Fall 2005  ShoppeTALK
San Marino Toy and Book Shoppe 

The hardest part of writing the Newsletter is that we have to stop reading in order to tell you about some of the new books coming into our store this Fall. As always, the books we select are only a handful of the worthy and wonderful possibilities available. We strive to present an eclectic selection, covering a range of interests and age levels. This year we are happy to announce some truly delightful titles for special holiday reading. As independent booksellers, we make an extra effort to match the right book to each person on your gift list. Come in and challenge us!! We thrive on it. 

Our Favorite of This Year’s Holiday Books
One of my earliest Halloween trick or treat memories involves my younger sister who was so terrified of a costumed Mickey Mouse that we had to turn back home far sooner than I wanted. It is often the case that costumes and masks frighten young children. Books can help prepare a child to make sense of the strange holiday of Halloween. One of our perennial choices for building bravery, GO AWAY BIG GREEN MONSTER by Ed Emberley has just been reissued with a sparkly cover and a lower price. Inside, the clever die-cut pages allow children to create the “Big Green Monster” and then to banish him, scraggly hair by squiggly ears by sharp white teeth. And they can say, “GO AWAY BIG GREEN MONSTER, and don’t come back until I say so.” What empowerment! (Ages 2–6, $10.99)

Elizabeth Spurr and illustrator Wendy Anderson Halperin have collaborated once again with THE PETERKINS' THANKSGIVING adapted from the original Peterkin Papers by Lucretia P. Hale. The stories of a foolish but endearing family have delighted listeners for over a century. This retelling of a Thanksgiving dinner delayed when it became stuck in the dumbwaiter en route from kitchen to dining room will be the perfect book to share with hungry guests while waiting for this year’s turkey to finish its final half-hour roasting. This newest adaptation is a companion volume to last year’s The Peterkins' Christmas, which also featured Halperin’s deliciously detailed watercolors. There is something about the holidays that evokes a sense of nostalgia for the classic tales and these books have that cozy feeling and delightfully gentle silliness as welcome and comfortable as a favorite old family friend. (Ages 6++, $17.95) (Note: Also available The Peterkins' Christmas, $16.95)

In a world caught up in the whirlwind of man-made wonders; the newest, the latest, the biggest, the fastest — GIVING THANKS by Jonathan London offers a few minutes of serene reflection. His young narrator explains that his own father begins every morning with a simple “thank you” to Mother Earth and Father Sky. “Thank you for this day” he says. Then as they walk into a natural woodland his father expresses gratitude for all that he sees. The boy says, “To me, it is a little embarrassing to say thanks to trees and things. But Dad says it becomes a habit; it makes you feel good.” We imagine anyone who lived near a woods as lovely as those reflected in Gregory Manchess’ oils paintings would say a daily “thank you!” as well.  (Ages 3–8, $6.99, paperback)

With inspiration from the traditional “Twelve Days of Christmas” song, Margie Palatini spins off a humorous tale of the THREE FRENCH HENS. Meant to be delivered to a M. Philippe Renard, the trio of hens lands instead in New York City and locates a Mr. Phil Fox in The Bronx. For Phil, hungry and down on his luck, their arrival heralds a turning point. When he sees them at his door he thinks it’s “better than Chinese takeout.” But first Colette treats him to a bath and tonsorial makeover. (He figures he won’t eat her.) Then Poulette reveals her talent at home decorating with a complete re-do of his décor from “shabby” to “chic.” And for the finale, Fifi produces a meal fit for a starving fox. Phil, overcome, confesses he is not the intended recipient of their largesse. The unflappable hens reassure him they like him the way he is, “notre ami” (our friend) Phil. Palatini with an assist from illustrator Richard Egielski delivers a great seasonal read-aloud tour de force with a punch line that lands it squarely in the land of ecumenical. (The French hens, it turns out, are “kosher chickens” who celebrate Hanukkah!) (Ages 4–8 and EVERY grownup with a sense of humor and an appreciation for the absurd, $15.99)

With a droll text and deliciously delightful illustrations, Marla Frazee introduces us to SANTA CLAUS; The World’s Number One Toy Expert. First of all Santa is a kid expert, keeping notes and files, working long hours all year long. His inventory of toys is displayed on shelves piled from floor to very high ceiling. And of course Santa tests and inspects each and every toy and reads to the “cozy” ones to make sure they “become extra special.” Frazee reveals his stash of wrapping paper and ribbon on a two page spread and then fills two more pages with an array of wrapped gifts bound to quicken the heart of any child. Chubby Santa works in a succession of colorful boxer shorts with patterns like hearts, snowflakes and autumn leaves that mark the passing months. As always, we are drawn to Frazee’s illustrations rendered in gouache and black pencil. Her consummate skill as a children’s book illustrator is in full play, alternating images; sometimes spreading across two pages to emphasize lush abundance, other times repeating an image engaged in a succession of activities to bring life and motion to the page. (Ages 3–7, $16.00)

For the year 2005 Hanukkah begins at sundown on December 25. But you don’t have to wait until then to read Rebecca Tova Ben-Zvi’s FOUR SIDES, EIGHT NIGHTS; A New Spin on Hanukkah filled with a variety of interesting facts and activities connected with the festival of lights. In addition to the historical background on the holiday, she includes some non-traditional information like the science of spinning tops, with some data on probability. Another chapter covers Hanukkah dos and don’ts. Moms will love the tradition that says “Don’t do work while the Hanukkah candles are burning (if you are a girl).” Spot art by Susanna Natti is interspersed throughout the forty-eight paged Hanukkah resource. (Ages 8–12, $16.95)

Pssst. You, yes you. The person looking for the most exceptional Hanukkah gifts for a family who has almost everything … except for these delectable books. Come immediately to our bookstore and we’ll show you the secrets to your success.

First of all, you will meet KIBITZERS AND FOOLS; Tales My Zayda Told Me by Simms Taback. Within its “geshmacht” (yummy) color-drenched, smile-evoking illustrated pages, reside short vignettes filled with the wisdom and humor of generations. Each little story is summarized with “a saying” and another page full of little truths follows a glossary of Yiddish words. Remember to “Keep your eye on the bagel and not the hole.” It’s an irresistible “read-aloud” for any time of year. (Ages 4–104, $16.99)

And if you really want to be a big “Makher” (big shot), then pick up HANUKKAH, SHMANUKKAH! and read about Scroogemacher, the hard hearted sweatshop owner who is visited by the visions of Rabbis of Hanukkah Past, Present and Future. First he is reminded of the rebellious Maccabees who threw off the yoke of King Antiochus. The Rabbi of Hanukkah Present leads him aboard a ship bringing immigrants from Europe to America in the early Twentieth Century and he is forced to remember his own difficult passage. Finally, the Rabbi of Hanukkah Future, gives him a glimpse of the generations to come who have cars and computers but still light the Hanukkah candles to remember all who struggled to “make their place in the world.” Esme Raji Codell says, in her postscript, “As funny as it may seem to turn a Christmas story into a Hanukkah story, it seemed a natural fit.” Her gift as a storyteller, well-endowed with a sense of humor, makes her version a welcome Hanukkah diversion. And the exquisitely painted, well researched, illustrations by LeUyen Pham go with the story like applesauce on latkes. Delectable!   (Ages 5–10, $16.99)

Yummy Picture Books
It’s no fish story we’re telling when we say that HOORAY FOR FISH is bound to hook even the most restless toddler. Lucy Cousins’ bright bright colors (gouache painted on blue and blue-green backgrounds) and spare, playful language invites the reader to meet an oceanful of fish. Cousins cleverly folds in some early concepts like primary colors, beginning counting, and opposites. And she ends the tale with mom fish and a “kiss, kiss, kiss, HOORAY FOR FISH!” (Ages 1–4, $14.99)

Thomas has played in the park and he’s ready for home. Too tired to walk, he asks his mother, “WILL YOU CARRY ME?” Creative Mom offers up alternatives to Thomas. First they jump. When the toddler tires of jumping, they switch to “swimming, flying” and, finally, running. Every parent will appreciate Heleen van Rossum’s resourceful mom, and youngsters will relate to the details of Peter van Harmelen’s action-filled watercolor illustrations. Originally published in Dutch, this sweet gem of a story conveys a lovely and lively interaction of parent and child.
(Ages 1½ to 5, $15.95)

TRACTION MAN IS HERE performing acts of heroism that spring from the imagination of the youngster who receives him for Christmas. No sooner is the square-jawed action figure unwrapped than he must rescue farm animal toys from evil pillow. In the kitchen after breakfast he dives into the sink searching for the “lost wreck of the sieve”, narrowly avoiding the poisonous dishcloth. He even overcomes ridicule, when dressed in a green romper knitted by Granny, he and his brave companion, scrubbing brush, combine forces to rescue the spoons from the treacherous broom. Be your own favorite kid’s superhero by sharing a copy of Mini Grey’s toy story. It’s lots of fun with details of domestic life transformed into anthropomorphized drama.
(Ages 3–7, $15.95)

Mary Newell DePalma describes the life cycle of A GRAND OLD TREE with a simple dignity and grace befitting a tree standing many years. Her artwork, fresh spare and cheerful, has a childlike simplicity to match. The tree flowers and fruits, sheds leaves and is renewed season after season, and finally ages and dies. Then it slowly becomes “part of the earth” and “the roots of her grandchildren sink deep into this earth.” A second story is told only in its images as DePalma’s paints a bluebird in each scene, sometimes building a nest, feeding its chicks, or feeding from the fruit of the tree. This subtext reinforces her message of life’s continuity. In its elegant simplicity, A GRAND OLD TREE may help a child begin to understand the mysteries of life and death. (Ages 3–6, $16.99)

Storytellers will be pleased to welcome three
    versions of “stone soup” stories recently published.

Pete Seeger
and Paul DuBois Jacobs have paired with illustrator Michael Hays for SOME FRIENDS TO FEED; The Story of Stone Soup. We like this version for its simple text and the recurring refrain complete with the music notation for those of us who like a bit of singing with their storytelling. A CD packaged with the book is an assist for the musically reluctant. This version of the traditional story is set in a 17th century German village where a lone soldier, who hasn’t eaten for five long days, is helped by children who are more generous than their parents. (Ages 4–8, $16.99)

A Caribbean gumbo is the final result when a hungry but resourceful Granny finds a “magic shell.” At the marketplace her claim that the shell can make a wonderful soup intrigues the food peddlers always ready for something for nothing. The collective contributors come up with a ham bone, fish, okra, onions, green spinach, parsley, celery and thyme. Phillis and David Gershator’s West Indian setting for their lilting version of stone soup, KALLALOO; A Caribbean Tale, offers the perfect opportunity for artist Diane Greenseid to break out her brightest, most vibrant acrylics to match this lively and humorous telling. And afterwards try the recipe thoughtfully provided at the end of the tale. (Ages 4–8, $16.95)

The third “helping”, CACTUS SOUP, published last fall, features a Mexican setting. When a regiment of revolutionary soldiers come into a village already prepared to refuse them any food, the soldiers concoct “cactus-spine” soup made tastier by the unwitting contributions of salt, pepper, chilies, onions, beans and a chicken or two. The soldiers wish for these ingredients but preface each veiled request with a sympathetic, “But why ask for what you don’t have?” The soup-making ruse naturally transforms itself into a village fiesta. Eric Kimmel’s story, sprinkled with Spanish vocabulary, is showcased by Phil Huling’s watercolor palette of adobe browns and chile pepper reds. (Ages 4–8, $16.95)

A Variety of Fiction for Beginners to Teens

Following the same formula as her two previous titles for beginning readers, Mary Ann Hoberman’s YOU READ TO ME, I’LL READ TO YOU; Very Short Mother Goose Tales to Read Together is a clever and welcome addition. Scripted to be read either by two readers or groups, this newest volume takes off from traditional Mother Goose rhymes using the characters and situations and retelling them. Hoberman suggests the traditional rhyme be read ahead of time to remind youngsters of the reworked verses origins. This collection and the previous volumes, You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You; Very Short Stories to Read Together and You Read to Me… ; Very Short Fairy Tales to Read Together, illustrated by Michael Emberley, will be as useful at home as in the classroom and make perfect gifts for both youngsters starting to read and their teachers. (Ages 4–8, $16.99)

Now that two of Alexander McCall Smith’s children’s books are available to American audiences, his grown-up fans can share their enthusiasm for this prolific writer with their own kids. AKIMBO AND THE ELEPHANTS and AKIMBO AND THE LIONS are the first two adventures starring a youngster who lives with his parents on an African Game Reserve. In the first story, Akimbo helps track down a ring of poachers who are destroying elephants for their valuable ivory tusks. In the second, he goes with his father to capture a lion that has been attacking a rancher’s cattle. Smith gives young readers a taste of his native Africa, both its dangers and its beauty. With illustrations in black and white by LeUyen Pham, the two short novels are formatted to appeal to youngsters ready for chapter books.
(Ages 7–11, $9.95 each title)

Howard has managed to escape the consequences of his mischievous pranks until he goes too far. On a lark, he goes out to steal eggs from the wild geese at Goose Pond. When he gets caught by the old woman who devotes her life to protecting the birds from trouble-making kids just like Howard, he discovers that rumors she is a witch are true. She has turned him into a goose and the only way he can undo the spell is by doing THREE GOOD DEEDS. Vivian Van de Velde’s imaginative romp makes a great read aloud or read alone. (Ages 8–12, $16.00)

Ignore the “summer” in the title for Jeanne Birdsall’s THE PENDERWICKS; A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy because her novel is a charming read no matter what the season. Although set in present time, it has the feel of an old-fashioned family story. Four sisters, ages 4 to 12, along with their widower father have rented a cottage in the Berkshires for three weeks in August. While their father is benignly preoccupied with things botanical, the girls are left to entertain themselves. Their best discovery is Jeffrey Tilton, a lonely youngster who lives in the mansion adjacent to their rented cottage and whose eleventh birthday is celebrated while the girls are in residence. The oldest sister, Rosalind, is quite taken with an older teenaged boy who works as a gardener for Jeffrey’s snobbish mother, Mrs. Tilton. Each girl manages to get into some difficulty with Mrs. Tilton, but Jeffrey develops what one must believe will be a life-long friendship with the irrepressible and spirited Penderwick crew. (Ages 8–12, $15.95)

Leo is the daydreamer in a noisy, lively family; the one they call Sardine and Fog Boy. His escape from the commotion and daily household drama is to retreat to his own REPLAY of events around him, re-enacting the scenes in his own head, re-writing the script, becoming the rescuing hero. In his school play he’s cast in a secondary role of The Crone and his best friend, Ruby, is the front end of the donkey and he fantasizes about being the star. In the attic he discovers his father’s diary written at age 13, listing his Papa’s three brothers and four sisters including a mysterious Rosaria, the aunt no one speaks about. But Leo, curious, asks about her at one of the enormous family gatherings, sending Grandma rushing from the dining table. Leo wonders too, about how his father has changed so much from his happy childhood to over-burdened and often crabby Papa. Sharon Creech writes of the events, real and imagined, swirling around Leo as if he is part of a play, searching for his own place within life’s continuing dramas. We are in awe of Creech’s creative talent, finding new ways to tell her stories outside conventional narrative form. And we love it that she even includes a copy of Leo’s school play at the end of the novel, giving young readers a chance to read a play script and perhaps, we can only hope, perform it within their own school settings.  (Ages 8–12, $15.99)

SNOW TREASURE by Marie McSwigan was first published in 1942 in the midst of a time that desperately needed heroic deeds and an enemy outwitted. During the earliest months of the German occupation in Norway, the children in a small village close to the Arctic Circle managed to smuggle millions of dollars in gold bullion past an unsuspecting army. McSwigan drew on the spare facts of the real event to create a story that has thrilled three generations. Continuously in print these past 63 years, an edition is newly available in hardcover. (Ages 8–12, $10.99)

The sisters Klise (author Kate and illustrator M. Sarah) are back with another zany addition to their “Regarding the…Series. This time Principal Walter Russ, all a-dither over his upcoming evaluation, contacts the irrepressible Flo Waters, designer of the fabulous fountain and sink (see first two novels in the series) to help him trim trees. His plan to chop down a historic willow tree is troubling to several of the sixth grade students. Also, a serious culinary rivalry between the long-established local café owner and the newly installed middle-school cafeteria’s Italian chef boils over into a town “gender” war. REGARDING THE TREES: A Splintered Saga Rooted in Secrets, filled with humorous puns like its predecessors, is told entirely through letters, memos, glimpses of Mr. N’s classroom chalkboard and newspaper articles with nary a straight narrative to be found. (Ages 9–12, $15.00 Note: Regarding the Fountain and Regarding the Sink are now available in paperback.)

It has been decreed by the priests of Danland that the Prince must choose his wife from the remote territory of Mount Eskel. Miri’s family, like all the dwellers of the mountain, quarry the precious linder stone coveted for its beauty and durability as a building material and is traded to the lowlanders for basic food and clothing. Because the girls of the isolated village have had no opportunity for schooling, a PRINCESS ACADEMY is established some three hours walk down the mountainside from their homes. There the girls from the ages twelve to seventeen are forced to endure harsh tutelage to mold them for the life of a princess. Shannon Hale’s heroine, Miri, small for her fourteen years, misses her family and Peder, but her competitive spirit thrusts her into a leadership role among her classmates. Miri, who longs to make a contribution to her family and village, has ample opportunity to prove herself in this satisfying and romantic story. (Ages 9–14, $16.95)

Noah Underwood has a boatload of concerns to contend with. His father, an environmental activist in the Florida Keys, has landed himself in jail for sinking a casino boat he suspects is dumping raw sewage into the harbor. And Noah and his sister Abbey are worried his mother, fed up with his father’s rash behavior, is considering the “d” word. The two kids team up to try to catch the casino boat’s irresponsible owner but it takes some good luck and ingenuity to figure out how. Carl Hiaasen’s second novel for kids is aptly titled FLUSH. His first popular novel, Hoot, also an environmental mystery set in Southern Florida, won not only a Newbery Honor but an enthusiastic cadre of readers. FLUSH, with a fast paced narrative, interesting characters and setting, and light seasoning of suspense proves just as entertaining.     (Ages 10+, $16.95)

Not every family’s wagon train journey west was a successful venture. That was certainly the case for Colton Westcott’s mixed-race family. En route to Sacramento, California, with a mission to deliver freedom papers to Ma’s sister, a runaway slave, they’ve been abandoned somewhere in the Utah territory by their father, leaving twelve-year old Colton to look after his ailing mother and two younger sisters. Colton, who’s a naturally gifted horseman, talks his way into a job with the Pony Express. His route across the Sierra Nevada Range is treacherous but that isn’t the only danger. He has to conceal his own mixed-race origins from slave catchers. Diane Lee Wilson’s BLACK STORM COMIN’ combines rich historical setting of the early 1860’s pre-Civil War, the rugged challenges of the Pony Express, and the author’s own experiences as an accomplished horsewoman to weave an action packed tale.     (Ages 10–14, $16.95)

Fifteen year-old Alfred Kropp, a big kid and indifferent student, has good instincts and intentions but terrible luck. Orphaned at twelve by the untimely death of his mother from cancer, he ends up living with his only surviving relative, an uncle. When Uncle Farrell is offered a million dollars to “rescue” a sword hidden in the offices of his employer, he enlists Alfred as his accomplice. And so begins THE EXTRAORDINARY ADVENTURES OF ALFRED KROPP. The sword, as it turns out, is no ordinary weapon. It is Excalibur, passed down from knight to knight, through the generations. Author Rick Yancey’s interesting premise places descendents of The Round Table into a twenty-first century situation.  (Ages 12+, $16.95)

J.V. Hart also draws from literature’s past characters to tell an entirely new and fresh story. Who was CAPT. HOOK before he became the notorious villain and enemy of Peter Pan? Imagine young James Matthew, illegitimate son of a powerful Lord, placed in the hostile environment of blue-blood Eton-ites. Picked on and ridiculed, he, of infinite skill and imagination, turns the hostility on its head, becoming a renegade leader of other boys. He dreams of finding a place free of life’s cruel and unfair restrictions, where uncertain parentage is not a curse. How he navigates his life at school and on the high seas is told with a sense of humor and panache that will appeal to young readers hankering for more meaty books to fill the time between H. Potter 6 and 7. Illustrations by Brett Helquist are a nice addition to an already satisfying tale.
(Ages 10+, $15.99)

A child born “dada” in the Ooni Kingdom was unusual. ZAHRAH THE WINDSEEKER says, “I wanted to blend in so I wouldn’t be noticed.” But her hair wouldn’t let her. The magical qualities of being dada manifest themselves in mysterious and unpredictable ways. Zahrah’s hair, growing inter-twined with plant vines, made her the object of teasing among her classmates. Only Dari was her friend. Because of his curiosity about the Forbidden Greeny Jungle the pair dared to venture into it’s mysterious and dangerous edges. When Dari is attacked by a deadly snake, it is up to Zahrah to save his life. She is forced into uncharacteristic bravery, traveling far into the terrifying jungle’s depths to retrieve the one thing that might save him. Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu’s imagined “other world” hums with creative energy. This is her first novel for young adults and we can hardly wait for more.
(Ages 12++, $16.00)

Horse Crazy?

There is hardly a week goes by that someone comes into the bookstore looking for a good book for a youngster crazy about horses. So when two collections of stories and a charming “beginning to read” appear in one season, it’s cause for celebration. These three are gifts to be treasured for youngsters for the time they have to read instead of ride.
June Crebbin’s HORSE TALES includes fourteen selections divided by themes like “horses in danger”, “horses to the rescue,” and “dream horses.” Many are excerpts from previously published books including the classic Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry and one of our favorite novels, I Rode A Horse Of Milk White Jade by Diane Lee Wilson. (Check out our review of her latest novel under “Fiction”) Perhaps these samplings will lead the young reader to find and read the entire book from which each piece is taken. Other stories, which span centuries and cultures, are retellings of folktales or are drawn from history. Inga Moore’s color illustrations complete this handsome volume. (Ages 8–13, $18.99)

HORSES OF MYTH is a splendid collaboration of Gerald and Loretta Hausman’s storytelling and the amazing paintings of Robert Florczak. The Hausmans have drawn their stories from myths, legends and folklore from the Saharan sands, the American plains, the Russian steppes, and the Armenian highlands. The fifth story is retold from the writing of Paul Gauguin and is set in Tahiti. Presented with such a wide-ranging diversity of cultures, Florczak took the opportunity to match his illustrations to each. (Ages 8–13, $19.99)

Here’s a “whoopee ti yi” for Erica Silverman who’s penned the humorous COWGIRL KATE AND COCOA. Beginning readers will gallop right through four short chapters which reveal Kate’s patience and persistence when it comes to dealing with her very demanding horse. Cocoa would rather eat than work at being a cow horse and kids will love the way Kate cajoles him into doing the job she wants him to do. And when Kate spends a cold night in her sleeping bag inside the barn and can’t fall asleep, her trusty horse sings a perfect lullaby. Very cute with paintings by Betsy Lewin to boot. Look for more stories next spring to come trotting in the successful hoofprints of this one. (Ages 5–8, $15.95)

Nonfiction & Biography
Books about or based on real people, places, events and things

Alice Provensen presents KLONDIKE GOLD in a “super-sized” picture book format that takes full advantage of her detailed paintings. Her story follows two miners, young men escaping the doldrums of Boston and the economic depression of the late 1890’s, who set out by train to Seattle and from there, on to Alaska and the gateway to the Klondike gold fields. Sometimes only their youthful enthusiasm and optimism was what propelled them along the challenging route. Climbing mountains of snow and ice, locating and filing a claim, digging in subzero weather were part of the cost of finding gold. Provensen’s fictional pair was about as successful as many of the actual miners who survived the cold and isolation, bringing home what in those days was a fair bit of money for all their hard work and initial investment. (Ages 5–10, $17.95)

December 1, marks the fiftieth anniversary of the day Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus. It was the turning point, propelling The Civil Rights Movement into action. Nikki Giovanni’s rich text and Brian Collier’s stunning paintings for ROSA take the reader back to that day when Mrs. Parks would no longer tolerate the unequal treatment she, and all her colored brethren had endured. Her arrest sparked the Montgomery bus boycott that lasted over a year, even after the Supreme Court ruled on November 13, 1956, that segregation on buses, like segregation in schools, was illegal. ROSA is a work of art that helps parents and teachers convey the significance of the Civil Rights Movement to their children.     (All Ages, $16.95)

Even eighty years after his death from a burst appendix, we still consider HOUDINI; (the) World’s Greatest Mystery Man and Escape King. Kathleen Krull and illustrator Eric Velasquez present an affectionate and appealing portrait of this young man who lived to amaze people. Born Erik Weiss, in Budapest in about 1874, his early years as a immigrant child in the United States were impoverished. As a youngster he was athletic and resourceful, working to help his struggling parents. He renamed himself after Frenchman Jean-Eugene Robert-Houdin, considered the father of modern magic. Krull emphasizes Houdini’s perfectionism, practicing hours and years to accomplish his most amazing tricks of escape. Although he left no clues as to how he performed his feats, she reveals some of his strategies. Though he couldn’t cheat death, his name and reputation live on and continue to amaze all who read about him.
(Ages 6–11, $16.95)

Glimpses of THE YOUNG HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN are viewed through Karen Hesse’s lyrical prose and Erik Blegvad’s pen and ink and watercolor paintings. Hesse’s scenes from Andersen’s childhood give insight into the origins of his classic tales. Moments of joy, affection and encouragement from his grandmother and father balanced rejections and darker times. In this year of the 200th anniversary of his birth, we appreciate the opportunity to reflect on one of the earliest writers for children. (Ages 8+, $16.99)

Chris Raschka imagines a party with a guest list of cities hosted by New York. By way of introducing the invitees, he lets us in on their name origins and meanings — NEW YORK IS ENGLISH, CHATTANOOGA IS CREEK. We are intrigued with Raschka’s playful and creative use of language and ideas in this exploration of American city names. And we appreciate enormously his reminder that “a thousand names, a hundred languages, a million, and a million, and a million people name one nation.”  (Ages 4-10, $16.95)

Taking Off with Poetry
If you’ve caught the glimmer of a poet shining in your midst, Jack Prelutsky’s encouraging READ A RHYME, WRITE A RHYME will be most welcome. He pairs a trio of poems on a set theme and then guides the reader with a fourth “start” of a poem. For example, one set of poems features turtles. Prelutsky offers up suggestions on writing from the turtle’s point of view on what it can or cannot do, or how no one can tell, inside its shell, what it’s thinking. Illustrations by Meilo So are lively, adding a light touch to the “writing lesson.” On the page featuring food poems, two children gorging on blueberries are a colorful inspiration.
(Ages 5–8, $16.95)

And One More for Thinking About and Talking About

In a time when “truth” is as fragile as a shuttlecock batted back and forth in a badminton game, we are drawn to Robert Shetterly’s portraits of AMERICANS WHO TELL THE TRUTH. As we browse through his paintings and consider the words of his subjects we ponder his choices. Who is included? Who is not? We recognize that “truth telling” isn’t always an easy choice. Sometimes such bravery has its costs. You may not agree with all of Shetterly’s selections, but we know this is one book that will give you much to think about and discuss. (Ages 8++++, $18.99)

Newsletter text Copyright 2005 © by Jody Shapiro.  All Rights Reserved.