October 31, 2007 > Footnotes
"Emma Kate" written and illustrated by Patricia Polacco, Philomel hardback, $16.99. (2005)
Lots of kids have imaginary friends. I know I did, and Big Bird had Snuffleupagus. This story is about two best friends: a little girl and an elephant. They do everything together! They go to school, play games and ride bikes...all the fun things friends do. It really doesn't matter that one of the friends is imaginary.
This book has a lot less text than Polacco's other books, allowing dynamic pictures to talk for themselves. You'll smile along with the two friends at their delight in life and each other. There is even a surprise ending!
Recommended for 1st grade. Reviewed by dh.
"Knut: How One Little Polar Bear Captivated The World" by Craig Hatkoff, Juliana Hatkoff, Isabella Hatkoff, and Dr. Gerald R. Uhlich, Scholastic Press, $16.99. (2007)
By the same folks that brought us Owen and Mzee, Knut is the true story of a little polar bear cub born in the Berlin Zoo. His mother doesn't take care of her cubs resulting in the death of Knut's twin - and so the zookeepers step in. One of them, Thomas, volunteers to stay at the zoo with Knut 24/7 until the little bear is old enough to be on his own. He must be fed every two hours at first, and is very dependent on his friend. Eventually Knut is allowed to venture outside for the first time, and one day, his adopted mother Thomas, even teaches him to swim!
The pictures are adorable and the text compelling, resulting in another wonderfully endearing book for children and adults alike. Discover the wonder that is Knut, the Little Polar Bear!
Recommended for 2nd grade.
Reviewed by dh.
"A Thousand Splendid Suns" by Khaled Hosseini, Riverhead hardback, $25.95. (2007)
Hosseini's first book "Kite Runner" was about the friendship of two boys growing up in Afghanistan whose lives follow very different paths. On the other hand, "A Thousand Splendid Suns" is about two women in the midst of that country's turmoil in contemporary times, brought together by one evil man. The reader sees the world through the eyes of these women born a generation apart - one the illegitimate child of a rich man and his maid; the other, the beloved daughter of educated parents.
As Mariam and Laila endure the ever-escalating dangers around them - in their home as well as in the streets of Kabul - they come to form a bond that makes them both sisters and mother-daughter to each other, and that will ultimately alter the course of not just of their own lives, but of the next generation as well. With heart-wrenching power and suspense, Hosseini shows how a woman's love for her family can move her to shocking and heroic acts of self-sacrifice, and that in the end it is often love, or even the memory of love, that is the key to survival.
Afghanistan is a distant war-torn nation, which most people could not have found on a map prior to 9/11. Hosseini provides a fascinating glimpse of daily life before and after the Taliban. The book reminds us that these beleaguered people share the same desire to live meaningful lives and to love their families as we do.
"A Thousand Splendid Suns" is also available in an unabridged audiobook (Simon & Schuster CDs, $35.95) narrated by Atassi Leoni. I enjoyed her wonderful voice; especially the way she pronounced foreign words that were all new to me. You know that an audiobook is good when you don't mind staying on a treadmill at the gym way past your finish time. A Thousand Splendid Suns is not for everyone - be prepared to be angered at times. However, if you just want a good story that places you in the midst of an unfamiliar culture and country yet makes you feel part of that world, this is a good bet.
Recommended for high school and up. Reviewed by jp.