Archive for the ‘Picture Book’ Category

For those of you who loved the Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein, Enzowe now have the children’s version, Enzo Races in the Rain. With text by Mr. Stein and artwork by R. W. Alley, this picture book is adorable. I finished the book wanting Enzo as my dog.

ArtOfRacingThe story line is sweet. The artwork is colorful and I can see children wanting their parents to read this book over and over. If you are looking for a holiday present, this is the perfect gift (for a young child or for the child in your adult self).

P.S. There’s also the chapter book version geared to the 8 – 12 year old crowd, Racing in the Rain: My Life as a Dog.RacingInTheRain

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ChildrensBookWeekMay 13-19 is Children’s Book Week. Per the Book Week Online website, “Brian Selznick – Caldecott winner, 2012 Children’s Choice Book Awards Illustrator of the Year, and creator of The Invention of Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck – has created a commemorative masterpiece that beautifully illustrates the idea that books can take you anywhere. The poster pays homage to two of children’s literature’s legends: Remy Charlip, author and illustrator of more than 38 books, including modern classics like Hooray for Me, I Love You, Arm in Arm, Mother Mother I Feel Sick, A Perfect Day, and Fortunately, the latter of which has been in print continuously for over 48 years; and Maurice Sendak, Caldecott Medal winner for Where the Wild Things Are, creator of children’s classics including In the Night Kitchen, Chicken Soup with Rice, Alligators All Around, and illustrator of the Little Bear books.”

RocksInMySocksSo, what are some of my favorites?  There are Rocks in My Socks Said the Ox to the Fox by Patricia Thomas definitely heads the list. As I’ve said before, Lisa, Abbe and I each have our own copy. Her Stand Back, Said the Elephant, I’m Going to Sneeze! is a close runner up. Senkak’s Night Kitchen is a winner. I even have a poster of it in my kitchen. The classic Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown has been a favorite since I was reading picture books to the kids. I still thrill when I find the mouse. Jamie Lee Curtis’ LeaveYourSleepbooks line my library shelves. (I do have an autographed copy of one.) And Herb the Vegetarian Dragon by Jules Bass holds a special place in my heart. It was picked out by Lisa on one of our picture book shopping sprees. Madlenka by Peter Sis was a recent purchase and well worth it. And finally, Leave Your Sleep by Natalie Merchant, is a charming compendium of older poems for children with Barbara McClintock’s wonderful artwork.

SplendorsAndGloomsNo children’s booklist should exclude Shel Silverstein’s wonderful poems and artwork. Lauren Oliver’s The Spindlers, a new addition to great children’s books, is a thrill. Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz was an Abbe recommendation and was fun. And I’ll close with Brian Selznick’s Invention of Hugo Cabret and InventionOfHugoCabretWonderstruck. The artwork will blow you away.

So, now that I’ve bored you to death, let me say that you’re never too old to read and enjoy children’s books. It’s only been the last dozen years, when I began library school, that I read them as part of my normal reading. If you don’t have a child to read to, don’t be ashamed to read them to yourself. You’ll enjoy the trip.

Monologue over. Get reading. Let me know what are some of your favorite children’s books. My niece has already chimed in with Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett.

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I’m not one of those people who keeps track of the number of books I read. To me, it’s not a contest. And many times, by year’s end, I forget the books I read at the beginning of the year and wonder whether I’ll have to scramble to come up with 10 books. So it was a nice surprise that I had 9 books which I gave the top rating of 5 in Librarything. What was even nicer, was that there were even more 4s, so 2012 was a darn good reading year from my perspective.

Reading’s a personal thing, as you know and there are a myriad of factors that go into enjoying a book: your mood when you read it, your favorite author, impeccable wording, an engrossing plot, believable characters. These top 10 books have it all: I was in the right mood, it was my favorite author (or singer, in one instance), the plots ranged from family, to heroism, to illness and the characters were pretty much all people I would like to meet. So, here goes:

SmallDamagesAlthough the top 5 are all magnificent books, I’ll always put a Beth Kephart book on the top of the list. She’s an incredible author whose words, many times, are poetic and lyrical and she outdid herself in Small Damages about a young pregnant girl who finds out that the true meaning of family isn’t always biological. If you read one of Beth’s books, you’ll find you have to read them all.

John Green’s Fault in Our Stars takes us through the harrowing ordeal of cancer but the love and friendship and perseverence that its characters exhibit is incomparable. It might just make you shed a tear. I described it as a book of strength, of philosophy, of humor and determination. It is all of those and more.

At the end of Wonder by R. J. Palacio, Mr. Tushman, Director of Beecher Prep School, Wonderaddresses the 5th grade/6th grade classes with a quote from J. M. Barrie’s The Little White Bird: “Shall we make a new rule of life…always try to be a little kinder than is necessary.” That is the theme of this gem of a book. It is the realistic story of a boy born with a serious facial deformity, overcoming the odds by mainstreaming into the local school. Told from various points of view, once you start it, you won’t put it down.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein comes in at number 4. It is a touching story about two young girls during World War II, one a pilot and the other a spy behind enemy lines in France, if you will. Their heroism and their friendship, while to them small, is huge. It is not like any other war story you’ve read. It is captivating (no pun intended) from the beginning.

LeaveYourSleepRounding out the top 5 is Natalie Merchant’s Leave Your Sleep. A five year labor of love, Merchant put to music children’s poetry written from the late 1800s to the mid 1900s and released a wonderful CD of the same name. She then, with illustrator Barbara McClintock, published a book with some of the poetry and beautiful illustrations. I’ve heard Merchant sing these poems several times in concert and have the CD, and as she said ““Poetry speaks of so much: longing and sadness, joy and beauty, hope and disillusionment…But poetry on the page can be difficult to penetrate; sometimes it needs to be heard.” But once heard, reading it and seeing the colorful illustrations adds a whole new perspective.

Since this is getting long, I’ll briefly mention the next 5:

The Bully Book by Eric Kahn Gale: if you’re the “grunt” who gets picked on, you want to find the Bully Book and destroy it. Bullying seems to be an epidemic and Gale tries to reverse the tide in this excellent book.

Period 8 by Chris Crutcher: Crutcher seems to have found his stride again in this honest book about honesty and relationship. Not as ‘in your face’ as Whale Talk or Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes (my two favorites), it’s still up there with his best.

Stay With Me by Paul Griffin: Violence is a fact of life to some people. Some people are good and some aren’t and what happens to them doesn’t always make sense. Stay With Me had me rivited and, it indeed, did bring on a tear or two.

NoCrystalStairNo Crystal Stair: A Documentary Novel of the Life and Work of Lewis Michaux, Harlem Bookseller by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson: A marvelous picture book and more about Nelson’s great-uncle Lewis Michaux, a driving force for educating Blacks in Harlem. Michaux started out with nothing and built a tremendous bookstore in Harlem that attracted the likes of Malcolm X.

Almost Home by Joan Bauer: Bauer is one of the foremost writers for middle school readers and her stories are uplifting. In Almost Home Sugar Mae Cole survives her mother’s depression and a foster home by spouting the words of her grandfather, King Cole. A must read–plus the dog on the cover is adorable.AlmostHome

And the last of them are:

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by emily m. danforth

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

Ask the Passenger by A. S. King

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley

I read so many more great books in 2012, but this is the best of the best, to me. I hope you enjoy some of them.

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Two years ago, at a librarian conference, I had the unexpected pleasure of hearing Natalie Merchant sing. I didn’t really know much about her, since I wasn’t much of a 10,000 Maniacs fan, but I was blown away by her performance of poetry put to music and since then I’ve taken advantange of any opportunity to hear her. (But I digress from my point.)

Natalie Merchant loves words and she used to recite poetry to her young daughter. In 2010, she recorded a CD, Leave Your Sleep, in which she put to music 26 poems of poets known and obscure. It was the culmination of years of research, finding the poems, digging out biographical information on the poets, some of whom wrote poetry as a sideline or hobby. The result is a marvelous listening adventure; one I constantly go back to.

But, Ms. Merchant didn’t leave it at that because she understands that sometimes artistry is enhanced by the combination of mediums. Today I received my copy of Leave Your Sleep, the picture book, illustrated by the award winning Barbara McClintock. It is a beautiful book in which 19 of the poems on her CD are written out with colorful illustrations. It is a delight for the eyes.  Along with the book is a CD of Ms. Merchant singing these songs. In her introduction, Ms. Merchant writes “Poetry speaks of so much: longing and sadness, joy and beauty, hope and disillusionment…But poetry on the page can be difficult to penetrate; sometimes it needs to be heard.” Or accompanied by illustrations. Leave Your Sleep, both the book and the CD, are the perfect blend of media to bring out the best of these poems.

On December 1, I’m going to hear Ms. Merchant sing some of these songs accompanied by an orchestra. What a perfect way to hear poetry!!! Leave Your Sleep is the perfect gift for a child of any age.  That’s why I treated myself.

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