Staff Picks: Books
Staff-recommended reading from the
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.