From the cover doggie, enticing you to exercise together, to a stick toting wagger on the back flap, the canines in Emily Gravett's Dogs are charmers all. Inside, expressive pups of all kinds are showcased, such as a tiny but vigorous barker, a chic beribboned poodle (dyed my favorite color!) or a naughty shoe chewer. Clever design details like the bone shaped lines of type on the dedication page and the various breeds such as a cheerful Shar Pei, a suspicious Bulldog and a coy Great Dane parading over the end papers add to the book's appeal. The simple text makes this appropriate to share with the youngest dog lover, and the unexpected ending is sure to tickle anyone's fancy. I plan to break this out at an upcoming fall storytime.
On Tuesday, I went to this year's Camp Read-a-Lot, sponsored by MELSA. They held it at Como Park Lakeside Pavilion in St. Paul. Unfortunately, the weather was really hot and humid, which kept us inside, but other than that, I had a terrific time!
Our afternoon speaker was David LaRochelle,, author of The Best Pet of All and The End for kids and Absolutely Positively Not for teens. I loved his talk and his sense of humor. He told us about his passions, like entering (and winning) contests and carving pumpkins, and about his road to getting published, accompanied by a funny Power Point presentation. He got us excited about his forthcoming publications 1+1=5: and Other Unlikely Additions and Minnesota's Hidden Alphabet. 1+1=5 has really unexpected ways of getting to 5, such as 1 Bicycle + 1 Trike = 5 (wheels) or 1 set of twins plus 1 group of triplets = 5 (babies). Minnesota's Hidden Alphabet is a really beautiful book, with photos by Joe Rossi, tied nicely together with a poem by LaRochelle. The alphabet is spelled out by forms found in the natural world. I look forward to November, when it is published.
I bought a copy of Absolutely Positively Not and Mr. LaRochelle kindly personalized it for me. He spent plenty of time autographing books for each person, drawing pictures and really making the receivers feel special. Look for him at his website, linked above.
My role as a camp counselor was a breeze, because I had a really insightful and invested group of teachers to work with. I was supposed to lead small group discussion of the core titles that I've been sharing with you over the past months, and also the two books each that we all chose to show the others. That went very well, and as I read the books suggested, maybe I'll write them up here, too.
My second Camper's Choice book is The Doll Shop Downstairs by Yona Zeldis McDonough, illustrated by Heather Maione. This is a perfect choice for 2nd-4th grade girls (maybe some boys, too) who enjoy old fashioned books about little girls. Set at the start of World War I, this story is about nine year old middle sister Anna, whose parents own a doll repair shop. She and her siblings Sophie and Trudie love to help out in the shop, and each loves a special doll waiting to be fixed up. When the war begins in Europe, German doll parts are unavailable to the owners of the lower east side business, and Anna decides she will find a way to help her family keep their shop thriving.
McDonough has taken the setting from the life of Bertha (later Beatrice) Alexander, creator of Madame Alexander dolls, and added her own characters and storyline. She has written a cozy and comforting story with a similar feel to Betsy-Tacy (Betsy-Tacy Books) or All-of-a-Kind Family. Highlights include the family's birthday visit to FAO Schwartz, the sale of their first doll, named Nurse Nora, and the fulfillment of Anna's special wish. I enjoyed the details of life in New York in 1914. After the story, McDonough has included a glossary and timeline. Maione's friendly black and white drawings sweetly bring the children's world of family and dollys to readers.
For my first Camper's Choice book for Camp Read-a-Lot, I selected Frankie Pickle and the Pine Run 3000 written & illustrated by Eric Wight. Possum Scout Frankie Piccolini is kind of like a little boy Walter Mitty. We can find him on the back cover in a variety of disguises: suited up and sporting a fedora, as a chef with a large decorated cake and in armor wielding a large sword. His proud motto is, "Reality is for grown-ups!"
In this title, Frankie has a bit of a dilemma: because of his daydreaming, he failed knot tying and does not have enough points to advance with the rest of his troop from Pygmy to Shrew and do new and dangerous scout things. But fear not, because Frankie has a chance to earn the points if he wins the legendary model car competition, the Pine Race 3000. His dad wants to help him, but Frankie knows that he can do it all on his own. He is ready to be inducted into the Hall of Awesomeness, and nothing will hold him back!
I enjoyed Frankie, his dream life, and this story of father & son bonding. The black and white drawings of wide eyed Frankie have a retro quality, and cartoon panels let us share his fantasy life. Although if he does look a little like Speed Racer on the book's cover, he is completely his own boy.