Sophie's Big Bed

Sophie’s Big Bed by Tina Burke.

This book in the Toddler Tales series is a warm look at a toddler moving into her own large bed.  Sophie loves her crib.  It has her banana blankie and stuffed star.  But now it is time for her to move to her big bed where she doesn’t feel cozy at all.  Sophie tries night after night but finds herself only able to sleep back in her crib.  It isn’t until all of her favorite items move to the big bed with her that she can fall asleep there.

This book is a winner with its bright illustrations that show Sophie’s worry and joy so clearly.  The text is perfect for toddlers.  It is clear and brief.  I enjoyed the fact that Sophie does not burst into tears about it and there are no parents forcing her to stay in a bed she doesn’t want to sleep in.  Instead it is a gentle tale of patient but unseen parents who work with Sophie so that she can be happy at night.  Lovely.

This is a lap book, which should be read curled together in either a big or small bed.

Lawn Boy

Lawn Boy by Gary Paulsen

Prepare yourself for a wild lawnmower ride!  Our 12-year-old protagonist is flat broke, until his grandmother gives him his grandfather’s old rider lawnmower.  He uses it to start a very small lawnmowing business, but demand is high and the business grows faster than anyone can understand.  Soon he finds himself with employees, a financial manager, and his summer has become far more busy and profitable than he could ever imagine. 

Paulsen does a wonderful job of fusing humor, great eccentric characters and finance into a perfectly short story.  The writing is tight, funny and a joy to read. 

This book is a quick and short 88 pages.  It is ideal for reluctant readers who will enjoy the pacing, the topic and the length.  Also recommended for willing readers who will enjoy it as well. 

Where Is the Cake?

Where Is the Cake? by T. T. Khing.

This very clever wordless book is fun from the cover pages filled with cake all the way to the end.  In the book, you follow several different story lines from page to page.  Each group of characters has its own story that impact each other in various ways throughout.  On the first page, the rats steal the cake from the dogs, a soccer ball bounces down the road, a weasel leaves its hole with a green bag, a slow turtle starts on his walk, and it goes on and on.  By the end of the book, each story has resolved itself in some way and all of the characters end up interacting together.

This is not a group book.  The highly detailed art will have children crowing with delight when they discover something and pages will have to be rapidly turned backwards to find out how this happened and where that character first appeared.  It is a book to pore over, explore and adore. 

Recommended for everyone from kindergarteners through about 4th grade.  There is a strong sense of adventure and discovery when reading this book.  Enjoy!

Set Your TiVos

JK Rowling is going to appear on the Today Show on Thursday and Friday.  Other portions of her interview with Meredith Viera will be on Dateline NBC on Sunday.  The article online tells us who the character was that JK Rowling decided not to kill:

“Mr. Weasley, he was the person who got a reprieve,” Rowling said.
“When I sketched out the books, Mr. Weasley was due to die in Book 5.”

Boy am I glad she spared him!

Rowling also talks about her plans to write a Harry Potter Encyclopedia which will reveal details of characters that were left out of the books.  So prepare your libraries and book stores for another round of Harry Mania!

YA Lit Diversity

I found this article on the great diversity of teen literature right now.  I completely agree, it’s about time that we see books about teens of all colors, sexualities and faiths.  This allows all of the teens to see themselves in books in some way.  But I think the article understates the importance of this:

Seeing their faces on lead characters who overcome some of their
same issues is a bonus. Billingsley added that teens’ desire to see
themselves in print is no different from their wanting the same from
movies or TV shows.

“You need that variety,” she said. “That’s not to say you shouldn’t
read other books you can’t relate to either. There are kids who love
reading ‘Harry Potter’ books who can’t relate to him, but there needs
to be an option.”

The bold above is mine.  A bonus?  It’s a heck of a lot more important than a bonus feature of a book!  And I think that books have a lot more power than movies or TV, because they allow us to see deeply into a character beyond the skin.  So teens of all colors will see themselves in characters of all colors, in people they may not understand, and that is powerful.  But it is all the more powerful in a world that does not reflect them, does not understand them and frequently stereotypes and degrades them to see themselves in the pages of a book.  It turns what society does to them on a daily basis on its head.  Renews their understanding of themselves and allows them the power to themselves open a book where the face on the cover doesn’t resemble theirs, look beyond the surface, and discover a kinship.

But even more importantly, it offers that option to the majority as well.  But do we have the power, the grace and the interest to open those books?  Or are we caught in the whirlpool of our own whiteness where we can’t see beyond that.  Let’s make it a point to read books where the cover doesn’t reflect us back, where we have to stretch and grow just to understand it, because where else is our society going to heal?  It has to be done one character, one book at a time.  That is the “bonus” of the book.

Billy Tartle in Say Cheese!

Billy Tartle in Say Cheese! by Michael Townsend.

Very modern, graphically interesting and lots of fun, this picture book offers a lot of humor in a slim volume.  Billy is going to have his picture taken at school, but worries that all of his pictures have been boring.  So he designs a hairstyle for himself based on Supermonkey.  He has lots of ideas about how this new hairstyle will make him impressive and give him powers.  But he turns out looking exactly the same as before.  When he is given a lollipop after his haircut, he gets an idea that is certain to make sure that this class picture is far, far from dull.

The text is lovely to read aloud to a small group of kids, but this is really a book for elementary kids to read on their own or for a very small group of children to enjoy together.  The illustrations are such a large part of the story, and they have to be seen closely to be enjoyed to the fullest. 

Highly recommended for all boys.  Boys who don’t enjoy traditional books will like the comic book feel of this one.  Boys who read often and will will love the humor of the story.  A wonderful look at how comics can be mashed up with picture books and be super!

The Thre Cabritos

The Three Cabritos by Eric A. Kimmel, illustrated by Stephen Gilpin.

This version of The Three Billy Goats Gruff has touches of Texas throughout.  This combined with the fact that the goats are trying to get to a gig for their band at a fiesta adds a lot of flavor to the story.  Reynaldo the smallest goat, gets to the bridge first and children will be astounded to see the huge Chupacabra waiting there for him in all of its blue and prickly glory.  The Chupacabra only allows Reynaldo to pass after he plays some music.  The same pattern follows with each brother until Augustin, the biggest goat, who is able to control the Chupacabra with his catchy music.   The monster meets his end at the end of the story.

The illustrations are stylish and have a modern animated feel to them.  The Chupacabra alone is worth reading the book for!  The text is catchy, fun and has just the right amount of Spanish words incorporated in the text.  Nicely, there is a glossary and pronunciation guide at the end of the book. 

If you are looking for a fun and different version of the billy goats tale, this one will be a winner read aloud to children.  It has lots of funny touches throughout that children, especially those in elementary school, will enjoy. 

Gossip Girl TV Series Gossip

Tee hee!

The “Gossip Girl” panel on Friday afternoon at the Beverly Hilton got a
little surly when television critics asked the executive producers to
justify the underaged drinking and (attempted) date-raping in its pilot.

I love that they got pissy.  And how do they defend it?

After the morality question was asked in several different ways,
Schwartz said, “I don’t want to be hitting the same point, but I do
feel as if we’re not presenting this as a perfect world.” He added, “As
long as we continue to portray this world responsibly but
realistically, we think the show should have a teen-aged audience.”

As a librarian, I am very used to defending books in the face of critical parents.  The answer is that this book (or show) may not be right for your family and may not reflect your family’s morals.  And it is your right, as always, not to read/view it.  But it is not your right to stop others from doing that.

That is even more true for a TV show based on a series of books for teens that has garnered a lot of real criticism for the world they portray.  Hasn’t everyone been warned enough about this?  And frankly, the plot lines don’t seem that very different from so many other teen series on TV in the last few decades.  Beverly Hills 90210 anyone?

Heat Wave

Heat Wave by Eileen Spinelli, illustrated by Betsy Lewin.

A heat wave hit Lumberville and day after day the town’s residents swelter, finding different ways to try to stay cool.  Set in a small town in the early to mid 20th century, no one huddles by their air conditioner.  Instead readers get to see more creative solutions like cooking in the basement, taking long cool baths, and not sleeping indoors.  I enjoyed how many of the solutions build community closeness rather than in today where we all go into our homes and shut ourselves in. 

This is a great summery book to share with kindergarteners and early elementary age children.  The illustrations are friendly and funny with small touches like the policeman bathing with his hat still on.  The text is wonderful, filled with everyone’s exact name, it is like visiting a small town in person.

So pour some cold lemonade, sit out on your porch, and share this.  It will be just as nice in an air conditioned school or library where you can talk about the differences between the way we stay cool today and how they do in the book.  In schools without air conditioned classrooms, this just may inspire some creative ways for the class to feel cooler.