Young Reader in the Making

Young Reader in the Making

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Book 144: Donut Chef

Donut Chef, by Bob Staake, Golden Book (Random House), 2008.  Preschool to Elementary.

My four-year-old son received five books for Christmas this year:  A Thomas the Tank Engine book, a Dr. Seuss Book, two Eric Carle books and Donut Chef.  I let him choose one new book to read at his bedtime.  He almost chose the Eric Carle kangaroo book because he also received a plush kangaroo for Christmas, but, in the end, he chose Donut Chef.

Donut Chef is a longer rhyming text picture book, so perhaps it was a mistake to make it the fourth picture book I read tonight -- Christmas night -- after a very long day.  Normally, when I encounter longer picture books, I skim them; that is, just read what I need to in order to make the story work.  With Donut Chef, I had to read every line.  Every rhyming line was needed to tell the story properly.  Every rhyming line is needed.

I first bought a Bob Staake children's book for the artwork.  I love the artwork.  I didn't really expect to like the text.  I was pleasantly surprised, delighted, and mildly annoyed when I did like the writing in the first book.  I'm no longer surprised.  Now I buy the books because my son REALLY loves them.  I know he likes the artwork, but he also really likes the text.  He likes the text so much that when he received a robot today for Christmas, he stared quoting "Hello, Robots".

I buy Mr. Staake's books for self-preservation:  If I do have to read a Bob Staake book to my son every day, and usually more than once a day -- which I do -- it is good if I have a few choices.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Book 143: The Fourth King

The Fourth King: The Story of the Other Wise Man, by Ted Sieger, Candlewick, 2006.  Preschool to Elementary.

There are a few modern versions of this classic Henry Van Dyke tale.  I chose this one because I liked the whimsical drawings.

The story tells us of another wise man beyond the well-known three.  Every time he tries to catch up with the three wise men, he would encounter a situation where he needs to help a person or people.  Because he stops to help, he arrives at the stable too late.  Joseph has already taken his family and fled to Egypt to escape Herod.  But the fourth wise man didn't really miss the Christ Child -- He was present in every person that was helped, and in one case, literally, although the fourth wise man did not know it.

The illustrations are whimsical, which keeps this tale from feeling too heavy.  The whimsical illustrations also make this book very appealing to young listeners.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Book 142: Christmas Lullaby

Christmas Lullaby, written by Nancy Jewell, illustrated by Stefano Vitale, Clarion Books, 1994.  Baby to Toddler to Preschool.

Two years ago, I checked Christmas Lullaby out from our local library.  I thought it was a charming poem with lovely illustrations.  My then two-year-old son thought we needed our own copy.  I ordered one before the three-week check-out period elapsed.

Christmas Lullaby IS a charming poem.  It is simple, sweet, poignant and even funny.  It could easily be read to the very youngest of listeners.  And older ones will enjoy reciting it or reading it to you.

The illustrations ARE lovely.  The medium looks like a water color or gouache on grained wood.  The effect is stunning, especially for the night sky.  Each page turn progresses the action closer and closer to the true reason for celebrating Christmas.  The artwork, like the text, is simple, sweet, poignant and even funny.  In short, the illustrations match the text perfectly.

We've been reading this book for three Decembers.  I predict that we will be reading it for many more.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Book 141: Bear Stays Up For Christmas

Bear Stays Up For Christmas, written by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman, Simon & Schuster, 2004.

Before I found Karma Wilson on Facebook earlier this year, I thought she must be a lovely older lady with a beautiful spirit because her writing is so perfect and wise.  I was a bit wrong.  She is lovely and she does have a beautiful spirit, but she is actually a few years younger than I am.  Sigh.  I have forgiven her for being younger than I am because of the beautiful spirit that infuses all of her books for children.

I fell in love with Karma Wilson's "Bear" books early on in my years as a children's librarian.  They are a joy to read out loud, either to an audience of one or thirty.  The rhythm, meter and word choice is always perfect.  And there is always a "heart-tug" moment.  Karma Wilson paints with her words:  every one is needed, not one is wasted.  In this book, Bear takes time away from his hibernation to give his friends a special surprise at Christmas.  He succeeds, but he, also, is surprised.

Jane Chapman's beautiful illustrations give even more life to Bear and his woodland friends.  I don't know how she does it, but she manages a realism that is not frightening and a sweetness that is not twee or precious.  Her animals are instantly recognizable for what they are, with expressions that completely match the actions and words that Karma Wilson gives them.  Her artwork is also instantly recognizable as her own.

So far, we have four "Bear" books in our house.  We won't be stopping there.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Book 140: The Mouse Before Christmas

The Mouse Before Christmas, written and illustrated by Michael Garland, Puffin Book 1997.  Preschool to Early Elementary.

When I was growing up, beside the Biblical account of Jesus' birth, two books were read in our house every Christmas Eve:  The Night Before Christmas and Santa Mouse.  I think Michael Garland grew up with the same two stories.

The Mouse Before Christmas feels like a loving homage to both Christmas classics.  It also feels like a fresh, new tale (pun slightly intended).   It is charming and sweet, lyrically perfect, and just the right length for Christmas Eve reading.

Michael Garland's illustrations are also charming and sweet.  His Santa Claus has the kindest eyes I've ever seen in illustration.  And the world tour is stunningly beautiful.

My little boy just turned four last month.  This Christmas Eve, beside the Biblical account of Jesus' birth, we will be reading The Night Before Christmas, Santa Mouse AND The Mouse Before Christmas.  It is good to have traditions.  It is even better to make them your own.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Book 139: Santa Retires

Santa Retires, by David Biedrzycki, Charlesbridge, 2012.  Preschool to Early Elementary.

I would have bought Santa Retires based on the cover.  In fact, I kind of did.  The story is adorable, and understandable.  It's not really a stretch to think that Santa would want to retire:  He spends an entire year building toys, and then has to zip around the world in one night to deliver them.  It must be exhausting.  And such a thankless job, really. Poor Santa.  He needs a break, and David Biedrzycki gives him one.

There is something very special about David Biedrzycki's artwork.  There is a dash of reality mixed in with loads of humor.  There are small touches that make each illustrated page a delight.  The "weather" page is hilarious.  I love how pretty and glamorous Mrs. Claus is.  She's is proof that you don't have look frumpy to look Christmas-y -- not one novelty sweater in sight.  My little boy likes the artwork because the slimmed-down Santa bears a strong resemblance to his Grandpap.  And you don't want to overlook the crab or the mouse.