To open a book illustrated by Floyd Cooper is to be drawn into a world of warmth, bravery, and joy. His drawings are as essential as the text itself in illuminating the world of childhood, often of the Black experience.
He was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1956. Early on, his family lived in the projects and had little money, but his mother was able to give him a sense of self-worth that he has carried with him always. She also shared stories with him, helping to build his imagination.
Bored? Nothing to do? Jump into a cozy picture book on a winter night. Troublesome trolls and a beauty's Beast! Helpful hedgehogs and polite polar bears! Whether you find yourself surrounded by swirling snowflakes or a chilly blue twilight, there are no better companions for winter's frozen brightness than Jan Brett's tales from the European tradition.
Jan Brett knows all about the magical relationship between a book and a reader. "I remember the special quiet of rainy days when I felt that I could enter the pages of my beautiful picture books," she once recalled. "Now I try to recreate that feeling of believing that the imaginary place I'm drawing really exists."
Plant sunflowers on the Moon? What a great idea! Now, how can we get there? Why, a bicycle of course!
Have you ever looked at the Moon and thought it looked sad? It’s all by its lonesome and nothing lives there. For one young boy his sole mission is to cheer up the Moon. How does he plan to cheer up the moon? By planting sunflowers! In the picture book How to Bicycle to the Moon to Plant Sunflowers: A Simple but Brilliant Plan in 24 Easy Steps, author Mordicai Gerstein has laid out a plan for anyone to follow to reach the Moon. NASA hasn’t even thought of it! All you will need is a bicycle, a huge slingshot, an extremely long garden hose, and a spacesuit, size extra small, from NASA. Sounds easy, right? Have you gotten permission from your parents? Uh, oh, that could be the most difficult part of this brilliant plan.
Children’s books are never too far from the minds of children’s librarians. On a recent hiking trip to the North Carolina mountains, a phrase from a children’s verse got stuck in my head: “We’re going on a bear hunt, we’re going to catch a big one, it’s a beautiful day, we’re not scared!” Maybe our bear bells scared them away, but the black bears that populate the coves and ridges of the Nantahala National Forest never showed themselves to our group (thank goodness).
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Most parents who’ve raised children in the last fifty years are familiar with Brown’s most enduring work, “Goodnight, Moon.” Written in hypnotic rhyme and illustrated in warm reds and greens by Clement Hurd, the book did not make a splash on first publication in 1947, selling a respectable but modest 6,000 copies that fall. But the book gradually found an audience, and by now total sales reportedly top 11 million copies.
I took up residence on the Children’s Desk at the library about one year ago. Although I have been adored and admired by many, some people actually give me the cold shoulder. Can you believe that people say things like, “Oh, it’s a fake hamster. Whatever!” or “Let’s go. It’s not real.” I have even been called a rat! I want you all to know that I am listening, even if I don’t always physically react (my batteries run low sometimes, don’t yours?). And just for the record, I prefer the term faux.
She's been compared to Hans Christian Andersen and that clever fable maker Aesop. For children (and adults!) in today's world, her carefully crafted stories sing with a timeless rhythm and an honest truth. Her family's Russian-Jewish roots have given her the jumping-off place for many a tale (And Twelve Chinese Acrobats, Firebird, and Baba Yaga), but some stories seem to drawn from the heart of the world itself.
Jane Yolen, born in New York City on February 11, 1939, showed a talent for writing early on when she wrote and composed the words and music to her grade school pageant, starring as the lead carrot. She seems to have never slowed down during her years in high school: news editor of the school paper, Spanish club vice president, singing with the a capella choir, and captain of the varsity basketball team. Summers spent at a Vermont camp run by Quakers influenced her deeply. Several of her later books (The Gift of Sarah Barker and Friend: The Story of George Fox and the Quakers) relate to this period of spiritual growth.
When Minfong Ho was a small girl, she listened. She listened to her parents who taught her all those necessary things that parents do. Their words were Chinese, and their words went straight into her heart, giving her wisdom and strength.
When Minfong became a little older, she played in the streets, marketplaces, and temple fairs of Bangkok. All around her, she heard life being experienced: the shouting, the playing, the prayer, the love, and the daily work. It was time to grow, a time to learn how to do the practical things. Minfong came to think of Bangkok’s Thai language as the language of doing; the language of her hands.
After a few days of rainy weather you may be looking for a pick me up, and “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” by Judi Barrett is just the ticket to chase the gloom away. In the town of Chewandswallow, clouds don't bring rain or snow. They bring dinner (and lunch and breakfast). People just take their plates and bowls outside and catch the meal of the day. But what happens when storms brew? How do you handle pea soup fog? Will the residents survive the food weather catastrophe? Put "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" on your plate and find out!
If your children watched the “Baby Einstein” videos, but failed to turn into geniuses, you can get your money back. A recently settled suit against Disney, the owner of the popular series, asserts that the claim that the videos are educational is unfair and deceptive. Parents can get a refund of $15.99 for up to four of the videos.
Fortunately, at least one way to help your child to grow intellectually is free and widely available. You guessed it – reading to your child from books you can borrow from your local public library. Not only is it free, but numerous studies show the benefits of early read-aloud sessions. Just pick up one of our “Every Child Ready to Read” brochures, and plunge in!