Monday, January 21, 2008

Fresh Finds

It takes a while for a book to work its way from publisher to distributor to acquisitions to processing to the branches of a large organization like the one I work for. Sometimes, by the time I'm seeing a book, it's a good 6, 8, 12 months old. But even so, even if they are really a year old, the new books are always a bit of a thrill. Usually I haven't seen them before, even if they are from, say, 2006, as most of these are. These are some I've found and enjoyed over the last 6 months, most of which have gone home to Pumpkinpie, too.

The Boy Who Was Raised by Librarians, by Carla Morris, ill. Brad Sneed

Melvin practically grew up in the library, encouraged in his curiosity and helped in his homework by a trio of enthusiastic librarians. they show him how to research, how to classify, how to organize, and how to project his voice for the school play. His successes were celebrated, and he had a job there after schol. When he left for college, he kept in touch. and one year, when another boy came into the library and loved it as Melvin had, the new librarian - Melvin - helped him out. This is a cute book, well-illustrated, and a loving homage by and for a children's librarian. My only quibble is to wonder what library has the resources to have three librarians in at the same time? Still, it is fiction...

I Am Pangoo the Penguin, by Satomi Ichikawa

Danny loves Pangoo the penguin, and takes him everywhere with him. Meals, playtime, to bed, even to see the penguins in the Central Park Zoo. When Danny's birthday nets him a boatload of new animals, though, Pangoo is left alone for the first time, and decides to join the penguins in the zoo, where perhaps he belongs. As he talks with them, though, it is clear that he is not like them, and he is lost, until Danny comes looking for him, and they are reunited. So sweet, this is, and a little poignant, with lovely illustrations that straddle modern and more classic styles.

Vote for Duck, by Doreen Cronin, ill. Betsy Lewin

We met Duck a few years back in Click, Clack, Moo, which quickly spawned a spate of follow-ups, but this is by far the best. Here, Duck decides he is unhappy with the management of the farm, and takes matters into his own hands, running to be in charge of the farm. He discovers that runing a farm is hard work. Sohe decided to run for Governor, instead. Which is also hard work. As is running the country. So Duck returns to the farm, where he begins work on his autobiography. Funny, although very American, as you will note right away, with the inevitable cover-judgment.

Gingerbread Girl, by Lisa Ernst Campbell

After the disappearance of the gingerbread boy, the lonely old man and woman decide to try their luck again, this time with a girl. A girl who overhears them rehashing the story of her former brother, and decides that things will be different when she escapes. And indeed, it is, especially for the fox. I have mixed reactions to this fairy tale take-offs. Sometimes they are kind of crummy, like the author couldn't come up with their own thing, but sometimes, they are sly and smart, fresh and funny, taking up where the original left off and adding their own twist. This is a fun one, and a great story for sharing with a kid you know is familiar with the original. Try pairing it with Richard Egielski's Gingerbread Boy (my personal favourite, and one that sticks to the old story - this just doesn't work if the Boy wasn't eaten, sorry).

Around the House the Fox Chased the Mouse, by Rick Walton, ill. Jim Bradshaw

This is the simplest of stories, with a fox chasing a mouse all around the farm, but it's the pictures that make it fun in bod, cartoonish style. The book is really about teaching prepositions, but manages to avoid being teach-y. Instead, it reminds me a bit of Pat Hutchins' classic Rosie's Walk, minus the sly, unsaid humour.

Alphabetter, by Dan Bar-El and Graham Ross

"Alberto had an alligator, but he didn't have a bathing suit." And he wanted to go swimming. And each kid, from A to Z, has something, but not what they need, until they all trade one letter up, and everyone's problems are solved. Seems contrived? Actually, it's packed with funny little details, and the message of cooperation is barely a footnote. I quite liked it, but I think it would work better for a child of at least 4 or 5, as Pumpkinpie (my test subject) totally didn't get it.

The Queen's Feet, by Sarah Ellis, ill. Dusan Petricic

The queen's feet were not obeying at all. In fact, they were starting to cause real trouble, refusing to wear proper, queenly shoes, doing high kicks at royal balls, and even kicking a neighbouring king in the shin. Something had to be done, and a compromise was struck. This book is silly and irreverant and made me laugh out loud at the antics of the feet, and I appreciated that the ending is satisfactory, without breaking the spirit of the feet. I was awfully tempted to pair this with Babette Cole's Princess Smartypants for a post on When Royalty Goes Wrong, but thought I'd rather give it to you today than make you wait.

Originally posted on MommyBlogsToronto/Better Than a Playdate.

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