Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Of course I had to check out 1001 Children's Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up, edited by Julia Eccleshare, to see how my childhood reading stacked up to their suggestions. I have always been a pretty voracious reader, and my parents and grandma also read to me at lunch and bedtime throughout grade school. Even so, I only read 110 of these books before I finished high school and 121 more since then. I am only counting books that I have read cover to cover, not just skimmed or am familiar with because I've repeatedly seen them at Borders, Barnes and Noble and the library. I would feel worse about this, but this book has an international scope and has 30 featured author/reviewers and 70+ additional contributors. Many of the titles are completely new to me, and that is actually good.
This reference is divided into chapters by age groups: 0-3, 3+, 5+, 8+ and 12+, and then offerings are presented chronologically, the book's oldest being Aesop's Fables from c 550 B.C.E. (8+) and the most recent The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (8+). Classics picture books familiar to American children are here, such as Goodnight Moon, Very Hungry Caterpillar, Curious George (The Complete Adventures of Curious George, Anniversary Edition), and Where the Wild Things Are. New friends await in The Book About Moomin, Mymble and Little My, from Finland, Balloon Cat, from Japan and Old Tom, from Australia. The other chapters follow suit, mixing the known and the as yet unfamiliar. Each title is given an half or entire page of description, color cover art is displayed and frequently similar titles are suggested. Works are indexed by title and author/illustrator.
I am pleased to see some of my old childhood favorites: A Necklace of Raindrops : and Other Stories by Joan Aiken, The Water-Babies (a Fairy Tale for a Land-Baby) by Charles Kingsley and Five Children and It (Looking Glass Library) by E. Nesbit as well as The Cuckoo Clock by Mrs. Molesworth, written in 1877. You can tell that I loved old fashioned tales of magic. Many more of my friends past and current are listed.
A sampling of titles listed that I would like to read include The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie by May Gibbs, an Australian classic about two nut babies and bush animals, Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie, a fairy tale set in India and the British The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge, which I believe has also been recommended by J.K. Rowling.
The one section that I was somewhat disappointed in was the chapter of selections for 12 + readers. However, this is not a flaw of the book. As a teen librarian, I assumed that I would have read the most titles in the 12+ chapter. That didn't actually turn out to be true. I also guessed that I would see more of my favorites. I think two things affected selections: the historical scope and the international focus. I believe that young adult literature as we now know it blossomed in the 1970s. But, this book begins its 12+ coverage in 1620 and rightfully gives attention to plenty of classics before the '70s. When notable titles from many countries are included, this further narrows space available for current titles known to an average American reader. Keeping all this in mind, I'm free to quibble with some of the title choices in private. :) I am pleased though to see some that I do love: Hey, Dollface! by Deborah Hautzig, The Neverending Story by Michael Ende, Holes by Louis Sachar, and especially I Am the Messenger -By Markus Zusak (here identified by the presumably original title The Messenger).
So, pick up 1001 Children's Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up and give it a browse. It's sure to bring back old memories, remind you of current favorites and introduce you to plenty more titles to enjoy.
Friday, July 9, 2010
I was going to write about Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colors by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski, earlier this year, and it was pure laziness on my part that I didn't. I'm glad that it popped up on my Camp Read-a-Lot list, because this title deserves more attention. Personally, I love both the poetic language and the lovely artwork of this book. It is far more than a standard "let's learn our colors" title and thus has potential for a much wider audience.
Describing the arrival of colors in familiar things from spring through winter, Sidman lets you experience them through all of your senses. She explains spring white as sounding like storms, in the shape of lightning and hail, or smelling the same as flower petals. Summer yellow tastes like salt, fall wind feels black and winter pink blooms in the sky. A crowned person and a dog seem to glide through the pages, enjoying outdoor seasonal pleasures. This description gives you the jist of the book, but not the sensual flow of the words as she writes them. For that, you should read it for yourself. Please do.
Zagarenski's imaginative mixed media paintings on wood and computer illustrations are a perfect match for the text. Gorgeous layers of color fill each page. The sky can look like turquoise veined with gold like a stone in one drawing, then be swirled with white, grey and pale blue in another. A nest of slightly fuzzy pink hatchlings, each wearing its own gold crown, gape wide yellow and red beaks toward the sky.White moths fill and escape the sail on a boat. A huge grey whale pauses behind a stupendous and pale full moon. Every spread shows interesting texture and pleasing detail.
Together, Sidman & Zagarenski have created a little world that feels like our own in its best moments. It's one that you, me, or your favorite child might wish to visit often.
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Next on my list of Camp Read-a-Lot titles is You Never Heard of Sandy Koufax?! by Jonah Winter. It is a picture book biography, about 32 pages and fully illustrated. I'm not a baseball fan, so everything in it is news to me! In the voice of one of his Dodger teammates, this book tells the story of Koufax's career from 1955-1966. You may know that Koufax was an extremely talented left handed pitcher, who currently lives in Florida. At the time, he was one of few Jews in baseball, so he blazed a trail there as well with his impressive pitching record.
Baseball facts are given throughout the text, which is followed by a relevant glossary. Andre Carrilho's pictures are based in gray scale, with color touches he added with Adobe Photoshop. His style has a vintage feel, stylized like drawings of politicians seen in newspapers, yet conveying lots of movement with simple lines. My library copy has an especially cool cover, called lenticular, but which I knew as a plastic piece that has a moving image when you tilt it back and forth.This shows Mr. Koufax in his pitching glory and ought to catch young readers' eyes.