Off for Awhile!

I am gone to a meeting tomorrow (which also involves visiting our favorite kids’ restaurant in Madison, Wisconsin: Ella’s and going to the zoo, so don’t feel badly for me.) And then I am heading out camping with the family for the week of the 4th.  Hope you all have a wonderful holiday week!  See on Monday, July 9th.

Up, Down and Around

Up, Down and Around
by Katherine Ayres, illustrated by Nadine Bernard Westcott.

There is just something about gardening picture books that I adore.  Hmm.  Maybe it has something to do with my obvious love of bunny books.  Ah well.

This book by Ayres works on many levels.  It is a rollicking, rhyming book with a focus on whether a specific vegetable grows up, down or around.  There is corn, carrots, cucumbers, peppers, potatoes and pumpkins, and many more. 

With Westcott’s friendly illustrations filled with smiling bugs, hungry rabbits, flitting crows, and grinning children, it is a visual treat.  Ayres’ rhymes are such fun, with repetition and using the same initial sounds.  Toddlers and preschoolers will be drawn in immediately.

This picture book offers a friendly look at prepositions, a glimpse at gardening, and rhymes.  It is perfect to add to your gardening storytimes, especially for the youngest listeners. 

A Perfect Day

A Perfect Day by Remy Charlip.

A father and sun have a glorious day together just imagining, cuddling, napping, seeing friends, reading and playing together.  It is a wonderful example of a quiet book perfect for starting a conversation about quiet days spent in one another’s company. 

This is a good book for toddlers and preschoolers, with its few words per page.  Parents and other adults will also enjoy it because it speaks to a day filled with quiet pursuits and not video games and TV.  Don’t we all wish for more days filled with nothing but time?  I also appreciate the gentleness of the illustrations which are soft, pastel and echo the peace of the day completely. 

Recommend this one to busy families rushed off of their feet.  I would also share this as a prequel to an art project with little children who can draw pictures of their favorite quiet activity that they share with loved ones.

Bow-Wow Bugs a Bug

Bow-Wow Bugs a Bug
by Mark Newgarden and Megan Montague Cash.

Now I am a complete sucker for wordless books, but this one is a very funny book that will have children from preschool to elementary school laughing out loud and sharing it with friends and family.  Look at that cover!  Don’t you want a copy to take a look at right now?  (Run, don’t walk, to the library!)

Bow-Wow is bothered by a bug right from the start of his day.  When the bugs leaves, Bow-Wow follows it outside and down the sidewalk.  As he follows the bug, he finds all sorts of hilarious things happening.  A spotted dog with odd spots, another dog following a bug, huge bugs and huge dogs, and much more.  The illustrations are surprising, funny and very welcoming for children.  The format of a comic strip makes it even more wonderful.  Each turn of the page will bring a new surprise and it becomes a treat to look forward to the next pair of pages. 

Bow-Wow can be offered to a wide range of ages and they will all enjoy it.  It is not for sharing with a group, because the illustrations need to be looked at closely to be fully appreciated.  Give this one to grandchildren, siblings, or save it for a day of travel.  Or just make any bedtime special as long as you are willing to risk gales of laughter.

Orange Pear Apple Bear

Orange Pear Apple Bear by Emily Gravett.

I had read wonderful reviews of this, and had been waiting with great impatience to finally see it.  This book is charming!  It uses the same four words in different combinations to create a silly, warm picture book.  Starting with just one word and picture on each page, the book quickly moves to strange combinations like Orange pear and Apple bear that will have kids giggling. 

I have a few favorite things about this book.  First is that it is so welcoming to emergent readers and has a limited vocabulary.  However, the book reads as if it has all of the words in the world and just happens to choose these four again and again.  Second, I love the artwork.  Unlike a lot of the books for beginning readers, this book has pictures that are not cartoony, but rather have a feel of art and depth.  It is a joy to see.  And third, the skill that it takes for an author to create a book like this is astonishing.  Applause!  Applause!

Recommended for all kindergarten classrooms, this would make a great gift for any Kindergarten teacher to have in her room.  Where else are you going to find an artistic, silly, and yes classy emergent reader?

Skulduggery Pleasant

Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy.

Stephanie’s beloved uncle has died and left his old house to her.  While she is there alone one night, someone tries to break in and kill her for a key.  The strange man she noticed at the funeral and at the reading of the will shows up and rescues her by shooting fire from his hands.  When his disguise slips off, she realizes he is a living skeleton.  (See cover image.)  Stephanie is drawn into a hidden world of magic, fantasy and a mystery that could destroy everything, and finds it impossible to return to her normal life of a 12-year-old girl. 

Landy has reinvented fantasy, turned it on its head, and created something entirely engaging, unique and marvelous.  Skulduggery Pleasant is a complex hero, filled with caustic wit, who is the perfect lens through which the readers and Stephanie can discover the fantasy world.  Stephanie is a protagonist with real guts and bravery, who doesn’t consider herself anything special.  She is a refreshing female character, who is not overly girly or overly tomboy, but a regular girl who is thrilled to be on an adventure.  

The fantasy world that Landy has created is inventive and original, but still hearkens back to more traditional stories.  One good example of this are the vampires who are night security guards.  Landy has taken their original details, kept what he needed and discarded the rest.  In essence, he has reinvented vampires, shifting even the most embedded facts of their legends.  This demonstrates his skill as an author, because nothing is sacred or unchangeable in this novel.

Recommend this to middle schoolers who enjoy a book with a good amount of violence.  And remember, despite the fantasy setting, this violence reads as dramatically real.  This is not cartoon violence that younger good readers should be reading.  I would also recommend it to preteens and teens looking for a good, original fantasy novel.  Any kids who enjoyed The Last Apprentice Series by Joseph Delaney or Monster Blood Tattoo by DM Cornish will enjoy this one.

Battle Over Gay Children's Books

AfterElton, a blog that offers news and information for gay men, has a very nice article on the battle about children’s books with gay themes.  The article mentions And Tango Makes Three, King & King, and The Trouble with Babies.  As a public librarian, I especially appreciated the following quote from Arthur Levine:

“Ten percent of the children’s book readership, at least, will grow
up to be gay or lesbian,” he said to “Wouldn’t it be
nice if their first exposure to the idea that there are gay people in
the world isn’t when they’re teenagers — so when little Johnny falls in
love with that really cute, brainy boy in his computer class, he’s
grown up with the idea that it’s not unusual and there’s nothing wrong
with that.

“And an even higher percentage of picture book
readership will grow up to know and love somebody who’s gay or lesbian.
So when you think about it that way, a large percentage of your picture
book audience can really benefit from naturalizing the idea that there
are gay and lesbian people in the world. When you think about it that
way, it’s even more of a mystery why there aren’t more of these books.”

Hurrah!  I know that many librarians think they are serving only the straight in their community, but gay families, children who will realize they are gay, or families with gay loved ones all need to have a haven in their public library where their lives are mirrored and acceptable.

Great Opening Lines

Nancy Pearl is back on NPR with a list of books with Great Opening Lines to Hook Young Readers

The books included are

Tanglewreck by Jeanette Winterson.

Millicent Min, Girl Genius by Lisa Lee.

Ragweed by Avi.

Fear by M.T. Anderson

Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes

Make sure you listen to the clip, because Nancy’s enthusiasm will completely sell you on the titles.

Digby Takes Charge

Digby Takes Charge by Caroline Jayne Church.

Digby is a new sheep dog who has never herded sheep before.  But how hard can it be?  There are only six of them.  But the sheep don’t like Digby’s style.  He tries growling at them, and they ignore him.  Then he tries using force.  Nothing, in fact the sheep are beginning to smile.  More force?  Still nothing.  It isn’t until the other farm animals tell Digby the secret of how things work on this farm that he is able to get the sheep to listen to him.  Anyone know the magic word?

Adults will see the ending coming from the start, but I guarantee even adults will be shocked enough to laugh out loud at the force that Digby uses on the sheep.  My sons were in hysterics at how funny it was.  The illustrations are very accessible to children with their cartoon-like, friendly style.  In fact, the cover alone sells this book.

I highly recommend this book for reading to active preschool classes.  The illustrations will shout clearly across the room and the surprises in the middle of the story will have even the most restless little ones listening in no time.  Great for that final book of a storytime that much catch their attention.  It is also a good one for adding to dog or sheep storytimes.