Tag Archives: realistic fiction

Themed Third Throwback Thursday: 2000-2009

Themed Third Throwback Thursday this month will clearly require some throwing back as it is not being posted anywhere near the third Thursday (despite the fact that I got it to post as being published over a week ago!)…I hope you can forgive me for that! 😉

Again, we’re definitely in a time frame where “classic” or “lasting” is a relative term, so I enlisted the help of my local children’s librarian to find out what books from this decade already have a following among young readers. This list reflects her suggestions as well as my own experience with and guesses based on what kind of children’s books have been, in the past, popular in the long term.

Newbery Medalists of the decade are:

2000–Bud, Not Buddy, by Christopher Paul Curtis
2001–A Year Down Yonder, by Richard Peck
2002–A Single Shard, by Linda Sue Park
2003–Crispin: The Cross of Lead, by Avi
2004–The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread, by Kate DiCamillo
2005–Kira-Kira, by Cynthia Kadohata
2006–Criss Cross, by Lynne Rae Perkins
2007–The Higher Power of Lucky, by Susan Patron
2008–Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village, by Laura Amy Schlitz
2009–The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman

The Caldecott Medalists are:

2000–Joseph Had a Little Overcoat, by Simms Taback
2001–So You Want to Be President?, by Judith St. George, illustrated by David Small
2002–The Three Pigs, by David Wiesner
2003–My Friend Rabbit, by Eric Rohmann
2004–The Man Who Walked Between the Towers, by Mordecai Gerstein
2005–Kitten’s First Full Moon, by Kevin Henkes
2006–The Hello, Goodbye Window, by Norton Juster, illustrated by Chris Raschka
2007–Flotsam, by David Wiesner
2008–The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick
2009–The House in the Night, by Susan Marie Swanson, illustrated by Beth Krommes

Kate DiCamilloBecause of Winn-DixieHer first book, Because of Winn-Dixie, was published in 2000, was named a Newbery Honor in 2001, and was made into a movie in 2005. The Tale of Despereaux, her 2004 Newbery Medalist, became an animated film in 2008. She won the Newbery a second time in 2015 with Flora & Ulysses (featured in my post about superhero books). However, middle grade fiction is not her only strength! My kids both enjoy her funny Mercy Watson series (GirlChild as an easy independent read, BoyChild as a Tumblebook read-along!), an early chapter book, and she’s also tried her hand at a couple picture books. She often tackles tough topics that kids can understand (divorce, loneliness, homelessness, etc.) and empowers her characters to overcome their circumstances and be the heroes of their own stories. The consistent quality of her works suggest that longevity is almost inevitable!

Neil GaimanThe first Gaiman Coralinebook I encountered was actually Stardust, through the movie (recommended by my sister, whom I shall call “Marian the Librarian” (if I haven’t already done so) since she is a youth services librarian in a public library), published in 1999 (and definitely a YA or above book–not for readers younger than high school). He has an extensive bibliography, however, that starts in the mid-80s and continues to now and is primarily in the speculative fiction genre. Many of his efforts are in comics and adult literature, often short stories or poetry, but shortly after Stardust, he started publishing more child-friendly books (although most still with an edge). Some of my favorites for middle elementary to middle school are Coraline (although I can’t look at the illustrations for long!) and The Graveyard Book (the Newbery Medalist which I experienced as an audiobook read to perfection by the author). And of his picture books, I enjoyed The Wolves in the Walls and loved Chu’s Day (as did my children). He seems to be the kind of author that will continue to be read far into the future!

Lemony SnicketSeries of Unfortunate EventsI started purchasing The Series of Unfortunate Events for my classroom shortly after the first book was published in 1999. By the time I was done teaching 5th grade in 2007, the series had been completed. I remember picking up most of them from the Scholastic book order, but the last few were purchased at a local bookstore when I couldn’t wait for them to come out in paperback! Wikipedia suggests “mock-gothic” as a genre, and a setting is hard to nail down. (It feels almost steampunk to me with its Victorian vibe and a variety of anachronistic technologies, but it is less focused on the technology than on the woe the main characters face near-constantly.) Another term Wikipedia uses is “absurdist”–the characters seem like Gothic caricatures, villains and heroes alike, and the plot events are often sadly absurd. Snicket’s understated melodrama and dire and dreary commentary are hallmarks of his work. Some children read the books and get depressed; others (like me) find the understated absurdity to be absolutely hilarious. Besides the author’s other prolific writings, the series has been translated into many languages and is in the process of being made into a second movie.

Mo WillemsMo Willems‘ first books for childrenDon't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! came about after a stint as a writer and animator on Sesame Street; he decided to become a stay-at-home dad to his daughter, Trixie (who became the protagonist in his Knuffle Bunny series). Between his Pigeon books, Knuffle Bunny, and Elephant and Piggie books, it’s hard to believe that there are any youthful readers who haven’t come across and enjoyed something he has written! (My children strongly adore all of his works and are mesmerized by the Scholastic animated versions they got from Grandma! I wrote about how much we adore him in a Themed Third Thursday post a few years ago.) He received Caldecott Honors for Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale, and Knuffle Bunny, Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity.

I feel like I’m overlooking someone (or a few someones!) really talented and prolific with a strong body of work in this decade, and I’d love it if you’d help me out by telling me in the comments about the authors/series from this decade that have the potential to make a lasting impression on children’s literature!

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Themed Third Throwback Thursday: 1990-1999

It’s kind of hard at this point to know just what children’s literature of the 1990s will have staying power in the distant future, so I’m choosing a few books and authors who had a real impact on the decade or that had a strong body of their work published in the 1990s and which I know kids are still reading today. It’s hard for me to realize that many of these books were written over twenty years ago because, well, the 1990s doesn’t seem so far in the past to me! It may have become clear to readers by now that I am particularly fond of historical fiction and fantasy titles, but I have a few picture books and realistic fiction titles included in my list, and if you notice any glaring omissions from the decade, chime in below.

[1990-to-1999-book-list]

A sampling of some significant events in history for the decade (including a number of which I actually remember!):

1990–Nelson Mandela freed
1991–Collapse of the Soviet Union
1992–Los Angeles riots after Rodney King verdict
1993–World Trade Center bombed
1994–Nelson Mandela elected president of South Africa
1995–eBay founded
1996–Unabomber arrested
1997–Pathfinder sends images of Mars
1998–U.S. President Bill Clinton impeached
1999–Euro becomes new European currency

Newbery Medals for the decade are:

1990–Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry
1991–Maniac Magee, by Jerry Spinelli
1992–Shiloh, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
1993–Missing May, by Cynthia Rylant
1994–The Giver, by Lois Lowry
1995–Walk Two Moons, by Sharon Creech
1996–The Midwife’s Apprentice, by Karen Cushman
1997–The View From Saturday, by E.L. Konigsburg
1998–Out of the Dust, by Karen Hesse
1999–Holes, by Louis Sachar

Caldecotts for the decade are:

1990–Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood Story from China, by Ed Young
1991–Black and White, by David Macaulay
1992–Tuesday, by David Weisner
1993–Mirette on the High Wire, by Emily Arnold McCully
1994–Grandfather’s Journey, by Allen Say
1995–Smoky Night, by Eve Bunting, illustrated by David Diaz
1996–Officer Buckle and Gloria, by Peggy Rathmann
1997–Golum, by David Wisniewski
1998–Rapunzel, by David O. Zelinsky
1999–Snowflake Bentley, by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, illustrated by Mary Azarian

Product DetailsAndrew Clements: I don’t know if I’ve expressed how much I love Andrew Clements’ books (I have, a few times), but I do very much love Andrew Clements’ books! Suitable for readers as young as third or fourth grade, they usually have a school-based setting, have a varied cast of characters and conflicts, and you never have to worry that the content will be inappropriate for young readers despite some of the issues they tackle. My first and always favorite is Frindle (1996), his first novel for children, but Extra Credit (2009) and About Average (2012) are up there, too, for different reasons. (I consider him the Joan Bauer of children’s literature…and Joan Bauer is the Andrew Clements of YA literature–always appropriate to recommend!)

Sharon Creech: Sharon CreechProduct Details doesn’t write series books, but my classroom library when I taught fifth grade had quite a long Creech segment anyway! My personal favorites are Love That Dog (2001) and Granny Torrelli Makes Soup (2003). Her characters are also real and relatable, and she doesn’t shy away from hard topics. I would recommend most of her works for fifth grade and up, actually, because of the topics and age of the protagonists, but my two favorites can work for slightly younger students. Walk Two Moons (1994), the story of a young teenage girl who is dealing with her grief over the loss of her mother in her own particular way, won the Newbery in 1995. Absolutely Normal Chaos (1990), another book for upper elementary to middle school readers, was published first in the UK and again in the US after the success of Walk Two Moons.

Product DetailsChristopher Paul Curtis: Because they were both published after I had begun high school, I read the Newbery medalist Bud, Not Buddy (1999) and Newbery runner-up The Watsons Go to Birmingham–1963 (1995) as an adult, but I think if they had been around when I was in grade school, they would have been just as impactful, and I hope a teacher would have exposed me to them! (They were certainly both in my classroom library when I taught fifth grade, but our history curriculum didn’t teach those eras in my grade level, so I didn’t use them in class.) Historical fiction is my favorite way to learn (and teach!) about the past, and a well-researched novel is, to me, the most immersive and moving way to learn about an era in history from the point of view of a character who is a part of a group to which I don’t belong. My historical knowledge of these eras (Great Depression and Civil Rights Movement) is embarrassingly weak, but these characters pulled me in and made me feel for them and with them, those little girls in their Sunday best and that trumpet-playing, jazz-loving boy, characters who were like me in as many ways as they were unlike me, and that is a definite mark of a well-written story! Because of the very tragic (and very real) climax of The Watsons Go to Birmingham:1963 (the burning of the Sixteenth Avenue Baptist Church which killed four little girls), I’d suggest it for upper elementary and middle school aged readers, but Bud, Not Buddy and more recent works, like Elijah of Buxton (2007) and The Mighty Miss Malone (2012) (both now on my reading list!) might be suitable for readers in the middle to upper elementary grades.

Kevin Henkes: Kevin Henkes Product Detailshas been publishing since the early 1980s, but his works that are most familiar to me, like Chrysanthemum (1991) and Julius, the Baby of the World (1990), were written in the 1990s and later. My children own a number of his mouse-based books (Owen’s Marshmallow Chick (2002) was one of GirlChild’s favorites when she was but a wee lass, and it still comes out every Easter!), and the Henkes shelf gets a lot of circulation at both the public and school library locally. His characters (despite usually being animals in this period of his writing) are realistic with recognizable childlike qualities (both good and not so good), and children really identify with the emotions his characters express. He is both author and illustrator, and his first black and white picture book, Kitten’s First Full Moon (2004), won a Caldecott in 2005.

Product DetailsPatricia Polacco: Patricia Polacco’s picture books are a staple of primary school libraries, and she published quite a few during the 1990s (and beyond). Some of her best and most famous works include Thank You, Mr. Falker (1998), Chicken Sunday (1992), and Thunder Cake (1990). (I reviewed Babushka’s Doll in my Themed Third Thursday: Dolls and Toyland post.) The author weaves her heritage and personal history into her books, including her Russian Jewish and Irish family stories and style, and her art is engaging and easily recognizable.

J.K. Rowling: Product DetailsIf we’re talking in terms of popularity, visibility, and continuing impact on culture, I’d have to say J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series (1997-2007) made the biggest splash of the 1990s. (It even made it onto the history timeline I reference for my events of the decade portion of the post!) My first introduction to the series was in a children’s literature class for my education degree, and I soon caught up on the series and waited like so many others for each next book to come out. (I’m a pre-order kind of fan, not a Barnes-and-Noble-at-midnight-in-costume kind of fan…) While GirlChild has not yet read the series, all of her older cousins have, and I’m sure it’s only a matter of time. (I’m pretty sure that if I introduced GirlChild to He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named as a character right now, she’d never finish the books (or forgive me!), so I’m not going to ruin that for her!) Readers enjoy the well-developed fantastical elements of the stories, of course, but also the realistically portrayed, flawed, and lovable characters, the relatable emotions and themes, and the complex and interwoven plot lines. Not only has this series spawned a hugely popular movie series, but even books within the books are now being published and made into movies of their own!

Product DetailsJerry Spinelli: Looking at Jerry Spinelli’s extensive publication list from the 1990s, I realize that I was growing up with these books! I turned eleven as this decade began, so I spent my early adolescence picking these up as they filtered into the library. My youthful memories include Maniac Magee (1990, 1991 Newbery Medal), There’s a Girl in My Hammerlock (1991), and that literary classic Who Ran My Underwear Up the Flagpole? (1992). GirlChild recently read Fourth Grade Rats (1991) in school, and my fifth grade classroom library included Wringer (1997, 1998 Newbery Honor), The Library Card (1997), and Picklemania (1993). Spinelli has continued to publish children’s and YA literature to the present.

 

What Do We Do All Day’s list had very little overlap because she aims for lesser-known works, and this list is her last to compare. I’m going to venture into the 2000s and even future favorites of the 2010s, so I’m on my own now!

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Themed Third Throwback Thursday: 1980-1989

The 1980s were my childhood decade. I went from infant to tween in the space of those ten years, and it seems obvious that the books of the decade would stick with me since I was both an early and indiscriminate reader.

[1980-to-1989-book-list]

Here’s a sampling of the historical events of which I was probably completely unaware while I was being a child:

1980–Pac-Man video game released
1981–First woman appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court (Sandra Day O’Connor, who spoke at my university years later!)
1982–E.T. released
1983–Cabbage Patch Kids popular (now this I remember!)
1985–Titanic wreckage found
1986–Chernobyl disaster
1989–Berlin Wall falls, World Wide Web invented

Newbery medalists of the decade include a number that I remember reading (but not all), and the honor books (some of which I’ll address later in the post) were also standard fare:

1980–A Gathering of Days: A New England Girl’s Journal, 1830-1832, by Joan W. Blos
1981–Jacob Have I Loved, by Katherine Paterson
1982–A Visit to William Blake’s Inn: Poems for Innocent and Experienced Travelers, by Nancy Willard
1983–Dicey’s Song, by Cynthia Voight
1984–Dear Mr. Henshaw, by Beverly Cleary
1985–The Hero and the Crown, by Robin McKinley
1986–Sarah, Plain and Tall, by Patricia MacLachlan
1987–The Whipping Boy, by Sid Fleischman
1988–Lincoln: A Photobiography, by Russell Freedman
1989–Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices, by Paul Fleischman

Caldecott medalists, including some of my most remembered illustrators (like Trina Schart Hyman, Stephen Gammell (whose more recent work I didn’t connect to these books), and Chris Van Allsburg):

1980–Ox-Cart Man, by Donald Hall, illustrated by Barbara Cooney
1981–Fables, by Arnold Lobel
1982–Jumanji, by Chris Van Allsburg
1983–Shadow, translated and illustrated by Marcia Brown (French text by Blaise Cendrars)
1984–The Glorious Flight: Across the Channel with Louis Bleriot, by Alice and Martin Provensen
1985–Saint George and the Dragon, retold by Margaret Hodges, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman
1986–The Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg
1987–Hey, Al, by Arthur Yorinks, illustrated by Richard Egielski
1988–Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen, illustrated by John Schoenherr
1989–Song and Dance Man, by Karen Ackerman, illustrated by Stephen Gammell

While a number of the above titles have stood the test of time, my personal favorites will show up again in the reviews below!

Richard Scarry's Best Word Book EverRichard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever: New Revised Edition, by Richard Scarry (1980): Okay, I know that this was not published originally in the 1980s, but it was such a giant in my vocabulary development as a wee lass that I had to include it! My brother, born in the previous decade, had the 1963 version for his edification, but I learned about the bear twins’ clothing, shapes and colors, and parts of the body with a few more females in male-dominated fields and a few more gender-neutral job titles (fire fighter as opposed to fireman, for example). Love, love, love this book. My mom made sure to get each of her sets of grandchildren a copy so they, too, could examine each page diligently as they grew!

Fables, by Arnold Lobel Fables(1980): This book of one-page original fables was a favorite of mine as a child. I’m not sure where I got my paperback copy–either a book fair or a RIF (Reading Is Fundamental) give-away, I think–but I treasured it! It was a Caldecott Medal winner, and each fable has a large, detailed illustration to go with it. Each fable comes with its own explicitly stated moral, such as “Satisfaction will come to those who please themselves” and “Advice from friends is like the weather. Some of it is good; some of it is bad.” It would be a great mentor text for writing stories with a moral (or even just a message), and I might suggest covering the morals up, reading the fables aloud, and letting the class brainstorm what each moral might be. Because the animal characters are so silly, the fact that there is a message to each one won’t ruin the fun!

If You Give a Mouse a CookieIf You Give a Mouse a Cookie, by Laura Numeroff, illustrated by Felicia Bond (1985): I apparently missed this as a kid, but the Kohl’s Cares reprints and accompanying toys were a big hit with my children when they were smaller! (In fact, this particular title was the one we didn’t own, and BoyChild–age 5–discovered how much he loves it when he found it sitting with our library books and made GirlChild read it to him!) It’s a cause-and-effect story that has just enough silliness to disguise the fact that it is a great literacy learning tool!

Sarah, Plain and Tall, by Patricia MacLachlan Sarah, Plain and Tall (30th anniversary edition)(1985): This Newbery Medal book tells the story of a father and his children who are hoping that the father’s advertisement for a wife will bring songs back to their home and hearts. Sarah from Maine answers the letter and comes to the plains for a trial period. Anna and Caleb hope that Sarah, who describes herself as plain and tall, will learn to love their home and stop missing the sea. When she goes into town alone one day, the children are worried that she has decided against staying and is buying a train ticket home to Maine. However, Sarah returns with special gifts and tells them that although she misses the sea, she would miss them more. The book is a fast, simple read and would be a good choice for historical fiction for middle grade readers starting around third grade. I’m going to give it to GirlChild to try! (The book flap says the story is based on “a true event in [the author’s] family history”–always a great way to get story ideas!)

The Whipping Boy (updated cover)The Whipping Boy, by Sid Fleischman (1986): Our cat, a kitten we rescued from the storm sewer on our street, was named Jemmy after this book; it’s one of those that my mom read aloud to us in that memorable way (where she used different voices for different characters but didn’t even realize it) that made the book come alive! An orphan named Jemmy catches rats in the sewer to earn money. He is snatched from the streets to live in the castle as the whipping boy for Prince Brat (not his given name). When the prince tires of Jemmy’s stoic response to whippings and his father’s lack of attention, he makes Jemmy help him run away. There is a circus bear, a pair of kidnapping highwaymen, and a chase through a city sewer–all the ridiculousness and excitement a middle grade student needs! This historical fiction book (quite possibly more popular with boys but obviously something I quite enjoyed!) won the Newbery Medal.

Howl’s Moving Castle, by Dianna Wynne Jones Howl's Moving Castle(1986): I have to admit that I checked this book out and still didn’t get a chance to read it! So many of my fantasy-loving friends have mentioned it, however, that when I discovered it had been published in the ’80s, I had to include it. I have read another of her fantasy titles for young adults, The Dark Lord of Derkholm (which is not quite as dark as the title might imply!), and Wikipedia (that monolith of solid information!) says that she has been compared to Robin McKinley and Neil Gaiman, both authors whose books I have loved (although I can’t read Coraline and look at the illustrations at all!), so I am going to keep my borrowed copy of this book until I actually get it read! It was made into a movie in 2004, so we’ll see if I have to look that up, too, after I’ve finished!

Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters (updated cover)Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters: An African Tale, by John Steptoe (1987): Steptoe retells a folktale first recorded in published form in 1895. The moral points out that being kind and caring is more important than being beautiful (and reaps better rewards), but the illustrations that earned it a Caldecott Honor are worth the purchase price of the book even without the story! Another positive aspect of the book is that the author clearly did research, not only citing the first printed version of the story that inspired his book but also the origins of the names he chose, the inspiration for the scenery in the illustrations, and the people (and related institutions) that assisted him in his research. Additionally, unlike many books where there is a king seeking a bride, there is actual mutual consent and respect shown between the king and the woman he asks (not just chooses!) to be his bride. Definitely a lasting title great for any home, school, or classroom library!

Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen Hatchet (updated cover)(1987): When I discovered many years ago that my husband had never read this Newbery Honor book, I actually read it aloud to him while we traveled! It’s the kind of book I can’t believe a boy in the ’80s would have missed! So many things from the book still linger with me, and the survivalism depicted–both his physical survival and emotional survival–could be empowering to modern readers as well. I’m sure some of the aspects of the story haven’t aged well–Brian would have had a cell phone handy, for one thing, although he might not have gotten a signal in the woods!–but the overall themes and internal struggles still ring true. Gary Paulsen is a master of realistic survival stories (and has lived a rather adventurous life to get the credibility and experience needed to do them real justice), and this is a classic. I think the youngest reader I’d suggest would be probably fifth grade, but the protagonist is thirteen, and there is real meat to the story, so middle and high school readers are likely to get the most out of it.

The MittenThe Mitten, by Jan Brett (1989): I’ve blogged about Jan Brett’s books before, and part of it is because she has just written so very many! The exquisite detail in her illustrations, her lifelike but anthropomorphic animal characters, and her gravitation toward snowy scenes and retellings of traditional tales make her the quintessential author for a primary school library. Because of the way part of the story is told in words and part in pictures, (particularly the images featured around the borders of each page, in this case made to look like decorations pinned to a birch bark panel), readers get several layers of story when the story is read versus when they are able to spend time examining the illustrations. Another great thing about Ms. Brett is that her website contains links for pages to color among other things! The Mitten–the story of how a variety of cold animals squeeze into one lost mitten–is one of her most well-known and loved books.

The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, True Story of the Three Little Pigsby A. Wolf, as told to Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Lane Smith (1989): I’m not sure if I’ve said this before (I’ve said this before), but I love Jon Scieszka! While my first introduction to his work was The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales, this book was actually his first picture book! Fractured fairy tales are a genre I have always enjoyed, and this title is a great example. In it, Al Wolf (from his prison cell) defends himself against the claims that he cold-heartedly ate the first two little pigs when what he really did was have a sneezing fit while trying to ask to borrow a cup of sugar to make his granny’s birthday cake (and then eat the pigs when their homes fell down so as not to let them go to waste!). He has been framed! Like much of Scieszka’s work, young readers will need to have somewhat sophisticated reading skills to really get the story independently, but these books are also great to share and discuss with kids (and then let them explore them alone to see the nuances and clever details that might be missed in a first read-through)–great for discussing inference, voice, and point-of-view!

Number the StarsNumber the Stars, by Lois Lowry (1989): Set in Denmark in 1943, this Newbery Medal book tells how a young Danish girl helps her Jewish friend during the Nazi occupation of her country. The family’s determination, inventiveness, and bravery in spite of reasonable fear are clear throughout, and I know that my mother has used this book as a literature supplement to her history lessons in her sixth grade classroom. (Another World War II historical fiction book I can suggest for upper elementary and middle school aged readers would be Michael Morpurgo’s Waiting for Anya (1990).)

I obviously have quite a few favorites from the decade, and the bloggers over at What Do We Do All Day? had a list with even more forgotten favorites on it! (My kids just finished listening to the Wayside School books on audiobook during our summer travels this year!) I do notice a few common threads on both our lists: silly/slapstick, folktales, and historical fiction. I don’t know whether these things were just en vogue at that time and really dominated children’s literature or if we bloggers just have similar taste in our ’80s books!

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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: 1940-1949

[1940 to 1949 book list]

The 1940s were clearly a tumultuous time in the world. Here are some highlights and trivia from about.com:

1940–Bugs Bunny character debuts
1941–First Captain America comic published, M&Ms created
1942–Anne Frank’s family goes into hiding
1944–D-Day
1945–Germans surrender, microwave oven invented
1946–UNICEF founded
1947–Dead Sea Scrolls found, Polaroid cameras invented
1949–Nineteen Eighty-Four published

Newbery winners for the decade are a better mix of male and female authors than before:

1940–Daniel Boone, by James Daugherty
1941–Call It Courage, by Armstrong Sperry
1942–The Matchlock Gun, by Walter Edmonds
1943–Adam of the Road, by Elizabeth Janet Gray
1944–Johnny Tremain, by Esther Forbes
1945–Rabbit Hill, by Robert Lawson
1946–Strawberry Girl, by Lois Lenski
1947–Miss Hickory, by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey
1948–The Twenty-One Balloons, by William Pene du Bois
1949–King of the World, by Marguerite Henry

Caldecott Medals awarded during the decade include the following:

1940–Abraham Lincoln, by Ingri and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire (with Madeline, by Ludwig Bemelmans, a perhaps better-known runner-up)
1941–They Were Strong and Good, by Robert Lawson
1942–Make Way for Ducklings, by Robert McCloskey
1943–The Little House, by Virginia Lee Burton
1944–Many Moons, illustrated by Louis Slobodkin, by James Thurber
1945–Prayer for a Child, illustrated by Elizabeth Orton Jones, by Rachel Field
1946–The Rooster Crows, by Maud & Miska Petersham
1947–The Little Island, illustrated by Leonard Weisgard, by Golden MacDonald (Margaret Wise Brown)
1948–White Snow, Bright Snow, illustrated by Roger Duvoisin, by Alvin Tresselt
1949–The Big Snow, by Berta & Elmer Hader

Betsy-TacyBetsy-Tacy, by Maud Hart Lovelace (1940): I had never read this book when I first heard of it in library school, but several classmates listed it as one of their all-time favorite childhood books. Then a good friend mentioned it as something that reminded her of our girls, so I grabbed a copy of it for GirlChild…and she has since read it twice! This first book in the (apparently very long) series starts when the two girls are not yet five years old and are just meeting for the first time. (Within the first chapter, a bit of antiquated terminology will throw an older reader for a loop, but my eight-year-old didn’t even register that her hat had a very peculiar name. That said, when you find it, DON’T GOOGLE IT.) The books takes place in Minnesota during the time period when little girls still wore winter underwear and petticoats under their dresses and people moved into houses with the aid of a dray (a low cart without sides used to haul heavy things) instead of a moving van. Betsy is friendly and eager and inventive, and Tacy (short for Anna Anastacia) is reserved but just as imaginative. (Neither one seems to be aware that a milk cow or a hen is always a she.) Betsy has an older sister, and Tacy is one of eleven children. There are small issues (first day of school, etc.) that the girls handle together, but the death of Tacy’s baby sister is a serious one that is dealt with gently. Mostly the author just describes the stories the girls tell and the different ways they play together (like going calling dressed in their mother’s old clothes and leaving cards where they’ve visited–I seriously want to bring back leaving calling cards!). The very last chapter introduces a new character, Tib (short for Thelma), a girl who is introduced to Betsy and Tacy because of one of the calling cards they leave at a home they pass on their way to school. (The shout-out to Milwaukee was a fun part, too, since that’s where we are, and GirlChild’s friend moved here from Minnesota.) I’d recommend this first book as a read-aloud for a young listener (kindergarten-ish) or independent reading for an older reader like GirlChild, but you might need to be prepared to explain some of the less-than-modern elements of the story to help them fully understand.

Make Way for Ducklings, Make Way for Ducklingsby Robert McCloskey (1941): This Caldecott-winning picture book tells the story of Mr. and Mrs. Mallard’s search for a place to raise their ducklings. Mrs. Mallard dismisses each idea as being too dangerous (foxes or turtles might be there!) until they arrive in Boston and find a little island in a pond in the Public Garden, and they almost decide to stay there until they discover the number of children on wheeled toys rushing by on the banks. They fly all over town looking for another place to nest, and they finally settle on an island in the Charles River since it seems peaceful but is close enough to the Public Garden to benefit from the peanuts people give them! When Mr. Mallard goes on to explore further down the river shortly after the ducklings hatch, Mrs. Mallard teaches the children all kinds of ducky things before they set off to meet Mr. Mallard at the Public Garden. Michael the policeman stops traffic for the little train of ducks, then he calls downtown to get support to stop traffic along the rest of their route as well. (Here’s where the book gets its name!) When they arrive at the Public Garden again, the ducklings love the island, so they decide to remain in the garden pond, eating peanuts and sleeping on the island.

The Hundred DressesThe Hundred Dresses, by Eleanor Estes, illustrated by Louis Slobodkin (1944): This Newbery Honor book is familiar to many of my era, and GirlChild really enjoyed it, too. (I reminded her of another book we’ve read with a similar theme, Jacqueline Woodson‘s Each Kindness.) In the book, a Polish immigrant girl is constantly taunted by a pretty, popular, and well-to-do girl named Peggy because she has dared to claim that she–Wanda Petronski, who lives in Boggins Heights and wears the same faded dress to school every day–has one hundred dresses lined up in her closet. Maggie, Peggy’s friend, is unsettled by the mockery because she worries that she may become a target, too, since she is also poor, but she says nothing. The day when the teacher announces that Wanda has won the drawing contest for her one hundred beautiful dress designs, she also receives and reads a note from Wanda’s father explaining her recent and now permanent absence in the light of the mockery over her name and speech. The girls, especially Maggie and Peggy, are riddled with guilt and write a letter to try to patch things up. Wanda replies back that they may all keep the drawings she made, and Peggy and Maggie realize the ones she designates for them were actually drawn with their faces before all this happened. Maggie realizes in the end that she will never really be able to make things right except to never allow that kind of cruel behavior to happen to another child again; she vows to always speak up.

The Carrot Seed,The Carrot Seed story by Ruth Krauss, pictures by Crockett Johnson (1945): This is by far the simplest book of the bunch. While I’m not entirely sure that this particular title is well-known, the illustrator certainly is! (His Harold and the Purple Crayon will show up in next month’s post.) I loved the story, too, actually, and BoyChild listened carefully, remarking on how “mean” everyone was to tell the little boy that his seed wouldn’t grow. (We had a bit of a connection to make, actually, since we just planted carrot seeds in our garden and are waiting for them to grow!) Each page has a single sentence and illustration as the little boy waits, pulls weeds, and waters the seed. Finally, “a carrot came up”–a vast understatement since the carrot top that springs forth is taller than the boy–“just as the little boy had known it would”–and he carts off a gigantic carrot. BoyChild was somewhat shocked and very pleased by the sudden and very large carrot crop, and I think this would be an excellent read aloud to share with a classroom of young children who might be studying plants!

My Father's DragonMy Father’s Dragon, by Ruth Stiles Gannett, illustrated by Ruth Chrisman Gannett (1948): While I acquired this book somehow in an inherited classroom library, I was not aware of its background at all. I happened to see it on a list of first read-alouds for kindergarten children when I was looking for a book for a friend, and then I realized that it was also a Newbery Honor book, so I decided to give it a try! After reading through its simple silliness, I do think I’ll read it to BoyChild to see what he thinks. It tells the story of a boy (referred to as “my father” in the book, thus the title) who is kind to an alley cat who then tells him about another creature who is in need of rescue: a baby dragon on Wild Island. The boy sets off to help the dragon. He tricks or distracts several different animals on the island so that he can access the dragon and set him free, and they fly away together. There are several opportunities for a little fun prediction and a little light suspense, so I agree with the age-level and read aloud suggestion for this one, but I’m pretty sure GirlChild would enjoy reading it as well!

Blueberries for Sal, Blueberries for Salby Robert McCloskey (1948): This book is the Caldecott Honor picture book that tells the story of a little girl who goes blueberry picking (eating?) with her mother and not the horrifying story about the child who is stung by bees while picking berries and dies of an allergic reaction like I first thought (and therefore avoided the book). It follows a human mother and her child, Little Sal, as they go berry picking, but it also follows a bear mother and her child, Little Bear, as they forage for berries, too. BoyChild and I each kind of expected a more frightened response when each child started following the wrong mother, but worry about the missing child seems to be the only fear shown; the human mother and child even continue picking berries on their way home after they’re reunited!

A few other iconic books that were published in this decade but that were too long for me to reread and review this time are The Black Stallion (1941), My Friend Flicka (1941), and Misty of Chicoteague (1947). Books about horses for more advanced juvenile readers were apparently pretty popular in the ’40s! Misty of Chincoteague (and all the Marguerite Henry books, actually) was my favorite, and my mom read all the Black Stallion books aloud to us at some point, too. What Do We Do All Day’s comparable review list doesn’t have any overlap, but it does mention a couple books that I chose to review since I’ve chosen to focus on lasting favorites while that blog tries to share hidden gems!

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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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BoyChild Chooses: The 12 Reviews of Christmas, Day 11–The Christmas Day Kitten

The Christmas Day Kitten

The Christmas Day Kitten, by James Herriot, illustrations by Ruth Brown (1986)

We read this one because we are James Herriot fans around this house, and BoyChild originally wanted to pass it up because [SPOILER ALERT] a cat dies. He went back, however, and selected it, and when I said I thought he didn’t want it because it was sad, he said, “I remembered I’m not afraid of anything except being alone.” So the story with a sad part is in!

Based on actual events in the life of James Herriot (the pen name of Al Wight), a country veterinarian in Yorkshire, England, in the 1930s and beyond, the sad parts of veterinary medicine aren’t overlooked. In this story, a stray cat visits the home of Mrs Pickering and her three Basset hounds, but Debbie (the name Mrs Pickering gives the cat) won’t stay around long. One Christmas morning, Mrs Pickering calls Mr Herriot to come to see Debbie at her home because something is very wrong. (Veterinary surgeons were called by the title “Mr” instead of “Dr” in the UK until very recently (March 2015).) Debbie has come to Mrs Pickering’s home in distress and bearing a tiny kitten in her mouth. Although Debbie dies, the kitten is well, and Mrs Pickering keeps him. A year later, Mr Herriot happens to be passing by on Christmas morning on his way home from another call, and Mrs Pickering invites him in. Buster, the kitten from the previous Christmas, is active and playful and brings Mrs Pickering joy. He is, as she says, “the best Christmas present [she’s] ever had!”

The art in this book fits the setting well. The delicate detail of the scenery brings the Yorkshire Dales to life, and the animals are particularly realistic. (Browsing for Ruth Brown‘s illustrations–and discounting the ones where someone mistook her for the American singer/songwriter of the same name!–I see that she has illustrated many books about animals (including a number of James Herriot’s other children’s versions), so they may be a favorite subject for her art!) I really would love to watch this artist (and many others whose art astounds me) do her work so I can see what she does to create such vast and detailed scenes! The kitten on the front cover looks almost like it was stitched in needlepoint because the brush strokes are so tiny. A beautiful book, and a real story of loss and love and finding joy in simple things.

This book may be hard to find, but Amazon reviewers have mentioned that the story itself (minus the pictures) can be found in James Herriot’s Cat Stories and (with at least some pictures) James Herriot’s Treasury for Children.

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