Friday, November 30, 2012
I know, I know. It's a classic and the illustrations, I agree, are charming. But I've never been a fan of its message. Oh, I guess I enjoyed the book as a kid--or was it the pictures of all that luscious candy?--but as an adult I find it way too didactic and its moral questionable. Yes, I realize that it's important to always try and that a positive mindset can get you over humps. But guess what? Sometimes you can give your all and still fail. As a child I practiced dance steps over and over, but no amount of positive thinking will ever make me a ballerina. So I resent being told that if you try really, really hard, you're bound to succeed.
Naturally, I never purchased the book for my daughter. When her aunts found out, they fretted that their niece would grow up deprived and one of them gave her the book as a present. Once in her hands, I had no choice but to read it to her--again and again. Another thing--is that book long or what! Now--full confession--she did grow up to perservere in her chosen field, undertaking three grueling years in grad school and she's currently working at a very demanding job with an extremely long commute. Does she get through her day thinking, "I think I can. I think I can."? If so, then all those endless hours reading a book I didn't much like paid off.
Well, I'm glad I got that off my chest. Now it's your turn. What picture book sticks in your craw?
Saturday, November 24, 2012
Readers familiar with Ann Cameron's previous books about Julian and Huey Bates (The Stories Julian Tells, among others) will rejoice to be reacquainted with the brothers, even though they aren't the focus. The book belongs to Spunky, the family's devoted dog whose snout gets out of joint when the Bates decide to adopt a cat. From his very first sniff, Spunky senses that Fiona reeks of Foolish. Fiona gets into one scrape after another, and Spunky, loyal dog that he is, bails her out of trouble, even if she does toss his kibbles on the floor and drink out of his water bowl. After a last, spectacular rescue, the two animals make peace and become friends.
Young readers will enjoy seeing the world from a dog's point of view. Like canines everywhere, the nose rules. When Spunky gets hold of one of Mr. Bates socks: "A sweet, ripe scent filled my nostrils. I opened my jaws. The sock went into my mouth. Thousands of tiny lights in my brain flashed in spangled colors." Spunky also has a unique way of describing things. The bathroom, for instance, is the White Pond Room.
Fair warning, for those who like fast-paced action, look elsewhere. The story takes a while to get underway and the first few chapters meander. But the wait is worth it. Once Fiona makes her appearance, Spunky has a worthy adversary and the story takes off.
Spunky Tells All
by Ann Cameron
illustrations by Lauren Castillo
Farrar Straus Giroux, 112 pages
Published: October 2011
Friday, November 16, 2012
Gerald has the bright idea to go for a drive and the friends set about preparing for their jaunt by procuring the necessary items--a map, sunglasses, umbrellas, and suitcases. Wise readers will see where this is going and won't be surprised when the pair realize they are missing one vital thing--a car. They will, however, be amused by Piggie's resourcefulness.
Let's Go for a Drive!
by Mo Willems
Hyperion 64 pages
Published: October 2012
Listen to My Trumpet!
by Mo Willems
Hyperion 64 pages
Published: February 2012
Monday, November 12, 2012
November is Picture Book Month--Yay! Thinking about some of my favorite picture books, I realized that many deal with the experience of being lost. The classic The Story About Ping, for instance, tells how a little duck winds up spending a scary night along on the Yangtze River before he is reunited with his family. And then there's William Steig's Sylvester and the Magic Pebble in which poor Sylvester the donkey turns himself into a rock and can't switch back. You can't get more lost than that!
As demonstrated, the power of the picture book is mighty. What are some of your favorites?