Meet Lucy. She’s your typical brown bear. Fuzzy. Brown. Wears a pink skirt and a pink bow in her fur. One day, while toodling through the forest, she comes upon a little boy whom she promptly names “Squeaker.” Lucy’s mother reluctantly allows Lucy to keep her new “pet” but with the warning that “children make terrible pets.” And, boy, is Lucy’s mom right. Squeaker refuses to be potty trained, ruins the nice furniture and causes general chaos throughout the quiet bear household. For anyone who has ever thought that your child was at least part wild animal, this is the book for you. It’s utterly adorable and turns the age-old “mama, can i keep him?” story on its fuzzy little ear. A must read.
Occasionally, a children’s book makes me cry. It happened when I first read Tomie dePaola’s “Now One Foot, Now the Other” (I’ll review that soon…tears galore) and it happened again with Jan Karon’s “Miss Fannie’s Hat”…For those of you who have had the good fortune of reading either of those, you’ll see the pattern. Children’s books that have grandmother’s in them seem to pull my heartstrings a little tighter than others. And for those of you who knew my grandma Deedles, you’ll know why. The latest addition to this esteemed (and rather soggy list) is Vera B. Williams’ “A Chair for My Mother” – a gorgeous, heartwarming tale of a little girl, her mother and grandmother who are saving money for a comfortable chair. All of their possessions were burned in a fire and, although neighbors have graciously given them all sorts of hodgepodge furnishings, what they really would love is one soft chair to sit in.
When all of her mother’s tips from the restaurant, and all of the little girl’s spare change have finally filled the little jar, they are able to buy a wonderful, comfy, warm armchair – perfect for what they were really saving up for: a soft place to rest and cuddle. The illustrations are beautiful, the sentiment is lovely – an all-around gorgeous read for anyone.
Do your children like boogers? Mine do. They even like the word “booger.” If you ever see my children and want to make them laugh, just say “booger.” It’s a sure thing. So imagine my utter joy at finding Deb Lucke’s quirky and wonderful “Sneezenesia” in which a little boy at the supermarket sneezes so hard he forgets his name. And with each sneeze, he loses a little bit more knowledge. Math equations…names of Presidents…they all come out of his schnozzola with each “achoo.” I don’t think I could have scripted a more wonderful book for my sons – knowledge as boogers. Tremendous. But how will he get the knowledge back? Sniff around and you may find out.
Meet Smudge. He is, well, a smudge. And he is grumpy. Very grumpy. And yet, like some grumpy people, his friends still like him. All Smudge wants to do is go on a secret errand alone without any interruptions. (Hey, Smudge, you and me both, big guy!) But his friends want to know more. And they follow him. And they ask questions. And they ask more questions. Until finally, poor little Smudge is just about ready to burst. Little readers everywhere will love Daniel Cleary’s “Stop Bugging Me” and parents might actually recognize some of themselves is dear ole Smudge. As Smudge’s friends, one by one, follow along on their curmudgeonly friends’ errand, you won’t be able to hold your giggles in – nor will you be able to resist these adorable smudgy drawings. For anyone who has had their own moments of Smudge-ness, you are not alone. Although you might like to be.
For anyone who ever felt that Cinderella (despite the soot) was just a little too perfect, do I have the book for you. “Cinder Edna”, Ellen Jackson’s riotous retelling of the classic fairy tale, champions not the beautiful, albeit rather dim, Cinder Ella, but rather accordian-playin’, tuna casserole-makin’ Edna. Glass slippers? Not Edna. She prefers loafers which, let’s face it, are a lot easier to dance in. At the glorious ball, Ella catches the eye of Prince Rudolph (a vain, handsome and boring man) while Edna sparkles the eyes of his brother, Rupert, who runs the palace recycling plant. As you might have guessed, the clock strikes midnight and, luckily, true love ensues, as the brown penny loafer and Rupert’s soul mate are reunited. For little girls everywhere who might feel more like an Edna than an Ella, this is a wonderful tale of being yourself and finding true happiness.
Never before have I seen a children’ s book that more articulately and beautifully captures the artistic spirit than David Wiesner’s “Art and Max.” It should come as no surprise that Wiesner has come up with yet another gem of a book – he is one of two people to have ever won the Caldecott for three different books (“Tuesday”, “The Three Pigs” and “Flotsam) – all of which are worth buying and immediately loving.) What sets “Art and Max” apart from the others, though, is that it truly challenges readers big and small to think about the creative process of artists and appreciate the different ways and methods in which art can be made. Lofty subjects for young readers, but Wiesner makes them come to life magically. Art and Max are two lizards. Art is a serious artist – one who studies form and shading and lines. Max just wants to be an artist and, despite Art’s instruction, moves ahead with his own way of creating and we find that both can be beautiful. I really can’t recommend this book more highly – it’s a masterpiece in its own right.
I can’t bear to think of the day when my sons will no longer treasure a really good bedtime story. I know that the day will come, when iPods and pimples and tossing notes in class will take precedence over a really great pre-sleep read, but for now, I will hold each moment and each book dear – especially Johanna Wright’s “The Secret Circus.” With just enough repetition to lull those little eyes to half-mast, and just enough intrigue to keep them open, this darling book tells the story of a Parisian circus that is so small, “only the mice know how to get there.” And those mice do go there, dressed in their top hats and parasols and other mouse finery. A wonderful, wonderful book for little ones with big imaginations. So, tuck them in tonight with “The Secret Circus” and enjoy that wonderful age and that wonderful book together.