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November 26, 2008 > Footnotes


"Ten Little Fingers & Ten Little Toes" by Mem Fox and Helen Oxenbury, Harcourt, Inc. hardback, $16.00. (2008)

From two of the most gifted picture book creators of our time, here is a celebration of baby fingers, baby toes, and the joy they bring to everyone, everywhere all over the world. The story is simple, incorporating rhyme and repetition. The different ethnicities and places are not drawn as caricatures, but emphasize similarities and differences. Read how "There was one little baby who was born on the ice. And another in a tent, who was just as nice." The book moves seamlessly from the many babies to the narrator's own "sweet little child."

It is one of those books that elicit a heart-melting "awe." Perfect for bedtime reading.

Recommended for preschool. Reviewed by jgp.

"Robe of Skulls" by Vivian French, Candlewick hardback, $14.00. (2008)

I miss Roald Dahl ("Witches," "James and the Giant Peach," "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," etc.) who created delightfully wicked characters, and put them in some really silly scary plots. His books were wonderful and impossible to put down. Though the "Pure Dead Magic" books by Debbi Gliori had some of that evilness, I still wanted more. Then, just recently, I discovered the "Robe of Skulls" by Vivian French.

Everything about Lady Lamora is evil. She has a troll for a servant, and lives in an evil castle. When she decides that she needs a new robe, she comes up with a really awful, evil design. Skulls, definitely skulls. Rows and rows of dear little skulls, sewn all along the hem (See what I mean?). There's a motif of spiders, or maybe twists of poison ivy. In fact, why not interweave the ivy with the spiders' webs! Eech! Evil.

The problem is that after placing her order by bat mail to the Ancient Crones, Lady Lamora discovers that she has nothing to pay them. After an ear-splitting shriek, a diabolical plan is hatched to get the gold she needs. All the princes and princesses attending a royal engagement party will be turned into frogs! Kings and queens will pay good coin to have their little darlings back, and of course she'll be the only one who can work the necessary spell. Her plan is perfect! Perfectly evil!

Recommended for 4th grade. Reviewed by dh.

"Lawn Boy" by Gary Paulson, Wendy Lamb hardback, $12.99. (2007)

It always starts out innocently enough. A 12-year-old boy is given an old riding mower by his grandmother, and he gets on. His neighbor spots him, and hires him to cut his lawn. And that, dear readers, is when all normalcy ends. Oh sure, running a little lawn cutting business is normal. Hiring a bunch of people and running a business is not, not for a 12-year-old! Having someone say they can't pay you is normal enough. Having that person turn out to be a stockbroker who offers to invest the lawn mowing income is not. Meeting all sorts of interesting new people as you mow lawns might be normal, but becoming a grass-cutting mogul is not. Is it? This is a fun romp with all sorts of intriguing characters in peculiar situations - the best part is that Gary Paulson makes it sound so plausible! Recommended for 4 - 6th grade. Reviewed by dh.

"No Talking" by Andrew Clements, Simon Schuster hardback, $15.99. (2007)

Ever heard of a "war of words"? Laketon Elementary's 5th graders are having a war of NO words! It's the boys versus the girls for two days, and the bet is to determine which side can talk the least. Think it's easy? What about when a teacher asks you a question? Or the principal? What do you do when your mom is calling you and you can't answer? You can't! Your team could lose if you talk! Now here's another thing to think about; who do you think will win, the boys or the girls? You'll never get me to tell - you'll just have to read "No Talking!"

Recommended for 4th grade. Reviewed by dh.

"The Way We Work: Getting to Know the Amazing Human Body" by David Macauley, Houghton Mifflin hardcover, $35. (2008)

Caldecott Medalist and MacArthur Fellow David Macauley spent six years creating this illustrated guide to the human body. Like his "The Way Things Work," "The Way We Work" is both comprehensive and demystifying. Starting with the cell, then organ systems and ending with childbirth, the full-color drawings complement the text, which can be technical. Prior to writing this, the author knew nothing of the workings of the human body. His journey to understand how it works is reflected in the book; the reader is allowed to tag along.

There are so many books about the human body, some with great photographs or detailed drawings. Why invest in this one? Macauley's has a unique style ideal for young and old readers - he presents the body as a working, living machine; and he does it accurately and visually. His illustrations isolate your view so that you can concentrate on the concepts he is explaining. This is not a book for a casual browse. Give it to someone who wants to jump in deep into this topic. Each reading is guaranteed to bring greater understanding.

Recommended for 10-year-olds to adults. Reviewed by jgp.

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