Sunday, October 23, 2011

These Just In: Library Round-up

When I hear of a book I'm interested in, I immediately put it on hold at the library.  But for new books, the library has often not yet actually come into possession of them (they are "on order") or there already are four bazillion holds on the book I am requesting and I am hold number four bazillion and one, meaning that I sometimes have weeks or even months before I can take these books home.  So when they arrive, it is cause for celebration.

Except when it isn't.  Sometimes these books disappoint, making me glad I got them from the library rather than buying them.

Here are some of the books I'd been waiting for for a long time and what my girls and I thought of them.

Do You Know Which Ones Will Grow? by Susan A. Shea and illustrated by Tom Slaughter is a brightly-colored joy. With funny rhymes ("If an owlet grows and becomes an owl/ can a washcloth grow and become... a towel?") and lots of flaps to lift, both my kids loved this one.

The much-ballyhooed I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen left me cold and didn't thrill my kids either.  The story of a bear who asks other animals for his missing hat, finds it, and does something surprising to get it back requires the reader to read between the lines, something many young children can't do.  Neither of my children understood what had happened the first time I read it to them.  The older caught on with a rereading but I had to explain it to my three-year-old, although she does think it is very funny that the bear does not realize on his first go-round that one of the animals he speaks to is actually wearing the hat.  I had already learned the ending from a review somewhere, so that may have spoiled my enjoyment somewhat, as may have my inflated expectations but I don't think those are the main reasons.  I think that the main reason it didn't appeal to me is that, as Playing by the Book says, this is ultimately a picture book for adults.  And among adults, I know plenty of people who have enjoyed it - including my husband and my parents.  You may, too.  I just wasn't one of them.

The first picture book Lauren Castillo has both written and illustrated, Melvin and the Boy is a sweet story of how a boy takes a turtle from a pond to be his pet and ultimately realizes on his own that the turtle belongs back in the pond.  The illustrations are beautiful and I particularly like the ones featuring the figures in black shadow.  The park, with its skyline backdrop reminds me of Central Park but is probably Prospect Park given that Ms. Castillo lives in Brooklyn.

Eve Bunting's Tweak, Tweak is another entry in the crowded field of mother-child love stories, and to me, not one that stands out, despite the lovely pastel illustrations by Sergio Ruzzier.  In addition, the mother elephant constantly reminds her child of her limitations: No, you can't do that, you are an elephant.  Although I hate the sin of reading too much into things, this particular trope really bothers me, with its echoes of, "No, girls/women/African-Americans/minority group of your choice can't do that."

Eric Litwin's Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes and Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes are the opposite of I Want My Hat Back : books that please only children but not the adults reading to them.  Thus, while I found them a bit boring (Pete's white shoes turn colors as he steps in different substances; he goes to different rooms at school, respectively) and the moral annoying ("Does Pete worry?  Goodness, no!  Because it's all good.), my three-year-old thoroughly enjoyed them.  Of course, preschoolers have a different relationship to repetition than adults so she finds the constant refrain reassuring rather than monotonous.  The primary-colored palette by James Dean is appealing to children of all ages. 

Finally, Hopper and Wilson by Maria van Lieshout follows two stuffed animal friends as they sail off in search of the end of the world.  Ultimately, they return home, discovering that it and each other are all they need.  The storyline could come across as cliched, but Ms. van Lieshout pulls it off successfully.  A more detailed review at A Fuse #8 Production is here.

So, in the end, I had three winners out of six (counting the Pete the Cat books as one), but my three-year old likes five out of the six.  Not bad, especially for books we read for free!


  1. As you know, I loved I Want My Hat Back, but then I have a twisted sense of humor. I also didn't know the ending and I love it when things take me by surprise, which happens preciously little in children's books. When I read it I also realized that it would not appeal to everyone.

    But now I am very curious about Pete the Cat, esp. as we love books about cats.

  2. i actually think that book is funnyOctober 24, 2011 at 2:03 PM

    I want my hat back was funny even before the punchline, in part because of the strange conversation between the bear and all the other animals.