Saturday, March 17, 2012

Library Round-Up #4

This week's library haul in brief (some briefer than others):

Amelia and Eleanor Go For A Ride by Pam Munoz Ryan, pictures by Brian Selznick.  I found this book via Annie and Aunt (who currently have a great series of posts about books for the very earliest of emerging readers) and I can't say enough good things about it.  From the amazing black-and-white illustrations by yes, that Brian Selznick, to the wonderful writing, this book is a winner and perfect for Women's History Month.  It is not quite non-fiction, but is based on a true event and the author smartly includes a note at the end detailing what parts are true and where she took liberties.  Of course, it doesn't hurt that the story, about the friendship and adventures of two of the most admired women of the mid-twentieth century, provides great material.  This one's going on my to-buy list.  And now I'm interested in the author's book about Marian Anderson, too.

Posy by Linda Newbery and illustrated by Catherine Rayner.  This simple story about a cat's activities is elevated by the clever rhymes ("whiskers wiper/crayon swiper") and expressive illustrations.  I do wish, however, that the color palette had been enlivened a little.  The brown, black and light orange of the calico cat don't make for the brightest color scheme so less muted colors for the other items in the illustrations would have been nice.

Maudie and Bear by Jan Ormerod, illustrated by Freya Blackwood.  I can't decide what I think of this collection of five stories, well-regarded in its native Australia.  As the book jacket says, "Bear's world revolves around Maudie.  Maudie's world also revolves around Maudie."  The bear is clearly a stand-in for a parental figure and somewhat of a martyred one at that.  The sacrificial aspect and the second story, a take-off on the Three Bears which I think explores the guilt Goldilocks must have felt, don't sit right with me, but the quiet prose and illustrations are lovely.  I especially like how the illustrations, not the words, provide the punchlines in both The Bike Ride and Telling Stories.

Prudence Wants a Pet written by Cathleen Daly and illustrated by Stephen Michael King.  Another (I think Australian) book I'm ambivalent about.  Prudence wants a pet so desperately she adopts all kinds of inanimate objects until her parents finally succumb.  On a first reading, my girls thought the story was hysterical, but it didn't hold up as well upon rereading.  Truly clever moments (adopting a shoe and calling it Formal Footwear, since that is what it says inside) seem to highlight that the rest of the book falls short.  The part of the story about "sea buddies" was confusing to us (what are they exactly?  some type of plant?) and neither my girls or I were sure whether the pet at the end was a cat or a dog!  On the plus side, I love how the adults in the story are only depicted from the waist-down, a true child's eye view of the world (and reminiscent of the grown-ups in Charlie Brown).  Strangely, it is the third book I've read recently with inanimate objects as pets - the tween novel, When Life Gives You O.J. by Erica S. Perl and Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great by Judy Blume were the others.

Apple Pie ABC by Alison Murray.  I have a soft spot both for retro-looking illustrations and unique alphabet books and this book scores high  on both counts.  I can't think of another alphabet book that actually tells us a story like this one, although there must be one, right?  Also going on my to-buy list.

A Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka.  Justly deserving of its Caldecott for the illustrations (I love the colors) but I found the plot of this wordless book a little thin.

My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother by Patricia Polacco.  A great semi-autobiographical book about sibling relationships with photos of the author and her real rotten redheaded older brother on the endpapers.

Listen to My Trumpet! by Mo Willems.  The latest in the Elephant and Piggie series, this one was definitely not my favorite.

Dumpling Days by Grace Lin.  The third book in Grace Lin's semi-autobiographical middle-grade series about Pacy Lin, a Taiwanese-American girl, which, like the first two (The Year of the Dog and The Year of the Rat), successfully explores immigrant identity and the difficulties of just growing up.  The kind and wise parents remind me of the Quimbys.  My only complaint is that the books are not very subtle, but that may be all for the best considering the target age group.

Have you or your kids read any of the above?  What did you think?


  1. I so look forward to your comments and so often I find myself agreeing with you. Maudie and Bear does not work for me either and I was so disappointed when it won Book of the Year for Early Childhood. I am putting together a Claytons list for a talk on the Early Childhood list for this year and wondered why Prudence Wants a Pet wasn't entered. Turns out Cathleen Daly is an American so it's not eligible. Yes, Stephen Michael King is Australian. It doesn't work for the kids I read it too either and we don't know what sea buddies are either. So many of the books considered in the judging either have a very thin plot or they have lovely illustrations and too much intertextuality. The ones with good stories often have illustrations that just don't make the grade.

  2. Thanks, kinderbooks! And I'm glad we're not the only ones who don't know what sea buddies are!