Book Review: Ladder to the Moon by Maya Soetoro-Ng

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Ladder to the Moon by Maya Soetoro-Ng, illustrated by Yuyi Morales

One evening Suhaila asked her mother what her Grandma Annie was like.  Her mother replied that her grandmother was like the moon, “full, soft and curious.”  She also told Suhaila that she had her grandmother’s hands.  At bedtime that night, Suhaila wondered what other ways she was like her grandmother.  Later that same night, a golden ladder appeared at her window and on the lowest rung her grandmother was waiting for her.  Together the two of them climbed the ladder to the moon.  The two sat on the moon together, listening.  Below on earth, they heard voices calling.  When they looked, they found children trapped by a flood and invited them to come to the moon to safety.  They rescued two young women from an earthquake.  They continued to help people to the moon, filling it with people who needed healing, needed love.  Until it was time for Suhaila to head back home to her own bed and tell her mother that she had gotten to meet Grandma Annie.

Soetoro-Ng was inspired by her own mother, Ann Dunham, also the mother of President Obama.  This book sings with admiration for the power of love and healing.  It’s a magical book that shows the power of one person and the impact they can have.  The book dances to its own beat, sometimes taking an unusual step here or there, but creating as a whole, something beautiful.

Morales’ illustrations are glorious.  From the very first image of the daughter and mother together under an immense moon where the brush strokes form the breeze in the air, the reader knows this is something special.  Morales skillfully blends all types of people into the story, different ages, different colors.  Most impressive is the illustration where different peoples share their stories, each with a glowing phrase in different languages around their heads.  The light is warm firelight, candles and also the clear white of the moon. 

A beautiful book that will work as a way to talk about shared beliefs across nationalities and faiths, it is also a testament to the power of grandparents in the child’s life.  Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from copy received from Candlewick Press.

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Book Review: Running with the Horses by Alison Lester

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Running with the Horses by Alison Lester

Follow the harrowing rescue of the Lipizzaner horses during World War II in this picture book.  The book is nonfiction woven with fiction, seen through the eyes of a fictional character, Nina, the daughter of the stablemaster at the famous Spanish Riding School in Vienna.  As the war came closer to Vienna, Nina’s school was closed and people were fleeing the city.  To save the last four stallions, Nina would have to ride over the Alps with her father.  But she could not leave her favorite old cab horse, Zelda, behind in the deserted city.  So Nina rode Zelda, following her father and the horses, not knowing the dangers that she and Zelda would face together as they crossed the Alps to safety.

Lester has created a picture book that successfully marries fiction with history, giving young readers a glimpse of the dangers of the War as well as the bravery that it created.  Nina is a ten-year-old whose care for her horse and courage during the adventure will inspire.  The book does have more text than many picture books, making it more appropriate for a slightly older audience, one which is more likely to understand the historical aspect of the book better as well.

The illustrations are a very attractive mix of photographs and pencil drawings.  The characters are shown in black and white throughout, contrasted with the colored backgrounds.  This creates a unique look that has the people in clear relief from their surroundings.

A look at a moment in history that has the appeal of horses and a young heroine as well.  Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from copy received from NorthSouth.

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Andy Stanton’s Tips for Helping Children Love Reading

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Image via Wikipedia

The Sun has a very nice article by Andy Stanton, author of the Mr. Gum series, that has practical tips that every parent can use.  The best part is that his focus is not on forcing children to read, but instead in getting children to enjoy books and reading. 

Here are some of my favorites, there are many more in the article:

  • Don’t distinguish between good and bad.
  • I think some kids can be frightened of books so make sure you have them around.
  • Make story-time part of the bedtime routine and part of their world.
  • Put books in their way.
  • Take children to the library.

And my personal favorite: “Every child should read Roald Dahl. He’s like The Beatles of children’s books.”

I needed this after reading articles about a study that shows that boys “can’t read past the 100th page” of a book.  What the title doesn’t tell you is that it is according to their teachers, not a study of boys actual reading habits but teachers’ perceptions.  I think I’ll leave it at that, since I promised myself I would not rant about it.