The Children's Book Compass

Archive for February 2012

Mouse & Lion by Rand Burkert.  Illustrated by Nancy Ekholm Burkert.  (2011).  Pages not numbered.  Scholastic.  Ages 3-10.  Picture book.

This is a beautifully crafted, elegant retelling of the Aesop fable about the powerful lion who is saved by the lowly mouse.  The setting is Africa in an area bordering Botswana and Namibia.   The detailed illustrations feature the African grass mouse and a splendid lion.  Most scenes show close-ups of the animals, some from the mouse’s perspective – a huge paw holding the mouse’s tail or the lion’s gigantic mouth wide opened, displaying his fearsome teeth.  The illustrator shows every hair and whisker on each animal.  One two page spread shows the baobab tree resplendent in front of a setting sun.  Light infuses the pages as the illustrator uses the white background effectively.   The choice of paper, design of the book, and gorgeous illustrations combine with the well paced, character enhancing text.  Team this with Jerry Pinkney’s wordless version, Lion and the Mouse to discuss how illustrators and authors make choices about the stories they produce.

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Five Little Monkeys Reading in Bed by Eileen Christelow.  (2011).  Pages not numbered.  Clarion Books.  Ages 2-6.  Picture book.

The five little monkeys from Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed are back!  This time Mama reads them bedtime stories but when it’s time for “Lights out! Sweet dreams!” the monkeys keep reading.  The books are so good, they laugh, cheer, scream and cry.  Each time Mama comes back to tell them,  “Lights out! Sweet dreams!  No more reading in bed!”  But each time the monkeys find another book they just can’t resist.  Finally, they are sleepy and say, “Just wait till tomorrow, and then we’ll read more!”  The front endpapers add to the fun, showing each monkey reading in a different spot – on the toilet, outside, swinging, in a comfy chair or while eating.    The expressive monkeys and their loving and patient mom are softly colored.  A great read aloud to celebrate the joys of reading.

Tales for Very Picky Eaters by Josh Schneider.  (2011).  47 pages.  Clarion Books.  Ages 5-9.  Beginning Reader.

Josh Schneider has created a fun and inventive story about kids who are picky eaters.  James is the  picky eater and when he objects to foods like broccoli, he is clear about how he feels about it – “It’s disgusting.”  When James asks, “What else is there?”  his father tells him about alternatives – dirt “mixed by specially trained earthworms…,”  Or, “fine gum carefully chewed one thousand times by special children with very clean teeth, …”  Or, a “…very sweaty sock, soaked in sweat sweated by the world’s fastest and tastiest runner who was fed nothing but apples and cinnamon for three months before running a marathon in this very sock.”  …”  Each of the five chapters features father’s hilarious suggestions of alternatives to the foods James doesn’t like.  Finally, James discovers that if he tries the foods he objects to, he just might like them.  The sprightly illustrations add to the fun and enjoyment of this book.  Winner of The Geisel (Dr. Seuss) Award given for the most distinguished American beginning reader.

Levi Strauss Gets a Bright Idea by Tony Johnston.  Illustrated by Stacy Innerst.  (2011)  Pages not numbered.  Harcourt.  Ages 6-12.  Picture book.

The subtitle for this rollicking story is “A Fairly Fabricated Story of a Pair of Pants.”   That is exactly what Johnston achieves.  She has created a tall tale of how Levi Strauss made blue jeans famous.  She writes in her author’s note, “The story of Levi Strauss and the invention of blue jeans is mostly legend with threads of truth, which my version stretches to near popping.”  Johnson uses colorful language that adds flavor to her tale– “Levi Strauss rushed away.  The miners barreled right behind, rattling and racketing and rolling.”  Innerst painted his animated illustrations on old Levi’s. which gives texture to each picture.  Read this one aloud and then lead your listeners to divine the true facts about Levi Strauss as you read the author’s note.


Pointing the Direction to New Books for Children and Teens

Marilyn Carpenter, PhD.

Contact Marilyn

e-mail: MarilynCaz@aol.com
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