Thursday, April 21, 2011

Reading My Library, Picture Books First

Somewhere there was a blog post bemoaning the plethora of children's books with children behaving badly while their parents stand by either admiring the cuteness or bemoaning their inability to control the heedless youth of today.  There's a lot of "get off my lawn" implied, and I think most of any change is that we let kids pick the books more rather than a massive change in society, but I have to admit to my own grumpiness about this issue.  I can't stand Falconer's Olivia books, for example, because the titular character is such an enormous brat without any redeeming characteristics.  She's selfish, rude, disrespectful, inconsiderate, and a bully, and we are supposed to applaud.  It's worse than characters like Rodney in the Wimpy Kids books, who even the author knows would make an awful friend or neighbor.

Anyway, that's on my mind as I read this batch of library books:
  • Image of itemThelonius Monster's Sky-High Fly Pie, by Judy Sierra, illustrated by Edward Koren.  Delightful rhymes about the creation of a delicacy, a delicacy with wings.  P and I enjoyed both the revolting rhymes, with their hints of The Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly, and the delicious drawings by Koren.
  • Image of itemJohn, Paul, George & Ben, by Lane Smith.  Wacky take on some of the forefathers of American history, with an amusing True/False section on the end to confess any waverings from the truth (Paul Revere did not sell extra large underwear in his shop).  Great fun.
  • Image of itemToby, Who Are You?, by William Stieg, illustrated by Teryl Euvremer.  Soft, gentle illustrations accompany the quiet text as an anthropomorphic otter-like family go on a picnic.  Toby spends each page imitating a different animal, in a way that would get annoying to me quickly but that his parents lovingly encourage.  Sweet but not memorable for us.
  • Image of itemIt's Library Day, by Janet Morgan Stoeke.  A simple book about kids looking forward to library day and then getting the books they wanted.  Nice polite kids, too.  Not much to it, really.
  • Image of itemSplinters, by Kevin Sylvester.  Now these are the kind of kids we should be raising. Cindy is a tough kid who doesn't complain about her parents' poverty but busts her stumps to get herself on a hockey team.  But will Coach Prince select her for the All Stars?  My fourth grader and I loved figuring out the Cinderella connection; the pictures and text kept us laughing throughout.
  • Image of itemAn Interview With Harry the Tarantula, by Leigh Ann Tyson.  A well-timed choice as N spent the night, and he's currently on a spider kick.  This book uses the conceit of a radio interview with the victim of a child's snatch and release bug observation, and manages to include lots of information with the fun.  I was a bit worried about the safety of Katy Did, the interviewer, but all was well.
  • Image of itemSuper, Completely and Totally the Messiest, by Judith Viorst.  We enjoyed the illustrations and the speech patterns, but I was appalled at the parents' willingness to smile indulgently as the youngest sibling, the messiest, wrecked seven sand castles.  I mean, my kid wrecked a few, when he was much younger, but I caught on pretty quick and restrained him.  It wasn't funny to the kids who worked hard on their creations.

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