Friday, September 25, 2009

Get 'Em While They're Hot! New Picture Books and Easy Readers

Lots of awesome stuff here, including one book that's already getting some strong Caldecott buzz.

First up in our fall line of returning heavyweights is Michael Rosen, with Bear Flies High. Bear loves the seagulls at the beach and wishes he could fly just like them. Luckily, four young friends help him to achieve that dream (look at the cover for a clue). Awwww.

Laura Vaccaro Seeger continues her Dog and Bear series with Dog and Bear: Three to Get Ready. Bear's head is stuck in a bucket! Uh oh! Will Dog be able to help? Dog and Bear are sooo silly. Great series.

I was introduced to Mem Fox's work when I took my first children's literature class in library school. My professor was a huge fan and quickly made me an admirer of Fox's picture books. The Goblin and the Empty Chair tells the tale of a goblin who has hidden himself away for years, not wanting to terrify people with his presence. You can listen to Mem Fox read the book (and see the illustrations) here. It's a beautiful story in both spirit and illustration (naturally, being the work of Leo and Diane Dillon); the family's loss is never fully explained (the empty chair and a family photograph also give clues), but the loss is obvious to adult readers (who may need to discuss with their children why the family is sad). It's a story of enormous grief, healing, and the need for fellowship and inclusion. Marvelous.

I've seen Otis described as a modern day Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel. It is a story about something that was once useful but is now outdated (in this case, a tractor is replaced by a bigger tractor); the illustrations also have an old-fashioned feel to them. Otis's true worth is rediscovered when he saves the day on the farm!

Uri Shulevitz's When I Wore My Sailor Suit looks to be a fun and spirited book about a boy and his imagination. He's a modern classic author; check him out.

I cannot wait to read Lucy Cousins's Yummy: Eight Favorite Fairy Tales. Well-known for her Maisy series (it was also a show on Noggin for a while). Yummy is something altogether completely different from sweet Maisy, and I am so curious as to how our patrons will respond. Cousins has taken traditional fairy tales and retained some of the original Grimm flavor. To quote from the book's publicity: "the heroes are courageous, the villains are horrible, and the children are tasty." Parents that prefer that the Big Bad Wolf run away instead of being boiled in the Third Little Pig's boiling water and that the Little Red Hen share the bread at the end of the story with her good-for-nothing friends will likely shudder at this book; those that don't will eat this up (pun intended).

Ursula Le Guin, master storyteller of fantasy, brings us Cat Dreams, in which the dogs have run away and mice are raining from the sky. Kibbles and cream all around, and naps in catnip trees. Just what every cat dreams! All dreams must end, but reality is just as good: a warm lap in which to cuddle. Gorgeous illustrations and simple text will make this appealing to toddlers and preschoolers alike.

Sandra Boynton, the queen of board books, presents Night-Night, Little Pookie. It's time for Little Pookie's bedtime, but Little Pookie is wiiiide awake. What's Mommy to do?

When I saw our copy of Michael Rex's The Runaway Mummy, I quickly read it before we put it on our New Books shelf. A parody of The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown, this is the story of a mummy who desperately wants to escape from his mother, yet his mother keeps reassuring him (!) that she will always be there. See, folks, some people interpret the mother in The Runaway Bunny as being a rather suffocating and overbearing bunny mummy (while others see it as a reassuring tale-it's all how you take it, and isn't it grand that we can have different interpretations of books). Whether or not Rex's personal amusement while writing the story will equal the amusement kids and parents not in on the joke is unclear to me. It's busily circulating, so who knows. I get it because I know what and why he is parodying. However, it IS close to Halloween, and mummy books are cool.

Most people reading the Emberleys's There Was An Old Monster will get that the "story" is a take on "There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly." A poor old monster gets a terrible stomachache when he swallows a tick. And just as any normal being would do when faced with that condition, he swallows a bat, a lizard, ants, and a menagerie of other creepy crawlies in order to assuage his discomfort. Rebecca Emberley, daughter of Ed, has proven to be a fine children's picture book author in her own right. With son Adrian providing the music for the song (available as a download), There Was an Old Monster is a three-generations collaboration.

Jon Scieszka (rhymes with chess-ka) adds Truckery Rhymes to his wildly popular Trucktown series. Scieszka and I really need to sell it? No need, for it's flying off the shelves!

We have two new additions to two of our most popular easy reader series: Mr. Putter & Tabby Spill the Beans and Young Cam Jansen and the 100th Day of School Mystery.

Finally, Jerry Pinkey's The Lion and the Mouse has received outstanding critical praise and has already garnered significant Caldecott chatter. However, I see that none of our copies are checked out, and I know it's because it's a wordless book. Wordless books are just not big crowd-pleasers, for the most part. I understand that. 9 times out of 10, I would prefer text *and* pictures. But, wordless books are wonderful for children who want to pretend to read; they can look at the pages and talk about what's going on in the illustrations. They're also great for creative writing exercise for older students. Try this one out. You may become a fan of wordless books. It's simply outstanding.

I'm saving the biggest batch for last: chapter books!

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