When the Beat Was Born, by Laban Carrick Hill, is a stunning example of just how wonderfully diverse the world of children's biographies is getting. This picture book offers a look into the life of DJ Kool Herc, one of the founders and innovators of hip-hop music.
Hill's words, when combined with Theodore Taylor III's crisp, colorful illustrations, depict how a boy named Clive left Kingston, Jamaica, for the Bronx. Clive wanted to be a DJ, slinging an arsenal of records and getting crowds amped up at parties.
It's an Orange Aardvark! follows a few imaginative carpenter ants as they peer out of a soggy tree stump. Orange fills up the stump's interior. According to the insects, aardvarks always turn orange when they are hungry for ants. Judging by the intensity of the color, this one seems mighty famished. As one ant gnaws more holes in the stump, different colors stream in, and the colony lets their imaginations run wild.
Next they see blue, so the aardvark must be wearing blue pajamas! A splash of red leads them to suspect that their predator is wielding a gigantic bottle of ketchup! From there, things get even stranger.
Mustache Baby builds upon a cute visual gag with a grand display of wit and verve. When Baby Billy is born, his parents are surprised to find a fully-grown mustache adorning his upper lip. The nurse informs them, "You'll just have to wait and see whether it is a good-guy mustache or a bad-guy mustache."
Prudence Wants a Pet explores the troubles of a pet-yearning girl with dry humor and simple, fun imagery. We already know what Prudence desires, but her parents are in no mood to sacrifice money or peace and quiet in exchange for a kitty or a puppy. So Prudence decides to take matters into her own hands.
Super Hair-O and the Barber of Doom is John Rocco's story of his enormous, bushy hairdo as a boy and how he imagined it giving him special abilities! According to our unkempt crusader, "every superhero gets his powers from somewhere," and what better place than the top of your own head?
As Lemony Snicket gets further from the series that brought him notoriety, he finds himself exploring terra icognita, or unknown territory. He finds new ways to craft stories, experimenting with what children's books are capable of. 29 Myths on the Swinster Pharmacy is a fascinating if challenging example of these efforts. The book follows two children as they investigate the mysteries of a peculiar business. They obsessively list what they have learned from their research, casing the joint like bank robbers.
1. We are very curious about the Swinster Pharmacy. We travelled all the way from the next town to find out what it sells.