By the Sea, By the Sea, by the Beautiful Sea!
|Karen Roosa wrote BEACH DAY one summer when she was longing
to hear the sound of the ocean. It opens with a view of the beach at sunrise
and the arrival of a family in a station wagon loaded with everything one
needs for a perfect day on the sand. They all pile out, kick off their
shoes and transport coolers, chairs and beach totes to a good spot where
they can watch water-skiers, dig in the sand, or just relax. Maggie
Smith uses a bright palette to highlight the brightness of this happy,
active pastime. Engaging all the senses, you can almost hear the “voices
chatter, the sand pails clatter”, taste those yummy deviled eggs, or feel
the cool waves lapping over your feet! As the day draws to a close everyone
is ready to head home with “sun-warmed skin” and a “contented grin”.
(Ages 3-6. $15.00)
|Before you head off to the seaside, pick up Elizabeth Van Steenwyk’s book, LET'S GO TO THE BEACH, a history of sun and fun by the sea. Read about how our European ancestors discovered the benefits of bathing in salt water. The early American colonists fought for the beaches along their coasts. Years later, boardwalks and piers became vacation destinations. The chapter on beachwear over the years is sprinkled with wonderful photos of early swimsuits. Not sure what to bring on your trip to the beach? Read about pails, shovels, surfboards and frisbees. This book offers hours of entertainment. It would make a great gift for anyone’ headed to the shore. (Ages 9-15, $17.95)|
|Most of us come home from the beach with treasures gathered along the tide line or pretty shells purchased in a gift shop. Morteza E. Sohi has lots of excellent suggestions in LOOK WHAT I DID WITh A SHELL! Just looking at the end papers will inspire clever things to make. The book begins with the “dos and don'ts” of collecting shells and some suggestions for shell collecting equipment. Sharing this book with a youngster will help them know what to look for as they wander along the beach. Each section has art notes to help you create really cute animals out of shells. The field guide gives the common names, types, and general information about a variety of shells. (Ages 6-9, $15.95)|
Summer Poetry Plus
|A vacation by the water encourages us to use all our senses as we appreciate the sights, sounds, and smells. In HAVE YOU BEEN TO THE BEACH LATELY?, Ralph Fletcher speaks with the voice of an 11-year-old boy who spends the day on the beach with his family. The poems describe things we can all identify with, like braving the waves for the first time, noticing the peace and calm where only the seagulls are arguing. With the innocence of childhood, a boy finds a chunk of a sand dollar and asks what it is worth. “Exactly twenty-five cents, I tell him, and he believes that too.” Our hero notices the girls on the beach. “Believe me: it's much easier swapping baseball cards than trading looks with a girl.” The photos by Andrea Sperling are fabulous. Don't miss the picture showing a giant hand sand sculpture. Tuck this book in your favorite beach-goers tote bag. (Ages 8-12, $15.95)|
|If your family is headed for the mountains, TOASTING MARSHMALLOWS,
by Kristine O’Conneli George makes fun reading around the campfire.
The poems are about setting up your tent, watching the wildlife, and snuggling
into a sleeping bag. There are
poems about being by yourself, enjoying the rain, or listening to a mosquito's song. As you toast those marshmallows, do read aloud the poem designed for two voices. Illustrator Kate Kiesler uses acrylic
paint to capture the richness and variety of the outdoors. This wonderful collection will keep all your memories of a special trip as fresh as the smell of pine needles. (Ages 6-10, $15.00)
|An acrostic poem features a word arranged
The letters inspire simple verses like
Blankets and umbrellas,
SUMMER, by Steven Schnur, is a visual delight with colorful linoleum-cut illustrations by Leslie Evans. Both the verses and the pictures focus on those things we love best about this season. As you enjoy the poems about flags and grapes or a lighthouse, you will be inspired to try writing an acrostic of your own. Arranged in alphabetical order, who could resist a poem about being idle, taking a hike, or going on a picnic. This talented team has also created books for Autumn and Spring. (Ages 3-7, $15.00)
|The love of poetry starts early when children meet Mother Goose. These rhymes have been around for generations, with good reason. They play with our language and introduce the easy flow of words. Artist Michael Hague has chosen dozens of his favorites, illustrating this collection of TEDDY BEARS’ MOTHER GOOSE with charm and humor. Meet “The Old Bear Who Lived in a Shoe” and “Rub-a-dub-dub, Three Bears in a Tub”. Of course, Peter (the pumpkin eater) is a bear, as is Jack who jumps over the candlestick. Children can see all the seasons represented in this rich overview of Mother Goose's fanciful kingdom. It's a beautiful collection that would make a lovely baby shower gift. (Ages 3-8, $15.95)|
|Many of us remember that funny childhood
rhyme THERE ONCE WAS A MAN NAMED MICHAEL FINNEGAN. Mary Ann Hoberman
has taken that simple verse and filled us in on the rest of Michael's life.
He plays his violin-igan, but not very well. In fact people are happy to
put money in his tin-igan to get him to stop. No longer poor, he buys a
car and hops right in-igan to go visit his kin-igan. All is well until
he plays his violin-igan. Too bad he had to begin-igan. Michael finally
finds a new friend, a dog named Quinn, who kisses Michael on his chin-igan
and all ends well. What a delightful romp through this bouncy song, with
energetic watercolor illustrations by Nadine Bernard Westcott. Share
this with young children and they'll insist you begin-igan! The music is
(Ages 3.7, $14.95)
Here’s one trip you’ll never forget. An Amish girl named Hannah is experiencing her first opportunity to travel. She writes her impressions of THE JOURNEY to Chicago every evening in her diary. Sarah Stewart has created a remarkable story sure to touch your heart and your funny bone as Hannah looks around her in wonder. Yet, the sights and sounds remind her of her beloved home. David Small brilliantly shows both what Hannah sees on her trip and, on alternating pages, the scene it inspires as she is reminded of the Amish community. She is amazed by the things she sees. The city has all kinds of people with almost as many colors as the quilts her elders sew. When the week is over, she is happy to return home. She is brave, smart and funny and you’ll wish she were your friend.
(All ages, $16.00)
|An equally inspiring young person is Lateef, who lives in a Nigerian village where there are BIKES FOR RENT! Author Isaac Olaleye spins this sunny tale about a poor boy who longs to ride a bike but has no money to rent one. He is determined and not afraid to work hard, so he saves what he earns and fulfills his dream, learning how to ride on a battered old bike. Babatunde, the stall owner, will not rent him the beautiful, new red bike until he masters the skill, and promises to be very careful. But, in a moment of showing off, the new bike is wrecked and Lateef must work for Babatunde to pay for the needed repairs. Illustrator Chris Demarest’s bright watercolors show this likeable boy making mistakes but doing his best to correct them. Once Lateef has repaid Babatunde, he stays on to earn the pieces for his very own bike. We can all identify with young Lateef and cheer him on to success. (Ages 5-9, $16.95)|
CRACKERS the cat is also looking for a job and just can’t seem to find the right one. The warehouse wanted someone strong and tough-looking. Crackers showed up for his interview in a spiked collar. But he was fired when he gave some scrap wood to a needy mouse. Things looked promising when he applied to be a waiter at a new restaurant. When he seated a family of mice, he lost that job too. Crackers likes mice. They have never bothered him so why not be friendly. What he would really like is to be the assistant at the Squeak & Company Cheese Shop, but will they hire a cat? Things look bleak until all the mice he has helped come to the rescue and Crackers finds the perfect job. Becky Bloom has written a sensitive story about living the Golden Rule and Pascal Biet, who was born in the north of France, captures the European flavor of this tasty tale. (Ages 4-7, $15.95)
|A dog named Touché L’Engle-Franklin writes this book with the
help of an inferior canine named Jo. (Madeline L’Engle may have
helped a little.) The trouble started one summer when the mistress brought
home THE OTHER DOG, which made Touché, well, touchie. After
all, she had been on the stage and was a very talented poodle. Why would
they even want another dog? This new one gets taken out in a carriage,
wears diapers, and sleeps in a fancy bed. She even gets fed several times
a day, when Touché only eats once. It won’t help, she’ll never grow
a beautiful chrysanthe-mummy tail, in fact, she has hardly any hair at
all! But this other dog, now called “Baby”, gets bigger and Touché
has to admit there are signs of intelligence, as Jo “is most interested
in everything I’ve had to say.” In spite of everything, Touché decides
“in every home there should be at least two dogs!” Based on the experience
of the author’s own poodle coping with a baby in the house, the story would
be funny to any child about to become a big brother or sister. The illustrator,
Davenier, has caught all the varied expressions of both dog and baby.
(Ages 5-8, $15.95)
More Picture Books
What can you do when a pig loves to dance? DUMPY LA RUE, by Elizabeth Winthrop, is just such a character that will not be discouraged when his own family insists, “Pigs don’t dance”. Told in rollicking verse, young listeners will want to dance right along with Dumpy as he twirls, cavorts, and glides around the barnyard. Even the normally reticent mule must admit, “He’s a porker with passion, a dancing fool, a pig with rhythm — this breaks every rule.” Before long, all the animals decided to try it, listening for their own music. Betsy Lewin has lots of fun showing the animals cutting loose in a giant conga line. You just may get up and try it yourself! (Ages 4-9, $15.95)
|Don’t sit down just yet! Early one morning GRANDPA’S OVERALLS
hop off their nail and slip out the door, chased by Grandpa who yells,
“Come back here, you rapscallions, I’ve got work to do today!” But those
wayward britches take on a life of their own. Grandpa, in his long underwear,
hightails after them, joined by the rest of the family, through the hen
house, past the apple orchard and clear out of sight. Granny simply rolls
up her sleeves and sets to work, aided by all the neighbors while Grandpa,
unable to get dressed, spends the day reading. Scott Nash uses all
the mayhem to create riotous pictures filled with action. Those wayward
drawers return that evening … just long enough to whisk away Grandma’s
nightgown! This one is a hoot and a holler, told by Tony Crunk.
Have fun reading it aloud.
(Ages 4-7, $15.95)
After Mary Ellen’s house is burned to the ground, and all their possessions are lost, her family has to move in with relatives. BETTY DOLL is created using scraps of material found in Aunt Lois’s cloth box. After Mary Ellen embroiders on a face, she and Betty become inseparable. Mary Ellen and Betty have formal tea parties, pretend to be famous actresses, and share many adventures. One December, a snow storm hits as the children are walking home from school. Huddling under a bridge with one brother as the other goes for help, Mary Ellen discovers that Betty Doll is missing. Their father finds them when he spots the doll on the side of the road. Betty stays with Mary Ellen through college, her first teaching job, and in time is treasured by her children and grandchildren. She is witness to the joys and sorrows of Mary Ellen’s adult life. Betty Doll is found among Mary Ellen’s possessions after her death, wrapped with a letter addressed to her daughter Patricia — a special letter that brings comfort and promises that her mother’s love will never end. Patricia Polacco always tells a wonderful story, frequently drawing upon events from her own family history. Sprinkled with actual family photos, sparingly illustrated in muted shades of gray with touches of color, this book is both loving and lovely.
(All ages, $16.99)
Books for the Preschool Set
Most preschoolers know Kipper and his friends, created by Mick Inkpen,
from their television show on Nickelodeon. In KIPPER’S A TO Z, that
clever dog and Arnold the pig have an alphabet adventure. They wander through
this book collecting things that start with each letter of the alphabet.
In the text, each letter is shown in both upper case and lower case and
used in a sentence, making this a true alphabet book. The bumblebee buzzes
on its way, but they still have the box for their “b” word. Unfortunately,
an elephant won’t fit in the box and a frog jumped away too fast. Undismayed,
they continue on. Children will laugh at the zebra, that keeps asking if
it is his turn yet. Can you guess what they find for ‘x’?
(Ages 3-7, $16.95)
At the end of a busy day, this little bunny just can’t settle down so the whole Rabbit-Bunn family searches for FLORA’S BLANKET. Her siblings offer her their blankets, but it won’t do, she must have her own. Where is it? After checking every room in the house, the search continues outside. Author/illustrator Debi Gliori adds such fun details in her illustrations. One of Flora’s brothers is reading a book as he helps with the search. The headboard on one of the beds has a carrot design as does the refrigerator door handle. Still no blanket, so Flora’s mom and dad tuck her in with them only to discover a mysterious lump under the pillow. See if your little readers notice that the endpapers are the same pattern as Flora’s blanket! (Ages 3-6, $15.95)
|If your little critter is not as calm as those bunnies, you’re going to love GOOD NIGHT, MONKEY BOY by Jarrett J. Krosoczka. You can tell by the child on the cover, dressed in a monkey suit and dishtowel cape, that this little guy won’t give in easily at bedtime. There are a minimum of words but a lot to laugh at in the illustrations as Mom says, “My, look at the time.” Her monkey boy has the usual stalling tactics, a final banana, making faces while brushing his teeth, and swinging from the shower curtain at bath time. Be sure to notice the initials MB embroidered on his cape. He can have a bedtime story, but there are some toys to clean up first. What a whirlwind child, but so loveable you just have to agree with Mom’s final, “I love you, too, Monkey Boy.” The author denies any similarity to himself but knows many monkey boys and girls at the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, where he’s been a counselor for many seasons. Great fun. (Ages 3-6, $14.95)|
Anchors aweigh! How many different kinds of boats can you think of? You’ll find lots of them in THIS BOAT written and illustrated by Paul Collicutt. From a boat in a bottle, to a huge ship being launched, youngsters will be drawn to the colorful drawings showing boats from many countries. Boats may be made from reeds or a tree, they move by paddles or propellers, they break through the ice or glide under it. Some carry cargo, some carry planes, while others pull people or other boats. There are enough here to please any lover of boats. More examples are shown on the endpapers. While the text is sparse, the vocabulary is excellent. (Ages 3-6, $15.00)
|Mama Mouse and Little Mouse are on their way home, passing other animals
settling down for the night. Little Mouse sees how lovingly each baby is
prepared for bed and sighs, “They must be very special.” “Yes,” says Mama
Mouse, “JUST LIKE YOU”. They see a Daddy Frog tucking his froglets
under a lily pad, promising to jump as high as the sky and bring them the
juiciest bugs. Mama Rabbit promises to dig the deepest, secret burrow for
her little ones. Mama Seal promises to swim as deep as the deepest ocean
for her babies. Little Mouse is sure they must all be very special and
in each case Mama Mouse repeats, “just like you.” Little Mouse begins to
wonder what his mother can do for him, worrying he is not as special as
those other babies. Her answer will thrill and delight any child who will
want to hear this story over and over again. Jan Fearnley both wrote
and illustrated this tender tribute to mothers and children everywhere.
(Ages 3-6, $15.99)
More Picture Books
love you, Dad!
You just have to laugh at the cover of MY DAD by Anthony Browne, showing a silly dad dressed in a plaid bathrobe. (Watch for that identifying plaid on the endpapers and throughout the book.) This dad isn’t afraid of anything, even the Big Bad Wolf. He can do amazing stunts, wrestle with giants, and win any race. It is so funny to see the animals he is compared to dressed in that same plaid bathrobe. He may be big as a house, but he’s soft as a teddy bear, and a brilliant singer. No wonder his child loves him so much. The child in the story could be either a son or a daughter. And best of all, they knows their dad loves them and always will. Every dad would appreciate receiving a copy of this one.
(Ages 3-6, $16.00)
|Do you remember that six-foot invisible rabbit named Harvey? Well,
is about that size and the color of ripe raspberries. He just shows up
for a little boy’s birthday (which was actually a week earlier) and proceeds
to play games with his new friend. The boy tells his busy Dad about Ted
but Dad assumes this is an imaginary friend. They get into a bit of hot
water about a “shave” and haircut Ted gives and a huge self-portrait Ted
creates on the wall. When they build Dad an indoor swimming pool which
floods the house, the boy is told he may never play with Ted again. So
he packs up some things and they run away. When Dad finds them, he is reminded
of his own childhood and the friend he knew as Ned. Together they find
his old atomic blaster, buried all these years. Tony DeTerlizzi
both wrote and illustrated this special story of a son who needs a little
help getting his father’s attention.
(Ages 5-8, $16.00)
Once Upon a Time, Revisited
There are lots of versions of Goldilocks and the Three Bears but this is one of the funniest ever. Susan Lowell sets DUSTY LOCKS AND THE THREE BEARS way out west and it’s a real knee-slapper. Three grizzlies mosey off for a walk to let their dinner cool and along comes a dirty little girl named Dusty Locks, whose middle name is Trouble. Barging right in, the little outlaw is dismayed to find one dish chock-full of chili peppers and the other too plain, but the smallest tin is just right. Tuckered out, she tries to sleep on the heap of branches but it’s too itchy and the feather bed is too soft. Fortunately, the straw mattress is comfy. Guess who comes home and is bumfuzzled to find Dusty Locks, who smells a bit “whiffy”, in the bear cub’s bed. Tarnation! You’ll have the best time reading this one aloud! (Ages 4-8, $15.95)
|LEMUEL THE FOOL is a day-dreaming fisherman who longs to find the magical city that must be just over the horizon. Not content with his life, he builds a boat and prepares to sail away. He is sure that as long as he follows the scarf tied on the bow, and the line attached to the stern trails behind him, he must be sailing in the right direction. A great storm arises and Lemuel is knocked unconscious. When he awakens, he considers himself fortunate to be alive and once again follows the scarf tied on the bow until he arrives at “an enchanted village” that looks surprisingly similar to his own. The houses look the same, as do the people, including a woman who seems to be the twin of his own Essie. He resolves to put to sea and return home immediately. Once aboard he falls asleep and awakens as he approaches his own village. His family greets him, “Of course you’re home. Where else in the world could you possibly be?” Myron Uhlberg gently tells the story of this foolish man. Sonja Lamut’s paintings capture Lemuel’s longing for adventure and delight on finding “there’s no place like home”. (Ages 4-8, $15.95)|
Rafe Martin spins a wonderful tale that begins when a prince decides he will only marry a princess he can choose for himself, someone who can tell him a story whose ending he does not know. Far across the sea, a princess tells her parents she will not marry unless she can choose for herself. In fact, she’d rather be washed overboard in a storm. That’s exactly what happens! When she washes ashore, she disguises herself as a sailor and sets off to see the King who has promised a reward to anyone who can tell his son a story whose ending he does not know. The prince knows every story she knows so she makes one up … about a princess who is lost in a storm and shipwrecked. She is enjoying herself so much she hates to bring the story to a close but her parents have arrived, bringing the sad news to the King that their daughter was dead and could not marry his son. This funny story will keep the reader as spellbound as the prince. THE STORY-TELLING PRINCESS is illustrated by Kimberly Bulcken Root in sparkling watercolors that show the picky prince curled up with a good book or caught up in the “sailor’s” adventure. (Ages 5 and up, $15.99)
Easy Beginning Fiction
|Children love to read books about toys that come to life. Melodye Benson Rosales has created the adventures of Minnie from her memories of dolls she loved as a young girl. She is also able to recreate a rich slice of life from Chicago’s past. When Hester’s father, a porter on a Pullman train, returns from a trip down south, he brings her a present from Grandmama Alfie. The little brown rag doll, which Hester names Minnie, is made from the dress her great-great-grandmother was wearing when she was taken from her village in Africa. Minnie is even more special than Hester realizes. She can come to life! On her first night in her new home, Minnie meets the other toys, including Prima Donna and Grumpy Old Bear. MINNIE SAVES THE DAY when she enlists the toys to help her bake a cake for some unexpected company. Following the story is a section titled “Chocolate-covered Memories” that includes real snapshots from Chicago’s African-American history, information about the popular brown dolls, and a recipe for the cake. (Ages 6-9, $12.95)|
This is a fun age to be introduced to mysteries. THE CASE OF THE GASPING GARBAGE by Michele Torrey stars Drake and Nell, a pair of science detectives. The four cases they solve in this book are followed by related activities or experiments. The clever fifth-graders use their wits and their powers of observation to crack the case of the noisy garbage can, save some endangered frogs, help a stuck truck get loose, and decipher a mysterious love letter. There are lots of illustrations by Barbara Johansen Newman to give visual clues. There’s a lot packed into a little over one hundred pages.
(Ages 8-11, $14.99)
|Ralph Fletcher has a way of blending a really good plot with
a main character that wins your heart. Although young River’s father left
when he was a toddler, his uncle, UNCLE DADDY, does all the things
a father would have done, like teaching River to catch a baseball, and
saving bits and pieces of River’s childhood pressed into a huge dictionary.
River has a good life, balanced between his best friend, Taylor, and the
class pest, Ethan … until his father unexpectedly returns and wants to
be a part of it. How can this man think he can just show up and be River’s
daddy? Where does that leave Uncle Daddy? A near tragedy forces everyone
to face old wounds and consider just what family is all about. This thoughtful
novel handles tough issues with humor and compassion.
(Ages 8-12, $15.95)
One day, 9-year-old Lizzie finds her mom’s old typewriter. Her mom had written about her travels around the world, a story for each country she visited. The middle child of divorced parents, Lizzie decides to write about her family, a chapter for each month of the year. These stories, BY LIZZIE, allow her to put into words how she feels about her pesky, copycat baby sister and her older brother, Norman, who thinks it is funny to call her Lizard. The stories weave together and crisscross, as Lizzie tells about Winston, her beloved dog, and the times she shares with her best friend, Carol. Author Mary Eccles writes priceless dialogue between siblings. This may inspire readers to write about their own family, although they are more likely to do so on a computer! (Ages 8-12, $15.99)
Fiction for Older Readers
|As 11-year-old David recovers from a near-fatal illness, the family decides he should be home-schooled by his eccentric Aunt Annie. Her stern appearance reminds David of the mythical Gorgon and “Gawgon” becomes his nickname for her. THE GAWGON AND THE BOY is the account of the year they spend together. David has a vivid imagination. As the Gawgon introduces him to historical and literary figures, he imagines his own hilarious accounts of things. He encounters ‘Percy-us’ in search of the Gawgon’s head, ‘Napoleon Bones-apart’ in Egypt, and Leonardo painting Mona Lisa. As the year passes, David comes to know and love his quirky relative and the feeling is mutual. Their growing fondness is bittersweet as Aunt Annie falls ill. He carries on imaginary conversations with her, even after she is gone. You’ll get hooked on the first sentence and be sad to come to the end. Like David, you’ll never forget the Gawgon. Lloyd Alexander has won many honors for his other books. This may the best one yet. (Age 10+, $17.99)|
Many of us have one particular summer that stands out in our memory. For William it will be THE SUMMER OF RILEY. That was the year he adopted a beautiful dog that helped to fill the very big gap left in his life by his Grandpa’s death. Riley seems to be the perfect companion, bestowing unconditional love on his young master. But, Riley chases Sultan, a neighbor’s horse, and officers from Animal Control impound him. Local law states that any animal that chases livestock must be put to sleep. William and his best friend, Grace, set out on a campaign to convince the commissioners to save Riley and get him back. William’s enemy, a bully named Ellis, stirs up community support to enforce the law. Eve Bunting has written another novel that keeps the reader’s heart pounding, presenting both sides of the issue. You’ll remember this one for a long time. (Ages 8-12, $15.95)
Fantasy Novels from Mermaids to Fairies
Times have been hard at the Capri Beach Club and the owner is getting
ready to close it down. The only regulars are Hailey and Claire, a pair
of 10-year-olds who wanted the summer to go on forever so Claire would
not move away. Hailey loved the water but Claire didn’t like it at all.
Everyday Claire’s grandfather would ask, “What’s new, Susie Q’s?” There
wasn’t much until Hailey spotted something deep down in the overgrown pool.
It is AQUAMARINE, a young mermaid tossed into the pool during a
storm and suffering from hunger and exposure to chlorine. Her temper improves
when she spots Raymond, the college student who works at the Capri and
she enlists the girls’ help to meet him. Author Alice Hoffman must
have known how many of us have dreamed of meeting a real mermaid and becoming
her friend. The book is an excellent summer read that shows how friends
sometimes have to learn to let go and move on. But true friendship lasts
forever. (Age 10 and up, $16.95)
The villagers have all heard about THE TREASURE AT THE HEART OF THE TANGLEWOOD, but no one knows for sure just what it is. Young Brown Hannah serves the Magician who dwells there, pulling living flowers and herbs from her hair to brew him a powerful potion. People come to her for healing, but she cannot remember her childhood or her family. Her companions are a badger, a magpie, and some playful otters. Knights ride into the Tanglewood to challenge the Wizard, but they never come back. Hannah weakens the potions she creates and is able to flee the Tanglewood and the evil wizard. As she travels the countryside, she finds that her unusual clothing has turned to green and then russet. The flowers in her hair go from springtime blossoms to harvest fruits and nuts. The land she travels is affected as well, breaking free from eternal winter, and the people prepare for the coming of a special maiden. Popular author Meredith Ann Pierce brings us this enchanting tale, her first in five years. It is well worth the wait!
(Age 12 and up, $16.99)
|When Rosemary’s mother is killed by the lord’s henchmen, she must leave
her home and find her way to her father, an outlaw she has never met. Although
he has a price on his head, her mother assured her he is good to the poor.
Thinking that an outlaw’s camp would be an unfit place for a girl, she
disguises herself as a boy and changes her name to ROWAN HOOD. On
her journey, she is joined by a wolf-dog she names Tykell, which means
arrow. Rowan has some of her mother’s elfin blood and she is aided by the
old ones, who give her special arrows called Elf-bolts. When at last she
finds Robin Hood, she does not tell him who she is, wanting to see for
herself what type of man he is. Author Nancy Springer has brought
familiar characters together in this fantasy adventure and added a few
new ones readers will enjoy. She presents a believable view of life among
the outlaws in Sherwood Forest and a different side of their famous leader.
(Ages 8-12, $16.99)
Ago and Far Away
Sarah Louisa, influenced by a storybook heroine, decides to run away from her father’s harsh discipline and an unwelcome suitor to become a GIRL IN BLUE. It is 1861, the army is signing up any recruits they can find, so she cuts her hair, dons boys’ clothing and renames herself Neddy Compton. She can outshoot most of the other recruits but ends up assigned to a hospital unit. At one point, she is forced into combat and must kill or be killed. When a doctor sees through her disguise, he introduces her to Allen Pinkerton and she is offered the chance to continue serving in the secret service. Author Ann Rinaldi creates an intelligent, plucky young woman who chooses to create her own destiny and then must deal with the consequences. (Ages 8-13, $15.95)
|Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler research their subjects so well that
they can slip in lots of neat information about another time period. THE
DEMON IN THE TEAHOUSE is a mystery set in feudal Japan. In an earlier
book, The Ghost in the Tokaido Inn, we met young Seikei, an observant
boy who helps a judge solve a series of murders. In this story, he has
been adopted by the Judge and is anxious to prove himself as a samurai.
Someone has been killing geishas and Seikei poses as a teahouse attendant
to try to catch the murderer. A good mystery feeds you just enough clues
to make you think you know “who done it” and then throws in an unexpected
twist. This one will keep you reading right up to the last page!
(Age 10 and up, $17.99)
Suggestions for Little Artists
There are those who think they just can’t draw or be creative. Not so!
Set them down with Ed Emberley’s FINGERPRINT DRAWING BOOK,
some paper, colorful inkpads, and watch them go! Who could resist using
fingerprints to make the train shown on the cover, or that fabulous lion
on the title page? The book starts out with simple instructions and a list
of materials for making your unique pictures. Turn the page and start right
in with bees in a garden, or animals for a pond, or bean buddies. It’s
so easy and so much fun you’ll want to make these all year round! Use these
ideas as a jumping off point and there’s no end to the fun you can have
and how creative you will feel. (All ages, $15.95; $7.95 paper)
If you like working with natural materials, BERRY SMUDGES AND LEAF PRINTS, by Ellen B. Senisi, shows how to find and make colors from nature. Color touches us in so many ways. Think of team colors or the colors of the flag. Early man painted murals on cave walls using colors made from natural sources. The ideas in this book can help you make “Berry Nice Wrapping Paper”, a sun catcher for your window, or a beautiful weaving. Projects are presented in color groups. For example, the purple section shows how to make a bookmark using pressed purple flowers. There is an interesting history of how colors have been used and answers to some commonly asked questions. This book offers enough ideas to try all summer long! (Ages 3-6, $16.99)
People, Real Places, Real Things
Do you like to read about people who set records? In J. Patrick Lewis’s
book, A BURST OF FIRSTS, you’ll meet lots of doers, shakers, and
record breakers. Like Susan Montgomery Williams, shown on the cover, who
blew the world’s largest bubble gum bubble (23 inches wide!). On July 20,
1969, Neil Armstrong stepped off his spaceship and became the first man
on the moon. Can you guess the first King of Rock ‘n’ Roll? Elvis, of course.
(Thank you, very much). There are many who were first in their sports,
like golfer Babe Zaharias and boxer Muhammed Ali. There were those who
showed great courage in being the first of their race to integrate a school,
like Ruby Bridges, or win the Nobel Prize for Literature, like poet Toni
Morrison. Some chose curious things to be “first” in, like Anna Taylor,
who was the first to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel — and survive. The
accounts are told in rhyme and the illustrations are colorful and fun.
Check out the first house of cards made with more than 500 decks!
Sharon Robinson has brought together JACKIE’S NINE, an anthology that describes the nine values that helped her famous ballplayer Dad achieve his goals. Each of these — courage, determination, teamwork, persistence, integrity, citizenship, justice, commitment and excellence — is illustrated in stories by and about people who have lived those qualities. Some of those people are familiar: Muhammed Ali, Michael Jordan, Christopher Reeve and Oprah Winfrey. Some are relatively unknown. Each chapter includes a scene from Ms. Robinson’s life and another from her Dad’s to help show that principle. There are photos to go with each story. What an inspiring book to share with young people. These are the very qualities we would love to see brought forth in all families and classrooms. (Grades 5 and up, $15.95)
|Just 200 years ago, giant bones were discovered in a peat bog in New
York. No one had ever seen anything like them and since scientists could
not identify the creature, they called it THE GREAT UNKNOWN. Taylor
Morrison goes back farther in time to when herds of American mastodons
roamed the Hudson River Valley. Glaciers covered much of the state and
these hairy elephant-like mammoths fed on the spruce and pine trees growing
in the valley. Many got stuck in the peat bogs and their skeletons were
preserved in the wet clay. These massive bones were first uncovered in
1799, pulled from the ground by teams of oxen. It was Charles Willson Peale,
founder of America’s foremost natural history museum, who set out to find
a complete skeleton. What an interesting history mystery this book unravels.
Solving it proved that animals could become extinct as the bones existed
but the animals were long gone. Strangest of all, Peale’s find disappeared
in the late 1840s only to reappear in 1953 in Germany where it had been
secretly shipped. A helpful glossary is included.
(Ages 6-10 ,$16.00)
What can be cuter than pandas? A LITTLE PANDA, named Hua Mei, was born at the San Diego Zoo in 1999. Joanne Ryder chronicles this adorable baby’s first year with stunning photos. Did you know that at birth, a baby panda is more than 800 times smaller than her mother? Panda cubs are born blind and cannot see for 50 to 60 days. 100 days after her birth, she is given her name, which means “China-USA” and “splendid beauty.” Visitors could see her playing outside in the beautiful Giant Panda Research Station exhibit when she was five months old. What a charmer! Everything is interesting to her and she loves to play. Hua Mei will stay with her mother for about 18 months and then live by herself, as she would have in the wild. Fewer than one thousand pandas survive in the world today. Books like this one will inspire us all to keep these animals from becoming extinct. (Age 5-8, $16.95)
|There’s a really big bug on the cover of WHAT’S THAT BUG?, a
book about everyday insects and their really cool cousins by Nan Froman.
It begins with an introduction to the system entomologists use to name
insects, placing insects in groups by comparing their body parts. Each
two-page spread shows one of these groups, giving their name and a comment.
For example, Odonata are the dragonflies and damselflies — flying dinosaurs
of the bug world. Orthoptera includes crickets, grasshoppers, and Katydids
— singers and jumpers. The text is lively and interesting, filled with
facts and history. Many of the insects are shown larger than life with
an example of their actual size for comparison. These large pictures allow
the bug enthusiast to see their features in detail. Lepidoptera — butterflies
and moths — are the shimmering beauties of the air while Diptera —flies,
gnats and mosquitoes — are often annoying and sometimes dangerous. Kids
will pour over the pages. A recommended reading list, all age appropriate,
(Ages 8-12, $16.95)
Looking Ahead to the First Day of School
|That first day of kindergarten can be scary, so many schools invite the students to visit before school starts. In WELCOME TO KINDERGARTEN, Anne Rockwell shows a shy little boy and his mom going to Mrs. Jardin’s kindergarten, which seems BIG, but mom is sure “it’s just big enough to learn all sort of things.” There is a science center to learn about plants and animals. The art center has a place to paint or work with clay. The little boy’s smile is getting wider as he tries the math center, the reading center, and the weather center. It’s enough to make you want to go back there yourself! This book would offer lots of reassurance for any child hesitant to take this important step. (Ages 3-5, $15.95)|
Tomie dePaola’s newest characters, twins Moffat and Morgan, make their debut in MEET THE BARKERS. With school just a week away, Moffie is the bossy one insisting Morgie get organized. Moffie is the older twin and she usually does things first. That’s fine with Morgie who walked when he was ready and barked when he was ready. Moffie knows just which backpack and pencil box she wants. Morgie has a harder time. The twins are in the same class where Moffie speaks up but Morgie makes a new friend. All week long, Moffie earns gold stars but the teacher must take her aside requesting her to stop calling out all the right answers so the other children can answer too. Told to run along and play with her friends, Moffie realizes she hasn’t made any. Unfortunately, when both she and another student named Sally decide to build a tower with blocks, they both want to build the tallest one. Morgie comes along with the perfect solution, allowing the girls to join forces. The twins decide that they LOVE school. Tomie dePaola draws upon his own experiences for many of his stories. The Barkers are based on four lively Welsh terriers that share his home. There will be more adventures with Morgie and Moffie, sure to please younger readers. The topics will offer good discussion topics between parents and children. (Ages 3-5, $13.99)
|Tomorrow will be LITTLE CLIFF’S FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL. Everyone seems to be smiling except Little Cliff who is unhappy with his knee-high stockings and new brown shoes. “Cliff, don’t step on my nerves,” says Mama Pearl. He has concerns about Miss Maxey’s school where he will be expected to sit quietly and work hard. He doesn’t want to leave his great-grandparents and all the familiar things around their home. When they arrive, he sees all his friends and everyone seems to shout at once. Could it be that school might be fun? Mama Pearl finds herself laughing and crying at the same time, emotions we can all identify with. Clifton L. Taulbert and E. B. Lewis collaborated on an earlier book, Little Cliff and the Porch People. Between them, they capture the loving family cherishing this little boy growing up in the rural South of the 1950s. Many children approach first grade with caution. This book will show how someone just like them succeeded. (Ages 5-8, $15.99)|
An innovative place to tuck a poem for your child can be found in LUNCH BOX MAIL And Other Poems by Jenny Whitehead. Divided into sections, “Training Wheels” contains poems about those first experiences like starting school, losing a tooth, and learning to read. “In Full Swing!” deals with a getting a bad haircut, being in a dance recital, or going to the zoo. “Appeteasers” is really fun, where the poems center around food like Daddy’s spaghetti, carrots (no, thank you), and things that tickle your tastebuds. The final section helps your listener in “Winding Down” at the end of the day. Be prepared to read these again and again. You might even copy the lunchroom rules on the back cover to tuck into someone’s lunch box! (Ages 4-9, $16.95)