Spring 2005  ShoppeTALK
San Marino Toy and Book Shoppe 

With boxes arriving every day we have the pleasure of unpacking the newest crop of intriguing books for spring. We are in awe of the librarians whose various awards committees read through the stacks of their books to make their decisions. This issue of our newsletter traditionally reports on those award books as well as some early spring arrivals we think you need to know about.

Personal Encounters with Extraordinary People

WALT WHITMAN; Words for America written by Barbara Kerley and illustrated by Brian Selznick is an impressive picture book biography of a poet who combined his love of country with his “passion for language.” Apprenticed as a typesetter at twelve years old, Whitman was writing and printing his own newspaper at nineteen. As a young man he traveled from his native New York through America as far as New Orleans, translating his observations into his first collection, The Leaves of Grass, which he published in 1855. Too old to fight in the Civil War, he devoted himself to comforting and nursing wounded soldiers in the hospitals in Washington, writing whenever he could. Heartbroken at the death of Lincoln, his “Oh Captain, My Captain” gave voice to a grieving nation. Both Kerley and Selznick have provided readers with a painstakingly researched and handsomely presented tribute to one of America’s best loved poets. Their book has been named a 2005 Sibert Honor Book for Outstanding Nonfiction.  (Ages 8++, $16.95)

In an exquisitely illustrated homage to MOTHER TERESA, Demi conveys the faith and contributions of one of the world’s most admired women of the twentieth century. She traces MOTHER TERESA’s life, from her birth (August 26, 1910) and childhood in Yugoslav Macedonia, her first calling into religious life at aged twelve, and the remarkable path she followed to serve the poorest of the poor. Demi’s text is interspersed with the inspiring words of Mother Teresa and others. Each painting reflects the gentle compassion and unrelenting devotion that defined her life. This newest picture book biography is a worthy addition to Demi’s previous award winning studies of The Dalai Lama, Buddha, Gandhi, Muhammad, and Saint Nicholas.   (Ages 7++, $19.95)

More Biography and Nonfiction

For any of us who had the privilege of meeting Leo Politi, Ann Stalcup’s newly published LEO POLITI; Artist of the Angels is a loving remembrance of a gentle man whose work we much admired. Leo was born in Fresno in 1908 to Italian immigrant parents. When he was six years old they returned to their native village. Leo spent his student years in Europe. Then, as a young man, he traveled back to California, finally settling in downtown Los Angeles in the Bunker Hill area. The city and particularly its children became the subject of his paintings. His first picture book, Little Pancho, published in 1938, began an over fifty year career creating notable children’s books. This welcome portrait of LEO POLITI’s life is illustrated with drawings and photographs. Its over 100 pages are seasoned with recollections of friends and family including Stalcup’s own personal memories of time spent with Leo.
(Ages 8++, $24.95 )

In the desperate days preceding the onset of the Invasion of Iraq in 2003, Alia Muhammad Baker, Chief Librarian of Basra’s Central Library, rescued seventy percent of the book collection just days before the building burned. Two books recount her heroic efforts.


Cartoonist Mark Alan Stamaty’s account, ALIA’S MISSION; Saving the Books of Iraq is presented in graphic-novel panels. His introductory panels remind readers that a superhero like Alia doesn’t have to “see through walls or fly or have any superpowers at all to be a real-life superhero.” Stamaty’s lively version provides a detailed story that can be read by a newly independent reader.  (Ages 5–9, $12.95)

Author/illustrator Jeanette Winter read about this woman’s single-minded determination to secretly remove thousands of books from harm’s way and was compelled to write her story so that young people could know the courage of THE LIBRARIAN OF BASRA; A True Story from Iraq. Winter’s stunning acrylic paintings and straightforward text offer testimonial to the quiet heroes; keepers of the world’s literary heritage. The publisher is dedicating a portion of the proceeds from the book to help the beleaguered library in Basra. (Ages 5–9++, $16.00)

More Nonfiction

Anyone who has had the pleasure of visiting a house designed by the brothers Greene will be thrilled to discover Kathleen Thorne-Thomsen’s GREENE AND GREENE FOR KIDS. And anyone who hasn’t, will want to seek out the opportunity. Her book provides detailed background on the lives of Henry and Charles, especially their partnership from which evolved their own distinctive California Arts and Crafts style houses. Thorne-Thomsen goes beyond a mere recital of their achievements by integrating a history of twentieth century architecture and a number of hands-on projects for children to experience. For example, she talks about how the simplicity of Japanese homes influenced the American Arts & Crafts movement. And then follows the information with a “Make a Scrapbook” project using origami paper for decoration. Another project involves building a model of a stone wall similar to the one that Charles Green built in front of his own house. This handsome volume could be used as a basis for an introductory course in arts and architecture. (Ages 8++, $17.95)

Ken Robbins’ photography and conversational text offer young readers a clear and appealing introduction to SEEDS. He illustrates a variety of seeds; flowers, fruits, trees and other plants. His clear colorful photographs show what the seeds produce and how they are dispersed. Read this book together with young gardeners and then start planting. (Ages 5–9, $15.95)

WHERE DO CHICKS COME FROM?” is a springtime kind of question. Amy E. Sklansky’s new book, part of the excellent “Let’s-Read-And-Find-Out Science” series will help parents and teachers guide curious children through the steps from fertilization to fluffy chick. One nice touch is the reassurance that “the egg you eat for breakfast could never grow into a chick because it was never fertilized.” The author adds a page of activities and a short list of recommended stories for further exploration. Cozy illustrations by Pam Paparone complete the attractive presentation. (Ages 3–6. $4.99 paperback)

Fresh for Spring Fiction

A cast of characters with names like Comfort, Tidings, Declaration, Joy, Peaches, Edisto, Florentine and a dog called Dismay, come to life in Deborah Wiles offbeat novel, EACH LITTLE BIRD THAT SINGS. The setting is a multi-generational family run funeral home in Snapfinger, Mississippi. Ten-year old Comfort Snowberger’s favorite Great-Uncle Edisto, has left her not only his hefty bottlecap collection, but also many useful sayings, including “Open your arms to life! Let it strut into your heart in all its messy glory!” His death is followed six months later by that of the matriarch of the family, Great-great aunt Florentine and it is around this colorful lady’s funeral that most of the action takes place. Comfort is suffering from the loss of her beloved aunt, the painful defection of her dearest friend Declaration, and the unwelcome presence of her very difficult eight-year-old cousin, Peaches, whose hysterics are a trial to everyone. An unexpected downpour and subsequent flood turn a walk to the cemetery into a treacherous, life and death drama. Wiles creates a warm and lively heroine lucky to be part of a loving family. What a treat to read! 
(Ages 8–12, $16.00)

We were intrigued immediately by the title, THE GIANT RAT OF SUMATRA OR PIRATES GALORE. Then we read the author’s name, Sid Fleischman. And we knew we were in for a delicious yarn. Imagine a pirate ship hovering off the coast of California shrouded in early morning fog, her figurehead a great carved rat. Aboard this ship is a twelve-year-old cabin boy. Named Shipwreck in honor of his being “plucked from the sea” following the destruction of the whaling ship on which he had been traveling, he is anxious to find passage back to his native Boston, especially when he learns that Mexico and America are at war. This is Fleischman’s third novel set in the “chaotic years surrounding the California gold rush” and paints a vivid portrait of Rancho life. We predict it will become a classroom standard like its predecessor By the Great Horn Spoon! (Ages 9–13, $15.99)

Newbery Medal and Honor Books

KIRA-KIRA by Cynthia Kadohata is this year’s Newbery Medallist. “KIRA-KIRA” (the Japanese word for “glittering”) is Katie Takeshima’s first word, taught to her by her adored older sister Lynn. The librarians honored this debut novel for Kadohata’s skill in telling a story from Katie’s point of view, spanning a ten year period that chronicles her parents’ relocation from Iowa to Georgia in the 1950’s. When her beloved sister becomes ill, it falls to Katie to become her caregiver while her parents work in the hideous conditions of chicken-processing plants. Even through the hardships of their lives and the tragedy of Lynn’s lymphoma, Katie manages to hold on to the essence of what is most important in family. The librarians cited Kadohata’s “graceful prose” and called it “a narrative that radiates hope from the inside out.” (Ages 12+, $15.95)

More Award Winners
The Newbery Committee honored three additional titles for special recognition.

The setting for Gary D. Schmidt’s LIZZIE BRIGHT AND THE BUCKMINSTER BOY is Maine in 1912. Turner Buckminster is unhappy in his role as son of the new preacher in a small town until he meets amazing Lizzie Bright Griffin whose home is on nearby Malaga Island, a community founded by former slaves. Rebellious Turner continues the friendship with her in spite of his father’s disapproval. The town’s decision to uproot Lizzie’s community and turn the island into a tourist destination ultimately leads to a series of tragedies. Schmidt’s rich historical novel, based on an actual event, acknowledges that while one must stand up for what is right, happy endings are not always possible. Schmidt’s powerful story was also named an honor book for the Michael L. Printz Award for outstanding young adult literature. (Ages 12–15++, $15.00)

Gennifer Choldenko’s intriguing novel, AL CAPONE DOES MY SHIRTS also tells the story of a youngster who has landed someplace he does not want to be. He says he wants to be living on Alcatraz Island about as much “as I want poison oak on my private parts.” It’s 1935 and Moose’s father is happy to have a job. His mother wanted to relocate to the Bay area so his sister Natalie could attend a special school for children with difficult and unpredictable behavior. Choldenko, in an afterword, says “autism wasn’t identified until 1943.” Her story, rich with details about life on the island where Al Capone was imprisoned, is both entertaining and insightful.  (Ages 9–13, $15.99)

The third Newbery Honor was presented to THE VOICE THAT CHALLENGED A NATION: Marian Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rights by Russell Freedman. Freedman also received The Sibert Medal, awarded annually to the author of the most distinguished informational book for this clearly written biography. Although Anderson was not comfortable being at the center of controversy, Freedman shows how this woman of superb talent became a symbol for the Civil Rights Movement. When the Daughters of the American Revolution refused to let Anderson appear at their Washington, DC concert hall, Eleanor Roosevelt and others created a seminal moment in American History by offering The Lincoln Memorial as a substitute for The DAR’s Constitution Hall. Freedman emphasizes how hard Anderson worked to achieve her success. Being blessed by an amazing voice was only the beginning. Always striving to achieve higher standards, she studied with voice teachers first in American and then in Europe, almost her entire career. Philadelphia-born and raised, Anderson found the Jim Crow laws in the South demeaning but had to endure them in order to sing to the Black audiences who filled churches and concert halls to hear her. Read this book and then find some of the recordings Freedman lists in an appendix. (Ages 8–12+, $18.00)

The Michael Printz Award for Young Adult Literature

One of the most compelling young adult novels we’ve read in a long time, HOW I LIVE NOW by Meg Rosoff has won the Printz Award. Fifteen-year-old Daisy, unhappy about her father’s remarriage and the imminent arrival of a half-sibling she calls “the devil’s spawn,” flees Manhattan to live in rural England with cousins she has never met — the children of her deceased mother’s sister. Aunt Penn has to take a quick trip to Oslo to lecture on the “Imminent Threat of War,” but the kids are independent and can look after themselves for the short time she plans to be gone. Only that isn’t how it turns out. War begins and she never returns. At the beginning it appears the five children, ranging in age from 9 to 16 years old are safely out of the thick of things and can manage on their own. Daisy and fourteen-year-old Edmond begin a passionate infatuation but as the war escalates they are caught up in the ensuing chaos. The children are separated and Daisy must fend for herself and nine-year-old Piper. Rosoff’s novel, told as Daisy’s narrative, reveals the transformation of a slightly anorexic, self-absorbed teenager into a responsible young woman. Readers are pulled into Daisy’s world where the political motives and perpetrators of this strange war are kept vague but the damage is searingly real and the young adults must survive and rebuild in a world inexorably altered by what has transpired. (Ages 13–18+, $16.95)

Young Adult Fiction
New For Spring

Florrie is a “one of a kind” sort of girl. She appreciates old things, only wears shades of gray, and celebrates individualism. In her family, birthday wishes are made out loud and as much as possible, are granted. So on Florrie’s sixteenth birthday she requests the family refrain from shopping at any franchise establishment for sixteen weeks. “Take off your chains,” she says. “Stop following the flock.” Her brother protests but the family agrees to try it out. Not content to stop with only her family, Florrie carries the campaign further by enlisting school friends to bring the idea into the community. Poet and novelist Naomi Shihab Nye sets her novel in her own hometown of San Antonio, Texas but GOING GOING could be written about any city as individual small businesses are moving from the endangered list on to extinct. We are aware this novel has a strong bias toward small business, but then so do we.  (Ages 12+, $15.99)

GIRLS IN PANTS; The Third Summer of the Sisterhood continues Ann Brashares story of four young women (Tibby, Carmen, Lena and Bridget) connected to each other by virtue of their mothers having shared a prenatal aerobics class and a brief friendship after their daughters were born. The mothers’ group phased out, but the girls remained bonded. The series opened with the girls spending their fourteenth summer away from each other for the first time. When the pants were found at a thrift shop and the girls discovered they each looked terrific in them they decided to share them, passing them around during that summer. This third summer marks the end of high school and the transition into college. Each girl has her own drama although much of their lives continue to overlap. In spite of the series being a bit soap-opera, it has some saving graces. It’s a series that mothers and daughters are both reading and bonding over. And it’s refreshing to read about young women who are loving and supportive of each other.
(Ages 13++, $16.95; The first two in the series are now available in paperback.)

Award Winning Picture Books

Two of our favorite of last years picture books are sporting medals. Cheers for the librarians of the Caldecott Committee who recognized the genius of Kevin Henkes’ KITTEN’S FIRST FULL MOON. His perfect blend of story and art (mostly black gouache and pencil on a white background) tells the story of a new kitten who, in it’s first encounter with a full moon, mistakes it for a full bowl of milk waiting for him in the sky. The trick is how to get to it. After many mishaps, lucky kitten finds his bowlful of milk back on the porch where his adventure began. (Ages 18 months–5, $15.99)

The Caldecott Committee gave three honor awards as well. Mo Willems has now a second consecutive honor, giving this talented animator a firm footing in the world of children’s picture books. This year’s winning title, KNUFFLE BUNNY, follows in the footsteps of that saucy Pigeon who stars in Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus and Pigeon Finds a Hotdog. For this story of a Daddy whose trip to the laundromat with a toddler and her plush toy bunny that turns into a nightmare of miscommunication, Willems superimposed his marvelous cartoon images over photographic background scenes of Brooklyn. (Ages 18 months–grown-up, $15.99)

More Caldecott Honors

Barbara Lehman’s quietly intriguing THE RED BOOK opens on a wintry day, with a child walking to school and zooms down to the detail of her discovery of THE RED BOOK partially hidden in the snow. It turns out this is not just any book, but one with the magical ability to transport the young girl to a faraway place where another child is waiting to play. Lehman’s art, created with watercolor, gouache, and ink, has a fresh uncluttered crispiness, that lures young readers through this wordless story and into their own imaginations.  (Ages 2–8, $12.95)

The third Caldecott honor was awarded to E. B. Lewis for his illustration of Jacqueline Woodson’s story set during World War II, COMING ON HOME SOON. He has captured the poignancy of a child, Ada Ruth, missing her Mama who has gone away to work. “They’re hiring colored women in Chicago since all the men are off fighting in the war,” she tells her. Both the text and lovely watercolor paintings of this beautiful book evoke the longing of family waiting for a loved one to come home. (Ages 6–9, $16.99)

More New Picture Books

The puzzle of what to wear to a costume party is solved when Ant and Honey Bee decide to go as a pair. After rejecting a few ideas they settle on “washer and dryer.” What they haven’t bargained for is how hard it is to walk in a large cardboard box, or that no one can figure out what they are meant to be and worst of all, what happens to cardboard in the rain. By the time they get to Cricket’s house, their soggy boxes have reshaped themselves into quite clever lumps that closely resemble a hive and an ant hill. Megan McDonald provides the amusing repartee and G. Brian Karas uses gouache, acrylic and pencil to show off the gentle humor of ANT AND HONEY BEE; What a Pair. This would make a great read-aloud or, with a bit of clever tweaking, could be adapted for a pair of fledgling readers and a narrator. (Ages 4–7, $13.99)

Give Lydia Monks’ spider high marks for persistence. This fellow wants to be a family pet. However each attempt results in their yelling, AAAARRGGHH! SPIDER! as they carefully banish him from their house. Finally, a sparkling display of web mastery wins them over. And present Lydia Monks her own high marks for creating a great read-aloud.
(Ages 3–8, $16.00) 

We all know forgetful kids but Drew A. Blank belongs at the head of the line. Why he even forgets PAJAMA DAY. However, what Drew lacks in memory, he makes up in creativity. Lynne Plourde’s zany humor is taken a notch higher with Thor Wickstrom’s cartoon-like art marching across the pages, depicting all the frantic antics of an active classroom. Plourde injects a bit of insight into why Drew might have trouble remembering things. When his mother picks him up at the end of the day we discover his after-school activities include a piano lesson, dental appointment, soccer practice and a Scout meeting.
(Ages 5–8, $16.99)

If there ever was a category for cozy monster books, JITTERBUG JAM would get our vote. Barbara Jean Hicks’s humorous story is playfully manipulated into imaginative illustrations by Alexis Deacon. Bobo is a monster who is afraid of the red-haired boy hiding in his “big old monster closet” all night and sneaking under his bed in the morning. He’s sure the boy is out to scare him so he hides until his mama calls him to come see his grandpa, Boo-Dad. Grandpa recalls his own encounter with a human “in a whispery way that makes me all goosebumpy.” Then Grandpa gives Bobo some advice about how to deal with his scary human visitor if he should show up again. The dialogue and storytelling is so much fun that grown-ups will be vying for their turn to read this aloud. Leave the lights on afterwards, not because the book is scary, but because the illustrations are worth lingering over. (Ages 4–8,  $16.00)

Three Yummy Concept Books

Oops. Sometimes we overlook a book in the flood of each season’s new titles only to discover it after it has been sitting quietly on our bookshelves and then we can’t imagine how we had failed to call your attention to its merits. So, a year plus later we want to sing our praises for Marlina Jirankova-Limbrick’s THE ARTFUL ALPHABET. This little gem of a concept book, illustrated with delicately inked images, follows the antics of a small girl, her tiny dachshund and a magic hat as she romps through an alphabetical wonderland. She dances with a dragon dressed in a stylish shirt dotted with “d’s” both upper and lower case, while her pup sits on his back, playing the drums. On another page she emerges from an H shaped house to hunt for her dog who is hanging out over the hill in a hammock. The hills are alive with the letters “h” and “h” words hidden in the landscape. It’s never too late to meet up with a special book. (All Ages, $16.99)

Laura Vaccaro Seeger sends an introduction to color concepts a leap forward with die cut images overlaying bright sheets of color. “LEMONS ARE NOT RED,” reads the text, as we first see a bright red lemon. Then turn the die cut page and along with text and the image of a yellow lemon, she adds another layer of information as she reveals a bright red apple with the reinforcing text that “Apples are Red”. This is a handsomely designed, interactive concept book that will hold up under many re-readings. (Ages 18 months–4 yrs, $14.95)

Liven up springtime reading with SPICY HOT COLORS/COLORES PICANTES by Sherry Shahan and illustrated in vibrant colors by Paula Barragan. Shahan’s energy filled poetic similes sing off the page in bouncy rhythms, weaving a sprinkle of Spanish words into the English text (particularly the “color words”) For example, “Orange as serapes, Sizzling lap wraps, Orange as roosters, Flitter-flutter Flap! Orange, Anaranjado.” We see silhouette figures draped in intense orange and black striped serapes, accompanied by curvy orange images of roosters. Throughout the book, Barragan’s art matches the movement and vigor of the text.  (Ages 2–6, $16.95)

“Poetry, thy name is delight … ”

There can be nothing delightful about A KICK IN THE HEAD unless it is Paul B. Janeczko’s selection of poetry for his (subtitled) An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms. Even the illustrations by Chris Raschka feel as fresh as spring. Twenty-nine forms are introduced with at least one poem for each, and explanations of their rhyme schemes (or lack of). Additional notes on the forms follow in an afterword. Some poetic forms pose great challenges (like the “Villanelle”) but luckily most of us can manage the “couplet”, the building block for other forms. Do you know the “clerihew” or is “haiku” the form for you? This is A KICK IN THE HEAD that will be welcome in anyone’s collection. (Ages 6–Adult, $17.99; Note: A Poke in the I, Janeczko’s collection of concrete poems, also illustrated by Raschka, is now available in paperback, $7.99)

TECHNICALLY, IT’S NOT MY FAULT by John Grandits is so clever that no matter how hard we try to explain this book to you, we won’t be able to do it justice. But we know any kid who’d rather not just walk a straight line, or read one, and has a good sense of humor will love this collection of concrete poems. And for a kid or grown-up who needs a creativity booster shot, this may be the perfect prescription. (Ages 10++, $5.95 paperback)

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