Sparkle and Spin

Goodness gracious, how I ADORE this book. Sparkle and Spin: A Book About Words could potentially be my new favorite book. Not new in the sense of just-published, since this treasure of a tome was first published in the late 1950’s, but new in that I just discovered it and am seriously kicking myself for not finding it earlier. Having grown up with Dutch author and illustrator Dick Bruna’s books, I’ve always been a complete sucker for strong graphic visuals in children’s books. How could I have missed Ann and Paul Rand? It’s like Dick Bruna and Lane Smith had a child and created this book. In it, the Rands create a world of words – a delicious cacophony of syllables and sentences. With phrases like “what are words? words are how what you think inside comes out, and how you remember what you might forget about,” this delightful book captures all that is wonderful about language and does it in a way that is amazingly approachable and entertaining for children of all ages. You should purchase this book, republished by Chronicle Books, not only for your children to read but as a keepsake…a treasure to pass down through the generations of readers and lovers of words. This is a children’s coffee table book and should be relished and read aloud until the words are faint on the page.


Max’s Words, or Better than Collecting Tags

For anyone who loves words as much as I do, Kate Banks’ “Max’s Words” is the perfect book. Max’s brothers each have fabulous collections – Benjamin collects stamps (what fun!) and Karl collects coins (slow down there, cowboy).  As a child, I and my friend Gretchen collected department store tags that had fallen on the floor of our local Marshall’s…but that’s for another time. Max, after some thought, decides that he would like to collect words. Cutting words out of newspapers and magazines, Max’s collection of amazing, stupendous, intriguing words grows and grows until he has just about enough to write a story for himself. Patching together his collection into a incredible tales of adventure and captivated by this new use for words, Max’s brothers get in on the action and find themselves working together with Max to build stories beyond their imaginations. Max is a child after my own heart – curious, literary and totally quirky. And the best kind of child – one who discovers the true power of words and creates something beautiful from them.


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.

I Want My Hat Back

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.