“I didn’t have time to write you a short letter, so I wrote you a long one.” This saying, attributed to Pascal, applies perfectly to books for beginning readers. Writing a seven-hundred-page novel is quite an accomplishment, but some writers might argue that writing a thirty-two page reader with limited vocabulary is even more challenging. Here are a few recent examples of the best.
One of the most popular displays in our children’s rooms showcases children’s books that have been made into movies. For every reader who complains, “the book was better!”, there’s another who delightedly discovers that a favorite movie was based on a good book.
Currently in theaters is “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,” an animated movie based on the picture book of the same name by Judi Barrett. Translating a 32-page picture book into a 90-minute film means adding more characters and plot twists, but the critics seem to be positive about the results.
“In fourteen hundred and ninety-two/ Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” But there’s more to the story. As Columbus Day approaches, take a new look at the explorer in Russell Freedman’s “Who Was First? Discovering the Americas.”
Lauren Thompson’s story begins, “This is the pie, warm and sweet, that Papa baked.” But how did Papa make the pie? Start with apples, “juicy and red,” then the tree, “crooked and strong,” and so on until we come to “the world, blooming with life, that spins with the sun, fiery and bright…”
Perfect for this time of year, “The Apple Pie That Papa Baked” is a rollicking picture book illustrated by Jonathan Bean in tones of cream, sepia, black and red, evoking classic illustrations by Virginia Lee Burton and Wanda Gag.
She’s only four feet tall and 110 pounds, but little “Ardi” is causing a sensation among paleoanthropologists. Earlier this month, after fifteen years of research, scientists reported that they had identified Ardi’s skeleton as the oldest hominid known to modern humans. Ardipithecus ramidus, as she is formally known, lived 4.4 million years ago in what is now Ethiopia. She’s remarkable not just for her age, but for what she tells us about human evolution. Scientists are re-arranging the human family tree in light of this new research.
The next time you’re in the library, take a look at some of the newest books to grace library shelves. Readers of all ages will be entranced with Jerry Pinkney’s wordless edition of Aesop’s “The Lion and the Mouse.” The story of kindness rewarded has a simple plot filled with action, just right for a wordless treatment.