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Get a Read on Summer

Exciting things are happening at your local library. The summer reading club has begun!

There's a program for children and another for teens. Both are free, fun and designed to keep students reading all summer long. After all, whether it's a book, comic or magazine, summer reading equals summer learning.

The theme for this year's children's club and this column is "Amazing Tales." Be they of the animal, tall, folk or fairy variety, all can be found at your library!

"What Do You Do With a Tail Like This?" by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page explores the different ways animals use their eyes, mouth, feet and tails. Bright paper collages, at first, simply illustrate each body part. Ears attached to hidden animals peek over the page edges, inviting children to guess who is featured.

Questions like, "what do you do with eyes like these?" have multiple answers.

Did you know that "if you're a horned lizard, you squirt blood out of your eyes?" How cool is that?

"John Henry" is told in delightfully, classic tall tale language by Julius Lester. The author himself didn't see the race between John Henry and Ferret-Faced Freddy, but his "great-granddaddy's brother's cousin's sister-in-law's uncle's aunt" sure did! We've all heard rumors from an equally convoluted source!

When John Henry uses his hammer to remove a mountain-sized boulder, the descriptions are wonderfully relatable. The boulder "shivered like you do on a cold winter morning when it looks like the school bus is never going to come."

Until I read that line, I didn't even know I remembered what that felt like!

Jerry Pinkney's illustrations are the perfect foil for the language. Henry's size and the magic that surrounds him are beautifully rendered in watercolor.

Fans of "Fancy Nancy" and "Pinkalicious" will love "The Fairy Tale Catalog" by Sally Gardner. It turns the elements of fairy tales into a chance to build your own story. Readers choose a fairy, a dress, wands and wings. Well-known characters are also there for the picking as family, friends and bad guys.

This is the type of book, school age children will pore over. The last page has a list of the featured tales, inviting further exploration. Well-known favorites are included, but so are some of the less popular titles, like "The Tinderbox" and "Jack, the Giant Killer." Never heard of them? They are worth finding!

Folktales starring the classic trickster Anansi are some of my favorites. Author Eric A. Kimmel and illustrator Janet Stevens have retold many of his exploits.

"Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock" tells how Anansi finds a remarkable stone and accidentally discovers that anytime someone says, "isn't this a strange moss-covered rock?" they go "KPOM!" and pass out.

The clever spider shows his find to the other jungle animals one by one, causing each to exclaim the powerful phrase and faint. As they recover and return home, they find their recent harvest missing.

When Anansi tries to play his trick on Little Bush Deer the tables are turned. Evading the one comment he wants her to say, she exasperates Anansi to the point that he shouts the magic statement and "KPOM!" he's out.

When he came to, "Little Bush Deer was nowhere in sight. And when he got home, he found his house as empty as it was before."

Originally published in The Free Lance-Star