Archive for the 'Kids Books' Category

Growing Our (Anti) Library

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

From Nicholas Taleb’s Black Swan, about Umberto Eco’s home library:

Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. The library should contain as much of what you do not know as your financial means, mortgage rates, and the currently tight read-estate market allows you to put there. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menacingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call this collection of unread books an antilibrary.*

My friend Jack, who blogs at Knowledge Volt, sent me the link, from Matthew Cornell, in response to my guilt over book-buying binges. In keeping with the antilibrary, my trips last week to Half Price Books and Barnes and Noble in St. Louis Park:

May 2009 new books

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (Oxford World Classics mini HC edition)

Terminator 2

Jane Austen: A Life by Claire Tomalin
(spiffy vintage-look Penguin cover)

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Laura by Vera Caspary

China Mountain Zhang (gave our copy away years ago)

Curly Girl
by Lorraine Massey (my own copy, since the one I have is from the library)

For the kids:

kids book stack may 2009

Starting School by Janet and Allan Ahlberg

Three Scooby Doo easy readers

The Firefighters Busy Day
by Richard Scarry

Noisy Nora by Rosemary Wells

Sammy the Seal
by Syd Hoff

It’s My Birthday
by Helen Oxenbury

Anatole and the Cat
by Eve Titus

I put the books on top of our built-in buffet, near the ceiling. My 5yo son Drake was so eager to get his hands on them that I barely got that photo taken before he started climbing, and dismantled the display:

Drake Climing, I Drake Climbing, II

Here’s 3yo Guppy, who can’t yet read, asleep on Sammy the Seal. Perhaps any book they can’t yet read themselves is part of the boys’ antilibrary.

Guppy with

“Spoon” by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Friday, May 8th, 2009

Spoon, written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustrated by Scott Magoon, is a good example of an age-old story made fresh again with new details and engaging art. Little spoon has always been a happy utensil, until he feels like friends fork and knife get to have all the fun.

And Fork, Fork is so lucky! She gets to go practically EVERYWHERE. I bet she never goes stir-crazy like I do.

His friends respond, though, with what spoon can do that they can’t. The art expands on the text and makes it even funnier, and the ending is utterly charming.

I’m sure we’ve read several books with a similar theme, but the one that comes to mind is Lucky Little Duck, which I could hardly stand to read to my kids. The art was kitschy, and the story saccharine and unsubtle. That was a dud; Spoon is a winner.

“Bean Thirteen” by Matthew McElligott

Friday, May 8th, 2009

A picture book for young readers, Matthew McElligott’s Bean Thirteen is that wonderful book that kids can enjoy on one level, and adults on another. Insect friends Ralph and Flora are picking beans for dinner when Ralph tells Flora not to pick a thirteenth bean. She does, and trouble ensues because they can’t find a way to divide the beans up evenly.

“Oh look,” said Flora, “there’s one left over. You take it, Ralph.”

“Bean thirteen?” gasped Ralph. “Never! It’s bad luck.”

“Ralph,” said Flora, “please don’t make such a fuss.”

“I’m not eating it,” said Ralph, “and you can’t make me.”

They begin inviting friends over, and Ralph continues to disparage the thirteenth bean. Eventually the beans get eaten, and the story works on multiple levels–it can be about division, prime numbers, sharing, and friendship. It also has lots of good kid dialogue that may cause parents to smile wryly in recognition. McElligott’s illustrations are colorful and inviting, and the beans look like edamame, which might be a good introduction to that snack for kids who haven’t yet tried it. My husband, my 5yo and 3yo sons, and I all really liked this one.

“Louise, the Adventures of a Chicken” by Kate DiCamillo and Harry Bliss

Saturday, January 24th, 2009

In a standalone picture book for young readers, Newbery Award winner Kate DiCamillo teams with artist Harry Bliss (Diary of a Spider, Worm and Fly, respectively) for Louise, the Adventures of a Chicken. Three times Louise leaves her farm looking for adventure. Three times she finds it only to end up in grave danger of being eaten. I won’t spoil the ending(s), though I will say they’re satisfying.

Bliss’s watercolor illustrations beautifully capture Louise, and the complicated, sometimes dangerous, situations she encounters. But always there is the security of home and the farm, if she can only get back.

The youngest readers might be scared by a few elements, such as a shipwreck or a chicken-napping. But Louise is a stalwart bird I think kids and their parents will both enjoy.