For anyone looking for a children’s book that honors the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. in a way that is both approachable to children while still maintaining the reverence necessary to truly capture his life, please read “Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” Author Doreen Rappaport has made a name for herself as a go-to writer for biographies and non-fictional books for children and this, her gorgeous, poetic and sometimes heartbreaking profile of Dr. King, is the best of its kind. Rappaport has a gift for bringing children the facts they need to know, no matter how difficult they may be, in a way that keeps them reading and engaged and wanting more. Match that with Bryan Collier’s stunning illustrations, and you have the best of both worlds. “Martin’s Big Words” captures the essence of Dr. King and will help inquisitive children understand the big picture of his life and legacy.
Tag Archives: books
As the boys and I prepare for our Thanksgiving trip to New Jersey, we are anxiously awaiting a fun family day in Manhattan. Brunch with friends, a Broadway play in the afternoon, a drink at the Harvard Club…Heaven. And with the devastation caused by Sandy and the reminder to us all just how incredible and impermeable the spirit of that city is, what better way to celebrate this gorgeous metropolis than by reading Miroslav Sasek’s beautiful book, “This is New York”…one in a series of books dedicated to introducing young children to the most wonderful cities in the world. Originally published in 1960, Sasek’s inimitable illustrations of New York and the brilliant and irreverent way in which he shares the history of Manhattan are what make this book a must-have for any family. It’s a literal treasure-trove of all the best New York has to offer and, even today, could serve as a tourist map of must-see attractions. Find a copy, treat yourself to a one-way ticket there and give the New York Public Library Lions a pat on the head from me.
Eve Buntings, “A Turkey for Thanksgiving” is my all-time favorite Turkey Day tale. In it, Mr. and Mrs. Moose are hosting Thanksgiving for all of their woodland friends. Mrs Moose sends Mr Moose out on an errand to get a real turkey for the event. Mr Moose is soon joined by Rabbit, Porcupine and Goat – all ready to get the turkey for their feast. As you would imagine, poor Turkey is terrified – picturing himself roasted and stuffed to the gizzards. But what really happens, is as touching and heartwarming as any moment I can recall. A great read-aloud book for your younger guests that will make you hungry for more.
“Jane had a stuffed toy chimpanzee named Jubilee.” So begins Patrick McDonnell’s lovely story of Dr. Jane Goodall, the woman who single-handedly and lovingly changed the way we interact with animals. Readers might recognize McDonnell as the creator of the syndicated comic strip MUTTS and as the author of the award-winning picture book Art. He is also a strong animal welfare advocate and has channelled his love for all things fanged or furry in this beautiful book. The elegant text (“With the wind in her hair, she read and reread the books about Tarzan of the Apes, in which another girl, also named Jane, lived in the jungles of Africa”) married with McDonnell’s inimitable drawings make for a magical journey into the mind and heart of Goodall. With her stuffed chimpanzee by her side, Jane marvels at the wonders of nature and dreams of someday visiting Africa to see the real life versions of her beloved toy. This dream, of meeting and interacting with these exotic and endearing creatures, comes true for Jane – and readers will be left yearning to learn more about this wonderful woman. I’ll be teaching my world history students about Jane Goodall in the coming weeks and I’m so thrilled to be able to use this book as a springboard for her lovely contributions to the world. Complete with photographs of Jane as a child and an amazing cartoon drawn by the primatologist herself, Me…Jane is a wonderful introduction to not only true life stories, but to a future built of understanding, philanthropy and wonder.
Remember phone booths? Remember having to call your parents collect to come pick you up after track practice in high school because you couldn’t scrape together two gum-encrusted dimes from the bottom of your backpack? Maybe that was just me…but for anyone who does remember the antiquated charm of the phone booth, Peter Ackerman’s adorable “The Lonely Phone Booth” is a treat. On a busy corner of New York City, sits a little phone booth who’s feeling rather neglected, what with all the cell phones he sees rushing by. But, could he find new life once an electrical storm renders the cell phone towers defunct? This story has a retro feel and rallies support for the little booth as city officials threaten to haul it off to the dump. The pairing of Peter Ackerman’s delightful prose with Max Dalton’s illustrations is a smart one. Ackerman, a playwright who wrote Things You Shouldn’t Say Past Midnight,imbues an obvious love for New York City and the symbols of its glory (ballerinas, businessmen, racing cabs, skyscrapers) and Dalton, Argentinian-based illustrator extraordinaire has long been a favorite ever since he designed a “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off Board Game.” Put these two together and you’ve got a winning combination that will have children cheering for the booth. And you’ll recall with warm memories when you used to close that folding door behind you and call home collect.
Every summer, my older son attends a Shakespeare Camp in which he and his fellow campers spend two weeks in literature heaven. Improv, movement, Shakespearean history…why, oh, why can’t adults go to summer camp too? I’d give anything to spend two weeks learning my son’s lines from The Merry Wives of Windsor (he made a smashing Doctor Caius, by the way…) At any rate, inspired by this Bard Bonanza, I went to my favorite local bookstore on the lookout for a children’s biography of Shakespeare. I found that (a lovely member of the “Who Was…” series by Celeste Davidson Mannis) and then I found what may be the most glorious gift to children’s literature in quite some time. Are you ready for this? Author Jennifer Adams and artist Alison Oliver have teamed up to create BabyLit Board Books. Yes, now you can find not only Romeo and Juliet for your little anglophile-in-training, but Pride and Prejudice as well. (Insert swooning here.) Not only are Oliver’s illustrations just the most adorable things you’ve ever seen, the way Adams has turned the concept of two jilted lovers and the dashing Mr Darcy into counting primers for children is nothing short of miraculous. Some purists may scoff at the “dumbing down” of great literature for children, but I give a hearty “huzzah” to the concept of introducing great literature at an early age. Will babies truly understand the difference between Capulets and Montagues? No. But isn’t it fun to try?
I’ve always been fascinated by kids who had to move around a lot. I never moved until I went away to college. Same house. Same town. Same little hiding spot at the back of the closet where I kept all of my diaries and bad adolescent poetry. But whenever a new kid came to my school, I was always a little tad smitten. Whether they moved from Texas or from three blocks away, I always attributed some sort of romance to the notion of moving from one house to another and secretly envied the chance to start all over fresh and exciting – making new friends, despite the nervousness that must accompany such a daunting task. Perhaps it is this long-standing fascination that makes Norton Juster’s Neville so darn endearing. In it, a little boy has just moved to a new town. And with this move come all of the emotions inherent in such a change – fear, anger, loneliness. Will he find new friends? Will he fit in? His mother suggests the mythical solution to all childhood problems: “go outside” and the little boy does…reluctantly. How will he make friends just by going outside? Thinking perhaps there might be something a little more dramatic to do, the little boy starts yelling “Neville” at the top of his lungs. Pretty soon, curious little children hear the siren call and come to investigate. And, as children often do, they decide to join in the party, despite not quite knowing what the party actually is. Soon, all of the children are screaming for the ever-elusive Neville and magically bonding over this seemingly bananas activity. Just who is Neville? You’ll have to read this superb book (by the same author as The Phantom Tollbooth, no less ) and find out for yourself. The seemingly daunting task of making new friends is made delightful – even fascinating.
Perhaps I am just a sucker for bemused looking animals, but Jon Klassen’s book I Want My Hat Back is one of my new all-time favorites. I mean, seriously. Just look at that bear’s face. It’s irresistibly droll. The book offers a simple story, really. No bells and whistles here. But for anyone with a slightly bent sense of humor and a great appreciation for clever writing, this is the book for you. Simply told, bear’s hat is missing. And he’s not too thrilled with the situation. Using the age-old repetitive trope of such classics as The Gingerbread Man and The Little Red Hen, the creatures of the forest encounter the peeved bear one by one, offering little-to-no guidance on his chapeau search. That is, until a graceful deer triggers a faint memory in the bear’s fuzzy brain. And with that, the true mystery of the hat takes off on little furry feet. And don’t even ask me what happens to the bunny. I’m not telling. You’ll just have to immediately go out and buy this adorably naughty book and find out for yourself.
Lane Smith is probably best known, by me at least, as the Caldecott-winning illustrator of The Stinky Cheese Man…not to mention the author and illustrator of one of my personal favorites, The Happy Hocky Family. In the past, Smith has dwelt in the sublimely cheeky – bringing his quirky sensibilities to a wide range of offbeat and utterly brilliant children’s books. And while all of his books have had a teensy whiff of sentimentality in them, I never in a million years expected the sheer gorgeousness of his latest book Grandpa Green. In this stunning new book, Smith earns his stripes as an honest-to-goodness storyteller of the highest caliber. Smith’s book tells the story of Grandpa Green, an avid gardener who tells his unforgettable life story in a series of topiaries carved into the shapes of his memories. A first kiss. A war. The cafe where he first met his wife. All are lovingly and painstakingly recreated in the lush foliage of his garden. And his great-grandson, who sees these tales come to life, is the lucky recipient of not only his Grandpa’s artistry but his rich, beautiful life story. Lane Smith has outdone himself in this quiet little book that speaks volumes to the joy of memory. This book goes beyond the normal parameters of children’s literature and into the realm of literary treasures.
I’m feeling a bit sentimental today…and, as such, I’m bringing back an old favorite – Mrs. Piggle Wiggle by Betty McDonald. Ooooo how I loved this series as a child. Mrs. Piggle Wiggle lives in an upside down house and smells like cookies and, thankfully for parents everywhere, has wonderful cures for every possible childhood lament. And we’re not talking about chickenpox or measles, here. We’re talking about cures for things like talking back and not picking up toys and selfishness. My favorite of Mrs. Piggle Wiggle’s infamous cures is for the girl who won’t take a bath. And the dirt just keeps accumulating on this beastly little child. So, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle instructs her parents to plant turnip seeds in the dirt on her face and watch them grow. They do just that and, surprise!, a bath is quickly accomplished. Young readers will delight in the whimsical and magical words of McDonald and illustrations from Hilary Knight of Eloise fame. And parents will love that someone finally has a cure for not wanting to go to bed.