Monday, August 31, 2009
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Thursday, August 27, 2009
After watching the film I sat down to watch the “making of” features. I am constantly in awe of any type of animation but stop motion in particular. The bonus features were interesting although I’ll be on the lookout for a book that covers it as well. I wanted more of the puppet building and less on the voicing of the characters. But I may be one of the few people who are interested in that kind of thing. Considering I spent the rest of the evening on the couch reading a “making of” book for Toy Story, I’m far more interested than the average joe. (by the way, did anyone else know that Joss Whedon helped write the script for Toy Story?) I sadly can’t watch Coraline in 3-D (I tried) but with only one real working eye, everything just looked green. But even without the 3-D, I was pulled into the film. I was impressed and awed by the movie, but a little disappointed with the bonus features.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
I wasn't sure if I was planning to review this book or not. I kept picking it up and putting it down. As my regular readers know, I love David Wiesner. But on the other hand this story, adapted from a story written by Fritz Leiber, is a bit darker than most of the stuff I have reviewed. This shouldn't be surprising since Leiber is a classic horror writer but I didn't really know what I was getting into with this unusual picture book.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
My mother never read Eloise to us when we were children. It was only when I got older that I realized that this children's classic was missing. Considering the size of our library, this was a shocking omission. But after checking it out from the library, I think I may have figured out some reasons that my mother never bought the book. The story was wonderful but Eloise may not be my mother's idea of a good role model.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Almost 50 years before Pixar introduced us to a tiny mouse who wanted to cook in Ratatouille, Eve Titus introduced the world to another culinary mouse named Anatole. Anatole, like his animated cousin lives in Paris and becomes unhappy with the idea of stealing food. The stories are similar which is not surprising. Eve Titus’ story of a mouse who wants to give back has stood the test of time and has just returned to print for its fiftieth anniversary edition.
The story starts with Anatole heading out for his nightly rounds of food stealing with his friend. The two go out every evening together to the take food from the houses of the people. One night Anatole overhears people talking about how terrible it the stealing is. He decides that he doesn’t want to steal food ever again. So the next night, Anatole leaves his friend behind and instead sneaks to a cheese factory in the city. He samples each of the cheeses and then heads home with an idea. He writes up little cards and then returns to the factory that night. He samples the cheeses and offers suggestions for how to improve them. The factory take his suggestions seriously and suddenly their sales start going up rapidly. The factory owner tries hard to meet Anatole to thank him for the new success. When Anatole refuses to meet them he gives the mouse a job as official taster with the perk of getting to bring home as much cheese as he wants. And Anatole never has to steal cheese again.
The story is such a quiet endearing little tale that I’m not surprised that it has stood the test of time. The character of Anatole, with his little beret and bicycle, is charming and grown-up in a way that is unusual as a children’s story. It seems such a grown-up story and theme. Titus is clearly not talking down to her audience. She uses language that is more adult than what we often see in children’s books. One of my favorite exchanges between Anatole and his friend Gaston illustrates this well. “It is horrible to feel scorned and unwanted! Where is my self-respect? My pride? My honor?” Gaston shrugged his shoulders indifferently. “Resign yourself, Anatole. Cest la vie!” Using this more advanced language, Titus creates characters that are intelligent and likable. Paul Galdrone, the illustrator, creates wonderful scenes really bringing the little mouse and his Paris to life. The illustrations are mix of black and white drawings, watercolor images, and full paint washes. The colors are deep and subdued (often blues) making this story sweet and quiet. In fact, this had to be one of the most quiet, thoughtful, and intelligent children’s stories I’ve read in a long time.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
I love finding fun little books that I wasn't expecting. I love picking up some random book at the library and being completely enchanted by it. That was definitely the case with While Mama Had a Quick Little Chat by Amy Reichert and illustrated by Alexandra Boiger. I picked up the book on a whim and it has become my favorite read for the week. Not often do I find a story that mixes such a funny adorable story with elegant colorful illustrations. This book was wonderful, through and through.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
The previous library I worked in subscribed to the Horn Book. The Horn Book is a children's literature review magazine. It covers hundreds of children's books in each edition giving out stars to the best enjoyed titles. When we would weed out the collection I would go through each issue looking for books that looked interested or good articles. It was in the March/April 2001 issue that I found the "Rules for Raising a Nonreader" and I knew I had to pull out that list. My parents had raised me (and all my brothers and sisters) as readers and I'm happy to say they never did any of the things on this list.
I've been something of a nonreader recently in that I haven't been working on a book every night. I read every couple of days and for me that seems almost scandelous. But I have friends who don't have books in their house. (unfathomable for me) Whose kids never pick up a book for fun. Last year a U.S.A. Today poll found that one in four people had not read a single book in the previous year. I get testy if it's been more than five days since I last read for fun.
So without further ado, here is the way to make sure your child grows up as a non-reader. Remember people, that TV's not going to watch itself.
1. Never read where your children see you
2. Put a TV or a computer in every room. Don't neglect kitchen or bathrooms.
3. Correct your child every time he or she mispronounces a word.
4. Schedule activites every day after school so your child will never be bored.
5. Once your child can read independently, toss out the picture books. They're for babies.
6. Don't play board games together. Too dull.
7. Give little rewards for reading. Stickers and plastic toys are nice. Money is better.
8. Don't expect your child to enjoy reading. Kid's books are for teaching vocabulary, proper study skills, and good morals.
9. Buy only 40 watt bulbs for your lamps.
10. Under no circumstances read your child the same book over and over. He or she heard it once and should remember it.
11. Never allow your child to listen to books on tape; that's cheating.
12. Make sure your kids only read books that are "challenging". Easy books are a complete waste of time. That goes double for comic books and Mad magazine.
13. Absolutely, positively, no reading in bed.
Unlucky Arithmetic: Thirteen Ways to Raise a Nonreader. Dean Schneider and Robin Smith. The Horn Book, March/April 2001.
I can remember whole days spent lounging on some sofa reading. My parents encouraged us to read and read to us (normally the same books over and over) from the time we were very small. Mom would read picture books to us so many times we would easily have them memorized. Dad read the chapter books to us in the evenings. And once we were old enough to read for ourselves, we devoured every book we could get our hands on. I continue to read picture books (no they're not for babies) and young adult chapter books. I read fiction and nonfiction and almost any genre out there. I will pick up whatever book is handy if I'm waiting somewhere with nothing to do. Reading for me is like breathing. I can't go too long without it. I'm a librarian because I love to read. And I love to read because my parents raised us as readers. Thanks.
Monday, August 10, 2009
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
When I was younger my parents took me to the ballet occasionally. We saw standards like the Nutcracker but we also saw plenty of other shows including a very intriguingly done Macbeth. Because of that early introduction, I've always loved the ballet. Much like the main character in Honk!: The Story of a Prima Swanerina by Pamela Duncan Edwards. Of course the main character happens to be a swan.
The story follows Mimi who happens to be flying by the Opera Hall when she spies a ballet in progress. Mimi falls in love with the graceful figures and the dances. She practices at her pond, trying to get the steps right. And then she decides that she should go see another performance. She tries to walk in to the Opera House but is turned away by the manager with the words "No swans in the Opera House!" Mimi tries other ways to sneak in to see the performance but her Honk always gives her away. Finally, as she is about to give up, a late ballerina shows up at the backstage door. Mimi follows her in and takes a place in the lineup of dancers. As the ballerinas and one swan go on stage, Mimi dances all the steps she knows. Luckily the ballet is Swan Lake and audience loves her. She is invited back to perform again the next night.
This is a cute little story about ballet and dedication with a good deal of silliness tucked in. Children will love all the clever ways Mimi tries to sneak into the opera house. I love the random honks that give the swan away. And of course the irony of the ballet being Swan Lake. The focus is more on Mimi than on the ballet itself although the book goes through many of the classic positions of the ballet early in the book. I love how Mimi seems so matter of fact about her going to see the ballet. There is no doubt in her mind that she should be allowed in. Her self-assurance and determination make her a surprising character. Those are not normally attributes given to swans.
Henry Cole provides the illustrations for the book and they are downright beautiful. The soft images seem have a good deal of color and warmth. There is something fuzzy about the images which reminds me of old color films. There seems to be a nostalgic quality to the images to remind us that people used to go to the ballet regularly. The ballerina's dresses and the soft feathers of the swan seem very similar and stand out well against the dark outfits of the manager and the others attending. I enjoyed the colors of the pieces but it was the softness of the images that made them stand out for me. A beautiful book.
Monday, August 3, 2009
I've already admitted many times that I regularly judge a book by its cover. I'm more likely to check out a book if the cover appeals to me. So when I saw the little boy on the cover of Joe Fenton's What's Under the Bed? I knew I had to check the book out. How can you possibly resist those huge glasses, small eyes, worried expression, and adorable teddy bear?
Sunday, August 2, 2009
Last week Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast (a must read children's book blog) did a column on Jeremy Tankard. His new book Boo Hoo Bird was released recently and they were talking about how wonderful the new book was. I liked the look of Tankard’s artwork, with its deep brushstrokes and bright colors. So when they mentioned his previous Bird book I had to go pick it up. Grumpy Bird has the same great colors, unique backgrounds, and fun characters. But it also has something else, a fun story.
The story follows Bird who wakes up grumpy. He’s too grumpy to eat or even to fly. So he decides to walk. As he’s grumpily walking he passes each of his forest friends who decide that walking would be fun. They don’t even mind Bird’s sarcastic and angry responses to them. They just keep walking along behind him. Finally Bird realizes what they are doing. He stops and the play games. Bird forgets that he is grumpy and everyone eventually has a good time. The story is simple, but the dialogue was surprising for a children’s book. Bird is not always nice and sometimes snaps at his friends. And I found that incredibly refreshing. Children will love the repetition of the animal’s question “what are you doing?” and will enjoy seeing what Birds response is.
If the words are fun, the images are just fantastic. Tankard mixes photographs, broad brush strokes, bright colors, and simplistic but adorable characters. Bird in all his grumpiness is very cute. The other animals are sweet looking and done with minimal lines. Raccoon is defined with his mask and ringed tail. Fox looked a little like a cat except he is red. But somehow the simple characters make everything that much sweeter. Even Bird. The backgrounds are some of the most unique I have ever seen. Tankard uses photographs for the far background with painted brush strokes over the top. Close items, like bushes or trees, are heavy ink and very simply done. On top of all this is a wash of color that is almost startling. Tankard uses oranges, yellows, greens, and browns for each of the pages and these are almost always bright. With the bright backgrounds, the red, blue, white, brown, and orange characters stand out well particularly since the characters are outlined in black. This kind of art is fantastic, producing sweetness and brightness for a grumpy subject. The mixed media is inspired and I’m truly in love with Tankard’s style.
This is an adorable book that any child would be sure to love. I found myself going back again and again to enjoy the artwork. I was constantly missing little details that I would find later. A brilliant book, both in subject and artwork. I look forward to checking out Boo Hoo Bird as soon as possible. Grumpy Bird left me anything but grumpy.
Saturday, August 1, 2009
I’m going to have my children’s book lover card revoked for this admission but here goes; I’d never read a Jane Yolen before. I’m not sure how I could have gotten to this age without having read one of her books. She’s only written over 250. So when I saw the adorable duck on the front of Dimity Duck I figured I would start with that one. I’m so glad I did. I’ll be picking up more of Ms. Yolen’s books.
Dimity Duck is an adorable story that makes me wish I had half of Jane Yolen’s talent with words. I was hooked from this line, “Dimity Duck waddles, she toddles out of bed. Niddy-Noddy goes her tail and Quack! goes her head.” I’m not sure what niddy-noddy means but I love the Quack goes her head part. And this is not the first word that Yolen invents. They are mixed throughout the book. She uses nonsense words to spice up simple rhymes. Words like frithy-frothy drips may not be an actual term, but they create a great impression. These are words that drip off the tongue. The rhyme scheme took a little getting used to when I first started the book but once I read the book aloud the rhythm made sense. This is a wonderful silly story that delighted me.
The illustrations by Sebastien Braun are cute, soft, cuddly, and bright. They are perfect illustrations for young children who will love the adorable duck and her cute frog friend. Braun paints Dimity with softness and adorable colors. This is a character that shows her emotions on its face. The design for the book was wonderful with lots of white spaces that give the reader time to enjoy the words and images. The onomatopoeia words are often in a different font and style as the rest of the words and almost jump off the page. The illustration work for this book is beautiful but it was the words in this book that made it amazingly cute.