One of my go to poetry books for children has always been Scranimals by Jack Prelutsky. Even kids who claim to ‘hate’ poetry and roll their eyes through my dramatic renditions of Emily Dickinson or Langston Hughes will chuckle and go “Oh cooooool….” at the silly animals created by Prelutsky. Now he is back with a new book written in the same form: Stardines Swim High Across the Sky, graced with incredible illustrations by Carin Berger.
Stardines is in some ways slightly more sophisticated than Scranimals. While the earlier title mostly focused on combining animals together or animals and plants (Broccolions, Potatoads), these creatures’ names comment on their characteristics, such as the rather messy Slobsters (…Their sense of decorum/Is woefully small/SLOBSTERS don’t have/Many manners at all…) and the erudite Braindeer (…With endless perseverance/They serenely mill about,/ Reflecting on the universe/And figuring it out…). The heightened language may be a stretch for some younger readers, making this a good choice for a read aloud, class discussion or bedtime story.
Fortunately, even if children might not always be able to decipher the words, the illustrations are stunning enough to fill hours all on their own. Carin Berger has created a shadowbox diorama for each creature, photographed them digitally and added such engaging touches as straight pins, labels and paintbrushes to the endpapers. In the style of such surrealist masters as Joseph Cornell and Max Ernst, Berger uses sheet music, advertisements, and constellation maps to depict Prelutsky’s fascinating creatures. My favorites are probably the Planda, with his paper fountain pen and his long list of precisely numbered images or the Bardvark, an inkpot standing on a stack of books and sporting a feathered hat and paper ruff. Readers will want to get to know them all.
Amanda has been on maternity leave for awhile, but that doesn’t mean she’s stopped reading! Her favorites, like her reading tastes, span a variety of genres:
Blackout by John Rocco, $16.99; Hyperion Books for Children; ages 3+
The Trouble With Chickens: A J.J. Tully Story; $14.99; HarperCollins, ages 7+
Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature by Joyce Sidman; $16.99; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; ages 5+
What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen; $19.99; Penguin Group; ages 14+
Masterpiece, by Elise Broach (8-10)
Mystery, betrayal, secrets and masterpieces are all part of this exciting and clever story by Ms. Broach. Marvin the beetle creates a special miniature sketch of the streetscape for young James Pompaday using the ink and paper art set that James receives for his birthday. Unfortunately, everyone thinks that James created the work himself. This leads James and Martin to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, where James is asked to take part in a daring ruse; create a forgery of a famous art sketch to keep it from being stolen! When the real masterpiece is stolen, Martin and James both become involved in trying to foil the art thief.
A fun, involving, masterful story. I could not put this book down! Reading about Martin’s efforts to communicate with James and their near escape from the art thief just had me hooked. The sketches, themselves, add to the story. A great read for those who enjoyed Chasing Vermeer or The Shakespeare Stealer.
Masterpiece, by Elise Broach, illustrated by Kelly Murphy, Henry Holt & Co., 2008, $16.99
A Book of Sleep by Il Sung Na (ages 3-6)
At night, everybody goes to sleep…except the little owl, that is! As you flip through the pages, unique, detailed illustrations show you how different animals rest through the night. When day comes, however, it’s the owl’s turn to sleep. The artwork will really draw you in to this restful bedtime book.
A Book of Sleep; Il Sung Na; $15.99; published 2009; Alfred A. Knopf
Bark, George, by Jules Feiffer (ages 3-6)
George’s mother is trying to get him to bark and he does everything but. A trip to the vet reveals the reason why. A hilarious and imaginative book filled with various animal sounds. Great for reading aloud, naming animals and their sounds. Jules Feiffer’s illustrations float on the page, so the emphasis is placed on the characters of George and his mother (along with some other supporting characters).
Bark, George, by Jules Feiffer; HarperCollins, 1999; $17.99
A Small Surprise, by Louise Yates, Ages 2-6
A traveling circus needs a new performer, and one tiny bunny is determined to land the job! Although he is too small to wipe his own nose or eat his food without making a mess, he is sure that his size will be an advantage among the larger animals. The circus discovers that although the bunny may be little, he has magical abilities that make him quite the surprise to his new friends.
Louise Yates has crafted an adorable tale of individuality and determination. The text is sparing and placed creatively on the page, bringing attention to Yates’ imaginative sketch and watercolor illustrations. Don’t miss out on this fantastic tale that will remind children that “smallness is strength.” With a quirky cast of goggle-eyed circus animals entranced by the antics of one confident little bunny, this fantastic picture book is sure to capture your reader’s attention as well!
A Small Surprise, Louise Yates, pub. May 2009, Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Check out this book at Hooray for Books today!
Mommy, Where Are You? by Leonid Gore, Ages 2-5
Ozzy wakes up one morning and can’t find his mommy anywhere! He races off on a frantic search. Is she behind the fence? In the flowers? Up in the tree? Swimming in the lake? No, no, no! Ozzy works himself into a wild tizzy only to discover Mommy in the most obvious of places.
Leonid Gore’s story is simple, punctuated by Ozzy’s refrain of “there you are!” as he repeatedly mistakes various woodland plants and animals for Mommy. The unique illustrations are sure to draw young adventurers into the story, using broad, colorful brushstrokes and liftable flaps to create a lush setting for the little mouse family. This is an excellent “snuggle-time” story for mommies and little ones to enjoy together!
Mommy, Where Are You? by Leonid Gore, $16.99, Ginee Seo Books, pub. March 2009
Enjoy a good book today!
Counting in the Garden, by Kim Parker. Ages 3-6
Spring has never sprung quite so beautifully as it does in Ms. Parker’s lovely watercolor-illustrated book. We count 1 through 10 in the garden, encountering different animals along the way: 4 Bunnies, 7 Birds, 9 Inchworms. The illustrations are double page and the animals are just as colorful as the garden around them. Children and adults alike will enjoy finding the creatures mentioned in the text on each page, sometimes hidden among the garden flowers. The flowers in the garden are awash with bright and vibrant hues that run the spectrum of colors. At the end of the book there is a recap of the numbers 1 through 10 that could be used to count aloud together. An excellent book for those looking for something new for spring, in concepts or animal books.
Counting in the Garden, Orchard Books, 2005; $16.95