Thursday, June 25, 2009

Book Crush

I'm giddy, I'm nervous, I can't stop smiling and I just have to tell you about it - it's a book crush! I only started reading Shannon Hale's The Actor and the Housewife at lunch and already I feel like I've never felt this way about a book before. Never have I been so consumed... strange, considering all the books I love all the time. Like any infatuation, I don't know where this is going or how it will end, but in the meantime, I'm loving every minute of it. Now to just get through the work day...

Do you know this feeling?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

Today I finished reading The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, by Jacqueline Kelly, and had to write about it immediately. What a satisfying read!

Calpurnia Tate is living in a time when becoming a proper lady is the only job a girl should aspire to, but she is terrible at piano, tatting lace, and baking pies. Instead, Calpurnia wishes to be a naturalist like Mr. Charles Darwin, and maybe attend the University. The balance of these two desires drive this wonderful and timeless story.

The Tate family is made up of six boys, Calpurnia, her long-suffering parents, a naturalist granddaddy, and the household servants. None of the family knows their granddaddy very well, even though he lives with them, because he's always pursuing his own interests. One day, Calpurnia's interst in the animal and plant life around their Texas farm drives her to seek out her granddaddy's company. The bond that blossoms between them is the heart and soul of this story. Grandaddy imparts many life lessons as they observe the ways of the natural world together, keeping notes in a journal and samples in jars.

While Calpurnia's own wishes to escape being made into a lady are the motivation that drives the novel, it is largely an old-fashioned family story (set in 1899) and reminded me for some reason of Cheaper by the Dozen. The six brothers are characters in their own rights that become fleshed-out as Calpurnia matures and sees them more as individuals than as a noisy group.

This story lives and breathes. It is the best juvenile novel I've read in a long time. One of my colleagues questioned whether children would read this and argues that it's just another "children's book for adults", but I think the good readers will enjoy it. Definitely a Newbery contender for me.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Newest Mo Willems

On Friday, Mo Willems posted a very brief preview of his up-coming pop-up book Big Frog Can't Fit In on his blog. Check it out!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Wonderful Pile of Picture Books

I've been mulling over a zombie post for the last two weeks and time has slipped away from me. In the meantime, I read a whole bunch of really great picture books today, so I'm going to recommend those now.

Tillie Lays an Egg by Terry Golson
Tillie Lays an Egg is simliar to the Minerva Louise books by Janet Stoeke, but is fun it its own way with vivid photographs of the lovely chickens.
There are seven chickens in the henhouse, but only Tillie is not interested in eating corn or laying eggs in a nest. Tillie is an adventurer, always exploring and looking for worms. She lays her eggs is amazing places! Children must search the pictures to find the eggs left in funny and unusual situations. Recommended for 2-4 year olds. The author has a hen-cam on her website that is really fun to watch:

Here is an excellent investigation of the history and mythology of food. From apples to pomegranates to mushrooms, the author humorously relates both fact and fiction about our most elemental and ancient foods: fruit and vegetables. A great gift for a foodie parent, this volume with its gorgeous photographs can be enjoyed by all ages.

I absolutely love this book of differences. This is one that is meant to be looked at individually with parent and/or child, as the illustrations and the things the reader needs to hunt for are quite small. Each page features an illustration in which the reader must find the differences between the animals pictured. The illustrations are just beautiful and the things we are hunting for are whimsical and not always easy to spot. Sometimes, it's up to interpretation and there are difficult new vocabulary words. This is a perfect book for examining and discussing.

Birds by Kevin Henkes
Henkes has of late been focusing on a much younger audience with his picture books. Birds is a wonderful introduction to what makes birds unique and special. It is very appealing to a young audience with simple ideas and colorful illustrations. For example: "Once I saw seven birds on the telephone wire. They didn't move and they didn't move and the didn't move. I looked away for just one second...and they were gone." These are truths about birds that young children can relate to. The book also has the nostalgic feel of favorites of a bygone era like those of Lois Lenski or Charlotte Zolotow.
Three Little Kittens and Other Favorite Nursery Rhymes selected and illustrated by Tony Ross
Tony Ross's new nursery rhyme collection is right up there with my favorites like Rosemary Wells and Richard Scarry. The illustrations are big, bold and bright. They clearly illustrate the predicament of the characters in the antiquated rhymes and will help children learn new vocabulary and help parents explain what's going on. There's also quite a bit of humor here, in characteristic style for Ross. If you're not famliar with Tony Ross, think Quentin Blake's humourous illustrations of his own and Roald Dahl's books. Some parents might find them too sassy. Ah well, back to Rosemary Wells if you do.