- Caroline Parr
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.
The dust jacket will catch children’s attention immediately, the face of the lion with his golden mane filling every inch of the cover. His eyes are looking left, and on the back cover, we see the little mouse looking back at the lion.
Pinkney takes every opportunity to show the disparity in size, starting on the title page with the tiny mouse in the Serengeti sand, crouching in one of the lion’s paw prints with plenty of room to spare. In the double page spread showing the lion deciding to let the mouse go free, we see the lion’s head almost filling the left-hand page, while the mouse huddled in his paws takes up only the bottom third of the facing page. Wordlessly – except for the “Screeech,” “Squeak,” and “Grr” of the animals – Pinkney tells the classic story of mercy and friendship in stunning watercolor and pencil drawings that make this a likely contender for the Caldecott Medal.
Beginning readers adore Mo Willems’ series of books about Elephant and Piggie, and this fall brings “Elephants Cannot Dance!” In simple cartoons and just a few words, Willems conveys every emotion of the enthusiastic Piggie and the cautious Gerald. Though Gerald carefully explains that elephants can’t dance – he even pulls out a copy of “What Elephants Can Do” by Anne Elephant to prove his point – Piggie won’t take no for an answer. Elephant’s sorry attempts to jump, spin and wiggle-waggle under Piggie’s direction prove disastrous, until two eager squirrels come by, clamoring to learn the new dance sensation, “the elephant!”
“Space gals. Astronettes. Astrodolls.” That’s what newspapers called the first female astronauts back in the early 1960s, as readers will learn in Tanya Lee Stone’s “Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream.” Thanks in part to Dr. Randolph Lovelace, who as the chairman of NASA’s Life Sciences Committee firmly believed that women were fully capable of space flight, these women, all pilots, were enrolled in NASA’s astronaut program and earned high scores on the demanding survival tests. Nevertheless, they met with resistance from all sides.
Stone can hardly contain her indignation as she relates the obstacles the women faced over the years. Today’s readers will be startled to learn that even revered astronauts like John Glenn and Scott Carpenter, reflecting the times, believed that women had no place in the space program. Interviews with all of the surviving women astronauts, along with extensive research and archival photographs make this a fascinating insight into American history for readers ten and up.