Young Reader in the Making

Young Reader in the Making

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Book 7: A Wrinkle in Time

Book 7: A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L'Engle, 1962, Newbery Winner, Yearling Books.  Upper elementary to middle school.

The other day I read "When You Reach Me", by Rebecca Stead, this year's Newbery winner. I liked the book, although I probably would have liked it more had I not just recently watched the "Blink" Dr. Who episode. (Darn that New Year's marathon and David Tennant for being so adorable.) Anyway having recently wrapped my mind around time travel, this book's plot unfolded very quickly for me. "When You Reach Me" did pay homage, however, to a book I love and bought: "A Wrinkle in Time".

When I first read this book, I thought it was about me. At eleven I, like Meg, had braces, thick glasses for nearsightedness, and blah-colored hair that frizzed on the right side and was dead straight on the left. I was brilliant in a few subject and backward in others. My father had temporarily been assigned somewhere away from home. I would like to point out that the book was written years before I was even born, but back then, I didn't bother looking at publishing dates. Of course I was drawn into this book upon my first reading -- how could I not be?

Upon reading this book as an adult (so to speak), this book still enthralls me. There is that whole space/time travel -- again, David Tennant's Dr. Who. And the Cape Canaveral connection (where my husband works, for now, anyway). And, as an adult, I noticed that this book pay homage to one of my favorite writer's: C.S. Lewis, especially in his writings for adults.

So, when my son comes of age, I'll have him read this book and see if he sees himself in it. Have you read it? Are you in it?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Book 6: Un-brella

Book 6: Un-brella, by Scott E. Franson, Roaring Brook Press 2007.   Preschool

As a rule, I'm not a big fan of wordless picture books or CG artwork. Un-brella is the exception to both. The illustrations are ridiculously beautiful, or beautifully ridiculous, or maybe both. Every page is vibrant, detailed, humorous, imaginative, genius and completely unforgettable. Words are unnecessary and would probably only get in the way in this gorgeous book.

My toddler is too young to truly understand the story, but that doesn't stop him from enjoying the artwork and laughing at the unexpected on each amazing page.

My only complaint is that this is Scott E. Franson's one and only book so far. Until another one comes out, hint, hint, I'll be sharing Un-brella often with my son and following Scott's humorous stories and brilliant illustrations posted on his blog at

Friday, January 22, 2010

Book 5: The Scarlet Pimpernel

Book 5: "The Scarlet Pimpernel", by Baroness Orczy, first published in book form in 1905 (it was originally produced as a play in 1903 for want of a book publisher)  Upper elementary to middle school.

Last week, from my local library, I checked out "Sovay", by Celia Rees, published by Bloomsbury, 2008. I enjoyed it, but darn if it didn't remind me of something else. "Sovay" is set during the latter part of the French Revolution/Age of Reason, so of course I thought of "Tale of Two Cities" and the "The Red and the Black". There is even a wonderful hot-air balloon scene in it that recalled "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen" to me. But none of these seemed to be quite right. Then I remembered "The Scarlet Pimpernel" and immediately upon finishing "Sovay" I re-read that.

What a great book -- no wonder I bought it. First of all, I'm a sucker for the whole secret identity thing. Batman wouldn't be nearly so interesting without Bruce Wayne (and, even more so, vice versa). Not only does "The Scarlet Pimpernel" predate Batman, it even predates "Zorro" (upon which Batman was loosely based). As far as I can tell this was the first true duality-of-man book.

Secondly, it is a history lesson of sorts in that it is based on actual events if not an actual person. To me, the French Revolution is one of the most confusing times in history. I understand the reasons for the beginning of the revolution, but this book takes place three years into the war when those who set out to topple tyrants have become tyrants themselves and once-clear issues become cloudy.

Finally, it is just a well-written story. It is over a hundred years old and I've read it a few times and I'm sure I'll read it at least a few more. I know in another ten or so years, my son also will enjoy reading it.

Book 1 -- Part Dos

Book 1 -- Part Dos: "Buenas Noches, Luna", published by HarperCollins

Because my toddler knows the original English version of "Goodnight, Moon" so well, I decided that the Spanish version would be a great way to introduce him to a few words in Spanish. I don't expect him to become fluent or anything, but I have been singing to him in French and German, and since we do live in Florida, well, learning a little Spanish just makes sense.

My husband studied a (very) little Spanish in high school, and I spoke it a little in elementary school (I lived in Hacienda Heights, CA). I thought he would be able to read the Spanish version better than I would. I was wrong. It turns out learning to speak another language (even a tiny bit) as a child stays with you more than learning it new as an adolescent. Anyway, after a not very successful page by page the first night, I've just been reading a few words (pretty much Buenas Noches and the nouns) to correspond with what my husband reads. It seems to be working. Already my son will point to the moon in my husband's book and to la Luna in mine. So overall, I think this is a pretty painless way to expose a child to a second (or third, or fourth) language.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Fourth book: Who Hops?

Fourth book: Who Hops? by Katie Davis, Harcourt Brace & Company, 1998 Toddler, Preschooler.

The first thing you notice about Katie Davis is her fantastic smile. It is gigantic and genuine. It is so broad that her eyes twinkle. Clearly, this is a woman who loves to laugh, and by extension, make others laugh. With her book, "Who Hops?", Katie Davis has achieved this goal.

I don't know if it's because of the brilliant (as in colorful and clever) illustrations, or because of the wonderful silliness of this book, but every time I read this book to my one-year-old son, he lets loose with a great, big belly laugh. Because his laugh is one of my favorite sounds, this book has become one of my favorite books.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Third book: Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!

Third book: Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, written and illustrated by Mo Willems, Hyperion 2003.  Toddler, Preschooler.

I LOVE this book. I think it is hilarious. Fortunately, the toddlers I read it to in story time at the library agreed. Unfortunately, my colleagues did not. Oh, they tolerated the pigeon, but never really embraced him.

Toddlers all know the word "no". Even my one-year-old son is familiar with it. How great to have a character in a book toddlers can say "no" to. My son wags his head, but same idea. And how absurd to have a pigeon who wants to drive a bus. At the library we even used this book at an elementary school during Space Week and had the pigeon begging to fly the shuttle. It became wonderfully Dr. Who-ish when the pigeon wanted to fly just once around the galaxy. (The would be David Tennant's Dr. Who for those wanting a mental image).

Also, the deceptively simple illustrations make the pigeon instantly recognizable. In addition to buying this book, I also bought a toy pigeon that says in Mo Willems' creepy/funny voice "Let me drive the bus!" When I pull out the book to read it, my son grabs the toy pigeon.

There are other pigeon books, which also are very funny, but this one, the original, is my favorite.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Second book: The Animal Boogie

I'm aiming to write about at least one book a week.

Second book: "The Animal Boogie", written by Debbie Harter and illustrated by Fred Penner, hardbound with CD, published by Barefoot Books.   Toddler, Preschool, Early Elementary.

This used to be one of my favorite books to read for story time when I worked at the public library. The silly song appealed to preschool-age and school-age kids. I checked this book out from the library for my son when he was about eleven months old. I thought he would enjoy the playful, colorful illustrations. He did. However, I completely underestimated how much he would enjoy the silly song about the jungle animals. I had to read (sing) this book at least once a day every day for the three weeks we had it checked out. So I bought him his own copy. And he still loves the silly song and colorful illustrations, although, thankfully, I don't have to read the book every day anymore.

I would recommend buying this book in hard cover to hold up to many, many readings, and also buying the version with the CD -- especially if you are not especially skilled at reading music and carrying a tune. Also, after about the third time singing through the book in one day, your voice may appreciate a rest.