Young Reader in the Making

Young Reader in the Making

Friday, February 26, 2010

Reality check

According to Parenting magazine, "a child growing up in a middle-class neighborhood will own an average of 13 books at any given time..." How sad. For lower income communities, that number is much lower.

I have tried to not be a mommy who has to compare her child to other children at every milestone, but this is one instance where I'm very happy to have my child come out above average. And this is one instance where I can control that outcome. I've long been a proponent of early childhood literacy (hence my decision to work as a children's librarian), but as a new mommy, I'm an even stronger advocate. Already I've reviewed 13 books from my son's collection and I've scarcely made a dent. Let's grow the personal (and public) libraries of the children we know.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Book 13: Top Cat

Book 13: Top Cat, by Lois Ehlert, Harcourt Brace & Company 1998.   Baby to Preschool.

The other day, my toddler pulled this book off his bookshelf for me to read to him. I'm not sure why he loves it so much, but I know why I do.

I bought this book years before I had my son. The wonderful dimensional illustrations look almost exactly like my cats -- just add a mustache to the black and white one and some speckles to the striped one -- and the story was almost exactly theirs. My cats, like the ones in the book, can go from hissing to kissing and back again in two seconds flat.

My toddler loves our cats, so maybe it isn't too surprising that he would also love this book.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Book 12: Kitten's First Full Moon

Book 12: Kitten's First Full Moon, by Kevin Henkes, Greenwillow Books 2004.   Toddler to Preschool.

Where to start -- What a book! The illustrations are simple, black and white, and oh-so-expressive. The story is simple, easy-to-follow, and oh-so-engaging. While "Kitten" is a completely different story, it reminded me of everything I loved about Sendak's "Where The Wild Things Are". Best of all, "Kitten" is the perfect length book to read to my toddler at bedtime.

What's not to love? -- What a book!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Book 11: Where the Wild Things Are

Book 11: Where The Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak, Harper Collins, 1963.  Preschool to early elementary.

I was planning to review the charming Caldecott Medal book by Kevin Henkes, but after reading it, I realized I first needed to review the charming Caldecott Medal book by Maurice Sendak.

"Where The Wild Things Are" inspires more of a love/hate relationship with children (and adults) than pretty much any other children's book I know of. Either you loved it as a kid because of the bedroom changing into a forest, and Max taming the wild things to become their king, and Max's dinner still being hot when he returned from his adventure; or you just never got past the scary wild things and hated the book. Obviously, I loved it, and perhaps because my son has had a great big dog's face in his face pretty much since the day he came home from the hospital, the wild things do not scare him at all. In fact, he thinks they are funny.

Once, when I entertained art ambitions, I thought it would be great to apprentice with Maurice Sendak, especially when I saw his ballet sets. Sigh, those days are past, but I still love slipping into his world and this book is my passport.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Book 10: Thomas the Tank Engine Story Collection

Book 10: Thomas the Tank Engine Story Collection, by the Reverend W. Awdry, Random House Collection published in 2005; first set of Awdry stories published in 1945.  Preschool to elementary.

My son's name is Thomas, and his daddy is into model trains, so that I would initially buy this book is a given. What surprised and delighted me is how different these tales are from those based on the PBS Thomas series. All the wit, charm and sense of place have been stripped from the original telling, and all that remains of the based-on books are stories about a blue train.

We began reading a story a night from this collection when our Thomas was about three months old. They are on the longish side, so I kept watching for squirming. There was none. I'm not sure if it was the engaging illustrations, or the apropos sound effects, or both, that held his interest, but his interest was held and we've already read through all these stories twice.

The only downside to reading and hearing the Awdry originals is it makes sitting through a Thomas video a little dull, even for the now fifteen-month-old, and especially for his mommy.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Book 9: The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis

Book 9: The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis, by Barbara O'Connor, Frances Foster Books 2009.  Upper elementary to middle school.

After I put the baby to bed, I jump on the computer and check my email and catch up on the blogs I follow. One of those blogs is Barbara O'Connor's Greetings From Nowhere. Barbara is witty, funny, clever, quirky and oh-so-human (see her Cafe Francais saga), so it is no wonder she can breathe life into witty, funny, clever, quirky and oh-so-human characters.

In "Small Adventure", Velma recites the kings and queens of England in chronological order. As someone who just crossed the 40-year mark and is a new mom, as I read this part of the book I was thinking this is a great way to keep one's mind sharp. Then I read Popeye's reaction. And it's perfect. And not terribly complimentary. Not only can Barbara O'Connor create characters so real that you think you know them, she can draw you so entirely into a book that you forget it is just a story.

By the time I hit the Yoo-hoo boats, there was no retreating. No way I was putting this book down until I met everyone and I found out how this story ended. So go out and buy this book. It's a short story and a fast read and not a single word is wasted. And you'll enjoy re-visiting it for years to come.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Book 8: Picasso and the Girl with the Ponytail

Book 8: Picasso and the Girl with the Ponytail, by Laurence Anholt, Barron's 1998.   Elementary

My friend, Louise Nottingham (Louise's Blog), recently reviewed this book for the library, and based on her recommendation, I bought this book. I don't always take advice, but this time I am glad I did.

"Picasso and the Girl with a Ponytail" is a sweet story with lovely and quirky illustrations. That is enough to like the book. What makes me love it is how it introduces an artist, art history and an art style in a way that make them all feel accessible to the reader.

Laurence Anholt has also written about Van Gogh and Degas. I will definitely be looking into adding those books to my son's library.