Children's Book Columns
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.
This year, why not shop locally for your holiday presents? Jabberwocky Children’s Books, an independent children’s bookstore that has graced downtown Fredericksburg for over twenty years, has a wide selection and knowledgeable staff. Like most bookstores, they will special order any book they don’t have in stock.
While you’re shopping locally, look for books by local authors. We are lucky to have a talented group of writers and illustrators for children in this area, many of whom I have come to know over the years. Here are just a few suggestions.
Nine months before Rosa Parks made history, a fifteen-year-old girl was arrested for refusing to move to the back of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Claudette Colvin was well aware of the convoluted rules about where blacks could sit on the city buses, but on this day she decided not to obey the bus driver’s command to give up her seat. She was arrested and eventually convicted of assault and violating the segregation law.
Deemed too emotional to become the public face of the civil rights cause, Colvin has been a footnote to history for the last fifty years. But that has changed with the publication of Philip Hoose’s “Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice,” winner of this year’s National Book Award for Young People’s Literature.
Thanksgiving disasters usually take the form of dried-out turkey or not enough mashed potatoes. But for the Peterkin family, proper Victorians all, Thanksgiving disaster strikes when their dinner simply disappears. In “The Peterkins’ Thanksgiving,” Elizabeth Spurr has adapted one of Lucretia Hale’s charming stories about this hapless family into a picture book edition illustrated with cheerful whimsy by Wendy Anderson Halperin.
Oliver Olson’s problem is over-protective parents. When his third grade teacher opens a space unit by asking, “How many of you would like to walk on the moon?”, Oliver doesn’t raise his hand. “Oliver’s parents would never let him walk on the moon. The moon was too far away. It was too cold. It didn’t have enough gravity. The rocket might explode.” And when his teacher announces that the whole class is invited to a space sleepover at school, he knows he won’t be allowed to go. Ever since Oliver was a sickly preschooler, his parents have worried about him too much.