Young Reader in the Making

Young Reader in the Making

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Book 258: Splat the Cat Storybook Collection

Splat the Cat Storybook Collection, created by Rob Scotton, Harper Collins 2013.

What could possibly be better than a Splat the Cat story?  SIX Splat the Cat stories all contained in one hardbound book.

Splat the Cat stories are so ridiculous that grownups rolls their eyes.  And kids fall over on the floor laughing.  Clearly, they are written for children.  Even better, they are written for children who are just learning how to read, so they are packed with loads of repetition and rhymes, and, of course, fall-over-on-the-floor-laughing silliness.

Splat the cat strongly resembles a dust kitty with pipe-cleaner legs and tail -- don't ask me how I know about the dust kitty.  I was surprised to see that more than one illustrator did the work for this collection because the continuity was amazing.  Rob Scotton, the "creator" did the cover art and Robert Eberz illustrated four of the six stories, the rest were illustrated by teams including Charles Grosvenor, Joe Merkel and Rick Farley.  Overall, the editor for this book series must be amazing.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Book 257: Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site

Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site, by Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld, Chronicle Books 2011.

My son turned five about two weeks ago.  He got a "Big Dig" from my husband's parents.  He sits on the seat and he can dig holes in the sandbox with the big, construction-like shovel.  All that is great, except he doesn't have a sandbox.  I set him to work on the weeds in the garden -- with rather disastrous results.

A few days after his birthday, my son received this book from a friend of mine.  He recognized the "Big Dig" right away, and immediately told me a story about a shovel and the moon and the stars.  The story is great.  The text is good, especially since it is a debut book -- the rhyming scheme goes off occasionally, but not irretrievably.  The illustrations, however, are phenomenal.

The illustrations have a wonderful retro feel; they are soft, but bright and friendly, and with a healthy dose of humor.  In all, my favorite kind of illustrations.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Book 256: Just So Thankful

Just So Thankful, by Mercer Mayer, HarperCollins, 2006.  Preschool to Early Elementary.

I have a love/hate relationship with Thanksgiving.  I love the food and the family part, and the being thankful to have food for the family part, but I'm not crazy about the history.  The glossy the-Pilgrims-and-Indians-were-friends slant from my elementary school days is just insulting, and the Hey!-Let's-take-your-land-and-give-you-syphillis angle is not any better. So, I've always been hesitant to buy books that center around Thanksgiving.

Thankfully, Just So Thankful is not really about Thanksgiving.  It's about being thankful the other 364 days of the year as well as the one set aside to give thanks.  And that is how it should be.

I probably don't need to point out just how very adorable the illustrations in this book are, but, just in case, the illustrations in this book are very adorable.

Book 255: The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book, written by Neil Gaiman, with illustrations by Dave McKean, William Morrow, 2008.  Middle Grade to Adult.

I didn't actually buy this book; my brother did.  But when he asked if I wanted it, I say "YES!  A hundred times yes".

If Kipling's Jungle Book were modernized and set in a graveyard and written by Neil Gaiman, you'd have something very much like this book. Actually, you would have something EXACTLY like this book .

I'm not sure how to characterize Gaiman's writing -- it feels classic and modern all at once, and it feels like fantasy anchored in reality. All I know is that I've loved his writing since The Sandman. I could have devoured this book all in one sitting, but I didn't. I read it slowly over the course of four days, and savored every tiny bit of it. 

The illustrations, by Dave McKean, were good, but did not quite match the excellence of the writing.  I kept thinking that Art Spiegelman would have been a much better choice. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Book 254: Pete the Cat, The First Thanksgiving

Pete the Cat:  The First Thanksgiving, by Kimberly and James Dean, Harper Collins, 2013.  Preschool to Early Elementary.

Pete the Cat:  The First Thanksgiving LOOKS like the Pete the Cat that I have come to love, but he doesn't SOUND like the Pete the Cat I have come to love.  *sigh*  I miss Eric Litwin already.

Pete the Cat is in a Thanksgiving play, so he recounts the story of the first Thanksgiving.  The story is adequate, but not especially good, and definitely nowhere near close to the singing "It's all good" Pete in books past.

The artwork is still brilliant.  Actually, it feels like the artwork was created first and the story was filled in around it.

As a general rule, I find that really excellent illustrators do not make really excellent storytellers.  This book does not break that rule.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Book 253: The Thirteen Clocks

The Thirteen Clocks, by James Thurber, illustrated by Marc Simont, originally published by Dutton, 1950, reprinted by The New York Review, 2008.  All ages.

This book is about as perfect as any book can get.  Written by James Thurber, illustrated by Marc Simont, and introduced by Neil Gaiman.  It is not quite a fairy tale; not quite a fable; not quite a ghost story, and it is quite, quite perfect.

There is a villain, whose flaw is "being wicked".  There is a hero-prince-minstrel, whose name starts with an X, but doesn't start with an X.  There is a beautiful princess, who is "warm in every wind and weather".  There is a mysterious Golux.  And there are thirteen clocks, that are stopped, because the villain murdered Time and wiped his blade on Time's beard.  And there are the shining shores of Ever After.

This book is perfect, and perfect for all ages.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Book 252: The Dog Show

The Dog Show, written and illustrated by Sally O. Lee, 2012.  Preschool to Early Elementary.

One of my favorite quotes comes from St. Exupery's The Little Prince:  It is only with the heart the one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.   That quote sums up perfectly the spirit of Sally Lee's The Dog Show.

I have three cats, all beautiful, all foundlings or strays.  Even though they are all beautiful now, if I were honest, I would have to admit that none of them was beautiful when I first found him or her (or he or she found me).  They are beautiful because I love them.  Because they are important to me.  Because they are well-cared for.  And because my five-year-old son call them his brother and sisters.  Harry, the dog in this story, also is beautiful and for most of the same reasons.

The Dog Show does not stray into preachy territory.  It delights with a story as colorful and bright and the wonderful accompanying illustrations.  But it is still easy for a child to grasp the concept of this book.

My other favorite quote from The Little Prince:  It is time that you spend with your rose that makes your rose so important.   That quote also applies to this modern fable.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Book 251: The Tawny, Scrawny Lion

The Tawny, Scrawny Lion, by Kathryn Jackson, illustrated by Gustaf Tenggren, Little Golden Book, 1952.   Preschool, Early Elementary.

I was very sensitive as a child.  The idea of one animal eating another animal bothered me.  So, as a consequence, despite the fantastic artwork, I did not really like this book.

Fast-forward thirty or so years and I'm working as a children's librarian.  For some reason, our department decided to turn this book into a puppet show.  I'm working on the "screenplay" for the puppet show, and I suddenly realize how funny this book actually is.

My newly-five-year-old son has a very strong and and strange sense of humor.  He also is drawn to beautiful artwork.  He, of course, loves this book.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Book 250: Tootle

Tootle, by Gertrude Crampton, illustrated by Tibor Gergely, Little Golden Book 1945.

I only just recently read this story for the first time, and I have been an adult for many years.  Although I had a serious collection of Little Golden Books as a child, my collection did not include this one.

At first as I read this book, I was strongly reminded of Ferdinand the bull, so I liked it.  But the ending was very different.  If Ferdinand's beloved cork tree had been surrounded by red capes, they might have been the same book.  The biggest difference is, Tootles wanted to run the express line and Ferdinand did not want to leave his meadow.  While I understand the conformist subtext, I can't hate this story as much as others do.  Sometimes we do have to set aside play to achieve our goals.  I would like to think that Tootles was occasionally able to still sneak off the trains when he wasn't running the express. At least, that is how I would have written it.

The artwork is joyfully wonderful.  Perhaps that is why I am so forgiving of the story itself.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Book 249: Zoom

Zoom, by Istvan Banyai, Puffin Book 1995.  All Ages.

I bought this book when it first came out, back in 1995. I didn't have any children. I didn't expect to have any children. I bought this book because it was the most amazing book I had ever seen. It still amuses, intrigues and amazes me.

There is no text, except for the writing within the illustrations. None is needed or wanted. Tonight I "read" this book to my almost-five-year-old son. He was almost as fascinated with it as I am. Once he worked out what was going on in the illustrations, he was drawn into the book and could not wait to see what was going to happen on the next page. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Book 248: Death on the Nile

Death on the Nile, by Agatha Christie, 1937.

I love Agatha Christie's writing, but this is not one of my favorite mysteries.  For one thing, I missed Captain Hastings.  Poirot has remarked in several mysteries how much he needs Captain Hastings because he can think like an "ordinary man".  That may be true, but he also needs him because Hastings will mock him and will stand up to him.  Of course, Poirot will solve the mystery and look terribly clever, but it is fun to laugh in a kind and loving way right along with Hastings.

There is much of "the psychology" in this book, possibly too much.  The mystery itself is not too difficult to work out, it is the how that is complex, but there is so much muddying of the Nile waters in this story.  And, even though I am told to like Mrs. Allington, Rosalie and Cornelia, I just didn't find them as engaging as some characters in other Christie books.