January 29, 2009
Flight of the Dodo (AR 4. 1 )
written and illustrated by Peter Brown
Little, Brown and Co.
As with all of the best picture books, this is an excellent read aloud. Be prepared to laugh so hard you’ll have to take a break from your reading. Seriously. I mean it. And this is one that cracked both my husband and I up to the point that neither of us could “be the grown up” and continue reading.
This is the story of Penguin. Poor Penguin. Like the other Waddlers (Kiwi, Ostrich and Cassowary), Penguin cannot fly like the other birds. Poor pooped on Penguin.
And it is getting pooped on that gets Penguin moving. Certainly the Waddlers can learn to fly? Why should the be grounded? Denied the beauty of flight and all that goes with it? It takes several tries, but finally the group takes off in a balloon. When they show off to a flock of geese, they get caught up in a powerful storm. How will they ever get down again? Hint: The get the attention of the geese way down below on the ground.
Potty humor prevails but somehow it is funny. Really. These aren’t just poop jokes for the sake of poop jokes. Think of it as figurative. Your kid will get it even if he or she can’t express it in words. After all, they get pooped on every time you tell them that they can’t do something because they are kids (Waddlers). They will so get it.
This probably isn’t the best choice for a bed time book because laughing so hard will certainly wake everyone up. But it makes a fantastic piece for a fun reading experience when it is too cold to go outside.
January 26, 2009
The Great Horse-less Carriage Race (AR 4 . 6 )
by Michael Dooling
In honor of Cub Scouts and Pinewood Derby, a book about cars.
But I have to admit, I almost didn’t read it. Another writer recommended it to a group of us as a great nonfiction picture book, biographical but focusing on a specific event vs an entire life. I checked it out in spite of the fact that I’m not enthusiastic about cars. I checked it out, then let it sit. It was due back at the library, and it seemed like a good idea to let someone who liked cars read it.
For whatever reason, I cracked it open. Could this book possibly be interesting?
Michael Dooling, please forgive me for doubting your ability as a writer!
The details that Dooling brings out keep you reading as you wonder who will win. And they aren’t just battling the clock and each other. Snow, break downs, freezing cold and darkness frustrated the drivers and Dooling brings them out in a gripping picture book. He doesn’t tell us who to root for in so many words but his drawings make it clear — Frank Duryea sports an eager, often intense, look vs Oscar Mueller’s sneer. You’ll find yourself caught up in the story as drivers struggle to repair their own vehicles in the days before Autozone, begging space at blacksmith forges and seeking out tinshops.
An excellent choice for boys who love cars, history or races.
P.S. The household’s young reader caught me reading this one and wondered what could keep Mom interested in a CAR book. Moms have such strange taste, you know. But he picked up it so that he could give you a real boy’s perspective. Now for his review:
This is an excellent source of information. This book teaches that you should never give up even when something takes a lot of time or effort.
I liked that the man who won had so many troubles but fixed his car.
–Guest Reviewer (9 years-old/almost 10 years-old), Son of SueBE
January 22, 2009
by Lisa Wheeler
illustrated by Mark Siegel
A Richard Jackson Book/Atheneum
This is the night of the Monster Ball and monsters of various kinds have taken over the castle for the biggest party you can imagine. Not that these monsters are scary – this is Lisa Wheeler. Expect fun and laughs.
This is yet another book full of Wheeler’s trademark humor and word play — the Knights’ all have names like observant Sir Veillance or wide Sir Round. This may not click at first with the youngest listeners, but when it does, you will have to stop the story to go back and find the other Knights’ names.
Mark Siegel uses his illustrations to add a story within the story. Wandering the corridors, drippy candle in hand, is a wee prince, being followed by a cute girl ghost. The two finally hook up and join the party and the fun.
A great rhyming time, sure to snare the imagination of young readers who love to play with words.
January 20, 2009
In honor of today — a book about what determined people can do.
That Book Woman (AR 4. 3 )
by Heather Henson
illustrated by David Small
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
What does this book have to do with Obama’s inauguration? Both are so full of hope, they made me cry even though I swore I wouldn’t.
As part of the WPA, Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt sent librarians on horseback into the Appalachian Mountains. He sent them places where there were no roads. Where schools were inaccessible. Where people still bartered for what they needed with a poke of berries or a treasured recipe.
The narrator is a young boy who already does a full days work while his sister props her feet up, nosing at the chicken scratches in a book. He doesn’t have the time for the silliness of made up stories until the Book Woman impresses him with her bravery, riding up the mountain in a snow storm. What could make her take such a risk? The only way to find out is to turn to his kid sister for help.
Small’s ink, watercolor and chalk illustrations are reminiscent of comic book art, duplicating that forms emotion, expression and vitality although his color work is somewhat more subtle.
When the time comes to bid farewell to a favorite teacher at the end of the school year, this book would make an excellent gift.
January 17, 2009
New Pig in Town (AR 1. 8 )
When Pigs Fly (AR 2.0)
by Lisa Wheeler
illustrated by Frank Ansley
As long as we’re on the topic of beginning readers, check out the Fitch and Chip series. The series opens with New Pig in Town. Chip is the new kid at school. Outspoken and sure of himself, the young pig latches onto the wolf in the next desk. Fitch hugs his tail for security and his ears twitch whenever he gets nervous. The pair slowly become friends in ways that all kids understand — eating lunch together, walking home from school and talking about the differences between their families.
When Kids Flyopens with a special day at school — the children are allowed to dress as their favorite super hero. Chip, as always, is sure of himself, coming to school dressed as a popular TV hero. Fitch, on the other hand, does things his own way. He’s dressed like someone he’s read about in the newspaper, someone who is fighting for the environment. When the pair gets to school, they discover that one of them blends in with all the other kids who picked the same hero. Fortunately, friends now how to be heroes to each other.
Wheeler’s text and Ansley’s paintings work together to create humorous stories that will keep young readers smiling to the end. After all, a pig testing just how yummy he looks to the wolf in class is funny stuff as is a super hero named Hyper Hog. And just say the name of the series out loud. Come on. Admit it. You’re smiling.
Whether your young reader is quiet or bold, into tv or reading, there is a character with which to identify. School settings are comfortingly familiar and the large print and short lines of text make for a reassuring read for someone who finds small type crowding the page intimidating.
Why not take turns reading to each other? Some things are best when shared with a friend.
January 13, 2009
Houndsley and Catina (AR 2.9 )
Houndsley and Catina and the Birthday Surprise (AR 2.8 )
Houndsley and Catina and the Quiet Time (AR 3.3)
by James Howe
Illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay
Finding good beginning readers is tough, especially if the reader you are trying to please is a boy. If this is your situation, try out the Houndsley and Catina series.
I wasn’t sure my son would like them. They’re quiet, sweet little stories. Granted, my son loves cats and Catina is a cat, but she’s a cat in a dress.
Fortunately, my worries were misplaced. He loves these books every bit as much as I do. Each book contains three chapters. Unlike some beginning readers, each of these chapters is a stand-alone story. Your young reader can finish one chapter, approximately 10 pages, put the book down, and not be lost later on. While each chapter is a separate story, all three are tied up nicely in the last chapter.
For those of you who recognize Howes’ name, he is the author of Bunnicula.
Collage sparks Marie-Louise Gay’s watercolors, illustrations that are every bit as sweet as the story.
I normally don’t use the word sweet twice in one day, unless I accidentally my husband’s over sugared coffee cup. But I can’t really come up with a better description of these books. The characters are kind. The stories are such that a younger child reading above age level wouldn’t find anything inappropriate in them. And a finicky reader, my son, loved them. What more can I say?
If your newly independent reader is intimidated by long books, give these a try. They vary in length from approximately 1100 words to 1200 words but are broken up in a way that makes them easy to conquer.
January 9, 2009
The Manx Cat
by Joanne Mattern
(AR Level 4.9)
This is a great book for cat lovers. It teaches you a lot about the Manx cat and a lot about the cat’s origin. It also gives some myths about Manx cats.
Illustrated by really good photos. Lots of great cats.
If you like cats and are excited about reading, this is the book for you.
I wish I had a Manx!
–Guest Reviewer (9 years-old/almost 10 years-old), Son of SueBE
January 5, 2009
Girls of Riyadh
by Rajaa Alsanea
One day before Christmas, I found myself in the audio section of our local library branch. With several pieces of handwork to finish, I was almost out of audio books and had nothing on request. Books with international setting always catch my attention so I picked this up.
The author, Rajaa Alsanea, grew up in Riyadh, the youngest of two daughters. She has created a novel that details the lives of four young women from the upper class of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. This world of women had previously been unknown to the outside world.
Having heard about Saudi Arabia and the closely guarded lives of its women only threw the news, this book fascinated me. First of all, I was impressed by the freedoms these women seized for themselves. In truth, the women didn’t seem significantly less free than the men. Before you object to that statement — read or listen to the book. Mothers have a great deal of influence over who their sons marry. Both men and women face sometimes very strict dress codes. Secondly, I was impressed by how the struggles of these women to be themselves, fighting the expectations of others, mirrored what I see my own nieces going through.
This novel was originally published in Arabic. When it feels like the author is delivering a lecture on Saudi clothing, food or something similar, she is. These bits were added to help U.S. readers with elements of Saudi culture they would not know.
An adult book, this would be suitable for teen readers but would most likely interest women much more than men. I would also advise listening to the book if possible to get a feel for the proper names.