Thursday, September 22, 2011

Library Loot #10

For the kids:

Not pictured: way more than I can keep track of!

For me:

Not pictured: Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan, which I thoroughly enjoyed and Man with a Pan by John Donohue, a collection of essays by men who cook, which I found disappointing.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

My Lucky Day... and Two Ways to Get Free Books!

This week, we received our monthly free* (yes, free!) book from the Dolly Parton Imagination Library: My Lucky Day by Keiko Kasza.  Both my girls were immediately enamored of this fairy-tale type story of a fox and a pig who, as the book jacket has it, "outfoxes" him.  Since they loved it so, I checked to see what other books the author had written.  To my surprise, one was Badger's Fancy Meal, a book we had recently taken out of the library and returned without any particular attachment to it, despite the fact that it is similar in theme and feel to My Lucky Day.  Both feature bumbling predators in search of a meal who are outsmarted by their prey.  Usually when we love one book by an author, we love - or at least like - many of the others.  We're going to try out a few more by Ms. Kasza... I wonder if My Lucky Day was a one hit wonder for us! 

Do you have any personal "one hit wonders"?

*We also receive a monthly free book or CD about Jewish topics from the PJ Library.  If you're interested, check to see if your community participates.  The quality of books from both libraries is, to be frank, erratic, as further described here but there are some gems. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Yes Day!

Chronicling a day where mom or dad say yes to everything (pizza for breakfast, food fights, messy rooms), Yes Day! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld's does not hit you over the head with a moral about how rules and routine are good for us.  While it does close with the message that all good things must come to an end, even Yes Day!, the day itself is pure joy.  And that is as it should be.

I think authors and illustrators hide some of their best work in endpapers (the Knuffle Bunny series, in which the endpapers show the parents' wedding photos and the seminal moment of each book in the series, comes immediately to mind, but there are lots of others) and Yes Day! is a perfect example.  The endpapers are designed like a calendar, with a column for each day of the week.  Each normal day is, of course, No Day.  But in a clever stroke, each box shows a different way of saying no: "not gonna happen day," "we'll see day," "and that's final day," and "hands on hips day," among others.

I like to think that Yes Day! was not just inspired by a child who was tired of hearing no, but written by a mom who was tired of saying it.  I know sometimes I am.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Fall Favorites

Fall made an appearance here in NYC about 10 days ago, but apparently only to tease me, since summer weather has been back in full force.  Until the cooler, crisper days of my favorite season return, I'll have to content myself with books about it instead.  My favorite book about fall is a recent, well-known one, but worth sharing anyway, I think: The Little Yellow Leaf by Carin Berger.  This sweet story about a leaf afraid to fall until, together with another leaf, she is able to muster her courage and take the plunge (literally), is rendered extra special by the unique, gorgeous  illustrations.  Carin Berger uses all different types of paper for her collages - graph paper, paper with unidentified writing on it (typewritten, handwritten cursive) and others.  Her aerial view of trees, her beautiful representation of the sun and all the other art in this book combine with the simple, spare text perfectly.  My only disappointment was that her second book, Forever Friends, is done in the exact same style.  While also a lovely book, in my opinion there is no reason to own both.

My older daughter's favorite fall book was, for a long time, The Falling Leaves by Steve Metzger.  While the leaves brag about the acrobatics they are going to perform on their fall, the wind overhears them and gives them their comeuppance by tossing them into a mud puddle.  My daughter thought this was hilarious.  The only humble leaf in the bunch, however, is given a thrilling ride before landing gently in a lovely lake.

Other fall books that my children enjoy are Fletcher and the Falling Leaves by Julia Rawlinson and Leaves by David Ezra Stein, both of which feature animals experiencing their first fall and who are quite concerned about the trees when they start to lose their leaves.  I prefer the latter for its quieter language and bolder art although it is worth keeping in mind that it is probably better suited to very young children while Fletcher might appeal to slightly older kids.

Finally, I'm looking forward to getting Fall Mixed Up by Bob Raczka from the library and sharing it with my younger daughter in particular.  Living up to its title it starts, "Every Septober and every Octember fall fills my senses with scenes to remember..." and the mix-ups continue from there, with squirrels migrating south and geese hibernating.  I'm expecting lots of giggles from my three-year-old. 

What is your favorite book about fall?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

To Brooklyn... and Beyond!

Out of New York City's five boroughs, none has the same mystique as Brooklyn.  Its reputation precedes it, and whether it conjures up for you images of gritty urban life or hipster mecca depends on your frame of reference and which neighborhood (and era) you're talking about.  Once a city in its own right, Brooklyn still has an identity separate and apart from its role as a part of the city as a whole.  So it's only fitting that it should have an ABC book dedicated to it and it alone: The ABCs of Brooklyn, An Alphabet Guidebook for All Ages.  Currently the NYPL does not have it but I'm hoping the book's merit will triumph over inter-borough and inter-library system rivalries (Brooklyn has its own library system).  I learned about the book here (it's mentioned all the way at the end).   On the adult side of things, the New York Times has also recently run two reviews of Literary Brooklyn: The Writers of Brooklyn and the Story of American City Life by Evan Hughes.

Venturing beyond Brooklyn, the same blurb also mentions NYC ABC put out by the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Not to be confused with ABC NYC: A Book About Seeing New York City, a worthy book in its own right, NYC ABC features New York City as depicted in works in the museum's collection.  ABC NYC, on the other hand, depicts each letter in alphabetical order as found somewhere in the city.  For parents, the article also mentions a tongue-in-cheek book, 101 Reasons to Leave New York by Howard Jordan. 

There are tons of other books which feature New York City generally or Brooklyn specifically.  Four of them are on my list of assigned reading for my husband:   A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg, Marjorie Morningstar by Herman Wouk and Time and Again by Jack Finney.  I mention another New York City alphabet book as well as one featuring the local "fauna" here.  And of course, set in Brooklyn is the modern classic, Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale by Brooklyn resident Mo Willems and its sequels.

What are your favorite children's and adult books about or set in Brooklyn?  New York City?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Ezra Jack Keats Exhibit

Today The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats opens at The Jewish Museum.  I plan to go, although I haven't decided whether or not to bring the kids.  Do you plan on going?

In non-book-related exhibits, the museum's exhibit Collecting Matisse and Modern Masters: The Cone Sisters of Baltimore is worth a visit, if you can get there before it closes on September 25th.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


When my daughter described to me a game that sounded like Bingo, but with words, that she'd played at kindergarten, I realized that this was one game I could make myself and, better yet, custom-tailor to her reading level.  I wrote out a list of about 30 words, mixing harder ones with easier ones.  I then created three-by-three grids and placed the words in them randomly, making sure to ultimately use all the ones on my master list.  To play, she selected a game board and I called off words from the master list, making sure not to peek at her game board.  If the word I called was on her board, she placed a token (we used ones from another, packaged board game) on that square.  When she had three in a row in any direction (across, down or diagonally) she had Bingo!  Some of our words were: rainbow, library, perfect, drink, exit.  And as we read together, I've been jotting down words she has trouble with for future iterations of the game.

What words would you put in Word Bingo?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

This Is Just So Cool

Walking in midtown Manhattan one day, I passed Bryant Park and discovered this.  The only downside (in my mind) is that, according to the posted rules, board games are banned.  It closes at the end of the month for the season (and reopens next spring), so what are you waiting for?  Here's an nice article about other good New York spots for book lovers.

Does your city or town have anything comparable?