Mazza celebrates magic of books for kids


This is one in a series of monthly reviews of books for young people written by three area teachers of children’s literature. Today’s reviews are by Melissa Cain, professor at the University of Findlay.

The University of Findlay will host the 2013 Mazza Summer Institute July 15-19. Keynote speakers are Walter Wick and Jon Klassen on July 15; James Dean, Julie Paschkis, and Sheila McGraw on July 16; Michael Hall and Ed Young on July 17; Tom Lichtenheld and Sherri Duskey Rinker on July 18, and Roger Roth and Chris Raschka on July 19. Additional pullout sessions led by teachers/librarians will provide useful ideas for the classroom. You can attend part or all of this wonderful week.

For further information or to register, contact Ben Sapp, director, at 419-434-5343 or

These reviews feature illustrators who will be coming to the summer institute.

CAN YOU SEE WHAT I SEE? OUT OF THIS WORLD. By Walter Wick. Cartwheel Books/Scholastic. $13.99. All ages.

Wick created two popular series: I Spy and Can You See What I See? These books invite readers to deeply explore their colorful photographic art for specific items. In this one, a young princess has an unlikely encounter with a lost time-traveling robot. A poem on each double-page spread lists the items to search for. The story the pictures reveal demonstrates the boundlessness of children’s imaginations.

THE HOUSE BABA BUILT: AN ARTIST’S CHILDHOOD IN CHINA. By Ed Young. Little, Brown and Company. $16.99. Ages 6-up.

Ed Young was born in 1931 in war-torn Shanghai. His father cleverly built a safe house for his five children in the unlikely-to-be-bombed embassy neighborhood. Using collages that include pictures from the time, Young describes a childhood full of imagination and wonderful people the family took in because they were displaced by war. His childhood activities are strikingly normal considering the insecurities of the time.

THE ROLLER COASTER KID. By Mary Ann Rodman. Illustrated by Roger Roth. Viking. $16.99. Ages 4-up.

At age 8, Grandpa became known as “The Roller Coaster Kid” because he rode the Whipper 100 times. Now his 8-year-old grandson Zach is too terrified to ride. Zach prefers riding the Big Wheel with Grandma. After Grandma’s death, Zach determines to cheer Grandpa up by riding the Whipper. Roth’s facial expressions capture the emotions of Zach and Grandpa as they deal with grief in their own ways.

THE DARK. By Lemony Snicket. Illustrated by Jon Klassen. Little, Brown and Company. $16.99. Ages 2-6.

In this post-modern story of a personified darkness, Laszlo is afraid of the dark, but the dark isn’t afraid of him. Laszlo believes the dark lives in his basement, the only place that remains dark even in daylight. When Laszlo’s nightlight burns out, he confronts the dark in the dreaded basement. Klassen’s simple illustrations contain benign patches of black and perfectly convey the universal theme of facing fears.

APPLE CAKE: A RECIPE FOR LOVE. By Julie Paschkis. Harcourt. $16.99. Ages 4-8.

Brilliant, beautiful, kind Ida always has her nose in a book. Alfonso loves her, but can’t get her attention. So, he gathers apples from a mountaintop, butter from the sun, sugar from the clouds, eggs from a treetop, flour from the night sky, and salt from the ocean to make her a special cake. Paschkis’ whimsical style in both text and illustration will delight audiences young and old.

STEAM TRAIN, DREAM TRAIN. By Sherri Duskey Rinker. Illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld. Chronicle Books. $16.99. Ages 4-6.

The moon lights the scene as a steam train stops for loading before huffing and chuffing into the night. Poetic text describes each of the cars and how they are loaded, but only the pictures show the fact that the workers are a variety of circus and other animals, even dinosaurs. In the end, the title makes sense as the train is revealed on a sleeping child’s bedroom floor.