Young Reader in the Making

Young Reader in the Making

Monday, January 28, 2013

Book 151: Fame and Glory in Freedom, Georgia

Fame and Glory in Freedom, Georgia, by Barbara O'Connor,  Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003.  Mid- to Upper Elementary.

One of the best things about being a children's librarian is discovering new (to me) children's authors.  Barbara O'Connor popped up on my radar when Fame and Glory in Freedom, Georgia was a Sunshine State Reader for the school year 2005-2006.  I checked it out one night after work, read it, and brought it back the next morning.  In those few hours of a hasty reading, Ms. O'Connor won me over.

Barbara O'Connor has a clear, distinct, Southern voice.  Her characters are quirky, funny, a bit tumble-down, rumpled and flawed, but with hearts as big as the state of South Carolina.  I fell in love with Bird, the main character in Fame and Glory, about seven years ago when I first read this book, and all over again today when I re-read it.

Bird's story ends with a happy ending, but not a fairy tale ending.  She is not a passive person.  She is not a perfect person.  She is, however, a perfect character; as, I suspect, is Ms. O'Connor.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Book 150: The Gruffalo

The Gruffalo, written by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler, Puffin Book 1999.  Preschool to Early Elementary.

One of my friends recommended this book after she read one of my four-year-old son's stories.  She thought he might like it and be able to relate to the mouse.  She was very right.  My son scares away scary monkeys and other terrifying creatures in his stories.  He certainly can relate to this mouse.

I read that Julia Donaldson originally planned for the gruffalo to be a tiger, but had to create a gruffalo to fit her rhyming scheme.  I am so glad that she did.  The mystery of the gruffalo builds the suspense of this tale.  This book pays homage to Sendak's "Where The Wild Things Are", but still stands easily on its own.  The rhyme and meter are well done and the conclusion is quite satisfying.

The illustrations by Axel Scheffler also pay homage to Sendak, but they, again, stand very well on their own.  All the expressions and emotions of the mouse are conveyed by the eyes, tail and arms -- everything else remains almost static.  It is a very effective technique. The gruffalo is scary, but not too scary; he does look as if he might be tricked by a clever mouse.

All in all, I'm glad my friend recommended this book.  It makes a delightful addition to my son's library.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Book 149: Mystery Mansion

Mystery Mansion, by Michael Garland, Dutton Children's Book, 2001.  Preschool to Elementary.

Mystery Mansion is a spectacularly beautiful seek-and-find book.  The clues are given to "Tommy" and to the readers by notes in rhyme from Tommy's aunt.  I do have to confess that I changed Tommy's name to "Thomas" and his aunt's name to "Luna".  This made perfect sense to my four-year-old Thomas because he says that his Aunt Luna lives on a shooting star.  The story around Mystery Mansion is very sweet and the pay-off is worth the build-up, but I bought this book for the artwork.

Michael Garland is an artist with a staggering range.  Many of his styles are represented in this book.  The two-page spread of the garden scene alone is well worth tracking down this book.  In fact, that is exactly why I did track down this book.  I thought that the garden scene would be my favorite, but as soon as I spotted a dragon in the wall-paper I had a new favorite scene.  I'm a grown woman, and I just spent half-an-hour poring over the artwork in this book.  Imagine how long it could keep a child entertained.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Book 148: This Is Not My Hat

This Is Not My Hat, by Jon Klassen, Candlewick Press 2012.  Preschool to Early Elementary.

Yesterday, (January 15th) was National Hat Day, so to celebrate, I pulled out this book from the new book stack to read to my little boy.  The funny thing is, so did our local library.

This Is Not My Hat is a companion piece to Jon Klassen's earlier I Want My Hat Back, only it takes place underwater instead of in a forest; and the story is told from the point of view of the thief and not the, er, victim.  The end result, however, is pretty much the same.  If you don't like I Want My Hat Back because of the conclusion, you will not like This Is Not My Hat, either.  It helps to have a sense of humor.  It helps even more if your humor has dark tendencies.

The artwork for This is Not My Hat is every bit as wickedly delightful as the earlier book's, with a bit more of a build-up in the tension and a seek-and-find on one of the two-page spreads.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Book 147: Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, written by Bill Martin Jr, illustrated by Eric Carle, Henry Holt 1967.  Toddler to Preschool to Early Elementary.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? was another Kohl's Cares book.  When I bought it for my son, I thought he'd like the illustrations, which he does.  That he also enjoys the text is a bonus.

As a children's librarian, I was not a fan of highly repetitive books.  It is hard enough to hold the attention of twenty to thirty toddlers or preschooler without running the risk of potentially boring them.  As the mother of a budding reader, I do love some repetitive books.  My four-year-old reads this book right along with me and that is wonderful.  Eric Carle's artwork makes all the difference.

Eric Carle's artwork, as I've said before, practically hums with life.  It is vibrant and engaging.  It is distinct and charming.  It is wonderful.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Book 146: Pixieland Rhymes

Pixieland Rhymes, A Big-Time Wonder Book, illustrated by Rene Cloke, William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd.  Preschool to Elementary.

I bought this book for myself and for the artwork.  The rhymes feel forced and dated -- I'm not sure that I will ever read them out loud.

The artwork, on the other hand, is stunning.  This book is full of stunning vintage (1930s) illustrations.  It is a great book for reference and I suspect that before long I will feel compelled to write new text to go with the absolutely gorgeous artwork.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Book 145: Does a Kangaroo Have a Mother, Too?

Does a Kangaroo Have a Mother, Too?, by Eric Carle, HarperCollins 2000.  Baby to Toddler to Preschool.

Aside from the Simply Vera line by Vera Wang,  I am not crazy about Kohl's and seldom shop there.  I am, however, quite ecstatic about the Kohl's Cares books.  So while I may not wander through the rest of the store, I do very often look to see which books are Kohl's Cares books.  When Eric Carle was brought back as a Kohl's Cares author, I was thrilled.

My son turned four in November, he knows all his letters, and he is starting to be able to "read" simple words, especially if they are repeated frequently.  Does a Kangaroo Have a Mother, Too?  is a perfect book for him to start "reading".  The bulk of the text repeats with every page turn -- the only change being the animal in question.  Because he can recognize the animals, he can essentially "read" the entire book.  That is pretty exciting for him.

If I didn't already love Eric Carle's artwork before, I would have after I saw the peace dove he created last month.  I already did love his work, however, so now I just have a deeper appreciation for it.  His illustrations are vibrant, textured, easily recognizable both for the subject and as being Carle's work, and virtually hum with life.  There is a reason why he has been illustrating so successfully for so long.  There is a reason why he is one of the most well-known names in children's literature today.