Monday, May 19, 2008

Mmmmm.... New Books...

Once in a while, when a busload of new stuff comes in, I take some time out of the day to read through it and see if there is new stuff to love. Sometimes, I'm not impressed by much, often there are a few new items I like, but once in a blue moon? There are a stack of new books I would gladly recommend, put out for display, or squirrel home to share with my daughter. This month was once of those times, and I am happy to be able to share a new trove of fresh finds with you. I will totally be bringing a few home to Pumpkinpie.

Previously, by Allan Ahlberg, ill. Bruce Ingman

This book draws on a host of well-known, classic fairy tales, which tends to make the story-savvy child pretty pleased with her ability to pick out the tale from the clues. The basic premise is to walk backwards through tale after tale, with characters running into each other to create the junctions between the stories, and wrapping up with all characters as babies (or tadpoles, or cubs, or trees not yet made into wood, and so on). And last of all? Once upon a time... A fun shared read with a child old enough to pick up the reference and understand the sequencing, this also plays with the narrative sequence in an interesting way that challenges them to think about the expected order of events.

I'm Big Enough Now! by Pamela Duncan Edwards, ill. Rebecca Harry

This book is one that skirts the border of cute and too-cute, mostly thanks to the softer illustrations, but I liked it nonetheless. When a young elephant decides he is big enough to go out into the world and have his own adventures, his mother doesn't try to stop him, but instead gives him enough rope to get into trouble, and then "happens" to be passing by and help him out. By the end of a few such episodes, she invites him to join her on her adventures, and the two have a great time together. At the close of the story, the young elephant decides to wait a while to go out on his own again. I do like how the message (and there is one, to be sure) is given gently, and how the mother lets him come to his own conclusion while still making sure he is safe. Sweet, but loving in tone, it's a nice storytime pick.

Ride 'em, Cowboy, by Stefan Czernecki

This is the perfect read-aloud for the young cowboy-obssessed child. The unusual art consists of photos of what appear to be hand-tooled wooden toys, and has a great simplicity to it, with a real retro child's-toy look. The text is simple, employing cowboy dialect and lots of great sound effects, and has a terrific whoop and holler feel to it. Just right, this one. It made me think immediately of Marla.

Ms. McCaw Learns to Draw, by Kaethe Zemach

Dudley's teacher is most patient, most wise, and helps him to understand things in a way no other teacher has. So when he sees her grow frustrated and give up as she tries unsuccessfully to draw a face in profile, he understands and takes over her role, patiently explaining and showing over and over, until the board is full of faces, and she is ready to try on her own. A lovely ode to good teachers, a nice way of expressing how patience can help in learning a new skill, and a very subtle message about the power of persistence. A really nice book to share with a child in grade 1-3, I would estimate, especially one who may have encountered some frustrations and appreciate seeing that s/he is not alone.

Tire Mountain, by Andrea Chung, ill. Ken Condon

Aaron's mother longs to move away from their corner, where his father's auto repair business has created a pile of tires and the lot across the way lies vacant. Aaron, though, sees beauty in the neighbourhood, and is angry at his mother's search for somewhere better, cleaner. Soon, he is inspired by the "tire mountain" that he loves to climb, his neighbour's garden, and a little girl he knows, and jumps into action. Within a short time, he has turned the vacant lot into a playground and garden for community children and created something of undeniable beauty on that corner. When I first read this, I was trying to figure out what kind of post to put it into - one about moving? About recycling or conservation or community action? It would fit all of those themes, in fact, and I quite like the inspiring message and lovely illustrations in it. Wonderful, and a nice story of community involvement for a slightly older child.

Water Boy, by David McPhail

McPhail's books frequently feature dreamy, imaginative scenarios and images, and this newest is no exception. In it, a boy is told that he is made of mostly water, and becomes fearful that he will wash or leak away into nothing, until he begins to befriend water and find that, being one with it, he is able to control it and ultimately, help to restore it from a polluted state. This book is beautiful, strange, and a lovely one to share with a child who loves water or enjoys flights of fantasy.

Cottonwool Colin, by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross

Colin is the smallest in his litter of mice, unlike his robust siblings, and his mother worries overly about his safety. For the longest time, she keeps him indoors, where he cannot get hurt or catch a cold, until she tries wrapping him in a bundle of cottonwoll to protect him when he leaves the nest for the first time. Rather than helping, the fluffy white layer attracts all sorts of trouble, and he survives quite nicely once it is gone. It ends with him insisting on going out without, and notes that while he did get scared and hurt at times, it was totally worth it. These longtime collaborators have created a funny little gem in this book, and yet managed to slyly tuck in a message for mothers without losing the book's amusement factor - what a great feat!

The Magic Rabbit, by Annette LeBlanc Cate

When a magician and his rabbit get separated, they are both devastated, for they are best friends as well as working companions. We follow the bunny until he picks up a trail that leads to their reunion. This book is spare in words, leaving much to wonderful, kinetic illustrations rendered in sepia-toned black-and-white with the sole exception of the magician's yellow stars. The effect is, well, magical. Not to mention that I always love a good tale of friendship.

Originally posted on MommyBlogsToronto/Better Than a Playdate.

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