Giddy to Talk Kids’ Books
As a compulsive book buyer who likes to maintain a relatively uncluttered household, there are few things I love more than getting recommendations about books that will be worthy of taking up prime bookshelf real estate. So when I saw that my local bookstore, Prairie Lights, was hosting a talk about children’s book recommendations, I needed to know no more.
It happened just last night, and when I sat down and surveyed the scene, I was caught by a surprise well of tears. I might be under a little stress and possibly also a wee bit tired; nevertheless, I was moved by how amazing a thing it was I was witnessing: a room full of adults — all women, in this instance — who were sitting together in that place at that time because they care about children’s literacy. I suspect that some of the women in attendance were grandmothers, some teachers, some moms, and some librarians, perhaps, too. But all were there because they care about sharing great stories with kids. Made me so happy.
The two staff members presenting shared titles from a variety of categories: board books, poetry, traditional, picture books, transitional chapter books, biography, nonfiction, fiction, and teens. They were exceptionally knowledgeable and articulate, and I could have listened to them talk all night. If you happen to be from the Iowa City area, they do these every so often, and it’s well worth your time.
I was delighted to learn that I had already purchased two of their recommended picture book titles for my kiddos for Christmas: Jonathan Bean’s Building Our House and Andrea Beaty’s Rosie Revere, Engineer. The first is based upon the author’s childhood experience of living in a camper for two years while his parents and friends pitched in to build their home. The second is a delightful story about Rosie, who likes to invent things but begins to hide her inventions after she is laughed at. Afraid of failure and ridicule, she luckily gets a visit from her great-great-aunt Rose who happens to love to build things, too. Since I read both of these books upon getting them in the mail, I can heartily second their recommendations. I was also very taken by their introduction to Toys in Space by Mini Grey, which is about a group of toys who are left outside and grow scared of the starry, black sky that moves in overhead. Unlike the toys in Toy Story, they apparently can’t move, so to pass the time, one of the toys begins to tell a story about how they were all abducted by an alien who happened to be looking for his lost toy. Others on their list that sounded excellent were Cari Best’s Beatrice Spells Some Lulus and Learns to Write a Letter, Jennifer Huget’s The Beginner’s Guide to Running Away from Home, and Frank Viva’s Young Frank: Architect, among others.
Since I’ve already acquired a large stack of Christmas books for my kids, I tried to constrain my purchases, but one book I did walk away with was Grace Lin’s Ling and Ting Share a Birthday, the second in a series about twins. At three, my twins are certainly aware that theirs is a somewhat unique situation, but I think we just have one title in their library that’s specifically about the twin experience, and that’s a book of poems without more sustained characters. And because the girls are starting to listen to short chapter books with pictures (transitional chapter books! I’m so glad I now know what to call them!), I thought this would be a perfect gift, especially since they will be sharing their fourth birthday in short order.
One final recommendation that was made is useful to anyone who longs, like I do, for great book suggestions, and that is Jim Trelease’s The Read-Aloud Handbook. Does anyone know about this? I had never heard of it! And I don’t know anything else about it except what I gleaned by looking at it for a couple minutes, but it has several chapters about the benefits of reading aloud, stages of reading, the competition of other media, and so forth. And then a large portion of the book is dedicated to reviews of children’s books, falling into the categories of picture books, short novels, novels, anthologies, fairy and folk tales, and poetry. Definitely a book I’m going to be looking into further.
While I was delighted to be at that talk last night and so happy to walk away with a long list of books to make our way through, I thought immediately of this virtual community of a group of people, talking about books around the corners of days that are so very full. Made me teary all over again. And also curious to know: what good children’s books have you read lately?