After watching the Olympics for sixteen glorious yet exhausting days I have learned more about losing than winning. There were amazing accomplishments, but while I cheered for the winners, it was those who handled their defeat with an admirable and touching dignity and grace, that truly resonated. Anyone who has played a game with a young child or a sore loser of any age knows that losing gracefully and good sportsmanship are invaluable lessons. These books capture the spirit of that childhood love for winning even when they don’t.
Bears have much in common with people. We're both mammals. We're both omnivores. We are protective of our young. Also, if a bear happens to lose something very important, they will search for it. Especially if that something is their hat.
I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen is a clear-cut observation of a bear in his natural habitat, asking other animals if they have seen his missing prized possession.
What that description did not tell you is how unbelievably charming and oddball Klassen has made this story. Bear, standing upright, interrogates a different animal. Nearly every conversation is alike. No one has seen his hat and bear retorts, "OK. Thank you anyway." before he goes on to the next creature. The whole thing reads like a classic comedy bit.
"Crossing the street Papa says 'La mano' and he takes my hand." The love between a father and his son is apparent in Papa and Me by Arthur Dorros. The strong bond between them leaps from the colorfully illustrated pages of this book. As they begin their morning and make breakfast together and head to the bus, they revel in the joy of a simple day.
While making breakfast together, they invent a "special food." "Sabroso" they declare, delicious, as they taste the eggs and pancakes. The book uses both English and Spanish to tell the simple story. The characters are happy and they move between English and Spanish effortlessly.
When my son was in kindergarten, he was diagnosed with a "lazy eye." I do not know if that is still the appropriate term to use, but the result was that he had to wear a patch over one eye (the stronger one) to force the other eye to work harder and to strengthen. In the book The Pirate of Kindergarten, by George Ella Lyon, the main character, Ginny, receives a similar diagnosis when she does not pass a routine vision screening at school. Ginny has difficulty seeing. She runs into things in the classroom, and some of her classmates laugh at her. Ginny loves reading but when she reads she has trouble seeing the letters, and she has to get very close to the page. The imagery of the letters hopping "around like popcorn" and the number 2 looking more like a swan help bring the reader into Ginny's world.
Over the next few weeks I expect to be sleep deprived and living in a daily news bubble. Every bleary eyed daily interaction that follows will be worth staying up past my bedtime to cheer athletes from around the world. My own obsession began with Nadia Comaneci and I’m convinced Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt and Gabrielle Douglas will excite a whole new generation of fans. After all, the Olympics don’t come around every year and the spectacle, willpower and determination of the competitors is riveting.
In “How to Train with a T-Rex and Win 8 Gold Medals” by Michael Phelps and Alan Abrahamson, Phelps provides insight into his success, translating the hard work it required into stunning numbers and easy to understand terms. He trained for six whole years--a kindergartner’s entire life--swimming a total of 12,480 miles during that time. “That’s 183,040 trips around the bases” and it’s “like swimming the full length of the Great Wall of China three times!” His legs became so strong he could press “300 pounds 60 times” which is the equivalent of pressing a tyrannosaurus rex and ten velociraptors. Children will enjoy the comparisons and will have a deeper understanding of the preparation it takes to be an Olympic athlete. An added bonus is that they will be able to follow Phelps’ pursuit of a new record for the most Olympic medals.
Face it. Cartoons and video games are boring. You can only sit in front of the tee-vee for so long before your eyes glaze over. Between the ads for the latest plastic gizmos and excitingly-shaped wads of sugar (a piece of super sweet hard candy shaped like a pacifier? Puh-leese!), you may realize that the stuff between the ads isn't that interesting either.
If only I had read I'd Really Like to Eat a Child when I was small, life would have been so much easier.
This is not because I fell victim to some carnivorous beastie that could only be satisfied with devouring yours truly--though once I was surrounded by a ferocious herd of petting-zoo goats. Rather, I might have understood the importance of eating whatever my parents told me to.
I am a former picky eater. Fruits and vegetables were not my bag, and hot dogs reigned supreme. One time I even threw a stuffed pepper out the window. Fortunately, time has passed, and I began to appreciate the foods that I once avoided. But I know how the little crocodile Achilles feels when he rejects his parents' meal of freshly-picked bananas. "Today, I'd really like to eat a child."
Chloe and the Lion is not about a young girl facing off with a ferocious feline, no matter what the title says. Sure, Chloe's present, saving up her nickels and dimes to ride the merry-go-round. She does, in fact, spin around that ride so many times that she gets dizzy and lost in the nearby woods. It is at that very point that Chloe should meet a lion. Instead, a large, ferocious, winged, burgundy dragon steps out.
Writing a picture book is hard work. You must have a solid story, likable characters, and the right choice of words. What's more, this delicate balance can be completely thrown out of whack by a maverick illustrator who thinks that "a dragon would be cooler."
A good friend headed off to a new life last week. I am thrilled with the happy events that led her to these new adventures, but miss her terribly. I hadn’t expected it to be so hard considering I’m, well, let’s just say of an age when I have experienced my share of changes. It’s renewed my sympathy for any younger person facing a move, either his own or a friend’s. Luckily there are some wonderful children’s books that can serve as a discussion starter or maybe just as a way to validate their feelings. I know I appreciated living vicariously through the petulance of the characters in the first two books!
The title says it all in “Alexander, Who’s Not (Do you hear me? I mean it!) Going to Move” by Judith Viorst. Alexander is age appropriately melodramatic about his impending move. According to him, he’ll never again have a best friend like Paul or a great sitter like Rachel. The new cleaners won’t save anything they find in his pockets even if it’s gum wrappers or an old tooth. Anything is preferable to moving, even living in the weeds next to his friend’s house and getting poison ivy. His understanding parents reassure him that he will find boys his age and a new sitter. His brother tells Alexander that he can sleep in his room if he gets lonesome. Slightly persuaded, Alexander decides that although he still doesn’t like it, he’ll pack He does have one caveat: this is the last time (Do you hear me? I mean it) he’s going to move!
In Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, by Eleanor Coerr, Sadako is a sixth-grade girl who loves to run in school races and spend time with her friends and family. One day she begins to have dizzy spells, which worsen until she ends up in the hospital. She is diagnosed with leukemia, or the “atom bomb sickness.” Sadako grew up in the aftermath of the atom bomb, dropped on her hometown of Hiroshima when she was just a baby in 1945. Many people got sick in the years after the bomb from its radiation.