Young Reader in the Making

Young Reader in the Making

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Book 138: Look! Another Book!

Look!  Another Book!, by Bob Staake, Little, Brown and Company, 2012.  Preschool to Early Elementary

I had planned to start writing about Christmas books right after Thanksgiving, but then I received my pre-ordered copy of Look!  Another Book! in the mail Wednesday evening.  I tried to ignore the book, but it was as impossible to ignore as Belgian chocolate.  And just as addictive.  So, I'm calling today the end of Thanksgiving weekend (I do still have pie left).  My next book review will be for a Christmas book.  This book, however, would make an awesome Christmas present.

Look!  Another Book! is, like the first, Look!  A Book!, is a seek-and-find book.  The text in seek-and-find books usually is just there to tell you what to seek.  Not so here.  Sure you get the directions, but so much more, and the writing is at least ten times funnier than you would expect.  That's all I'm saying about the text because I refuse to give away the best rhymes.

Every two-page spread in this book is a feast, or more appropriately, a smorgasbord, for the eyes.  Not one square centimeter is wasted.  My absolute favorite, though, is the art gallery.  So many wonderful homages on that page.  The engineering in this book is no mean feat.  It made my brain hurt to try to figure out how those cut-outs can highlight individual characters or objects but seem to disappear when the page is closed.  Finally, I figured it out:  It's magic.  Don't tell me otherwise.

If you do get this book, don't skip the end-papers or the dedication -- I'm just saying.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Book 137: Walt Disney's Alice in Wonderland

Walt Disney's Alice in Wonderland, retold by Jon Scieszka, pictures by Mary Blair, Disney Press, 2008.  (Preschool/Early Elementary)

Usually any book with the name "Disney" in the title would cause me to run in the opposite direction.  I can tolerate Disney films for my son, but "re-told" Disney books generally leave me cold.  My one really huge exception is "Alice in Wonderland".  I own at least four copies of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland", including an annotated version, and I've owned the Disney film in every incarnation:  VHS, DVD, BluRay.  I've watched it many, many times and for many, many years.  So when I saw this book with the story retold by Jon Scieszka and with pictures by Mary Blair.  I had to have it.   For me -- although, I will read it to my son.

Jon Scieszka first popped up on my children's books radar with his "Stinky Cheese Man."  He has stayed on my radar ever since, although, I've only recently learned how to pronounce his last name properly.  His writing, especially of retold fairy tales, manages feel both contemporary and timeless.  I could still hear Sterling Holloway's and Ed Wynn's voices when I read the story, but the dated parts that I (sometimes) fast-forward through in the movie have been given new life in this book.

It turns out that Mary Blair was a conceptual artist for almost all the Disney films that I will watch for the artwork:  Sleeping Beauty, Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Peter Pan, Cinderella and, of course, Alice in Wonderland.  She managed a balance of dark and light in her illustrations that is perfect for fairy tales, and, really, pretty much any children's book.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Book 136: Cars Galore

Cars Galore, written by Peter Stein, illustrated by Bob Staake, Candlewick Press, 2011.  Toddler to Preschool to Early Elementary.

Today, my son developed a reaction to his 'flu inoculation.  He was miserable.  To cheer him up, I gave him a new book:  Cars Galore.  It worked; he was cheered up, briefly.

Cars Galore is a really fun read.  It is exactly the sort of book I would have chosen for Toddler/Preschooler story time at the library.  It reads as if Peter Stein wrote it by reading it out loud to a four-year-old.  It is silly, funny and packed with visual words and onomatopoeia.  And now I love it even more because I got to use the word "onomatopoeia" in a review.

I love everything about Bob Staake's artwork for this book, from the cover, to the end papers, to every illustration inside.  Again, this would be a perfect book for story time, not just because of the text but because illustration stands out and could easily be seen from a distance.  It is silly, funny, visually appealing, and if there were a word to describe artwork like "onomatopoeia", I'd use it.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Book 135: A City Is

A City Is, poems by Norman Rosten, illustrated by Melanie Hope Greenberg, Henry Holt & Company, 2004.  (Preschool/Early Elementary)

"A City Is" is a collection of poems about life in New York City throughout the year.  Some are charming and resonate well, even with non-city dwellers; others are very New York City-centric.  All, however, are just the right length for reading to pre-schoolers.

Melanie Hope Greenberg's illustrations have a joyful playfulness that seems to mark her work, and I just love it.  She was an excellent choice of illustrator for this book because she can make all the poems in this collection relatable to everyone.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Book 134: Pets Go Pop!

Pets Go Pop!, by Bob Staake, L.B. Kids (Little, Brown & Company) 2009.  (Preschool)

As a children's librarian, I had a love/hate relationship with pop-up books.  I loved them because they were fantastically cool, so cool that kids always wanted to check them out, which was great.  What I didn't like was how quickly the ones that were for circulation fell apart, or even worse, some of the more elaborate pop-up books were turned into reference books and could not be checked out at all.  As a children's librarian, pop-up books frustrated me.  Now, however, I buy books as a mother, and I just love pop-up books.

As much as I want to jump in and write about the mechanics of Pets Go Pop!, I'll stick to my formula and write about the text first.  The text is simple and it works.  I don't buy pop-up books for the writing, so if is at all amusing, I am happy.  And I am happy.

In general, the only way that Bob Staake's artwork could possibly be improved would be to make it 3D, like a pop-up book, like Pets Go Pop!  The engineering of this book is beyond amazing.  My husband is an engineer and mechanics of this book fascinated and baffled him.  He kept opening and closing the book to see how everything fit together until my son had enough and took the book back.  My son doesn't yet appreciate engineering; he just loves the way the crazy, colorful animals jump off of the page every time he opens the book.  So far, this book has stood up to my Tornado Thomas.  That also makes me happy.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Book 133: How to Bake an American Pie

How to Bake an American Pie, written by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Raul Colon, Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2007.  (Preschool/Early Elementary)

How to Bake an American Pie was written to be a Fourth of July book.  I didn't have this book on the Fourth of July.  I do, however, own it in time for Veterans' Day, which still feels quite relevant.

The text in How to Bake an American Pie is a lovely poem about ideally what it is to be an American and what forms America.  Karma Wilson, author of the charming "Bear" books, is equally charming here and surprisingly poignant.  As an adult, it reminds me of what is best about my country and countrymen.  After a fractious election season, I savored every heart-warming word.  For a child, the book gives ideals that are attainable, if not always present.

As much as I love Jane Chapman as the illustrator for the "Bear" books, I think Raul Colon was a perfect choice to illustrate this sweet and powerful poem-story.  In addition to his illustrations also being sweet and powerful, they are wonderfully whimsical in a way that actually enhance the poignancy of this book.

So I will read this book to my young son for Veteran's Day, and later for the Fourth of July, and many, many days in between.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Book 132: Blue Chicken

Blue Chicken, by Deborah Freedman, Viking 2011.  (Toddler/Preschool)

I saw an image from this book and that was enough to make me want to buy it.  I am so not disappointed.  This book combines farm animals AND art.  Brilliant!  The artwork in this book propels the story, but the text is still delightful and simple enough for the youngest of listeners and the youngest of readers.  My son as been known to capsize his paints and color more than he intended, so this story is very relatable for him.

Of course, the illustrations are wonderful.  As much as I love the helpful, clumsy blue chicken, I think it is the blue-yellow duckling that captured my heart.   I highly recommend this adorably whimsical book, especially for preschoolers, whose "help" can sometimes lead to some colorful situations.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Book 131: Mary Blair Treasury of Golden Books

Mary Blair Treasury of Golden Books, 2012. (Toddler/Preschool/Early Elementary)

I bought this book because I remember owning as a child a Golden Book collection that featured Mary Blair's "I Can Fly".  All the stories in that book were very good, but I remember Blair's work the most of all.  In the "Mary Blair Treasury of Golden Books", the illustrations are bigger, and, therefore, even better.   I think parts of the Golden Book of Little Verses were also in my childhood book, because I remember some of the illustrations, but none of the text.  Two of the stories in this collection are completely new to me.

Anyone who has been to Disney World or Land has seen Mary Blair's work.  Yup, it's a small world.  Really -- "It's a Small World"; which explains why the animatrons are so charming even if the song is so annoying.  Also, her work heavily influenced Disney's "Alice in Wonderland", which probably explains why it is my favorite Disney animated film.  And "Ichabod Crane", another film with intriguing illustration.

It wasn't until I flipped to the songs in the back of the book that I realized that I already owned something quite spectacular:  The New Golden Song Book, illustrated by Mary Blair, from 1955.  My copy was loved and used quite a bit before I inherited it, but still...!