It is 1941, and the German Army occupies The Netherlands. A young Dutch boy named Piet has been given the task of escorting two neighborhood children to safety in Brussels. The Greatest Skating Race: A World War II Story from the Netherlands, by Louise Borden, is the exciting story of Piet Janssen. He live in the town of Sluis in the Netherlands. His town is on the border between The Netherlands and Brussels. During the winters there, it is so cold that the canals freeze and the ice is thick enough to skate on. In fact, skating is a form of transportation for many people in the Netherlands.
Piet loves to skate. He also idolizes a skater named Pim Mulier who once skated through eleven towns. Many Dutch have skated through towns, but the route that Pim took has its own name, the Elfstedentocht (the Eleven Towns Race). Piet has been training to duplicate this race and finish just like his idol Pim Mulier. But in December of 1941, many of the Dutch were concerned with much more than a race along the canals. Their country was occupied by Germany. Because of the war, many fathers were gone. They had joined the Allied forces in England.
"I am so mad at you," the little rabbit says to his mother. Mad at Mommy by Komako Sakai is the story of a little rabbit who is very angry at his mother. The story continues with the little rabbit listing the reasons for his anger. For instance, Mommy says that she cannot marry little rabbit even when he gets bigger. Little rabbit goes on to inform his mother that when he gets bigger he "will do whatever he wants."
Komako Sakai is the author and illustrator of this tender story. The illustrations are gentle and quiet as they juxtapose a tranquility against the ire of the little rabbit. The muted tones beautifully capture the story while sparse text expresses the universal sentiment of children at one point or another during their childhood. Every parent will recognize themselves as a child and will chuckle at the familiar words used by the little rabbit. They may even recognize their own children. In particular, the page where the little rabbit expresses his anger and turns his nose up into the air captured the moment beautifully. I know that I have seen that expression myself. This story is great to read aloud or for the emerging reader to ponder over after a particularly difficult day.
In the end, the little rabbit announces that he is going away. You can almost hear the "huff" as he leaves. He walks out of the room only to quickly return and ask his mother if she missed him. In the end the little rabbit and the mother are reconciled and everyone is happy.
I have hope for spring! Every year, I reach a point where I can’t bear another minute of cold, ice or snow, let alone the barren, brown landscape. Then February and my first harbinger of spring arrives, the Maymont Flower & Garden Show. Despite it all, I am filled with hope. If the weather is wearing you down, a book full of spring may be just what you need to keep trudging along!
Pete the cat loves his white shoes. He loves them so very much that he sings about them. One day while he is walking and singing he steps in some strawberries and his shoes turn red. But instead of becoming angry, he sings about how much he loves his red shoes. When he steps in mud and his shoes turn brown, instead of becoming angry, he sings about how much he loves his brown shoes. The book Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin and illustrated by James Dean is a great picture book about a cat that "goes with the flow."
Pete's philosophy is summed up at the end by his statement that "no matter what you step in just keep walking along and singing your song."
In Pinkalicious by Victoria and Elizabeth Kann, Pinkalicious is a little girl who is obsessed with pink and cupcakes. On a rainy day, she makes pink cupcakes with her mom. And she can’t stop eating them! She eats so many, in fact, that she turns a bright shade of pink. Pinkalicious is delighted. How perfect that from the top of her head all the way down to the tip of her toes she is the prettiest bubblegum shade of pink!
Even after a bath, Pinkalicious’s dad cannot make the pink go away. Her parents take her to the doctor who prescribes a strict diet of green vegetables and no more pink. No more pink cupcakes?! No more cotton candy?! Not even watermelon?!
As the holiday gift-giving season kicks into high gear, we’re all looking for presents that will bring joy to the recipients without breaking the bank. The $16-18 average price of a children’s hardcover picture book may seem daunting at first, but not when you compare it to the price of toys. Considering how many times a picture book is read and re-read (say, a million in the case of “Goodnight Moon”), the cost per reading is quite low. And, of course, you are helping your child build reading skills for the future, and having fun doing it!
That time is upon us. That time when we start sniffling and coughing. A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead and illustrated by Erin E. Stead is about one of those days when you just want to go back to bed. Amos McGee is the cheerful zookeeper at the local zoo. Every morning he "ambles" down to the bus stop after his breakfast of oatmeal and tea to catch the number 5 bus to the zoo. When he arrives there he always makes sure to spend time with his friends before he starts working. He plays chess with the elephant, he races with the turtle, and he sits quietly with the penguin. This particular day, Amos wakes up with the sniffles and his legs are achy. He decides to stay home and not to go to work.
Well, after some time has passed the animals begin to worry when Amos has not arrived at his usual time. The elephant has the chess board ready, the turtle is ready to race, and the penguin waits patiently alone. "Where is Amos?" they all wonder. Tired of waiting and concerned for their friend, the animals decide to go and check on Amos. So, they board the bus and head to Amos' house, where they arrive to find him not well. They each tend to Amos in their own special way, and then they end the day with a pot of tea.
A young girl and her cat enter a dark, old, ramshackle house. Ghosts are waiting for her there. As she opens the door they all fly out. This is where the fun begins in Kazuno Kohara’s Ghosts in the House!
A recently published New York Times article, “Picture Books No Longer a Staple for Children,” is causing an uproar in the children’s book world. According to reporter Julie Bosman, booksellers are selling fewer picture books than ever, and not just because of the economic downturn. “Parents have begun pressing their kindergartners and first graders to leave the picture book behind and move on to more text-heavy chapter books,” she reports. One bookseller noted that parents are now buying their four-year-olds “Stuart Little” while classic picture books languish on the shelf.
In Peter McCarty's Henry in Love, magic can be found in the simplest pleasures of an ordinary school day. The main character gets ready for school and decides that this is the day that he is going to talk to the loveliest girl in the class. Perfect cartwheels, games of tag, and the sharing of afternoon snacks follow.
The look of McCarty's characters is quite special. The illustrations are reminiscent of two children's classics. Henry and his classmates, all animals, recall the characters from Rosemary Wells' Max and Ruby books, but with smaller eyes and a less cartoony demeanor. They look sweet without treading into cutesy territory. The wide margins and very selective use of color reminds one of Ian Falconer's Olivia books.