Young Reader in the Making

Young Reader in the Making

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Book 130: Hello, Robots

Hello, Robots, by Bob Staake, Viking 2004.  (Preschool/Early Elementary)

One last book before Hallowe'en, because who doesn't want to be a robot?

I heard "Hello, Robots" before I saw it, and because I was distracted, it didn't quite grab me like other Staake books did.  My then three-and-a-half year old son, however, was immediately interested and wanted to check out the book.  So we did.  Then he didn't want to bring it back to the library, so we had to buy our own copy.  Now whenever we read this book, i.e., every day and usually more than once a day, my son "reads" the refrain in a robot voice.  I get it now.  It's funny.

The illustrations are typical Bob Staake artwork, which is a shorthand way of saying that they are brilliant, funny, a bit twisted, and convey the unexpected.  The two pages showing the robots in the rain so intrigue and worry my little boy that he has painted his own scene of robots in the rain.  Good children's books entertain.  Great children's books spark the imagination.  Excellent children's books inspire.  It's pretty clear to my young son what kind of books Mr. Staake creates.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Book 129: The Ballad of the Pirate Queens

The Ballad of the Pirate Queens, written by Jane Yolen, illustrated by David Shannon, Harcourt, Brace & Company, 1995.  (Preschool/Elementary)

Hallowe'en is quickly approaching and, trust me on this, not every girl wants to be a princess.  Some would much rather be a pirate for a day.  And if you plan to be a female pirate, you should be a Pirate Queen, like Anne Bonney or Mary Reade.  I wish I knew about them when I was younger.

The Ballad of the Pirate Queens is a book that I picked up long before I ever planned to have a child or work as a children's librarian.  It was just one of the books that are so stunning and so intriguing that I felt I had to have it for my own library.  It was also my first encounter with Jane Yolen's writing.  I have since become a huge fan of this amazingly prolific writer.  Every book she writes, and she writes a staggering array, is pitch-perfect.  The Ballad of the Pirate Queens with its mix of poetry and history reads like a troubadour's song.  I dare you to not lilt as you read it out loud.  What I love best about this book, however, is the spotlight on the female pirates.

This book also introduced me to David Shannon's work.  Powerful and beautiful only just begin to describe the illustrations in this book.  Some of the pieces of artwork in this book are so stand-alone-gorgeous that I would frame them and hang them on my wall if they were available as prints.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Book 128: Scarlett Angelina Wolverton-Manning

Scarlett Angelina Wolverton-Manning, written by Jacqueline K. Ogburn, illustrated by Brian Ajhar, Dial Books for Young Readers 1994. (Preschool/Early Elementary)

Scarlett Angelina Wolverton-Manning is a beautiful Halloween book, which is what attracted me to it in the first place.  It is also a very funny book, in rather a twisted way, which is why I bought it.  I won't give any details because I don't want to give away the story, but the ending is well worth the buildup.  I will say that this a wonderfully well-written book, which is not surprising, because Jacqueline K. Ogburn was a children's book editor before she became an author.

As I said, this is a beautiful book, and yet the illustration still seem to be properly sinister --  a delectable combination.  Every page is stand-alone wonderful.  I'm not sure what other books Brian Ajhar has illustrated, but I would like to find out.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Book 127: Come to the Fairies' Ball

Come to the Fairies' Ball, written by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Gary Lippincott, Windsong 2009.  (Preschool/Early Elementary)

Jane Yolen is a dream come true for a children's librarian -- she writes superbly well for all ages.  This book is every bit as wonderful.  In fact, I read this book out loud to my young son, who is a huge fan of her "How Do Dinosaur..." books, and he sat enrapt through the entire tale.  The story itself is a bit "Psyche", a bit "Cinderella", a bit Christina Rossetti and all charm and pure magic.  It is as delightful as any classic fairy tale, with a markedly modern twist.

Gary Lippincott does an amazing job keeping up with, and illuminating, Jane Yolen's marvelous story. Every illustration is breathtakingly beautiful, and like the writing, all charm and pure magic.  My favorite illustration is the two-page spread of the ballroom -- I could get lost in there and never want to return to the real world.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Book 126: The Spider and the Fly

The Spider and the Fly (10th Anniversary Edition), classic poem by Mary Howitt, illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi, Simon & Schuster, 2012.  (Preschool/Early Elementary)

First confession:  I own two copies of the Tony DiTerlizzi illustrated version of The Spider and the Fly; one I bought in 2002, and one I just bought last month.  I wouldn't let my young son "read" my 2002 version of The Spider and The Fly because I wanted to keep it pristine.  Now I will just keep the 10th Anniversary Edition to myself.

Pretty much everyone knows the opening lines to The Spider and The Fly, and with good reason; they are pretty amazing first lines.  The rest of the poem, although seldom quoted, is just as great.

The Spider and the Fly was my initial introduction to Tony DiTerlizzi's artwork, and I've been a fan of his work ever since.  There is a bit of Rackham, Gorey, and Brian Froud living in his work, but the combination is pure DiTerlizzi.

Second confession:  I bought the original The Spider and the Fly long before I was a mom.  I wasn't even married.  I just really, really wanted the book because of the black and white, film noir illustrations.  And the fly looked very much like my younger sister, Luna, at the time (although, she does only have two arms and two legs.)

Third confession:  For the Hallowe'en party of the library in 2006, my fellow librarian, Louise, and I did a Reader's Theater version of this book.  We pre-recorded the dialogue and acted it out in costumes for the kids at the party.  Louise was the spider.  I was the fly.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Book 125: Five Little Pumpkins

Five Little Pumpkins, pictures by Dan Yaccarino, Harper Collins, 1998.  (Toddler/Preschool)

Last October, I had to spend a few days in North Carolina without my then-almost-three year old son.  I wanted to bring him back something special, and, when I was out running errands, I saw this book.  I love Dan Yaccarino's joyfully brilliant illustrations, and my son loved (and still loves) pumpkins, so I figured this book would be a winner.  I was right.

We, of course, read it every night up until Hallowe'en.  Then Thanksgiving.  Then Christmas.  It did get a bit of a rest during the spring and summer, but it is out again, and this time, HE reads it.

Five Little Pumpkins is a very old poem that we used every year at the library's Hallowe'en parties.  With Dan Yaccarino's quirky-charming illustrations, the poem become alive and fresh, making this book a Hallowe'en classic for many years.  I am quite partial to the ghosts.  And cats.

If you are lucky enough to find this book this year -- it was published in 1998 -- pick it up and pass it on to your favorite kid.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Book 124: This is NOT a Pumpkin

This is NOT a Pumpkin, by Bob Staake, Little Simon (Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division) 2007.  (Toddler/Preschool)

 I did not read this book through before I gave it to my son -- a potentially risky move on my part -- because as soon as he saw it, he wanted it.  So, we read it together.  My son, at the time, was three-and-a-half years old.  I wasn't sure he'd "get" the book.  I was wrong.  He laughed like a maniac when he reached the final two pages.   We read this book several more times -- that same day.  And he laughed, every time.

The cover, of course, is what my son saw first.  And it is quite tantalizing in a wonderfully Magritte sort of way.  This is, and probably will be, the only Bob Staake book where I can refer to the artwork as "illustration", as in singular.  But it works because it is a singular illustration.  I refuse to give away the ending, so no details on why the illustration works.

If you are looking for a book for a toddler or preschooler this Fall/Hallowe'en season, you cannot go wrong with this one.  My little boy still carries it everywhere.  And HE reads it.  All the time.