Young Reader in the Making

Young Reader in the Making

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Book 123: Miss Smith Under the Ocean

Miss Smith Under the Ocean, by Michael Garland, Dutton Children's Book 2011. (Preschool/Early Elementary)

Miss Smith, that awesome red-headed, red-shoed teacher, reads again, and this time characters from "sea stories" come to life.  Starting with "The Owl and the Pussycat", so that Miss Smith and the students have a boat, of course, Miss Smith wastes no time in conjuring the whale that eluded Ahab.  The marvelous Miss Smith reads through so many adventures and the class meets so many characters, but it is the visit from Captain Nemo that makes me jealous.  What I would give to bring the Nautilus to life!  Clearly, Michael Garland loves books.  He makes me want to go back and re-read every one of those classic tales.

As wonderful as this story is, it is the completely brilliant, slightly manic illustrations that breathe life into this book.  My son, at not yet four, is too young to understand the literary allusions, but he can understand what is happening on each page because the illustrations are so absolutely perfect.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Book 122: The Reluctant Dragon

The Reluctant Dragon, written by Kenneth Grahame, illustrated by Ernest H. Shepard, Holiday House 1938.  (Elementary)

"Read to Your Dragon" month is drawing to a close, so I decided to review The Reluctant Dragon.  Kenneth Grahame, best known for writing The Wind in the Willows, wrote this book.  Ernest H. Shepard, best known for illustrating Winnie-The-Pooh, illustrated this book.  With a winning team like that, it is no surprise that this well-loved book has become a classic.

The plot of this story is straightforward enough:  A dragon moves into a cave near a village.  The villagers want the dragon gone.  The villagers hire a knight to fight the dragon.  But there are such delightful twists and turns along the way it is easy to forget that the plot is straightforward.  For example, the dragon is not a killing dragon; he is a poetry reading dragon.  And the knight that is hired is none other than St. George.  The knight and the dragon do fight and the conclusion is most satisfactory.

The illustrations, as all good illustrations do, illuminate the text, add charm and character.  Created by Shepard's deft hands, they are nothing short of perfection.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Book 121: Me and My Dragon

Me and My Dragon, by David Biedrzycki, Charlesbridge 2011.  (Preschool/Early Elementary)

September is "Read to Your Dragon Month," and there is no better book to read to your dragon than "Me and My Dragon" by David Biedryzcki.

When I was a kid, I wished I had a dragon just like the one in this book.  For one thing, he would have eaten my brussel sprouts.  Actually, that alone would have been enough of a reason.  The dragon in "Me and My Dragon" is such a friendly dragon that my almost-four year old son thinks he says, "Good morning, little boy.  Have a wonderful day".  And he probably does; I'm just too old to hear it.

The story is adorable, but what really sets this book apart and made me want to buy it are the fabulous, whimsical, slightly off-beat and ridiculously brilliant illustrations.  The cover artwork is only a taste of what is in store for readers of this book.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Book 120: Boats for Bedtime

Boats for Bedtime, written by Olga Litowinsky, illustrated by Melanie Hope Greenberg, Clarion Books 1999.  (Toddler/Preschool)

 Apparently, today (September 19th) is Talk Like a Pirate Day.  It's a new holiday for me, but I can work with it.  Boats for Bedtime seems like the perfect book to review today.

The text for Boats for Bedtime is simple; at times only one or two words per page, but every word is well-chosen.  I especially like "Sail among the stars.  Play around the moon" -- so evocative.

Melanie Hope Greenberg's illustrations manage the exactly right amount of magic and whimsy to match the lyrical text.  Her lines are clean and her colors are brilliant.  Her illustrations propel the story and take it from book's pages and into a land of dreams.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Book 119: Look! A Book!

Look!  A Book!, written and illustrated by Bob Staake, published by Little, Brown and Company, 2011.  (Preschool/Early Elementary)

Finding out that Bob Staake writes, as well as illustrates, children's books more than three years after after I stopped working as a children's librarian is like showing up late to a really great party.  I'm a bit annoyed that all these people have been having so much fun for so long without me, but, on the other hand, I am glad that I finally made it to the party.  Had I known sooner, though, I would definitely have brought other people with me.

Look!  A Book!  is the perfect example of why I wish that I had discovered the weird and wonderful world that is a Bob Staake children's book earlier.  The text is simple, fairly straightforward, and at times, silly;  all that is great, but team that text with the brilliant, zany, cram-every-inch-with-action-on-every-page illustrations and the results are nothing short of magical.  And those magical illustrations? -- they grace everything from the jacket, cover and end papers and every delightful page in between.

My son, at not quite four, seems to be the perfect age to enjoy the beautiful madness of this book.  Maybe I did show up to the party at exactly the time, after all.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Book 118: Nite Nite Soldier

Major Manners Presents Nite Nite Soldier, written by Michael and Beth Hafer, illustrated by Russ Cox, Out House Ink Publishing, 2012.  (Preschool/Early Elementary)

The dedication in this book won me over right away.  Nite Nite Soldier is dedicated to military families.   As the sister of a retired veteran, I loved that; as the nephew of a retired veteran, so did my son.

Nite Nite Soldier sets getting-ready-for-bed activities to a cadence, so it is a fun read for the adult reader.  It is also fun for the listeners who get to repeat parts of the cadence.  What makes Nite Nite Soldier really special, however, is the delightful artwork.

On every page, Russ Cox's vivid illustrations pop with humor and texture.  I giggle every time I see Major Manners parading around in his pink bunny slippers.  And the expressions on the children's faces  have to be seen to be enjoyed.

There is also a CD with this book.  I have yet to listen to it because I want to read the story.