"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.
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.
Adventure Time is a comic book adaptation of the popular Cartoon Network series. In the past four years, the show has found a sizable and devoted audience. The brainchild of Pendleton Ward, the cartoon appeals to both children and adults through goofy humor, surreal visuals, and rather sophisticated storylines involving its main characters Jake the Dog and Finn the Human.
Breadcrumbs, by Anne Ursu, starts on a magical, snowy day. There’s still school though so Hazel and her best friend Jack make plans to meet up and go sledding afterward. Since her Dad left her and her mom, things have really changed for Hazel in a bad way. She had to stop going to the fun school where the teachers were happy she had such vivid imagination and creativity. Now Hazel goes to classes where the desks are perfectly lined up all the time, and there is to be no fidgeting. Hazel fidgets anyway.
Author Jean Fritz has written many books that kids enjoy. They’re often funny and full of adventure and always have great characters. They’re also pretty much absolutely true. Jean specializes in history books, especially people’s life stories. As a biographer, she tries to get to know the people and the times in which they lived through research including reading their own words. Then she takes all that history and turns it around in her mind until it becomes a story her readers will enjoy.