Young Reader in the Making

Young Reader in the Making

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Book 30: A Splendid Friend

Book 30: A Splendid Friend, Indeed, by Suzanne Bloom, Scholastic 2006.   Toddler to Preschool.

Pesky characters in books appeal to me, like Willems' pigeon and Numeroff's mouse. I'm not sure why, they just do. So I find the irritating goose in A Splendid Friend, Indeed charming. But even more than the goose, I love the patient polar bear. He's the perfect foil to the silly goose.

The friendly pair are well-drawn -- the bear's fur is magnificent -- and expressive. Bloom brings them to life using pastels, which is not an easy medium to work with.

The story itself is so simple that a toddler has not trouble following it, especially when enhanced by the excellent illustrations.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Book 29: Not a Box

Book 29: Not a Box, by Antoinette Portis, HarperCollins Children's Books 2006.  Toddler to Preschool.

First of all, I love the "packaging" of this book. The cover looks like a parcel -- so cute and so clever.

Then there is the rabbit. "Not a Box" has drawn comparisons to "Harold and the Purple Crayon", another very good, buy-worthy book, but in some ways I prefer this book. Because of the rabbit. The rabbit is drawn in that deceptively simple way (rather like Mo Willems' pigeon), is nameless and gender-neutral. Any child can relate to the rabbit.

Recently, my seventeen-month-old son began to empty all the toys out of his toy box (and scatter the toys ALL over the family room floor) and then try to climb into the empty toy box. For his safety and my sanity, I had to move his toy box and set up an empty box in it's place. Now he climbs into the empty box. I remember doing this when I was very young. See, any child can relate to a rabbit with an imagination and an empty box.

The story and illustrations are easy-to-follow, toddler-simple. This book works great for story time with a large group of children, or story time with just one child.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Book 28: If You Give a Mouse a Cookie

Book 28: If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, by Laura Joffe Numeroff and illustrated by Felicia Bond.   Toddler to early elementary.

You cannot go wrong with any "If You Give..." book, but the first is my favorite. Numeroff's story is sweet and silly, funny and charming, but what really make this book so well-loved by so many children and adults is the magic that is Felicia Bond's illustration. The whole becomes greater than the parts when an excellent storyteller is teamed with an excellent illustrator.

I love this book, and fortunately, my toddler likes it, so I get to read it quite often.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Book 27: I Love You, Little One

Book 27: I Love You, Little One, by Nancy Trafuri, Scholastic Press 1999 (board book)  Baby to preschool.

With a title like this, you could hardly go wrong. And you won't with Nancy Trafuri's charming book.

I started reading this book to my toddler in September when he was about ten months old and inflicted with chickenpox (poor baby). This book reads like a gentle lullaby, with refrains and repeating lines within the verses. That mild undulation would calm him down before his naps. He also was quite taken with the sweet illustrations, especially the deer's and rabbit's eyes.

Because my son still is so taken with the drawings, he likes to pull this book off the shelf and "read" it himself. I'm quite glad I bought the book in board book form to stand up to his love.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Book 26: Many Moons

Book 26: Many Moons, by James Thurber and illustrated by Louis Slobodkin, Voyager Books (Harcourt Brace & Company), 1991.   Elementary.

Because Book 26 doubles the sad average of books owned per child, I wanted it to be a significant book. I first encountered Many Moons when it was read to me during a story time at school when I was about eight years old. Of course, at that age, I didn't bother thinking about who wrote the story, just whether I liked the story or not. And I did like the story. So much so, that it stayed with me for years. But, since I didn't learn at that first reading who wrote it, I couldn't rediscover it.

Then, when I was about eighteen, I discovered James Thurber's writings -- It was a natural progression from Dorothy Parker, to Robert Benchley, to James Thurber. And I loved his writing and accompanying illustrations. Sadly, I still did not connect The Cat Bird Seat with Many Moons.

About another ten years passed and this edition illustrated by Louis Slobodkin was released. The title seemed familiar, so I flipped though the book, and to my delight I found the lost story of my childhood. Happy day! It was like when I found out that Oscar Wilde wrote The Happy Prince. It was like finding an old friend. So, of course, I bought the book. And, although I have yet to read it to my young son, I have turned it into a play for the library. And it was quite good.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Book 25: One Nighttime Sea

Book 25: One Nighttime Sea, written by Deborah Lee Rose, illustrated by Steve Jenkins, Scholastic Press 2003.   Toddler to Preschool.

In February, my toddler son visited an aquarium and loved it, so the following week, I checked this book out of the library. I thought it was just another ocean counting book. It is not.

The first half is pretty standard: whales, seals, turtles. The second half was quite unexpected and delightfully jarring: nudibranches, zebra moray, dragonfish. The dragonfish illustration was by far the most unsettling and by far my son's favorite. I'm not sure what that means, but he did really like the teeth.

Great, unusual choices for this ocean counting book, that are excellently matched by colorful, dimensional illustrations. Don't miss this one, especially if you have an ocean-entranced toddler like I have.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Book 24: Animalia

Book 24: Animalia, by Graeme Base, published by Harry N. Adams, Inc., Publishers, New York 1986.   Toddler to early elementary.

This is one of those children's books that I bought long before I had a child. Pretty much as soon as I spied it in the library I knew I had to have it. It's a great book that works on so many levels. For one thing, it's gorgeous. It is hard not to admire the splendid illustrations, and it's even harder to put the book down. Then there is the wonderful, witty alliteration (yeah, I did that on purpose). But it is so clever and unexpected. This is not your standard alphabet book.

This book is a great read-aloud for story time with toddlers and preschoolers. School-age children to adults will enjoy hunting for objects beginning with the featured letter on each illustrated page -- kind of like an early I Spy book, only you have to identify the objects, not just find them.

Graeme Base spend three years working on this book and was a very young man when he did it. Not a second of his time was wasted.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Book 23: The Owl and the Pussycat (Jan Brett)

Book 23: The Owl and the Pussycat, written by Edward Lear and illustrated Jan Brett, GP Putnam's Sons 1991.   Preschool to early elementary.

There are many illustrated version of Edward Lear's The Owl and the Pussycat -- some are so breathtakingly gorgeous but lack the silliness of this story, some are cartoony and have no depth, and some are so deep they tread some very disturbing waters -- so far, though, this is my favorite version.

Jan Brett's illustrations, as always are colorful, well-rendered and quite lovely; and, as usual, somewhat jarring. That's what makes them so perfect for Edward Lear. Edward Lear's writings fall somewhere between Beatrix Potter and Hilaire Belloc.

On the surface, they are silly with a rhyming scheme pleasing to the ear. But scratch a little below that surface and there is something a little "off" in his work. All was not safe in Potter's world -- Peter Rabbit's father was turned into a stew -- but there was a happy ending for the protagonist. Reading Belloc can still give me nightmares. There is no safety in Lear's writing, no guarantee of a happy ending, but it is thought-inducing, not nightmare-inducing.