Summer 2003  ShoppeTALK
San Marino Toy and Book Shoppe 

Summer reading has never been better. Below are reviews of some of the books that have caught our fancy; picture books about roller coasters, wedding dresses, remedies for homesickness, and the thrill of picking apples in the late summer sunshine. And we have novels about the pangs and hardships of growing up, mysteries, and fantasies all told with fresh and vibrant writing. We love to hear about your favorites too. So stop in and let’s talk books.

Summer Wishes and Picture Book Dreams
Summer and amusement parks seem synonymous to any of us who grew up with four seasons. However on Marla Frazee’s ROLLER COASTER anyone can ride any time of year. She gives us the view of an amused onlooker and simultaneously gets us on board the dipping, diving, dizzying, stomach churning ROLLER COASTER. Browse her lively lineup of folks waiting their turn for a trip on the “Rocket,” which she paints in a two-page spread. We can see why some of her folks opt out of the line. But one reluctant first-time passenger hangs in there for the whole experience and is ready to go again. For some of us, just re-reading Frazee’s entertaining book is about the best way to experience another ride on the ROLLER COASTER.
(Ages 3–8, $16.00)
Anyone who ever experienced the pangs of homesickness may wish they’d had their own version of THE SECRET REMEDY BOOK; A Story of Comfort and Love. That’s the book that helps Lolly get through her first day of her projected month-long stay at Auntie Zep’s. In the past the whole family had visited the small farm. Now Lolly is old enough to stay with her aunt by herself. But after her family drops her off, Lolly feels sad and lonely. Wise Auntie Zep knows just what is needed. Together they unearth the old book from a well-traveled trunk. Its pages, brittle with age, list the seven remedies to be accomplished “before the first hoot of an owl”. Wendy Anderson Halperin whose detailed watercolors make us wish we could discover the places she paints so we could live there too, illustrates this gentle story by Karen Cates. (Ages 4–9, $16.95)
Every so often a book is published we would love to give every new parent. WISHES FOR YOU is such a book. Tobi Tobias’s words, a prayer from the heart, wish for a child to have “moments … so happy, you’ll feel the sun is shining from inside” … wishes for curiosity, luck, a love of reading, and to not “forget how to be silly.” It’s a lovely text that could be read at a Christening, a Bar Mitzvah, or anytime you want to have a special cuddle with the little ones in your life. Henri Sorensen provides the paintings for this oh so lovely book.  (Ages 3++, $15.99)
Lee Wardlaw takes the classic peek-a-boo game and turns it into a clever, “lift-the-flap bedtime rhyme”, PEEK-A-BOOK. Each of the sturdy pages has a peek-a-possibility as a toddler begins to prepare for bedtime. On the last page he is fast asleep in his crib, and so is the moon hiding behind the window curtains. Melissa Sweet’s appealing gouache illustrations reveal a smiling and relaxed household. (Ages 1–3, $10.99)
Transition is tough. Consider a milestone moment like moving from a crib to a real bed. Eve Bunting addresses the difficult realization that sometimes, along with growing up, there are things we grow out of. In this charming picture book, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter with pen and ink and digital media, LITTLE BEAR’S LITTLE BOAT is no longer large enough for a growing bear. Little Bear is very sad when his mother explains it is a bear’s “destiny” to grow, and a boat’s destiny to remain the same. Little Bear becomes Big Bear and he searches for another little bear to use the boat. He cautions the new bear that someday he too will outgrow the boat and then he must find another little bear that can use the boat.  (Ages 2–6, $12.00)
We know it’s hard to believe that a book about growing a garden could be titled THE STORY OF FROG BELLY RAT BONE. But then nothing is conventional about Timothy Basil Ering’s picture book with his scritchy scratchy acrylics that are more mood than image. “Frog Belly” is an unlikely hero, a scarecrow of sorts, created by a boy to guard a treasure. The boy doesn’t quite know what the treasure is, but he knows he is supposed to put little specks into the earth and somehow the treasure will emerge. When thieves steal his first planting, he designs a monster from smelly socks, moldy pillow stuffing and scraggly wires and a crown. He dubs him “king of the Treasures, Frog Belly Rat Bone, one, two, three,” and the rest, as they say, is history. This is a zany book, and yes, it can be incorporated into a gardening curriculum for a bit of comic relief while the kids are waiting for their own planted treasures to emerge. (Ages 4–9, $16.99)
What can be better than visiting an apple orchard? Think of the taste of crisp apples picked at the peak of freshness, heady apple perfume wafting in the late summer breeze, and bright splashes of red, yellow, green and pink apples weighing down the branches. These all come together in Jody Fickes Shapiro’s UP, UP, UP! IT’S APPLE PICKING TIME. Myles and his sister Amber travel with their parents to their Grandparents’ ranch nestled in a San Luis Obispo County apple-growing canyon where they help pick apples. The next day is “apple-selling time” when people drive out to the countryside to buy fresh apples. Artist Kitty Harvill’s colorful collages offer up a bushel and a peck of warm family interaction. (Ages 4–8, $16.95  Note: Reviewed by LJW)
Bride alert! Dear readers, you must rescue any bride of your acquaintance from the potential perils so described within the pages of THE WEDDING DRESS MESS. Herein lays the tale of seamstress Filomena who forgoes romantic rides in the countryside with her Filippo so she could work on the wedding dress of her dreams. And finally, when the happy day arrives, the “masterpiece” is so over the top, it nearly ruins the wedding. Author Beatrice Masini and illustrator Anna Laura Cantone (playful collage art) have sent their warnings from Europe’s fashion center in Milan, Italy. Lenny Hort adapted the text. The rest is up to you. Do not procrastinate. (Ages 4–Grownups, especially ones with white tulle, satin, beading, and lace on their minds! – $15.95)
Murphy’s a hairy little terrier, a barking, shoe-chewing scamp of a dog who, with the able assistance of author/illustrator Alice Provensen provides us with an amusing A DAY IN THE LIFE OF MURPHY on the farm. We see him cadging scraps in the kitchen, barely tolerating a visit to the vet (a great two-paged tableau of the waiting room with Murphy looking slightly terrified), and his frenetic pre-bedtime barking session in the farmyard. The text is set in capital letters and will make an appealing read-alone or read-aloud. (Ages 3–7, $16.95) 
Poor ARNIE THE DOUGHNUT. Imagine the shock of it. Thinking he is created to provide loving companionship to someone when in fact he was made to be devoured. Arnie, with his fancy multi-colored sprinkles, is in for a terrible moment when he finds himself “headed straight for Mr. Bing’s Open Mouth!” Arnie shouts, “What are you doing?” He learns the sad truth that all doughnuts are made to be eaten. However Mr. Bing has a change of heart and decides because of his chat with Arnie he won’t eat him after all. But then what does one do with a doughnut? Laurie Keller’s zany story offers up lots of possibilities. We don’t think the story will put anyone off of enjoying baked goods but this would be a funny companion book to read along with a glass of milk and a gingerbread man cookie. (Ages 4–9, $16.95)
David McPhail wrote and illustrated HENRY BEAR’S PARK over two dozen years ago. A few years back it went out of print but like a good friend often does, it has reappeared, and in full color besides. Henry Bear’s father is a balloon ascensionist. (Yes that word is in the book.) One day on a test flight Poppa Bear discovers a park for sale and sells his car in order to buy it. Henry Bear takes over the upgrades and maintenance while his father takes off on an extended trip. With so much to do in the park to keep it maintained, Henry Bear hires a helper and moves into a tree house. Momma visits regularly with jelly cakes. It’s a quirky book but very satisfying as an early fantasy for kids. Adults will enjoy spotting little surprises hiding in the park.
(Ages 4–8, $16.95) 
Writing poetry is the easy part, for Natalie. She’s a natural. The challenge comes when her teacher takes her to a poetry reading. Standing up at a microphone in front of an audience of fellow poets produces silence. She’s “like a bird who’s lost its voice,” wishing she could “fly far, far away.” On the bus, on the way home, she senses a change, “I feel like A BIRD ABOUT TO SING.” She recites. Cheers and applause are her reward. Her fellow poets ride the bus, too. Laura Nyman Montenegro eloquently conveys the tender spirit of a talented youngster conquering her shyness to share her gift of words. Even the soft watercolors celebrate the magic of that significant moment. (Ages 5+, $15.00)

Picture Songbooks
A Good Singalong Helps Stave Off the “Aren't We There Yet” Blues
There are two new songbooks to inspire your gang in the car, around a campfire, or anywhere you feel like it.
Frane Lessac’s collection, CAMP GRANADA; Sing-Along Camp Songs, is a comprehensive, colorfully illustrated collection of words to traditional camp songs, about three dozen to keep a group singing for an hour or so. Rowdy songs like “Do Your Ears Hang Low,” and quiet time songs like “Kum Ba Yah.” Pack this one in the duffel bag of a first-time camper or counselor or bring it to the family reunion. (All ages, $18.95) 
A couple of years ago, when Alan Katz shook the traditional words out of some of our favorite songs and filled the tunes back up with his own silly rhymes, we giggled our way through “Take Me Out of the Bathtub” (bet you can guess what tune you sing that one to). Once again he has paired up with illustrator David Catrow to bring us a second volume, I’M STILL HERE IN THE BATHTUB; Brand New Silly Dilly Songs. It’s a great change of pace at a sing-along. Accept the entertaining challenge of trying out traditional tunes like “The Alphabet Song” with it’s Katzified title, “Aunt Bea Says”, or belt out “He’s Got the Whole Beach in his Pants.” (Ages 2–8++ and willing adults, $15.95)

Fiction for all Ages

This is definitely a summer rich with page-turning fiction. Yes, we know the third week in June millions of pages of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix will be read by millions of thrilled readers. But then, in the days that follow the reading, and re-reading of J K Rowling’s phenomenally successful series, there is a luxurious abundance of excellent writing to be enjoyed in the hours of summer leisure.

Xiao Jimmy and his grandmother, Ni Ni, are kindred spirits. He loves visiting her house after school, making dumplings with her and talking about her childhood in Shanghai before she came to America. When an invitation comes to Ni Ni from Jimmy’s Auntie Helen in California for grandmother to move from Cincinnati to San Francisco, Jimmy is sad to see her go. Until she leaves, Jimmy avoids spending much time hanging out with the only other boy in their neighborhood but now that Ni Ni is gone, Jimmy starts learning how to be a better friend. And when Auntie Helen sends for Jimmy to visit Ni Ni, he helps his grandmother overcome her shyness in her new city. Andrea Cheng’s THE KEY COLLECTION, with black and white illustrations by Yangsook Choi, is a gentle story nicely formatted to appeal to readers ready for a chapter book. Try out the recipe for Jiao Zi (dumplings) ahead of time. It will be a great appetizer before the book is read. (Ages 8–12, $15.95) 
Wizards-in-training have to go to school. That’s something we all know about. And they are taught by wizard teachers. And they have summer vacations and muck about. But what do the wizard teachers do? That is the premise of Vivian Vande Velde’s WIZARD AT WORK. Summer vacation gives a young wizard school teacher an opportunity to garden in his little farm near the village of Saint Wayne the Stutterer. But immediately he has an unprovoked tiff with a witch at the local blacksmithy. His summer is continuously interrupted by people like the prince who needs his help to free the princess from a dragon. His final good deed makes the summer worthwhile after all. Vande Velde has strung together a series of humorous short stories about a be-leaguered wizard and his madcap petitioners. In a world in need of some chuckles, this is a welcome read.(Ages 8–12, younger for reading aloud, $16.00) 
“How’d you like to come and stay with me in the big city of Gloria for a while? I have to make thirty gorilla suits this summer and I’m going to go nuts unless I have someone to keep me company.” Aunt Bridget’s invitation sets the stage for a life changing experience for Willy. Willy, the kid who resists sports, “detests” baseball actually, is drafted as a first baseman for an informal team that practices in Gill Park across the street from Aunt Bridget’s apartment. Gill Park, although privately owned, is a lively center for an entire community and houses far more than a baseball team. Unfortunately, its eccentric owner, Otto Pettingill has been persuaded by unscrupulous developers to sell the park. Willy becomes a key player among the protesters who don’t want the park replaced by a shopping mall. THE GORILLAS OF GILL PARK’s author, Amy Gordon, has created an interesting cast of characters in this humorous, multi-layered novel. 
(Ages 8–13, $16.95) 
THE CAPTURE is the first book in a new series, Guardians of Ga’Hoole by Kathryn Lasky. The author’s first idea was to write a non-fiction book about owls, illustrated with photographs. However, owls being nocturnal and hard to find, she set another course for herself with a great outcome for her readers. Soren, a Barn Owl, is the middle hatchling. Older brother Kludd is a brute, but baby sister Eglantine is delightful. Life in the family’s nest is one happy ceremony after another until the fateful night Soren falls from the nest. Snatched by a renegade band of owls and carried off to their canyon hideaway, he is enslaved. It’s a bleak, dreadful place that tolerates no questions and demands total conformity. Soren and another captive, Gylfie, an Elf Owl are determined to escape but they must bide their time until Soren’s flight feathers grow. We’re looking forward to the next installment. Lasky weaves fascinating natural history into her imaginative story.
(Ages 7–12, $4.99 paperback)
Medieval England is the setting for D. Anne Love’s novel about an orphaned scullery maid named Mouse. Mouse runs away from Dunstan Manor in order to avoid more punishment at the hands of the sour-tempered cook. Although she has never ventured far from the manor where she had been abandoned as an infant, she finds life on the road a great relief after the tedious work in the kitchen. And when she convinces the itinerant and mysterious puppeteer to take her on as THE PUPPETEER’S APPRENTICE she knows she has discovered her true life’s calling. Love’s novel gives young readers an inside look at the ancient art of puppetry in this appealing novel. 
(Ages 8–12, $16.95) 
Even though Sid Fleischman’s latest, DISAPPEARING ACT, is set on the sunny shores of a Southern California beach town in present time, the story has some curious similarities to Love’s novel of the Middle Ages. For starters, Kevin Kidd is a runaway orphan and earns his keep by passing the hat for entertainers except these buskers work the Venice boardwalk instead of the medieval fairs. However Kevin is protected by his sister Holly. They have run away from a mysterious stalker who robbed their house in New Mexico after their mother was presumed dead in an earthquake. They’ve fled to California, changed their names and bleached their hair to avoid discovery. Fleischman writes a fast paced novel and is a genius when it comes to snappy dialogue and humorous interaction. 
(Ages 8–12, $15.99)
Odo Hirsch’s humorous novel, HAZEL GREEN, originally published in Australia to critical acclaim, is a welcome breath of fresh air and a tasty treat to read alone or aloud. Hazel is an early riser. She loves to stand on the balcony of her apartment building, twelve stories up, and survey the city before almost anyone else is awake. From the street below she is greeted by Mr. Volio, the baker. He invites her down to his shop to taste and name the marvelous new pastry he plans to unveil on the day of the city’s annual Frogg Day parade. As she leaves his shop, sworn to secrecy about the newly created “Chocolate Dipper,” a chance remark about Hazel marching in the annual parade starts her thinking. All these years of her childhood there never have been any children in the parade. And Hazel wonders why not. And then the irrepressible Hazel sets things in motion, convincing first the other children in her apartment building and then the parade organizers that children should be permitted to march. Even the near fiasco of their parade float’s flawed design doesn’t discourage Hazel. 
(Ages 8–12, $14.95)
The second title on this summer’s “must read” list from Australia is THE SLIGHTLY TRUE STORY OF CEDAR B. HARTLEY (WHO PLANNED TO LIVE AN UNUSUAL LIFE). It’s a first novel for picture book author, Martine Murray, and is a delight. The cheeky language is rich as she evokes a working class Melbourne neighborhood with all its multicultural and economic diversity. Twelve-year old Cedar, telling us about her name says, “it’s a kind of tree and my mother was in a deep hippie phase when I was born.” Since her own popular brother Barnaby was sent away, most of the kids in the neighborhood orbit around obnoxious Harold who is the richest kid on the block and has a swimming pool. Cedar is not one of those kids. Her friends are people like shy Carmello Zito, and the widow Ricci. When Cedar’s dog Stinky goes missing, her “lost dog” notice leads to a friendship with Kite, the son of circus acrobats. The two of them start hanging out together and Kite begins to show Cedar some acrobat routines and ultimately they put together a show to raise money for a worthy cause. Murray’s drawings are interspersed through the text. They illustrate moves for the kids’ routines as well as other amusing bits like how Stinky looks when wet and the before and after of Cedar’s curly red hair when her mom gives her an affectionate head rub. If books were people, this would be a generous, kindly-spirited, genuinely honest sort of bloke. In any case we’re glad we met up with it and happy it’s kept its original Australian terminology. There’s a glossary at the back for “words that Cedar thinks you should be sure about.” (Ages 10–14, $15.95)
Well Australia may have spunky Cedar, but here we have the intrepid Sammy Keyes. She’s the creation of Wendelin Van Draanen. Samantha (Sammy to her friends) lives with her grandmother in a senior apartment. Sammy isn’t supposed to live there since she is way underage but her mother has pretty much dumped her with her grandmother and taken off for Hollywood. Although she would hate any comparison, she’s a modern day version of Nancy Drew. She seems fated to get herself into mysterious situations, sometimes life threatening ones. Her latest adventure, SAMMY KEYES AND THE ART OF DECEPTION is a send up of the art world filled with poseurs and imposters. Sammy’s school assignment to visit an art show opening sets off the mystery. Van Draanen is such a clever writer that young readers looking for a “fast food” read, get way more nutrition than they bargained for, and enjoy every tasty bite. (Ages 10–14, $15.95; and Sammy Keyes and the Search for Snake Eyes has just been released  in paperback in time for summer reading, Ages 10–14, $4.99.) 
Gary Paulsen’s contribution to our summer of entertaining reading, THE GLASS CAFÉ; Or the Stripper and the State, How My Mother Started a War with the System that Made Us Kind of Rich and a Little Bit Famous, is the longest title of the season for one of our funniest and shortest books. Paulsen, in an introductory note to the reader, says  once upon a time he really knew a kid like Tony and his mom. Tony is twelve years old and a gifted artist. His mother, a single parent, is working her way through college and raising Tony by working as an exotic dancer at the Glass Café. And sometimes Tony hangs out backstage, sketching the other dancers who work there. When some of Tony’s drawings are entered into an art show, a social services agency starts investigating and things begin to go awry. Paulsen’s amusing story is told from Tony’s point of view. (Ages 10+, $12.95)
Sahara’s secret ambition is to be a writer. At the moment, in fifth grade for the second year, the only writing she does she hides behind the 940’s in the library stacks. In school she writes nothing because it might end up in her file in the principal’s office just like all the letters she wrote to her father in third grade, asking him to come home. But a miracle is about to happen for this appealing child. Into her life, in this repeat of fifth grade, comes a most unconventional and gifted teacher. Miss Pointy makes her students write a daily journal, reads to them, hands them poetry, uses big words, shoots “from the hip,” and says “‘boring’ is a swear word.” SAHARA SPECIAL is indeed a special novel written by former teacher, Esmé Raji Codell. In many respects this first novel is the companion piece to her memoir, Educating Esmé; Diary of a Teacher’s First Year, published in 1999. A third book coming this summer is reviewed at the end of the Newsletter reviews. (Sahara Special – Ages 9–13++, $15.99;  Educating Esmé — Ages 13–Adult, $10.95)
Sturdy twelve-year-old RODZINA, the last survivor of her Polish-immigrant family, is part of a motley crew headed west on an orphan train. Their chaperones are “the boss”, Mr. Szprot, a cigar chomping placement agent whose job is to find homes for the twenty plus kids who have been rounded up from the streets and orphanages of Chicago for this trip. The other is cold, steely-eyed Miss Doctor who makes RODZINA responsible for several of the older children. Prickly and independent, RODZINA is an unwilling traveler on this adventure but is determined to make the best of it. Author Karen Cushman’s latest historical fiction, set in 1881, offers an unromantic look at the orphan train experience. As she has done in her previous award-winning novels, grim realities are balanced with humor and hopeful outcomes. 
(Ages 10–14, $16.00)
Eleven-year-old Maddie Byers, abandoned as an infant, raised by an elderly neighbor lady for her first eight years, is a recent resident of the East Tennessee Children’s Home. Although she calls herself a “plain-Jane” sort of girl no one would want to adopt, she’s a kind-hearted person who looks after Ricky Ray, a sweet six-year old who also lives at the home. She collects pictures cut from magazines and pastes them into notebooks which Ricky Ray loves to look through while she tells him stories. When feisty Murphy arrives Maddie is intrigued by this gruff, bright secretive girl. Murphy forms an alliance with one of their school mates, a bright, lonely boy named Logan. Murphy, Maddie, little Ricky Ray and Donita join up with Logan to build a fort on the back of Logan’s property and for a while it becomes their center. But things change abruptly. Frances O’Roark Dowell’s WHERE I’D LIKE TO BE explores not only the loneliness that afflicts abandoned kids like Maddie, but also the intricacies of friendship and of acceptance. (Ages 9–13, $15.95) 
Warning: If you take Susanna Vance’s DEEP to the beach, you’d better have an umbrella. If you begin to read it before bedtime, you better not plan on sleeping until you finish. Perfect, protected and adored Birdie Sidwell, age thirteen, is about to embark on an adventure of a lifetime. Her parents have planned an idyllic sabbatical on a remote Caribbean island where Birdie will be away from the asthma-inducing mold of their small rainy town in Oregon. Somewhere in the Caribbean is another young woman, seventeen-year- old Morgan Bera. She is alone on a sailboat. It had been her parents’ boat but she has abandoned them. She has left them behind in a port town in Panama to drink themselves into oblivion. How Birdie and Morgan end up at the same place at the same time at the mercy of a thoroughly evil modern-day pirate makes for a thrilling read. (Ages 13++, $17.99)
National Book Award-winning author, Kimberly Willis Holt has written a stunning novel, KEEPER OF THE NIGHT, set in Guam. Isabel’s family is trying to pick up the pieces of their lives after their mother’s suicide. Isabel, in her early teens, carries the burden of replacing her mother. Her father, so wrapped up in his own mourning, is emotionally absent. With the help of an aunt, Isabel looks after her seven-year old sister, Olivia, but cannot deal with her brother Frank who closes down completely, shutting out his friends and family. On the night of the annual fiesta, in the midst of celebrating, the family discovers Frank has passed out while cutting himself. His desperate act marks the turning point for the family. While he is hospitalized, Isabel and Olivia are also given counseling with Frank’s therapist and their father gradually resumes his role as parent. Holt’s richly conceived story is told through Isabel’s short entries in a notebook. She is a list maker, a storyteller, keeping track of everything and everyone. Holt says that as a youngster her father’s military career took them to Guam where she spent her fifth- and sixth-grade years. As an adult she revisited and felt compelled to write a book incorporating the island and its Chamorro culture. She has written a story that, despite the grim topic, is simply a beautiful experience to read. 
(Ages 12 to adult, $16.95) 

A Powerful, Exquisite Story
It is a rare author whose work addresses the soul-searing tragedies of the human condition and provides an honest sense of hope. It is a more formidable challenge to keep it within the emotional grasp of a young adult. Alice Hoffman’s GREEN ANGEL is an exquisite gift to the reader. Green narrates the story of her own searing loss, of a disaster that strikes in the town while her parents and sister are there to sell the produce from their country garden. She is left without family. Ashes rain down on her garden and burn her eyes. She retreats into the forest for food and avoids other people. Gradually as the skies clear, she starts to emerge from her isolation. As she reaches out to other survivors of the disaster, her healing begins. She says, “My heart was opening.” And then she can begin to tell the story of what she has lost, her grief and the person she is becoming. Anyone who has experienced loss can connect with Hoffman’s powerful story. The book’s design with its intriguing cover and trim size feels inviting, almost comforting in its mystery of what lies within. 
(Ages 13–Adult, $16.95) 

Four seasons of poetry take a SWING AROUND THE SUN as four artists, Cheng-Khee Chee, Janice Lee Porter, Mary GrandPre and Stephen Gammell, illustrate the poems of the late Barbara Juster Esbensen. Chee’s watercolor washes provide the gray wetness of early spring as Esbensen’s words evoke a world awakening from winter’s grip in “The Return,” “The tip-tap-tup/Of icicles”. Porter spreads a density of yellow pastel, a backdrop to Esbensen’s “Yellow,” of a summer’s day. GrandPre uses the intensity of pastel chalk to capture the red-gold of autumn. And from Gammell’s brush come the icy whites and shadows of “stiff black trees.” The publisher has reprinted most of a collection originally published in 1965. The artwork is new. (Ages 3–8, $16.95) 

Titles for kids who like real things...

SPINNING SPIDERS by Melvin Berger is one of the latest titles in a long running, outstanding series of Let’s Read and Find Out Science books. The publisher ranks the difficulty of the books based on sophistication of concept. Spinning Spiders is considered a “stage two” level of difficulty, i.e. intended for children in the early primary grades. However we know that if a child is interested in a topic, the arbitrary designations are merely guidelines and should not be a deterrent. Like the other titles in this wide-ranging series, it is well illustrated. S.D. Schindler’s intricate paintings of spiders, their webs and the landscapes are lively and add to the information in the text. The series is a gift to youngsters who want to find out about the world around them: about plants and space; dinosaurs; volcanoes and earthquakes; magnets and penguins. These appealing nonfiction titles may provide an incentive to keep on reading, especially in the summer when books are an optional pastime. (Ages 5–9, $15.99; $4.99 paperback) 
If we were playing Trivial Pursuit we’d want Gail Gibbons on our team. She must know heaps about so many things, from how the post office functions, to running a farm or a weather station. She has written and illustrated books on berries, apples, Thanksgiving, and pumpkins and so many more there isn’t space here to list them all. Her latest, CHICKS AND CHICKENS, will be as useful to budding 4H kids as to preschoolers learning about farm animals. Her colorful illustrations provide a wealth of detail to the basic text, so any child whose preference is for non-fiction will be well satisfied by her books, many of which are now available in paperback. (Ages 4–8, $16.95)

A Delectable Resource for Grown-ups
Over the years there have been some excellent publications to help parents and teachers sort out some of the best books for children. This summer Esmé Raji Codell will inspire you with her brand new HOW TO GET YOUR CHILD TO LOVE READING; Activities, Ideas, Inspirations, and Suggestions for Exploring Everything in the World – Through Books. Codell’s genius is to link books by themes, to highlight certain “treasures,” to inspire and inform parents about techniques like “how to help a child pick a book.” She won us over easily when she highlighted Molly Bang’s brilliant book, Picture This, as a way of explaining integration of art and text. She also writes in an informal way, as if she is in the room talking directly to you. No boring ed school jargon and high falutin’ terminology here. We like her straight out, practical approach and her generous (500 pages worth!) portions. (Adults—but kids can browse this for ideas since there are pictures of book covers on every page—$18.95 paperback)

Newsletter text Copyright 2003 © by Jody Shapiro.  All Rights Reserved.