book and the Radiolab program acknowledge that the color concept of a clear blue sky may be largely a social and linguistic construction.
In Sky Color, Marisol has the opportunity to share in painting a mural in her school library. When she can't find the color blue, which she thinks she needs for the sky, she thinks a bit more on how to represent the sky on her mural. That night, she has a dream and realizes she may not need the color blue to present the color of the sky after all.
Sky Color is the third in a series of picture books by Peter H. Reynolds about creativity. The first two titles are The Dot and Ish.
Peter McCarty is a Caldecott honoree illustrator; that is, he won an award for his artwork for his picture book: Hondo and Fabian. His most recent picture book is Chloe, featuring a little bunny who has a mother and a father and twenty brothers and sisters; Chloe is in the middle.
One day, Chloe’s dad surprises everyone and brings home a new television set for some family fun. After dinner the family watches a television program. However, watching television is definitely not fun for Chloe who decides that playing with the tv box and bubble wrap packaging is much more entertaining and imaginative. Soon, each of Chloe’s siblings dumps the tv show and joins their sister Chloe. Even mom and dad can’t resist Chloe’s bubble-wrap popping and bigbox playtime!
Peter McCarthy’s calm, ethereal, sometimes comical illustrations are adorable. He’s written several children’s books and the first book that got my attention is Honda and Fabian, a story about a dog and a cat. Baby Steps is based on a month by month chronicle of his daughter Suki’s first year of life with the most beautiful, delicate life-like drawings of a baby.
Charlie Collier: Snoop for Hire
Growing up I read every Encyclopedia Brown book. Recently Donald Sobol, the author of this series died and I was feeling nostalgic. Then I came across Charlie Collier, Snoop for Hire by John Madormo. It's not nearly the caliber of the Encyclopedia Brown series (Sorry John) but it was good enough to scratch the itch. If you recall Encyclopedia Brown had a desk and charged to solve crimes and had a girl named Sally as his "enforcer" and a bully named Bugs Meanie. Charlie has a desk in his garage and his "enforcer" is named Henry. Encyclopedia Brown had the support of his parents (his father was the police chief). Charlie has to sneak his detective work and if his parents come home too soon Henry and Charlie have to hurriedly clean up the garage. But luckily Charlie's grandmother is supportive, in more ways than you would think, but you have to read the book to find out more. Some of the solutions Charlie comes up with are a bit of a stretch. For example, his father reads in the newspaper that a man was found on the beach in Miami, no foot prints, his bones were broken but they were broken after death, cause of death was hypothermia. Charlie has the one and only possible solution, The man was a stowaway on an airplane . He stowed away in the landing gear and when it got to thirty thousand feet he froze to death, when the landing gear came down, he fell out and on to the beach. Throughout the main story there are little brain teasers like this, mostly from his assistant Henry who wants to try and stump him. You can find this book in our Children section of the library.
Charlie Collie Snoop for Hire
Ooh la la, Fancy Nancy is growing up! The best friends Nancy and Bree that love all things glamorous, splendid and French now appear in their first chapter book: Nancy Clancy Super Sleuth (sleuth is a fancy word for detective). The book is a fabulous choice for transitioning readers that already are familiar with Fancy Nancy to chapter books. You must notice that Nancy is so mature now that she drops the Fancy from her title! The characters are likeable and felt like old friends to my daughter and me. We eagerly read chapter after chapter, hooked on the mystery and predicting what would happen next.
There isn’t a book two in the series yet, but there are no worries on what to read next at my house. At the end of the book, my daughter said, “Let’s read all the Nancy Drew books next.” I’d like to thank Nancy Clancy for recommending that wonderful series next!
Nancy Clancy Super Slueth
Zero and One… two books by Kathryn Otoshi. Kathryn Otoshi uses numbers and colors to explain self-worth to children in her two books titled: One and Zero. Otoshi’s writing is direct, simplistic and surprisingly complete. Parents, teachers, and caregivers can read this book over and over to remind children that each and every child has value.
One is the winner of 10 Awards including the E. B. White Read Aloud Honor book.
The colors in One are associated with personality characteristics, Blue is quiet, Yellow is sunny, Green is bright, Purple is regal, Orange is outgoing, Red is hot. In One the color Red bullies Blue who is liked by all the other colors, but those colors do not stand up for Blue or for themselves! Then, along comes the number One. One is funny and makes the colors laugh, except for Red, who demands that One quit laughing. But One stands up straight like an arrow and says “No,” and, “If someone is mean and picks on me, I, for One, stand up and say, No.” The story continues with coping skills for Blue to stop Red’s bullying.
Zero features the number zero who feels worthless and tries to gain worth by joining the other numbers and giving up her value, but it just doesn’t work! The other numbers convince Zero to count more and bring value to everyone!
If you can get past the title, you'll love the book. The story takes place in Oslo, Norway, days before the annual Norwegian Independence Day celebration. 11 year old Nilly has just moved to his new house where he meets his new neighbor, 11 year old Lisa. Nilly is very small - which is important to remember. Living next door to Lisa is the inventor, Doctor Proctor. Doctor Proctor has invented many things, including a powder that makes you glow green and the all important fart powder (regular strength) and fartonaut powder (extra strength). You'll also meet the not so nice twins Truls and Trym, and Anna Conda. You can decide what you think of Anna. There is intrigue, revenge, adventure, lots of laughter and of course - farts! The humor and magic has been compared to Roald Dahl. There are two more books in the series to enjoy, Bubble in the Bathtub and Who Cut the Cheese? My youngest son and I really liked the book and will be starting the next one tonight.
Doctor Proctor’s Fart Powder
Moonlight by Helen Griffith is easily one of my favorite pictures books of 2012. I picked it up in the Children's Room because of the beautiful cover but was delighted by the words and story when reading it to my toddler. It's a perfect bedtime book--very soothing with simple, rhyming text. My daughter calls it the butter book because the "moonlight falls like butter" according to the poem in the book. The yellow brushstrokes of moonlight on each page are beautiful enough that she reaches out to touch them. And when we finally see rabbit's dreams, she loves to call out the things she sees (strawberries, radishes, cabbage). It's been our favorite for a month or so now!
Moonlight by Helen Griffith
I’m always drawn to picture books illustrated by James Ransome. In September, 1994 Mr. Ransome visited KPL and we found that he was not only a terrific artist but also a warm and engaging man. In the years since then, it’s been interesting to follow his career as a creator of children’s books. The Children’s Book Council has named him one of the 75 authors and illustrators everyone should know.
One of Mr. Ransome’s newest books is My Teacher, a loving look at a special elementary school teacher. This warmly-told story is a nice reminder that back-to-school is coming soon.
If you or a family member are one of the estimated 1 in 133 people needing to avoid gluten, due to celiac disease or gluten intolerance, look to KPL for more information. We have dozens of gluten-free cookbooks. Most have helpful suggestions in front about navigating a gluten-free lifestyle, like which foods to avoid and what ingredients to keep on hand. And the recipes are inspiring!
Consider these options:
Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking, by Kelli and Peter Bronski. Check out the Crab Cakes recipe on p. 52.
Getting your Kid on a Gluten-Free Casein-Free Diet, by Susan Lord. Filled with straightforward advice and easy tips from a registered dietician, whose daughter was diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder and has been on a gluten-free, casein-free diet for many years. The “Nutrition First” chapter has wise tips for anyone pursuing a gluten-free diet. I can’t wait to try the Pad Thai recipe.
Deliciously G-free: Food so Flavorful They’ll never Believe it’s Gluten-Free, by Elizabeth Hasselbeck, co-host of The View. Chock-full of delicious recipe ideas, such as Smoked Salmon on Corn Fritters, Chocolista Chocolate Cupcakes and French Toast with Caramel Rum Banana. This one is even available in an e-book.
Getting your kid on a gluten-free casein-free diet
Sue already blogged about one of my favorite books of the past year. But I wanted to share about the impact I think this book can have. Wonder by R.J. Palacio might be the best fiction book I've ever read that deals with the difficult issue of bullying. I love the main character, Auggie's, spirit and resiliency but most of all I love the author's honesty about the issues Auggie faces. She doesn't shy away from exploring authentic thoughts and feelings that children experience whether they are the bullied, the bystander, or the bully. I think this book is fantastic and has the power to make positive changes as teachers and librarians and parents use it to engage children in dialogue on bullying. It's also a quick and delightful read. It's funny and inspiring in addition to the important issues it explores.
Random House has launched a "Choose Kind" anti-bullying campaign in response to the droves of librarians, teachers, parents, and children who love this book. On the website, people can share their experiences with bullies and their reactions to the situations in the book. You can also pledge to Choose Kind and print a certificate. The #thewonderofwonder conversation on Twitter has been another great place for discussion of the importance of this book.
In the book, Auggie's principal tells the middle-schoolers that when they have a chance to choose to be kind or be right, they should choose kindness every time. A great way to live life! So check out Wonder from the library soon and join in the Choose Kind movement!
Are you ready to fall in love with a 5th grader?
August Pullman is starting school for the first time, as a middle-schooler, and he knows it’s going to be rough. He’ll be the new kid, the only one who isn’t familiar with the routine of school, the one who has no friends. He’ll also be the one kid whose face makes kids shriek. Auggie was born with severe facial disfigurement; twenty-seven surgeries have repaired some of the damage but his face still has what doctors call “anomalies.” Kids just call him scary.
So be prepared for awkward pauses, eyes shifting quickly away, hurtful words, unfairness, good intentions, awkward explanations, , . . . be prepared to love Auggie!
Look for Wonder, by R.J. Palacio, in the Children’s Room.
Anne Lamott is one of my favorite writers. She brings humor and grace to so many of the hardest things in life. Her voice has challenged me and made me laugh out loud throughout the years but never more than when reading her newest book Some Assembly Required:a journal of my son's first son. It is a beautiful look at the first year of parenting from an overly involved grandmother's perspective and it is co-written with Anne's son, Sam. I found it both poignant and heartwarming. Many quotes were hastily scribbled down to remember and share with others. Parenting is tough and parents are imperfect people wanting to do the absolute best they can for their children. Some Assembly Required reminds us that it truly does take a village and nobody is perfect. This newest book is a follow-up to Operating Instructions, Anne's journal of her son's first year. Another great book full of Anne's characteristic humerous and vulnerable writing.
Some Assembly Required
Dogs—big ones, small ones: the varieties are nearly endless. A new offering of children’s books here at the library about dogs provides something for almost any child who wants a story about canines.
Middle grade readers who like funny mysteries will enjoy The Trouble with Chickens: a J.J. Tully Mystery by Doreen Cronin. J.J. is a former search and rescue dog, so he’s not very impressed when two chicks named Dirt and Sugar, and their chicken mom, ask for J.J.’s help in tracking down their missing siblings. They offer J.J. a cheeseburger if he will help. What dog could resist such an offer? This is the first in a new series by Cronin, author of Diary of a Worm, a best-selling picture book.
Little Dog, Lost is the story of a small town, a boy named Mark who wanted a dog, and Buddy, a dog who had lost her way. Newbery Honor award winning author Marion Dane Bauer has written a satisfying chapter book story with evocative illustrations that will appeal to children. This would also make a good read-aloud story.
Switching gears a little, Stay; the True Story of Ten Dogs tells the true story of Luciano Anastasini, who works for a circus. His family have been circus performers for generations, and when an accident means he can no longer work as an acrobat, Luciano has the idea of developing an act with dogs. But he chooses dogs from the pound, the ones nobody else wants. In the book’s introduction, author Kate DiCamillo says. “It is a story of second chances, belief and love. Mostly, though, it is a story of the miracles that can occur when we (dog or human) are extended the grace of being well and truly seen by another.” Wonderful photographs showcase the personalities of Luciano and his talented dogs.
The Trouble with Chickens: a J.J. Tully Mystery
Drumming, by Ian Adams, is a good introduction to playing drum set. This new nonfiction title for beginning drummers shows the different kinds of equipment used to get started playing the drums along with good advice on safe drumming (ear plugs) and finding a teacher. An explanation of musical notation specific to drums, grooves and styles, inspiring highlights on influential rhythmic creators like Stewart Copeland, Cindy Blackman, and DJ Afrika Bambaataa plus great images of drummers from a wide variety of musical genres make this a great read for upper elementary, middle school, and teen readers.
This book was chosen as one of Kalamazoo Public Library’s Global Reading Challenge titles for 2012. It is a Coretta Scott King Award winner. Brendan Buckley just completed fifth grade and he learned a lot from Mr. Hammond, his fifth grade teacher… how to do averages, notebook journaling, and rock collecting. Brendan digs rock collecting! He is a scientist and keeps a notebook of Big Questions About Life, the Universe, and Everything in It. He asks questions, no question is unimportant, and nothing in the universe is too small to ask about. The front part of his notebook is titled: “Questions” and the back section is titled: “What I found Out”. Here is a sampling of his questions:
How do they get the ripple in fudge ripple ice cream?
Do boys fart more than girls?
Is quartz the most common mineral in the earth’s crust?
Brendan and Khalfani, his best friend, practice Tae Kwon Do and try to live by the tenets of the discipline. They also hunt for rocks, er, minerals together. Brendan’s father is a detective and happens to be black, and his mother happens to be white. He is very close to his grandmother Gladys, his father’s mother, and he sorely misses his paternal grandfather who died a few months earlier. Brendan’s mother’s parents were never part of his family because they objected to their daughter’s interracial marriage. Soon after the story begins, Brendan quite unexpectedly meets his Grandfather Ed DeBose, President of a local rock club, at a rock club show at the mall. Quite naturally, any kid would be interested in finding out why his grandpa doesn’t like him. Brendan insists on meeting Ed, but his mother would be furious! Brendan wants to unearth Ed’s racism, after all, Brendan is a confident, well-adjusted kid and is very accepting of his skin color. Why won’t Ed be accepting of his only grandson and where will this new discovery lead?
Sundee T. Frazier, who is biracial, weaves a delicate story using geology as a metaphor for different skin colors. I highly recommend this book.
Brendan Buckley's Universe and Everything in it
What caught my eye was the cover . . . it looks like summer. Mielo So’s watercolor painting of a beach scene promises lovely things inside. Here are the first and last couplets of the poem called “What the Waves Say”:
“Shimmer and run, catch the sun.
Ripple thin, catch the wind.
Roll green, rise and lean—
wake and roar and strike the shore.”
Kate Coombs’ poems are a mix of playfulness and mystery; Water Sings Blue is a lovely collection that is just right for reading aloud with kids.
Water Sings Blue
With fuzzy memories of the film version of the original book by Ian Fleming, and having read and enjoyed some other titles by Frank Cottrell Boyce, I was excited to hear about the new book based on the eponymous magical flying car. In Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again, Chitty is manifested in a 1966 camper van purchased by Mum, beautifully restored by recently unemployed Dad and son Jem. The Tooting family also includes older sister Lucy and Little Harry, both important characters in the plot.
I really enjoyed Boyce's new book and so I went back to Fleming's original and the movie musical version. They're both so much fun in their own special ways. This new installment in the Chitty franchise is as different from the 1968 Albert R. Broccoli movie adaptation as that movie was from Ian Fleming's original. They all take off from the real-life legend of Count Zborowski's 1920 custom built chain-drive super-fast race car in one way or another, however. And while Fleming didn't live to see the MGM film production or the publication of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, his only title written for children, Fleming clearly had a great imagination beyond Bond. You can enjoy them all at KPL. I think I can safely say that I Geek Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again
Some books are just great to look at. I love this new book, Green by Laura Vaccaro Steeger. My favorite color is green and so I was naturally interested in this book as soon as I saw it. From the inside flap:
"How many kinds of green are there?
There’s the lush green of a forest on a late spring day, the fresh, juicy green of a just-cut lime, the incandescent green of a firefly, and the vivid aquamarine of a tropical sea."
On each page of this beautiful book a different shade of green is explored. My favorite was the just-cut lime. The artistry is so masterful and there are cut-outs between the pages that completely delight. As you flip through the pages the cut-outs allow you to see glimpses of the pages before and after. I don't want to give anything away but look for the fireflies that turn into apples on a tree. Each time I look through it I notice something new. It's a wonderful picture book for readers, young and old.
Most of the time I’m waiting for one book or another to come out. Knowing forthcoming publication dates is part of this profession but I think I’d be this way regardless. Most of the time, I think the anticipation is fun and I even add reminders to my online calendar so that I don’t forget to put the book on hold.
The hardest part of reading a good series is waiting for the next book. Sometimes I’m so anxious to read it, I have to work hard to distract myself with other good books. Other times I forget about a series for awhile and then am pleasantly surprised when a new book comes out. A few times in my life, I’ve purposely waited until the whole series was available before reading because I just new it would be so good that I’d want to read it all at once. It’s hard to avoid spoilers but it’s pretty great to not have to wait for the next book. I read the Harry Potter series this way, start to finish. That was a great two weeks!
Early 2012 seemed to be a busy reading time for me with new additions to some of my favorite series for children and teens coming out. I really enjoyed Trenton Lee Stewart’s new book, The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict, a companion to his Mysterious Benedict Society series. This series is great for elementary aged kids but I know a fair number of adults who like it too. I think it’d be great for reading as a family or listening to on a road trip. Suspenseful and touching with lots of mystery and problem-solving. Funny, engaging characters. This latest book was easily my favorite of all four.
Now I’m moving on to Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore. It’s a companion book to “Graceling” and “Fire” and I’m hoping it’s just as wonderful. I've been waiting a long time to read more about Bitterblue, Po, and Katsa!
So what books are you marking your calendar for? Anything I should be looking out for too?
Even though the cover of House Held Up By Trees has a melancholy look, the soft and gentle words tell a story that feels like a magical secret . . . an abandoned house that is lifted off its sterile foundation by the trees growing up around it. Poet Ted Kooser and illustrator Jon Klassen have created a quiet and thoughtful picture book that deserves to be seen beyond the walls of the Children’s Room.
House Held Up By Trees
One of the newest American Girl’s has arrived just in time for the 2012 Summer Olympics. McKenna written by Mary Casanova introduces us to 10 year old McKenna who lives for gymnastics. Of course the 2012 Summer Olympics which will be held in London, England from July 27th to August 12, 2012 and will include many gymnastic events. Summer Olympics feature both Artistic and Rhythmic competitions. It never fails that after the Olympics are over, there will be a surge of young kids signing up at the gyms to take classes in gymnastics.
Fourth grader McKenna Brooks lives for gymnastics. We see her in school thinking about her floor, vault, beam and bar routines. But this year in school she has started to struggle with her work and in particular her reading. Early on her parents are concerned and want to help her – they tell her that if her grades don’t improve she may have to spend less time at the gym. Both McKenna’s parents and her teacher do not want her falling behind in her studies. As McKenna continues to struggle with her school work, her teacher thinks a tutor might be the answer. Josie, McKenna’s tutor helps her with her reading comprehension and much more.
Josie, confined to a wheel chair, helps McKenna face her challenges with school and gymnastics. Just as McKenna begins to shine in school she is sidelined with a gymnastics injury and her confidence unravels. Now she is worried about her grades and earning a spot on the elite competitive gymnastics team. Fortunately with the help of McKenna’s family and Josie she is able to regain edge.
This new American Girl and her friends will be a nice addition for summer reading fun. Don’t miss the 2nd title in the series McKenna Ready to Fly!
Going off to work isn't always easy for parent or child. Monday is One Day is a touching picture book that shows all kinds of families through the week. In simple verse and accessible illustrations, preschool children are portrayed with their caregivers in everyday heading-off-to-work activities in this "love note from a working parent to a child". Monday is One Day might help to ease youngsters' separation anxiety when mom or dad need to head off to work. It's also a simple and beautiful celebration family togetherness.
Monday is One Day
Eulinda’s story takes place during the civil war in 1864. Her father was the plantation owner and although he was kind to her, he was willing to do only so much. She had been acknowledged as his daughter, lived in the plantation home, and had received an education. She received castoff clothing from the master’s stepdaughter and was treated a little better than the rest of the slaves. That much of the story is fictional but most of Numbering All the Bones was built on facts taken from records on Andersonville Prison. The Andersonville prison was the most horrific prison in the American Civil War. Ann Rinaldi added real characters and real facts to her fictional story. William Griffin was a real ex-confederate officer, who came along and saw the 13,000 bodies and knew that the prison was something he had to set right. He tolled, first paying ex-slaves to work along side of him, out of his own money. They dug graves, painted headstones and planted flowers. It became Dorence Atwater ambition to dig up the Negro bodies to get the names off the toe tags on the bodies and reburied them with their names on the headstones. And then there was Clara Barton…but, I’ve already told too much.
Even though, this book was written for children it really captured me and I enjoyed reading how Eulinda made herself come true.
Numbering All the Bones
Since I’m a children’s librarian by training, I’m always interested in reading children’s books. A new book, The Case of the Deadly Desperados by Caroline Lawrence, got rave reviews and I can understand why.
In the Old West of 1882, 12 year old P.K. Pinkerton is on the run from Whittlin’ Walt and his gang of desperadoes. P.K. has a deed that his dying Ma gave him, that gives the bearer possession of land and a rich silver mine in the Nevada Mountains. P.K. has to use lots of ingenuity to stay one jump ahead of ruthless Whittlin” Walt, and also the schemes of gamblers, hurdy girls, and con men who populate the rough and tumble West of those times.
The story is action packed, funny, and poignant, and is aimed at 5th grade-and-up readers. This is the first in the projected “Western Mysteries” series by Caroline Lawrence; I’ll be looking forward to the next installment and P.K.’s further adventures.
The Case of the Deadly Desperados
With the weather we’ve been having you can’t help but realize that butterfly season is right around the corner. The library has lots of really good books on butterflies. One of them is simply called Butterflies by Seymour Simon. Simon does children’s science educational books with simple titles like Cats, Global Warming, The Universe and Penguins and they all have great pictures. The pictures are all close-up and graphic. His books are colorful and well written. The information is useful and comprehensive at a child’s level. There’s no better way for you and your kids to spend the day than in the garden with this book looking for butterflies and learning just about everything they need to know about them.
A while back, I posted a blog about the book In front of my house by Marianne Dubuc. My two-year-old daughter loved it, but I actually found it to be a great book to read aloud to a variety of ages of children. KPL just got in Dubuc's newest book, Animal masquerade, which has the same format : tons of colorful illustrations, sparse text on each page (but with plenty of "big" words), and much longer than the average picture book (over 100 pages, but less than a ten-minute read). If you've got a 1-year-old, 4-year-old, and 7-year-old that you'd like to read to at the same time, this is your book. Animal masquerade features a huge variety of animals (from millipedes to platypuses) getting ready for a masquerade party, each disguising himself as another animal as the story progresses. It is very cute and clever...I am a huge fan of this author/illustrator!
“Swing the ball. Swing the ball.
Thump and smash and whack.
Bring the top floors tumbling down.
Bang! CLANG! CRACK”
The preschooler in all of us will love Sally Sutton and Brian Lovelock’s Demolition, a book about big machines tearing down an old building. High-rech excavators, bulldozers, mobile crushers, and cranes with wrecking balls, all guided by a hard-hatted crew of men and women, work to obliterate a structure to make way for something new. So what’s all the work for? On the newly cleared, smoothed, and green site site workers erect a new playground:
“Join the fun. Join the fun.
Run and climb and play.
Give three cheers! The job is done.
Hip . . . hip . . . HOORAY!”
Sally May Harrison is a slave. Pa learns that Master is planning to sell her and her brother, Abraham, so Pa plans for the whole family to run away from the plantation. They encounter many terrors and tragedy en route. Ultimately, Sally’s family finds and lives with a tribe of Seminole people.
I was moved by the poetry at the beginning of each chapter of My Name is Sally Little Song, by Brenda Woods. Sally makes up songs, like her Mama taught her to do. With very few words, her songs capture the essence of what she and her family experience.
Pa tells the family they are leaving “day after t’morrow afore sunrise,” and to keep it a secret…”send no one a farewell look with your eyes.” The following chapter starts with:
“Gotta look down
Into the dirt all day
Or my brown eyes
Is sure to give us away”
Sally’s family travels at night, in hopes of escaping notice. When they get to swampland, her poem both describes the feeling in the swamp and foreshadows danger:
Beneath my feet
Night bugs fly
Woods is the author of a 2003 Coretta Scott King Honor book, The Red Rose Box.
My Name is Sally Little Song
Dead End in Norvelt, by Jack Gantos, is the 2012 Newbery Medal winner for the most distinguished American children’s book published the previous year. Gantos has written many excellent children’s books including the naughty cat “Rotten Ralph” series and the troubled kid “Joey Pigza” series. Dead End in Norvelt is a semi-autobiographical story that mixes fact and fiction, the main character is named Jack Gantos... It is the summer of 1962. Jackie is twelve years old and is grounded for the summer for firing a shot from his father’s WWII Japanese sniper rifle AND for mowing down his mother’s corn patch intended to feed the needy inhabitants of her beloved town of Norvelt, Pennsylvania. Why did he mow down the corn? His dad, a navy veteran, told him to mow it, said he needed the land to build a bomb shelter from the Commies and a runway for his J-3 airplane, hoping to eventually fly away his family to a new life in Florida.
Jackie’s mother is devoted and loyal to the concept of neighbor-helping-neighbor. She’s forever grateful to the memory of and indebted to the social programs of Eleanor Roosevelt for whom the town is named, (“Nor” from Eleanor and “velt” from Roosevelt). Eleanor Roosevelt was instrumental in getting indoor plumbing and electricity in their New Deal homestead project built in 1934. When Jackie’s mother gives him permission to help their neighbor Miss Volker, he jumps at the chance to throw down his shovel and pick up a pencil to write obituaries with Volker. She’s old, arthritic-handed, and is the town nurse and medical examiner. Jackie writes the obits as the excited Volker dictates, never missing a beat about the importance and thoroughness of including everything, ie, the family part and, the important ideas to keep alive, and the importance of history. Volker gets worked up, pacing back and forth, swinging her arms like a windmill. Jackie types, then delivers the obits to Mr. Greene, Editor of the Norvelt News. Volker also writes: “This Day in History” for the newspaper. Volker is adamant with Jack about learning the importance of History… and don’t you forget it!
Sometimes the underage Jackie drives Volker around in her Valiant to visit the dead old ladies who are officially declared dead by Volker, the medical examiner. Why are so many of the original female inhabitants of Norvelt dying? Is it really just old age? What if Norvelt doesn’t get new inhabitants, what will become of the beloved town of Norvelt? Read this book for the surprise ending of this Newbery Award Winner!
Dead End in Norvelt
Leo and Diane Dillon have been illustrating children’s books together for most of their married life. They are icons in the world of children’s books. Patricia McKissack is also revered in the same world. Together, these talented folks have given us Never Forgotten, the story of Musafa, who was taken captive, sent across the sea, and sold into slavery.
Richly illustrated with oil paintings that look like woodcuts, this is lyrical story reminds readers that family is more important than anything and that our ancestors are with us always.
This book won a well-deserved Coretta Scott King Honor Award this year.
Even though the December Holidays have been packed away, I discovered a beautiful gem that I want to share with readers.
Linda Sue Park, Newbery Award winning author of A Single Shard, has written a wonderful new picture book—The Third Gift. The book is beautifully illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline.
The story begins with a young boy learning his Father’s craft—he collects tears. His Father’s craft is to recognize the trees that release valuable resin. Together they gather the round drops, pearls of sap that seep out of a tree when the bark is cut. Sometimes the boy and his Father have to walk a long way to find good trees but his Father is able to see “inside” each tree, some are good—some are not—if not good they have to continue on. Father knows exactly how to cut the tree. If Father has chosen well a tear will emerge and form a big tear. The outside of the tear will dry in the hot sun. These tears are large and contain a treasure of resin. The tears are then sold to the spice merchant in the marketplace. The tears are used for many things.
On this particular trip, one of the trees forms a tear the size of a hen’s egg. A few weeks later, father and son take their tears to the marketplace. The spice merchant has been waiting for them – the merchant has customers who want to buy a special gift. The boy’s tear is selected. The three men have a gift of gold, a gift of frankincense and now they will add a gift of myrrh. The boy wants to know who the gifts are for. One of the three merchants says the gifts are for a baby and the boy is proud that he harvested part of the gift. The three men mount their camels and ride into the desert while the boy wonders about the baby.
The last full page drawing shows the three merchants riding up to a small stable where the new born baby waits.
The story and paintings are absolutely beautiful. I have read this story several times and each reading merits studying the detailed artwork. What a gem—read this soon but also tuck it away for next December.
Also included are Bible references and historical information about the magi and myrrh.
The Third Gift
“More, More, More,” Said the Baby: Three Love Stories is the story of Little Guy, Little Pumpkin, and Little Bird, three active babies whose caregivers affectionately “catch them up” to deliver kisses and nibble toes which, of course, the babies love. We've been enjoying this Caldecott Honor book along with our songs and rhymes at Baby Steps every Tuesday morning at 10:30 at the Central Library. While it's a great Valentine’s Day choice, More, More, More is nice any time of year and fun for older children and their caregivers, too. It's also available in a board book edition, perfect for sharing with the youngest readers-to-be.
"More, More, More," Said the Baby: Three Love Stories
I first learned about these principles when my daughter’s teacher sent some information in a newsletter about a workshop at Wile Auditorium, part of Kalamazoo RESA. This sounded very interesting and my wife and I attended the workshop. We were so impressed by the principles being taught that I just had to learn more. Sure enough KPL has the book, so I checked it out and my wife and I are reading it together. I am so excited about this book that I just could not wait until we finished reading it before I had to share it in my blog. This book teaches that the sooner a parent can start applying these principles in raising their children, the better chance they will have of learning basic skills that will help them to become more independent later in life.
Ultimately, these principles will teach children to be able to face life’s difficult challenges out in the “real world.” This book helps us understand the different types of parenting styles. It explains how styles, such as “The Drill Sargent,” or “The Helicopter Parent,” where although the parent has good intentions, is actually not doing their children any favors, and could be setting them up for failure. By allowing them to make decisions at a young age where the consequences are still small, allowing them to fail at times, we are actually helping them build these skills. This is a way to teach them how to make good decisions that will ensure that they will be better prepared to make them later on in life, when the consequences continue to become more severe.
Kids are just little people, who have feelings, and as parents we need to set the example. This book shows us that sometimes what we meant to say, and what is perceived can be drastically different, and much care should be taken with how you approach situations where your child’s behavior may not be up to your expectations. Studying Parenting with Love and Logic will not only help you with raising more responsible children, but can also be applied to your everyday life, and help build better personal relationships, become a better employee, educator, or even a more effective manager.
Parenting with Love & Logic
You could look only at the illustrations in this book and understand the friendship between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, but, of course, you will want to read the text that explains what transpired between John Adams, the Second President of the United States, and Thomas Jefferson, the Third President of the United States.
Suzanne Tripp Jurmain presents a brief overview of the beginnings of American independence and the important roles of Adams and Jefferson. Noisy John Adams was one of America’s best talkers and shy Thomas Jefferson was one of America’s best writers and together they helped write the Declaration of Independence. Although Adams and Jefferson were complete opposites in appearance, they both “had the same big, wonderful ideas about America. And, whenever they had a chance to work for their country, they did it together.” Interestingly enough, both John and Tom died on the same day, July 4, 1826, the fiftieth birthday of American independence.
Worst of Friends
I was just thrilled this week when I checked the holds shelf and Rooster's revenge, the 3rd installation of Beatrice Rodriguez' Chicken Thief trilogy, was waiting for me! This wordless set of picture books that I dare say are of interest to ANY AGE is truly captivating...my husband sat with us on the couch as I "read" them to my daughter, and I even overheard him mentioning them to one of his guy friends. The illustrations are adorable, witty, with the characters' emotions perfectly portrayed on every page--no words necessary. A quick summary of the trilogy: in The chicken thief, a fox kidnaps a hen on a serene morning, and her friends give chase...in Fox and Hen together...well, hard to say without giving away the ending of The chicken thief but the title gives you an idea...and ditto to Rooster's revenge--VERY worth your while to find out!
There is often more than one correct way to do something. Recently I was browsing the Facebook pages of other libraries (like us, please!) and this book popped up. I like to make soup and share it with friends, but I sometimes worry that everything has to be perfect before issuing invitations, so this book title spoke to me. I found it in the catalog, and since it was already checked out, I placed a hold on it, and it soon arrived.
This book is a charming tale of cooperation and negotiation, with a twist at the end that speaks powerfully to the importance of adjusting expectations (and also of challenging the authority of the printed word with the conviction of personal experience). My adult dinner guests enjoyed flipping through the book as well (and philosophising). We all agreed with the heartwarming conclusion about the importance of friendship. The soup I served was delicious, but not what made the evening perfect.
Every year around this time we're excited to learn which titles have won American Library Association Youth Media Awards. The 2012 winners of the Newbery, Caldecott, Coretta Scott King, and other prestigious medals in the world of Children's Literature, were announced on Monday.
Jack Gantos was awarded the Newbery medal for Dead End in Norvelt.
Chris Raschka's A Ball for Daisy is the 2012 Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children.
Kadir Nelson, author and illustrator of Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans, is the King Author Book winner for that fine work.
Shane W. Evans, illustrator and author of Underground: Finding the Light to Freedom, is the King Illustrator Book winner.
Check them all out at here at the library!
A Ball for Daisy
“Stars are everywhere. Not just in the sky. Look . . .” Beginning and ending with looking for stars in the night sky, in between are other times and places to find stars. You can cut out a star and put it in your pocket, you can put it on the end of a wand and hope to see a wish come true, there are stars in dandelions and moss and snowflakes.
In Stars, Mary Lyn Ray and Marla Frazee have created a beautiful, thoughtful, poignant picture book. Even if you don’t have preschoolers in your life, you should take a look at this book.
Mac and Cheese are two alley-cat friends without many interests in common.
When Macaroni sings a song,
Cheese will never sing along.
Mac likes to jump and play and sing,
But Cheese does not like anything.
Yes, Cheese is kind of a grumpy cat while Mac definitely has the happy gene. Mac attempts a heart-to-heart with Cheese to find out why he's such a sour-puss. Turns out Cheese's favorite pastime is spending quiet time with dear friend Mac who is grateful when Cheese retrieves Mac's windblown hat.
I enjoy this good choice for beginning readers as a read-aloud, too, because of Sarah Weeks' clever rhyming text and the book's appealing illustrations.
Mac and Cheese
I first heard of Randy Christensen, MD, when Diane Rehm interviewed him on her show, discussing Ask Me Why I Hurt. “Dr. Randy” is medical director of Crews’n Healthmobile, a mobile medical clinic providing health care for homeless youth in Phoenix, AZ. In this book, Christensen tells the true stories of many of the young people he’s treated on the healthmobile, changing names and identifying characteristics, of course, to protect the privacy of his patients.
We learn early on where the book gets its title, when “Mary” appears outside the van, wearing a beaded bracelet, with the words “ask me why I hurt” spelled out in block letters. Mary nervously avoided the doctor’s direct questions, so it took a while for Dr. Randy to build enough rapport with her to trust he could ask the question, without her running away. When Mary did finally answer him, after several stops to the mobile, he learned she’d been seriously sexually abused by her father. Mary’s and the other teenagers’ stories told in this book are both heartbreaking and heartwarming, as many of them do ultimately find reason to hope and ways to heal.
I take exception to the subtitle: “the Kids Nobody Wants and the Doctor who Heals Them.” To say this book is about the kids nobody wants isn’t the whole truth. Many of the young people seeking health care at Crews’n have experienced serious neglect and/or abuse, often at the hands of family members, that is true. Yet, Mary finds sanctuary and a second chance with her aunt; ultimately, we learn that she goes on to finish her education and complete a master’s degree. Donald—a boy whose father beat him so severely he sustained permanent brain damage--gains a loving family and caring community when Pastor and Mrs. Richardson take him in. Then there are all the workers from HomeBase, a shelter for teens, and UMOM, a shelter for homeless families, who help teens prepare for adult life, via GED and life skills education.
To my mind, the book isn’t really about Randy Christensen. Granted, he shared autobiographical details that help the reader understand the stresses of trying to balance family life with the particular challenges of his chosen career. And yes, as I read the story, I came to care about him, as well as the kids that visit the van. The book is written in first-person narrative, but the main reason for the book is that these young people matter, their stories matter, and Christensen felt they needed to be heard. Christensen shows us that there are a lot of young people suffering, there's a desperate need for more services and protection for them, and yet there are many people who care and are helping teens-at-risk make positive changes in their lives.
Ask Me Why I Hurt
During this busy holiday season, parents and other adults are scrambling about in search of the perfect gift for their children, grandchildren, nephews and nieces. Well, look no further!
Consider a gift that will entertain and educate kids of all ages and bring your family closer together. Give the gift that keeps on giving - the gift of reading! Reading with a child/children and encouraging them to read independently are two of the most significant things an adult can do to influence a youngster’s life.
Of course, good books make wonderful gifts. Kids naturally enjoy the magic that a book brings as they go over the story and illustrations, (many times, often more than once), practice their reading skills and perhaps learn something new in the process. Magazine subscriptions also make great recurring reading presents.
But maybe the best option for a reading themed gift is to bring a child to the Kalamazoo Public Library sometime during their holiday break. If you time it right, you can attend one of many programs planned for children. Then you can sign up the little guys for their own library cards, which come complete with plastic carrying cases and lanyards. And even though it is free of charge, the amount of pride and joy you’ll see in the little ones’ faces when first presented with it, will form a pleasurable, lasting memory for all gift givers.
Once armed with the card, the child has the entire library’s collection at his or her disposal. They can choose their own books, audiobooks, magazines, CDs, and DVDs. Of course, librarians are always on hand to aid your young ones in the selection process, helping to match the child with books covering their particular interests, and on their reading level as well. Best of all, this process can be repeated again and again. Just return the items and pick out new ones as many times as you like. Truly the best gift of all. And one that will keep on giving for a lifetime!
Clementine, a third grader, thinks that her family of four people is just fine the way it is. Who needs a baby? There won’t even be room at the kitchen table, which has only four sides! Clementine and the Family Meeting is the fifth book in the popular series of books about Clementine and her family.
Clementine’s voice—both internal and external—is terrific. “Dad reached over and opened the marmalade, which is a kind of jelly that grown-ups pretend to like even though it has orange grinds in it, which we throw away for a reason.” Don’t miss this series, by Sara Pennypacker; it’s great for independent readers, as well as for shared family reading.
Clementine and the Family Meeting
Kadir Nelson is my favorite illustrator and now he has illustrated and written a new book! I especially like his historical portraits. In Heart and Soul he writes about the lives that belong with his expressive faces, some of them fictional and some of them biographical, but all of them speak to me. They tell stories of injustice, unfair laws and the struggles and determination it took to rally against them.
Heart and Soul: the Story of America and African Americans is very nicely done in an old storytelling style that says "that promise and the right to fight for it is worth every ounce of it's weight in gold. It is our Nation’s heart and soul."
Heart and Soul: the story of America and African Americans
After you read this great juvenile fiction story, you will conclude that the book: Esperanza Rising IS appropriately titled. Esperanza is the daughter of a wealthy rancher in Aguascalientes, Mexico, in 1930. Esperanza always had servants; the most- trusted servants are Alfonso, Hortensia, and their son Miguel. The day before Esperanza’s thirteenth birthday her world is changed forever when Papi is killed by bandits. When Papi’s evil stepbrothers, Tio Marco and Tio Luis, take over the ranch, Esperanza and her mother and Abuelita (grandmother), hatch a desperate and dangerous plan of escape aided by Hortensia, Alfonso, and Miguel. Undercover, they all stealth away to California where they labor in a company farm camp and Mexican Repatriation is rampant. Esperanza is forced to change her attitude and ideas and is forced to learn common chores in order to survive.
This is a marvelously well-written story about personal change and triumph. Pam Munoz Ryan’s author’s note describes that the book parallels her grandmother’s life who lived much like the characters in this story. This book is a favorite amongst elementary teachers.
When Julie, a generally bored 6th grader living in a small town near Liverpool, is asked to be the “good guide” for two new 6th grade classmates who suddenly arrive from Mongolia, she’s excited to take on the challenge. She teaches them about soccer, British slang, and school uniforms. She ends up learning quite a lot about traditional Mongolian life - but not from the brothers - and wishing the two weren't so secretive and quite so eager to "fit in" at their new school.
Some of the things she thinks she learns from the brothers are expressed as Polaroid style pictures, created for the book by illustrators Carl Hunter and Clare Heney. Frank Cottrell Boyce has crafted a school story that is in part about the ways the adult world can disrupt the lives of children. The Unforgotten Coat was inspired by the real-life story of a girl from Mongolia whom Boyce met during a visit to a school. This is an entertaining real-world that you won't want to put down.
The Unforgotten Coat
Can you count to 20? How about colors—do you know them? Opposites? Seasons? Before heading to kindergarten there is a lot to learn! This book is a great check for the 4-year-olds who have been learning so many, many things.
In Everything I Need to Know Before I’m Five, Valorie Fisher has created bright, fun, photographs featuring retro toys to illustrate this book of concepts. This book would be a great gift for the clever preschooler on your list.
Everything I Need to Know Before I’m Five
We usually travel to my sister’s place in Cleveland, Ohio to celebrate both Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. It’s a hectic, yet fun time for all, but especially so for the kids. In this case, I’m talking about my niece’s two young girls Zoya, age 7 and Maya, who is 4. To keep the tykes from being underfoot in the kitchen while celebratory meals are being prepared, I have taken to bringing a bag full of children’s books to read to them. All three of us find a comfortable sofa, oversized pillows or bed in a quiet nook of the house and settle in for some choice holiday stories. After doing this for the last 3 years or so, the girls eagerly look forward to our holiday read-together times.
During Thanksgiving our favorites have included Run, Turkey, Run! by Diane Mayr, as well as A Turkey for Thanksgiving by Eve Bunting. In both of these humorous kid’s tomes, the turkey does not get eaten on Thanksgiving Day and instead a vegetarian meal is served. In Run, Turkey, Run! the meal substitution is completely unintentional, when the turkey manages to outwit the farmer and his family who have to settle for grilled cheese sandwiches as a result. However in A Turkey for Thanksgiving, a non-turkey menu is planned from the very start, as the moose family (all fervent vegetarians by birth) invite their local turkey neighbor to sit down with them for the feast as their guest of honor. And of course as befits this special status, he is placed at the head of the table.
For the Christmas holidays, some of our past favorites have included: What Dogs Want for Christmas by Kandy Radzinski, The Christmas Day Kitten by James Herriot, Wake Up Bear...It’s Christmas! by Stephen Gammell, as well as the British classic, The Church Mice at Christmas by Graham Oakley.
On occasion, I like to mix-up the repertoire a little by also including stories not related to the holidays. One of these is Frankie Works the Night Shift by Lisa Westberg Peters, which happens to be Zoya’s particular favorite, and which I have had to read numerous times due to the incessant clamor of an unyielding, adoring (and adorable) audience. To further keep interests high, along with the stories I will sometimes incorporate a craft or two that relates either to the holiday theme or the main character of a book.
So if you have kids, nephews, nieces or friends with children, go to your local library to stock up on some fun titles. Then take some time out, gather up the troops, read, laugh and enjoy.
Reading together: It’s a great way to put that memorable, extra special, human sparkle into the next generation’s holiday season!
Run, Turkey, Run!
Don’t you love the cover of this Halloween book? Denise Fleming’s artwork in all of her books is so rich and vibrant...and this nighttime sky is the perfect background for the pumpkins and creatures.
Pumpkin Eye is a great choice for pre-schoolers: the slightly scary mood balanced by costumed friends and deliciously descriptive words. It’s such a fun Halloween treat!
I have a plan for Tuesday, November 15, 2011. That plan is to read Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever! It’s time to start the countdown.
Follow the countdown along with me and other Wimpy Kid fans as we await the fate of Greg Heffley in the 6th installment of the best selling series. What school property does he damage? And if he doesn’t damage it, who does? Is Rowley involved? What is his punishment? Does his family get snowed in over the Winter break? Less than one month until we all find out!
Share your predictions that day, play Wimpy Kid games, eat sugar and create your own diary at the Wimpy Kid Release Party at the Oshtemo Branch Library on Tuesday, November 15, from 6 pm to 7 pm. Wimpy Kid fans of all ages are welcome! Say hi to me while you’re there and let me know if you had enough Wimpy Kid Fever to tune in to the Countdown too!
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever
Some men took their families; some left them behind hoping to send for them later. They left for uncertain futures afraid of what they might find. They left the cotton fields, tobacco, corn and beans behind. They left because they heard that there were jobs, nice homes, food for the family and no Klan.
The Great Migration: Journey to the North is a book of poems and short stories that tell about strength, hope and determination that causes people to survive. Eloise Greenfield showed that you can say very little to still say a lot.
The Great Migration: Journey to the North
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
Toni Morrison used a collection of photographs taken during the struggle to integrate schools to tell a story of hope, triumph and survival. The 1954 Brown versus the Board of Education segregation case embodied a turbulent time in American history and what better way to tell its story than through its pictures. Unlike Toni Morrison’s other books Remember: the Journey to School Integration is a pictorial collection for children and it will mean different things to different people. But the picture that means the most to me was taken from a New York Times May 18, 1954 article that blared High Court Bans School Segregation; 9-to-0 Decision Grants Time to Comply. And on the opposite page is a picture of the nine Supreme Court judges that did away with the 1896 Separate but Equal ruling.
Remember: The Journey to School Integration
I’m currently reading What Would Joey Do?, book three of four in the Joey Pigza series by Jack Gantos. I like reading about Joey and his unpredictable life, his sweet behavior, his incredibly stupid behavior, and his mature logic about himself and his family—the abusive cigarette-smoking oxygenated grandma who raised him, his single mom with whom he now lives and who was AWOL most of his life yet now treats him with love and care, and his well-intentioned alcoholic dad Carter who lives three hours away in Pennsylvania, and his constant companion Pablo, a dachshund who tags along in Joey’s backpack.
Joey is high-strung and has major behavior problems that prompt his mom to get him evaluated resulting in him wearing medicated patches. Joey jumps into laugh-out-loud situations then suddenly sinks to real-life issues loaded with poignancy and despair. Joey is a grown-up little kid and his favorite expression is, “Can I get back to you on that?” Gantos is an extremely clever writer who has created a humorous character you do want to know!
Jack Gantos is the author of the Joey Pigza series:
What Would Joey Do?
Ever wonder what a day in the life of a goldfish is like? Well, wonder no longer. Michgan author Devin Scillian's brilliant book, Memoirs of a Goldfish (excellently illustrated by Tim Bowers), takes you through not only a day but several days for an adorable little goldfish. He gets curious, grumpy, lonely, excited, and nervous among many other things. He finds friends, love, and probably himself. I like him and so will you! (P.S. Tell all your friends about him, too, since this book is the Michigan Reads! title for 2011!)
Memoirs of a Goldfish
“The lights went out. All of them.” You know what that’s like, don’t you? Not only the lights, but the fan, the refrigerator, the computer, the radio.
Blackout is the story of one family’s evening without power and how a crisis, even a minor one, can bring people together in comfortable ways. The story is predictable, but the illustrations are rich and lustrous.
Pair this book with Elisha Cooper’s A Good Night Walk for another lovely story about a summer night.
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?
A lot of the kids in the Kalamazoo Public School district may be familiar with My Name is Sally Little Song because it was one of this year’s KPL Global Reading Challenge books. It’s a story about a family that decides to risk their lives in search of freedom.
Read it and see how Sally May Harrison becomes Sally Little Song. Brenda Woods, author and of the Coretta Scott King honor award for The Red Rose Box does an excellent job telling the tale of the Harrison family and their quest for freedom.
My name is Sally Little Song
I admit it. I am in awe of long-distance bicyclists. You may have caught my blog on Emmanuel’s Gift, the documentary about cyclist Emmanuel Osofu Yeboah, who biked across his home country of Ghana to raise awareness about people living with disabilities.
Take a minute to imagine the athleticism, courage and perseverance necessary to conduct a solo bike ride. Now see yourself as a woman riding around the world, for fifteen months, in 1894! Read all about Annie Londonderry’s incredible bike journey in Around the World on Two Wheels by Zheutlin, Peter.
Closer to home and the present, Grand Rapids author Sue Stauffacher has led a 5-day, 250-mile bike convoy this week, as a tribute to Tillie Anderson, 1898 world champion cycling racer. Stauffacher detailed Tillie’s adventures in Tillie the Terrible Swede: How One Woman, a Sewing Needle, and a Bicycle Changed History. The cycling group stopped at schools along the bike route—who have not had author visits in five years--to encourage kids to get excited about both biking and reading.
May is National Bike Month, a good time to let others’ efforts inspire you to get out onto two wheels (and encourage someone else to do it, too!)
Tillie the Terrible Swede: How one woman, a sewing needle and a bicycle changed history
“You live Hawaii, you live the ocean, ah?” Nine-year-old Calvin lives in Hawaii, surrounded by ocean; he and most of his friends know how to be smart around water. But when his friend Willy falls into a tidal river, there’s no one around but Calvin to come to his rescue.
I really like this series of books about Calvin. He lives with his mom, younger sister, and live-in babysitter Stella. His mom’s boyfriend, Ledward, is a regular visitor. This story is a little more serious than some of the others, but all of the books are full of realistic characters and funny situations. There are nicely-done sketches every few pages. We used Calvin Coconut: Trouble Magnet as one of the books for this year’s Global Reading Challenge competition and the kids really liked it.
I’ve been looking at alphabet and counting books this week, in preparation for a professional development presentation, and I came across one of my favorite ABC books . . . LMNO Peas by Keith Baker. “We are peas—alphabet peas! We work and play in the ABCs.” These peas have the cutest little faces! They are artists, bikers, and campers . . . plumbers, readers, and voters. The illustrations are full of peas doing all kinds of things; there’s plenty of detail for small eyes to see and the letters themselves are large and colorful and create the environment for doing all the things that busy peas need to do.
This new children’s chapter book caught my eye with its appealing cover. Who is this pig dressed in a jaunty hat and a snappy polka dot suit? And her expression just exudes confidence with a hint of sassiness.
The Adventures of Nanny Piggins by R.A. Spratt features the most appealing nanny three kids could hope for. The children- whose mother has died- have a Type A father whose main interest is his job, and not spending money unless absolutely necessary. So Mr. Green posts a sign in the yard saying, “Nanny Wanted.” When a stylish Nanny Piggins knocks at the door and says she will accept ten cents an hour salary, Mr. Green can’t say no.
Nanny’s former job was getting shot out of a cannon for the circus, so you know she is adventurous, and she’s also great fun. This would be a good read aloud, since the author has a sly sense of humor that I think will appeal to adults as well as children. Each chapter is a separate adventure, and it’s laugh out loud funny for children in grades 3-up. A sequel with the chocolate loving Nanny is planned.
The Adventures of Nanny Piggins
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.
Multiple times over the last few days, I have read In front of my house by Marianne Dubuc to my 19-month-old daughter. I like it especially compared to most of the books that we read because it is a little bit longer story, but there are few words on each illustrated page so it still holds her attention. The book begins at "my house" and takes readers on a fantastic adventure that includes the forest, the ocean, outer space, and even fairy-tale land before circling back and ending comfortably once again at "my house." There are a lot of words/images that my young daughter knows already, which is always a plus with this age. This is a great one if you're looking for a book to read to multiples ages of children, because the concepts (i.e. fairy tale characters such as the Three Pigs) are definitely geared toward a little bit older children (my guess is at least up to second grade) but because of the simple presentation, toddlers like my daughter can also get into it.
In front of my house
“Reading, Rhyming, and ‘Rithmetic,” poems by Dave Crawley, c.2010, is a fun, entertaining book of school-themed poetry for elementary age children and on up through any age. The poems focus on every day events in a typical school day as perceived by a somewhat mischievous student. The illustrations are comical and bright.
Here are the first several lines from two favorites:
“Sub Fun: A substitute teacher! This will be fun! She won’t even ask if our homework is done! We can goof off now and play silly games! Best part of all, she won’t know our names!” (p. 26)
“Saw My Teacher on a Saturday! I can’t believe it’s true! I saw her buying groceries, like normal people do!” (p. 22)
There are many fantastic poetry books for children at KPL in the J811 section of the library. Do yourself a little favor and read a children’s poetry book. You’re in for a smile all the while!
Reading, Rhyming, and ‘Rithmetic
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
I was looking for a particular travel memoir and found myself drawn to all of its companions on the shelf. Before long, I had an armful of books off the shelf.
I found titles recommending where to go and what not to miss:
Unforgettable places: Unique Sites and Experiences around the World
1001 Historic Sites You Must See before You Die
Journeys of a Lifetime: 500 of the World's Greatest Trips
There were books that advise how to travel smarter, cheaper, or under certain conditions:
Ethical Travel: 25 Ultimate Experiences; Make the Most of your Time on Earth
The Family Sabbatical Handbook: the Budget Guide to Living Abroad with your Family
Wanderlust and Lipstick: the Essential Guide for Women Traveling Solo
And then there were travelers’ experiences that just draw you right in:
Into Thick Air: Biking to the Bellybutton of six Continents
How to Fit a Car Seat on a Camel: and other Misadventures Traveling with Kids
Rowing to Alaska and other True Stories
Where was I, in specific? Standing in front of the books in the 910.2 dewey decimal section at Central. You, too, could get inspired to travel however and wherever you wish. Come down and take a browse, or explore via our catalog. Be sure to look beyond the first page, as there are several fun pages of books and DVDs to choose from. We have plenty of other travel books and movies, beyond the 910.2 section; please ask for help if you don’t find what you’re seeking!
Unforgettable places: unique sites and experiences around the world
All year long, the workers at The Village Garage use a variety of vehicles to take care of the snow, the sticks, the leaves, and the potholes in the Village. The illustrations show the winding streets and roadside stands, the business and celebrations of a small town, and the people who work at the Village Garage.
Full of busyness but also the comfort of knowing that everything is being taken care of, this story will satisfy the serious truck enthusiasts as well as those who appreciate seeing how a friendly community works.
The Village Garage
I don't know if 2008 Newbery Medal winner Laura Amy Schlitz's new book is an answer to the popularity of the Daisy Meadows books, but The Night Fairy is a really entertaining and well written fairy story. Lots of kids really like stories about fairies. Fairies are fascinating fantastic creatures. And good writing is good writing - valuable to children as well as adults. Flory is a night fairy no taller than an acorn yet rises to the challenge of life without wings after hers are lost. How she solves this crisis is only part of the wonder of the book. Schlitz's naturalistic prose will pull you right into the garden where the story is largely set. A fairy story set within the animal world, the motivations of the characters are entirely believable within that world and fascinating for young and old alike. If you like thrilling flights of the imagination with some not-too-scary-for-bedtime elements, you'll like The Night Fairy. It was a compelling read aloud for my five-year-old daughter and me and is a great choice for fans of fairy stories from later preschool to middle elementary and beyond.
The Night Fairy
When the kingdom is at war and the princess must be rescued, but all the knights are at the far-off Borderlands, to whom does the King turn? He turns to Thomas. Thomas, the very newest knight. Thomas, the very shortest knight. Thomas, who has a donkey, a vest made by his Da, and a very short sword.
Thomas may be small, but his bravery and determination lead him to the princess and back home again.
Ann Arbor author Shutta Crum has created a great family read-aloud story in Thomas and the Dragon Queen.
Thomas and the Dragon Queen
Have you ever wondered where insects go in the winter time? I sure have. While insects are typically out of sight and out of mind in the winter, they must get through the winter somehow, right? Bugs and Bugsicles is a wonderful new picture book format non-fiction title about the ways that Monarch Butterflies, Praying Mantises, Field Crickets, Lady Bugs, Dragonflies, Honeybees, Pavement Ants, and Arctic Wooly Bear Caterpillars manage to get through the winter - or to make sure their offspring do. While many insects have common strategies, huddling together in a mass to stay warm works well, the book shows other often surprising ways that insects keep it going throughout the seasons.
Explore the variety of children's non-fiction books at Kalamazoo Public Library as read-aloud choices for beginning readers or as entertaining and informative reads for older kids. My five year old daughter and I both enjoyed Bugs and Bugsicles. Now we know where some insects go in the winter.
Bugs and Bugsicles
My 7 year old son Hayden and I are having a great time reading Jarrett Krosoczka's series of graphic novels about an unlikely superhero: the Lunch Lady. Using all sorts of gadgets like taco-vision night goggles, a spork phone, and a spatula helicopter created by her lunch lady sidekick Betty, she foils the evil plans of school librarians, cyborg substitutes, and visiting authors. Lunch Lady breaks out with one of our favorite quotes while taking on a cyborg army, "Should I serve up some whaaamburgers and cries?"
Hayden is a little behind in his reading skills and these have been great books for him to read to me and get some practice.
Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute
Add this Elephant and Piggie title to the list of self-referential illustrated books for kids. As Mo Willems books often will, this one made me laugh out loud. Elephant and Piggie immediately realize that they are being watched. By a monster? No, by a reader. After quickly dealing with the self consciousness issues that arise, Elephant and Piggie think of some hilarious ways to have fun with the situation. Then they have to learn how to embrace impermanence. Existentialism in an early reader format? With Mo Willems at the helm, it's great fun for kids and adults. This may be my favorite Elephant and Piggie book yet!
We Are in a Book!
Throughout this year I’ve kept a list of the books that I thought might end up on my Best of 2010 list. A few weeks ago, KPL published the lists that some of our staff members created.
The problem with my list, though, is that I keep adding books to it! The one I added today is Art and Max by David Wiesner. For years, David Wiesner has been creating books that nudge us to step out on a wobbly twig to appreciate the complexities of his artwork. In this new picture book, he nudges us again. Take a look at Art and Max . . . I’m guessing you may be adding to your list, too!
Art and Max
Delana's Aunt Tilley was full of life. Every night Aunt Tilley filled Delana's head with wild, outrageous family stories. These tales were so unconventional that Delana didn’t know if they were fact or fiction. Whenever Aunt Tilley said “Time to visit the kinfolks” Delana knew that with every family photograph came a dramatized fabrication or truth and something new would be added to her aunt’s “book of bewares”. And then one night Aunt Tilley went to her favorite tree by the river and died.
Tonya Bolden’s Finding Family: a novel is a book full of imagination, family secrets, disappointments and delights.
Finding Family: a novel
In the summer of 1968 Pa packed up his three daughters and put them on a plane headed for Oakland, California. He wanted his girls to get to know their mother. Cecile had abandoned her children when they were very young. Delphine, the oldest child, took on the parental role for her sisters as if she had been entirely responsible for their every action.
In One Crazy Summer, in the midst of the Black Panther movement, Rita Williams-Garcia does a terrific job of telling a family’s story of discovery. Delphine, Vonetta and Fern set off for the adventure of their lives and not only found out a lot about their mother but they also discovered a lot about themselves.
One Crazy Summer
145 years after its original publication, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland still manages to mesmerize readers, artists, and more than a few directors. Alice was a childhood favorite of mine, and I’m happy to return to it as an adult for the Classics Revisited book club this month. KPL has many different incarnations of the book, including copies with the iconic John Tenniel illustrations, audio recordings of the book, and even an annotated version. We also have Disney’s classic movie and Tim Burton’s recent adaption (my favorite movie version, Jan Svankmajer’s Alice, is available via MeLCat).
You can join Classics Revisited on October 21st at 7pm to discuss Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. If Alice doesn’t interest you, take a look at our blog to see upcoming book selections and dates.
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Or, if he can’t, The Candymakers certainly can! Author Wendy Mass’ latest novel for upper elementary readers starts out like it might parallel Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in that there are four children chosen to take part in a candy-creating/making contest at the Life is Sweet candy company. The four are a part of a larger group of thirty-two who will be competing for the best new candy created especially for the contest. So, gather ‘round and join Logan, Philip, Daisy, and Miles as they begin their creative endeavors.
On the surface, this appears to be just another story about four children who each want only one thing: to win the candy contest. About a third of the way into the story, the surface opens up and things really begin happening! Each of the four children brings with himself/herself a secret that, when exposed, will affect the outcome of the contest. Each also shares just a bit about family and past memories, which could also hurt their chances in the contest.
Wendy Mass weaves a tangled web of fantasy about children who are motivated by so many outside factors that they often don’t understand at all. Logan’s parents (owners of the candy factory) have hidden him away from prying eyes for about eight years. Philip’s father seems to stop at nothing to take over others’ businesses, all in the name of greed. Daisy’s family didn’t even tell her when her birthday is so that she won’t blow her cover! And, Miles? Miles is into the afterlife, and is allergic to a great many things, including chocolate chip pancakes.
I’m sure you are wondering what all of this has to do with winning a candy-making contest. Trust me! You will be drawn into this story quickly and you will take on the characteristics of each of the children as their part in this drama unfolds. While some of the surface-opening surprises are really surprises, there are a good many things that happen that the reader can figure out on his/her own. The ending chapters contain at least two “surprises” that I would never have thought of as I was reading this story.
Choose this for a “back to school” read-aloud for your 3rd-4th-5th grade classroom. Then, sit back, and enjoy some good old fashioned chocolate candy/toffee/gum/licorice or gum as you get drawn in to the world of the Candymaker.
Dinosaurs seem to be perpetually intriguing to kids, and here are three new picture books for children ages 3-8 that should appeal to dino fans who just can’t get enough about them.
Brontorina is born to dance and she dreams big. There’s only one problem- she’s a huge dinosaur, and is too big to fit into Madame Lucille’s ballet studio. She towers over the pint sized kids in class, and how can she find ballet slippers large enough, anyway? In James Howe’s book Brontorina, Madame Lucille decides that “The problem is not that you are too big. The problem is that my studio is too small.” In the final pictures of this charming story about acceptance and pursuing your dreams, Brontorina and the children pirouette and jump in Madame’s new open air studio.
Husband and wife duo Kate and Jim McMullan have another winner in I’m Big!, following others by them such as I Stink (a garbage truck with an attitude). In their newest tale, a gigantic sauropod gets separated from his pack and meets other varieties of dinos in his search, including some hungry carnivores. Using his wits, the creative sauropod eludes them, because as he says, “I’m a whole lotta lizard!” Large colorful illustrations add to the fun.
Wouldn’t it be fun to have a dinosaur guest at your birthday party? Erin thinks so, and she invites one, in Dear Tyrannosaurus Rex by Lisa McClatchy. Erin even offers the dino enticements such as an extra large cake, goody bags, and games. A T rex takes up a fair amount of space, however, and helping blow out the candles makes the frosting fly. A lot of the fun in this story is in the humorous pictures- an illustration of a puzzled pizza delivery person with 25 pizzas (with pepperoni for the meat eating T rex, of course) is great.
Our library staff are glad to help you find just the right book for children, whatever their interests may be! Come and check out our wide selection.
Ray Halfmoon, a Seminole-Cherokee boy living with his grandfather in Chicago, is at the center of this short book of connected stories. Showing the contemporary life of a young boy, the story is filled with challenges and successes as Ray and his grandpa go through their days.
Cynthia Leitich Smith will be the keynote speaker at this year’s Mary Calletto Rife Youth Literature Seminar, which will be held Friday, November 5, 2010. This annual celebration of youth, books, and reading is now in its 33rd year.
If you’re an adult with an interest in children’s books, we’d love to see you at the Seminar! Cynthia Leitich Smith will also be our guest at a free program for families at the Central Library on Thursday, November 4 at 7:00 p.m.
Yup. And, it appears, for a thirteen-year-old middle school 8th grader, a darn good one. Theo’s family are all lawyers. His Dad, real estate things. His Mom, abuse cases. His Uncle Ike, disbarred but doing income tax things. Theo’s classmates and schoolmates ask him questions about their brother’s getting arrested for marijuana, about which parent should a child live within a divorce case, about what can be done with an illegal immigrant who…
OOPS! I don’t want to reveal too much of the plot of John Grisham’s newest thriller titled Theodore Boone Kid Lawyer. Theo lives in a small town with many “real” lawyers, including his family as described above. He even fancies himself as an attorney, sort of. And, then, the unlikely happens. A murder is committed, and the defendant is being tried by a local judge, who just happens to be Theo’s friend. At least, as much of a friend as a sitting judge can be to a kid in the 8th grade. Theo’s favorite class in school is Government, and he finagles seats for his classmates so that they can attend the opening day of this murder trial. And, the excitement begins.
Author John Grisham’s titles for adults are known for their intrigue and suspense, a fact that has made him a #1 international best-selling author. He is certainly the master of the legal thriller. When I heard that he had written a book for younger readers (and I’d say late elementary age through middle school), I thought, “yeah, right”. John Grisham can’t write a book for children! Well, friends, guess what? He can, and he has.
Theodore Boone Kid Lawyer is for kids and it is every bit as exciting as the author’s adult novels. I started this book yesterday, and finished it today…it kept me guessing and kept me turning pages as I read (almost skimmed some parts, I was so interested) what certainly could become a best-seller for children, and maybe even an award winner!
Thanks, John Grisham! But, you didn’t finish the story. A sequel maybe?
Theodore Boone Kid Lawyer
Dwight is the weird kid, whose 6th grade classmates tolerate him hanging around, is the owner of Origami Yoda. The paper finger puppet, interestingly, offers cryptic advice to any question asked of it.
So should you take advice that comes from Origami Yoda? Visit the Children’s Room to find the answer to that question PLUS instructions for making your own Yoda.
The Strange Case of Origami Yoda
I was excited to see that Mark Haddon had written a new book but was rather surprised to find that it was heading for the children’s department. I am a fan of Haddon’s adult fiction works The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (a past Reading Together selection) and his less acclaimed Spot of Bother. It isn’t uncommon for authors to cross genres and audiences and I decided it was worth giving Haddon’s latest book, Boom!, a read.
In the book’s introduction I learned that it was originally published in 1992 under the title Gridzbi Spudvetch!. Haddon jokingly states that only twenty-three people bought this difficult to pronounce title. At the time it was first published, Haddon had not received his notoriety so it isn’t all that surprising that the author and his publishers decided to update, rename and republish this book.
Boom! is the story of two young friends who find themselves in a life-changing misadventure after bugging their school faculty’s staff room. Overhearing a conversation between two teachers in a secret language, the boys’ curiosity is piqued. They boost their spy skills to a new level in order to find out what their teachers are up to only to find that they are now the ones being targeted! As the plot unfolds with amusing and lively twists and turns, the boys find that the “evaluation” they are receiving might be out of this world! I’ll leave the rest for you to discover.
The book is both humorous and fun. While I believe that Haddon’s writing skills have improved in his more recent works, I found that his knack for character development is his talent and true foundation. If you’ve read his other novels, you know that no one writes an innocent, naïve character better than Mark Haddon. It’s easy and fun to get lost in his work.
If you like children’s books, you might like the International Children’s Digital Library website, named one of 25 Best Websites for Teaching and Learning by the American Association of School Librarians. Take a look at this title by Bolormaa Baasansuren featured on the ICDL’s website. Finding a digital version of this Mongolian title featured on the ICDL site led me back around to the English language adaptation of the text by Helen Mixter: My Little Round House. Baasansuren’s illustrations and story of a one-year-old’s world are beautiful. Jilu, the son of a nomadic Mongolian family, tells about his first year and all his round homes. First, there’s his mommy's tummy. Then there is the roundness of his family’s ger, or yurt, as well as the earth and sky. Jilu talks about the frequent moving of his family, following the cycle of the seasons, and his favorite season, summer.
Here’s something fun to do on the ICDL website. Find some picture books with text in a language that you can't read. Look at the pictures and see what it’s like to be a pre-reader again.
My Little Round House
Well, mine doesn’t either. But, I know one that does! Carry yourself to Chicago, and then to the Art Institute of Chicago, and then to the exhibit of the “Thorne Rooms”, which is a collection of dollhouse-like rooms that is a permanent part of the collection at the Art Institute. Page 10 of the book describes this exhibit as “better than any crummy dollhouse by far.”
Ruthie and Jack, BFF, and in the same sixth-grade class at one of Chicago’s private schools (Oakton), are the central and most believable characters in this story called The Sixty-Eight Rooms by Marianne Malone. As part of a class visit to the Institute, Ruthie and Jack discover the Thorne exhibit and become enthralled and even entranced by it. The dollhouse includes American and European-themed rooms that portray daily life with extreme detail. Enough detail that, when Ruthie and Jack are transported “back in time”, they even find beds with sheets and blankets, and desks with quill pens and tablets, and more. The children find a key (they snooped behind the exhibit to see its inner workings!) that, when held, will take them on a time-travel adventure beyond anything they can imagine. This key allows them to shrink small enough to sneak inside and explore the secrets of the rooms, as well as become a part of the world of the time. The same key transports them back to the present day.
Other characters in the story are Mrs. McVittie, an antiques shop owner; Mr. Bell, a museum security guard and former portrait photographer; Lydia, Jack’s mom; Claire, Ruthie’s older sister; and Mrs. Biddle, the sixth-grade teacher at the Oakton School.
A quote from the book jacket says “Housed deep within the Art Institute of Chicago, they are a collection of sixty-eight exquisite—almost eerily realistic—miniature rooms. Each of the rooms is designed in the style of a different time and place, and every detail is perfect, from the knobs on the doors to the candles in the candlesticks. Some might even say the rooms are magical.”
Similar in scope and content to Blue Balliett’s Chasing Vermeer, The Calder Game, and The Wright 3; Malone’s Sixty-Eight Rooms is an “I can’t put it down” read! It would make an excellent read-aloud for older elementary students, too.
The Sixty-Eight Rooms
Katherine Paterson is the newly-ordained National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. She follows in the raucous wake of Jon Scieszka, who set new standards for hilarity and mock-pomp as the first Ambassador. On the surface, you see a fair amount of disparity between these two Big Names in the world of children’s books.
Jon Scieszka (rhymes with “fresca”) writes books like The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs, the “Time Warp Trio” series, and Guys Write for Guys Read. He grew up in Flint, one of five boys, who all attended Catholic school. Needless to say, lines were crossed. The stories he relates in his autobiography, Knucklehead, are hilariously funny and will give young readers excellent ideas for new levels of mischief to be attained. But Jon’s passion is boys and reading. It’s hard to beat Jon when he makes that his crusade. Check his website: GuysRead.com. It’s funny, it’s true, and it’s full of passion.
So how does Katherine Paterson, the author of (among dozens of others) Jacob Have I Loved and Bridge to Terabithia, take Jon’s place? She’s the 77-year-old wife of a minister. She has already won nearly every award possible, and she’s known around the world as a passionate advocate for kids and books. She regularly faces censorship challenges (sounds like a line-crosser, like Mr. Scieszka), but they never stop her. Her intensity matches Jon’s, but she’s a bit less gaudy about it.
When asked if Jon Scieszka offered her any advice about the new gig, Katherine mentioned the cape and the helicopter and the very cool jet-pack. (Yes, other ambassadors might receive a medal and a plaque . . here in the Children’s Literature world, we treat our ambassadors right!). But Jon told Katherine to just enjoy the kids . . and I can’t imagine her doing anything else.
This book, Gates of Excellence, is a series of essays by Katherine Paterson that examine her life as a writer. As you re-read some of her novels for children, don’t overlook this slim volume.
Gates of Excellence
The world's most popular team sport has the world's attention during World Cup 2010 in South Africa. Football, or soccer if you prefer, has been around for thousands of years. People have always played soccer and likely always will. In Goal!, a group of young friends in a dusty South African township come together in a pickup game with their brand-new, federation-size soccer ball. How do they team together when some older boys, bullies, try to steal their ball? We see the best and worst of human nature when people come together to watch or to play the most human game. I like that Goal! focuses on football as the sport of the people and the joy of the game – even in the face of adversity.
The world lost Martin Gardner on Saturday, May 22nd. He was 95. Gardner was a prolific writer on many subjects, but is perhaps best known for books about tricks and puzzles, optical illusions, and recreational math. In the early 1950s, Gardner edited the children’s magazine Humpty Dumpty. In 1956, Gardner began writing Scientific American's Mathematical Games column which ran for 25 years. Gardner introduced lots of people to the work of then contemporary M.C. Escher when the work of the great Dutch artist was not so well known. Gardner wrote The Annotated Alice. Gardner also focused on debunking pseudoscience. Here is Scientific American's tribute to Martin Gardner.
Author Carolyn Marsden’s latest novel, Take Me with You is set in an Italian town in the years closely following WWII.
Raised in an Italian orphanage, a young, bi-racial girl named Susanna and her best friend, Pina, want to be adopted (or, better yet, reclaimed by the parents who left them there as much younger girls), but fear being separated, as each considers the other her BFF and her OFF (only friend forever).
The book’s jacket says “Set in Naples, Italy; Take Me with You is a lyrical novel that follows the friendship of two girls and touches on the themes of identity and the meaning of home.”
I picked this novel up on the new books cart recently, started to scan it, and couldn’t put it down. Both Susanna and Pina, now bridging on their teen years, are desperate to discover their true parentage. Pina’s mother does live nearby, but has built her “new” life around her new family, and that family doesn’t include Pina. Heartbroken, Pina turns to Susanna, who has just learned that her father, an African American serviceman, will be coming to “claim” her and take her to America and a new home. Susanna is torn…between being unsure of her future and her concern for her friend. The novel’s ending could suggest a sequel because the girls’ futures are left open and unsettled.
While the main characters in this novel are female, it would make a good historical fiction read for anyone. This could even be a good classroom read-aloud.
Take Me with You
I hope I look this good when I am 80! The character I’m referring to is Nancy Drew, who made her debut in 1930, at the tender age of 16 years. Nancy Drew lived “the life” in Midwestern River Heights, a town I always thought might be a Chicago suburb, but I have no proof that it could be. Nancy had it all: an understanding father who gave her free rein, a dashing blue convertible roadster (this morphed into a Mustang-type car in later editions, and then into a hybrid in very recent updates), a housekeeper who was a great cook and who took the best of care of Nancy and her widowed father, lawyer Carson Drew, and two friends, cousins Bess Marvin and Georgia (George) Fayne who supported Nancy in all of her adventures. Speaking of Nancy’s friends, I remember a very early story where Nancy visited her friend Helen Corning, at a lake resort/campground/association type place. There was a definite suggestion of affluence in these stories. There was also the element of boyfriends for each of the girls.
I always thought that the “author” of the Nancy Drew books was Carolyn Keene... a single, female type person with a wonderful gift for writing. As an adult, I learned that Carolyn Keene was a pseudonym, often for a team of ghostwriters employed by the actual creator of the series, Edward Stratemeyer. It seems that Stratemeyer himself wrote outlines and plot summaries for the stories, and then found writers to complete the stories, for a one-time fee of $50-$250. All copyright remained with the syndicate. Stratemeyer also owned the pseudonyms.
I began reading Nancy Drew after I finished the Bobbsey Twins (also a creation of the Stratemeyer Syndicate). I would get the books as gifts, and devour them quickly, and often. I would trade with girl friends so that I didn’t have to wait for the next occasion to get another book. So, I was about in third or fourth grade, and was already an avid library user. But, I couldn’t find my newest favorite books at the library! An article I read by Meghan O’Rourke in an issue of The New Yorker from 2004 said that “the Stratemeyer Syndicate came under attack from educators and librarians from the start.” The article continues with calling series published by the Syndicate “tawdry, sensationalist work taking children away from books of moral or instructional value.” I knew that my teachers didn’t allow me to do required book reports on Nancy Drew titles, but sure didn’t understand why.
I have always said that if I hadn’t read series books (Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Cherry Ames [not a Stratemeyer series]) that I wouldn’t be the reader that I am today. I see these books as stepping stones to more sophisticated literature…and I’ve read them all from Treasure Island to Tom Sawyer to Gulliver’s Travels to... I could go on and on. I’ve read biographies, and loved them. I’ve read romances, mysteries, science fiction, and fantasy (Brian Jacques’ Redwall series was wonderful)… I’ve read Newbery Award winners and nonfiction and...
Nancy Drew titles have been updated, and modernized and have had mentions of racism/sexism removed. Why have they survived? Back to Meghan O’Rourke’s article, it’s because of the re-writes, and because “as Nancy has aged, children’s book publishing has become more sensitive to psychological issues”, and Nancy now “acknowledges her flaws, and shows herself to be a more inclusive soul than the old Nancy.”
I sure wouldn’t hesitate to re-read these books, even now. And, to me, it would be a good way of saying to Nancy Drew and friends, “Happy Birthday”!
Although April shouldn’t put a reader in mind of frosty winter days, the weather this week has felt more like winter than spring!
One day in early winter a child yearns for a friend and finds a surprising one outside. Jack Frost, with his spiky features and daredevil challenges, is the perfect cold-weather companion. “Never mention anything warm in front of me,” Jack warns. The child, the dog, and Jack play all winter long, until someone spots a snowdrop pushing up through the snow. And, just like that, Jack’s gone for another year.
Take a look at the woodcut illustrations... the colors are crisp and the design clean and simple. Also look at another book by Kazuno Kahara... Ghosts in the House.
Here Comes Jack Frost
My latest read from the Juvenile collection is called Liberty Porter, First Daughter. Its author, Julia DeVillers, combines just the right portions of humor, truth, frustration, and embarrassment to deliver this quick read for third-fifth graders. Liberty Porter’s dad has just gotten a new job…and she has to move to a new house…in a new city…and, well, even though it seems predictable since her dad is now President of the United States, and her new house is the White House in Washington DC, and now that she has her own Secret Service detail…
Liberty likes her new house, sort of. She likes her father’s notoriety, sort of. She likes being in the public eye, sort of. Liberally sprinkled with black and white illustrations that curiously resemble the Obama family, Liberty Porter, First Daughter is a quick, enjoyable read. The book would make a great book report for a school assignment, too! Readers will enjoy just enough truth about what’s inside the White House to make them want to explore further through other books in the Kalamazoo Public Library’s collection about this National landmark, the home of the President and his family.
Liberty Porter First Daughter
Nancy Pearl used the term “meta-picture book” to describe Melanie Watt’s Chester, and its sequel, in which the title character is actively involved in the subversion of the book itself. Another book by Watt sells itself, its title proclaiming Have I Got a Book for You! Maybe it’s a Canadian thing? Polly Horvath lives there now. In her chapter book The Pepins and their Problems, a great book for third graders and up or read aloud, Horvath asks for and presents suggestions from her readers (sent to her via telepathy) as to what her characters should do to solve their various (and hilarious) problems. Lots of books refer back to themselves to have fun.
Check out Emily Gravett’s Wolves as well as Little Mouse’s Big Book of Fears, both triumphs of book design and winners of the Kate Greenaway award. As in David Wiesner’s masterful The Three Pigs, in which the wolf blows the pig right out of the story (just the beginning of a wild turn of events), the books themselves are apparently affected by the events unfolding within them as we read them.
In his review of Do Not Open this Book!, Bruce Handy asks, “Do kids really want to explore the artificiality of the fictive narrative? Probably not,” he answers, “unless there are good jokes.” Yep, good jokes-and how about suspense?
Here are two modern read aloud picture book classics. In Go Away Big Green Monster, the reader (or the read-to) causes a monster to appear and then to disappear with the turning of the pages. Get ready for your child to say, "Read it again!" The Monster at the End of this Book, Starring Lovable, Furry Old Grover is a favorite because it was read to me when I was a little guy. And I’m not the only one. Lots of adults have fond memories of this book. In an effort to prevent us from having to deal with the monster at the end of the book, Grover implored us, "Please do not turn the page!". Of course, we did turn the page and there sat Grover, in a pile of bricks and dust, observing, “Did you know that you are very strong?” Now that was fun. Read it again!
The Monster at the End of this Book