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Vol. 10, No. 6; December 12, 2002
Take Note: books of special interest to children's book enthusiasts
HarperCollins Treasury of Picture Book Classics. HarperCollins, 2002 (0-06-008094-9) $24.99
Twelve classic and popular HarperCollins picture books are collected
in this monster volume, including Harold and the Purple Crayon,
A Baby Sister for Frances, Leo the Late Bloomer, If
You Give a Mouse a Cookie and, of course, Goodnight Moon.
Unlike many such collections, this one retains the original layout for
each book; although this does sometimes result in extra white-space,
which inevitably changes the look of the book somewhat, it's still
vastly preferable to having the text and pictures rearranged or
edited. At $25, this is a very economical, albeit heavy, way to
create a durable picture book library. (All royalties from the sale
of this book will be donated to First Book, a nonprofit organization
that gives children's books to low-income families. For more
information, see www.firstbook.org.)
Inside the Secret Garden: a Treasury of Crafts, Recipes, and Activities by Carolyn Strom Collins and Christina Wyss Eriksson. Illustrated by Mary Collier. HarperCollins, 2002 (0-06-027922-2) $24.99
There's something counter-intuitive about an activity book based on
The Secret Garden; as even this book's authors acknowledge,
Frances Hodgson Burnett's characters were really too busy actually
gardening to care much about pressing flowers or making windchimes.
Still, enthusiastic readers will enjoy this chance to understand the
everyday lives of the characters somewhat better, by eating what they
ate and seeing some of what they saw. Besides recipes and crafts, the
attractively designed book includes a short biography of Burnett, a
time line of her life shown in context with historical events,
descriptions of typical places, and a glossary of unfamiliar words
used in the story.
Zathura written and illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg. Houghton Mifflin, 2002 (0-618-25396-3) $18.00
A sequel to the Caldecott Medal book Jumanji, this time
featuring an outer space board game-turned-real.
Athletic Shorts by Chris Crutcher. 1991; HarperTempest, 2002 (0-06-050783-7) $6.99 pb
Aside from one story which first appeared in the anthology Connections, this is a collection of original stories with an interesting link: although complete in themselves, each one revisits a character from one of Crutcher's sports novels--and often not a character you'd expect to revisit. For example, Willie Weaver, the protagonist of The Crazy Horse Electric Game gets only minor mention by the narrator of "Telephone Man," a slow-witted, racist teen who is unexpectedly faced with the falsity of stereotypes.
The main characters in these stories are all boys, mostly athletes,
trying to find courage as they deal with turning points in their
lives. One boy is forced to try to forgive someone who grievously
injured him; another boy struggles to hold onto his sense of right and
wrong despite pressure from his friends and the power of his own
prejudices. These stories pack quite a punch, and although the
collection as a whole suffers a bit from redundancy of phrases and
jokes, and I was irked by the fact that every female athlete
mentioned winds up giving up her sport for the sake of her social
life, I found that, as always, Crutcher not only makes reading about
sports appealing to people who don't like them, but also make
us understand why people do.
The Children of Green Knowe; Treasure of Green Knowe; The River at Green Knowe; A Stranger at Green Knowe; An Enemy at Green Knowe by Lucy Boston. Illustrated by Peter Boston. 1955; 1958; 1959; 1961; 1964; Harcourt, 2002 (0-15-202462-X; 0-15-202595-2; 0-15-202613-4; 0-15-202583-9; 0-15-202475-1) $17.00 ea.
These five genre-defying classics aren't connected by recurring
characters as much as by a place: a warm, friendly castle of a house
whose inhabitants--both living and dead--are equally warm and
friendly. These reprints include the original pen & ink illustrations
but have new covers by Brett Helquist, probably best known as the
illustrator of "A Series of Unfortunate Events." His sharp-faced
characters would not have been my choice for these gentle,
life-affirming stories, but the atmospheric depictions of Green Knowe
amidst moonlit skies, towering woods and swirling water do contribute
an air of mystery and drama.
The Forgotten Helper by Lorrie Moore. Illustrated by T Lewis. 1987; Dell Yearling, 2002 (0-440-41680-9) $4.99 pb
King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table by Emma Gelders Sterne and Barbara Lindsay. Illustrated by Gustaf Tenggren. 1962; Golden Books, 2002 (0-307-10432-X) $19.95
A courtly yet moving retelling of the King Arthur legend, minus the
sexual elements (although not the violence). This edition is probably
best remembered for its handsome illustrations, striking color plates
which evoke various styles of medieval art.
The Little House written and illustrated by Virginia Lee Burton. 1942; Houghton Mifflin, 2002 (0-395-25938-X) $5.95 pb
The sixtieth anniversary of the Caldecott Medal winner.
Midnight is a Place by Joan Aiken. 1974; Houghton Mifflin, 2002 (0-618-19625-0) $5.95 pb
Dark, Dickensian tale of wicked guardians, wretched orphans and deadly
child labor, bolder and richer than The Wolves of Willoughby
New Books: Reviews
Museum ABC by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Little, Brown, 2002 (0-316-07170-6) $16.95
This imaginative and exquisite alphabet book starts with the most
basic of alphabet text, "A is for Apple," and shows that there are
many different, beautiful ways to portray an apple: in a woodcut by
Roy Lichtenstein, an oil painting by Paul Cezanne, a watercolor by
Brian Connelly, and a greek painting on terracotta, for example. Each
spread includes four beautifully reproduced details from artwork of
varying cultures and periods; opposite the illustrations, a simple
alphabet phrase is on an palate-clearing white background. It's
simultaneously an art lesson, a history lesson and a great visual
pleasure; I keep being entranced by "S is for Star," which shows stars
brightly glowing in four thoroughly different ways, and by "E is for
Eggs," which are variously in a nest, on a plate, cracked on the
floor, and hatching out strange small children.
New Books: News
Lost in the Labyrinth by Patrice Kindl. Houghton Mifflin, 2002 (0-618-16684-X) $16.00
A graceful, melancholy retelling of the story of Theseus and the
Minotaur, told from the point of view of King Minos' daughter
Xenodice. By the author of Owl in Love.
The Other Side of Dawn by John Marsden. Houghton Mifflin, 2002 (0-618-07028-1) $16.00
The seventh and final book in Marsden's series about a group of
Australian teenagers fighting against a terrorist invasion.
Now (or Again) in Paperback
Stuck in Neutral by Terry Trueman. HarperTempest, 2001 (0-06-447213-2) $6.95 pb
An almost unbearably intense and touching story about a boy trapped in
a body so thoroughly dysfunctional, no one, not even his own parents,
has any idea he is actually a thinking person.
Growing a Reader: Children's Books for Children
The Difference Between Babies and Cookies by Mary Hanson. Illustrated by Debbie Tilley. Harcourt, 2002 (0-15-202406-9) $16.00
It can be strange getting used to a new sibling--especially when what
your mom tells you about babies turns out to be. . . all wet. As the
narrator of this book discovers, although mom says babies are "as
sweet as cookies," you shouldn't dip them in milk; they may be as
cuddly as puppies, but they drool more; and even though baby's cheeks
may be as rosy as apples, "you can't give your sister to your
teacher." Action-filled pen & ink and watercolor drawings show the
narrator gradually starting to have more and more fun with her sister,
until she finally concludes, "I'm just glad I'm here to help take care
of our baby. She shouldn't grow up thinking she's a cookie." This is
silly, non-didactic fun, and the lighthearted drawings make the
impetuous toddler and adorably chubby, smiling baby deliciously
Everything Old is New Again: new editions of books widely available
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. Illustrated by Michael Foreman. 1908; Harcourt, 2002 (0-15-216807-9) $24.00
This large, unabridged hardcover of the classic animal story is an
excellent choice for a read-aloud edition, sized for easy sharing and
to accommodate numerous watercolor illustrations. From small sepia
details, to two-page color spreads, to text printed against a
beautiful background of falling snow, this is a lavishly illustrated
book, with barely a page of plain text. Foreman's light, intimate
style, which uses natural colors and shows lots of action, mostly
saves it from the ornate, formal feel of so many handsomely
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