Showing posts with label Patricia Polacco. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Patricia Polacco. Show all posts

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?

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Birthday Books and Inscriptions for a Six-Year-Old

Six years ago today, it was close to 60 degrees.  I know this because it was the day I brought home my younger daughter from the hospital.  Despite the weather, I insisted on dressing her in the same pink, fleecy bunting, I'd come home from the hospital in nearly 33 years before.

Regular readers know that I always write inscriptions on the books I give my daughters for their birthdays.  Today my younger daughter turned 6.  I only gave her two books, with two more to follow which align thematically with a gift that my parents will give her this weekend.  I chose these two because they inspired repeated requests for reading, but I realized they dovetailed nicely with each other as they are both about sibling relationships.  So without further ado, here are the two books I gave her and what I wrote in them.

The Seven Chinese Sisters.  May you and your sister always find your own strengths and use them to help each other. 

Rotten Richie and the Ultimate Dare.  As you and your sibling grow up, fight, and compete with each other, may you always respect each other's passions and accomplishments and remember that, in spite of it all, you love each other.  After all, just see whom the author dedicated this book to! [It's her brother, of course, the "rotten Richie" of the title.]

What books have you given as gifts?  Do you inscribe them?

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Spotlight on... Patricia Polacco

A small fraction of Polacco's books
Patricia Polacco has the greatest range of any picture book author I can think of.  From alphabet books (G is for Goat), to simple stories for toddlers (Oh, Look!, Mommies Say Shhh), to cumulative tales (In Enzo's Splendid Garden), to the very funny and absurd (Ginger and Petunia), to flights of the imagination (Emma Kate), autobiographical stories about family relationships and the importance of family history (the companion books The Keeping Quilt and The Blessing Cup, My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother, Rotten Richie and the Ultimate Dare, among many others), to odes to the importance of teachers in general and thank yous to specific teachers who taught her and helped her overcome learning disabilities and find where her true talents lay (Thank You, Mr. Falker and The Art of Miss Chew), to books about history, particularly the Civil War (Pink and Say, Just in Time, Abraham Lincoln), to books about the true meaning of Christmas (An Orange for Frankie, Gifts of the Heart), cancer (The Lemonade Club) and civil rights, prejudice and discrimination (In Our Mothers' House), she's done it all.  Here are a few of our favorites.

Ginger and Petunia.  Petunia the pig impersonates her owner, the glamorous Ginger, while Ginger is away.  Hysterical, with pitch-perfect illustrations. 

Someone for Mr. Sussman.  The narrator's bubbeh (grandmother) is a matchmaker who is secretly in love with her most difficult client.  She tries to change herself to fit his every whim  (he wants someone who bakes, no, someone who exercises, no, someone who loves blue, no, someone who dances), only to learn in the end, of course, that it is best to be herself.  Yet the book is so funny that the lesson doesn't seem trite.  As Bubbeh herself says, "No pot is so crooked that there isn't a lid to fit it!"

The Keeping Quilt and The Blessing CupThe Keeping Quilt is perhaps Polacco's best-known work and is a modern classic for a reason.  The just-published 25th anniversary edition adds to the history of the quilt.  These books tell the history of a family - and the times it lived through - by tracing the history of an object.  Again, not a new topic, but Polacco treats it like no one else.  With the title object in color and the rest of the illustrations in black-and-white, Polacco shows how these objects have special meaning for her family.

Rotten Richie and the Ultimate Dare.  Patricia and her brother fight over whose avocation is more physically challenging - hockey or ballet.  Their wise mother makes each of them try the other's in order to settle the dispute. As with many of her autobiographical picture books, the endpapers are decorated with real photos of Polacco and her family, which I just love. 

Emma Kate.  This book's surprise ending following a seemingly typical story about an imaginary friend is just delightful. 

What are your favorite Patricia Polacco books?

Can you think of any other picture book author with a range even close to hers?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

From Generation to Generation

It wasn't until I sat down to write about our favorite new library books that I realized that several had something in common: inter-generational relationships.  Not all of them focused on relatives, either, which is somewhat rare.

Henry and the Kite Dragon by Bruce Edward Hall. Illustrated by William Low with lush colors and beautiful depictions of light and shadow, this is two stories in one - the story of the relationship between a group of children and a neighborhood elder, and of the tensions between Chinese and Italian immigrant children on the border of Chinatown and Little Italy.
This Is Our House. by Hyewon Yum.   A young girl narrates the story of three generations of her family (including herself) who have lived - and still live - in the same house.  A beautiful book about the cycle of life (but without any death) and inter-generational living.  I thought my always-in-need-of-excitement 5-year-old would be bored by this one, but she proved me wrong.  In fact, she listened so closely to the book, including to the part where the mother brings home the college boyfriend who she would marry and who would become the narrator's father, that when my 8-year-old and I were discussing all-women's colleges, my younger one interjected, "But then you won't come home with a boyfriend!"  Not exactly the takeaway I - or, probably, the author - had in mind!

Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox.  A lovely but bittersweet story about the inter-generational friendship between a young boy and the residents of the old people's home he lives next door to. 

Mrs. Katz and Tush by the prolific and sensitive Patricia Polacco is another bittersweet book about not just an inter-generational but an inter-racial and inter-religious relationship.  The endurance of the friendship depicted and the way the now-grown boy honors the memory of his old friend at the end of the book is truly special.

What is your favorite picture book about an inter-generational relationship?

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?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Library Round-up #3

Mini-reviews of some of the books we have out from the library right now.

Emma Kate by Patricia Polacco.  This book's surprise ending following a seemingly typical story about an imaginary friend is just delightful. 

Sam Who Never Forgets by Eve Rice.  An oldie but goodie.  This quiet story about a zookeeper who may have forgotten to feed Elephant for the first time is just lovely to read aloud: "But just as a tear starts to fall from Elephant's eye, just as Elephant starts to cry..."  It reminds me of A Sick Day for Amos McGee, although by rights it should be the other way around.  

Waiting for Winter by Sebastian Meschenmoser.  The punchlines here about animals who try to identify snow by the description "white and wet and cold and soft" and, of course, are mistaken, are hysterical to the preschool set, but in my opinion the lead-up to them is too long.

Frederick by Leo Lionni.  I knew this book but hadn't thought of it as a book about winter until I saw it on an NYPL winter-themed list.  A perfect choice, about a mouse who, instead of saving nuts and corn for the winter, saves sunlight, colors and words.  A book about the power of imagination and creativity to warm our souls and sometimes, even our bodies.

Polar Bear Night by Lauren Thompson, illustrated by Stephen Savage.  Another quiet book with rhythmic, repetitive prose about a polar bear cub who wanders out to see a meteor shower and then returns to the comfort of his mother's arms.  I love the atmospheric, tonal illustrations by Stephen Savage (it was a New York Times Best Illustrated Book) but my 4-year-old kept asking why the polar bear cub was changing colors. 

All the Water in the World by George Ella Lyon, illustrated by Katherine Tillotson.  The rave reviews (of both the text and the illustrations - and their interplay) are well-deserved, although I would have appreciated sidebars or an appendix with more facts to complement the poetic text.  And I couldn't decide how I felt about the narrator calling the reader "honey."

Have you read any of these?  What did you think?