February 1, 2011 > Footnotes
For preschoolers and up:
"The Secret House of Papa Mouse" by Norbert Landa. I love "seek and find" books where you are hunting for something in a very busy illustration, but have often found that these books are too busy for younger children. They get frustrated when they can't find anything. This book is the perfect solution! Big illustrations and very clear items to find will make this book a delight for your child (and also for you, for that matter). Explore Papa Mouse's amazing house and see what hidden things you can uncover! (Garth Stevens, $26.00)
For Kindergarten and first graders:
"I'm Not" by Pam Smallcomb and illustrated by Robert Weinstock. Have you ever had a friend who was special? Maybe super-duper special? Maybe they could be more dramatic, or jump higher, or splash louder? That's just what happens to the heroine of this delightful friendship book. Her friend Evelyn is exciting, wild, funny, and has a great sense of fashion, everything she herself is not. But then again, Evelyn is not such a great speller, and she can't do karate nearly as well. When Evelyn asks the question "Is there anyone who can be a true-blue friend?" our heroine has the perfect answer. "I AM!" A charming book about friendship and the differences that can make life much more interesting. (Schwartz & Wade, $15.99)
For first graders and up:
"Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters" by Barack Obama, illustrated by Loren Long. Part love letter to his daughters, part love letter to America, President Obama does an excellent job of showing the wonderful diversity and strengths in all of us. He starts by telling his daughters how much he loves them, then asks, "Have I told you how creative you are?" As an example on the facing page, he gives a brief biography of artist Georgia O'Keefe, and Long's illustration shows her painting. Each pair of pages mentions a character trait, and gives an example (smart, Edison; brave, Jackie Robinson; compassionate, Martin Luther King, etc.). The heroes are chosen from all walks of life, with all sorts of differing backgrounds and heritages. At the end, the President talks about how wonderful it is that America is made up of all kinds of people. This is an incredible book with beautiful illustrations, delivering a message of warmth and joy in every page. It's great for parents to share with their children. (Knopf hardback, $17.99)
For first and second graders:
"Moo Who?" by Marge Palatini, illustrated by Keith Graves. Hilda Mae loved to sing, especially when she was out in her field. She'd run a little, jump a little, then let loose with some tra-la-las. The only problem was Hilda Mae was a heifer, a cow, a four-footed wailer. Still, she was enthusiastic and happy. One day something flew threw the air and hit Hilda right in the noggin! She fell over, and when she came to she found she had forgotten who she was! She had lost her moo! She wandered about the farm, and encountered all sorts of animals, the first of whom was a honking goose. "Honk," tried Hilda. "Honk, honk, honk!" The goose soon corrected her. "You're no goose. You're a cow. You moo." But Hilda was unconvinced and wandered on.
Children are sure to get the giggles as Hilda tries out various possibilities. With hilarious illustrations and funny situations, you'll soon be rooting along with your young reader for this confused cow to regain her moo-ness. (HarperCollins paperback, $6.99)
For third graders and up:
"Captain Nobody" by Dean Pitchford. It would be Halloween in a couple of days, but nobody in Newt's town was thinking about that. All anyone could talk about was the BIG GAME, and his older brother Chris, the star quarterback. Everyone was there, and Newt was basically invisible. He didn't mind, most of the time. He had two best friends who were also invisible, JJ and Cecil. They talked about dressing up for Halloween in special (non-hand-me-down) costumes, but that would be after the BIG GAME.
Because someone almost sat on him, Newt lost his seat and ended up at the fence right next to the goal posts. He was there watching when the final play was made. He saw his brother make the winning touchdown, and saw him tackled. When the pile was cleared, his brother wasn't moving. Chris ended up in the hospital in a coma. Newt's parents, already overworked with few free hours, were now gone all the time.
Newt didn't really feel very Halloween-y. He figured he would just tell his buddies to go without him. But through a very odd series of circumstances, Newt ends up in a costume with a sort of cape. On the cape were his brother's initials, C.N. When the night was finished, Captain Nobody had been born.
Captain Nobody is braver than Newt. He dares to interrupt a burglary in progress, and saves a plane coming in for a landing where there is no runway. Newt knows that he will have to give up the costume one of these days. After all, Halloween is over. But Newt can't help but feel that somewhere in the crazy turmoil that is his life at the moment, maybe Captain Nobody can come up with a way to make everything right. (Scholastic paperback, $6.99)
For 5th graders and up:
"Operation Redwood" by S. Terell French. When Julian Carter-Li happens upon an e-mail sent to his uncle with his own name in the subject line, of course he has to read it. In the message his worst fear is confirmed: his uncle, who doesn't like him, has arranged for him to be sent away for the summer to math camp. Math camp!
Julian has been staying with his uncle Sibley Carter for five months while his mother is traveling in China. The only thing good about the arrangement has been his younger cousin Preston and the fact that Julian can still go to his old school and hang with his best friend Danny.
While he's trying to absorb the first e-mail, another comes in, with the title "Sibley Carter is a Moron and a World-Class Jerk." He opens it and discovers a letter from Robin Elder. She lives next to a grove of old growth redwood trees, and apparently his uncle's corporation is planning to cut these massive trees down. As bad as Julian feels for Robin, he knows his money-loving uncle will not listen to a ranting e-mail. He deletes both e-mails before his uncle can see them.
Julian writes to Robin the next day, and tells her that his uncle won't listen. He finds out that Robin's family owns a ranch in Mendicino County, and that they occasionally take exchange students during the summer. Danny comes up with a crazy idea - he and Julian are going to cancel the math camp and send Julian to stay at Robin's family ranch instead! He's going to get to learn all about the old redwoods, farming, and be safe away from his relatives that want him gone. Robin's parents will never even have to learn that Julian is related to the guy who wants to destroy their beloved trees.
At first everything seems to go smoothly. Julian makes it to the ranch intact, and settles into rural life. Then one day his aunt shows up with the sheriff in tow, accusing Robin's father of kidnapping Julian. Kidnapping? He tries to explain, but nothing goes right. He is taken from the ranch, and locked in his room. His summer is ruined, he has to live with his uncle again, Danny's in trouble, and Robin's parents are hurt and angry. With his mom unreachable, what can Julian possibly do to make everything right? (Amulet hardback, $16.95)
For Young Adults:
"Reckless" by Cornelia Funke. For years Jacob has traveled to the mysterious land beyond his father's mirror. He has had lots of dangerous adventures and met incredible creatures that are only mythical in our reality. His father used to travel in this land, but disappeared years ago, leaving behind his wife and two young boys. Jacob searched, but never found any word. Jacob's mother died without knowing what had happened to her husband.
Jacob knows that Mirrorworld is dangerous. He's always traveled into it alone, hyper alert to keep from being killed. This time, for the first time, Jacob is bringing along his brother Will, and at her insistence, his brother's girlfriend Clara. He thought this was a terrible idea, but his brother demanded. In his haste to get both these strangers through, Jacob makes one mistake. Just one.
Unfortunately it may cost his brother his life. Or it may change Will into one of the Goyl, made of stone with no memories or feelings from his old life. Jacob will do anything to save his brother, including meeting his old enemies, endangering friends, engaging in fights to the death, and risking his own future. What if it's not enough? (Little Brown hardback, $19.99)