Young Reader in the Making

Young Reader in the Making

Friday, February 27, 2015

Book 415: The Cat in the Hat

The Cat in the Hat, by Dr. Seuss, Random House, 1957.

I've written about SO many books, that sometimes I miss the obvious.  I was planning to be a guest reader in my son's Kindergarten class this week, and read Dr. Seuss books -- only, after I packed my bag of books and my Thing 1 and Thing 2, my son became very sick and had to stay home all week.  Still, what a great time to re-read this classic.

I grew up on Dr. Seuss -- his books were pretty much written for my generation.  There were still a few "Dick and Jane" books around (with that character weirdly named 'Sim'), but "Dick and Jane" were work, and Dr. Seuss was fun.  And still is great fun.  And this, this perfect classic of Dr. Seuss, is the perfect book to share.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Book 414: South

South, by Patrick McDonnell, Little, Brown, 2008.

I didn't really expect much when I started sharing this wordless picture book with my six-year-old son.  I was sucker-punched.

This book is so sweet and gentle and lovely that I had to own a copy of it for myself.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Book 413: Mary Poppins Comes Back

Mary Poppins Comes Back, by P.L. Travers, illustrated by Mary Shepard, 1935.

Again, I loved the seemingly random short stories that are all connected by Mary Poppins.  So many were absolutely delightful, but my favorite was one about the King of the Castle.  It reminded me so much of the jester in Many Moons.

I don't have a problem with the non-Disneyfied Mary Poppins.  Travers was writing in a different era and in a different culture from what Disney portrays.  I also found it interesting that Travers was rather young when the first two Mary Poppins books were published -- 28 and 29.  She might have been writing in a way that recalled how she was treated as a child, and not how she would relate to a child.

The illustrations, again, are absolutely and delightfully perfect.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Book 412: Hug Time

Hug Time, by Patrick McDonnell, Little, Brown and Company, 2007.

I ordered this book for my six-year-old son, hoping to receive it in time for Valentine's Day.  It was a little late, so instead it arrived on Tuesday (the 17th).  Turns out, this book wasn't late at all, because this is the story that my son told me that evening BEFORE we even read the book:

Once upon a time, there was a watch.  The watch was for telling time.  Thomas can tell time.  He can tell when it is squeezy-hug time.
The End.

As with so much with my son, the timing turned out to be absolutely perfect.  Because it is always Hug Time.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Book 411: Red Harvest

Red Harvest, by Dashiell Hammett, 1929.

With a title like "Red Harvest" and with Dashiell Hammett as the author, I did expect a pretty high body count -- just not quite this high.  That doesn't mean I didn't like the book; I did.  It just means that I am a little worried about myself because I liked the book.

Hammett's writing is gritty and whip-smart.  This book felt like the beginning of the noir genre.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Book 410: The Magical, Mystical, Marvelous Coat

The Magical, Mystical, Marvelous Coat, by Catherine Ann Cullen, illustrated by David Christiana, Little, Brown Publishing, 2001.

What a magical, mystical, marvelous story!

The coat, of course, is beautiful, but the buttons of the coat are truly special, as is the child wearing the coat.

I liked the rhyming scheme of this book.  It was surprising sophisticated for a picture book as it didn't contain rhyming couplets that were complete on every two-page spread.  This book read more like a poem than a story in rhyme (and, yes, there is a difference).

The illustrations were nothing short of magical, mystical and marvelous.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Book 409: Little Golden Book -- The Aristocats

The Aristocats, (Walt Disney), Little Golden Books, 1970,

This is not a bad book interpretation of the Disney movie.  It would be hard to capture all the excitement from the songs, but the book does a good job telling the main story, and the illustrations are delightful.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Book 408: Murder at the Vicarage

Murder at the Vicarage, by Agatha Christie, 1930.

I adore Agatha Christie's writing.  I think she is almost always brilliant.  Almost always.  Which is why I can't rate this book very high.  The mystery was obvious that about 80% of the book was just filler and misdirection.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Book 407: A Bear Called Paddington

A Bear Called Paddington, by Michael Bond, 1958

When we first moved to England in 1978, Paddington was HUGE.  I'm not really sure why.  Maybe because the story was turning 20.  The curious thing was, where we were living (North Yorkshire) felt like it was stuck in the 1950s, so the book felt both nostalgic and contemporary to me at that time.

Even though I dressed my young son up as Paddington one Hallowe'en, I hadn't re-read the story since my primary school days in the deep, dark 1970s.  England, including the North Yorkshire area, has modernized by leaps and bounds, and today it doesn't really feel any different, contemporary culture-wise, than the US.  So now when I read the Paddington book, it feels nostalgic, but part of my history.

It has recently been turned into a movie, and, although I know that the story will most likely be altered greatly, I do hope the characteristic of Paddington always landing on his feet remains the same.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Book 406: Sleeping Murder

Sleeping Murder, by Agatha Christie, 1976.

Agatha Christie had remarked that she was not a "good writer".  Because I love, and have loved, her books for as long as I can remember, I thought it was a strange statement when I heard it.  I think I understand now better what she was actually saying.

Christie is a straight-forward writer in an age when more ornamental writing was esteemed.  Now just about every murder mystery writer has adopted Christie's style of writing.  What sets her apart and makes her work stand out is her gift of observation and her talent for translating her observation into writing.  Ornamentation in style would have interfered with that gift and talent.

This book is unusual because it deals with a murder that transpired almost twenty years ago with a very young child witness.  The story does rely on coincidences to unfold, but not very far-fetched coincidences.  And, of course, it works.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Book 405: Froggy Gets Dressed

Froggy Gets Dressed, by Jonathan London, illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz, Penguin Books, 1992.

Of all the Froggy books, this one is my favorite one for beginning readers.

Yes, it is repetitive.  That's the point.  Once beginning readers hear part of a phrase read, they can work out the rest for themselves, and the next thing they know, they are reading the book by themselves.

So, it is repetitive.  It is also very funny.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Book 404: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, by Ian Fleming, Random House, originally published in 1964.

I grew up with the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang playing every holiday season.  I liked it -- sort of.  I could have done without the songs (except for the one about the car itself), and Truly Scrumptious, and Vulgaria.  I've known for a while that the movie was based on a book, and I knew the book was written by Ian Fleming, but I still avoided it.  Until now.

The book Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is about the car -- the marvelous, magnificent, magical car.  And that is pretty much it.  Yes, there is a family of adventurers and inventors.  Yes, there is an adventure.  But the star of the book is the car.  As it should be.  And as it should have been in the movie.