Spring 2006  ShoppeTALK
San Marino Toy and Book Shoppe 

The Spring issue of our Newsletter traditionally announces award-winning books published in the previous year and introduces some of the most noteworthy of this year’s crop.

A Special Introduction to the Year’s New Picture Books
For starters, because we can’t wait for you to see it, comes a book from Marla Frazee, WALK ON: A Guide for Babies of All Ages, that will resonate as much with new parents and grandparents to kids who are heading off to college soon. AND we’re going to risk it and say that if you read it and don’t smile at least once, we will refund your money. We think it’s just about the cutest and perhaps the most profound picture book of the season. Here’s baby ready to walk. All baby needs is a bit of coaching and confidence, and the reassurance that falling “is very common.” And baby can start over again. First, maybe check on little things like shoes not right, diaper too heavy? Then set a goal, look ahead and get going when ready. It’s no surprise Frazee dedicated this one to her oldest son, Graham, who’s almost off to college. Besides the concept and text, we are crazy about the art — clean lines crisply drawn on mostly white backgrounds of a baby with a wide range of expressions and motion. “Ya gotta love it!” (All Ages, $16.00)

Okay. Now here’s the rest of the line-up.

THIS LITTLE PIGGY: And Other Rhymes to Sing and Play
by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Will Hillenbrand (with musical arrangements by Adam Stemple), is a welcome and useful collection for young parents who wish to pass on the lap songs, finger plays, clapping games and pantomime rhymes or their own collective childhoods. It provides not only the words to the rhymes, music for the songs, historical notes on the origins and variants, but also suggestions for finger motions to accompany the words. The illustrations are the right sort of gentle pastel to invite browsing. And to cap it all off, a CD with thirteen of the sixty entries is included. It’s a great start for a baby’s early language experience.
(Infants-6, with their parents’ and  grandparents’ participation, $19.99)

We often direct children to “be polite”, “be respectful”, “be content,” or have “regret” — abstract concepts that may not always make much sense without concrete examples. To help us explain, have a taste of a lovely new offering, COOKIES; Bite-Size Life Lessons by Amy Krouse Rosenthal with fetching illustrations by Jane Dyer. Centering her “lessons” around cookies — cooperatively preparing the batter, waiting patiently for them to bake, sharing them, being proud of the outcome but retaining modesty, respectfully deferring to a grandparent for your first offering, and so on — a child is presented with a plateful of vocabulary with examples that will help abstract directives make more sense. (Ages 2–8, $12.99)

Good Dogs and Bad Kitties

When Bobo is banished to the doghouse, Cat takes on the crucial task of teaching him the fundamentals of HOW TO BE A GOOD DOG. The pair practices with dogged pursuit. Gail Page’s droll art and spare text reveal a determinedly serious Bobo hard at work. His particular talent is “Stay”, interpreted (to perfection) as laying in bed sound asleep under the blankets. All the pair’s hard work is almost undone in a moment of Bobo-style exuberance but fortunately he manages to redeem himself.
(Ages 3-6, and any age dog lover, $15.95)

Then there’s BAD KITTY who is normally a good kitty until the family changes her meal of favorite treats to an alphabetical menu of healthy food from (horror of horrors) asparagus, beets and cauliflower to xigua, yams, and zucchini. Kitty is driven into a matching alphabet of revenge from (A) “Ate my Homework” to (Z) “Zeroed the Zinnias.” To make amends, Kitty’s humans present her with an alternative amazing array of appetizing appeasement and she, in turn, is repentant, in actions alphabetical. Author/illustrator Nick Bruel leaves the reader guessing what will come next when Kitty registers displeasure (revealed in well-drawn body language) at discovering the clueless family has installed a rival in the household ostensibly as a “reward” for Kitty’s reformation. We love this wacky and clever book that will find a niche in classroom or home. (Ages 4++, $15.95)

A DUCK AND GOOSE quarrel over a large, polka-dotted egg they discover in a field. Each is determined to hatch it, and then to bring it up according to the practices of their species. In the course of the competition, which is very funny, they grow to be friends. When a little blue bird asks to play with them, they realize their “egg” is really a ball. Their facial expressions following this revelation are worth the price of admission to this amusing picture book, fresh out for Spring. Hooray for Tad Hill who hatched this one. (Ages 3–7, $14.95)
Kevin Henkes’ irrepressible Lilly (the mouse of Purple Plastic Purse fame) is thrilled to learn her teacher, Mr. Slinger, is to be married. She, of infinite optimism, assumes she will be a flower girl for the occasion and begins lobbying for the role. Discovery that Mr. Slinger’s niece is the designated attendant causes Lilly only temporary heartbreak. Perceptive Mr. S invites her to be Ginger’s assistant and to keep her company until the ceremony begins. Lilly literally carries the day when at the crucial moment, Ginger gets stage fright. Then Mr. Slinger’s wedding day really becomes LILLY’S BIG DAY and every mouse has a terrific time and so do we readers. (Ages 4–8, $15.99)

We’re happy to report that “pirate” books continue to be in fine style, no matter how scruffy and unkempt their subjects might be.

Take for example Matthew McElligott’s BACKBEARD AND THE BIRTHDAY SUIT. Here’s a buccaneer so hairy (“The hairiest pirate who ever lived”) it’s hard to see “a pirate underneath.” When a particularly raucous birthday celebration necessitates a new set of clothes, he visits a tailor who transforms his image. Backbeard isn’t so sure helikes his new look and worries that he’ll lose the respect of the other pirates. Not only is McElligott’s text amusing, his artwork created with pencil, fabric, photography, and digital techniques, delivers a colorful and entertaining romp. (Ages 4–8, $16.00)
The captain in June Sobel’s SHIVER ME LETTERS; A Pirate ABC is not satisfied with the letter “R” alone. He wants the entire alphabet to make the crew tough so he orders them to search for and capture every letter. Henry Cole’s illustrations invite young readers to search along with the animal pirates to find the letters in both obvious and obscure places as Sobel’s jaunty text spurs them on. 
(Ages 3–6, $16.00)

If you have a hankering for more action after your letter search, discover Doug “Blondbeard” Stillinger’s HOW TO BUILD PIRATE SHIPS. This “Building Cards” book (another amazing production from those innovative folks at Klutz Press) will guide your construction and the accompanying pre-printed cards, 226 in all, notched and shaped, are your materials. Create limitless combinations of models from a dinghy to a full-blown sailing ship. (Klutz wants you to know that if you already own the “Building Cards Castle” set, these will interface with the Pirate set to “build … a schooner fit for a king!”) (Ages 8++, $12.95)

Informational Picture Books: Biographies

Kathryn Lasky brings readers a deeper understanding of JOHN MUIR; America’s First Environmentalist in her excellent biography. She intersperses quotes from Muir’s writings within her own clear text, enhanced by Stan Fellows’ stunning acrylic paintings. Lasky describes the life of an active and daring youngster, reveling in the untamed land of his native Scotland. Then the family immigrated to America, to another place of “pure wildness” that was Wisconsin in the middle of the nineteenth century. Muir’s father abandoned his sons’ schooling, enlisting their labor to carve a prospering farm from the wilderness. Muir prevailed upon his father to buy him books on mathematics. On his own, in the early hours of the morning before the demanding hours of farm work began, he taught himself. During his teenage-years he also developed a number of inventions that ultimately provided the funds for his own university education. Muir spent the Civil War years working in Canada where, following an accident that caused temporary blindness, he began to focus entirely on the glory of the wilderness. Because of his impassioned devotion to conservation, Lasky writes, “he did more to help preserve the American wilderness than any other individual in the country’s history.” Reading this thoughtful biography, one cannot help but be profoundly grateful that Muir lived in America at a time when it was possible to accomplish all he did.
(Ages 6–12+, $16.99) 

Two picture books celebrate Ben Franklin’s 300th birthday year. Author Yona Zeldis McDonough and artist Malcah Zeldis present THE LIFE OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN; An American Original in a clear, informal narrative. The anecdotes that lift the text from a mere recital of his accomplishments make this a lively read. His lifetime coincided with the most critical years of America — from its Colonial status to a fully independent Republic. And his sense of civic duty drove him into public service at a time in his life when most people are now content to withdraw from an active life. He was seventy years old when he helped write the Declaration of Independence, and set sail to France to help raise money for the Revolutionary War. At eighty-one he was the oldest man to sign the Constitution. In 1789, the year before he died, he became president of an antislavery society. One wonders if slavery might have been outlawed had he lived another few years. The author includes a bibliography of other recent books on Franklin. (Ages 6–11, $17.95)
NOW & BEN; The Modern Inventions of Benjamin Franklin by Gene Barretta presents a series of items and services used in our modern life that had their origins with the inventive Franklin. He thought about and developed bifocals and lightning rods, Franklin Stoves and daylight savings time. He organized civic institutions in his city that included a library, post office, fire department, and a sanitation department. Barretta spotlights his accomplishments so that young readers can appreciate how significant one of our most colorful founding fathers continues to be even two hundred years after his death.  (Ages 5–9, $16.95)

With all the news and concerns about avian flu, OUTBREAK: Plagues that Changed History by Bryn Barnard is a timely look at the micro-organisms that play an important role in the course of history. Barnard includes chapters on the black plague, small pox (and the success of vaccinations), tuberculosis, yellow fever (a history tied into the slave trade), cholera (and issues of urban sanitation), and flu. It’s large format, (9” x 12”) and well-placed illustrations make for an inviting presentation. Barnard writes in an honest, straightforward style that will help students understand that, although scientists have learned to manage many of the deadliest microbes, we cannot afford to become complacent.
(Ages 10+, $17.95)

2006 Caldecott Awards for Picture Book Art
When Chris Raschka was named this year’s Caldecott medallist for THE HELLO, GOODBYE WINDOW, we were pleased that the librarians honored an artist whose work has delighted us for years. His illustrations for Norton Juster’s first picture book are color-drenched and playful. The mixed media of paint and pen is squiggled and splashed across the pages, accompanying a story told by a young child who has joyous times visiting grandparents any kid would be lucky to have.
(Ages 2–6, $15.95)

The committee of librarians also named four honor books including the elegant woodblock prints hand-colored with watercolor created by Beckie Prange for Joyce Sidman’s SONG OF THE WATER BOATMAN; And Other Pond Poems. A notable aspect of the book is that each poem has a companion science note so a child is given the memorable language experience along with facts. For example the “Diving Beetle’s Food-Sharing Rules”, says, in part: “if it moves, it is mine. If it’s anywhere near me, it is mine. If I’m hungry (and I’m always hungry), it is mine, mine, mine.” The science note is titled “Predaceous Diving Beetle,” and it begins “Diving beetles are sometimes called ‘water tigers’ because they are such fierce under water hunters…” Sidman and Prange’s glimpses of pond life in all its seasons, offers a perfect chance to introduce the language of poetry to a child who loves science and informational picture books.  (Ages 4++, $16.00)
Brian Collier’s stunning watercolors and collages paired with Nikki Giovanni’s rich text for ROSA take the reader back to that December day over fifty years ago 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. The librarians honored ROSA as a work of art that conveys Rosa Parks’s “quiet courage.” We think it helps parents and teachers convey the significance of the Civil Rights Movement to their children.
(All Ages, $16.95)

The gentle, serene watercolors of Jon Muth’s thoughtful picture book, ZEN SHORTS, rewarded him with a Caldecott Honor. The book contains three stories or meditations woven into a larger story, and are told to three children by a very large panda appropriately named “Stillwater.” Each story “challenge(s) us to reexamine” ourselves. We have recommended ZEN SHORTS for quiet times or to create them. (Ages 5+++, $16.95)
Take off with HOT AIR: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Hot-Air Balloon Ride by Marjorie Priceman. This talented artist who received her previous Caldecott Honor ten years ago, relies on her colorful, all over the page, high energy illustrations to tell her own version of the story of the duck, sheep, and rooster that were the test passengers in Montgolfiers hot-air balloon in 1783. There is historical detail included in the after matter but the main body of this romp is given over to the humorous fall-out of the event. (Ages 4–8, $16.95)

New Award Honors
“Beginning Reader” Books 

This year, for the first time, the librarians bestowed their first “beginning readers” awards aptly named the Theodor Seuss Geisel Beginning Reader Award.
The Medal went to author Cynthia Rylant and illustrator Suçie Stevenson for their book HENRY AND MUDGE AND THE GREAT GRANDPAS. Like all the previous titles in this engaging series (most available in paperback), Henry and his big overgrown puppy Mudge have appealing kid and dog adventures. This installment involves a visit with a great-grandpa and his friends at the “grandpa house,” in a four chapter format appropriate for newly launched readers.
(Ages 4–8, $14.95; $3.99 paperback)
There were four honor books named including Erica Silverman’s COWBOY KATE AND COCOA which we highlighted in a previous newsletter. The second book also illustrated by Betsy Lewin, COWGIRL KATE AND COCOA: Partners will be available for spring. Patient Kate has to coax her snarky horse to get horse shoes after he insists he wants cowboy boots instead. Together they find a missing calf, play hide and seek, and herd the cows. We’ve needed a cowgirl heroine for young readers for as long as we’ve been booksellers so we’re mighty appreciative of Silverman providing one so accessible and entertaining. (Ages 5–8, $15.00) [Note: Cowboy Kate and Cocoa is now available in paperback, $5.95]

Jean Van Leeuwen’s Amanda and Oliver Pig stories have appeared on recommended reading lists for emerging readers for years so this year’s honor title, AMANDA PIG AND THE REALLY HOT DAY, is another appropriate selection for this first award list. Young readers will identify with Amanda Pig and her friend Lollipop drinking up all the lemonade, leaving none for all the thirsty customers at their lemonade stand. Ann Schweninger has illustrated almost all of the more than a dozen titles in the series and you will find them in our beginning to read section.     (Ages 4–7, $14.99)
Tedd Arnold’s cartoon-like art, irreverent humor, and accessible first reader vocabulary make HI! FLY GUY a winner, particularly for boys with a budding sense of slapstick who need a confidence boost for their newly acquired reading skills. Buzz the boy and his pet fly provide plenty of action and win the day. And the good news is this is the first in a planned series of four titles. (Ages 4–7, $5.99 paperback)

A SPLENDID FRIEND, INDEED by Suzanne Bloom is as satisfying a read aloud picture book as a read-alone story for emerging readers. Polar Bear is a quiet sort, given to reading and thinking. He’s the perfect foil for Goose, the extrovert, who continues to interrupt the patient bear. Somehow these two opposites manage to fashion a friendship. The artwork adds an extra nuance of humor as the two animals react to each other’s mutually incomprehensible behavior. (Ages 4–7, $15.95)
Winner of the 2006 Newbery Medal is Lynne Rae Perkins for her novel, CRISS CROSS set in Seldem, a small town where seldom does anything earthshaking happen. Mostly the story concerns the lives of a group of 14-year-olds on the verge of growing up, and yearning for change. This is a gentle story where transformations are slow and subtle. The kids are friends and the chapters shift between them in various combinations of interaction. Hector has a crush on a girl in his guitar class but there is this jock, the one who always gets the girl, and in her plot, Perkins makes no exception. Debbie meets the grandson of an elderly lady she is helping out and they spend a day together exploring a nearby town. But then he goes back to California. Perkins’ first novel, All Alone in the Universe, was written in first person, and introduced Debbie and the same small town. With CRISS CROSS, Perkins shifts to an omniscient third-person narrative voice and like the first novel, is accompanied by the author’s quirky illustrations and a text that has an appealing buoyancy.  (Ages 10+, $16.99)

The Newbery Committee’s four honor books, including one non-fiction title, are…

In our Summer, 2005 Newsletter we extolled WHITTINGTON by Alan Armstrong, saying that it captured the essence of a great, homey barnyard fantasy in the spirit of Charlotte’s Web. WHITTINGTON is a consummate story teller, who entertains all the other occupants of the barn with tales of his famous cat ancestor, pet of Dick Whittington, a fifteenth century Lord Mayor of London. The animal residents of the barn are also part of campaign to boost the confidence of a youngster who is having trouble learning to read.
(Ages 8-12 and younger for reading-aloud, $14.95)
Shannon Hale won praise from the committee for her “fresh approach” to a princess story. PRINCESS ACADEMY is established in order to train girls from a remote village so one might become the potential worthy bride for the Prince. Miri’s competitive spirit thrusts her into a leadership role among her classmates in spite of missing her home and good friend, Peder. Ultimately Miri accomplishes her dream of making a real contribution to her family and their mountain village in this satisfying and romantic story.
(Ages 9–14, $16.95)

With a poetic text set to rich illustrations, SHOW WAY by Jacqueline Woodson captured the imaginations of the librarians. Woodson tells the story of all the generations of women in her family beginning with Soonie’s Great-grandma who was sold away from her parents to a plantation in North Carolina. Big Mama looked after her, taught her to sew and told her about the road to freedom. Each generation passed on their needlework skills to the next, and relayed the history of the women who came before them. And each encouraged her own daughter to find her own SHOW WAY. Woodson brings the story to the present, holding tight to her own little Toshi, telling her of all her maternal ancestors. Hudson Talbott’s stunning illustrations depict events of each era mirroring the text’s theme of quilts and fabric art.
(Ages 5–9, $16.99)
Susan Campbell Bartoletti’s HITLER YOUTH: Growing Up in Hitler’s Shadow received a Newbery Honor and was also awarded a Robert F. Sibert Honor as a distinguished informational book. Using a wide range of sources, including photographs and personal interviews with individuals who lived through the events surrounding Hitler’s rise to power and war years, she reveals a regime that knew well how to excite and exploit their youth. Children were sent to special camps where they learned military skills and discipline. Parents who acted to prevent their children’s participation in Hitler Youth organizations were threatened with prison. Youngsters were encouraged to report adults, including their own parents, who were not sympathetic to the regime. When the Nazis came to power, they also took control of the public schools, rewriting the curriculum to promote their own ideology. Toward the close of the War, with the shortage of soldiers, many youngsters, barely into their teens, were brought willingly into the battlefields to die for the “Fatherland.” Although Bartoletti writes meticulously about WWII, one cannot help seeing some chilling parallels in contemporary events. (Ages 10+++, $19.95)

And speaking of award winning nonfiction ...

The Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medalist, Sally M. Walker’s SECRETS OF A CIVIL WAR SUBMARINE: Solving the Mysteries of the H.L. Hunley, combines elements of history, archeology and technology to tell the story of the first submarine used to sink an enemy ship. The sub was developed by H. L. Hunley to attack Union ships blocking the Charleston Harbor. After successfully sinking a Union sloop, the sub disappeared, not to be recovered for 131 years. Walker’s well-illustrated text provides readers with a clear story, beginning with the motivation for building the sub to the drama of its discovery and recovery. (Ages 11++, $18.95)
There’s a new kid superhero, plucked from an orphanage and trained to “never say no to a cry for help.” His name is MELVIN BEEDERMAN, SUPERHERO. In Greg Trine’s first two installments we meet Melvin and learn that he has graduated at the top of his class in spite of not being able to leap tall buildings in a single bound (it takes him a few tries to get it right) nor has he mastered his overactive x-ray vision problem (the underwear thing). What puts him at the top are his skills in math and science and well-evolved understanding of the nature of good and evil. His first assignment, to protect the people of Los Angeles, is going well in spite of feeling lonely for his classmates. There’s a setback due to an accidental mix-up of capes at the dry-cleaners but that leads to a fortuitous meeting between Melvin and Candace, the owner of the other cape, who becomes his teammate. Did we mention Melvin has a serious chink in his superpowers? Of course, it’s this one weakness that almost finishes him off on his pursuit of bank robbers, the McNasty Brothers. The McNastys are still at it in book two which is being published simultaneously. Trine’s fast-paced, humorous new series will capture the hearts of bright new readers who will be happy to know there are more adventures coming. Book 1 is THE CURSE OF THE BOLOGNA SANDWICH, and the follow-up is THE REVENGE OF THE McNASTY BROTHERS.  (Ages 7+, $15.95 or $5.99 paperback)

Award winner Kate DiCamillo’s THE MIRACULOUS JOURNEY OF EDWARD TULANE is a delicious tale. Edward, a rabbit doll, crafted with jointed china arms and legs has ears and tail fashioned from real rabbit fur. “His eyes were painted a penetrating and intelligent blue.” He had been commissioned by Pellegrina, the grandmother of ten-year-old Abilene and possessed an extensive rabbit-sized wardrobe that included a gold pocket watch. As much as he is loved by Abilene, no one is fonder of him than he is of himself. For though his eyes are open always, his heart is closed. One night, just before Abilene and her family are to sail to Europe, her grandmother tells her and Edward the tale of a princess who, because she loves no one, is turned into a warthog. Edward knows Pellegrina has meant the story for him, and it haunts him. Edward’s “miraculous journey” begins when he falls overboard and is separated from Abilene. DiCamillo’s lovely prose describes his trials and triumphs as he transitions from a stuffy, self-involved creature to one worthy of a child’s love. Illustrations by Bagram Ibatoulline, ten full-color plates and duotone sketches at the start of each chapter, are as elegant as the language of this very special, “must-own” book. (Ages 6++, $18.99)
Baseball is mostly what Felix thinks about. After all, his father is a famous Cuban baseball star. Felix dreams of the time his father will finally escape Cuba and join him and his mother in Florida. He wishes Mami would talk to him about his father and would show more interest in baseball but she always has some excuse for not attending his games. After winning tickets to the local farm team’s opening night, he becomes an unintentional stowaway on the out of town’s visiting team bus. The manager thinks he’s the new bat boy, and a good luck charm besides, since until his arrival, the team has had twenty-six consecutive losses. Until then the only reason people came to see their home games was because of their mascot, a terrific dog named Homer. Sue Corbett has hit a grand slam of a story for baseball lovers with FREE BASEBALL. We can already picture the movie. (Ages 10–13, $15.99)

Lois Lowry’s intriguing fantasy, GOSSAMER, is a departure from both her humorous Anastasia Krupnik series and her darker fantasies that began with The Giver. The inspiration for the tale is revealed on her dedication page as she quotes from Shakespeare’s The Tempest. “We are such stuff as dreams are made on.” Littlest One is her protagonist; a spirited, inquisitive being whose mentor, Fastidious, finds her a vexation. Littlest One is in training to be a “dream-giver”, a careful gatherer of memories; collecting thoughts, colors, smells, fragments of conversations. In the home to which she is assigned lives an older woman in need of happy dreams. Into the woman’s home comes a foster child, frightened and angry; a challenge for the woman by day, and the dream-givers at night. Lowry weaves a hopeful tale where the gritty realities of urban life that bring disturbing nightmares are tempered by something as fragile, yet as tangible and resilient as GOSSAMER. (Ages 10+, $16.00)
For a border collie, herding SHEEP, Jack tells us, “well … nothing’s better.” When a fire destroys the farm where he was born, he is sold off to a pet shop which starts his quest to get back to the work he was bred to do. His escape from a cruel circus owner, in another fire-related drama, leads him to someone as lonely as he; a young orphan boy who says “nobody ever picks me.” Jack takes matters into his own four paws to change their luck, using a trick he has learned during his stint at the circus. Valerie Hobbs creates a memorable and heartwarming adventure story you don’t even need to be a dog lover to enjoy.
(Ages 8–12, $16.00)

Two of Stanley “Caveman” Yelnats’s fellow “campers” at the infamous correctional facility Camp Green Lake (the unforgettable setting for Louis Sachar’s best seller Holes) are now living in Austin. Theodore “Armpit” has set five SMALL STEPS for himself that include completing high school and avoiding situations that might get him into trouble again. The problem is his co-camper, wheeler-dealer X-Ray has a knack for getting him into potentially dicey situations. When a popular teen-aged singer comes to Austin and befriends Theodore, life becomes even more complicated. Sachar rachets up the suspense in this compelling follow-up.     (Ages 10+, $16.95)

A Remarkable Photo-Essay
Help in coping with a tough issue

Recently we were asked to recommend books for a five-year-old child dealing with the loss of a parent. As adults we understand that such a devastating loss will take more than books to help begin the coping and healing process. What we did suggest, however, was OWEN AND MZEE: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship, about an orphaned baby hippo rescued following the tsunami in December, 2004, because of the hope it offered. The baby hippo, stranded and alone on a sandy coral reef in the Indian Ocean, was brought to safety through the valiant efforts of hundreds of villagers and visitors near the small coastal town of Malindi. The frightened animal, named Owen in honor of the man who successfully tackled the resistant hippo, was transferred to a Kenyan wildlife refuge, Haller Park, in Mombasa. Stressed by its ordeal, it immediately sought refuge behind Mzee, a 130-year-old male giant tortoise, not noted for sociability. But the pair bonded and have become inseparable. The story of this remarkable friendship caught the imagination of a father and his six-year-old daughter, Craig and Isabella Hatkoff. They, along with the Kenyan ecologist who oversees the care of Mzee and Owen, Dr. Paula Kahumbu, and photo-journalist Peter Greste, have recounted the events. We hope Owen’s story will provide a measure of comfort to another child feeling lost and confused by the events in his life. (Ages 5+, $16.99)

Additional note: Artist/author Jeanette Winter, also moved by Owen’s story, recreates the story in MAMA; A True Story, a virtually wordless, graphic retelling with a fuller explanation in an afterword. (Ages 3+, $16.00)

Newsletter text Copyright 2006 © by Jody Shapiro. All Rights Reserved.