Tag Archives: British books

Themed Third Throwback Thursday: 1960-1969

My list for the 1960s is long…too long. It seems like every iconic picture book, every novel or easy reader I ever picked up off the shelf or was assigned in class during the ’80s and ’90s was published in the 1960s! (That, I must admit, is hyperbole. Maybe half of them, not all. 😉 ) Instead of listing every one with a synopsis, I’m going to do this list in halves–half picture book/easy reader, half novels–and a basic summary. Then you can access the printable book list below for just a list!

[1960 to 1969 book list]

In the news and popular culture during this decade, as found on about.com, including many events from the American Civil Rights Movement:

1960–presidential debates first televised, lunch counter sit-in at Woolworth’s
1961–first man in space (Soviets)
1962–first Wal-Mart opens, first James Bond movie
1963–first Doctor Who episode airs, Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech
1964–GI Joe action figure first made, Civil Rights Act passes
1965–U.S. gets involved in Vietnam
1966–Kwanzaa first celebrated, Star Trek first airs
1967–first heart transplant, first Super Bowl, Thurgood Marshall becomes first African-American justice on the Supreme Court
1968–Martin Luther King Jr. assassinated
1969–Neil Armstrong is first man on the moon, Sesame Street airs

Newbery Medalists for the decade:

1960–Onion John, by Joseph Krumgold
1961–Island of the Blue Dolphins, by Scott O’Dell
1962–The Bronze Bow, by Elizabeth George Speare
1963–A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle
1964–It’s Like This, Cat, by Emily Neville
1965–Shadow of a Bull, by Maia Wojciechowska
1966–I, Juan de Pareja, by Elizabeth Borton de Trevino
1967–Up a Road Slowly, by Irene Hunt
1968–From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by E.L. Konigsburg
1969–The High King, by Lloyd Alexander

Caldecott Medals for the decade:

1960–Nine Days to Christmas, by Marie Hall Ets and Aurora Labastida
1961–Baboushka and the Three Kings, by Ruth Robbins, illustrated by Nicolas Sidjakov
1962–Once a Mouse, retold and illustrated by Marcia Brown
1963–The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats
1964–Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak
1965–May I Bring a Friend?, by Beatrice Schenk de Regniers, illustrated by Beni Montresor
1966–Always Room for One More, by Sorche Nic Leodhas, illustrated by Nonny Hogrogian
1967–Sam, Bangs & Moonshine, by Evaline Ness
1968–Drummer Hoff, adapted by Barbara Emberly, illustrated by Ed Emberly
1969–The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship, retold by Arthur Ransome, illustrated by Uri Shulevitz

Picture Books/Easy Readers:

Bedtime for FrancesBedtime for Frances, by Russell and Lillian Hoban (1960): This is first in the series about Frances the strong-willed, inventive badger child who, in this book, is not quite ready for bedtime.

Green Eggs and Ham, Green Eggs and Hamby Dr. Seuss (1960): Sam-I-Am persistently offers green eggs and ham to an abstainer who is finally convinced to try them because he is tired of being pestered. Turns out, he does like green eggs and ham! This is just one of many Dr. Seuss books published in this decade, my favorite of which is Dr. Seuss’s ABCs (1963).

The Fire CatThe Fire Cat, by Esther Averill (1960): Pickles the cat wants to do big things, but because he can’t find big things to do, he acts out. Mrs. Goodkind gets him hooked up with the local fire department, and he learns how to use his big paws for good.

Go, Dog, Go!, Go, Dog, Go!by P.D. Eastman (1961): Dogs are doing plenty of un-dogly things in order to showcase a variety of adjectives and opposites. The story culminates in a big dog party at the top of a tree and two dogs riding off together into the sunset.

The Snowy DayThe Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats (1962): Peter wakes one morning to find that it has snowed overnight! This Caldecott Medal winning book then follows Peter through his day in the snow, his disappointment that the snowball he tries to save melts, and his joy when he wakes again the next morning to find fresh snow has fallen once again.

Amelia Bedelia, Amelia Bedeliaby Peggy Parish (1963): Amelia Bedelia is a very literal woman who goes to work for the Rogers family as housekeeper. Her confusion over idioms and unclear phrases used by the family result in many funny misinterpretations, but her fabulous cooking skills save her job. (There is a new branch of this series being published about Amelia Bedelia as a little girl as well.)

Clifford the Big Red DogClifford the Big Red Dog, by Norman Bridwell (1963): Clifford is a friendly, red, and very oversized dog, and this book is the introductory book of the series. He and his owner, Emily Elizabeth, do many things together, and Clifford both gets in trouble because of his size and often saves the day.

Where the Wild Things Are, Where the Wild Things Areby Maurice Sendak (1963): The 1964 winner of the Caldecott Medal, this book tells the story of Max who is feeling rather beastly before dinner and is sent to his room where he imagines himself sailing to the land of the wild things. When he starts to feel lonely for a place where “someone loved him best of all,” he “sails” home and finds his dinner waiting for him in his room.

The Giving TreeThe Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein (1964): A tree loves a little boy and gives him all that he wants and needs all through his life, even to the point of giving up her own life. (Many people love this book. I am not one of them.)

Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile, Lyle, Lyle, Crocodileby Bernard Waber (1965): Lyle the crocodile lives in harmony with the Primms and everyone on their street except for Mr. Grumps and his cat. When Lyle causes a stir at the store where Mr. Grumps works, Mr. Grumps gets the city to put him into the zoo. When he is sprung from the zoo and is returning home, he coincidentally saves Mr. Grumps and his cat from a house fire and is welcomed back into the neighborhood.

CorduroyCorduroy, story and pictures by Don Freeman (1968): Corduroy is a stuffed bear in a department store who has a missing button and is overlooked because of it. After a night of adventure looking for a new button, Corduroy is purchased by a little girl who comes to be his friend.

Swimmy, Swimmyby Leo Lionni (1968): Swimmy is the one black fish in his school of red fish, and a big fish eats all his friends. Swimmy wanders the wonders of the sea until he finds another school of his kind of fish (still all red), and he helps them learn to swim together to discourage big fish from attacking (and he, with his distinctive color, plays the part of the eye). This book was a Caldecott Honor book.

Caps for SaleCaps for Sale, by Esphyr Slobodkina (1968): A peddler who has trouble selling his hats one day rests beneath a tree and has all his hats stolen by monkeys while he sleeps. In his angry attempts to get them to return his hats (which they mock by copying his every move), he throws down his own hat to the ground in fury, prompting all the monkeys to toss down the hats they have stolen as well. The peddler reclaims his hats and goes back to town to try again to sell them.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Very Hungry Caterpillarby Eric Carle (1969): A very hungry caterpillar eats and eats (creating holes in the pages of the book) until he feels a little sick and makes himself a cocoon. When he wakes, he’s a butterfly (with what appear to be upside-down wings)!

Novels:

Island of the Blue DolphinsIsland of the Blue Dolphins, by Scott O’Dell (1960): Karana is left alone on the Island of the Blue Dolphins when she leaves the evacuation ship to be with her brother who is accidentally left behind. He is soon killed by wild dogs, and Karana survives for many years with only the company of a wild dog she tames and the things she scavenges or creates until another ship comes, and she trusts them to take her away as well. This book won the Newbery Medal.

The Phantom Tollbooth, The Phantom Tollboothby Norton Juster (1961): Milo is a spoiled and bored boy who one day opens an unexpected delivery: a toy tollbooth. He wearily drives his toy car through the booth, and he is transported to a strange and ridiculous land where the rules don’t make sense and there is great division between the rulers about whether words or numbers are most important. Milo’s journeys and adventures teach him to find excitement in the world around him.

James and the Giant PeachJames and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl (1961): James lives miserably with his two awful aunts until one day when a giant peach grows as a result of a batch of magical crocodile tongues being spilled. (Really.) He finds a tunnel into the center of the peach, and he and the oversized crawling creatures he discovers inside take a trip across the ocean from Dover, England to New York City where they take up residence and live happily ever after.

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, The Wolves of Willoughby Chaseby Joan Aiken (1962): When Bonnie’s parents take a holiday for the health of her mother, they are unaware that the distant relative with whom they leave their daughter is a villain. She and an unscrupulous man plot to take over Willoughby Chase and oust Bonnie’s family. Bonnie, her cousin, and the helpful goose boy work together to foil their plot and return to Willoughby Chase, despite the wolves. (I have not read this book–it was a favorite of my sister’s–but it is supposed to be pretty funny!)

Product DetailsA Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle (1962): Meg’s father has been missing for years; her brother Charles Wallace does not even remember him. One “dark and stormy night,” however, three mysterious ladies arrive and start Meg, Charles Wallace, and friend Calvin on a wild, space-hopping, time-bending adventure to save the world (and other worlds!). This Newbery Medal book is the first of a series.

The Chronicles of Prydain, The Chronicles of Prydainby Lloyd Alexander (1964-1968): The second book in this fantasy series (The Black Cauldron) was a Newbery Honor book, the last book (The High King) won the Newbery Medal. Taran is the assistant pig-keeper in charge of Hen Wen, a pig who prophesies. The books follow him as he adventures and grows to adulthood while fighting for the freedom of Prydain from the Death Lord.

Harriet the SpyHarriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh (1964): Harriet is a curious and regimented child, raised by a nanny who is soon to leave her to get married, and her life seems to fall apart when the notebook she keeps about her spying is found by her classmates who don’t much care for the blunt musings about each of them they find there. Eventually, she accepts the advice and help of the adults in her life to find a solution and a better outlet for her keen observation skills.

The Mouse and the Motorcycle, The Mouse and the Motorcycleby Beverly Cleary (1965): Ralph is a mouse who lives with his family in an old hotel off the beaten path. A boy arrives and brings his toy motorcycle, and Ralph discovers he can actually drive it. He and the boy become friends during the family’s stay, and the boy leaves Ralph his motorcycle when his family continues their trip.

Baby IslandBaby Island, by Carol Ryrie Brink (1965): 12-year-old Mary and 10-year-old Jean are traveling by boat to meet with their father in Australia, and a storm causes them to have to abandon ship–with the four babies entrusted temporarily to their care–when their lifeboat is set loose abruptly when the boat’s sinking seems imminent. They land on what they believe to be a deserted island but later meet Mr. Peterkin who lives on the other side. When they least expect it, rescue arrives, and there are happy reunions all around. (This was a favorite book of mine as a child!)

The Egypt Game, Egypt Gameby Zilpha Keatley Snyder (1967): A group of children who live in the same apartment building sneak into an unused storage yard nearby to play an elaborate game meant to replicate ancient Egyptian rituals. When another child is murdered in their neighborhood, they are kept from their game for a long time because the assailant is unknown. When one of the children returns to their play area to retrieve something after they are allowed to play again, she is attacked and is saved when the owner of the storage yard (who has been watching all along, unknown to the children) calls for help, and the murderer is found. This book was a Newbery Honor book.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. FrankweilerFrom the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by E.L. Konigsburg (1967): Claudia feels unappreciated by her family, so she plans an elaborate scheme to run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (with her brother, because he has money) long enough for them to miss her. While they are there, they discover a mystery about a statue that is purportedly one of Michaelangelo’s, and Claudia is so intrigued that she leaves the museum to pursue further information about Angel at the home of its previous owner, Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, who keeps her records organized in a peculiar way–a way she won’t explain when she allows the children one hour to discover the answer they’re seeking.

Striped Ice Cream, Striped Ice Creamby Joan M. Lexau (1968): Becky’s birthday is approaching, and times are hard, so she knows her family isn’t even going to be able to afford her favorite striped ice cream to celebrate. She would be okay with that except her family, usually so loving, seems to be treating her particularly meanly for a girl whose birthday is coming up. She soon discovers the reason for their distance, however, in their loving birthday surprise.

And here are the lists for picture books and chapter books from the 1960s featured by the What Do We Do All Day blog. There are no duplicates on the picture book list, and only three from the chapter books this time!

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Themed Third Throwback Thursday: 1910-1919

Many of the authors that were publishing in the 1900-1909 range continued to publish through the next decade. A whole lot of series adventure books were published, from the Bobbsey Twins to the Boy Scouts and Outdoors Girls. (Tom Swift books, a science fiction/inventor series, were first published in this decade as well, but the only knowledge I have of that character is of the Tom Swift puns, Tom Swifties!)

[1910 to 1919 book list]

Here’s our “when-in-the-world” reference from about.com to understand what was going on in real life while these books were being published!

1910–Boy Scouts established in the U.S. (which might explain all the Boy Scouts books published!)

1911–the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire occurs (I can’t remember where I learned about this tragedy–a social studies text?–but here’s a graphic novel an upper elementary to middle school reader might benefit from reading!)

1912–the Titanic sinks (and Oreos are first introduced!)

1913–Henry Ford invents the moving assembly line

1914–World War I begins

1915–the first transcontinental phone call is made

1916–Jeanette Rankin is the first woman in the U.S. Congress (and Piggly Wiggly opens as the first self-service grocery store in the U.S.)

1917–the U.S. enters WWI

1918–Daylight Saving Time introduced

1919–end of World War I with the Treaty of Versailles

That’s a lot of heavy stuff going on, so it’s really no wonder that there were so many adventure and inventor series being written! The stories that I best remember, though, being a timid child growing up in small-town USA, are the stories of hope and perseverance, childish goodness and wisdom, and “safe” adventures in fantasy! Here’s a list of some of the stories from this era that were most memorable to me and have stood the test of time!

Peter and WendyPeter and Wendy, by J.M. Barrie (1911): While Peter Pan as a character is pretty pervasive in modern culture (peanut butter, Geico commercials, and the many iterations in movies and on stage, just to name a few examples), the actual book from which the character arises is perhaps not as well known (nor, perhaps, that he first appeared in a book for adults and that this book where he is featured is actually an expansion on a long-running play written by the author and is not the original source material). The different versions of Peter don’t all agree on his personality or characteristics (even among Barrie’s works there are some discrepancies), but he is generally portrayed as young, brave, and carefree. Tinker Bell, likewise, has different characteristics among versions, but she is almost always shown to be both fiercely jealous and loyal (although I’m pretty sure the jealousy aspect is either toned down or missing in the Disney Fairies version of her where she isn’t with Peter Pan). Much of the book has a decidedly silly tone to it, despite dealing with such serious ideas as lost babies and murderous pirates. The Darlings have a somewhat ridiculous discussion about their finances while Mrs Darling holds the newborn Wendy, but they finally decide that they will keep their baby and hope for the best cost-wise. They hire a Newfoundland dog as their nanny because they can’t afford a human version but still want to keep up appearances, and the dog bathes the children and walks them to school, but she also lies on the floor in the nanny waiting area and is chained outside when Mr Darling (in a sullen temper and with the guilty understanding that he is being unreasonable) is offended by her supposed disrespect. (She also has dialog, but it’s hard to tell if the author intends for her to be actually speaking or if it is assumed that what she “says” is what she would be thinking or conveying with her demeanor.) Peter’s heavy-handed and obviously manipulative flattery convince the otherwise responsible Wendy to trust and follow him. All in all, I can’t help but think of the avowed absurdity of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland being passed off as absolutely reasonable in this book. My mother read this aloud to us when we were young, and I remember being heartily confused by the nanny/dog bit, but it certainly helped to have a reader who could explain the archaic or confusing parts to us! For independent reading, I’d suggest at least upper elementary age, and there are a vast number of YA books inspired by the story and characters if your reader falls for Peter, too!

The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett (1911): The Secret GardenThis character begins her story as both similar to and wildly different from Burnett’s other classic female character, Sara Crewe. Where Sara, the only child of a doting British officer in India, is sweet-tempered and wise and generous, Mary, the only child of self-centered British parents living in India, is angry and selfish and demanding. Both are orphaned at a young age, and both end up living with a wealthy guardian (after Sara’s stretch at Miss Minchin’s, of course). Both sincerely befriend children who are their social inferiors (Betsy for Sara and Dickon (as well as the servants) for Mary). Where Sara uplifts her fellow students through her goodness, imagination, and inclusiveness, Mary brings her hidden cousin Colin out of his misery with bluntness, stories, and shared secrecy. One theme of the story that seems obvious to me would finding life where there seems to be only death: Mary’s survival when her household is struck down by cholera, the garden being coaxed back to bloom from its abandoned state, and Colin and his father being drawn out of their pain and misery into a more abundant life. I loved this book as a child, and we loved the 1987 Hallmark Hall of Fame movie version (although I know it to be full of inaccuracies, it was what we had, and we loved it!). It is, like the others from this list, an enduring classic, and it would be a good read-aloud for elementary aged children and independent reading from upper elementary on.

PollyannaPollyanna, by Eleanor H. Porter (1913): All that I really recall from reading this book a million-ish years ago (or, you know, maybe 25 or so) is that Pollyanna is cheerful (which may also have something to do with her lasting literary legacy and not my actual memories of the book) and some sort of accident near the end of the book. It actually came to my attention when my daughter mentioned that a friend from her class (a bit of a Pollyanna herself!) was reading it. While the exact plot of the book may not have gone down in history (the basics of the storyline are pretty familiar and common to many books from this era: an orphaned child or child in otherwise desperate straits is sent to live with with better off relatives (usually spinsters or a childless couple) or friends of the parents and brightens their lives considerably), the character of the main character has created a lasting impression, a shorthand way of saying that someone is almost foolishly optimistic (and can, therefore, be used as a bit of an insult). The characterization comes about because of how Pollyanna approaches life, as taught to her by her father, in that she always looks for the bright side of things (which she calls playing “The Glad Game”) and teaches others to do so as well. Pollyanna is so very guileless (she reminds me of GirlChild in this way!) that there are frequent misunderstandings between herself and the people from her mother’s hometown that have secrets they’ve been keeping and feelings they’ve been hiding. When she is gravely injured in an accident and can’t manage to summon up a reason to be glad, all the people in the town visit or send messages to her about how she has changed their lives so that she can have something to be glad about. This is actually a somewhat easier read than many juvenile books from the era, and although some of the inferences might be missed by a young modern reader, I think a middle to upper elementary child could manage the contents decently, even better if read with an adult.

Tarzan of the Apes, by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1914): Tarzan of the ApesI will freely admit that I have never actually read this book. Does that, however, mean it isn’t a book with staying power? Of course not! There are many readers who are not me, after all! Besides, the character of Tarzan has been immortalized in film, and I would imagine that most adults in the English-speaking world could at least identify some characteristics of Tarzan (if not reproduce his yell). Not having a good acquaintance with the book character, I have little to no idea how far the Disney version strays from the original (although, from the fight with Kerchak that I happened to open the book to, I would guess the answer is “pretty darn far”). Still, the man who was raised by apes from infancy, discovered and brought to civilization by Professor Porter and his daughter, and has adventures, marries Jane Porter (although, apparently, not in this book), and has more adventures–his legend lives on. Judging from the bits of the book that I browsed and the hints gleaned from the introduction, I’d say it would be best for readers of at least middle school to high school age, and readers would need to be able to suspend disbelief on a semi-regular basis.

The Real Mother GooseThe Real Mother Goose, illustrated by Blanche Fisher Wright (1916): To me, at least, the cover of this book is the iconic Mother Goose image; it is what I think of when I think of Mother Goose despite all the different available compilations and adaptations of the rhymes contained within. In the interest of full disclosure, I do not remember a lot of the rhymes (“Three Wise Men of Gotham,” really? and “Needles and Pins” about the risks of marriage??), but the image has stuck. Nursery rhymes can be pretty brutal 😉 , but these weren’t composed during this time period, just illustrated. (I prefer Richard Scarry’s Best Mother Goose Ever in terms of contents, actually! Richard Scarry is kind of second only to Dr. Seuss in terms of my childhood reading memories, and Sandra Boynton joins them in my children’s collection of sure-to-be-classics!)

Raggedy Ann Stories, by Johnny Gruelle (1918): Raggedy Ann StoriesI don’t know that I ever read the stories themselves before, but I most definitely knew of Raggedy Ann and Andy! (My kids even have a metal jack-in-the-box that has Raggedy Ann in it!) The stories remind me very much of the Toys Go Out series by Emily Jenkins or the Toy Story movies. Raggedy Ann, despite being just a rag doll passed down to the little girl, Marcella, from her grandmother when she found the doll in her grandma’s attic, becomes the admired leader of the dolls in the nursery. She watches out for them and is the voice of wisdom and reason and love. There is a wealth of quotes in the stories that show what an upbeat and positive doll Raggedy Ann is, like: “So all the other dolls were happy, too, for happiness is very easy to catch when we love one another and are sweet all through.”

ArcolaFestival

A former Sunday school student with Raggedy Ann and Andy at the Raggedy Ann and Andy Festival in Arcola, IL.

It’s clear that the author also had some marketing in mind, however, when he wrote the story of the dollmaker taking Raggedy Ann in to use as a pattern for mass-production and having another doll say to Raggedy, “For wherever one of the new Raggedy Ann dolls goes there will go with it the love and happiness that you give to others.” The afterword, written by the author’s grandson, states that after the success of this first Raggedy Ann collection, the author wrote at least one new Raggedy Ann title per year until his death 20 years later. He also says, “His books contained nothing to cause fright, glorify mischief, excuse malice, or condone cruelty,” and that is probably why his characters for children endure today! While there used to be a museum and annual festival in the author’s hometown, they have recently suspended operations due to low turnout and volunteers.

1981SebbyFamilyPhoto (2)

The blogger as an almost-3-year-old with a Raggedy Andy doll

I had a couple more books slated to be shared today, but I realized that they may have had a more limited audience than these other books have had, so they may have only been memorable to me (and other readers like me). Jean Webster’s Daddy-Long-Legs (1912) and Dear Enemy (1915) were books my mother read to us that were published during this decade. Understood Betsy (1916) I discovered on a similarly-inspired book list on the blog What We Do All Day, and I loved that book as a child as well! (You should definitely check there for more books-by-the-decade as the blogger there is trying to emphasize books that might have been forgotten! I promise that I’m avoiding looking at the corresponding lists before I compile my list so I’m not unfairly influenced and so I can compare what we’ve found.)

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Themed Third Thursday: Books Get Meta

meta- : Describing or showing an awareness of the activity that is taking place or being discussed; self-referential

Books getting meta. Books about books. Books that refer to themselves as books. Books where the characters are aware of being in a book. While my categories may stray from the generally accepted definition of “meta,” these self-aware books and books about books are sure to be page turners for your book-loving readers!

Product DetailsThe Monster at the End of this Book, by Jon Snow, illustrated by David Smollin (2003–most recent edition): In this Sesame Street classic book, Grover warns the reader not to continue on with the book because there is a monster at the end of it, and he is scared of monsters! In his distress, he tries everything to avoid getting to the end. Not to worry, however–Grover himself is the monster at the end of the book! I vaguely remember this book from my childhood, and the fact that it is still in print is telling. A great breaking-the-fourth-wall book for preschool and early elementary children, this book is best shared as a read-aloud.

Book! Book! Book!, Book! Book! Book!by Deborah Bruss, illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke (2001): When the children all go back to school after a summer of fun, the animals on the farm are bored. The hen decides to go looking for something to do, and the other animals follow. When they come upon a building where people with smiles on their faces are exiting, they decide this is the place for finding something to do! (The place is the public library.) The horse thinks the hen is too small to be the one to go in to ask, so he goes in, but all the librarian can hear is “neigh, neigh,” so he leaves sadly. Each of the other larger animals also try, but the librarian can only hear their animal noises. Then the hen, frustrated, determines to go in herself. When she arrives, she starts clucking, “Book! Book! BOOK!” It takes a few tries, but the librarian suddenly realizes that she’s asking for books! She gives her three, and the hen takes them back to the farm with the other animals to read together. Everyone is happy except the frog; he keeps claiming that he’s already “read it!” With a cute story and simple plot, a read-aloud (to emphasize the chicken-y sound of the word “book” in particular) to children as young as preschool would be a crowd-pleaser!

We Are in a Book!We Are in a Book! (An Elephant & Piggie book), by Mo Willems (2010): Gerald the Elephant and Piggie are sitting back to back on the ground when Gerald suddenly notices that someone is looking at them. When Piggie gets up to investigate, coming closer to the reader, they realize that they are being read by a reader! They are very excited and try to get the reader to say the word banana, then they laugh and laugh about it. Piggie offers to let Gerald try it before the book ends, and Gerald is shocked to realize it will end (on page 57, no less). He is distraught over the approaching end, but Piggie comes up with the idea to ask the reader to read the book again to prolong their fun. The book ends semi-abruptly with the two of them hoping their request works (because, after all, having a conclusion to a book where the characters want it to be read in a continuous loop would be counterproductive!). While this is a perfectlly acceptable book for an independent young reader, all the Elephant and Piggie books make amazingly fun read-alouds as well.

The Best Book in the World!, The Best Book in the World!by Rilla (2014): When I looked up this author’s website to see if I could figure out her name (her full name is Rilla Alexander, but the library copy I have has “Rilla, Alexander” like Rilla is the last name!), I discovered that she is primarily an illustrator and graphic designer (which, considering the appearance of the book, didn’t surprise me). I also discovered another of her books (also featuring the character she calls her “alterego, Sozi”) that I really must have–Her Idea! (I was just having a chat with a friend this morning about all the writing ideas I have that I never carry through to completion!) The relevant book to this theme, however, features Sozi as she gets started on a book. With book in hand and a superhero mask over her eyes, she moves through town as she progresses through her book, and then things start to focus in more on the story world she enters. The book states, “Page by page you’re carried away. So let yourself go!” Sozi (whose name isn’t mentioned in the book) travels deep into her book, picking up strange companions on her way. Just as things seem to be getting overwhelming, she takes a moment to “rest [her] eyes” and dozes off. All the characters who populated her book now populate her dreams, and they huddle around her book–The Best Book in the World–as she dreams because of the secret they share: “the story won’t stop…[i]f we go back to the beginning again!”

The Children Who Loved BooksThe Children Who Loved Books, by Peter Carnavas (2012): Angus and Lucy don’t have a lot in the way of personal possessions; in fact, they even live in a camper with their parents instead of a regular home or apartment. What they do have, however, is books. They have so many books, in fact, that they soon overwhelm their tiny living space, and their father hauls them off. In addition to the logistical problems they start having because books were a literal prop in their home, the abundance of space in their house allows a lot of space to form between the members of the family as well. When Lucy brings a book home from the library, they can’t help opening it up and starting to read aloud. They all crowd around the father as he reads, and they read together on the couch late into the night (where they also all fall asleep). Bonded together once again through a shared story, they take their bike out first thing in the morning and head to–you guessed it!–the library for more books. As the last page says, “Angus and Lucy didn’t have very much, but they had all they would ever need.”

What Happened to Marion’s Book?,What Happened to Marion's Book? by Brook Berg, illustrated by Nathan Alsburg (2003): Marion is a hedgehog who loves to read all kinds of books in all kinds of places. She’s looking forward to starting school because her nana said that she should become a librarian some day, and she knows school is the place to start! She is most excited about visiting the library and taking out two books at a time. One morning at breakfast, however, she drops some raspberry jam on her open library book and knows she can’t just leave it there. She tries all kinds of things to fix the red stain (from letting the dog lick it to washing it in the washing machine!), and she even considers donating one of her own books to replace the ruined one, but all of her books have been dirtied because she reads them everywhere. She worries that she doesn’t know how to treat books, will be banned from the library, and will never be able to become a librarian. She finally gets the courage to tell her mom, and her mom tells her that she’ll have to pay to replace the book. When she brings the ruined book back to the school library, the librarian is disappointed, of course, but she gives Marion a tour of the “book hospital” where books are repaired and gives her a bookmark to remind her how to care for books. And, of course, Marion pays for the ruined book and checks out two new ones! (This hit close to home since GirlChild’s milk Thermos leaked in her backpack and spoiled a library book recently!)

Wild About BooksWild about Books, by Judy Sierra, pictures by Marc Brown (2004): In this rhyming story, librarian Molly McGrew accidentally drives the bookmobile to the zoo. Instead of being perturbed by her mistake and their reluctance, Molly starts reading Dr. Seuss aloud to attract a crowd. Soon, all the animals come to check out books (in two senses of the phrase!). The crocodiles enjoy Peter Pan, an elephant reads Dumbo, the pandas request books in Chinese, and then the puns begin! The llamas read The Grass Menagerie, the scorpion leaves stinging reviews of the poems the insects are inspired to write, and the hippo wins a Zoolitzer Prize for her memoir, Mud in my Blood. Then Molly hires some of the construction-minded animals–the beavers in particular–to create a branch library to satisfy their literary needs right there at the zoo. Now that they have their very own zoobrary, it’s sometimes hard to see the animals because “[t]hey are snug in their niches, their nests, and their nooks, [g]oing wild, simply wild, about wonderful books.” This book is a great one not only for introducing the concepts of reading, getting inspired by reading to write, and finding the perfect kind of book for your interests, but it also appeals to little readers who simply like animals and learning new animal names!

Have I Got a Book for You!, Have I Got a Book for You!by Mélanie Watt (2009): Al Foxword is a creature (of some sort, I can’t really place him!) and a salesman. This book serves as an infomercial for itself as Al tries to convince the reader not only that he or she should buy a copy of the book but that he or she should buy multiple copies of the book. He tries every trick of the trade, wheedling and exaggerating, throwing in bonus gifts and deals for buying more than one. When all his efforts seem to have failed, he reminds us of the one big rule of merchandise: “You break it, you buy it!” And the last page is “torn.” Definitely meant to be read aloud by someone with few inhibitions. 😉 (Also, might be a great book to use when teaching information literacy and the tricks advertisers use!)

Wanted: Ralfy Rabbit, Book BurglarWanted! Ralfy Rabbit, Book Burglar, by Emily MacKenzie (2015): Ralfy Rabbits loves books so much that “one thing led to another,” and he starts actually burgling books from people to get his fix! Unfortunately for Ralfy, Arthur also loves books, and he notices when parts of his well-organized collection start to go missing. Arthur stakes out his bookshelves and sees Ralfy, but no one believes his story about a thieving rabbit, not even the police. That is, I mean, until Ralfy accidentally burgles the home of PC Puddle, the officer to whom Arthur had spoken when he called in his complaint. When Arthur is called in to view a line-up of bunnies wearing “I ❤ Books” shirts, he isn’t sure which rabbit is the robber until a conveyor belt of goodies is passed in front of them, and the only bunny who goes for books instead of the carrots and lettuce offered is Ralfy. Arthur feels sorry for Ralfy because he is only in trouble because he loves books, and he has a great idea of where Ralfy can borrow his fill of books without having to steal them: the library! And Arthur and Ralfy become “best ‘book buddies'” and visit the library together often. Good fun for elementary readers.

The Book that Eats People, The Book that Eats Peopleby John Perry, illustrations by Mark Fearing (2009): I read this aloud to BoyChild, and he was a little concerned about it. Once I realized it wasn’t just a play on words or something, I was a little concerned, too, that young BoyChild would be having nightmares about his books…but it was better to finish and remind him that it was just pretend than to leave him hanging with carnivorous books running through his dreams! Recommended for ages 3-7 on Amazon, I’m going to go ahead and suggest a slightly older crowd despite the relatively small amount of text per page. I’m thinking middle elementary is probably a safer bet what with the book actually eating people and phrases like “it coughed up his bones and they clattered across the floor like wooden blocks” and the like. Sure, it’s darkly hilarious, but that seems like more the sort of thing that children with a stronger grasp on the concept of reality versus fiction might enjoy. Featuring a ton of collage elements and a very cranky-looking book, the visuals are also geared toward the upper end of the suggested age range and beyond. Future fans of the Series of Unfortunate Events would like this book!

Incredible Book Eating BoyThe Incredible Book Eating Boy, by Oliver Jeffers (2006): Henry loves books, but not in the same way that most people do; he literally devours them. It starts by accident at first, when he mistakenly licks his book instead of his popsicle when he’s distracted. It quickly progresses, however, into tearing into pages and then into whole books and eventually several books at once! He eats all kinds of books–he’s not picky–and finds that he grows smarter and smarter with each one he ingests! Eventually, though, eating all those books so quickly without giving himself time to “digest” them leads to confusion and nausea. Henry stops eating books then, and it takes him a while to figure out what else he can do with his books…and he tries reading them. Just like before, he gets smarter with each book he reads, although this method is slower. Now he reads all the time, and he only occasionally slips back into bad habits (as evidenced by a large “bite” taken out of the last few pages and back cover). The irony and graphic design elements of this book make it better for slightly older picture book readers, middle to upper elementary.

Return of the Library Dragon, Return of the Library Dragonby Carmen Agra Deedy, illustrated by Michael P. White (2012): Miss Lotty (short for Lotta Scales, we discover), librarian at Sunrise Elementary School, is retiring. As she tries to reassure the students that the new librarian will be as much and more fun, one of the children asks if the new librarian will let them use computers, and her old dragon-ish ways rear their heads briefly as she declares, “Over my dead dragon body!” On her very last day of work, she is greeted in the morning by the unpleasant discovery that IT has arrived, taken all the books, and filled the library with electronics only! Miss Lotty is steaming mad (literally), and the students beg for their books back, listing all the reasons books are still relevant and enjoyable. They also discover, however, how enticing technology can be, and Mike Krochip (the IT guy) crows that soon the kids will forget all about books in a month! Miss Lotty loses her temper, and everyone flees, but they warn the young woman in the hallway that the “librarian’s a real dragon!” This young woman, it turns out, is the new librarian, and she is the same woman who, as a child twenty years prior, had convinced Miss Lotty to shed her draconic book-lending practices in the first place. (You have to read the short newspaper article in the front matter for this to make any sense, actually, so don’t skip it!) Molly reassures Miss Lotty that the books will be returned because she insisted that they remain as a condition of her employment, and completely replacing books with technology makes her feel a little dragon-ish as well. The last page shows an image of Miss Molly at her desk with children, books, and a sign proclaiming Technology Free Tuesday–striking a balance between printed and electronic resources. This is apparently the second book about the Library Dragon, so reading The Library Dragon first would be an alternative to making sure the newspaper article page gets read. Quotes on reading, books, librarians, and information technology fill the end papers. The controversy about technology and the proliferation of punny names and book titles probably wouldn’t register with younger readers, so I’d suggest a middle elementary to upper elementary audience for this book.

It's a BookIt’s a Book, by Lane Smith (2010): This book is more for big kids and adults than it is for the picture book crowd (particularly if you don’t want to read/have your kid read the word “jackass” for comedic effect–just giving you a heads-up here!). It features a mouse, a jackass, and a monkey. The monkey is reading a book (with the mouse under his hat, for some reason), and the jackass is using a laptop. The jackass keeps asking the monkey if his book can do some thing that the laptop does (scroll down, connect to wi-fi, play music, etc.), and the monkey keeps responding with, “No, it’s a book” (or some variation on that theme). Then the monkey hands his book over so the jackass can see for himself, and the jackass gets totally absorbed to the point of not wanting to give it back. When the monkey gives in and lets him keep it (he’s going to the library anyway), the jackass offers to charge it up for him when he’s done. That’s when the mouse says, “You don’t have to…it’s a book, jackass.” So, a book that might have been fun to read with small children of the digital generation kind of gets fouled up with a double entendre. If you don’t care and wish to share it with your children anyway, that’s fine; it’s a clever book! If that’s a little more mature than you like to go with your child’s vocabulary (or if you’re a school teacher and probably shouldn’t), you can try It’s a Little Book for the same kind of cleverness but in a board book without the words to make children giggle (and with contents suited for an even younger set).

Books for Older Kids that I Wish I’d Had a Chance to Actually Read and Review Properly But Didn’t:

Secrets of the Book, Secrets of the Bookby Erin Fry (2014, upper elementary): This book features a book called Pandora’s Book which is full of images of positively influential historical people that the guardian of the book can bring to life. That there is a shady man who has a book called Pandora’s Other Book suggests that infamous historical people are included in that book. The heroes of the story are sixth graders: a boy who is losing his sight, another with autism spectrum disorder, and the “resourceful” granddaughter of the previous keeper of the book (who goes missing right after passing the book on).

Archie Greene and the Magician's SecretArchie Greene and the Magician’s Secret, by D. D. Everest (2015, upper elementary): The first in a new series, this book tells the story of Archie Greene, a boy who receives a very old book on his twelfth birthday and learns that he is part of a gifted family given the job of protecting and preserving magical books. Archie himself has some hidden talents as well. The reviews I read suggest that there is a lot of content to process, so this is probably good for a dedicated reader who enjoys the concept of magic hidden in the real world. The summaries made me think strongly of The Librarians show and of Warehouse 13, if you happen to be the adult in charge of selecting books for your tween or early teen and know those series!

Inkheart trilogy, Inkheartby Cornelia Funke (2003, upper elementary to middle school): Meggie’s father, a man who repairs rare books, never reads aloud to her, and she discovers why when one of the characters he accidentally read out of a book (and Meggie’s mother into it) shows up outside their home late one night. This fantasy story starts with the idea that spoken words–particularly words spoken by someone with talent–are powerful, and the three books in the series continue in that vein, and with added elements of the power of skillful storytelling and writing added in, to create a world where a good reader can literally make a book come alive and a good writer can transport you into a book. (I have actually read all of these books, but it was long enough ago that I can’t give a very specific review!)

I know there are many, many more of these books available! Just search the subjects “Libraries–Fiction” and “Books–Fiction” to find a vast selection from which to choose!

 

 

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Themed Third Thursday: Dolls and Toyland

Yes, yes, I know the real phrase. However, I mean to say that this post is all about dolls and toys with lives of their own! One of my best-loved books as an elementary reader was When the Dolls Woke. It was a little scary, but not Wait Till Helen Comes scary, so that was good for me. These books aren’t like that–well, these books aren’t all like that! Some are silly or sweet, some are thought-provoking, and some are a little bit creepy. Or a lot creepy. Take your pick!

[Dolls and Toyland book list (alphabetical order by author, suggested interest levels included)]

Corduroy, by Don FreemanCorduroy, by Don Freeman (1968, preschool to early elementary): Corduroy is a toy on the shelf in a big department store, and he has been overlooked for a long time. When a little girl asks to get him and her mother says no because he’s missing a button, Corduroy decides to go in search of his missing button after the store closes for the night. He makes discoveries along the way (“Could this be a mountain?” [on the escalator] “I think I’ve always wanted to climb a mountain!”), but when he pulls a button off a mattress, he knocks over a lamp and gets the attention of the night guard who brings him back downstairs to the toy shop (not realizing Corduroy is the one who made the noise). The next morning, the little girl, Lisa, returns and buys Corduroy with her own money, and she brings him home to her bedroom. When she sews on a new button because she thinks he’ll be more comfortable that way, Corduroy says that he has always wanted a friend, and Lisa responds as though she has heard him speak aloud and gives him a hug.

The Lonely Doll, The Lonely Dollstory and photographs by Dare Wright (1957, preschool to early elementary): This is not the earliest example of a living doll story I found, but it is unique in that it is a picture book illustrated with photographs of posed toys and with no toy owners a part of the story at all. (They are half-implied in that the doll tries on adult-sized high heels and puts on lipstick she finds, but the doll is lonely and has no one to play with until Mr. Bear and Little Bear show up at her door one day, so it seems as though there is no child at least–and no worries about being caught by any human.) Some of the contents haven’t aged particularly well, but it is the kind of story a modern child could use as a mentor text to create his or her own photograph-illustrated story about what toys do when they’re alone.

Hooray for Amanda and Her Alligator!, by Mo WillemsHooray for Amanda and her Alligator!, words and pictures by Mo Willems (2011, preschool to early elementary): Amanda’s alligator doesn’t like waiting for Amanda to get home when she leaves him. He frets and fusses and hopes she’ll bring him a surprise. Like most Mo Willems books, this one has a lot of silliness and a bit of the unexpected. The alligator seems to be fully living, and the stuffed panda at the end is as well (although she doesn’t look like it when she first arrives). The alligator is kind of suspicious of the panda at first, jealous of her newness and not-sale-bin qualities (the alligator was on clearance), but when they are both left behind, the panda reveals she is not good at waiting either, and they enjoy each other’s company doing all the silly things the alligator is always waiting and wanting to do with Amanda but doesn’t always get the chance.

Babushka’s Doll, by Patricia PolaccoBabushka's Doll, by Patricia Polacco (1990, early elementary): Natasha isn’t a naughty little girl, exactly, but she is rather pushy and demanding. If she wants something from her grandmother, she wants it now, and she doesn’t see why Babushka won’t drop everything she’s doing to do it. Babushka decides it is time for Natasha to play with her old doll, the doll she played with just once, and leaves Natasha with the doll while she goes to get groceries. As soon as Babushka leaves, the doll comes to life and starts giving poor Natasha a taste of her own medicine. At first, Natasha is thrilled to play with a living doll, but she is soon worn out by the persistence and insistence of the little doll. By the time Babushka returns, Natasha is exhausted to the point of tears, and insists once was enough to play with the doll. When Babushka puts the doll away again, the doll winks at her before becoming just a doll again, and Babushka’s mission is complete.

The Velveteen RabbitThe Velveteen Rabbit, by Marjery Williams, illustrated by William Nicholson (1958, early elementary): Because of this story, I spent a good portion of my childhood afraid that my parents were going to torch all my belongings every time I got sick! (I had an over-active imagination and a whole lot of hypochondria…) In it, a simple stuffed rabbit longs to become Real: “Real isn’t how you are made. It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.” When the boy loses his usual sleeping companion toy, his nurse gives him his old rabbit, and soon they are inseparable, and the velveteen rabbit becomes what he knows as Real. On one excursion, the velveteen rabbit meets two living rabbits, and they want him to play, but he can’t. Now, however, he dearly wants to do the things they talk about doing–play and hop and dance–but he is content to stay with the boy who loves him. When the boy becomes sick with scarlet fever, the velveteen rabbit is there to comfort and encourage him, but once he recovers, the doctor orders that all the toys and books must be burned to get rid of the germs, so the rabbit is put out with the other rubbish. He mourns the unfairness of becoming Real only to end up in this situation, and a tear falls to the ground. From it grows a blossom, and from the blossom comes a fairy–the nursery magic fairy. She tells him that her job is to take the toys that have been loved and make them Real, really Real to everyone, not just the child who loves them, and she takes the velveteen rabbit to the forest to be Real. He meets the boy again in the spring while he is with the other rabbits, and while the boy is reminded of his old, beloved bunny, he never realizes that is really the rabbit he is seeing.

Toys Go Out: Being the Adventures Toys Go Outof a Knowledgeable Stingray, a Toughy Little Buffalo, and Someone Called Plastic, by Emily Jenkins, pictures by Paul O. Zelinsky (2006, elementary): GirlChild found this amusing–her favorite character is Plastic, a rubber ball–but I think that the audience range is pretty wide, particularly if it is used as a read-aloud to a younger group (who might not realize how funny melodramatic StingRay is or how practical under-appreciated Plastic is) and for independent chuckles for older readers. The toys interact with one another and with other household objects (the bathroom towels, the washer and dryer), and their peculiar worldview makes even the most ordinary event extraordinary! GirlChild also read the sequels, Toys Come Home and Toy Dance Party, on the plane and in the car when we were on vacation.

The Doll PeopleThe Doll People, by Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin, pictures by Brian Selznick (2000, elementary): Annabelle, a 100-year-old 8-year-old china doll, is more restless than usual ever since stumbling upon her missing Auntie Sarah’s hidden journal. Gone for almost half a century, Auntie Sarah recorded things that she never could have seen from inside the dollhouse, and Annabelle starts to have questions–questions the adults in the house don’t really want to answer. When a new doll family moves into the human house (a gift for the younger daughter to keep her from rough-housing with the antique dolls her older sister owns), their carefree, modern ways are just the incentive Annabelle needs to spur her to action (with the help of Tiffany, her plastic counterpart in the other family). The rest of her family is more reluctant, but it’s going to take more than just the two girls to save Auntie Sarah from being lost forever! The endpapers mimic the different ads that would have been contemporary for each dollhouse purchase, highlighting the differences between the two doll families. The first of several in a series.

The Very Little Princess, The Very Little Princess, by Marion Dane Bauerby Marion Dane Bauer, illustrated by Elizabeth Sayles (2010, elementary): This was not the cute, silly story I expected from the cover and jacket description. That’s not entirely fair–it was that, but it was also a very heart-wrenching story of abandonment and loneliness. (I probably should have expected something sad; this is the author of the most traumatizing Newbery Honor novel of my childhood, On My Honor.) Zoey’s mother unexpectedly tells her to pack to visit her grandmother, a grandmother she never knew she had. They drive for hours before they reach the country home where her mother grew up, and Zoey is greeted at the door by a woman who looks much like her own mother but older. While her mother and grandmother argue downstairs, Zoey escapes to the upper floor of the house and finds her mother’s old room and old dollhouse. A tear–whether of excitement over the doll or from the stress of the argument downstairs–falls onto the doll from the house, and she wakes, startling Zoey. This doll turns out to be Princess Regina, and she considers Zoey her personal servant. Zoey is happy to play along–she’s played this game before with her mother, and she’s eager to avoid the conflict downstairs–but the doll keeps losing her ability to speak and move when she’s left alone too long. While the doll is incapacitated and Zoey is unable to get her to come back, Zoey’s mother leaves, leaving Zoey behind indefinitely, because she “needs to be alone,” and Zoey is heartbroken, weeping on the doll in her sleep. Princess Regina wakes up and fully realizes that Zoey’s tears are what gives her life, so she tries to make her cry more, but in so doing, she comes to understand the deep hurt that makes Zoey cry, and her first feelings of empathy make her cry instead, and she becomes really and permanently real. She, Zoey, and Zoey’s grandmother then work through their fears and pain by taking one day at a time with whatever comes. (I’ve not read it yet, but there is another of these books that is about Zoey’s mother, Rose, and the doll.)

When the Dolls Woke 001When the Dolls Woke, by Marjorie Filley Stover (1985, middle to upper elementary): You might very well have a hard time finding this title for sale anywhere, and I’m not going to claim that it is a literary masterpiece–only that I loved it as a child (and still have my old copy)! Gail, a shy fourth-grade girl who has just started at a new school, is sent an old dollhouse by her Great Aunt Abigail whose Aunt Melissa had received it as a gift from her sea-faring brother, Abigail’s father. Gail is thrilled until she sees that it has fallen into disrepair, that the doll clothes are shabby and their hair unkempt, and her mother tells her that she just doesn’t have time to help fix it up right then. Soon after the dollhouse arrives, however, Great Aunt Abigail follows for a visit, and she gladly works with Gail to refurbish the house. Sir Gregory, Lady Alice, Maribelle, and Tommy are the dollhouse family, and they have a Dutch ragdoll maid, Becky, who replaced the wooden doll, Martinique, who made the other dolls uncomfortable with the tales of voodoo from her homeland. The family, recently woken from a long sleep in storage, believes that Gail has the gift of being able to “hear” them–get an understanding of their thoughts–when they wish hard enough, just like her great grandmother (the one who stashed Martinique away in anger) and Great Aunt Abigail before her. And when they discover that their beloved Abigail is in dire straits, they work to communicate the secret of the dollhouse…a secret only Sir Gregory knew and is just beginning to remember again. (Rereading it as an adult, I really don’t know why I felt it was even a little scary–maybe just Martinique’s voodoo attempts and the fact that she makes the other dolls nervous? It really isn’t frightening at all, and things work out for Martinique!)

The Indian in the Cupboard, Indian in the Cupboard, by Lynne Reid Banksby Lynne Reid Banks (1980, middle to upper elementary): Set in England in the 1970s, the story begins when Omri receives both a plastic Indian and an old medicine cabinet cupboard for his birthday. His mother gives him an old key that fits the lock, and he puts his toy inside and locks it. When he wakes in the morning, he finds that the plastic toy has come to life. His original excitement over having the ability to bring toys to life dims as he realizes the gravity of having such responsibility for the tiny life, particularly when he realizes that “his” Indian, Little Bear, is a real person from history–an Iroquois from the time of the French and Indian War–who has somehow been brought forward in time as a miniature and deserves respect. His friend Patrick doesn’t quite grasp the seriousness of the situation and, against Omri’s instructions, brings a cowboy to life using the cupboard and key, creating additional chaos. Eventually, the mutual respect between Omri and Little Bear allows him to do the hardest thing–send his new friend back to his own time and place. (There is a little bit of language in the book, and, like many older books, some stereotypical depictions. I feel like Omri’s respect for Little Bear and life in general is a strong positive, however.)

House of Dolls, by Francesca Lia BlockHouse of Dolls, by Francesca Lia Block (2010, upper elementary to middle school): The dolls in Madison Blackberry’s dollhouse have an idyllic life. Wildflower (a very old doll that had belonged to Madison’s grandmother) has Guy (apparently an army figure), Rockstar has B. Friend (a studious stuffed bear), and Miss Selene (a fairy doll) has a vast and elaborate wardrobe she shares, and they all have each other. Madison envies them. She envies their finery, their companionship, and their happiness. Her grandmother shakes her head at her for her moods, but she doesn’t engage with her. Her father travels the world for work, her mother is a socialite, and her little brother gets all the family attention, so friendless Madison takes out her frustration on the dolls, taking first their boyfriends, then their clothing, away from them. Miss Selene is hit particularly hard because she had always used the clothing to distract her from something else she had lost long ago. Wildflower decides to communicate with Madison’s grandmother to try to get her to show love to Madison like her own mother had shown love to her before she died. When Madison’s grandmother shares her pictures of her mother with Madison and makes Madison a beautiful dress to rival any that the dolls had ever received, Madison loses her resentment and returns the lost companions and clothing to the dolls. The rest of her family somehow seems to feel the need to show love again, too, and things start to look up for them all. This seems to be a simple book, but it isn’t simple to explain. The brevity competes with the seriousness and complexity of the subject matter, and it is clearly much more than a story about dolls.

The Dollhouse Murders, The Dollhouse Murders, by Betty Ren Wrightby Betty Ren Wright (1983, upper elementary to middle school): I think I’d consider this one Wait ’til Helen Comes scary. (I should not have started it late at night!) There are some definitely dated things in this book (rugby shirts, cassette tapes, and a complete lack of cell phones), but the use of the word “retarded” in the jacket description is what really threw me for a loop. It was used to describe Louann, the younger sister of the main character, Amy, but the phrases “like a little kid” and “brain-damaged” were the only terms actually used inside the book, if I recall correctly. There are two intertwined story lines in this book: almost-thirteen-year-old Amy being pushed to the brink by her mother’s expectations of her in regards to her sister and a decades-old family murder mystery that is being played out in the replica dollhouse in her great-grandparents’ former home. If you have an easily spooked reader, I’d avoid this one (particularly if there’s a dollhouse in the house…), but older readers looking for a not-too-graphically-gory spine-tingler might be interested. I’d recommend you read it yourself first, but, again, I wouldn’t recommend a late-night reading unless you’re braver than I am!

Hitty: Her First Hundred YearsHitty: Her First Hundred Years, by Rachel Field, illustrated by Dorothy P. Lathrop (1929, upper elementary to middle school): Hitty is a wooden doll, skillfully whittled by a peddler who stays the winter with the Preble family of Maine while Captain Preble is out at sea, and the story is told in first person from her point-of-view. (Calculating from the time the book was written, this is likely to have been set in the first half the the 19th century, probably in the 1820s. The date is only mentioned once, near the end of the book, but current events such as wars are mentioned often enough to get a vague sense of the 100-year chronology as the book progresses.) She appears to have limited mobility, and she only is mentioned to use it a few times during the book. (She interprets the other dolls she encounters as being either too rude or too self-absorbed to interact with her, but I got the impression that she was actually the only doll with any life in the book.) When Mrs. Preble and Phoebe join Captain Preble on his next voyage, Hitty begins her worldwide travels and adventures. Through the travels of the doll, the reader experiences life on a whaling vessel, tribal conflict on a tropical island, snake charmers and missionaries in India, higher society in Philadelphia, simple Quaker life, upperclass New York, meeting several artists, musicians, and writers of the time (some of whom appear to be fictional, some real historical people), a Rhode Island mill town, Mardi Gras, a Cotton Exposition, a cargo boat on the Mississippi, a black country family, a railroad station, a home with a vast doll collection, and eventually an antique shop. It really is true that older books have more complex language, and that is part of what makes this Newbery Medal-winning book an upper elementary or middle school title. The other big thing is the need to thoughtfully interpret the events and portrayals of different people in a different era and realize how attitudes of the time might color the way the author characterizes the people Hitty encounters; some of the portrayals are pretty offensive, actually, despite the fact that Hitty is a mostly impartial observer who admirably considers different points-of-view and lifestyles as she changes hands. Could be used in conjunction with a history class on the time between the War of 1812 and the end of World War I.

Doll Bones, Doll Bones, by Holly Blackby Holly Black, with illustrations by Eliza Wheeler (middle school): The illustrations creeped me out more than the contents did, despite their extensive creepiness–I had to store this book cover down! Middle school friends Poppy, Zach, and Alice have an elaborate game they play together with their dolls and action figures. Zach, who has just discovered a skill for basketball and whose deadbeat father has recently returned to his life, is afraid that Poppy’s brothers will reveal his secret to someone he knows and make his life rougher than his father is already making it, but he is devastated when his dad throws his bag of action figures away while he is at school because he feels Zach’s too old for that kind of play. Desperate to hide what happened from Poppy and Alice, Zach lies and tells them he just doesn’t want to play anymore, and Poppy tries to lure him back in by promising to get the Great Queen (the creepy bone china doll her mother keeps locked in a glass cabinet) out to add more excitement to their play. This, however, sets a series of events in motion that involves horrific dreams about a little girl, a middle-of-the-night trek across the state on a quest Poppy insists is the doll’s demand, and a variety of really, really creepy events. (I am seriously getting goosebumps all over while writing this despite having finished the book itself weeks ago!) Definitely not for the faint of heart, there are layers and layers of story in this book, from the doll’s origins to the current struggles of each of the main characters. While you try not to toss the book away in horror, you’ll struggle not to really feel for the kids in the book (even if you’re still a kid yourself)! Again, depending on your kid, you might want to preview to make sure this “don’t try this at home” book doesn’t inspire behaviors you don’t want your child copying (like taking a midnight train out of town without permission). This book received a Newbery Honor in 2014.

There are, I am sure, many more books in this category–Winnie-the-Pooh, for example! If you have a favorite living toys title you or your children have read, share the title in the comments!

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Themed Third Thursday: Heroic Reads

A friend of mine is a teacher at a school where the theme next year is “Reading Is My Superpower.” I don’t know if I necessarily agree that reading is a superpower so much as that reading gives me superpowers, but perhaps that’s just semantics. 🙂 I had also forgotten that the Milwaukee Public Library theme last summer and this one is Super Readers, and I stumbled across the display at my local branch and filled up my library bag with some of their suggestions, too. So, if your summer isn’t saturated enough by Marvel’s superheroes (and I will include some of them, just to give you fair warning!), your young readers will have a chance to explore what makes a hero super! (Weird fast fact: My family was playing the board game Life a couple of days ago, and one of the action cards called for the kids to state their superpowers. GirlChild said strength, speed, and wisdom. BoyChild said punching people in the face. Oy. That child.)

Super Reader selection

The Super Reader summer reading display at the Mill Road branch of the Milwaukee Public Library (before I pillaged it).

Superhero Me!Superhero Me!, by Karen Katz (2009, toddler to preschool): Karen Katz appears to have a board book for nearly every occasion! Her typical round-faced, happy toddlers try out different superhero identities, from Super Rexosaur to Puddle-Jumper, in this rhyming touch-and-feel book. My children have always loved these simple, bright books and are drawn to them in the board book section of the library with regularity even now! This is a perfect first introduction to the idea of superhero play for little ones!

Super Duck, by Jez Alborough Super Duck(2009, toddler to preschool): Like all his other Duck books, this Alborough installment features the very eager duck, several somewhat exasperated barnyard friends, and a lot of rhyming! When Sheep, Goat, and Frog are trying to fly a kite, Duck proclaims that he is Super Duck and tries his best to help (with mixed results). When Frog gets swept away with the kite, Duck actually comes to the rescue and gets him safely back to the ground. Sheep and Goat are so happy that they call him Super Duck, too!

Do Super Heroes Have Teddy Bears?Do Super Heroes Have Teddy Bears?, by Carmela LaVigna Coyle, illustrated by Mike Gordon (2012, preschool to early elementary): This picture book asks questions (“Do super heroes make capes with blankies and string?”) followed by italicized answers (“We can turn blankies into most anything.“) Judging by the illustrations (and I didn’t quite get it at first), members of a family are asking questions of one another about super heroes (based on the daily activities the self-styled super hero brother and (potentially) sidekick little sister). Many of the questions are from little sister to older brother and some are the kids to their parents. (A helpful comprehension activity might be to work with your little listener to figure out who the speakers are on each spread.) I have definitely had these kinds of conversations going on randomly throughout the day at my house (topic based on whatever long-term role-play my kids are currently into), so once you get the hang of the abruptly changing speaker concept, this story is pretty representative of real kids doing what they do best–imagining!

Superhero School, Superhero Schoolby Thierry Robberecht and Philippe Goossens (2011, preschool to early elementary): You can kind of tell that this book is a translation (from Dutch, if anyone’s interested) because it just feels a little off in the cadence and phrasing. Still, my kids enjoyed the storyline! Henry (who wears headgear that suggests a jester’s cap) attends superhero school, but he is kind of the class clown and struggles with his superhero studies. He can’t fly, isn’t super strong, and believes pranks to be his only superpower. When a horrible monster comes to the school, Henry’s classmates are quickly neutralized, but Henry’s quick-thinking prank catches the monster off-guard, and his tickles drain the monster’s strength. The others step back in and ship the monster back to the planet he came from, but Henry is celebrated for saving the day!

These Are the AvengersThese Are the Avengers, adapted by Thomas Macri (2012, preschool to early elementary): This early reader book introduces the six Mighty Avengers: Captain America, Ant-Man, Wasp, the Hulk, Thor, and Iron Man. (So, you know, not the cinematic universe version of the Avengers.) The book gives the basic information about the six characters in short, easy to read sentences. (BoyChild enjoys this as a quick read-aloud, but a budding reader with some knowledge about Marvel characters could handle it as a simple text for independent reading.) There are a number more of these books available, and there are games and other activities available on the Marvel Kids website as well. You can compare the different levels and types of books available about Marvel characters by checking out This Is Thor (World of Reading: Level 1, preschool to early elementary), Heroes of Asgard (World of Reading: Level 2, early elementary), and Marvel Adventures: The Avengers: Thor (a graphic novel, middle school to high school).

Ten Rules of Being a Superhero, Ten Rules of Being a Superheroby Deb Pilutti (2014, preschool to early elementary): A young boy and his superhero action figure present the ten rules of being a superhero. (The action figure appears to be living in each scenario, but he is toy-sized and sometimes his movement is controlled by the boy, so I’m assuming all life-like qualities are just the boy’s imagination shown as reality.) My favorite rules are Rule Number 1: “A superhero must ALWAYS respond to a call for help…even if the odds are against him” (and showing a number of other toys in dire situations that need to be rescued) and Rule Number 4: “A superhero must use his power in a good way” (as opposed to the selfish villain thinking about using his powers in a bad way). The last rule, Rule Number 10, is also a good one: “Every superhero needs a sidekick. Because saving the day is more fun with a friend.”

The Day I Lost My SuperpowersThe Day I Lost My Superpowers, by Michaël Escoffier and Kris Di Giacomo (2014, preschool to early elementary): A small child discovers one day (with the help of her father’s hands tossing her in the air) that she can fly! She realizes she has a variety of other powers, too…like making things disappear (although that works better with cupcakes than with peas) and becoming invisible herself (with the help of the underside of her bed). One day, however, she falls when “flying” (with the help of her dog and a string), and she realizes she has lost her superpowers (and hurt her knee)! Her mom comes to the rescue, however, with a magic kiss that makes her feel “all better (even if [her] knee still hurt[s] a little),” and she is excited to realize that her mom might have superpowers, too! The illustrations help tell the story by revealing the reality behind her superpower statements, and they help young readers and listeners feel like they’re in on the joke (as well as give them good ideas for superhero play of their own).

SuperHero ABC, SuperHero ABCby Bob McLeod (2006, preschool to early elementary): While a typical alphabet book has a limited audience (based on those who are still getting comfortable with the alphabet), the contents of this book will bring in a greater range of readers (and will make some parents shy away!). Twenty-six superheroes (or superhero groups) represent the letters of the alphabet, and some of the powers get downright gross (like Goo Girl (who “shoots gobs of goo at gangsters”) and The Volcano (who “vomits on villains”)) and the characteristics silly (Upside-Down Man “wears his uniform under his underwear” and Astro-Man has asthma (?!)) as the real-life-comic-book-artist author puts as many of the featured letter onto the pages as possible. My only gripe with the book is that, although the general public depicted in the art is reasonably diverse, the vast majority of the featured heroes/heroines (and there are a decent number of females) are pretty pale (with just a couple exceptions…and a few aliens).

Dex: The Heart of a HeroDex: The Heart of a Hero, by Caralyn Buehner, illustrated by Mark Buehner (2004, preschool to early elementary): Dexter is a dachshund dog (living in a world populated by anthropomorphic dogs, cats, and rodents) who dreams big dreams. (The ultra-dramatic superhero-esque thoughts are written in comic book handwritten style in yellow text boxes.) He is very ordinary and very small, but he decides that if he wants to be a hero, he needs to make himself one! He begins training by exercising to get strong, climbing trash piles to gain endurance, and pushing himself those extra few circles before lying down to sleep. When his efforts pay off, he completes his transformation with a mail-order costume. His heroic acts are all pretty mild but satisfying–helping a puppy cross the street, finding a lost kitten, and organizing a neighborhood clean-up day–until the night that Cleevis the tomcat finds himself in a precarious situation high in a tree. Dex uses his wits and the resources around him (in this case, a teeter-totter and a crowd of onlookers) to save Cleevis and win his respect…and a partner in crime-fighting!

Superhero, Superheroby Marc Tauss (2005, preschool to early elementary): All in black-and-white enhanced photographs, the story starts in the front endpapers with Maleek (the main character, a young boy) browsing an aisle full of different comic books. (Maleek likes to “catch up on his fellow superheroes’ adventures.”) Maleek wears a costume with goggles and a cape with a large M on it, and he builds inventions in his laboratory. When he reads in the newspaper one day that all the city parks and playgrounds have disappeared (replaced by tall buildings), he and his robot jump into their time machine and go back 500 years to collect plant specimens that he uses to create GIGUNDO JUICE. He sprays his concoction all over the city, and large, beautiful plants spring up to replace many of the big buildings. His work complete, Maleek goes back to his comics again. The last page shows him reading a comic book and with other props around him that appear to have contributed to the superhero daydream he seems to have been having, and the final endpapers show Maleek in full costume wandering the same aisle…which is now full of comics about himself.

Eliot Jones: Midnight SuperheroEliot Jones, Midnight Superhero, by Anne Cottringer, illustrated by Alex T. Smith (2008, preschool to early elementary): Eliot is a quiet boy who spends his days doing quiet things. Once the clock strikes midnight, however, he is a superhero. He answers the call of everyone from the Coast Guard to the queen, and his skills and powers are always up to the task at hand! His mission tonight involves saving the world from a rogue meteor, and he blasts it just in time. At the end of the story, we are back to the beginning, in Eliot’s quiet room, and we are told that “being a Midnight Superhero is very tiring. It doesn’t leave Eliot with much energy. So by day…Eliot is quiet.” This is a cute story that might leave kids wondering what secrets lurk behind the commonplace faces they see every day!

Wonder Woman: The Story of the Amazon Princess, Wonder Woman: The Story of the Amazon Princesswritten and illustrated by Ralph Cosentino (2011, early elementary): This almost-picture-book graphic novel is written in first person as Wonder Woman explains her origins, her powers, and how she came to be Wonder Woman. It even introduces many of her chief antagonists, like Cheetah and Ares, and states her mission: “to teach peace and respect to all…and to show the world how to live in harmony with nature.” Some companion books to this one are Batman: The Story of the Dark Knight and Superman: The Story of the Man of Steel. These books are a simple way to introduce your young readers to the most famous DC superheroes!

Buzz Boy and Fly Guy, Buzz Boy and Fly Guyby Tedd Arnold (2010, early elementary): In this book from the Fly Guy series, Buzz writes a book that stars him and Fly Guy as superheroes! Buzz (Buzz Boy!) is the same size as Fly Guy, and Fly Guy can talk! They use their wits and their superpowers to defeat wicked pirates, befriend a dragon, and return home safely. A great first chapter book (which is mostly a simple graphic novel divided into chapters) for young readers, parents or teachers might (subtly, so as not to spook an inspired reader into thinking it’s a homework assignment!) suggest that the reader write a comic book about himself or herself as a superhero with an animal sidekick.

Fireboy to the Rescue: A Fire SaFireboy to the Rescuefety Book, by Edward Miller (2010, early elementary): As the title suggests, this is more a fire safety book than a superhero story. Fireboy is a narrator of sorts, telling about the good and bad things about fire. Although he is the title character, the book sticks to facts about fire safety, including what you should do in case of a fire (from calling 911 to how to evacuate a home, high-rise building, and school), how firefighters respond, and how to prevent fires. This book serves as a PSA about fire for young readers, and both GirlChild and BoyChild loved it as much as if it had an actual storyline! (GirlChild is really into fire safety anyway because of school, and BoyChild has asked several times (possibly because he heard GirlChild ask, partly because it sounds cool) about the fire escape ladders we’re going to have to buy when we move into a two-story home this summer! The author has written a couple other health and safety books that I’m sure my children would love as well!)

Extraordinary Warren: A Super Chicken, Extraordinary Warren: A Super Chickenby Sarah Dillard (2014, middle elementary): Warren is a typical chicken, but he has grown tired of all the pecking and peeping and general blandness of his life on the farm. None of the other chickens agree, however, and he feels very alone. He happens upon a rat who is digging through the trash and bemoaning the lack of really good food…and he accidentally sets himself up to be on the rat’s menu! He (literally) bumps into an egg on his way home to tell the other chickens about the fact that someone considers him “Chicken Supreme,” and he tells the egg his story and that the egg can be his sidekick. When he leaves his unsuccessful flying lesson that day, he sees the rat with a cookbook and realizes the truth of what’s going on! In his attempts to convince the other chickens of the danger and to stop the rat’s plans, Warren has to rescue the egg, and it ends up hatching. Then Warren and his willing sidekick, Egg, set off together to continue to right wrongs and save the other chickens from the dangers that lurk nearby.

Zero the Hero, Zero the Heroby Joan Holub and Tom Lichtenheld (2012, elementary): Although this is technically a picture book (Joan Holub has an impressive list of both fiction and nonfiction children’s books for a range of ages, and Tom Lichtenheld is the illustrator of BoyChild’s favorite bedtime book (among many, many others)), the concepts explored range from the additive and commutative properties of addition to Roman numerals and place value, making the audience much wider. The fact that zero times anything is zero is vital to the climax of the story (as well as being part of the original conflict). Math teachers who like Math Curse or Sir Cumference and the First Round Table are likely to enjoy this book for their cross-curricular endeavors as well! (And I always have to plug Erin McEwan, Your Days Are Numbered, too–I used to read it to my fifth graders at the beginning of the year!)

Night of the Scaredy CrowsDC Super-Pets: Night of the Scaredy Crows, by Sarah Hines Stephens, illustrated by Art Baltazar (2012, elementary): In this series of books, the superheroes’ pets come to the rescue! And, not surprisingly, the villains’ pets are the cause of most of the problems. This particular book is about Ace the Bat-Hound and the troubles caused by Scarecrow’s pets/minions, Croward and the scaredy crows, as Halloween approaches. A Word Power page at the end of the book gives definitions and pronunciations for some of the more unusual words (like toxic and utility collar). There is quite a bit of text on each page, but there are frequent full-color illustrations to break it up. The text is larger than a typical chapter book but smaller than a picture book, and, at an approximate third-grade reading level, it could be a high-interest book for older kids who need a slightly simpler story that’s still interesting. (Marvel doesn’t have a monopoly on super-hero easy readers, either. The I Can Read series of books has several DC character stories, like Batman: Winter Wasteland (Level 2) and others on Amazon.)

Captain Raptor and the Moon Mystery, Captain Raptor and the Moon Mysteryby Kevin O’Malley, illustrations by Patrick O’Brien (2005, elementary): I’m not sure this technically qualifies as a superhero story…but technologically advanced dinosaurs with space gadgets who fight off a beast who attacks a group of aliens (um, humans) and save the day (combined with the graphic novel format and typical superhero (well, like the old Batman show, at least) cliffhanger moments) certainly make Captain Raptor and his crew seem like superheroes! Jurassic Park meets Tony Stark meets Star Trek, maybe? Although this was shelved with the picture books, the graphic novel style and the realistic, detailed art make this more of a middle elementary and up kind of book.

Flora and UlyssesFlora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures, by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by K.G. Campbell (2013, upper elementary to middle school): In this Newbery Medal winner, 10-year-old Flora embraces her mother’s description of her as a “natural-born cynic” and strives to observe, not hope. (We can tell by her obsession with the superhero Incandesto and her frequent need to remind herself to observe, not hope, that she is not as natural a cynic as she and her mother try to believe.) When her neighbor Tootie’s new vacuum cleaner, the Ulysses 2000X, runs amok in the yard and nearly kills a squirrel, Flora runs to the rescue and discovers that the experience has somehow imbued the hapless, now hairless, squirrel with special powers–strength, flight, and understanding. Occasional comic-book style panels are part of the story and not just illustrations. Flora and Ulysses (the squirrel) discover things about themselves that they would have never dreamed they’d discover before their first encounter.

Public School Superhero, Public School Superheroby James Patterson and Chris Tebbets (2015, upper elementary to middle school): Technically, there is no actual superhero in this book. In Washington, DC, in an inner-city neighborhood and school, Kenny escapes his mild-mannered alter-ego’s stress by imagining himself as Stainlezz Steel…a hero as brave and heroic as Kenny feels intimidated and embarrassed. (The superhero moments are shown in comic-book style panels, so it’s easy to tell when he’s taking a mental break, and there is typically a segue statement where Kenny acknowledges that it is wishful thinking.) Kenny–a chess-playing, superhero-loving sixth grader–is just starting middle school in an overcrowded, rundown local building, and things aren’t looking good. A misunderstanding (compounded by the lack of interest of the principal) results in his first ever detention, but he manages to hide it from his involved grandmother. When that principal leaves abruptly, Dr. Yetty takes over, and she really cares about both the school and the children in it. Kenny finds himself in trouble once again, but his consequence is to teach Ray-Ray, the boy who instigated the issue, how to play chess. Ray-Ray eventually offers to teach Kenny how to not be so easily intimidated, and Kenny (against his better judgment) accepts…and hides all the shady goings-on from his grandmother, too. The characters and the situations feel very real, and the book demonstrates the idea that we can’t all be superheroes but that we can each do something to make our world a better place.

SidekickedSidekicked, by John David Anderson (2013, middle school): 13-year-old Andrew Macon Bean has a rare sensory disorder that makes him acutely aware of pretty much everything (although, luckily for him, his sense of touch is only slightly amped up so he isn’t tickled to death just by getting dressed in the morning), and that makes him perfectly suited for one thing: suiting up. Yes, his overpowered senses make him a perfect candidate for sidekick training (and, eventually, superhero-dom), and The Sensationalist is born! Drew’s only problem (well, biggest problem–he is thirteen!) is that his assigned superhero doesn’t really want to have anything to do with him or the superhero business anymore. And that becomes even more of a problem when the villain he was thought to have defeated (and who was supposedly killed in an explosion during the final battle) springs his minions out of prison and starts knocking off banks and taking out superheroes…and their sidekicks. Like his erstwhile hero says: maybe it’s time for Drew to save himself! (Companion novel: Minion)

Marvel Encyclopedia: Marvel EncyclopediaThe Definitive Guide to the Characters of the Marvel Universe (revised 2014): This book is really for the die-hard fan. With a foreword by Ralph Macchio and an introduction by Stan Lee, the intended audience appears to be mainly the men and women who grew up with these comic books as their constant reading material, those who care deeply for canon and who can discuss the similarities and differences between different timelines and reboots and all the different forms of media where Marvel super heroes can be found. (It might also help for the uninitiated significant others of these longtime fans to give them an idea of who exactly it is they’re watching in the cinematic universe–my personal background information on these characters all comes from a quick internet search before my husband and I go see a movie together (or afterward when I’m already confused)!) There are entries for individuals and teams, and both heroes and villains are covered. There is a “Factfile” sidebar for the major characters, and each character’s first appearance, powers, occupation, and base are included. A brief summary and illustration (both modern and old-school styles are shown for many characters) of each is also included. For families whose children are old enough to watch the new movies, this book might be a good way to introduce upper elementary and older ages to some of their parents’ favorite characters, and there will be some kids/teenagers who will pore over this volume for hours, I’m sure! BoyChild actually spent some time looking through the book to find pictures of his favorites–Captain America and Iron Man–and ask about other characters he saw, but he’s nowhere near old enough for either the movies or the detailed information in the book, so his exposure was limited to that!

Finally, here are some links just for the adults in the house.

First, a Lunar Baboon cartoon that shows us that encouragement can be a superpower.

Next, a blog talking about an online Bible curriculum from Orange (252 Basics) called Stand Up: Get in the Story.

Finally, a link to Amazon where you can find a vast assortment of mass marketed and indie superhero books and stories for adults, teens, and children! There’s even a (not-for-children) short story written by a college friend of mine–and it’s free to borrow on Kindle with Amazon Prime!

Another finally! I forgot to link to my friend’s custom art page! He does art called Your Face Heroes (I am so proud of the word play!); you send him a couple photographs of the person you want hero-ified along with some information about them to inform his imagination, and he’ll create a custom superhero work of art. Check out his work here! The image to the left is a quick sketch he did of me as Word Girl (not a commissioned piece) from a (very) old photograph!

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Themed Third Thursday: Leaving Edition

We’re moving! GirlChild is happy about Daddy’s new job and moving closer to extended family, but she is sad about leaving behind her friends and our home here. (She’ll be even sadder when she realizes that winter is colder and lasts a lot longer where we’re going!) As I’m sure that many families choose to move during the summer while school is out, I thought that books about moving and saying bye-bye would be relevant this month!

Time to Say Bye-ByeTime to Say Bye-Bye, by Maryann Cocca-Leffler (2012, toddler/preschool): This story follows a toddler through her day which is filled with bye-byes…bye-byes at the park, bye-byes at Grandma’s, even bye-byes after dinner and bath! “Time to go!” is a phrase most toddlers hate, and getting to say bye-bye to all their favorite parts of an activity is a way to help them transition to new fun activities during the daily routine. The focus is a little young for preschoolers, but GirlChild loved this book anyway…perhaps because she forms unnatural attachments to every “friend” with whom she has a chance meeting! 😉

Bye-Bye Time (Toddler Tools)Bye-Bye Time, by Elizabeth Verdick, illustrated by Marieka Heinlen (2008–toddler/preschool): This board book is a cute way for a family to talk to little ones about what to do when their parents have to leave them somewhere (like a babysitter’s or school). The feelings a young child might experience are described, and coping mechanisms are reviewed and shown. A note to parents and caregivers is included at the end of the book to give tips for saying good-bye.

A New Home, by Tim Bowers (2002–early elementary): In this easy reader, Matt the squirrel moves to a new home but is disappointed because he has no friends there. When Pat the squirrel loses her new hat and Matt returns it to her, they become friends. Recommended for beginning readers in kindergarten and first grade, this book doesn’t offer a lot of helpful advice or give a small child an understanding of what it will be like to move (except that you might be lonely at first), but it might be a starting point for a conversation (and give a new reader a chance to practice, too).

Topsy and Tim Move House (Topsy & Tim picture puffins)

Topsy and Tim Move House, by Jean and Gareth Adamson (1997–preschool/early elementary)–When Topsy and Tim’s family moves house, their cat escapes from the car on their way from their old home to their new one, and the twins are very sad. Dad has a good idea, though, and a quick trip back to their old house locates the missing cat and makes the move happy once again. Some vocabulary–like “removal men” instead of “moving men” and “move house” instead of just “move” will be unfamiliar to most American children, but GirlChild was able to figure out what the different words meant by context, especially in the animated version. (This book is not readily available in the States (really cost-prohibitive!)–I don’t know about the UK–but I linked the animated version on YouTube to the title so anyone can enjoy it!)

A New Room for William

A New Room for William, by Sally Grindley, illustrated by Carol Thompson (2000–preschool/early elementary): William tells his mother that he likes his old room better when they move to a new house. He misses his jungle gym and the garden he and his dad had. Even a waving boy in the next yard doesn’t cheer him up, and the new shadows at night in his new room frighten him. As he and his mother fix up his new room (he chooses new dinosaur wallpaper instead of what he had in his old room) and he gets to know the boy next door, though, he starts to feel better. The night when his room is finally finished, he sleeps soundly in his new room after his mother assures him that his dad will let him choose the wallpaper for his room in his father’s new house, too. While this book is clearly about moving to a new home because of a divorce (though that is never in the forefront), the feelings William displays about what he misses about his old home and his ambivalence toward his new one is relevant for any moving situation.

The Berenstain Bears' Moving DayThe Berenstain Bears’ Moving Day, by Stan and Jan Berenstain (1981, preschool/early elementary): This “prequel” of sorts tells of when Mama Bear, Papa Bear, and Brother Bear (before he had any sisters) used to live “in a hillside cave halfway up Great Bear Mountain at the far edge of Bear Country.” Although they enjoy their life, some things are hard living on a mountain, and Papa announces (suddenly, as Papa often does) that they are moving, and they immediately begin to pack despite Brother Bear’s reluctance. He doesn’t see any good reason to go, and he’ll miss his friends (since his parents assure him that his books and toys will be brought along)! The tree house they buy is a fixer-upper, and their new neighbors come to greet them as they stand dreaming about how it will look when it’s repaired. The welcome they receive makes them happy in their new home. As with most of the “first experiences” Berenstain Bears books, this one realistically depicts some of the challenges a new experience can bring as well as what can make it better.

Where I Live, by Eileen Spinelli, illustrated by Matt Phelan (2007–elementary): Diana uses free verse poetry to describe what her life is like living across the street from her best friend, Rose, when her father loses his job, and when the family moves far away to live with her Grandpa Joe. Although she is very sad to be leaving her home and her friend, Diana discovers that there are always opportunities wherever you go. Because of the spare text and expressive pencil illustrations, this book makes a good title on this topic for reluctant middle to upper elementary readers and would be enjoyable to any elementary-aged reader, especially those who like to express themselves in verse.

Allie Finkle’s Rules for Girls: Moving Day, by Meg Cabot (2008–middle to upper elementary): Allie Finkle has a lot going on: finding out her family is moving across town to a historic fixer-upper, alienating her best friend (who cries too much anyway), and learning that there may in fact be a zombie hand living in the attic of her new house. This 9-year-old fourth-grader responds in the most logical way possible: by doing everything in her power to get some control on the situation (which somehow includes liberating the turtle at the local Chinese restaurant…) by keeping a list of rules (and other unconventional tactics). I’m pretty sure most grown-ups will be a little bit horrified by Allie’s preoccupation with the kid who got hit by a car while riding his skateboard without a helmet (and his brains), but, on the whole, Allie Finkle is a realistic representation of a straight-forward fourth-grader with a lot on her mind. (Squeamish parents or parents of squeamish children might want to give their young readers a heads-up about the brains thing–I found it kind of macabre–but the narrator’s feelings and reactions to moving and the changes it brings might make the book a worthwhile read for them anyway.) First of a series.

If you’re interested in finding books about moving in your own library, try the subject heading “Moving, Household — Fiction” and for “bye-bye” books, try “Change (Psychology) — Juvenile literature.”

(For parents, this online article from the August 2012 issue of Parents magazine might be helpful: Smooth Move, by Caroline Schaefer. It also includes some suggestions for books to read before the move.)

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The Trouble With Elephants, by Chris Riddell

The Trouble With Elephants, by Chris Riddell
(1988, Lippincott)

A little girl shares the trouble with elephants in this picture book for an elephant lover like my GirlChild (who turns five today)!

The book opens with a picture of a somewhat disgruntled little girl with her arms wrapped around her stuffed elephant and the words, “The trouble with elephants is…” From that page on, the little girl remains disgruntled, but the elephant appears as a full-size elephant that goes with her everywhere! The troubles with elephants are all things that would be true if the elephant in question was real, like spilling the bathwater, taking all the sheets and snoring, and being bad at hide-and-seek. Some of the troubles are written out in the text, but many of them are just shown or hinted at in the illustrations (such as blocking the sun when you’re lying out on the beach together and being a bad choice for the other end of the see-saw). The very last page says that the real trouble is “you can’t help but love them” and shows the little girl giving her stuffed elephant a kiss on the cheek.

Despite the fact that this book was published 25 years ago, the illustrations are charming and timeless. A little girl in red patent leather shoes, baggy tights, and a bobbed haircut would not look out of place now, and the only things that might have hinted to me that this was an older book were the knitted tea cozy with a pom-pom and the toast rack on their breakfast table. (Then again, this book was published in the UK by an author/illustrator who was born in South Africa and raised in England, so the tea cozy and toast rack might just be an international thing… Do people still use toast racks?!) The illustrations show the elephant (or elephants in some pictures) doing silly things like sliding down the banister or trying to ride a bike (and failing when the bike collapses). The faces of both the little girl and the elephant are particularly expressive despite their relatively simple features, so it’s easy to interpret their emotions (which is a good thing for young readers who need the hint).

GirlChild’s Reactions: This being a book about elephants, GirlChild LOVES it. That, and she likes the way some of the humor is told through the pictures (as she can’t yet read but is good at sensing the ridiculous). She says her favorite part is the “you can’t help but love them” part. Since some of the pictures are pretty busy, she has found new things to examine each time she’s had us read this one!

Additional titles:

(YA fantasy series)

   (Not for kids, but it looks hilarious!)

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