Adorable? Next to you…

NextNext to you: a Book of Adorableness features the colored pencil art of Sydney Hanson.  The text by Lori Haskins Houran is less of a story and more a suggestion for cooing new parents.  I guess this book could be read by older siblings, too.  Each page features a different adorable baby animal, with a musing about how it is not nearly as cute as you, the baby being read to.

This would make a great gift book, since it’s gender-neutral and easy for new parents to read with feeling.

Classics – Why Anne?

Anne of Frozen Gables_crop2Okay, so after listening to over half of Anne of Green Gables, my two sons were in love with her.  Even my dad, the grumpy old man, was impatient to hear the rest of her adventures.

And while I found her annoying at times, I can’t deny this book is a classic.  Anne has become an Storybook Archtype.  Spunky,  Emotional, Outspoken, loves reading and school: this is the type of student all teachers want in class, and every librarian wishes they saw in the evenings.  The kind of girl so many author write stories for.

And her voice!  The earnest way she rambled on!  She reminded me so much of Ana from Frozen.  Until I realized I had it backwards — Anne is the template on which Ana is based.

One thing did seem strange to my sons.  Why did she complain about being too skinny?  What does that look like? Why would she wish to be fatter?  What’s a dimple on an elbow?  Anne has such negative body issues, but they are based on a Victorian Ideal that’s totally alien to us now.

Extremely Cute Animals

CuteExtremely Cute Animals Operating Heavy Machinery.

Really?  Extremely Cute?  That’s a high bar.

David Brown has written an extremely sweet story about nice little animals that fight back against sandbox bullying.

When passive resistance doesn’t work, the nice animals bust out the heavy machinery.  They build walls and gates and lock out the bullies.  But mean guys look so sad.  So the nicest one, Karen, invites them to come back in.

I was disappointed to find the creatures only medium cute.  Sarah agreed that they were “Okay”, but not really, truly cute.  Liz found them strangely cute.  Quirky and cute.  For a fluffy story about playground harmony, this one is only meh.

Classics – Anne of Green Gables

Girl Books versus Boy Books.

Lots of people would call Anne the classic Girl Book.  The flowers and trees!  The tea parties!  The rambling emotional chats!

I never read L.M. Montgomery’s classic as a child, but recently listened to the audio book with my sons on a 6 hours road trip.  They are fine with listening to almost anything, but their grandfather groaned and rolled his eyes.  (Yes, this was an inter-generational car trip).  After only a few hours, the old man was just as hooked into the story as my sons!

What makes it a classic?  Her out spoken self confidence feels timeless.

What makes it dated?  Well, I love historical fiction, so all the details that are specific to the time and place add flavor and depth.  This was the part I loved the most!

Sarah and Liz both read this in the past few years as adults, and agree that it passes the test of a children’s classic.

Cute lil’ Teapot

Picture books often feature animals.  Or else suburban children.   Sometimes the animals are stand-ins for children.

Pot-sanPot-san’s Tabletop Tales by Satoshi Kitamura.   Three short tales are told about a Teapot life in this bright spring-time world.

This one gets bonus love from Sarah for being Super Cute.

Little Red Writing by Joan Holub.  Illustrated by Melissa Sweet.  A Pencil girl goes on a quest to write a story and finds herself written into the adventure.  Along the way she learns about adjectives and adverbs, rising and falling action.LittleRed

I would describe the artwork as loose but others might call it messy.  THe water color combined with collage design mimics the feel of a middle school project.

Classics – Richard Peck

RichardPeck_0001At an early morning conference, this really old guy gets up to talk.  As I hunted for my tea, I braced myself for a stuffy, self-important speech, by a dusty award medal winner author.  But, dang, was I wrong!

Richard Peck has a sharp edge that cut through the dull grey platitudes.  He was funny and nostalgic about his past, about what kind of boy he was, but also engaged with present day issues boys today face.  I didn’t write down everything he said.  Maybe School Library Journal has a the video of his Day of Dialog talk online somewhere.   These are the points that struck me.

“Schools build upon foundations set by families.”  I’m not a teacher, but education is the foundation of everything we do in libraries.  And if families are failing, there’s no way the schools can be successful.

“Boys want to make clear connections, not imaginative leaps.”  I feel like this is a slam against girls who read fantasy.  But maybe I’m just getting defensive of my 11-year-old self.  How is a clear connection different than an imaginative leap?  This is a man who’s written stories with mice as main characters.  I would love to hear further thoughts on this.

On Writing: Introduce a character they [readers] might want to be.  And spend 6 drafts erasing yourself from it.

From Twain: “Humor is Anger – that went to finishing school.”  He’s a huge fan of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.  I want to read his intro to this Puffin edition of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain. Tom

“Stories are about events that NEVER happened to the author.” This was my favorite quote.  Everyone laughed when he said this, maybe because it feels so obvious.  Does it go against the advice  to WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW?  But that’s not really the WHY of writing.   We read books and create stories to go some place new.  To experience things that could never happen to us.  The pull of a place we don’t know yet,  that’s the birth of a story.  To meet people who are familiar, yet different from ourselves.

Best Man

Richard Peck read a bit from his latest book, Best Man, that will be coming in the fall.  Boys, he said, need to find a mentor.  A father, uncle, grandfather, teacher, or other to guide them on the way to becoming men.  Is this process  different for girls becoming women?  Children have a close connection to their parents that loosens as they become teens.  Not every son will become the same kind of man as his father, and not every girl will be the same type of woman as her mother.  Is the drifting towards a new identity harder for boys than girls?  I don’t know.  I guess as a guy, Richard Peck writes what he knows; boys becoming men.


Imaginary Friends

How many of us really have Imaginary Friends?  And yet a large number of books about that subject came out in 2015.beekle

Maybe they were just inspired by Dan Santat’s Newbery Award Winning picture book Adventures of Beekle: unimaginary friend.

An imaginary friend waits a long time to be imagined by a child and given a special name, and finally does the unimaginable–he sets out on a quest to find his perfect match in the real world.


We Forgot Brock by Carter Goodrichbrock

Phillip and Brock are best friends, although everyone else thinks Brock is imaginary, so when Phillip gets tired out at the Big Fair while Brock is still having fun, they are separated and it will take a very special twosome to bring them back together again.

Another picture book staring a White Boy

Dream Friends by You Byuon

A shy little girl yearns to find a real-life friend as wonderful as the one she plays with in her dreams”

dreamA more artistic quiet exploration of imaginary friendship.  This picture book aims to also be a bedtime book.


For preschoolers, who may already have an imaginary friend, these story speak to a real experience.




But what about the chapter books to feature this form of magic realism?

imaginaryThe Imaginary by A. F. Harold explore a darker aspect to these imaginary beings, dealing with hunting and consuming them!

Rudger, an imaginary playmate, must find his friend Amanda before he fades away to nothing, while eluding the only other person who can see him, evil Mr. Bunting, who hunts–and possibly even eats–imaginaries.

A 220 page chapter books best for grades 3-5th


Confessions of an Imaginary Friend is a memoir by Jacques Papier, the imaginary friend himself, as told to Michael Cuevas.

At 168 pages, this is a lighter, more whimsical chapter book about this story.


Barbara Park – Rest in Peace

imagesBarbara Park, author of Junie B. Jones, died yesterday at the age of 66 of ovarian cancer.

While she wrote many other stories, she will be forever known for her spunky early grade hero, Junie B. Jones.  Her personalized grammar and mouthy attitude made her controversial to adults who saw her as a bad example.  But her goofy antics and crazy predicaments had generations of kids rolling on the floor in laughter.  Preteens enjoy these stories as well.  The way she uses her cute naivete to defy the authority of the hapless grown-ups delights older kids who can no longer get away with that.  13330545

The last book, Turkeys We Have Loved and Eaten, came out last year, and since Thanksgiving is only a week away, this is a fitting time to put it on display.  Sadly, you’ll have to let kids know that no other books will be coming out Junie B. Jones.


Smurfs by Peyo

16059634Did you know that the Smurfs were first published in Europe as a comic book by an Belgian artist known as Peyo?  Originally called Les Schtroumpfs, these little blue guys were very similar to the cartoon characters seen on TV in the 1980’s.

Now these comics have been republished in English!  While these are not actual movie tie-in products, the publisher certainly hopes to ride the wave of smurferific nostalgia.  I bought  a few copies for everyone, but if you’d like to add a replacement to your branch, I suggest you search:  Title: Smurfs, Publisher: Papercutz.  Or you can search Author: Peyo, but that includes 8×8 Picture Books and Easy Readers.

7981901The Purple Smurfs is the first of the comic books.  Originally when it was published in Europe, the story about smurfs getting bitten by a gnat and going rabid featured then turning black.  When that story was turned into a Saturday morning cartoon, the American editors decided purple was a better color for them to turn (less questionable racial overtones).  The comic book publisher has followed that lead.

Admission: I was fascinated by the Smurfs as a kid.  I think they might be like Scooby-Doo, in that the appeal wears off once you hit puberty.