Monday, January 13, 2014

Library (and Bookstore) Round-up #14

Mini-reviews of what we're reading now.

The dough rises.  And rises.  And rises.
The Duchess Bakes a Cake by Virginia Kahl.  Introduced to us by our awesome, well-read, 12-year-old babysitter, this rhyming story "scans," as they say.  The Duchess goes a wee bit beyond her natural abilities and decides to bake a "luscious, light, delectable cake."  Although her mistakes with yeast and the hijinks that ensue are the subject of many a book (see my review of Bembelman's Bakery, published more than 20 years after this one, which was first published in 1955), this story is utterly delightful, made more so by the perfect rhymes and amusing drawings.

Jumping Penguins by Marije Tolman.  An assortment of utterly random, bizarre and perfectly fascinating animal facts accompanied by whimsical, watercolor illustrations.  You want to know how far caterpillars can throw their poop?  Then this is the book for you.

Old Henry
by Joan W. Blos.  Henry's house doesn't look like everyone else's on his block.  And apparently there is no neighborhood association to force him to mow his lawn or mend his fence.  Billed as a book about different people learning to live in harmony, I saw this more as a comforting book for the messy among us and an ode to how important community is.

Arthur and the Sword by Robert Sabuda.  Retold by Robert Sabuda and illustrated in his distinctive stained-glass style, this version was an excellent introduction to the folktale of King Arthur.  It is, however, the story only of Arthur and the sword - it does not tell the further tales of King Arthur and his court. 

 Wild by Emily Hughes.  After quite a bit of hype I was disappointed by this book.  The story of a child who is left in the woods and raised by animals, found by people and returned to "civilization," and, unable to adapt, returned to the forest, was, in my opinion, lacking in plot.  I can't see this one appealing to kids.

One Grain of Rice: A Mathematical Folktale
by Demi.  This is a beautifully illustrated version of a folktale which teaches the mathematical concept that doubling causes numbers to grow incredibly quickly.  The illustrations and folktale setting may even entrance the math phobic!

Brush of the Gods by Lenore Look, illustrated by Meilo So.   This picture book by Lenore Look, author of the chapter book series Ruby Lu (enjoyed by my older daughter last year), captivated my 6-year-old.  Using the limited available knowledge about the life of the famous Chinese painter Wu Daozi, Look tells a story about the power of art, as Wu's paintings, in her telling, literally come alive.

Christina Katerina and the Box
by (well-known children's book editor) Patricia Lee Gauch.  Another favorite of my kindergartener about the power of imagination.  A forgotten classic, its place usurped recently by other books of the same ilk such as Not a Box by Antoinette Portis and The Nowhere Box by Sam Zuppardi.

Forever by Emma Dodd.  This plotless promise of unconditional love from a mama polar bear to her cub is set against an Arctic landscape which is brought to shimmering life with shiny foil illustrations.  A bit gimmicky, but I fell for it anyway!

When Jessie Came Across the Sea
by Amy Hest.  In this beautiful story about a Jewish immigrant to America, a grandmother's bond with her granddaughter cannot be severed by time or distance.  An object - here a wedding ring - represents home, family, and history.  Other books with these themes include Patricia Polacco's  The Keeping Quilt and The Blessing Cup and Dan Yaccarino's All the Way to America: The Story of a Big Italian Family and a Little Shovel

My Name is Yoon by Helen Recorvits.  Another touching immigrant story about the power of names and family history. 

What are you reading?

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