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A blog written by the editor of Through the Looking Glass Book Review, a monthly online children's book review journal.
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When I was growing up on the island of Cyprus, summer was all about going to the beach. Here in Oregon we have lots of beaches, but only nutters venture into the water because it is so cold. Sunbathing isn't really an option either much of the time because it is too chilly. Still, the beaches are beautiful and we all enjoy walking and tide pooling, and my husband spends hours looking for rocks.
Since summer is now officially here, I thought I would kick things off with a beach book. Enjoy!Mr. Hulot at the beach
NorthSouth, 2016, 978-0-7358-4254-0
It is a sunny day at the seaside and Mr. Hulot is going to spend some time on the beach. He has a deck chair, an umbrella, a tennis racket and everything else a gentleman might need for such an expedition. He buys a newspaper and then heads for the sands, where he fights with the deck chair for a while trying to get it to cooperate. Which it does. Sort of.
As he reads his newspaper, an inflated beach ball lands on Mr. Hulot. Some people might get upset by a disturbance of this sort, but Mr. Hulot does not mind. He kicks the ball to the little boy it belongs to and, in the process, Mr. Hulot’s shoe comes flying off and lands in the water. He manages to rescue the shoe (using his shrimping net) and then puts it on top of his umbrella to dry.
A passing seagull sees the shoe and decides that it is just what it needs. It swoops down and carries off the shoe, with Mr. Hulot in hot pursuit. Causing a great disruption at the hotel, Mr. Hulot climbs up onto the roof of the building to retrieve the shoe, only to find that the seagull has laid some eggs in it. There is nothing for it. Mr. Hulot returns to the ground shoe-less.
One would think that this escaped would be more than enough of an adventure for one man to have during a sojourn at the seaside, but Mr. Hulot is not your average man and so more misadventures lie in wait for him after he returns to the beach.
Inspired by the work of the French comic actor and filmmaker, Jacques Tati, David Merveille brings Tati’s wonderful Mr. Hulot character to life in this, his second, Mr. Hulot book. The story is wordless and takes readers on a wonderful series of mishaps that are sweetly funny.
I really enjoy reading and reviewing poetry collections that focus on one subject or theme. Today's poetry title offers readers five poems that feature rabbits. Each of the poems conveys a different mood and sentiment to the reader. The book is wonderfully illustrated throughout by Wendell Minor, a skilled illustrator whose love of nature comes through in his artwork.Nibble Nibble
HarperCollins, 2007, 978-0060592080
In 1959 five poems written by Margaret Wise Brown where published and shared with the world.
In this wonderful poetry picture book those five poems are paired with Wendell Minor’s beautiful art. Wendell’s deep and abiding love of nature comes through in the illustrations, and children will almost be able to hear the soft hopping sound of bunny feet and the hum of a summer evening as they turn the pages.
The poems capture moments in the lives of some rabbits. In two we see the ways in which they move about their world. Another is a kind of song, complete with repetitive, lilting sound words, about the love that one person feels for another. There is also a poem that takes us through the year from April until September, capturing the essence of those warm weather months when young bunnies and robins leaves their nests, when fireflies float above the grass, and when caterpillars, “creep / Out of summer / And into sleep.”
The collection wraps us with a poem called Cadence
, which describes a music that the poet has heard “In the cadence of the word / Not spoken yet / And not yet heard.” This poem is a beautiful conclusion to a poetry journey that children will want to revisit again and again.
Many of us spend a great deal of time and energy looking for a place that we can call home. Often what we are really looking for are the right people, the people who can make anyplace a home for us because they are there. Today's picture book tells the story of a dog who is looking for a place to call her own. It is a sweet and life affirming story that will resonate with readers of all ages.Tupelo Rides the Rails
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2008, 978-0-618-71714-9
One day Tupelo’s humans dump her, and her sock toy, on the side of the road. Tupelo cannot understand why they would do such a thing, and does not know where she should go next. Not being the kind of dog who gives up, and believing that “Everyone belongs somewhere,” Tupelo picks up her toy, Mr. Bones, and she sets off to find her place.
At first none of the animals she encounters is interested in having her join “their tribe,” but then Tupelo picks up the whiff of something wonderful. She follows the scent and comes across a pack of dogs that are taking part in a bone-burying ritual. They all make a wish to Sirius, the Dog Star, and then bury a bone as an offering to him. The dogs believe that the ritual will bring them “good luck and fortune.”
Under the glimmer of Sirius the dogs all make their wishes and then bury their bones. All of them except Tupelo. She has no bone to bury and she cannot bear to bury Mr. Bones. Instead of wishing, Tupelo decides to follow the dog pack. The dogs are fed by a hobo called Garbage Pail Tex and then the man and all the dogs hop on a train. The hobo tells the dogs about famous dogs from history, dogs like Lassie and Toto. He sings them a bedtime song too, and Tupelo wishes that the ride will “last forever.”
When they arrived in Hoboken, Garbage Pail Tex and some of his hobo friends set about reuniting the lost dogs with their families, and finding homes for the others. One by one the dogs go off to be with people who will love and cherish them. Finally, Tupelo is the only one left and she is alone once more with no one for company except Mr. Bones.
In this lovely story about a dog who is looking for a home, Melissa Sweet combines her charming multimedia artwork with a narrative that readers of all ages will love. Anyone who has felt lost and alone at some point will appreciate how Tupelo feels as she tries to find her place.
I am sorry to say that I was in my thirties before I encountered the poetry of Langston Hughes. For some reason my education in a school on the island of Cyprus did not include studying his powerful words. Still, better late than never as they say. I have had, and will continue to have, a wonderful time getting to know Langston Hughes' writings, and I am delighted to be able to bring you this splendid book on this poetry Friday.Poetry for Young People: Langston Hughes
Edited by David Roessel and Arnold Rampersad
Illustrated by Benny Andrews
Sterling, 2013, 978-1454903284
When Langston Hughes started writing poetry, he chose to do so using a voice that used “the speech of ordinary Americans,” and he “sought his material in the world around him.” The people and places that he wrote about were familiar to him on a personal level. He also chose to allow his own concerns and beliefs to filter into his writing. For example, he wrote about “the dignity and beauty of African American identity” because he felt that his people, and all people, needed to see and recognize this beauty. In addition, he used his poems to address the social injustices that he saw around him, the injustices that African Americans had lived with for so long.
In this wonderful collection of poems ,the editors offer young readers some of Langston Hughes’ wonderful poems. Some of them, like the poem called Aunt Sue’s Stories
were inspired by Hughes’ own life experiences. When he was a child Hughes was raised in large part by his grandmother. She would place her little grandson on her lap and tell him stories that were rooted in real life, narratives that spoke about “people who wanted to make the Negroes free.” Aunt Sue’s Stories
is an homage to that grandmother and her tales, and we hear about how Aunt Sue would sit on the front porch and tell the “brown-faced child” on her lap about black slaves and their lives. The child knew that the stories he was hearing were “real stories,” that “Aunt Sue never got her stories / Out of any book at all.”
In My People
, Hughes explores the beauty that is found in African Americans. To him “the faces of my people” are as beautiful as the night, and their eyes are as beautiful as the stars. Just like the sun, “the souls of my people are beautiful.” Such words were particularly powerful when they were shared with a world that could not, did not, or would not see the beauty found in African American people.
Langston Hughes sought to combine poetry and the blues in his writing, and several of his ‘musical’ poems appear in this book. In both The Weary Blues
and Homesick Blues
there is a rhythm that suggests the sway and lilt of a musical style that he most identified with. In other poems formats used in the blues can be found.
This is a wonderful collection of poems for readers who are familiar with Langston Hughes’ writings, and for those who are coming to them with fresh eyes. Each poem is accompanied by an editorial note, which provides the reader with further information about the poem and about what inspired Hughes to write that poem. Notes are also offered beneath some of the poems that further clarify words and phrases that were used.
I grew up in a rather conservative place where families typically consisted of a mother, a father, and two children. Because many mothers had to work (so that their children could go to university) grandmothers were often a part of the family. They helped raise the children and did some, or all, of the housework. It was only when I moved to the U.K that I saw other family formats, and now I live in a town where their are all kinds of family units. Today's picture book celebrates the family, in all its forms, and the narrative shows how love is the common denominator that connects them all.A family is a family is a family
Groundwood, 2016, 978-1-55498-794-8
Today the children in a class are talking about families, and the teacher asks her students what they think makes their families “special.” One little girl wants to go last because her family is not like anyone else’s and she has no idea what she is going to say. What she does not know is that each of the twelve families she is going to hear about is unique, just like hers.
The first little girl tells her classmates that her parents have been best friends since first grade and that they are really fond of one another. They even kiss in public, which is “kind of gross.” The little girl who goes next has lots of brothers and sisters. A little boy then tells the class that he has two mothers, both of whom are terrible singers. However, this does not stop them from singing very loudly. Another little boy has two dads, one of whom is very short and the other who is tall. They both “give good hugs.”
Then there is the little girl who is being raised by her grandmother, and a little girl whose parents are separated. She spends one week with her mother, and one week with her father, which she things is right because “Fair’s fair.”
When it is finally the little girl’s turn to tell her classmates and teacher about her family, she is able, with a smile on her face, to tell them about a special moment that she shared with her family.
This wonderful book celebrates the many kinds of families that there are out there. Alongside the little girl we come to appreciate that families come in so many sizes, forms, and formats, and every single one of them can provide a child with a loving environment in which to grow.
I don't know about you, but I definitely have days when I am not in the mood for reading something deep and meaningful. My brain is tired and too full of 'stuff', and I just need to relax and enjoy a book. This is true of all kinds of books, including poetry. Some days I am happy to delve into the words written by Maya Angelou or Emily Dickinson, but on others I need something lighter, and today's poetry book fits this bill perfectly. The poems in the book are deliciously amusing and Shel Silverstein's clever way of writing makes it unique and great fun to read.Runny Babbit: A Billy Sook
HarperCollins, 2015, 978-0060256531
Down in the green woods, for some reason that no one can really explain, the animals “do things and they say things / In a different way.” The animals choose to invert the letters in certain words when they speak, and so “purple hat” becomes “hurple pat.” Similarly, instead of saying read a book they say “bead a rook.” To understand it you just have to remember to switch a letter here and there. At first, it can be a little difficult to get the hang of it, but in time one gets used to it, and translation becomes automatic.
In this book Shel Silverstin takes us into the green woods and introduces us to some of the animals there. The poet brings their stories to life and, wanting to be true to the ways of his subjects, uses their singular way of speaking in his writing.
One of the families who lives in the green woods is Bunny’s family. He has “A sother and two bristers, / A dummy and a mad.” Bunny’s mamma feeds her family “marrot cilk” and “parrot cie,” and they are very happy living in their “cozy hunny butch.”
Bunny, like any other child, has all sorts of adventures. For example, one day he “mets guddy” and is then washed and hung out to dry, just as if he were a piece of clothing. Not surprisingly, Joe Turtle is rather surprised to see his friend hanging from a washing line by his ears, and he asks Bunny what he is doing. Bunny, not being one to let the opportunity for a little pun to pass him by, says that he is “just rangin’ hound.”
We go one to read about how Bunny cuts his own hair, how he takes up knitting, and what happens when he jumps over a “jandlestick.” We hear about what happens when Bunny decides to pretend to be a cowboy, and what he gets up to when he visits Mount Rushmore.
In all there are forty-one poems in this book featuring Bunny and his friends, and children are going to laugh out loud as they try to figure out the green wood way of speaking. It should be noted that this way of speaking often leads to readers saying rather amusing things without even meaning to.
Authors of books for young readers find so many ways to incorporate educational, things-you-need-to-know pieces of information into their writings. The author of today's poetry title has combined poetry, riddles, and nonfiction text in a unique and amusing way to explore the parts of the body. I was truly impressed with the creativity that was tapped to create this very special book.Random Body Parts: Gross Anatomy riddles in verse
Illustrated by Mike Lowery
Peachtree Publishers, 2015, 978-1-56145-737-3
From an early age children start learning the names of parts of the body. People have even written little songs to help them learn where their forehead, nose, elbows, and toes are. When they get older they find out a little more about their stomach, their teeth, their eyes, their hair and other parts of their bodies, but do they really know as much as they think they know?
In this wonderful book the author offers young readers clever riddles written in verse to challenge their knowledge of anatomy. Each riddle is accompanied by a nonfiction section of text, which provides the solution to the riddle and offers up interesting pieces of information about the body part being described.
In a poem called Lunchtime
we encounter a “cauldron” in which “Choice ingredients” are mixed. Here “Flesh of fowl,” “Wheat paste,” and “Plant parts” are combined with a “pulverizing rumble.” What on earth could this body part be? It turns out that this rather stomach churning riddle is describing…the stomach, which, we are told, “churns food into a thick, liquidy shake called chyme.”
Further along in the book we encounter a sonnet that describes something that is cone-shaped and that is protected by a “cage of bone.” Apparently this body part is important, for in some way “the very stuff of life depends” on the way it works. The note that goes with this puzzle tells us that the riddle is describing the heart. This muscular vital vessel has four chambers and it pumps blood throughout the body.
In this incredibly clever title we see how a riddle can be a work of word art and a puzzle at the same time. Children will enjoy trying to figure out the solutions to the riddles, and they will be astonished to learn how the various body parts work.
I am lucky to have to some wonderful friends who are there for me in good times and bad, who make me laugh, and who understand where I am coming from. I miss them when I don't see them, and feel rich after I have spent time with them. Today's picture book is about a friendship that is similarly enriching and wonderful. As the pages turn, two little pigs who are very different, but who are also best friends, come to learn something about the relationship that they share.
Toot and Puddle
Picture Book Series
For ages 4 to 6
Little Brown, 2007, 978-0316365529
Toot and Puddle are a pair of pigs who live together, and they are the best of friends. One would think that they would have to be alike to be able to share a home, and yet they are actually very different. Toot loves to go off on adventures to all sorts of exotic places, while his friend prefers to stay home in comfy and homey Woodcock Pocket.
One day Toot decides to go on a trip around the world. While he is gone, Puddle has a wonderful time at home doing all his favorite things. At the same time he gets to share in Toot's adventures by reading the postcards that Toot sends him from Egypt, Africa, the Solomon Islands, India, and many other places.
However, even though he is having a good time at home, Puddle begins to miss his friend. He thinks about Toot as he goes about his daily activities. What he doesn't know is that Toot is having similar feelings.
In this book the author has created a tale with unforgettable characters, illustrations to pore over, and a simple yet powerful text that is a tribute to friendships of all kinds.
Sometimes we think that the perfect expressions of love or affection are the ones that are grand and extravagant. It turns out that often the best way to show someone that you care for them is by doing something for them that is simple, and yet powerful. In this picture book you will meet a bear who finds out that someone cares for him very much, someone who is shy, and kind, and thoughtful; someone who does little things for the bear that say an awful lot.Bear in love
Illustrated by Will Hillenbrand
Candlewick Press, 2012, 978-0-7636-4569-4
One morning, as per usual, a bear crawls out of his cave, he rubs his eyes, stretches, feels the morning sun touch his fur, and then looks around for his breakfast. On this particular morning he discovers that someone has left an orange “long and pointy” thing on a rock. The bear has never encountered such a thing before, and when he sniffs it he decides that is smells “nice,” and so he nibbles it. The thing turns out to taste very good indeed.
The next morning someone has left two of the orange, nice tasting things on the rock. The bear cannot help wondering who left them there. The morning after that three orange tasty things appear, and the morning after that there is a whole bunch of them sitting on the rock. The bear decides that someone must like him very much to leave him so many “good things.”
That day the bear discovers a bee nest in a tree, which he then proceeds to raid. The bear happily feasts off the honey comb and the honey. He could eat the whole lot, but he decides that he will save some for “the nice friend” who gave him all the orange treats.
The bear leaves the honeycomb on the flat rock and he tries to stay awake to see who his new friend is, watching from his cave. Unfortunately, the bear is not very good at staying up, and he falls asleep. In the morning his friend has left him a little gift. A pretty flower is lying on the rock where the honeycomb was. Once again the bear wonders and wonders who the mystery person could be.
This sweet story explores how a special friendship is built. With each gift, each act of kindness, the connection between the bear and his secret friend gets closer. Children will be delighted when they see how the story turns out, and when they discover what the bear, and his new friend, feel for each other.
I didn't really know anything about this book before I read it, though I knew from past experience than anything Sharon Creech writes is going to be marvelous. This book is indeed marvelous, on so many levels. It explores the discoveries that a young girl makes as the world around her shifts and changes and I, at least, grew very fond of her very quickly. Her voice is true and strong and it is delightful to see how she matures as the story unfolds.
HarperCollins, 2012, 978-0060540241
Change is a-coming in Annie’s life. Grandpa is now living with her family because he is becoming forgetful and frail and he needs to be cared for. Annie’s mother is pregnant, and Annie is both a little scared and excited at the prospect of having a sibling. There is something so awesome, and yet a little “creepy,” about the whole baby-growing-inside-her-mother thing.
The one thing that stays the same for Annie is her running. Whenever she can, Annie runs barefoot, just for the sake of running. For her, running is a joyous thing that she loves to do alone. Or mostly alone. Often Annie’s friend Max runs with her. They barely speak, and that is the way they like it. Lately though Max has become more withdrawn and angry. His father left the family and then his grandfather died. For Max, running is now more than just a hobby. It has become what he hopes will be a means to an end. He hopes to escape his hometown and his life through his running, and so now, during every run, there is the goal of going faster and being better. There is a drive that Annie appreciates and understands but that she wants nothing to do with. Max tries to get Annie to join the school track team but she refuses. She refuses even when the coach at school puts pressure on her.
Annie’s grandfather used to be a runner, and he has trophies in his room that show how he good he was. For some reason one day he stopped running and now here he is, a little old man, and parts of his memories are “vanishing every day.” At the same time his newest grandchild is growing, getting bigger and preparing for his or her arrival into the world. How strange it is to be losing something and gaining something at the same time. The world is sometimes a very confusing place.
As the days go by, Max gets more and more aggressive about his running. He needs to get a pair of proper running shoes because he is not allowed to compete running barefoot. Coming from a family where money is tight means that he cannot just go out and buy a pair of shoes whenever he wants to, and Annie worries about this. She wants Max to be able to race because he wants to do it so badly. She wants this for him even though his compulsion is creating a rift between them, and their friendship is suffering.
As the day of the birth approaches, Annie gets more nervous. She and her father are going to be present at the birth and they are going to need to help Annie’s mother through the process. Annie is not sure she is up for the challenge, but she does her best. She watches the birth movie (which makes her feel queasy) and studies the coaching manuals so that she will know what to do when the time comes.
As all these changes swirl around her, Annie dives into an art assignment that she has been given. She needs to draw an apple for one hundred days. She needs to create one hundred drawings of an apple, and at first she cannot imagine how she will manage it. Over time though she begins to see the apple in a deeper way, to appreciate the nuances of its shape and colors and she begins to understand why she was given the assignment in the first place. Learning how to see things, really see them, is an important skill to have if you are an artist. It also a valuable skill to have when you are a person who needs to find their place in the world.
This extraordinary book explores the way a twelve-year-old girl learns about the people in her world, and we see her trying to negotiate the trials that life throws her way. In the process, she starts to figure out what she wants and who she is, and she discovers that most people, and most challenges, are a lot more complicated than they at first seem.
In 2014, a wonderful wordless picture book called Flora and the Flamingo
won a Caldecott Honor. It is a delightful book that has charmed people all over the world with its wonderful artwork and its clever story. Since then Flora has gone on to meet a penguin, and now she is back strutting her stuff with a pair of peacocks. Flora has faced challenges before when she befriended the flamingo and the penguin, but these two peacocks present her with problems that are both new and difficult.Flora and the Peacocks
Chronicle Books, 2016, 978-1-4521-3816-9
Flora loves to dance, and somehow she tends to attract very lovely, very gifted characters who end up dancing with her, all of whom are birds. So far she has danced with an elegant flamingo and a charming penguin. This time Flora comes across a pair of peacocks.
Wearing a pretty teal, blue, and green outfit, and with a yellow fan in her hand, she bows to the two peacocks. One immediately starts to approach her, and it is clearly rather interested in sharing a dance with the little girl. The other peacock, with its beak in the air, and later with its face completely hidden, makes it clear that it is not interested in joining in at all.
Flora tries to reach out to the uppity, aloof peacock and she even starts to make friends with it, but then the first peacock takes umbrage and the next thing you know a very unfortunate situation is created.
Three can be an uncomfortable number when it comes to making friends. Flora and the peacocks certainly discover that there is no knowing what might happen when jealousy and an unwillingness to share surfaces. Children will appreciate why things go awry, and they will be delighted when they see how Flora and the peacocks resolve their problem.
This wordless book, with its flaps that open and lift ,and its pages that unfold, is a delight to the eye and the heart.
When I was five years old, a civil war broke out in the country that I was living in. Suddenly, and for reasons that I did not understand, people who had lived side-by-side were now killing each other. It was village against village, and neighborhood against neighborhood. To say that my experiences had a profound effect on me is an understatement. To this day I loath violence and hate-filled words.
Today's picture book shows, to great effect, how conflicts can grow out of petty disagreements. It is a book that children and adults alike can connect with.Why
Minedition, 2016, 978-988-8341-05-4
One day a frog is sitting in a meadow and it picks a beautiful flower. Having the flower makes the frog very happy, but someone else is not happy at all. Mouse wants the flower that Frog has picked, and so Mouse forcibly takes the flower from Frog.
Mouse does not get to enjoy ownership of the flower for long because soon Frog’s friends arrive on the scene and they chase off Mouse. The frogs celebrate their “victory” by gathering up all the flowers in the meadow and they dance around with joy. Their conquest is short-lived because soon Mouse returns with his friends. They roll up in an armed boot and chase the Frogs across a bridge, firing on them.
The mice think that they have won and that the frogs have been routed, but their victory is also short-lived because the frogs have a plan in place to give the mice a taste of their own medicine.
Children often ask grownups why wars start, and all too often the answer they get is long-winded and complicated. In this picture book the author shows readers of all ages that often the reason why people go to war is very simple, and very foolish. One act of violence begets a violent response, and the conflict escalates. Eventually both sides look across a scene of desolation and unspeakable loss and they cannot, for the life of them, understand how things got so bad.
There is a message in this tale, a powerful message, that readers of all ages will appreciate and hopefully carry with them. They will see that responding to a problem with violence is never the answer.
I wonder how many people have read or sung the Mother Goose rhymes to their children. Many thousands I am sure. The interesting thing is that though the world has changed so much since they were written, there is something timeless about the wonderful little rhymes. Today's poetry title is a board book which contains sixteen nursery rhymes that have been lovingly illustrated by Rosemary Wells.Snuggle up with Mother Goose
Illustrated by Rosemary Wells
Candlewick Press, 2015, 978-0-7636-7867-8
The sun is up and it is time to wake up and get going for there are “Peas in the pot and a hoe-cake baking,” and soon we will start our day.
We need to brush our hair and warm our hands by the fire. Some of the men “are gone to plow” while others have gone to sea in a boat and maybe, in the evening, children will have “a fish / In a little dishy / When the boat comes in.” For those who stay at home there are dishes to wash and wipe, and tea that has to be made.
In this wonderful board book, Iona Opie has brought together sixteen nursery rhymes that carry us through a day from sun up to sunset. Some of them gentle and soothing, others are funny and sweet. The lines of verse celebrate the beauty of the written word, and introduce babies and little children to some of the gems in the English language that were written just for them.
I love libraries! When I was a child I would go to the local British Council library to spend an hour or so browsing the shelves. I would leave weighted down with a huge stack of books. I read about everything and anything. Except subjects that required me to do any kind of maths!
Today's picture book celebrates libraries and the joy of reading, and it is a delight.
Jumping off the library shelves: A book of Poems
Selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins
Illustrated by Jane Manning
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Boyds Mills Press, 2015, 978-1-59078-924-7
A library is a special place. Some people think it is ‘just’ a repository for books, a storage place perhaps, but they are wrong. Thanks to the books in a library, people can find information, they can travel to distant lands, and have grand adventures. They can take a break from the world, and spend some quiet time immersed in wonderful words.
For this marvelous salute to libraries, Lee Bennet Hopkins has brought together poems written by a wonderful selection of poets. On the pages of this book we will meet children for whom their library is a special place. With their library cards in hand - the card that is “more powerful” than a cell phone, a TV remote, or a hundred apps - children find treasures that invite them “to explore” and “to dream.”
To help young readers in their search for a good read, there is the librarian who, by some magical ability, is always able to help a child find “the perfect book.” Somehow the librarian is able to read a child, like words on a page, and know what he or she needs.
The library is also a place where you will find storytellers who are able to make “words / leap from pages,” as they read out loud. With the storyteller for company, children make friends with frog and toad and they “walk / down a / yellow brick road.” During their storytimes they are able to believe in “once-upon-a-time” and “happily ever after.”
There is something for everyone in a library. On the shelves there are dictionaries, books of poetry, fairy tales and so much more. And when night falls and all the people have left the library, other little beings come out to partake of the library’s treasures.
This wonderful collection of poems take us into the world of libraries. We enter the library as “Morning pours spoons of sun” onto the shelves, and then leave when “night falls / outside / a / window.” As we close the book we are left with a comfortable feeling, and a yearning to visit our local library where book wonders await us.
Many children have imaginary friends, and sometimes we encounter such children in stories or films. We smile as they communicate with their invisible companions, who are often blamed when something untoward happens. In today's picture book story the focus, for a change, is on the imaginary friend instead of the child. On the pages meet an imaginary friend who needs one thing to make his life complete.
Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend
Little Brown, 2014, 978-0-316-19998-8
Beekle was born on an island where all the world’s imaginary friends come into being. The imaginary friends wait and look forward to the day when a child somewhere will imagine them, and then pick them to be their own. Beekle waits and waits, but no one imagines him and “his turn” never comes.
Eventually, Beekle feels that he has waited long enough, and so he decides to seek out his friend rather than waiting to be imagined.
The journey is a long one and it is full of “many scary things,” but the hope of finding his friend gives Beekle courage and finally he comes to the real world, which is a very strange place. Then, while he is standing on a sidewalk in a big city, surrounded by the legs of big people, Beekle sees an imaginary friend go by whom he follows. Soon he is a playground full of children and their imaginary friends, a wonderful place where surely he will find his
friend. Or maybe not.
It is hard not to fall in love with the main character in this story. His persistence and courage is inspiring, and one cannot help feeling a deep connection with the little, white imaginary friend who dares to do “the unimaginable.”
For many parents the Mother Goose nursery rhymes are the first poems that they explore with their children. Over time Little Miss Muffet, the cow that jumped over the moon, and Wee Willie Winkie all become members of the family. In today's poetry title these characters and others from the Mother Goose rhymes come together to attend a special event hosted by none other than Mother Goose herself!
Mother Goose’s Pajama Party
Illustrated by Virginia Allyn
Random House, 2015, 978-0-553-49756-4
One night Mother Goose flies out into the night sky on the back of her goose companion. In sparkles she leaves a message in the starlit sky inviting her friends to come to her house at half past eight for a story time.
The moon is the first to see the message and she shows it to the cow, who then goes on to tell Dish who passes on what she has been told to Spoon. Spoon then tells Cats about the invitation and Cat, being the musician that he is, “fiddled a tune.”
Mother Goose’s invitation is passed on from character to character, from Jack-a-Dandy to Wee Willie Winkie, and from Georgie Porgie to Little Bo-Peep. Finally Nimble Jack, with his candlestick, leads the way to Mother Goose’s house with all the other nursery rhyme characters following him. Along the way they collect the crooked man and the cooked mouse and they walk along “the final crooked mile,” until they come to Mother Goose’s door promptly at eight o’clock.
What follows is a wonderful evening that is full of treats that the guests and the hostess alike enjoy.
Written in wonderful rhyming verse, this picture book brings together some of the most well-known nursery rhyme characters, who take little children on a memorable bookish adventure that is full of joy, warmth, and finally comfort.
At the back of the book children will find the fifteen nursery rhymes that feature the characters that they met in the book.
Many people think that 'art' has to fit into one of three categories. It has to be a piece of music, a painting or a drawing, or a sculpture. However, there are other forms of art that might not fit into one of these pigeon holes. What about a piece of furniture or a quilt? What about a basket or a glass vase? What about a wrought iron gate or a musical instrument? What about a tree or shrub that has been clipped and clipped until it looks like an animal or some lovely shape? All of these things are also works of art, and all of them can, and do, enrich out lives.
In this picture book we see how a topiary artist manages, one topiary at a time, to bring beauty to the lives of people who so desperately need something in their world that will uplift them.
The Night Gardener
Simon and Schuster, 2016, 978-1-4814-3978-7
Grimloch Lane is a rather sad place. The homes are ramshackle, weeds grow up through cracks in the sidewalk, and the people who live there don’t really connect with one another. One night, while everyone in the lane is asleep, a man gets to work on one of the trees that stands outside the Grimloch Orphanage.
When William looks out his window in the morning he sees that something is going on outside so he goes to investigate. What he discovers is that someone has clipped a tree next to the orphanage so that it looks like a beautiful owl. William is entranced by the topiary owl and he gazes at it all day long. When he goes to sleep that night he does so “with a sense of excitement.”
The following morning another tree on Grimoloch Lane has been turned into a work of art. This time the topiary makes the tree look like a cat at rest.
Each day a new topiary appears, and now the people living in Grimloch Lane have something to look forward to. They gather to admire their beautiful topiaries and “Something good” starts to happen to everyone who sees the special trees.
We tend to think that real change can only happen when something really big happens, but sometimes change can come about when a little piece of magic is added to our lives. As the story in this book unfolds, we see how the introduction of beauty affects the people who live in a place that has so little beauty and happiness to offer. Best of all, the instrument of change is not someone who is rich and powerful, instead he is a humble person who just happens to have a gift for turning already lovely trees into gorgeous works of art.
For many of us waiting is a bore. Sometimes it is very frustrating and annoying. We feel that we are wasting time, time that would be better spent if we were not
waiting. Sometimes we are
wasting precious time, but there are many other times when waiting is actually a good thing, when the act of waiting offers up joys of its own. Today's picture book explores this idea in the most delightful way.
HarperCollins, 2015, 978-0-06-236843-0
There are five toys that sit on a windowsill and they are all waiting. The little pink pig with the umbrella is waiting for the rain. The owl is waiting for the moon. The little bear with the kite is waiting for the wind, and the puppy on the sled is waiting for some snow. The rabbit is not waiting for something special. He just likes to look out of the window. He just waits because he enjoys doing so.
The owl is lucky because the moon turns up “a lot.” The pig and bear also got to enjoy the rain and the wind regularly. Snowfalls are not as common, but they do happen, and when they do the puppy is very happy.
Life on the windowsill does not change a great deal. Sometimes one of the toys goes away for a while and sometimes they all sleep. Occasionally gifts appear, and once a little toy elephant came to stay. He, alas, fell off the windowsill and broke, which was very upsetting.
Through their window the little toys see so many things that add to their experiences, and then one day a new toy arrives and she has a little secret of her own.
Our lives are full of times when we have to wait, and all too often we do so with impatience, and perhaps even with frustration and annoyance. We want what we are waiting for to arrive now
In this gently paced, softly colored picture book, we explore the idea that sometimes the process of waiting is, in and of itself, a joy. If we take it all in as we wait, and enjoy the journey, there is a good chance that we will discover treasures that we might have otherwise missed. We don’t have to be doing a great deal, and rushing about, to discover so many of the experiences that life has to offer.
I first started getting interested in animals after I read a book called My Family and Other Animals,
which was written by Gerald Durrell. I then went on to read many other books about animals, and learned all kinds of fascinating things about how animals have adapted to different environments and circumstances. Camouflage is one of these adaptations and it takes many remarkable forms, which is why I was delighted to review today's poetry title. In this book readers will meet just a few of the animals who use camouflage to hide their presence from predators or prey.
Now you see them now you don’t: Poems about creatures that hide
David L. Harrison
Illustrated by Giles Laroche
Poetry Nonfiction Picture book
Charlesbridge, 2016, 978-1-58089-610-8
For millennia animals have been using camouflage to help them hide from predators, prey, or both. Being able to camouflage their appearance has given mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and other animals the ability to survive, an ability that they have passed on to their decedents.
In this stunning book, cut-paper relief illustrations are paired with nineteen poems, each one of which explores how camouflage helps an animal species to be successful. We travel from beaches to polar climes, from forests to swamps, from meadows to jungles. Some of the species are large and impressive, while others are very small, but are still worthy of our respect and interest.
We begin on a sandy beach where a ghost crab blends in perfectly with its environment. When danger threatens, the little crustacean freezes and waits until it is safe to “scurry, hide, / dig, hole, /dive, inside.” With its sand colored shell and appendages, the crab can hide in plain sight if it has to.
The octopus is a master of disguise. It can change the color of its skin to blend in with its surroundings. This ability helps it to hide from a passing fish that is looking for a meal, or so that it can grab passing prey in its “sucker arms.”
In a swamp or marshland, alligators float in the water with only their snouts and backs showing. The alligator waits, for all the world looking like a log or piece of debris. What potential prey animals don’t know is that “Hidden where / they never show,/ are teeth / and teeth / and teeth below.”
When you see a tiger in a zoo you cannot imagine that its bold stripes are actually a wonderful form of camouflage, but in its native habitat where there are “Dappled shadows, / waving grasses,” a tiger’s stripes allow it to blend in beautifully. From where it waits the tiger can watch and when the time is right it will attack like “striped lightning.”
At the back of the book readers will find further information about all the species featured in the book.
When I was growing up on the island of Cyprus in the Mediterranean, I read many of the Greek myths. Some of the places mentioned in the myths I was even lucky enough to see in Greece, including Mount Olympus, where the Gods were said to live. In today's book readers will encounter some of these myths but in poetry form. And the poems they will encounter can be read in two ways, which makes this bookish poetry experience quite unique. Happy Poetry Month!
Echo Echo: Reverso poems about Greek myths
Illustrated by Josee Masse
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 5 to 8
Penguin, 2016, 978-0-8037-3992-5
Often we like to think that there is only one side to a story, the side that we believe in. The truth of the matter is that usually there are at least two sides to a story that often contradict each other, two perspectives as seen through the eyes of two very different people who are on opposite sides of the story.
In this very unique book of poetry the author takes us into the world of Greek mythology so that we can explore the two sides of some of Greece’s most famous stories. The myths were created so that people could explain the world they lived in, a world that was often full of chaos and unknowns, which is perhaps why so many people are drawn to them.
Chaos is certainly at the heart of the story about Pandora and her famous box. The story goes that Zeus gave Pandora a box telling her not to open it. Being human and curious, and prone to doing things that she is told not to do, Pandora opened the box and let loose “all the evils of the world.”
This is the first myth that is explored in this book. We are presented with two poems, placed side by side, and hear the story from two points of view. In one Pandora is blamed for what happened, and in the other we are see that Pandora could well have been Zeus’ pawn, that he planned the whole terrible businesses. What makes things interesting is that the second poem is the reverse of the first, with the last line of the first poem serving as the first line of the second.
In the poem King Midas and his Daughter, the story of the king whose greed led to his daughter being turned into a gold statue is told first from the point of view of the daughter and then from the point of view of the king. The daughter’s voice tells us how she was “so needy / so greedy” for a loving touch from her unaffectionate father. The father’s narrative tells us that he was “ so greedy / so needy” to have the magic touch that turned things into gold, and he paid dearly for the gift he was given.
The other myths explored in the book include the story of Arachne and Athens, the tragic tale of Narcissus and Echo, and the ill-fated story of Icarus and Daedalus.
The poems in this book show great creativity, and they certainly bring old myths to life, but they do more than that. This book shows, to great effect, how problems might arise when two people see the same thing from only one point of view.
I think it is fair to say that these days many people have lives that are perhaps a little too full. They feel as if they are running on a treadmill, desperately trying to keep up, and to do all the things that are written on their to do lists. Adults are not the only ones who have this problem. Sometimes children find themselves struggling with a schedule that asks just too much of them.
For ages 5 to 7
Tundra Press, 2016, 978-177049-484-8
Andrew loves to perform in plays, and so he decides to join the school drama club so that he can “wear costumes and perform on a real stage.” Andrew’s best friend, Edie, helps him learn his lines as they walk home from school together. Sometimes they end up climbing a tree or playing a game along the way and that’s always fun.
Though Andrew is a natural when it comes to acting, his drama teacher suggests that he try public speaking so that he can learn how to project his voice more. Andrew joins the debating team so that he can work on making his voice stronger. It turns out that Andrew is so good at debating that his friend Calvin suggests that he join the chess club.
When Andrew has a hard time keeping up during the dance routines when he is rehearsing, he decides that what he needs to do is to “improve his coordination,” so he attends ballet and karate classes.
Somehow Andrew then finds himself joining the tennis team, working on the school paper, and learning how to play the bagpipes. He joins the French film club, takes singing lessons, and signs up for Spanish lessons because knowing another language is “just plain useful.” Up until now Andrew has been able to manage his extremely full schedule, but now he hits a wall. Andrew is just doing too many things.
Many people over-schedule their lives. They fill every spare minute with an activity of some kind until they barely have time to eat or sleep. They cannot have a social life and are constantly running from activity to activity.
With humor and sensitivity Ashley Spires (who brought us the graphic novels about Binky the cat) shows us how a young owl’s life turns into a nightmare when he takes on too many activities. Everything Andrew does is important and interesting, but together they are just too much. Children, and their grownups, will enjoy seeing how Andrew solves his problem and how he finds a schedule that works for him.
I used to be more of a dog person than a cat person, but then I adopted Katie, a tiny black and white kitten, who had been literally thrown away. Katie, who never weighed more than five pounds, taught me to appreciate the true nature of cats. Despite her rough start in life, she was loyal, strong-willed, sensitive, and loving, and I am grateful that she was part of my life for more than a decade. Though she was very small and not very strong, Katie never let anything get her down. She was an inspiration.
Today's poetry title explore one woman's relationship with her cat Boris, and through her narrative we get see how Boris shaped her life and how he helped her understand herself better.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2006, 0-15-205809-5
Not that long ago her last cat died, and she decided that she would not be getting any more cats. She would be a dog person from here on out and spare herself all the trials and tribulations that come with cat ownership. No more hairballs, no more worrying that the cat has been eaten by a coyote, and no more “howling, spitting fights.” No, cats will no longer be a part of her life.
Then the local shelter puts a storefront in town and she has to walk past that storefront every day; she has to see the cats sitting in the window, all of whom so badly want a home. She holds out for two months and then she goes into the store. She says that she will get one female cat “and no more.”
Not long after, she walks out of the store with two cats, a male and female. The cats are siblings and she could not bear to separate them. The male is Boris, a beautiful grey fellow who in his own quiet way promises that he will “be good.”
It isn’t long before Boris is a member of the family. The dogs accept him and when they go too far they get a swat across the nose to keep them in line. Of course it also isn’t long before she is worrying that the eagles might try to harm Boris. She asks him to never “stand on a beach / beneath them,” for surely if he does they will be measuring and assessing him to determine if he is too big and heavy from them to carry him off.
Boris is full of surprises. She knows that his former name was Hunter and imagines at first that it is a “designer-label sort of / name.” It turns out that Hunter was not some preppy name at all. The name describes what Boris is. He is a hunter and soon he is bringing her all kinds of furry and feathered gifts.
When a new cat moves in next door she is sure that Boris is going to take grave exception to the cat using the next-door deck that he has claimed as his own. She full expects to see fur flying, and yet this is not what happens at all. Boris takes the newcomer in hand, adopting him and treating him like a little brother who needs someone to show him what is what.
This magnanimity is not offered to an elderly cat that Boris and his owner meet when they are out one day. This time the hunter in Boris comes to the fore and he bowls over the poor old fellow without a thought. She is embarrassed, and the encounter gets her thinking about aging and what waits for them both in the future. Will they two be like the old cat who dared to walk on Boris’ path? Will they two stand against younger whippersnappers who try to bully them?
In this remarkable book, nineteen free verse poems take us into the world of the narrator and her cat. Through her interaction with Boris we find out about her own fears, worries and insecurities. We laugh with her as Boris watches, and bats at, birds that he sees on the TV screen. We laugh too when she describes how much she enjoys playing “spinnies” with her cat companion. Her pain is tangible as she tells us what it was like when Boris went missing for ten days, and we understand why she worries about moving to a new house that Boris might not approve of. Being owned by a cat is not for the faint of heart, but the experience teaches us a lot about ourselves, and through our cats we learn a great deal about love, patience, and compassion.
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Cats are singular creatures. They are not as easy to understand as dogs, but once you develop a relationship with a cat you will soon see how much that relationship enriches your life. Today's poetry book introduces you to some colorful cat characters, and the poems also explore the ways in which those cats enhance the lives of the humans that they share their lives with.
Cats Vanish Slowly
Illustrated by Laura Seeley
Peachtree Publishers, 1995, 978-1561451067
Many cats live on Grandmother’s farm and she knows each and every one of them. Grandmother does not care if her cats are beautiful or “scrawny.” She does not care if they have too many toes, or if they are tailless. All the cats are welcome in her home and all of them are loved.
One of the best things about visiting Grandmother’s house is that there is always a cat there that is happy to be cuddled. If you have had a bad day, one dotted with scoldings and breakages, dullness or loneliness, then all you need to do is to visit Grandmother and hold an “affable cat.” With every purr and soft snuggle you will find “every bliss.”
One day a little, grey tabby cat arrived on the farm and she “graciously offered to stay.” The cat is loved by everyone and is soon very much at home. It is decided that the cat will be called Cougar, even though she is about as un-cougar-like as a cat can get. She is loving and sweet, playful and gentle. There are times though, when she is fast asleep, when perhaps, for a moment, she seems to live up to her name.
B.P is nothing like sweet, easy-going Cougar. He is a troublemaker, “a criminal cat,” who steals food, climbs the porch screen, and pulls clean washing off the line. When someone asks Grandmother if she has any cats available for adoption she offers up B.P. Six times the cat is taken to a new home, and six times he comes back to the farm. Like a “Bad Penny” the cat always “rolls back home.”
Grandmother lives with her sister and the two old ladies are as “different as sugar and salt.” One likes to grow flowers, while the other likes to plant vegetables. One loves to write poetry, while the other prefers to make pies or to cut back weeds. Though they are as “different as ribbon and string,” both ladies have a soft spot for cats. One stormy night the two of them together gather up three “half-wild” kittens and bring them into the warmth and shelter of their home.
This wonderful book serves as a tribute both to cats, and to the people who take them in and care for them. We meet a variety of cat personalities on the pages, and we also come to appreciate how special Grandmother is and how much of a haven she has created on her farm for felines, and for children who love felines.
Throughout this book the author’s poems are paired with beautiful paintings that perfectly capture the cats described in the text.