Category Archives: Books and reading

Dude, Paleo Is So Rad

I spend my days, Monday through Friday, staring at books on a screen. Then I come home and stare at actual books— or Book TV, blogs, or other reading material that feeds my addiction. In the course of a day, the publishing world marketeers have great fun with me, sticking ads for all kinds of books in my face in the hopes that I will buy them— which I do, to the tune of almost a couple million dollars a year, but only children’s and teens’ books. However, the ads I see are for all kinds of books, and if I’m particularly interested, I’ll look them up.

wild dietLast week, a new Paleo book came out, and since I am a low-carber, I had to take a peek. Paleo is a diet and lifestyle that emphasizes eating food the way our very distant (as in, pre-row crop agriculture) ancestors did, as well as strength training, rather than aerobic exercise. The new book is called The Wild Diet, by Abel James, and as I continued to search, I saw that Mr. James has a website with a blog and a long series of podcasts. I sent a reminder to my home email so that I could listen later, since I doubt that my employer would be able to see a connection between Paleo bio-hackers and Pete the Cat.

Abel James is known as the Fat Burning Man, as seen on his website www.fatburningman.com, where he tells his life story and interviews all sorts of other health-conscious types. I listened to the podcast with Mark Divine, a former Navy Seal and founder of Sealfit, and they talked about de-stressing and the importance of life beyond biceps and burpees. I also listened to the one with Dr. Alan Christianson about thyroid, since hypothyroidism seems to be an epidemic among women these days.

Abel James

Abel James

The next day, I looked around at Paleo in general and found Robb Wolf, who wrote The Paleo Solution Diet five whole years ago, and who also happens to have a website with podcasts, called, very simply, www.robbwolf.com. When I looked at his latest podcast, guess what! It was Abel James. Apparently, it’s a very tight little world out there in PaleoLand. James has a great story to tell, though. He was a sickly child, but his mother, who was a nurse, understood nutrition and herbal medicine very well, and he grew up to thrive. Then he went to work in D.C. for the evil food industry and had to eat the foods he represented, and consequently, he became weak and sick. His doctor continued to give him more and more medication, until he didn’t know if his symptoms were caused by a disease or his medication. (This is uncomfortably familiar to me.) He was also placed on a low-fat, “heart-healthy” diet and felt worse every day. In the meantime, his brother, who was tall and scrawny at 140 pounds, started lifting weights and eating the high-protein and fat diet common to body-builders, and gained 60 pounds of pure muscle. Abel started to do some research, tried Paleo, and is in the best shape ever. I found it fascinating that he could not tell the whole story in his first book, because he was still under the non-disclosure agreements that he signed for the food industry! I think he got to reveal more in The Wild Diet, just because enough time has gone by. Can’t wait to get the scoop there.

These guys are so smart, with years of scientific information about nutrition and strength training, but their world is so testosterone-soaked it is hilarious sometimes. They can go from a meaningful exchange about some obscure chemical in the body to a conversation that sounds something like this:

“So, we were out there bouldering, man,…”

“Dude, that is so rad.”

“Totally.”

By the time we got to the end of the podcast this morning, I was wiping tears of laughter from my eyes, but my husband thought it was great, which is so terrific! Let’s face it, most diet and exercise books are for women/ by women, so getting guys into caring about health is an achievement. Granted, most of these men are on the radical fringe of health, bio-hacking with measured amounts of coffee with coconut oil or “intermittent fasting,” which is probably not a spiritual exercise. However, they are getting into the deep weeds of biological research, and we can benefit from their discoveries without all the discomfort. Furthermore, what guy doesn’t want to hear about mud runs and dead lifts and bouldering, whatever all that may be? Totally.

Ladies, the Fat Burning Man website does have recipes and articles on misleading food labels and such, so it really is interesting. But guys, there is also a podcast called “100 Awesome Ways to Eat Bacon.”

Haven’t you clicked over there yet?

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Musings on the 2015 Youth Media Awards

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Since I have been under the weather, I watched the ALA Youth Media Awards presentation at home on my laptop, clapping and exclaiming all by myself, except when my husband wandered into the room occasionally. I did not intentionally read for the awards this year, but as a collection development librarian, I was familiar with all of them and had read a good portion of the contenders, so of course I had some opinions.

CrossoverMy overriding thought is: “Oh, I am so glad I blogged a review of The Crossover just two days before it won the Newbery award!” My friend is the leader of a Mock Newbery Club, and this is one of her favorites, which is the main reason why I would ever read a sports novel in verse at all. Good job, Martha. Crossover also won a Coretta Scott King honor. My second thought on the Newbery Award is that the ALSC needs to have a big conversation on updating the Newbery Committee’s guidelines on the use of illustration, since El Deafo, a graphic novel, won a Newbery honor. I am delighted to see this very worthy book win an award, but I don’t think anyone else considered it seriously because it really is dependent on the illustrations, which conflicts with the Newbery Award definition. An important conversation to have.

RightIn other happy surprises, the Sibert Award went to a picture book! The Right Word was a favorite of mine, partly because it is about the thesaurus. Who wouldn’t love that? It is adorable and extremely informative, which is what the Sibert is all about! On the other hand, I did expect The Family Romanov to win more than just a Sibert honor. No Printz? No Newbery?

The Adventures of Beekle would not have been my choice for Caldecott, but my fellow librarian / blogger, Kerri, and her little daughter beg to differ at www.mlreads.com. Noisy Paint BoxThe Caldecott committee went crazy this year with six honor books! Some of my favorites among them are Sam and Dave Dig a Hole, The Noisy Paint Box (a picture book about the artist Kandinsky), and, again, The Right Word. They even chose a graphic novel for older children called This One Summer! Glad to see graphic novels being celebrated for literary excellence, and the publisher, First Second, is a slam-dunk choice for great graphic titles.

Grasshopper Jungle, the startlingly brilliant book that I mentioned in my Reading Roundup (that we all devoured but hesitated to hand to a child), won a Printz honor, and well deserved, too. This One Summer also won a Printz honor in addition to its Caldecott honor.

TruckI don’t usually wait for the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award for Lifetime Achievement with bated breath, but any mother of boys loves Donald Crews: Truck, Freight Train, and so many others. Mr. Crews has provided us with hours of enjoyment when my son was young, and I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve handed his books to library patrons.

Alex Awards are given for adult books that would appeal to teens. There are ten each year, and I am currently reading one: All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr (review soon, but I can tell you it’s gorgeous). The other one that I clapped for was The Martian, by Andy Weir, which was fantastic and will soon be a movie!

Ava LavenderMy biggest disappointment was that I felt that The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender did not get enough love. It was a Morris (debut award) finalist, but I thought it should have at least received a Printz honor. Well, there’s always next year for Leslye Walton. Also, although I was glad to see Rain Reign, by Ann Martin, win a Schneider Family Award for books concerning disabilities, I would have liked to have seen more decorations on that cover.

Lastly, though, how are they going to fit all those medals on the cover of Brown Girl Dreaming? Will we still be able to read the title? Congratulations to Jacqueline Woodson on writing such a beautiful memoir. If you haven’t yet, go out and get this one for yourself and your kids.

For all of the winners, go to http://live.webcastinc.com/ala/2015/live/.

Now to 2016! I’ve already started reading!

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.

Youth Media Award logo from: http://live.webcastinc.com/ala/2015/live/.

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Reading Roundup

Although I set out to read like mad over the holidays, life got in the way, as you can tell by an earlier post, and I ended up with just a few books read. They are a wide-ranging lot, though! Here are four I recommend and two I had to give up.

Olive KitteridgeOlive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout

Olive is not the most likeable protagonist. She’s not the sweet mom, the girl next door, or the Every Woman. In a series of thirteen separate, yet related, stories, we learn about this large, blunt woman from her husband, her students, her son, and her neighbors. Finally, toward the end of the book, Strout circles in to Olive herself, by this time vulnerable and sympathetic. Olive Kitteridge won the Pulitzer Prize in 2009 and has recently been developed into a television series. Strout’s brilliant construction and fine writing make this a highly-recommended read.

Rain ReignRain Reign, by Ann M. Martin

Rose (rows) has high-functioning autism, or Asperger’s Syndrome, and is obsessed with homophones. The story is told (tolled) in (inn) Rose’s voice, so whenever she encounters a homonym, she puts all (awl) of the related words in parentheses, which gives the narrative a distinctive style (stile). Rose’s large, loving dog is named Rain (reign, rein), because her dad brought her home on a rainy night (knight). Most stories about children with Asperger’s are about boys, and they all seem (seam) to (two, too) have parents who are intensely involved in their children’s lives, working to get them the best care possible. Rose never knew (new, gnu) her mother, and her father deals with Rose’s problems by yelling, “Cut it out!” Thank goodness that Rose has a gentle, understanding uncle in her life. There is some (sum) tension in this novel, at least (leased) for the older reader, because we (wee) are always expecting Rose’s father to snap, and the crisis of the novel comes when Rain runs away during a hurricane. (Just to let you know—since I would want to: the dog does not die. It is safe to read the book.) Rose is such an appealing character, and although the reading is difficult at first, kids will soon get used to the constant homonyms. I would love to see this win the Newbery.

Rosie EffectThe Rosie Effect, by Graeme Simsion

If you read the sparkling Australian novel The Rosie Project last year, you will want to follow Don and Rosie to America. Spoiler Alert: In the very beginning of the novel, Rosie announces that she is pregnant. Don responds to the news by bolting out the door of their apartment in New York and running across town to the home of his friend. No matter what the situation with Rosie’s delicate condition, Don continues to react completely inappropriately. Perhaps he is trying desperately to be the best father imaginable, but between not knowing how to do that and wanting to keep Rosie from any stress, he puts his job, his relationship with his unborn child, and even his marriage in terrible jeopardy. As an Aussie Sheldon Cooper, Don is completely adorable and lovable. I must admit that I felt that The Rosie Project was a stronger book, but I will certainly read Don and Rosie’s next installment.

Man Called OveA Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman

As I have opined before, the wave of Scandinavian books and movies out there these days can’t help being so brutally depressing, considering the far north’s godlessness, six months of darkness, and starkly angular furniture. Can tragedy be funny? As this delightful novel opens, Ove is trying his best to end his miserable life, but he just can’t manage it when all of these pesky people need his help. Ove is a quintessential curmudgeon: grouchy, grumbling, and judgmental. As the story develops, we learn the reasons for Ove’s ornery nature, but it only serves to make us love him more. By turns hilarious and heartbreaking, this is a novel for everyone, men and women, young and old. Highly recommended.

Amongst these winners of my holiday reading, I must admit that I pulled my bookmark out of two others. I make it a policy not to review books I don’t like, so I won’t mention them by name. I try to read widely, but sometimes a book just doesn’t fit.

The first one was a teenage boy book. The mind of a teenage boy is just not a comfortable place for an old lady to hang out. Now, I loved Grasshopper Jungle, by Andrew Smith, earlier this year, because it was brilliant, hilarious, and shocking. However, when a bunch of us teen librarians got together a couple of months ago to chat about the year’s best teen books, we all agreed that we thought it was excellent but could not bring ourselves to recommend it to a kid. Notice that I didn’t write a review. That being said, if it wins the Printz, I will cheer. The writing was just spectacular. (Ava Lavender is still my top pick, though.) However, when I went to read this other teen boy book (by a different author) last month, I just couldn’t go there again. Soon, maybe, but not this book.

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Three of My Favorites

The second book I gave up on was supposed to be a cozy read for female literary types. Me, in other words. I was really looking forward to curling up with it over the holidays, but unfortunately, it turned out to be a man-hatin’ book. I don’t understand man-hatin’ books or Lifetime movies. I have been greatly blessed in my life to be surrounded by phenomenal men: father, husband, son, brother, brothers-in-law, pastors, church friends, co-workers, you name it. They are strong, hard-working, brave, honorable, handy, and able to reach high shelves. They are also loud, self-absorbed, blustering, messy, and, um, not always mannerly. I love that. How boring life would be if we were all the same. So, if a woman wants to live by herself in her fussy, little life where everything is always clean and quiet, and no one ever grunts or slams furniture into her walls (“Oh, sorry about that”), then she is welcome to do so, but I’m not going to read her books.

Whew! So that’s everything I’ve read since Christmas. Right now, I’m reading the Qur’an, so I think I’ll be there for a while. It’s something I must do. In the meantime, I’ll think of something else to write about. Maybe I’ll actually do some crafts in my new craft room!

Disclaimer: I read library copies of Olive Kitteridge, Rain Reign, and A Man Called Ove. I read an advance reader copy of The Rosie Effect. Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.

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Zoom Zoom Zoom

2014-12-25 18.44.56Sometimes, when we expect things to be really difficult, they’re worse. I knew my time between Thanksgiving and New Years would be challenging, since I had all of the usual holiday obligations and activities, plus our county’s annual booksale, plus our son’s move out of our house into his own house, but there was more! On Thanksgiving, the very first day of holiday festivities, my mom fell and broke her hip. It was almost eleven o’clock at night, and she just turned to get up from her chair, and over she went. We followed the ambulance to the hospital, where the staff very kindly ignored the fact that some of us had obviously been celebrating quite a bit and were wandering aimlessly around the emergency area. Everyone was fine by the time we left at six in the morning, and we all spent much more time over the next few days than we ever expected at the fabulous Parkridge Hospital (Resort & Spa?) while Mom had surgery. Seriously, I have never seen a hospital this gorgeous, with marble floors, fountains, and firebowls in the pools. Mom is still in rehab, but she was able to come home on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day for all the festivities. Here she is on Christmas night, snoozing after a big day.

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Our county’s annual book sale took place two weeks later, and all the normally sedentary librarians had the experience of standing, walking, and carrying 450,000 books on a concrete floor all week long! We shared naproxen sodium tablets and tips for easing muscles. I began a love affair with Blue Emu. For those of us in administration, it was a fun time of customer service. Who doesn’t love a huge building full of readers?

2014-12-21 15.33.35Our son was happy to move into a new townhouse, and his realtor’s wife was happy to have a December closing!* His move was somewhat more stressful than anticipated, though, and was delayed several days. Here is a Public Service Announcement: When you buy a phone from AT&T and ask to make payments, they open up a $5000 line of credit for you! Our son did not know this, but his lender found out the day before closing. Even though the new phone was paid for, he had to produce a document that proved that the credit line was closed, and that document had to cross numerous desks before he closed. Because of that, he ended up moving the furniture in the middle of the week, when all of his helpers were at work. However! He now has a lovely townhouse located right near the city—just where he wants to be. First order of business: Get that NC State Christmas tree up with just a week to spare!

In the meantime, I now have a guest room and a craft room! We moved all of Michael’s furniture out of his office, along with three truckloads of furniture and stuff from the garage, and then we started cleaning. I took every single book off the three ceiling-to-floor bookcases, dusted them, and placed them on the floor. When each bookcase was done, I wiped it down, and then David pulled it out and vacuumed behind it. Then I put every single book back on the shelves. Ten thousand squats! I could hardly walk the next day. We cleaned up an antique chest of drawers and moved David’s grandmother’s dining room table in there. It had been in the garage for three years! Murphy’s Oil Soap is a wonderful invention. I spent some of the Christmas money I received from my mom on art supplies and moved all of my old art supplies and my sewing machine into that room. While I was looking for old paintings, I found a substantial length of dark red fabric, so I turned it into window treatments and a matching seat cover for the chair. I rounded up some favorite mugs and repurposed them, too. Here are some before and after photos.

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Like most of you, we also spent more time than we would ever want staring at the television screen, stunned at the news. People were in the streets in Missouri, New York, Paris…. The mind boggles.

Even with all the undecorating and return to work, we did find time to grill salmon in the dark,

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make the best New Year’s Day pork roast ever, thanks to Ina Garten’s Make It Ahead cookbook,

Make It Ahead and sip tea in our new teal tea pot,

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also compliments of my mom. I’ve spent some time on resolutions and plans, which I will share with you in another post, coming up soon. Here’s hoping for a nice, dull 2015.

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*Note: For those of you who didn’t know, my husband was our son’s realtor.

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Thrones, Dominations, by Dorothy L. Sayers and Jill Paton Walsh

Thrones DominationsLord and Lady Peter Wimsey have returned from their honeymoon and are adjusting to life as the most unexpected married couple in 1930s London. The former Harriet Vane finds that happy marriages may not make for great mystery writing, and Lord Peter seems determined not to allow his smooth, urbane mask to slip in society so that others would know how deliriously happy he is that Harriet finally said yes. No one can understand why a man who could have any woman in England would choose a plain, overeducated female who seems determined to continue to work for a living.

Just as the Wimseys’ marriage seems cool and rigidly correct, the Harwells seem passionately in love. He is rich; she is beautiful. What could go wrong? Perhaps the portraits that the famous artist, Monsieur Chapparalle, is painting of Harriet and Rosamund Harwell will reveal the secrets that each woman is harboring inside. Secrets will out, and misunderstandings can be deadly.

I have been a great admirer of Dorothy L. Sayers for decades. I own all of the original Peter Wimsey mysteries, have read her translation of Dante’s Inferno, one of her Canterbury morality plays (one is enough), as well as a biography of Sayers, and I own a collection of her essays called A Matter of Eternity. I particularly appreciate her essay concerning Jesus and women. Amen, sister. Sayers was a contemporary of “the Inklings,” and bristled when her name was used professionally without her middle initial. She felt that if C.S. Lewis could have two initials and J.R.R. Tolkien could have three, couldn’t a woman have one? She was an academic who started writing mystery novels late in life when her alcoholic husband was driving them into the poorhouse. Let’s face it: if it were not for Peter Wimsey, we wouldn’t remember her at all. Well, perhaps college professors would know her for her acclaimed translation of The Divine Comedy.

According to the author’s note at the end of Thrones, Dominations, Ms. Sayers had already started this novel, but gave it up to work on theater productions and the Dante translation. Jill Paton Walsh, a Booker Prize-nominated author, was asked to pick up the manuscript and bring it to a fitting conclusion. I had known Ms. Walsh before as the author of many children’s books, but for some reason, I had never paid attention to her “New Lord Peter Wimsey / Harriet Vane Mystery” series. I think I burned out on dead author remakes with all of the Jane Austenesque volumes, which vary widely in quality. Recently, however, I saw an ad for the latest in Walsh’s series, and the reviews were excellent. I was intrigued, so I requested this first volume from our library. From the first page, Walsh retains the style and wit of Sayers’ original works, with a clever mystery and welcome updates on all of our favorite characters. It was a thrill for this devotee to learn more about Peter and Harriet, particularly how their unusual relationship would fare under the censorious glare of the English aristocracy, especially Peter’s family.

Here is a series continuation that does not disappoint. I will be certain to read the other three (so far!) entries, since there are very exciting developments at the end of this book. If you are a Sayers fan, a mystery enthusiast, or love the sparkling badinage of early 20th century English writing, take heart! Here is a whole new series to savor.

Disclaimer: I read a library copy of this book. Opinions are solely my own and do not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.

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New and Notable: Picture Books, Part Four

Duck and GooseWith new picture books pouring into the library system every day, I can say that Americans are blessed with an embarrassment of riches. We can take our children to storytime every week and come home with an armload of books for free. Well, yes, it is taken out of your taxes, but wouldn’t you rather use your tax dollars this way than to make use of the fire department every week? Alright, then.

On the other hand, boatloads of books can make good choices difficult. Here are some of my favorite new books—“new” meaning within the past year or maybe two. I have left out anything that I’ve already mentioned in a previous part of this article and have loosely grouped them into similar styles or themes.

 Self-Esteem and Individuality

Some Monsters Are DifferentDavid Milgrim- Some Monsters Are Different. Pastel, non-scary monsters turn out to have the same differences that human children do! Funny.

David Shannon- Bugs in My Hair. David Shannon writes many hilarious books about his less-than-sterling childhood. This icky title is full of puns and laughter.

Flight SchoolLita Judge– Flight School. A penguin story about a little water bird who will do anything to fly. He declares that he has “the soul of an eagle.” Fabulous writing.

Tori Corn- Dixie Wants an Allergy. Dixie is jealous of all the kids in her class who have allergies, and she wants to be special like them. An interesting way to teach about both allergies and contentment.

Jill Esbaum- I Hatched! A killdeer chick hatches and discovers the wonder of himself! Very enthusiastic and childlike, including matter-of-fact exploration of his whole body. Makes a great read-aloud.

Intergenerational

How to Babysit a GrandmaBarney Saltzberg- Tea with Grandpa. Timeless sweetness with cutting-edge technology, a little girl has tea with her grandpa every Saturday. Only on the last page does the reader discover that it’s a Skype teatime.

Jean Reagan- How to Babysit a Grandma. A new sequel to the hilarious How to Babysit a Grandpa, this child teaches other kids how to keep Grandma busy, how to take her to the park, and other skills.

 Fun Ways to Teach

President TaftMac Barnett- President Taft Is Stuck in the Bath. Full-on comedy for this dubiously historical event.

Gloria Whelan- Queen Victoria’s Bathing Machine. How can Victoria be modest and queenly, yet still enjoy the ocean? Prince Albert to the rescue!

Brad Meltzer- I Am Rosa Parks. Meltzer has recently launched these picture book biographies that show famous individuals as children. See also I Am Abraham Lincoln and I Am Amelia Earhart. More to come!

Clotilde Perrin- At the Same Moment Around the World. Here’s an unusual topic for picture books: time zones. This tall, skinny book shows children pursuing activities in each time zone, with a map in the back to show them all at once.

Karen Kaufman Orloff and David Catrow- I Wanna Iguana. A little boy and his mom exchange messages about the pros and cons of buying an iguana. Might encourage writing; might discourage the gimmes. Features Catrow’s wildly energetic illustrations.

Little Red WritingKaty Beebe- Brother Hugo and the Bear. A medieval take on “the dog ate my homework.” Brother Hugo says that Saint Augustine’s writings have been eaten by a bear, so he has to copy a new illuminated manuscript.

Kyo Maclear- Julia, Child. How Julia Child and her friend Simca learned to love French cooking as children. Encourage your little chef!

Joan Holub- Little Red Writing. A retelling of Little Red Riding Hood starring a red pencil who writes her own story, including facing down a pencil sharpener called the Wolf 3000.

For the Love of Books

Library Book for BearBarbara Bottner- Miss Brooks’ Story Nook. Sequel to the fabulous Miss Brooks Loves Books (and I Don’t), this librarian heroine uses stories to deal with real-life problems.

Bonny Becker- A Library Book for Bear. The latest in the series that began with A Visitor for Bear, these humorous stories about a curmudgeonly bear and gregarious mouse are absolute favorites.

Animal Stories

Mister Bud Wears the ConeCarter Goodrich- Mister Bud Wears the Cone. Poor Mister Bud. He had a hot spot, and he worried it so much he had to wear the cone. If you’ve seen the movie Up, you know the shame involved. Hilarious and poignant tales of an old dog and the young upstart. The first in the series is Meet Zorro. This is probably my favorite picture book so far this year.

Stephen Huneck- Sally Goes to Heaven. The very last book in the “Sally” series about this beloved black Lab. Illustrated with distinctive woodcuts. We will miss Sally.

John Himmelman- Katie and the Puppy Next Door. Katie learns about friendship with other dogs. First in this series is the adorable Katie Loves the Kittens.

Tad Hills- Duck and Goose Go to the Beach. Duck thinks he wants to go the beach, but then doesn’t like it.  Goose doesn’t want to go, but then loves it! Hills is the author of the How Rocket Learned to Read series.

Jasper & JoopTorben Kuhlmann- Lindbergh. A mouse decides to build a plane to escape the new mousetrap. Detailed artwork in saturated watercolors.

Olivier Dunrea- Jasper & Joop. Adorable, simple, little stories about ducks and geese who might remind you of your toddler. Lots of white space behind vividly colored waterfowl. The series begins with Gossie.

Just. So. Fun.

I Am OtterSam Garten- I Am Otter. When a stuffed animal’s owner grows up, Otter decides to open a toast restaurant, but when nothing goes as planned, she blames Giraffe. Hilarious, with plenty of humor for the grown-up reading it aloud.

Alexander Steffensmeier- Millie and the Big Rescue. Millie is one mischievous cow. In this episode, she gets stuck in the top of a tree while playing a game of hide-and-seek. The series begins with Millie Waits for the Mail. Great artwork.

Daddy's ZigzaggingAlan Lawrence Sitomer- Daddy’s Zigzagging Bedtime Story. What’s a daddy to do when he has a girl and a boy who want stories? What about truck-driving aliens who burp fire with a purple unicorn who bakes cupcakes? A wild and rollicking bedtime for all.

Jennifer Gordon Sattler- Pig Kahuna Pirates! In this sequel to Pig Kahuna, pig brothers Dink and Fergus are excellent sibling role models as they play pirates on the beach. Picture book pigs rock.

Keiko Kasza- My Lucky Birthday. Another book about a terrific pig, although this one may end up as an alligator’s birthday dinner. Sequel to My Lucky Day.

Jeff Cohen- Eva and Sadie and the Worst Haircut Ever. As an older sister, I can attest that the desire to improve—and thereby totally wreck—your younger sister’s hair is universal.

Wordless Wonders

Tortoise and the HareAaron Becker- Quest. Remember Harold and the Purple Crayon? Here is a girl with a red marker, but instead of line drawings, Becker uses beautiful, detailed paintings to take readers on a Journey (2013) and then a Quest (2014).

Jerry Pinkney- The Tortoise and Hare. Award-winning artist Pinkney fills the pages with paintings in this “retelling” of the Aesop’s Fable. Let your children tell the story as they drink in the artwork. See also the Caldecott-winning The Lion and the Mouse.

Well, That’s Different

Battle BunnyJon Scieszka- Battle Bunny. A deconstructionist take on Little Golden Book-type picture books. The artwork shows a sweet picture book scribbled in, erased, and defaced in order to tell a more exciting tale from a little boy’s perspective. Pictures by Mac Barnett. Between these two guys, you can’t expect anything traditional.

Molly Schaar Idle- Tea Rex. Cordelia is a no-nonsense little girl who sets out to domesticate a T-Rex by teaching him tea party manners.

Hervé Tullet- Press Here. An interactive book with no moving parts! This 2011 book started a trend of books that use digital concepts, but unplug kids from electronics. I handed these out to a room full of adults and watched them tapping the book, turning it upside down, and shaking it, totally engrossed. Coming in September: Mix It Up!

N.D. (Nathan) Wilson- Ninja Boy Goes to School. A little boy uses his ninja skills in order to succeed in—and escape from—school. Not quite socially acceptable. The author of 100 Cupboard’s first picture book.

Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen-The Dark. Portrays “the dark” as an entity that lives in a boy’s house. He is afraid of it until they make friends. Can Lemony Snicket do anything ordinary? A bit frightening, so use discretion.

When the Wind BlewAlison Jackson- When the Wind Blew. Nursery rhyme characters and conventions get all mixed up when the wind blows, and it’s up to the Old Woman Who Lives in the Shoe and her many children to straighten everything out again. Great fun for children who know their nursery rhymes. Refreshing: a generously proportioned heroine and a happy home with more than 1.8 children.

Did I miss your favorite new finds? Please feel free to add them to the comments so that we can all enjoy them.

Disclaimer: This series of articles, as indeed all of my articles, are written entirely on my own and do not reflect the opinions of my employer or anyone else.

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If One Is Good, More Is Great! Picture Books, Part Three

How Do DinosaursReaders love series. You do. I do. Once you fall head over heels for your favorite characters, you have to know what they’re up to now. Whether you like gritty crime novels or cozy village mysteries, there’s always another case to solve, although how Jessica Fletcher found so many murder victims in little Cabot Cove is disturbing. I think I’d move.

Children are no different. If you enjoyed giving a pig a pancake (Laura Numeroff), you’ll probably like to give a moose a muffin. If you needed to know how dinosaurs say goodnight (Jane Yolen), you’ll probably want to know how they get well soon. If the formula works well for your kids, keep the fun going. A series is a sure thing. Pete the CatOnce you find a hit, it’s such a relief to know that there are many happy bedtimes in your future! Fancy Nancy (Jane O’Connor), Curious George (H.A. Rey), Olivia (Ian Falconer) and Pete the Cat (Eric Litwin/ James Dean) are some of the best characters out there. Even Madeline (Bemelmans), Thomas the Tank Engine (Awdry), and Babar (de Brunhoff) were the stars of series in their day.

When I run a report of the 100 most popular picture books in our library system, I have to read past the 70th title before I find a non-series book. Isn’t that shocking? Pity the new author trying break into publishing these days! As a book selector, I am always on the lookout for original new work, and finding a gem is exciting. Of course, next year, that gem could turn out to have been the first of a series, too.

Not all series are intentional. Sometimes an author writes a new book that is just so popular that the readers want more, so first there is a sequel, and if that goes well, it could go on forever. As we all know, some series run out of gas and become formulaic. When publishers find a cash cow, though, they will keep on milking until it’s dry!

So, at what point does a series become a “commercial series”? Since all publishing is done for profit, I suppose they are all commercial in a sense, but you know that when you can purchase the video, the lunchbox, the action figures, and the t-shirt, you’ve got a commercial series on your hands. Television and merchandising for children are incredibly profitable, and the vast majority of publishers for children today are part of a large media conglomerate. Dora the ExplorerMany television characters become a brand, and they wrap themselves in wholesome flags of education so that, as a parent, you can be proud to purchase their products for your kids.When I was in Minneapolis a few years ago, we went the Mall of America and saw a three-story-tall balloon of Dora the Explorer—inside the mall!

You may remember from the first part of this article that the very earliest books for children, back in the late 1800s, were didactic little tomes written to admonish children to behave properly. Flash forward to today and look at the messages in many of the commercial series, whether television or books. “Save the planet” may be number one. How many times does your child have to be told to recycle? That’s so boring! Parents can model that behavior and kids can participate in family life and then go play. I completely reject the popular idea that children should educate their parents. Anyone who thinks that children are more virtuous than their parents has never seen a toddler playgroup when the mommies get lost in their conversations. Someone always ends up screaming, and the mommies go home and drink wine. And it doesn’t get any better as they get older, as anyone who has read Lord of the Flies can tell you. God gave humans long childhoods so that their parents would have time to civilize them.

Arthur's Off to SchoolProbably the second most common theme is liking school and behaving well in class. “Back to school” stories are sure hits every year. Commercial series are very big on molding good citizens. We all want good citizens, but how about well-rounded, curious, thoughtful, creative, happy children? Perhaps there’s not much separating today’s commercial series from those dreary first books except the brightly colored pictures. Each child is a brand-new, original human being, not just another brick in the wall.

OliviaShould you avoid commercial series altogether? Absolutely not! Olivia is adorable, and her original books are brilliant. Just be aware that the new ones that have come out since the TV show are different, and you may want to pay attention. Dora and Diego are model little people, and a bit of that is a good thing. If your kids love Team Umizoomi, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Yo Gabba Gabba, or any one of a dozen more TV shows, and you worry that they’re not reading, if you can hook them into books with familiar characters, go for it. Your kids’ friends are going to talk about characters that they see on TV, and it’s fine for your kids to know them, too, so that they can chatter along.

Hardy Boys ChumsI certainly read series books, and I’m sure you do, too, but you know how a steady diet of chick-lit or spy thrillers can make you sick after a while. We all need something more nourishing. C.S. Lewis said it best in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader when he revealed that Eustace was the way he was because he had read all the wrong books. When my son was a certain age, he wanted nothing but Hardy Boys mysteries. Now, we all want the lads to solve mysteries with their chums, but after months of them, his reading progress started to flatline. Time to find something new! Next time, we’ll look at some of the great new picture book titles coming out that will delight you and your children. Some of them are in series!

Disclaimer: This series of articles, as indeed all of my articles, are written entirely on my own and do not reflect the opinions of my employer or anyone else.

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