Recommend A…is run by Chick Loves Lit, and it is like a practical test in reader’s advisory, which was my favorite part of being a librarian (and the reason why I run this blog). People come up to librarians all the time requesting some very unique or odd things. I also like the challenge of recommended unique or odd things for popular requests (romance, fantasy, “a book like The Hunger Games”).
Today we are recommending books that remind us of summer. Summer isn’t my favorite season, but it is certainly a carefree time of year. I love the change of pace. Today I recommend a few books that definitely have a lot in common:
The Baby-sitter’s Summer Vacation/Karen’s Campout
by Ann M. Martin
Plot in a nutshell: All of Stoneybrook is sent to Camp Mohawk, including all of the babysitters and many of the kids they babysit for. There’s racial drama, boy drama, evil camper drama, co-CIT drama, lead counselor drama, and tacky camp outfits galore.
The Baby-sitters At Shadow Lake/Karen, Hannie, and Nancy: The Three Musketeers
by Ann M. Martin
Plot in a nutshell: Does this whole town do everything together? Because now they’re all staying at Shadow Lake in Kristy’s dad’s cabin. That man already has, like six kids…and they’ve invited at least ten more. Who does that? Anyway, there’s lots of babysitting, a boat parade, a lake mystery, bug bites, romance, and a club house.
Why I recommend these books: I love, love, loved the Baby-sitter’s Club as a kid. I read my way through the Babysitter’s Little Sister books and then the main series. I thought it was really clever that Ann M. Martin wrote about Karen’s point of view on the events that happened in the main series — so the fact that these paired books offer different perspectives on the same events just thrilled me. Even though you have to suspend belief a bit about the charmed life these middle-class kids live, their adventures offer great wish-fulfillment. The idea of going everywhere with your best friends is awesome, and each girl finds her own adventure on each trip. The multiple-narration style makes readers feel like they get to do ALL THE THINGS on vacation. These stories are perfect for summer because they are tales of friendship, freedom, and the kind of adventures you can only have on vacation. Since my main summer activities always involved summer camp and staying at the family cabin on the lake, these four in particular were always my favorites.
Who I recommend it to: Kids 6-13, of course…but also anyone age 25-35 who loves the nostalgia of reading this series. It’s always a treat to sit down and read a BSC book (try to read them with a sense of humor — they are a little ridiculous).
Did you ever read the Baby-sitters Club series? How did you feel about the super specials? Which super special was your favorite?
Chloe and The Lion
by Mac Barnett
Illustrated by Adam Rex
Library Copy from Junior Library Guild
[#22 in my Picture Book Challenge ( yeah, I'm still doing that...9 months later...)]
Flipping through the most recent Junior Library Guild order to pass through the media center, I saw this book. We don’t normally get picture books, so I wanted to see what was up with this title — if it would be something our kids would check out.
You may recall that I fell in love with Mo Willems‘ picture books, and that I already love everything Jon Scieszka ever wrote. Well, Mac and Adam are in that same realm. Their humor is sophisticated. Some elementary school kids will get it and LOVE it. Some won’t.
This is a story about trying to write a story. The author and illustrator are present on various pages as little claymation men telling the reader about the process…and often arguing with each other. Mac is trying to tell a fantasy story about a girl named Chloe who meets a lion in the woods, but the story goes terribly wrong. Like, fire-the-illustrator wrong. Hilarity ensues as Mac tries to make his vision come true, and even tries to draw the story himself (FAIL!).
FINAL GRADE: A For a picture book, it was awesome. I like awesome things. As a kid, I also liked awesome things. I think I would have appreciated this story in second grade AND in sixth grade AND I appreciate it as an adult. I laughed while reading it, and immediately made my assistant read it, too. I don’t know that my students will check it out, but it’s on the shelf…we’ll see what happens.
What do you think? Can you picture a middle school kid picking up a book like this? How should I market it?
I’ve still got to track down nine of these. I can’t say I’ve been trying too hard, maybe I’ll get time to work on it over Christmas.
by David Ezra Stein
Papa Chicken is reading bedtime stories to little red chicken, but she keeps interrupting the stories.
I had high hopes for this one that were never realized. It won a 2011 Caldecott Honor award, and the pictures were kind of cool. The concept was really cool. However, it was really short and I felt the ending could have had more bang to it.
20.) No, David!
by David Shannon
David is always told “No!” or “Stop!” for doing things that he shouldn’t do. However, at the end of the day his mother still loves him.
This was cute. I know I say cute a lot when writing about these children’s books, but they are! I come from the teenager/YA world, which is full of sex, drugs, political oppression, and vulgar language. So a picture book jumping on the bed in red cowboy boots definitely counts as cute. The illustrations were great here, David is equal parts weird and funny, which should appeal to the intended audience. Though the book feels a little negative throughout (duh), the message is that parents still love their kids even if/when they have to discipline them. This definitely has a place on the bookshelf of any family with a rambunctious child! (1998 Caldecott Honor)
Written by Philip C. Stead
Illustrated by Erin E. Stead
Amos McGee is a zookeeper who has special traditions with each of his animals. He plays chess with the elephant, races the tortoise, sits with the penguin, give handkerchiefs to the rhino, and reads bedtime stories to the owl. However, Amos wakes up sick one day and the animals are all alone. They decide to come to Amos’ house to take care of their friend for a change.
I loved the pictures in this story, but it felt very reminiscent of Good Night, Gorilla. It felt very old-school in its style, with it’s gentle drawings and matte paper. There are little gems hidden throughout the pictures, like the teddy bear Amos holds when he wakes up and the socks on the penguin’s feet. It made me smile and the story was far better than Good Night, Gorilla…I wish I had read this one first. The 2011 Caldecott Medal was definitely deserved, in my (not-so-knowledgeable) opinion.
This set of books features three great stories by Mo Willems, the Emmy and Caldecott Honor Award winning author. Willems is known for his works a writer on Seasame Street, and can be heard regularly as a “Radio Cartoonist” on NPR’s All Things Considered (one of my favorite shows). Reading this set of books has been an amazing experience. If you have a child under the age of 5 and don’t have any Mo Willems books, I suggest you drop everything right now and go get some (library, book store, or whatever!). If you ever even PLAN to have children under 5, go ahead and buy them in preparation because you’re going to want to have them around. Uh oh. I think I’ve just turned into a Mo Willems fan girl.
by Mo Willems
Leonardo feels like he is not as scary as his monster friends, so he makes a plan to scare the tuna salad right out of the biggest scardy-cat he can find. His target is a boy named Sam, but Leonardo is surprise by the lesson he learns after trying to scare the boy.
A delightful, funny book! The minimalist illustrations and text were perfect, sure to impress both kids and parents. I learned a new phrase from this book that I will be adding to my vocabulary: “Scare the tuna salad out of.” My favorite part was when Sam screamed at Leonardo in one crazy run-on sentence that took up the entire page. I could just imagine that reading that part, and the whole book, aloud with a child would be so much fun!
by Mo Willems
When Piggy sees that Elephant is sad, he tries to cheer him up by dressing up as a cowboy, a clown, and a super-cool robot. However, Elephant is still sad because all he really wants is to see his friend Piggie.
Cutest. Book. Ever. It describes friendship perfectly, while also being fun and charming. The text is given in speech bubbles over the simple drawings, which helped me imagine the characters’ personalities as I read. I wanted to give Elephant a hug and I wanted to be friends with Piggie. The language and text are simple enough that this book could be read with toddlers, and there is actually a whole series of Elephant and Piggie books for kids that want to read about familiar characters. I also read There Is A Bird On Your Head, which was just as good (I actually laughed quite loudly in the media center and drew some attention to myself when I read it).
by Mo Willems
Trixie and her father go to the laundromat to do laundry. While walking home through the streets of New York, Trixie realizes she has lost her Knuffle Bunny. Since Trixie is too young to talk, she tries to tell her father about the missing Knuffle Bunny so he can save the save the day.
What’s great about this story is the pictures. Just like the photo on the cover, the pictures are real photographs of the streets of Brooklyn with illustrations of the characters. They are fun to look at, and the story did win a Caldecott Honor award in 2005. The story is realistic, no doubt echoing a real-life experience with Mo and his daughter (who is actually named Trixie!).
Coming up in the next installment…more Mo Willems books. Yes…mo’ Mo.
by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld
Synopsis: Is the picture of a duck or a rabbit? In this story, two voices argue over that very question, and they eventually see the image in the opposite way and come to an understanding.
A book with a different kind of humor from many of the other kids books I have read, this one was a nice choice. I immediately thought it would be great to use with siblings to talk about seeing things differently and from other points of view, but then I extended it to the classroom and realized just how great a book this would be to use as a teachable moment with students. I think we’ll purchase a copy for the teacher collection in the library. The story is simple, but the uses are endless.
by Deborah Underwood
illustrated by Renata Liwska
Synopsis: Gentle pictures of animals show and tell the different kinds of quiet that a child might experience throughout the day. There’s “Best friends don’t need to talk quiet,” “hide-and-seek quiet,” and “Don’t scare the robin quiet,” just to name a few.
This would make excellent bedtime/naptime book for younger children. It is calming and reassuring, while also teaching a good lesson about how there are different times and reasons to be quiet. The companion book, The Loud Book, would also be a good choice for a young child’s bookshelf.
by Jerry Pinkley
Synopsis: Pinkley draws a beautiful, wordless retelling of the classical Aesop’s fable. In the story, a mouse ends up on a lion, who is kind and lets her go free. Later, when the lion is caught in a hunter’s trap, the mouse returns the act of kindness by chewing through the ropes and setting the lion free. The moral of the story is that no act of kindness is ever wasted.
I picked this book for the challenge because it won the Caldecott medal for 2011. Though the illustrations are beautiful, the story might be better understood by older children due to the story’s lack of textual narration. It would go very well with other fables or with children that that like to create their own stories to go with the pictures. I also see the value of a wordless picture book in the classroom for teaching visual literacy and inferencing.
…I have for you these three pink, girly picture books, all of of which have actual glitter on the dust jackets:
by Karen Beaumont
illustrated by LeUyen Pham
Synopsis: Four girls are going to a party, but they need shoes to wear with their dresses! After a whole day at the shoe store, the girl decide to make their own fun shoes rather than buying a pair.
While this book is pretty feminine, I was glad that not all of the girls were girly. Two of the girls start out in gender-neutral outfits with sneakers/casual shoes, while the other two girls have on ballet flats/Mary Janes. Even though all of the girls wore dresses at the end, the two with sneakers wore the dress with their own sneaker creations, which I thought was cute. It seems that the overall message of the book was about having fun while making choices, and if you can’t find what you want then you always have the choice to get even more creative by making something yourself. Definitely a cuter book than I thought, and it’s just a bonus that they whole cover is in glitter.
by Victoria and Elizabeth Kann
Synopsis: Pinkalicious loves pink cupcake so much that she eats too many and wakes up completely pink! At first she loves being pink, but one more cupcake turns her red and she just wants to go back to being herself. A steady diet of green food does the trick to turn her back to normal, and Pinkalicious realizes it is better to just be herself.
A cute, silly book, but not one I would give to every kid. This is definitely a book meant for the child who loves pink. I did love that the doctor said that Pinkalicious has Pinkititis and that Pinkalicious called herself Pinkerbell, but otherwise I don’t think it will stand out in my memory as a fabulous must-have book. More of a “check-out from the library” kind of book.
by Jane O’Connor
Illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser
Synopsis: Fancy Nancy likes to be fancy in everything she does, but her family is not-so-fancy. She puts an ad on the fridge for a class that will teach them to be fancy and they attend. The entire family fancies up and goes out to dinner, acting fancy the whole time. But Fancy Nancy trips and spills her food at the restaurant. She doesn’t feel fancy any more, but her parents take her home, make her a fancy french parfait, and tell her they love her.
This book is wonderful, my favorite that I have read so far. I love that Fancy Nancy’s parents, though not fancy themselves, took Nancy’s class seriously and went fancy for the night. They love and support her no matter what, even if she is different. How is that not the greatest message ever for a parent to give a child? Plus it has a few great quotable lines: “Lace-trimmed socks do help me to play soccer better.” and “A princess is supposed to keep her tiara on.” I read the book at Barnes and Nobel and immediately bought it, that’s how good it is.
by Judi Barrett
Illustrated by Ron Barrett
Synopsis: Inspired by that mornings incident where one of his grandkids ended up with a pancake on his head, grandpa tells a bedtime tall-tale about a town where the weather is food.
Maybe I’m too practical as an adult, but all I could think about while reading this is that food falling out of the sky is impossible and not a good thing! Though both of these are addressed in the story: it is made clear that the tale is imaginary from the get-go, and the townspeople do decide that the falling food is just too much when the weather gets intense. However, I think this would be a good book to read with a weather unit in elementary school. It would also do marvelous things for inspiring creativity and imaginative thinking in kids.
by Laurent de Brunhoff
Synopsis: Babar is the king of Celesteville, a town full of elephants. He and his family enjoy many activities throughout the four seasons.
I wanted to read this one because I loved the Babar TV show so much as a kid — my mom had it on one of the tapes that we watched over and over. The book is not the same as the movie that we used to watch, but I wanted to read the basic story that introduces Babar, so this was my choice. I was a bit surprised that there is not much of a traditional plot. Instead, the story just tells of different things that the family does throughout the year. The main purpose of the book seems to be explaining seasons to children, what the weather is like and what sorts of activities can be done in each. It’s a cute book, but I don’t really understand why it’s such a popular “classic.” Must be that there weren’t as many book years ago?
Also, Babar’s family is definitely upper class. My students, and many others, might have a hard time understanding the life that is presented. They play tennis, go on ski vacations, have grand parties in the park, and go sailing. Must be a nice life!
by Jan Fearnly
Synopsis: Tallulah desperately wants a pink, fluffy bunny but none can be found. Her grandma attempts to knit her a rabbit, but it comes out an armadillo, which she names Milo. Tallulah plays with Milo, but constantly makes comments about how a rabbit would be better or she’d rather have the rabbit. Though Milo’s feelings are hurt, he tries to be what Tallulah wants…until she discovers that she loves her friend exactly as he is.
I loved this book! Pink is my favorite color and Armadillos are one of my favorite animals, so it was a no-brainer that I had to pick it up off the shelf…but it really was good. I loved the message of the book, which was that we should accept our friends as they are. I also loved how polite Tallulah was to her grandmother, accepting and playing with the gift even though it wasn’t exactly what she wanted. However, the best part was the pictures. It can’t be gathered from the cover, but the pictures are part drawings and part photos of various fabric textures. For example, Milo is made up of a photo of real pink knitting. I’ve included a picture at the end here to show the textures, and one of my favorite pages, Milo and Tallulah dancing and jamming. I will be adding Milo Armadillo to my future child’s book shelf. And probably some of the titles that are next up…a whole bunch of girly books!
by Doreen Cronin
Illustrated by Harry Bliss
Synopsis: Worm is writing a diary about his life as a worm. Kids can learn a little bit about worms (they have no teeth, they dig tunnels in the earth, they are necessary and important) with a dash of humor. Worm has nightmares about birds, does the hokey pokey (just one verse — put your head in) at a school dance, and eats his own homework.
This book made me laugh! My favorite part was when worm wrote, “My older sister thinks she’s so pretty. I told her that no matter how much time she spends looking in the mirror, her face will always look just like her rear end.” Each entry is clever, and is certain to make kids laugh! I also read Diary of a Fly, which I didn’t think was as funny as this one. The diary format is works, which the scrapbook-like endpages, even though there isn’t really a plot to the story.
by Doreen Cronin
Illustrated by Betsy Lewin
Synopsis: The cows are cold in the barn, so they get a typewriter and start sending notes to Farmer Brown. They say they are on strike until he brings them electric blankets. Farmer Brown refuses, so the chickens go on strike with the same demands. The ducks, acting as liasons, deliver the notes back and forth until an agreement is made…and then the duck go on strike until they get a diving board for the pond.
The first thing that jumped out at me in this book was the HUGE text. I thought this would make it better for kids to read it, but then I was also surprised by the interesting choices for vocabulary in a children’s book: ultimatum, typerwriter, strike, furious, and neutral party. This book, though seemly cute and simple, has some difficult concepts for a children’s book. However, this appears to work because the book is a popular one. I would a imagine that a first read would require answering a lot of questions with a small child, but subsequent reads (as children like to read books over and over) would be about simple enjoyment of the story after they understand what’s going on. This is my favorite book that I have read so far.
by Judith Byron Schachner
Synopsis: Skippyjon Jones is a fiesty Siamese kitten, but he decides (after realizing his ears are too big for his head) that he wants to be a chihuahua. Skippyjon uses his active imagination, along with some bean-bag toys and a pinata, to imagine a group of chihuahua friends called Los Chimichangos and a showdown against Alfredo Buzzito, el blimpo bumblebeeto bandito.
When I first wanted to read Skippyjon, I though he was a chihuahua. I was surprised to learn that he is actually a kitten who wants to be a chihuahua, which I thought was pretty funny. The whole story is silly-funny, which makes is a great story for reading aloud. A lot of the Spanish is kind of sterotypical, including some made-up Spanish words, but the words are fun to say and it all works in the story. Skippyjon is quite ridiculous, funny, and cute. The poor kitten is just a hyperactive, imaginative kitten with loving momma and a need to bounce on the bed.
Alright, kids. I spent today reading my first set of three children’s picture books. This is my personal attempt to make up for the gaps in my education. Here we go…
1. Love You Forever
Written by Robert Munsch
Illustrated by Sheila McGraw
Synopsis: A mom loves her son, even through the terrible twos, childhood, and the crazy teenage years. She sneaks into his room at night and sings to him that she loves him forever. When the mother becomes old, he does the same for her.
I can’t say I liked this book. I’ve heard many people say it’s one of their favorites, but I found it kind of creepy. I found it questionable when the mom picked her teenage son out of bed and rocked him on her lap, but WAAAAY more creepy when she drove across town to do it when he was an adult. There are better ways to show and express love for your kids.
2. Good Night, Gorilla
by Peggy Rathmann
Synopsis: A zookeeper is walking through the zoo, saying goodnight to all of the animals. The gorilla, who has stolen the zookeeper’s keys, follows behind and lets all the animals out of the cages. The animals follow the zookeeper home and are discovered by the zookeeper’s wife, who returns them to the zoo. The sneaky gorilla, however, still gets what he wants.
This was an incredibly cute story, and it would be a good book for very small children. The text is very simple and children can practice naming the animals as each is let out of the cage. The best part was that they said goodnight to the armadillo! I was so excited that I took a picture of it:
And, finally, another book about bedtime:
3. Llama Llama Red Pajama
by Anna Dewdney
Synopsis: Mama Llama reads llama llama red pajama a story, and puts him to sleep. Baby Llama gets scared being alone, and cries for mama until she comes upstairs and reassures that everything will be ok.
This was another cute story, appropriate for a young child. The rhyming, predictable text and plot make it a good bedtime read for the under 5 set. Reading the phrase “llama llama red pajama” out loud is fun! I liked that it addresses bedtime fears and assures kids that they are normal and that mama is always near. However, my favorite part was the use of the phrase “llama drama.” I think I will be adding it to my vocabulary.
So, there you have it. My first three books of the summer. I’m learning something already. Can’t say these three will be my favorite of the project, but I’m glad to be reading some of the books that I’m always hearing about.
by Kay Thompason
Illustrated by Hilary Knight
(first published in 1955)
Eloise is six and lives with her nanny in a penthouse apartment of the Plaza Hotel in New York. Her parents are never around. Left mostly unsupervised in a luxury hotel, Eloise takes it upon herself to follow her (self-imposed) rigorous schedule of getting into things, annoying people, and general mischief. Though I do feel a bit sad for Eloise (where are her parents, anyway?), she’s hilarious and lives a life that seemed quite the opposite of my own as a child. I found her weird, glamorous, and a bit annoying, but she still won my heart!
I have very few picture books in my apartment as an adult, but Eloise goes with me everywhere. I felt a basic photo of the cover wouldn’t do, so I an including a picture of me with my personal copy of the book for this post. I have a pretty clear memory of getting my copy for Christmas in 1992, when I was seven. It’s been my favorite ever since. My mom is forever giving me Eloise stickers, Eloise stationary, Eloise trinkets, and Eloise notecards for Christmas. I even have an Eloise card game.
Eloise is completely ridiculous, which is why I love her. Madeline is at least a sweet child, but Eloise is quite annoying to adults. I don’t care. I had a lot of Eloise in me as a child, so I understand. It is a very long book with a lot of text, which might be overwhelming for younger children. I think that, at age seven, I was at the very bottom of the age range that would enjoy this story. But I loved the black, white, and pink illustrations. Thompson has even written the story in the style of a six-year-old girl, with rambling, sometimes unrelated, thoughts and no punctuation. I can just picture Eloise talking and thinking like the words on the page, which is why I believe this story has stood the test of time.
My favorite moments in the story:
- “Then I hang up and look at the ceiling for awhile and think of a way to get a present”
- When Eloise saws her doll in half and then imagines the ambulance coming to stitch her back up again.
- Eloise’s description of how, in order to get to the top floor, she takes the elevator to various floors and then runs the stairs in between.
- “and if there is an open door I to walk in and pretend I am an orphan and sometimes I limp and sort of bend to the side and look sort of sad in between the arms and they give me a piece of melon or something”
- When Eloise “sklonk”s her barber in the kneecaps!
- The scene where Eloise irritates her tutor during a French lesson
- “Paper cups are good for talking to Mars”
- “On my Lord There’s so much to do Tomorrow I think I’ll pour a pitcher of water down the mail chute”
- And, finally, I will leave you with my favorite moment: Eloise having a temper fit (“But not very often.”) Enjoy!
The next step in this process is reading 30 new picture books. I have checked out about 15 from the library and I will start next week, 3 at a time. Picture books are kind of fun!