Children's Book Columns
Some books seem to fly under the radar. They don’t garner the big awards or make the bestseller lists, they’re just quietly checked out of libraries over and over again. One of my new favorites in this category is “The Thumb in the Box” by Ken Roberts.
It begins, “This is a story about a fire truck being driven into the ocean and two people taking off their thumbs. Don’t worry, though. Nobody gets hurt.” No self-respecting third grade audience will let you stop reading after that!
The gold medals get all the attention at the Olympics, but winners of the silver and bronze medals are proud, too. So it goes with children’s book awards as well. Anyone would be thrilled to win the Newbery or Caldecott Medals, but earning an Honor (as the runners-up are called) is nothing to sneeze at.
This year’s honor books – and yes, they earn a silver medal – include one of those fascinating true stories that makes readers say, “how come I never knew that?”
What did you read during the Snownami/Snowpalooza/Snowmageddon? Judging by the armloads of books people were checking out from the library before each of the storms, the most popular items were picture books, mysteries, best sellers, historical fiction, biographies… in fact, people were, as usual, reading everything!
Among those armloads were plenty of graphic novels for young readers. Defined as novels with complex storylines told in the form of a comic book, these books are finding increasing recognition in the form of awards.
The African-American dolls on display at the Headquarters Library in Fredericksburg include a ballerina, Raggedy Ann and Andy, and an African queen. Collector Myra Dicks even has a Jackie Robinson action figure in its original box. Kids who are fascinated by the dolls will enjoy meeting Miss Hickory, Tottie, Traction Man and other great doll characters from children’s books.
Stonewall Hinkleman is a typical twelve-year-old boy whose parents are ardent Civil War re-enactors. This means that every weekend he’s dragged (his word) to another Civil War battle site. His father reveres an ancestor, Cyrus Hinkleman, who fought and died in the war, despite the fact that, as Stonewall puts it, “He was shot in the butt… Which can only mean one thing. He was running away when he was shot.” Dressed in a scratchy wool uniform and dragging a bugle that he barely knows how to play, Stonewall sulks around wishing he could play his Game Boy.
As we all respond to the tragedy in Haiti, share these children’s books about the island for an inside look at the people, the place and the culture.
Diane Wolkstein visited Haiti to collect the traditional stories in her collection, “The Magic Orange Tree and Other Haitian Folktales.”
Last Tuesday, our librarians discussed ten books we found worthy of the Coretta Scott King author and illustrator awards. The actual winners will be announced next Monday, January 18, at the American Library Association conference in Boston. Click here on Monday morning at 7:45 for a live webcast of the announcements.
The Coretta Scott King Awards are given to African American authors and illustrators for outstanding inspirational and educational contributions. Among our nominations for the Illustrator Award is “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” a poem by Langston Hughes illustrated by E. B. Lewis.
Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah was in New York studying to be a doctor when the September 11th attacks took place. When he returned to his native Kenya in 2002, he told the story of what happened to his unbelieving Maasai friends and family.
“Buildings so tall they can touch the sky? Fires so hot they can melt iron? Smoke and dust so thick they can block out the sun?” Appalled, the villagers wanted to do something for these poor Americans. For the Maasai herders, cows are life, so they decided to donate a herd of fourteen cows to America, in a ceremony that brought tears to the eyes of the American ambassador.
The youngest people on your holiday giving list would appreciate a copy of Chris Gall’s “Dinotrux,” a proven hit with little boys (and girls, too, I’m sure). According to Gall, many millions of years ago, dinotrux ruled the earth. Part dinosaur and part truck, creatures like Semisaur and Garbageadon terrorized the cave men for millennia, until finally rusting away. The trucks we see today are merely their tame descendants.
Two kinds of young readers are hard to buy books for: the reader who reads everything, and the reader who reads nothing. For the first kind of reader, finding out what the child has read lately can help avoid the disappointment of a second or third copy of a book that the recipient has already read. For the second type of reader, try informational books.
Nonfiction appeals to kids who don’t read much, because these books tend to have strong visual elements and often allow readers to jump around in the text depending on what interests them most. Believing firmly that you can’t make kids read but have to meet them where they are, I suggest the following stellar nonfiction for reluctant readers on your list.