Monday, April 30, 2012

Tikki Tikki Tembo

Written by: Arlene Mosel

First line: Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, it was the custom of all the fathers and mothers in China to give their first and honored sons great long names.

Why you should read this book: This classic and popular retelling of an old Chinese legend recounts the perils of a boy with a ridiculously long name—Tikki tikki tembo-no sa rembo-chari bari ruchi-pip peri pembo—which, according to the text, means “the most wonder thing in the whole wide world.” While fooling around, the boy’s younger brother falls into the well, and is quickly rescued, but, when the same mishap befalls the older boy, the time it takes to say his ridiculously long name means that it takes the adults an extraordinarily long time to rescue him. Children love the repetition of the strange name along with the interesting illustrations, evoking a distant era in a foreign land.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Love both your children equally.

Grandfather’s Journey

Written by: Alan Say

First line: My grandfather was a young man when he left his home in Japan and went to see the world.

Why you should read this book: In a bittersweet memoir, the author truncates his grandfather’s biography to a story about wanderlust and love of travel, of seeing new places and, eventually, pining for old ones. As a young man, his grandfather traveled America, eventually bringing his childhood sweetheart from Japan and raising a thoroughly American daughter (whose story is recounted in another Say story, Tea with Milk) before returning to Japan. World War Two made his desired return to America impossible, and Say, also in love with two cultures, finds himself feeling closer to his grandfather as he contemplates his homesickness no matter what country he’s in.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: Total homebody.

Edwina the Emu

Written by: Sheena Knowles

First line: There once were two emus who lived in a zoo, One was Edwina and Edward was two.

Why you should read this book: In this inexplicable yet endearing story, an emu who has just laid ten eggs leaves her mate at the zoo to mind the nest while she goes off in search of a job. Despite the fact that Edwina can read, write, and understand the bus schedule, the humans she encounters find her ill-suited for work in the entertainment and service sectors. Eventually, Edwina decides that her place is at home, where she and Edward will raise the babies together.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: You support the right of a woman to work outside the home.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Runaway Bunny

Written by: Margaret Wise Brown

First line: Once there was a little bunny who wanted to run away.

Why you should read this book: In this beloved picture book, adored by children for seventy years, a little bunny threatens to run away from home, but no matter where his imagination takes him, his mother counters with a way for her to find and care for her child. The colorful pictures bring the shared fantasies to life until the little bunny accepts his lot and decides to stay at home with his mother. A sweet little book for families to share.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're definitely running away.


Cheyenne Again

Written by: Eve Bunting

First line: One day he comes, The Man Who Counts, and says: “A boy, aged ten. He has to go!”

Why you should read this book: Poetic and heartbreaking, this work for children recounts the traumatic historical journey of a Native American child in the nineteenth century, stolen from his home and family, taken to a boarding school where the curriculum is intended to systematically erase his culture. Even at age ten, however, the boy recalls his own history and knows the difference between his own dreams and the white man’s charted course for his destiny. The boy’s memories cannot be erased, despite the pain, isolation, and punishment through which he suffers.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: You dream of a nice, white-washed, assimilated future.

The Moorchild

Written by: Eloise McGraw

First line: It was Old Bess, the Wise Woman of the village, who first suspected that the bay at her daughter’s house was a changeling.

Why you should read this book: Switched into the cradle of a human child, half-Moorfolk child Moql becomes Saaski, the daughter of the blacksmith and his wife, when her inability to hide from humans becomes apparent. Saaski is different from anyone else, with a strange face, an inhuman quickness, and a talent for playing wild fairy music on the bagpipes, and she is desperate to remember where she came from and who she really is. The story of an outsider who doesn’t belong in any world, this Newbery-winning book has the power to warm the heart of anyone who has ever wondered if there is a place for them.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: You burn outsiders.

Princess Academy

Written by: Shannon Hale

First line: Miri woke to the sleepy bleating of a goat.

Why you should read this book: Miri thinks that her father’s refusal to allow her to work in the linder mines with everyone else in her village is the worst thing imaginable, until the day that king’s messenger arrive in their isolated mountain stronghold to announce that one of the village’s daughters is destined to be the prince’s wife, and they all must attend princess academy to learn the courtly arts before the prince’s arrival. This Newbery-winning book is much more than its title implies: Miri, although smaller than the other girls, must work to hold her own against the cruel tutor, Olana, while protecting the interests of the girls and their culture. Beautifully written, with a fine grasp of metaphorical language and a deep understanding of the need to belong while maintaining ones individuality.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: You were born to be a princess.