Mini-reviews of what we're reading now.
Chengdu Would Not, Could Not Fall Asleep.
Beautiful art complements a book that addresses a problem everyone -
adult or child - has had at one time or another, and how snuggling with
mom or dad or sister or brother can sometimes solve it.
Are You Awake? This would make a nice complement to Chengdu,
as it is about a child who wakes too early. Clever and sweet, it
exactly captures how an exasperated and exhausted parent still treasures
this special time with her child. If it sounds like one of those books
more appreciated by adults than kids, it's not. My 6-year-old loved
Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas. The true story of an elephant seal who chose to live in the Avon River and sun herself on the streets of Christchurch, New Zealand, despite being repeatedly returned to what was allegedly her natural habitat. A lovely book about how home is where we choose to make it, with fascinating facts in the back matter.
Twenty-One Elephants and Still Standing.
A work of historical fiction that tells of when P.T. Barnum's circus
elephants traipsed over the Brooklyn Bridge to prove its safety and
strength. The compelling facts overcome the weakness and confusion of
the text - is it free verse? Is it prose? Why does some of it rhyme?
The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James Audubon. More historical
fiction, with interesting facts about Audubon and about scientists' and
philosophers' very unscientific speculations about which birds migrate.
Melissa Sweet's trademark collage style is a nice match for the text. This would be great paired with Summer Birds: The Butterfliesof Maria Merian, about another naturalist/artist.
In Front of My House. A great concept, this book situates the narrator's house in it's place in the universe: "On a little hill, behind a brown fence, under a big oak tree, is... my house. In front of my house... a rosebush. On the rosebush... a little bird." What starts out as a charming goes on for far too long, however. While sorely in need of editing, this is still a fun read, with lovely, simply artwork, if your child has the patience for it.
The Emperor and the Nightingale. A beautiful, and beautifully illustrated,
retelling of a Chinese folktale about the power of true art and nature
to move us and how wild animals should not be caged. In this version,
the live nightingale lives to continue to entertain the emperor. I seem
to remember other versions where the nightingale falls silent once
caged and either remains so or is finally set free never to return. Can
anyone refer me to those?
The Green Line. A quiet
meditation on a walk in the park, illustrated with photographs, and a
child's delight in simple pleasures, like rolling down a hill and
blowing on dandelions. A lovely little book for a child in the right
I'm in Charge of Celebrations. The child
narrator tells the reader in free verse about all the things in nature
she celebrates, such as a rabbit in the mist looking at a triple
rainbow, meteor showers, and the animals and weather of the desert
southwest. Again, a book with a more quiet feel.
Yussel's Prayer. A retelling of a Jewish folktale about a boy who is unable to
pray the traditional Hebrew prayers and plays his flute instead. It
turns out his flute playing is more sincere than all the rote prayers
recited by the congregation, and it is his tune which opens the gates of
A Library Book for Bear. Curmudgeonly Bear is
back, with his bright-eyed, irrepressible friend mouse. Not quite as
funny as the other Bear stories, my daughter was amusingly shocked (or
shockingly amused?) at Bear's proclamation that he owns 7 books and that
is all he needs.