Monthly Archives: July 2009

The Well at the End of the World

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By Robert D. San Souci, Illustrated by Rebecca Walsh

Chronicle Books, 2004

The King of Colchester was a kind and just man, but not a very good ruler. Oh, he did fine dubbing knights or deciding what to have for dinner. But it was his daughter, Princess Rosamond, who really ran the kingdom. She advised her father on matters of state, kept the royal accounts, and fixed the drawbridge when it wouldn’t rise or lower. People often said it was a shame she wasn’t beautiful, too. But practical Rosamond would just laugh and say, “I prefer good books to good looks. I may not be pretty, but my father’s treasury is in order, the drawbridge works, and I’ve almost saved up enough for a new set of royal dishes!”

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The Little House

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By Virginia Lee Burton

Houghton Mifflin Books, 1942

Once upon a time there was a Little House way out in the country. She was a pretty Little House and she was strong and well built. The Little House was very happy as she sat on the hill and watched the countryside around her. 

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Aunt Chip and the Great Triple Creek Dam Affair

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By Patricia Polacco

Philomel Books, 1996

Absolutely everybody in Triple Creek loved their TV sets. No one could remember a time when there wasn’t a TV in every home. Nor could they remember when they weren’t watching TV. Their TV’s were always on. While they ate their meals. While they worked. While they played. They even kept photos of their TV’s on their mantels along with all the pictures of their family members.

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Our Corner Grocery Store

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By Joanna Schwartz, Illustrated by Laura Beingessner

Tundra Books, 2009

Saturday is my favorite day of the week. I spend every Saturday at my Nonno Domenico and Nonna Rosa’s corner grocery store. It’s early in the morning when I arrive. Mrs. Mele is out walking her dog. Once in a while a car goes by, but mostly it’s quiet. The neighborhood is still asleep.

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Full House

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By Dayle Ann Dodds, Illustrated by Abby Carter

Candlewick Press, 2007

The Strawberry Inn was run by Miss Bloom. Happy was she to fill every room. With one for herself and five for the guests, there were six rooms in all for a cozy night’s rest.

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Chloe’s Birthday…And Me

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By Giselle Potter

Atheneum Books, 2004

As we drove into Le Cerisier — which means “the cherry tree” in French — I squeezed my eyes shut. I wish it were my birthday, I wish it were my birthday, I said in my head over and over. Chloe was too little to even care that it was her birthday, and my birthday was my favorite day of the year — much better than Christmas or Halloween because all the attention is just for you.

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Boo and Baa Get Wet

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By Olof and Lena Landstrom, Translated by Joan Sandin

R&S Books, 2000

Boo and Baa left the croquet set outside. “We have to go out and get it,” says Baa. “Do we have to?” says Boo. “We’ll have the flashlight with us,” says Baa. Boo still thinks it’s very dark outside. And the croquet set has so many pieces!

The excerpt above doesn’t do Boo and Baa justice, and neither does a synopsis: In the middle of a thunderstorm, two little sheep run outside in the dark to rescue their croquet set. They scare themselves silly, have a good laugh about it, the lights come on… and then they go to sleep. You really need to see the accompanying pictures to fully appreciate the Landstroms’ offbeat humor and the vigorous cuteness of Boo and Baa. My daughter sleeps with this copy in her crib — at least until it’s due back at the library.

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The Tub People

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By Pam Conrad, Illustrations by Richard Egielski

Scholastic, 1989

The Tub People stood in a line all day on the edge of the bathtub. There were seven of them, and they always stood in the same order — the father, the mother, the grandmother, the doctor, the policeman, the child and the dog. They were made out of wood, and their faces were very plain. They could smile or frown, or cry or laugh. Sometimes they would even wink at each other, but it hardly showed.

My son attached a piece of blue painter’s tape to the cover of this book, marking it as one of his all-time favorites. Although truthfully, he was probably also looking for a project that would stall his bedtime without making me lose my patience. (How can you get angry at a child for showing love towards his books?) One evening, the Tub Child is accidentally swept down the drain, causing untold grief, loss and helplessness to wash over the “surviving” Tub People. Despite the happy ending, there’s a melancholy tone to this book and illustrations that I’m not always in the mood for. But I recommend it all the same.

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The Only Boy in Ballet Class

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Written by Denise Gruska, Illustrations by Amy Wummer

Gibbs Smith, 2007

As soon as Tucker pushes open the door to Madame Clara’s Dance Studio, it happens. He stands a little taller. When he takes off his shoes and pulls on his very worn-out ballet slippers, he jumps even higher than usual. It feels like flying. He likes to carve the air with the other dancers.

Every once in a while, I crave a really simple rom-com in which the plot is so formulaic that exactly forty-nine minutes in, the lead actress feels sorry for herself and eats a lot of ice cream, straight out of the container. There’s something wonderfully  comforting about knowing exactly how things will turn out  — like they should, damnit — and that’s why I’m fond of The Only Boy in Ballet Class. Tucker Dohr loves to dance, although it embarrasses his Uncle Frank, his little sisters attempt to trip him, and the bullies in his class (who, of course, play football and all need haircuts) call him “Tippy-Toe Boy” or “Twinkle Toes.” It’s all so hurtful that Tucker cries sometimes when he’s alone. But then he’s goaded by his Uncle Frank to play a game of football with his arch enemies and surprise! He wows them with his pirouettes, jetes, and assembles. (Cue the feel-good pop music.)

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One Hen

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Written by Kate Smith Milway, Illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes

Kids Can Press, 2008

Kojo and his mother live in a village in the Ashanti region of Ghana. None of the twenty families in the village have much money, but they do have a good idea. Each family promises to save a bit of money so that one family can borrow all the savings to buy something important.

My son snatched this off a shelf just as our library was closing yesterday.  It’s the story, to quote the front flap, of “how changes happen in the world, one person, one family, one community at a time.” A book about microfinance? Obviously, this could have been ridiculously pedagogical. Happily, it’s not.  One Hen is based on the story of Kwabena Darko, a real boy from Ghana who lost his father at an early age and  began taking care of hens to help his mother support their family.  When he became a successful poultry farmer, he founded Sinapi Aba (Mustard Seed) Trust, and in 2006 alone, gave out small loans to over 50,000 Ghanians. Cool, right?  The vivid illustrations have a dreamy quality which complement Milway’s matter-of-fact, yet still poetic prose.

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