January 31, 2014, marks the beginning of the Chinese Year of the Horse. In Chinese astrology, people born in the Year of the Horse are believed to be hard-working, self-reliant, and cheerful. Years featuring the horse are supposed to be strong ones for travel, adventure, and opportunity.
To read more about adventures with horses, check out our book list, CRRL Kids: Horse Sense.
Michael K. already has a few strikes against him. He's a new kid at a new school in a new town, but did he really have to get stuck sitting next to the two weirdest kids in the classroom? The girl, Jennifer, is halfway through eating her pencil when the boy, Bob, tells Michael that the two of them aren't human. They are Spaceheadz.
Bob, Jennifer, and the hamster, Major Fluffy, are on an intergalatic mission to save Earth. They must do this by recruiting 3.14 million Earthlings as Spaceheadz, and they think Michael K. is the person to help them get the job done.
"In other worlds I used the imaginary kingdom not as a sentimentalized fairyland, but as an opening wedge to express what I hoped would be some very hard truths. I never saw fairy tales as an escape or a cop out....On the contrary, speaking for myself, it is the way to understand reality."*
Lloyd Alexander wrote many adventure stories for young people, including the wonderful Chronicles of Prydain which follow the adventures of brave, young Taran, who proudly holds the title of assistant pig-keeper, the fiery, quick-witted Eilonwy, shambling man-beast Gurgi, and Fflewddur Fflam, a teller of tales, mostly tall ones. In The Book of Three, these unlikely heroes are on the run from dread forces that have more personality and are therefore more terrifying than Tolkien’s Sauron.
In That is Not a Good Idea! Mo Willems takes the art of silent films and applies it to picture books. A dapper fox has spied a beautiful goose walking the city streets. Each image is devoid of text, we only see what they are saying on black pages in between the action.
"Excuse me. Would you care to go for a stroll?" inquires the fox as he tips his hat. Suddenly, the film is interrupted. "That is NOT a good idea!" exclaims a baby goose.
Never has a feline been as terrifying as Mr. Wuffles. In truth, he really is just a curious housecat with a ton of playthings. The one toy that he is most interested in was not bought at the pet store. That is because it is not a toy at all.
David Wiesner is the master of wordless picture books. His photo-realistic artwork combines with clear-cut tales of adventure and whimsy, and his latest title once again proves his mastery of the art of picture books.
The gray of winter is dismal enough to turn even the cheeriest of smiles upside down. Extra Yarn, by Mac Barnett, is a much needed pick-me-up during these dreariest of times.
Annabelle finds a box of multicolored yarn in the snow. When she takes it home to knit a sweater, she finds that she still has more. So Annabelle makes a sweater for her dog, too. No matter how much she knits, the box always has extra yarn in it.
Growing up with Books and Traveling the World
With a scientist/writer for a mother and a research physician for a father, it’s little wonder that Molly Bang grew up to be a writer and illustrator who would eventually make it her mission to create books that drawn children into the world of science. Her family kept a large library and would often give each other books illustrated by the famous Charles Rackham as gifts. Molly found these to be inspiring.
After she graduated from Wellesley College with a degree in French, Molly traveled to Japan to teach English at a university there for 18 months before returning to work on master’s degrees in Oriental studies. Then it was back overseas to illustrate health manuals for UNICEF, as well as Johns Hopkins and Harvard, working, among other places, in Calcutta and Bangladesh.
Dragons Love Tacos! The word is out. These mystical creatures have a weak spot for Mexican cuisine. They want it all: really big, gigantic tacos and tiny, little baby tacos. Dragons adore them. But, why?
The Blessing Cup, by Patricia Polacco, is a wonderful story for anytime, but especially during the holidays when family gathers close for this is a family story. Patricia Polacco’s great-grandmother Anna and her family came to America from Russia after the Czar ordered all the Jews to leave the country. Just like that, they had to leave behind everything they couldn’t carry. Momma and Papa packed the sewing machine, their menorah, the shofar, his tallis, and holy books. But also precious to them was the tea set they were given when they were married.
Scarecrows have been known at least as long ago as ancient Egypt. In some cultures, people were sent to the fields to keep away the pests. The Creek Indians did this in America. Before modern times, the English would also send out the very young and the very old to their fields with noise makers. All people rely on a good harvest to last them through the winter, and scarecrows, human or straw, help them to have one.