Pink

Pink by Nan Gregory and Luc Melanson.

Vivi desperately wants to be one of the pink girls who have pink backpacks, pink clothes, pink hair bands all in the perfect shade of pink.  She dreams of the perfect pink life so different from her own.  Vivi then discovers the perfect pink bride doll in the window of a fancy toy store.  She works hard to save money to purchase the doll, doing odd jobs in their apartment building.  But when she reveals to the Pinks at school that she is going to buy the doll, one of them gets there before her and she is devastated. 

This is a book that dances along just like life.  It is a vividly pink look at wishing, wanting, striving and disappointment, only to discover that there are special pink moments in her own life too.  Vivi is a wonderful character, especially for a picture book.  Her parents are equally interesting and their parenting is warm and supportive.  It is a treat to have a book where the parents are role models but the text is not didactic. 

The end of the book is buttoned by music, dance and sunsets, things that everyone can enjoy and share whether they can afford pink perfection or not.  The message of the book is strong but never crosses over into preaching.  The story is allowed to stand on its own strength through clear writing and bright illustrations.

Recommended to both boys and girls (despite the pink focus) ages 5-7.

Those Shoes

Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts, illustrated by Noah Z. Jones.

Jeremy desperately wants a pair of those black high tops with white stripes, but there is no extra money to get anything but new winter boots.  To make matters worse, Jeremy’s shoes wear out and he has to wear a pair that fits him taken from the box the guidance counselor keep for kids who need things.  And they are bright blue and Velcro, like ones for little kids.  Jeremy’s grandmother takes him shopping for boots and thinks about getting him the new shoes, but they are too expensive.  Then she willingly takes him to different thrift stores to see if they can find a pair.  And they do!  But the shoes are too small, even though Jeremy tries to curl his toes under his foot to make them fit.  He insists that they buy them, but finally admits that he can’t wear them.  Perhaps someone else can?

This story simply and clearly tells the story of a child who lives in a family where he can’t have everything he wants.  There is no shame here, no squalor, just a normal family where spending money has an impact and choices must be made.  The illustrations in the book show a rainbow of children going to school together.  Friendships are not racially divided and neither is the poverty line.  It is all nicely handled. 

This is one of those books that is important to share with all children of any means.  Children who don’t face choices like this must learn that there are families right in their communities who do, and children who live in homes where finances are tight will be happy to know that they are not the only ones.  We live in a society where items are glorified and children are caught up in having the latest gizmos, gadgets, toys and clothes.  This book puts it all into perspective.  And just might lead to new perspectives in children who get a chance to read it, hear it and talk about it.

Highly recommended for ages 5-8.  This would be a wonderful book to get conversations started in a classroom about money and choices and differences.

Horn Book Best of 2007

The Horn Book has once again created an amazing compilation of best books.  Their Best Books of 2007 include so many of my favorites of the year!  In picture books, they are all marvelous.  Fiction includes three of my all-time favorites of the year: Hugo Cabret, Red Spikes and Absolutely True Diary.  All marvelous!  What a great list and what a great year for books! 

Rowling Accepts Fan Fic

Rowling will not be suing George Lippert, author of a fan fiction 8th book in the Harry Potter series.  Rowling has stated that spin-offs are fine as long as they are not sold and it is made clear that she is not associated with the stories.  She also requested that they not contain racism or pornography. 

You can click here to see the Wikipedia entry on the Lippert book which is still hidden behind an elaborate website.  Wikipedia’s entry offers the passwords you will need to explore the site fully.

Giving Up the Ghost

Nominated for a 2007 Cybil in Fantasy/Science Fiction.

Giving Up the Ghost by Sheri Sinykin.

Davia is afraid of so much in her life when she leaves her native Wisconsin and heads down south to Louisiana with her mother and father.  Her mother recently survived cancer and now they are going to help with the hospice care of Davia’s elderly Aunt Mari.  Everything about the aging southern plantation frightens Davia, especially when she meets its resident ghost, Emilie.  As Davia is drawn deeper into the mystery of Emilie, she finds herself steadily overcoming her fears and facing the uncertainty in her life.

It is the characters of this story that really make it come alive.  Aunt Mari is often unlikable and scary, but readers will find themselves feeling an ever-growing bond with her just as Davia does.  Davia’s parents are complex, filtered by Davia’s perspective of them both.  Emilie is less frightening than petulant, making her an interesting ghostly figure.  But the real achievement is Davia herself, who has been masterfully crafted to be truly human and vivid.  Her character’s fears could have overwhelmed the writing, but Sinykin has managed to create a fearful character who discovers not only courage but also acceptance of uncertainty.  A strong message for readers.

Though Davia is 13 years old in the story, the book is more appropriate for elementary readers aged 10-12.  I recommend it for readers who enjoy ghost stories mixed with solid reality. 

The Tear Thief



The Tear Thief
by Carol Ann Duffy, illustrated by Nicoletta Ceccoli.

This ethereal book features a strange, delicate creature called the Tear Thief, who goes to a different place in the world each night to catch tears.  The thief listens for children crying and then sneaks to their sides invisibly to take their tears.  You can only see the Tear Thief in reflections not by looking at it directly.  The most valuable tears are those cried in true sorrow and they are the ones most useful in making the moon shine brighter and brighter, lit by children’s tears.

This book is very fairy-like with dainty pictures that have a misty, magical quality.  The text too shares this feel of magical touches.  Having a book with a non-scary but mysterious character is lovely.  Children will recognize their own tantrums and cries here, and will wonder if the thief has ever visited them. 

Best shared in small groups or at bedtime, this book will add a magical moment wherever it is shared.

The Golden Dream of Carlo Chuchio

The Golden Dream of Carlo Chuchio by Lloyd Alexander.

The author of The Chronicles of Prydain returns with his final book, a treasure hunt through the desert.  After being dismissed from his uncle’s shipping business, Carlo finds himself homeless with only a vague map to treasure in his hands and a book of stories.  Carlo gets onto a ship and heads out to find the Road of Golden Dreams despite the dangers.  On his travels, he gathers a motley party to travel with him, including the laziest camel-puller in the land, a lovely girl with a tragic past, and a mystic traveler happy to be wherever he finds himself.  Is the map real?  How about the treasure?  Or is it worth the journey alone?

Alexander is in fine form here with a vibrant setting, hordes of evil and/or interesting characters, and lots to say about journeys and treasures.  He has created characters who really stand on their own, leaving nothing to stereotypes.   Additionally, Alexander has added a wonderful touch of humor throughout the story, leading to laugh-out-loud moments and great guffaws. 

Highly recommended for readers who enjoyed Indiana Jones.  Readers will enjoy the journey through the desert, the dangers and the lessons finally learned.

Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat

Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat by Lynne Jonell

Emmy tried her hardest to be the best girl she could be.  But no matter how perfect she was, her parents continued to go on longer and longer vacations, leaving Emmy with her nanny, Miss Barmy.   Emmy misses her parent terribly, which is made worse by the fact that none of the children at school seem to notice her much less talk to her.  Emmy’s life changes when she starts listening to the classroom rat speaking to her and she enters a world of strange rodents and danger. 

The book is well-written and lots of fun with its unique and strange take on rodents.  Emmy is a likable character, once the story gets going, and the other characters are equally well rendered.  The villains are cardboard figures, taken to an extreme.

My main quibble with the book is the use of lucky chance as a way to move the plot forward.  I would much have preferred some of the discoveries Emmy makes to be the result of sleuthing rather than happenstance. 

That said, this is a book that could be used in classrooms as a read-aloud or for early-reading children.  It is appropriate for those reading at an 8-10 year old level.

Calendar

Calendar by Myra Cohn Livingston, illustrated by Will Hillenbrand.

This simple book that follows the months of the year offers just a line per page making it perfect for young children.  Livingston has created a poem that sings along the year and has a mix of both traditional and surprising touches.  Some of the surprising touches will get readers to look more closely at the illustrations and others will have readers smiling with pleasure and agreement. 

Hillenbrand’s illustrations have a mix of collage and painting.  They are bold, bright and will project well to a group.  The first page “January shivers” is evocative of Ezra Jack Keats’ The Snowy Day with its child in red on a snowy background.  Even the collage technique evokes Keats’ art.  Many of the illustrations have a sense of motion and joy.  There is a playfulness but also an art to the illustrations. 

Recommended when doing calendars with children in preschool and kindergarten, this book will get children thinking of what they enjoy about the different months of the year.