Friday, February 6, 2009

Children's Books Part 1

For my Children's Services and Resources class I have to put together a reading log of 40 books/articles. The first 2 sections are due the first week of March. I thought I'd post them in case anyone sees anything of interest, maybe you can get them from your local library if you don't have them already!

For the most part, when given a choice, I tried to find books that I haven't yet read. I figured it was a slight cop out to do an annotation and personal response on stuff I've already read and know. After all, part of being a good librarian of any kind is to continually read and know your audience, especially as that audience changes. What I've found is that many great books are just really dated. I'm not talking picture books so much as juvenile fiction. Summer of the Swans for instance, it just seems to me that while kids today can relate emotionally to Sara's mood swings and exasperation with her sister and her Aunt Willie, the parental figure in her life, a fair amount wouldn't be able to relate to a summer spent outdoors playing, with the TV only briefly featured, no cell phones, and no video games. Maybe it doesn't matter all that much, maybe I am out of touch with what kids are interested in these days. But in a world with Twlight and Harry Potter I'm not too sure. But then you can look at Beverly Cleary and her Ramona books and Ralph, the motorcycle riding mouse (I think that was his name) and those books don't seem as dated to me. I'm sure they are, I haven't re-read any of them in many years. But even The Chronicles of Narnia....well maybe because those didn't seem dated to me when I first read them (because they already were). Hmmm, it seems like I may be onto something that requires further development hear....more to be discussed in Part 2 of Children's Books. For now I leave you with my reading log as thus far completed.

Picture Book - Historical

Deborah Hopkinson

Sky Boys: How They Built the Empire State Building

Schwartz & Wade Books, NY, 2006, 48 pgs.

Ages 4-8

Main Character: A young boy

Annotation: Makes reference of the Great Depression and the problems that were associated with it. Uplifting story, full of factual information presented in free verse and full of engaging watercolors. The color palette of the pictures present a subdued tone, unconsciously suggesting struggle and hard work as well as giving the book an "antique" feel, the idea that these events occurred some time in the past.

Personal Opinion: Having lived in Manhattan I was drawn to a book that told the story of one my favorite buildings in the City. I enjoyed reading how the Empire State Building was built. I thought the watercolor pictures that accompanied the text were wonderfully suited and helped to tell the story visually. Given the state of the country's economics at this time I find it appropriate material, as part of the story deals with the problems of unemployment which many families are currently dealing with.

Picture Book - Caldecott Award from 1960s

Ezra Jack Keats

The Snowy Day

The Viking Press, NY, 1962, 32 pages.

Ages 4-6

Main Character: Peter

Annotation: Based on it's time of publication, during the Civil Rights movement , this book was groundbreaking for introducing an African American main character. It helps the African American child relate to story as they can imagine being Peter. The illustrations are simple with bold colors that draw a person into the scene. They move the story forward, sometimes literally, as when Peter makes various tracks in the snow.

Personal Opinion: I enjoyed the simplicity of the story. It reminded me of being a child and longing for the days when there was enough snow on the ground to play. I think this is a wonderful winter book for children just learning to read.

Picture Book - Personal Choice

Maurice Sendak

Where the Wild Things Are

Harper Collins, 1963, 48 pages

Ages 4-8

Main Character: Max

Annotation: There is a reason that this book is a must read for every child. The Wild Things are lovable, frightening, and hysterical at the same time, like lovable monsters living under the bed. Sent to bed without his supper after sassing his mother, Max escapes the confine of his prison, as so many children wish they could do when being punished! Max is happy to be free of a world of parental rules especially when he subdues all the Wild Things and is crowned King. What child does not participate in a wild rumpus when they can? But Max soon finds that being King of Wild Things is a lonely job and decides that being home with his Mom is where he really wants to be. This book encourages children to use their imagination and shows that after all the imagining is done there is truly "no place like home", where your mother will have dinner waiting. And still hot.

Personal Opinion: I only vaguely recall reading this book as child. The illustrations are more vivid in my memory than the story. I used my imagination to visit the land of the Wild Things. I love everything about this book, the story, the illustrations, the warm feelings it invokes.

Picture Book - Caldecott Award from the 1990s

David Wiesner


Clarion Books, NY, 1991, 32 pages

Ages 5 and up

Main Character: Flying Frogs

Annotation: A magical wordless romp that allows the reader to create their own text to the story. How are the frogs flying? What other sort of mischief might they get it? What were they watching on the old woman's television? While picture books are generally geared for new readers this book can be used as an exercise in creative writing for older children, and to encourage story telling in younger children.

Personal Opinion: I found this book absolutely delightful. The lack of a texted story helps to promote the reader to create their own story. The story I created involved an invisible alien force that gave all the frogs the ability to fly on their lilypads. It has a feel of a Twilight Zone episode. I have never read any of David Wiesner's books prior to this and look forward to reading the rest of his works.

Picture Book - Personal Choice

Charlotte Zolotow

William's Doll

Harper Collins, 1972, 32 pages

Ages 4-8

Main Character: William

Annotation: William wants a doll, more than anything in the world. He still enjoys the "traditional" hobbies of a young boy (playing basketball and with a train set). The idea that a boy can still like typical boy activities while wanting to develop a sensitive and nurturing side is something that society still struggles with. This book encourages children to understand each other and also encourages parents to look at the positive consequences of shaking up the stereotypical gender identifications.

Personal Opinion: This was a great book! It reminded me very much of my boyfriend who told me when he was a boy all he wanted to be when he grew up was a father. I thought that the way it handled the subject material, and the message it shares with its reader was beautifully told. As women have become purveyors of "equal rights" it makes sense to encourage boys to develop their nurturing abilities. I think it's important for this to be developed early in life. If more men had dolls to love as children instead of soldiers and monster trucks the world would be a gentler place.


Author: C.S. Lewis

Title: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe

Publisher, date, pages: Harper Collins Publishers, 1950, 189 pages

Ages 9 and up

Main Character(s): Lucy, Peter, Susan, Edmund

Personal Opinion: This is one of my favorite books ever. My 3rd grade teacher read it to our class. I read all The Chronicles of Narnia when I was 12. I loved the idea of talking animals, and a lion that always appear when needed most. He does not save the day himself, but provides the tools necessary for the humans to persevere. I didn't realize that it was an allegory of Christianity until I re-read them after graduating college. I think that is the reason I am so enthralled with this story to this day. C.S. Lewis presents a morality story in such an accessible way that the child reading it doesn't even realize it. He writes so simply and vividly that the reader is immediately drawn into the fantastical world of Narnia. Because of the ease with which the story is told I was able to become involved in the world of the book, and the joyful feeling that accompanied this encouraged me to keep reading ever since.

Fiction-Personal Choice

Author: Susan Cooper

Title: The Dark Is Rising

Publisher, date, pages: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, 1973, 244 pages

Ages 10-14

Main Character: Will Stanton

Annotation: Will Stanton is an ordinary boy in rural England until his eleventh birthday. It is then he discovers that he has special abilities and finds that he is the last born of the Old Ones, immortal beings of the Light that continually battle against the Dark. Aided by fellow Old Ones, a number of whom are neighbors, Will must complete the task assigned to him long before he was even born. Will is the Sign-Seeker and he alone will be able to defend his world from the powers of the Dark.

While the theme of good versus evil and the struggle to save humanity is age old, The Dark Is Rising tries to put its own stamp on it by choosing an eleven year old boy as it's protagonist. It involves the reader who is the same age as Will, and anyone with brothers and/or sisters can related to family dynamics Susan Cooper so vividly captures.

Personal Opinion: When I first started reading this story I was immediately drawn into the family picture that was drawn. Coming from a large family myself where I, like Will, am the youngest, I was able to relate to seeming mayhem in Will's house. I thought I would be hooked into the story for the long haul, as I love fantasy novels written for all ages. However, I found as the novel progressed there were times that I felt less than enthralled. There is so much that happens in the climax that I felt many ideas weren't fully developed. However, knowing it to be the second book in a series I can't help but wonder if the Norse ship has something to do with the first book. Certainly for the age level I feel that this is a good book to use to encourage boys to read, even if it is slightly outdated. I really enjoyed story of The Walker, so much so that his character was my favorite in the book. Certainly for the age level recommended I feel that this is a good book to use to encourage boys to read, even if it is slightly outdated.

Fiction-Newbery Award Winner from the 1960s/1970s

Author: Betsy Byars

Title: The Summer of the Swans

Publisher, date, pages: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated, 1970, 142 pages

Ages 9-12

Main Character: Sara, Charlie

Annotation: Many children in today's technologically savvy world may not relate to how Sara spends her summer days. They may not relate to living with a mentally handicapped brother, or having lost their mother early in life. But most pre-teen and early teenage girls will relate to the constantly changing and conflicting emotions that Sara experiences. The frustration of life, family, and friends is one constant that supercedes the Generation Gap. This novel may also help children relate to their parents, since the time the novel was set in will relate to the parent's young adulthood. This is a novel that is juvenile bordering on the cusp of young adulthood. Sara's rapidly changing emotions are certainly the onset of puberty and help the reader empathize with her.

1 comment:

  1. I vaguely remember reading The Summer of the Swans probably when I was actually around the recommended ages reading group. So, yeah, a long time ago. But I seem to remember that I liked it.

    I just think that even though the times and technology change - people don't. So, if your characters rings true when the book was written they should continue to do so decades later as well.