Thursday, April 30, 2009
Once I Ate A Pie by Patricia MacLachlan and Emily MacLachlan Charest, and illustrated by Katy Schneider, is perfect for anyone who has wondered what their beloved canine companion would have to say if they could talk. I am curious, when I see my dog sleep for about 20 of the 24 hours in a day, what reason she has to be so exhausted. Well MacLachlan and Charest give the accounts of 13 dogs, told in their own words. There's Mr. Beefy, who steals tubs of butter off the dinner table, Darla, who does not like other dogs, Wupsi, who is told how cute she is so often it might as well be her name, Louis who BARKS at everything, and my personal favorite Lucy, who sleeps on a pillow in between her owners (just like my dog).
Finally the book we've all been waiting for! A biography of Gertrude Stein for children! Seriously, when I first saw Getrude is Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Calef Brown, I wondered "Is this really necessary?" But I found it to be a wonderful, kid-friendly, and interesting story. Gertrude Stein is known for her poetry (which inspires the title and text of Gertrude), her friendship with many avant-garde modern artists such as Picasso and Hemingway, her long-time companionship with Alice B. Toklas (which is summed up gracefully with "Gertrude and Alice are Gertrude and Alice") and her poodle, Basket!
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Ron's Big Mission by Rose Blue and Corinne J. Naden, and illustrated by Don Tate, is a truly inspirational story. Ron McNair loved to go the library and look through books about airplanes and space. But he couldn't check them out and take them home, because he was black, and this story takes place in the south during the time of segregation. Only white people could have a library card, and Ron thought this was unfair. One day he had enough. In protest of the unfair rules, he climbed up on the library's front desk and refused to come down. They called the police! They called his mom! Finally the librarian gives him a card and Ron takes his books home. And Ron grew up to be an astronaut! When he tragically died in the Challenger accident, they dedicated his childhood hometown library to his memory.
Duck! Rabbit! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld is a fascinating book. In it we are privy to a debate between two voices as to what the animal in this cover illustration is. One is convinced it's a duck, the other is sure it's a rabbit. The unseen characters argue amongst themselves: Are those bills or ears? Is it flying or hopping? Will it eat bread or a carrot? Is it wading in the swamp or hiding in the grass? Maybe if they call it they can decide... "Here, ducky ducky! Here, you cute little rabbit!" Oh no! They've scared it away. Was it a duck or rabbit? We may never know. But check out this cool anteater. Or is it a brachiosaurus...
No doubt inspired by the stories of gorillas who have been trained to speak sign language and care for pets comes Little Beauty by Anthony Browne. In it we meet a very special gorilla who has everything he needs, except a friend. He communicates to his handlers that he desires company and they provide him with a kitten. The gorilla loves his cat. He feeds her milk and honey, carries her everywhere he goes, takes naps with her, they even go to the potty together! But one night they watch a movie and it makes the gorilla very angry! When he smashes the TV set in a rage, the zookeepers wonder if they should take his kitty away. Find out the thrilling conclusion to this saga by checking out Little Beauty today!
Australia is a fantastic place filled with many creatures unfamiliar to us: Kangaroos, Koalas, and an adorable burrowing marsupial called a Wombat--the subject of Jackie French's Diary of a Wombat, illustrated by Bruce Whatley. It's told in true diary form, the wombat treating us to her day to day routine consisting mostly of eating, sleeping, and scratching. But one day she discovers she has new neighbors--humans! And these humans have delicious carrots, for which she will do most anything for! This is a very cute book you're sure to enjoy.
I might be a wee bit partial to this book because I am the owner of a formerly stray dog, who I adopted from a shelter a year ago, and now totally rules my life, but this story is great, and I find children really get emotionally invested in it. The Stray Dog, adapted from a true story and artfully illustrated by Marc Simont, tells the tale of a family who grows fond of a homeless canine during a picnic in the park. Mom and Dad and the two kids worry about the mutt they dub Willy until they meet him again, being chased by the dog catcher! "He has no collar. He has no leash." says the dog catcher, but the little boy takes off his belt. "Here's his collar," and the little girl takes off her hair ribbon--"Here's his leash." Willy is saved and taken in by the family in this heartwarming book!
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Does your child have a toy they just can't be parted with? They will totally relate to Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale by Mo Willems. Trixie takes her favorite stuffed animal, Knuffle Bunny (that's pronounced ka-nuffle, by the way) on a trip to the laundromat. But Trixie realizes on the way home, her bunny has been left behind. Being a baby, and unable to communicate verbally, she tries to express the dire situation to her father--she bawls, she goes boneless, she becomes quite a handful. Luckily mom knows the reason, and saves the day!
At first glance, the Sesame Street book Elmo's Alphabet by Michaela Muntean, illustrated by Richard Walz, may not seem extraordinarily blog-worthy, but I have had the pleasure of reading it aloud the many children, and it's always a hit. One day Elmo is walking home, singing the alphabet song, when he runs into his friend Big Bird who suggests they play their alphabet game: thinking up their favorite words that begin with each letter of the alphabet. Elmo picks "airplane" for his favorite "a" word, and imagines himself as a pilot, flying high is the sky. Big Bird picks "boat" for his favorite "b" word and imagines himself in a kayak on a peaceful stream. This book offers many opportunities for children to act out what Elmo and Big Bird do on each page, while familiarizing them with the letters of the alphabet!
I really enjoy Beth's Job by Carole Roberts, illustrated by Michael Garland. It is ideal for the child who is ready to read a book all on their own. It's the story of an elementary school student named Beth. On the day everyone is assigned their class jobs, and Beth is very excited, until she discovers she will be in charge of watering the class plant. This seems very dull to her. She is jealous of her other classmates, that seem to have much more interesting duties. Max gets to feed the class rabbit! And Jeff is in charge of being first in line. Glen gets to hold the flag during the pledge of allegiance. Beth's job seems so boring in comparison to all the cool things the other kids get to do. Until one day, the plant blooms! Thanks to all the care Beth gave the plant, the class now has a beautiful flower, leading Beth to proclaim, "This job is the best!"
Max's Chocolate Chicken by Rosemary Wells is perfect for the springtime holidays. Someone (maybe the Easter Bunny) has left a chocolate chicken in the birdbath! "I love you!" Max says to the chicken. He's ready to chow down, but his big sister Ruby (who's kind of like the fun police) insists that they hunt for painted eggs. Whoever collects the most can claim the chocolate chicken. Ruby find eggs of all colors and patterns, but poor Max only finds mud, acorns, and ants, so he decides to run away with the chicken and eat the whole thing! This is an adorable story of sibling rivalry, and I guarantee you will fall in love with Max, the young and foolish title character.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
City I Love is a love letter to the city. Which city? All of them! Eighteen poems by Lee Bennett Hopkins are skillfully illustrated by Marcellus Hall to take you on a whirlwind international journey. Hopkins and Hall praise the skyscrapers of New York, the traffic sounds of Paris, and the neon lights of Tokyo. The heat of Rio and Cairo, and the brisk temperatures of Moscow and Toronto. Landmarks like the The Golden Gate Bridge of San Fransisco and the Millennium Wheel of London. Subways, and taxis, even gondolas (oh my)! I hope you enjoy this urban romance as much as I did. It's a great conversation starter--a fabulous lead in to discussion with your child about how people live differently in different parts of the world. One can never be to young to develop an appreciation and tolerance for foreign culture.
There's nothing much more fun than playing in a giant cardboard box. I remember as a child receiving an enormous Playskool kitchen set for Chanukah and having a lot more fun playing with the packaging it arrived in (no offense to Playskool--that kitchen set was awesome, but I unfortunately have never been much of a culinary artist). Dee Lillegard captures the excitement of letting your imagination run wild in Sitting in My Box, illustrated by the great Jon Agee. In the story a little boy is sitting in his box, reading a book about jungle animals. The animals suddenly begin to present themselves, asking him to make room, until he's sharing the box with a giraffe, elephant, baboon, lion, and hippo. The box is getting a little overpopulated, but a pesky flea plans to change all that!
Which Would You Rather Be by William Steig with illustrations by Harry Bliss is a fabulous book for children about the really tough questions in life: Would you rather be a stick or a stone? A cat or a dog? Rain or snow? A magic rabbit asks a boy and girl to answer these hypothetical quandaries, and I'm sure your boy or girl will be happy to provide input as well. This can lead to wonderful discussions about similarities and differences between things and situations, in addition to preferences and various opinions people have about them. Plus... it's just fun!
Monday, April 13, 2009
I recently attended the Great Books Consortium, in which Pete & Pickles by Berkeley Breathed (creator of the comic strip Opus) was chosen by a committee of children's librarians from across the state of Maryland, as the best picture book of the past year. It's certainly an interesting story, about a pig named Pete, who lives a quiet and simple existence, until he runs into Pickles, a runaway circus elephant. At first Pete is alarmed by the changes Pickles brings to his life, but soon finds himself unable to live without the unpredictable pacidurm. The book deals indirectly with the loss of a loved one, so it may not be suited to especially sensitive children.
Good Night Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann is a cautionary tale for unobservant zookeepers. In it, a very tired zookeeper is doing his nightly rounds, saying "good night" to all of the animals, beginning with Gorilla, who deftly snatches the keys from his belt and begins setting his fellow animals free. The zookeeper heads home to go to bed, unwittingly followed by the entire menagerie. This is unacceptable to the zookeeper's wife, who sends all the animals back to their pens. "Good night zoo," she says, but that crafty Gorilla has a surprise for her. This charming story, told mostly through illustrations, is a true treat.
Take a journey to prehistoric times with Tadpole Rex by Kurt Cyrus. Meet Rex, a feisty tadpole, born in a swamp that forms in a Tyrannosaurus's footprint. Watch him as he slowly transforms into a ferocious frog! Rex attacks duckbills and nearly trips a triceratops, releasing his fiercesome "Ribbet!" as he jumps through the air. This book is especially good for boys, but children in general tend to be fascinated by the transformation from tadpole to frog (or caterpillar to butterfly). It's also full of fun sounds to make, like the "bloop" of bubbles in primordial goo, the "fleep" of Rex's growing appendages, and of course, the "stomp" of his dinosaur neighbors. The book may even lead to a conversation about frogs, and how amazing it is that they have been on earth countless more years than we have!
Matt Faulkner's A Taste of Colored Water is an engaging story about an important issue. When Abbey Finch informs Jelly and LuLu that she saw a fountain of colored water in the big city, they decide they need to see it for themselves. It's probably just one of Abbey's crazy stories, but what if isn't? Can you imagine a fountain of water all the colors of the rainbow? And probably the flavor of assorted fruits! So they decide to tag along the next time Uncle Jack has to drive to the city. But Jelly and Lulu live in the south during the civil rights movement. And the "colored" sign over their fountain of water, is just part of the unfair Jim Crow laws popular there at the time. It's an unfortunate discovery for them to make. Being children, they wonder "what color does a person have to be to get a taste of colored water?"