Delightful books for your child’s gift list

11/25/2012
BY MELISSA CAIN, BARBARA ST. JOHN AND ALEXA SANDMANN

These reviews were written by three area teachers of children’s literature: Melissa Cain (MAC) of the University of Findlay, Barbara St. John (BSJ), retired from Bowling Green State University, and Alexa Sandmann (ALS) of Kent State University.

Preschool

CAN I BRING WOOLLY TO THE LIBRARY, MS. REEDER? By Lois G. Grambling. Illustrated by Judy Love. Charlesbridge. $16.95.

An exuberant young boy pleads with the librarian for permission to bring his visiting woolly mammoth to the library. With bright illustrations that are as boisterous as the mammoth, readers romp through “library rules.” They also are reminded of the wonders of the library — myriad choices, reading “corners” for cuddling up with favorites, and the delight of story hour. A fabulous commercial for the joys of reading. (ALS)

UNDERGROUND. Written and illustrated by Denise Fleming. Beach Lane. $17.99.

Toledo native Fleming’s latest book shows the world beneath our feet. Using her characteristic short rhymes and texture-filled pulp painting, she shows a wide variety of creatures that burrow, dig, tunnel, and “work their way through sand and clay.” A final double-page spread provides a bit more detail about each of them. The colors are sumptuous, highlighting in rich blue what might have been invisible in a dirt-brown world. (MAC)

I LIKE OLD CLOTHES. By Mary Ann Hoberman. Illustrations by Patrice Barton. Knopf, $16.99.

In this celebration of hand-me-down clothes the child declares:

“I like old clothes. I really do. Clothes with a history. Clothes with a mystery.”

Softly colored illustrations capture a small girl and her brother enjoying new adventures in used clothes. Nice to real aloud. (BSJ)

Primary


THE ART OF MISS CHEW. By Patricia Polacco. G. P. Putnam’s Sons. $17.99.

In a third tribute to her inspirational teachers, Polacco celebrates Miss Chew, the high school art teacher who supported her artistic talent and embraced her as an artist. Honored, too, is her teacher who recognized not only her artistic talent — and made it possible for her to study with Miss Chew long before high school, but also her academic talent — if she just had a little extra time to read, he knew she could succeed. A touching homage to art and education. (ALS)

TWELVE KINDS OF ICE. By Ellen Bryan Obed. Illustrations by Barbara McClintock. Houghton Mifflin, $16.99.

As we progress toward colder weather, some families look forward to ice. The first ice appears as a thin skim across the milk pail. As days pass the ice will spread across fields and streams and gardens. Then, at last, perfect ice! The townspeople enjoy this ice for games and sports. A beautiful series of prose poems. Pen-and-ink drawings capture the joys of ice. (BSJ)

THE DAY LOUIS GOT EATEN. Written and illustrated by John Fardell. Andersen. Press USA. $16.95.

This is the tale of Sarah, who must save her little brother Louis when a Gulper swallows him whole. Sarah chases the Gulper on her bike, but unfortunately a Grabular gulps it down. Thus begins a pattern of creatures swallowing each other while clever Sarah modifies her bike to pursue them through different environments. Children can chime in on the “unfortunately” that begins each new episode of the adventure. (MAC)

Middle School

LIAR & SPY. By Rebecca Stead. Wendy Lamb Books. $15.99.

Seventh grader Georges (spelled like the first name of the painter Seurat), intrigued by a note in the basement of his new Brooklyn apartment, ends up joining a Spy Club with Safer, a 12-year-old “spy.” With twists and turns indicative of a mystery, this one centers on truth versus deception — among friends and family. Engaging characters, including Safer’s little sister Candy, who loves candy, realistically portray the challenges of these middle years. Warm but not sentimental. (ALS)

KEEPING SAFE THE STARS. By Sheila O’Conner. Putnam, $16.99.

Meet the Stars – Pride, Nightingale, and Baby. Their parents have died and they live with Old Finn, their grandfather. He has put his life on hold to devote himself to these children. He stresses independence. When Finn becomes ill the children are determined to manage alone. However, they do need some help and they learn how important Old Finn is to his friends. Nice adult/child interaction. (BSJ)


THE HERO’S GUIDE TO SAVING YOUR KINGDOM. By Christopher Healy. Illustrated by Todd Harris. Walden Pond Press. $16.99.

Those darned bards! Every song they write about Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, and Rapunzel generically calls the hero Prince Charming. Rejected and dejected, a disparate group of princes — Liam, Frederic, Gustav, and Duncan — go on a quest to prove themselves as heroes. They end up battling trolls, bandits, a dragon, a giant, and an extremely evil and powerful witch to save both their respective kingdoms and those unappreciative bards. (MAC)

Young Adult

SON. By Lois Lowry. Houghton Mifflin. $17.99.

The finale of Lowry’s quartet which began with Newbery Medal winner The Giver, recently released Son is truly grand. Lowry has skillfully woven the characters of Gathering Blue and Messenger into a most satisfying conclusion. Claire, somehow washed away from that original community, finds herself in a new one, one filled with love and humanity, but she leaves to find her son. This is a wondrous celebration of what truly matters in life — the contentment born of being within a close-knit circle of family and friends. Stellar. (ALS)

SHELTER and SECONDS AWAY. By Harlan Coben. Putnam, $18.99 each.

Meet Mickey Bolitar – high school student and basketball player. Mickey has questions about his father’s death and his research leads him in unexpected directions. He is assisted by two quirky friends, Spoon and Ema.

Lots of action and suspense as well as unforgettable characters. You won’t be able to put these down. (BSJ)

DODGER. By Terry Pratchett. Harper. $17.99.

Dodger is a tosher, a sewer scavenger, in Dickensian London. His life changes when he saves a young woman from a beating and meets then newspaperman “Charlie” Dickens. Pratchett pays homage to Dickens with the colorful characters, engaging writing, adventure, mystery, suspense, and humor for which not only Dickens, but also Pratchett himself, is known. Dodger may lead readers to explore both authors for many more hours of entertainment. (MAC)

Books for young & old


JULIE ANDREWS’ TREASURY FOR ALL SEASONS. By Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton. Paintings by Marjorie Priceman. Little, Brown and Company. $19.99.

Subtitled Poems and Songs to Celebrate the Year, this anthology is truly a gem. These hand-selected poems and songs are by turns funny or solemn, playful or thoughtful. Contemporary poets such as Pat Mora and Billy Collins mix with Langston Hughes and Emily Dickinson. Divided by seasons and then by months, special sections are also devoted to “Other Celebrations and Special Occasions.” Glorious illustrations by Caldecott award-winning artist Priceman invite lingering. This is a family classic-to-be. (ALS)

A FAMILY OF POEMS: MY FAVORITE POETRY FOR CHILDREN. Collected by Caroline Kennedy. Paintings by Jon Muth. Hyperion, $19.95. All ages.

Families will enjoy this collection. Poems focus on children’s interests – About me, That’s so silly, Animals, Seasons, the Seashore, Adventure, Bedtime. Some poems will be familiar. Some authors are well known; others will be new to young readers. The water-color illustrations will extend the child’s experience. (BSJ)

PETE THE CAT SAVES CHRISTMAS. By Eric Litwin. Created and illustrated by James Dean. Harper. $17.99.

Loosely based upon ‘Twas the Night before Christmas, this new Pete the Cat book opens with poor Santa sick in bed. He asks Pete to save Christmas by delivering all the toys. Though Pete knows he is small, he decides, “At Christmas we give, so I’ll give it my all.” Eight magical reindeer tow his minibus across the sky. As Pete says, “This is totally groovy!” (MAC)