September 29, 2005
books for kids
fun and no talking down to the readers
While Mama had a Quick Little Chat, by Amy Reichert, illustrated by
Alexandra Boiger, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2005 (picture book,
What do you expect
when you tell your kid “One more minute, I’m almost through,” but then
you stay on the phone for 20 minutes? Like The Cat in the Hat (but
shorter), this amusing picture book shows how little parents know about
what their kids might do — or who might come for a visit — when no one’s
watching. Also like The Cat in the Hat, it’s set in a big old-fashioned
house with huge chandeliers, a sweeping staircase and a phone with a
real cord. Sweet and funny — especially for guilty-as-charged parents.
Princesses Really Kiss Frogs? by Carmela LaVigna Coyle, illustrated by
Mike Gordon, Rising Moon Books, 2005 (picture book, ages 3-6).
They might. They
also wear hiking boots, as determined in Do Princesses Wear Hiking
Boots? from 2003 by the same duo. That first book showed that even
princess can get dirty and do ordinary things, including follow rules.
Therefore, conversely, even girls who play in the mud and snort when
they laugh may consider themselves princesses. Kiss Frogs somewhat
inverts the question, showing that princesses don’t have to do all the
princessy things, like kiss frogs, and they do do many nice ordinary
things, like smell flowers and meet imaginary dragons and have noses
like roses and get rides on daddy’s shoulders. The borderless
edge-to-edge artwork is enticing; our princess is a warmly drawn and
entirely contemporary girl, the green grasses and blue skies perfect for
a lingering taste of summer.
When Charlie McButton Lost Power, by Suzanne Collins, illustrated by
Mike Lester, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2005 (picture book, ages 3-6).
This one stands out
for two reasons: it’s about small kids’ relationships to modern
technology (rather than to their teddy bears, siblings, blankies or
potty seats) and it stars a boy (rather than a girl or a cartoon duck,
cow, pig or penguin, which seem more common). Charlie McButton is
dumbstruck when a thunderstorm kills his TV, lights, clock and games.
Desperate, he steals batteries from his sister’s doll and winds up in
the time-out chair. The story is written in the same rhyming meter as
“How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” and one of its verses (about
batteries) – “They powered her puppies, they powered her clocks / They
powered her talkative alphabet blocks” – beat for beat reflects one of
the last verses of that story. The two tales’ sentiments are similar, as
well. So will Charlie McButton, a true child of the 21st century, learn
to have fun unplugged? What do you think?
Declares Independence, by Megan McDonald, illustrated by Peter H.
Reynolds, 2005, Candlewick Press, 144 pages (chapter book, ages 5-10).
I’m 38 years old and
reading this book made me want to read the rest of the series. Judy
Moody (a.k.a. Judy Moodington) is a feisty third-grader who, in this
installment, visits Boston and returns home (to Virginia) inspired, by
Paul Revere and the Boston Tea Partiers, to seek her own independence in
the form of a later bedtime and looser rules. Of course, with freedom
comes responsibility. The story is bright and funny and the occasional
artwork adds a nice comic boost. The book has 11 chapters and could be
read by an adult aloud for storytime or by a just-stretching-her-wings
young reader. (If you read it at normal adult pace, it’ll seem boring,
but if you read it at the pace a budding reader would adopt, you’ll find
it’s a fascinating world in there.)
Stink: the Incredible Shrinking Kid, by Megan McDonald, illustrated by
Peter H. Reynolds, 2005, Candlewick Press, 102 pages (chapter book, ages
Judy Moody (see
above) has a kid brother nicknamed Stink, who herein gets his very own
book for the first time. Stink is short; Stink wants to grow; Stink
celebrates Presidents’ Day with a report on James Madison, the nation’s
shortest president. Stink also takes home the class newt and there is a
dicey incident (pun not even intended) with a garbage disposal. Stink is
as happy and engaging as its Judy Moody forebears and — bonus! — offers
needed literary fare to young male readers who for whatever reason don’t
feel like identifying with a girl protagonist.