Friday, July 05, 2013

friday's five

We have a shelf in our living room on one side of our big couch that's specifically for library books. The open space is tall enough so that even the tallest picture books we can find still fit, and it fits just around thirty-five hard cover picture books with enough space to easily get books out. Our library allows each card holder to have up to seventy-five books checked out at a time, and all five of us in the family have our own individual library cards. That means a whole lot of library books can be in our house at one time! Pudge and Red each have their own special places in their bedrooms for library books, and I try to check out enough high-quality picture books to fill our living room shelf. I offer all of that back story to make the point that it doesn't have to be a challenge to keep an abundance of books in rotation in your child's life! We have a teeny tiny home, and we must have at least 400 of our own picture books in addition to the constant supply of library books-- always something good to read at our avail!

Here's a peek at a handful of books that we've liked this week:

1. Waterloo & Trafalgar by Oliver Tallec -- Let's start off with a very nontraditional picture book! This wordless book is on the longer side, and tells a very spirited story of two men who, for unknown reasons, consider the other his foe and spend their days watching each other over the low walls that separate them. Each is represented by a color, and the blue and orange color scheme is quite distinctive. Even without words to propel the story through the passage of time, there are several "adventures" that give meat to the plot. The appearance of a snail on one side of the wall meets a much different welcome on the other side, and an egg laid by a passing bird brings the story to a peaceful resolution.

2. Ol' Mama Squirrel by David Ezra Stein -- I will forever be in David Ezra Stein's debt for the fact that he created the picture book that has given me the absolute best read aloud experiences ever as a mother and a teacher, Interrupting Chicken. He's also an incredibly nice guy who was patient and kind enough to sit through an interview with me last fall at the National Book Festival when I was a ball of nerves! The kids and I were so happy to see his newest picture book on the library shelf on our last visit, and we've loved reading it together complete with excited rounds of "chook, chook, chook." I love to hear the squirrel chatter up in the trees when we're outside, and this is the best translation of the funny sounds they make! Mama readers will undoubtedly understand Ol' Mama Squirrel's perspective quite well.

3. Hello in There! A Big Sister's Book of Waiting by Jo Witek and illustrated by Christine Roussey -- While we have no specific application for this book in our own family right now, I still hold an interest in the genre of picture books that are written to help young children get accustomed to the idea of a new sibling entering the family. This one resembles an oversized board book, with interactive panels that open to reveal a tiny baby growing inside a mom. Nothing scientifically accurate here-- this is a regular looking, fully developed infant inside a round illustration to represent the mommy's belly, which is something that I am compelled to point out to my own kids. But, this is a sweet way of sharing with a little one the experience of a new baby in the family.

4. Nasreddine by Odile Weulersse and illustrated by R├ębecca Dautremer -- I like introducing my kids to different cultures and time periods through literature, and this picture book adaptation of an old Middle Eastern tale is very well done. The illustrations are attractive and engaging, and the story is follows a typical folktale structure with a lesson to be learned by the end. The telling of the story, and the concept itself is likely a bit more complex than typical picture book fodder, and this is a book that I checked out specifically to read with seven year old Red, as it addresses an issue that I think is becoming more applicable in her social experiences than perhaps her five year old brother is aware of-- focusing on what other's think of you. I especially appreciated the tone of the story and the wisdom of Nasreddine's father in guiding his son to learn the importance of tuning out others' criticisms.

5. Phoebe & Digger by Tricia Springstubb and illustrated by Jeff Newman -- Okay, I usually only include books that I really like on these roundups, but I'm adding this one because I have mixed feelings toward it, and I'd love to hear other folks' perspectives on it. Phoebe is a little girl who adores her digger truck toy (positive aspect right off the bat-- a characteristic that doesn't comply to gender-based stereotypes), and who loves it especially for the entertainment it provides when her mom is busy with caring for the baby. (Another positive part-- acknowledgement of a child's perspective on something that isn't necessarily all positive.) But when Phoebe goes to the playground, there is a mean child who grabs it from her and won't give it back. The park interactions, again from a child's perspective, aren't all nice, and this is where my mixed feelings come in. Another child is referred to as a "crybaby boy," which isn't corrected or commented on. When the "mean girl" takes the truck, the resolution that eventually comes doesn't involve any reprimand or acknowledgement that she was really quite unkind to Phoebe, and in the end, she slinks off to bully a different child. Hmmm... the kids and I talked a bit about what we would have liked to have happened, which of course, included justice, as children usually long for. I can't give a wholehearted recommendation for this one, but there are some positive aspects to the book as a whole.

Happy reading,