Lit-urday: Children's Edition
Five new releases, fun for kids and their handlers
By Jessi Cape,
10:00AM, Sat. Nov. 1, 2014
It's been a long week, and now you deserve to have one day when you can curl up with a good book – let's call it Lit-urday. Perhaps this is the day you curl up with a good book and that special little person in your life.
Parents are on double-duty when it comes to igniting the literary wildfire: Engage small humans with stories that, even with countless readings, adult minds can survive. The following passed the rigorous criteria of a preschooler and his mother.
Freebird - Ballerina Misty Copeland Shows a Young Girl How to Dance Like the Firebird
by Misty Copeland and Christopher Myers
G.P. Putnam’s Sons (an Imprint of Penguin Group), 40pp., $17.99
Misty Copeland’s story is as beautiful as her historic journey to become a world-class ballerina. The text is poetic and used sparingly, letting the words reverberate against the bold, painted illustrations that employ both geometric patterns and sweeping brushstrokes using a collage technique. Visually stunning, with a lovely message of encouragement (without any cheesiness), the story of how, against stacked odds, Copeland became a Firebird is a pleasure to read multiple times.
“...even birds must learn to fly
like me, you’ll grow steady in grace
spread an arabesque of wings
Following Papa’s Songby Gianna Marino
Penguin Young Readers Group; 40 pp., $16.99
A child’s curiosity and a parent’s efforts to answer constant questions are at the root of this sweet father-and-son story. Gearing up for their long annual pod migration, Papa and Little Blue swim happily until Little Blue finds himself lost in the mysterious ocean’s darkness. He remembers what Papa told him: Listen for their song. The simple but soulful story is a perfect accompaniment to the lovely double-spread illustrations that captivate with color and pattern.
Flo & Wendell Explore
by William Wegman
Dial Books for Young Readers (an Imprint of Penguin Group); 32pp., $17.99
William Wegman is infatuated with Weimaraners and visual art, and the latest manifestation is as delightful as expected. Also widely known for his photography and videos (remember his dog Fay Ray who demonstrated addition on Sesame Street by placing 1, 2, 3 balls on the table?), the newest addition to his empire is Flo & Wendell Explore, a followup to last year’s children’s book, Flo & Wendell. Wegman’s amusing depiction of his leads characters give a whole new meaning to dog-faced boy: Photographs of his young, grey pups are the blue-eyed faces on top of painted bodies and scenery. Big sister Flo helps her disappointed little brother Wendell by taking him on an outdoor adventure. The story is engaging to read, the illustrations whimsical, and it’s written thoughtfully for preschool attention spans and sense of humor.
A Boy and a Jaguar
by Alan Rabinowitz, Illustrated by Catia Chien
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 32pp., $16.99
A true story lends its own weight, but when it features a bond between a struggling boy and a wild animal, it’s especially poignant. Alan Rabinowitz weaves a narrative of how he found his calling as a zoologist and conservationist, but it’s particularly interesting because it has parallel lessons that even a small child can understand. See, the narrator has a stutter, and his only solace is regular visits to speak – with newfound confidence – to a jaguar at the Bronx Zoo. Through the years, paced quickly to keep the attention of littles, the balanced mix of poetry and prose is punctuated with a scientist’s eye for straightforward information. The boy, grown, brings his life’s path full circle to stand before a panel in Belize, advocating for a protected area dedicated to jaguars. The whispered sentiments at the end teeter just on that edge of creating a lump in the throat and a satisfied smile, and the paintings are smooth and natural, with all creatures’ features sketched out for optimal kid interest.
The Hug Machine
by Scott Campbell
Atheneum Books for Young Readers; 40pp., $16.99
This story of a boy – er, a Hug Machine – and his efforts to show everyone some love is sure to become a household favorite. He’s small, but his hugs are mighty for everyone from babies to bears, and he even gears up in an umpire mask to give a lonely porcupine some love. But every hard worker loses steam sometimes, and mom is there to give him a dose of his own medicine. Watercolor whimsy and deadpan lines make it a lighthearted read. Bonus: H-U-G is fun to spell.