105 Ways to Give a Book

The Thursday Three XVII: Beach Books

Yes, it’s still Thursday.

Today went by fast, that’s for sure. I spent the morning agonizing over whether my Girl Scouts would need to do the flag-raising ceremony that I’d agreed to do before losing the one person who could really do it well. I was cheering for the rain this morning like most people cheer for football teams. Then, saved by the weather, I went from a back-to-school day to a back-to-school shopping day, where a locker shelf was needed, and then a backpack at the next store, and then apparently some jeans and two dresses. And then it wasn’t long after dinner, and the fashion show, and the Annual School Supply Labeling Extravaganza that it was time to jump into Obamaland, as brought to you by the Democratic National Convention and PBS. But it’s still Thursday, and here are three beach books for the last of the summer days.

WaveWave, by Suzy Lee
I heard great things about this book and I had to see it for myself. As it turns out, I could have waited for the movie. Truly, this is a beautiful book wordlessly chronicling one girl’s encounter with the ocean. The book’s gutter gives a sense of a barrier between the cautious girl and the playful waves. As she gets braver and feels more invincible, she finds that the ocean has many surprises. A lovely summertime book combining light charcoal sketches and brilliant blue-painted sea.

Bebé Goes to the BeachBebé Goes to the Beach, written by Susan Middleton Elya, illustrated by Steven Salerno
Bright, stylized illustrations put Bebé and Mama at the beach following their previous shopping trip. Spanish words are used throughout the rhymes, often with context and pictures explaining the meaning of the words. (If you get stuck, there is also a glossary.) For instance, take this couplet: “He’s wearing his gorro with fuzzy jirafas./Mama parks her silla and puts on her gafas.” You could make some good guesses, but it’s certainly easier with Bebé sporting a hat decorated with giraffes as mom puts down her chair and puts on her glasses. In this story, it seems that the baby is a bit of a handful zipping around the beach, but mom still gets a chance to have fun with her son.

Duck DunksDuck Dunks, written by Lynne Berry, illustrated by Hiroe Nakota
I loved the art of Duck Skates, so I was all psyched for the new title. I enjoyed the cute story as five ducks head to the beach and swim, snack, play, and fly kites in a gorgeous blue sky over an aquamarine ocean. Light and easy sing-song rhymes keep the book fun: “Five little ducklings, hand in hand, skip from the boardwalk, into the sand.” Fun book for preschoolers and anyone who likes really cute ducks. I mean, they are really cute ducks.

Hitler’s Canary

On a dreary, rainy day I picked up Hitler’s Canary, by Sandi Toksvig — because despite the word “Hitler” in the title, the cover was bright yellow and looked cheery. Plus canaries are pretty happy birds, right? Okay, so the book wasn’t all that cheery. It actually was about Hitler, or more specifically, the Nazi invasion of Denmark. It turns out that the phrase “Hitler’s Canary” was applied to Denmark because it turned over power so easily that it was said that the country sang for Hilter like a... canary. I also suspect — though I didn’t see it in the book — that the term came to mean that the country was a canary in the coal mine for what would happen to countries around Europe as Hitler marched forward.

For such a terrible time, the book wasn’t all that depressing. First, it was a well-written story of a boy growing up in the theater with an actress mother, an artist father, and a personal sense of the dramatic. Bamse also has a Jewish friend, a rebel brother, and a front-row seat to the madness that was the Nazi occupation of Denmark.

I knew little about this specific aspect of World War II, when Germany took over Denmark in one fell swoop. The tiny country didn’t have a chance. But when the Nazis started demanding the Jews be turned over to them, the Danes fought back — secretly. With the power of community, less than two percent of Denmark’s Jews died in the Holocaust.

Read an account of how this country worked to save its people, from the personal and fictionalized account of one family. It’s not as cheery as the yellow cover, but not as depressing as you’d expect. In fact, I’d call it inspirational. It reminded me of a personal favorite, Yellow Star — which had a far worse ending for more people, but was also hopeful in the survival and work that people put into saving one.

Poetry Friday: Dr. Horrible

My whole family is obsessed with Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. We sing the songs all the time. I mean, all the time. So, on recommendation of my seventh grader when I lamented being stuck for a Poetry Friday entry, here’s part of the first song. It’s about five minutes into the viewing.
Laundry day
See you there

Want to say
Love your hair
Here I go

With my freeze ray
I will stop
the world.

With my freeze ray
I will find the time
to find the words.
If you haven’t seen Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog yet, then OMG what’s wrong with you!!?? Go. Go NOW!

Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog
Poetry Friday is hosted over at Read. Imagine. Talk. I’m not sure this counts, but I’m putting it in anyway because I am the original maverick. Have a great summer weekend.

Message for Yahoo

Hello, Yahoo.

I’m a big fan of yours. I use your email, your groups, and your weather page. I use your search engine even as the term “Googled” has become universally accepted. But I’ve stood by you, Yahoo. Hey, I’ve mentioned how much amusement your headlines bring to my day. I mean, “Chocolate Jesus Show Canceled”? That still makes me chuckle. But now I’ve got something I’ve got to say to you:


Like you have to put the winner in the headline. Twice. Or an obvious picture with a sly caption. Twice. I get it. You know the results first. Well, some people have to wait to see the performances and some people don’t like having the results all over the place before some people have had a chance to watch it. Oh, and by some people I mean ME!


You know what? Here’s one for you. In Charlotte’s Web, Charlotte dies. Hah! Take that!

Monarch and Milkweed

Monarch and MilkweedIn a word, Lovely.

If you are looking for a book about caterpillars turning into butterflies, you want nonfiction but artistic and poetic, Monarch and Milkweed, by Helen Frost, is for you. Featuring beautiful illustrations by Leonid Gore, the wording takes this nonfiction title to a different level.
Monarch lights on Milkweed,
drums her feet on Milkweed’s flower,
and tastes home.
All the basic facts are here: Monarch finds mate, attaches egg to leaf, caterpillar breaks out of egg, caterpillar eats leaf and grows, caterpillar transforms into a chrysalis, and emerges a butterfly. But it’s usually not said like this:
Its feelers droop...
and one last time,
it sheds its skin —
it twists and turns, and pulls its body up, transforming
into a chrysalis. It hangs beneath the leaf,
a shining jewel,
jade green, specked with gold.
At the end is a summary of the migration and an expansion of the text — for instance the fact that each species of butterfly has one kind of plant on which the butterfly lays its eggs, like monarch and milkweed. The book also points out a monarch website for more information. Classroom teachers, librarians, and parents may want to pair this book with an even simpler version in a picture book, Arabella Miller’s Tiny Caterpillar, by Clare Jarrett, which features bright illustrations, rhyming text, friendly characters, and factual information at the end.

I’ve heard that the monarchs have been AWOL this year, and I have to admit that I haven’t seen them around. We have a Butterfly bush in our garden, but I’ve seen mostly Eastern Tiger Swallowtails (yes, I looked it up) and not even that many of them. First the bees disappear, then the butterflies. What’s next? Roaches?

Oh, actually that would be okay.

Poetry Friday: World’s Greatest

The World's Greatest PoemsWhat a great concept, using world records as the inspiration for poetry. Kids love the Guiness Book of World Records. Kids sometimes need to be coaxed into poetry. So what a perfect combination in The World’s Greatest Poems, written by J. Patrick Lewis and illustrated by Keith Graves.

The poems cover a variety of topics, many of them true oddities. The Shortest Street. The Dumbest Dinosaur. The Largest Mantle of Bees. My favorite two records used are The Most Live Scorpions Eaten by a Human and The Most Cobras Kissed Consecutively, but the poem I’ll share is one that reminds me of summer:

The Tallest Roller Coaster
You’re swerving north,
You’re curving south,
Your stomach sits
Inside your mouth.

You hold your breath,
You lose your nerve,
You’re scared to death
At every curve.

You’re feeling very
Sick, but then
You tell your Dad,
“Let’s go again!”
The poem reminds me of my youngest daughter’s first roller coaster experience, when she was seven. She really wanted to go, having second thoughts only as we got to the end of the line. She sat next to me without too much encouragement, but as the train started creeping up the first hill she said quietly, “I don’t think I like this.” Then as the roller coaster made its first dive, she shouted “MOMMMMMMYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!” I felt so bad for her — and at the same time, I couldn’t stop laughing. Which made me feel even worse. Honestly, it’s still funny thinking of it now. But just like the poem, after a little rest, she wanted to try the roller coaster again.

Poetry Friday is hosted over at Big A, little a.

The Thursday Three XVI: Going to School

Now that the new books are coming into my library, I can pick up The Thursday Three again. With school just around the corner (Wahhhh!), here are some new going-to-school titles.

Splat the CatSplat the Cat, by Rob Scotton
Definitely the best of the bunch, and one that will be appreciated by the widest range of readers. Scotton, of Russell the Sheep fame, brings his humorous and fantastically off-beat illustrations to the world of cats — plus a mouse. Splat is worried about his first day at Cat School. If you’re not sure that he’s really worried, look at his big, wide eyes. He tries to hide, and stall, and even hang onto the gate, but his mom gets him to school. There he learns that cats chase mice. Hold it! Splat has a pet mouse! That he brought to school! This isn’t going to be good for anybody. But of course it is, and all the cats learn a new lesson. All-around wonderful book.

Keisha Ann Can!Keisha Ann Can! by Daniel Kirk
This isn’t Keisha Ann’s first day at school, but she shows how it’s done with cheer and confidence. She catches the bus, waits in line, passes out paints, shares with classmates, and takes turns. This book represents an interesting — and needed — approach to going-to-school literature by focusing on the positive. I also liked that the girl was African-American, as I would like to see more children of color in books. Newest reports say that 44 percent of children in the United States are now minorities. Perhaps we might want to show more of them in books. Not just for them, but so all children can see kids of different races featured in stories. Keisha Ann Can! is simple in language, making it best for the preschool or first day of kindergarten crowd.

Jake Starts SchoolJake Starts School, by Michael Wright
When we last saw Jake, his parents were trying to get him to sleep by going everywhere around the house with him. Well, Jake is still having separation issues at school, where he cannot let go of his parents. He literally clings to them through the whole day, making the seesaw hard and bathroom breaks impossible. The teacher is finally able to engage him with a book with the same name as his dog, and Jake finds his school groove. Bright and wacky illustrations fit the silly — and sometimes strained — rhyming text. (“There it was, Room Number 1/where Jake would join his class./It looked so big, he felt so small,/he passed a little gas.”) Not my favorite book, but kids may enjoy the silliness.

Melancholy and Mirth

I haven’t been blogging because my malaise turned into a case of melancholy. I suppose I should have taken my vitamin C when I felt it coming on. Or maybe the emotional equivalent, that being Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. (My new mantra: “Everything happens.”)

Actually, it may not have been enough. Summer is ending, the house is a disaster, my projects aren’t done, and... well, stuff. But I do feel like I’m getting back on track. It doesn’t hurt when I see a great Yahoo header like:
Huge inflatable art piece escapes museum, wreaks havoc
that leads to an even better article...
A giant inflatable dog turd by American artist Paul McCarthy blew away from an exhibition in the garden of a Swiss museum, bringing down a power line and breaking a greenhouse window before... it fell back to Earth in the grounds of a children’s home.
Oh Yahoo, you had me at “giant inflatable dog turd.” But the mirth continues as I think of the children laughing and laughing at the biggest potty joke ever.

The 100 Books List

I’ve seen this 100 Books List coming around again, so it seemed time to see where I stood. I did a little investigating to find the original source of the list, as I was particularly concerned with some of the odd things about it. Fortunately, I didn’t have to go too far before I found a blog that did the work for me. Whew.

The Rabid Paladin found an article in The Guardian describing how the list was compiled from a poll where 2,000 people responded naming the ten books they couldn’t live without, and the list matches the meme list. Oh, and the numbers are the ranks of the books. The common phrase associated with this meme, “According to The Big Read, the average adult has only read 6 of the top 100 books on this list,” doesn’t appear to have any basis in fact.

But all that research doesn’t make the meme any less fun, so here it is for me with these instructions:
  • Boldface those you have read.
  • Italicize those you intend to read. (For me, only those on my to-read list.)
  • Put an asterisk by the books you LOVE. (It was originally “underline,” but I’m going with mine.)

  1. Pride and Prejudice — Jane Austen
  2. The Lord of the Rings — J.R.R. Tolkien**
  3. Jane Eyre — Charlotte Bronte
  4. Harry Potter series — J.K. Rowling**
  5. To Kill a Mockingbird — Harper Lee**
  6. The Bible
  7. Wuthering Heights — Emily Bronte**
  8. 1984 — George Orwell
  9. His Dark Materials — Philip Pullman
  10. Great Expectations — Charles Dickens
  1. Little Women — Louisa May Alcott**
  2. Tess of the D’Urbervilles — Thomas Hardy
  3. Catch 22 — Joseph Heller
  4. The Complete Works of Shakespeare [The complete works? On one line?]
  5. Rebecca — Daphne Du Maurier**
  6. The Hobbit — J.R.R. Tolkien*****
  7. Birdsong — Sebastian Faulks
  8. Catcher in the Rye — J.D. Salinger
  9. The Time Traveller’s Wife — Audrey Niffenegger
  10. Middlemarch — George Eliot
  1. Gone With The Wind — Margaret Mitchell**
  2. The Great Gatsby — F. Scott Fitzgerald**
  3. Bleak House — Charles Dickens
  4. War and Peace — Leo Tolstoy
  5. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy — Douglas Adams**
  6. Brideshead Revisited — Evelyn Waugh
  7. Crime and Punishment — Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  8. Grapes of Wrath — John Steinbeck
  9. Alice in Wonderland — Lewis Carroll**
  10. The Wind in the Willows — Kenneth Grahame**
  1. Anna Karenina — Leo Tolstoy
  2. David Copperfield — Charles Dickens
  3. The Chronicles of Narnia — C.S. Lewis
  4. Emma — Jane Austen
  5. Persuasion — Jane Austen
  6. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe — C.S. Lewis [Okay, part of “The Chronicles of Narnia”?]
  7. The Kite Runner — Khaled Hosseini
  8. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin — Louis De Bernieres
  9. Memoirs of a Geisha — Arthur Golden**
  10. Winnie the Pooh — A.A. Milne****
  1. Animal Farm — George Orwell
  2. The Da Vinci Code — Dan Brown
  3. One Hundred Years of Solitude — Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  4. A Prayer for Owen Meaney — John Irving
  5. The Woman in White — Wilkie Collins
  6. Anne of Green Gables — L.M. Montgomery**
  7. Far From The Madding Crowd — Thomas Hardy
  8. The Handmaid’s Tale — Margaret Atwood**
  9. Lord of the Flies — William Golding
  10. Atonement — Ian McEwan
  1. Life of Pi — Yann Martel
  2. Dune — Frank Herbert
  3. Cold Comfort Farm — Stella Gibbons
  4. Sense and Sensibility — Jane Austen
  5. A Suitable Boy — Vikram Seth
  6. The Shadow of the Wind — Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  7. A Tale Of Two Cities — Charles Dickens
  8. Brave New World — Aldous Huxley
  9. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time — Mark Haddon**
  10. Love In The Time Of Cholera — Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  1. Of Mice and Men — John Steinbeck
  2. Lolita — Vladimir Nabokov
  3. The Secret History — Donna Tartt
  4. The Lovely Bones — Alice Sebold
  5. The Count of Monte Cristo — Alexandre Dumas
  6. On The Road — Jack Kerouac
  7. Jude the Obscure — Thomas Hardy
  8. Bridget Jones’ Diary — Helen Fielding****
  9. Midnight’s Children — Salman Rushdie
  10. Moby Dick — Herman Melville
  1. Oliver Twist — Charles Dickens
  2. Dracula — Bram Stoker
  3. The Secret Garden — Frances Hodgson Burnett
  4. Notes From A Small Island — Bill Bryson
  5. Ulysses — James Joyce
  6. The Bell Jar — Sylvia Plath
  7. Swallows and Amazons — Arthur Ransome
  8. Germinal — Emile Zola
  9. Vanity Fair — William Makepeace Thackeray
  10. Possession — A.S. Byatt
  1. A Christmas Carol — Charles Dickens
  2. Cloud Atlas — David Mitchell
  3. The Color Purple — Alice Walker
  4. The Remains of the Day — Kazuo Ishiguro
  5. Madame Bovary — Gustave Flaubert
  6. A Fine Balance — Rohinton Mistry
  7. Charlotte’s Web — E.B. White
  8. The Five People You Meet In Heaven — Mitch Albom
  9. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes — Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  10. The Faraway Tree Collection — Enid Blyton
  1. Heart of Darkness — Joseph Conrad
  2. The Little Prince — Antoine De Saint-Exupery**
  3. The Wasp Factory — Iain Banks
  4. Watership Down — Richard Adams
  5. A Confederacy of Dunces — John Kennedy Toole
  6. A Town Like Alice — Nevil Shute
  7. The Three Musketeers — Alexandre Dumas
  8. Hamlet — William Shakespeare [Um, covered in “Complete works of Shakespeare”?]
  9. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory — Roald Dahl
  10. Les Misérables — Victor Hugo

So, 45. Though I think if I can get a whole book credit for The Little Prince, getting only one for the complete works of Shakepeare kind of sucks. Okay, and I’ve just decided this minute that since two titles were repeated — “Shakepeare”/Hamlet and “Narnia”/The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — I can put in two titles of my choosing from children’s literature. Hmmm. I’m going with Tom Sawyer/The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain, for number 98... and how about Holes, by Louis Sachar, for number 36. Great, now I’m up to 47.

So if I take out Heart of Darkness and replace it with Poisonwood Bible — both Africa — and change Cloud Atlas to Atlas Shrugged — both with “Atlas” — I’m at 49. And to make it halfway through the list, we need only change The Bell Jar to Who Took the Cookies from the Cookie Jar? All right, 50 it is!