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BOOK REVIEWS - LITTLE KNOWN GEMS FOR CHILDREN

Children's book reviews
                    by Lottie Hirsch



INTRODUCTION BY LOTTIE HIRSCH

Encouraging a love of reading is one of the most important traits we can pass along to our children. A child who cherishes the written word will not only garner the benefits one gets from being absorbed in a great book, he or she will tend to perform better in school than the child who is not encouraged to read from an early age.

Besides reading to children when they are young, it is important that your child sees you read. Reading should become a habit for everyone in the family. And trips to the library shouldn't always be routine. Although you should go to the library often, you should try to make each trip a special event.

Don't rush your children in and out of the library. Give your child the time to explore all the wealth the library has to offer. And above all, talk to your child about the books he or she reads.

Although books usually have a suggested age, don't let that limit you. Pulling out a story book for a one year old and talking about the pictures ("look at the cat with that hat...") is a great way to use a story book for a toddler. And don't forget, when the time comes, use your child's board books as beginner readers!

Most board books have simple text on the bottom of each page. When your child is ready to begin reading, using books that are "old friends" will make the learning process more enjoyable.

At first, your child may protest that board books are baby books. But use a little child psychology ("If these are baby books why do they have words?") to convince your child board books are for big kids too!

Also, don't be limited by the recommended ages stamped on the books. Know your child and then use a book accordingly!

Why certain books have universal kid-appeal is often hard to determine. Many times, a book that you wouldn't give a second glance, is the one a child wants to look at or read repeatedly. It is easy to understand why books such as The Very Hungry Caterpillar or The Little Engine That Could are perennial favorites, but why a book such as The Five Chinese Brothers, is popular with children, is not so easy to understand.

Children's taste will often surprise you. There are varying reasons why children are attracted to certain books during their different stages of development. But one thing is certain, a very young child will fall in love with any book, provided mom or dad sits with the child to read and explore it repeatedly.

And the older child, who is enthusiastically learning to read on her or his own, will tackle nearly any subject matter provided the book is at the proper level.

ABOUT THESE REVIEWS
The following reviews were written many years ago. All of the books are still available in one format or another, and they can still be found online in new condition, slightly used condition, or in digital format. One or two of the books are now in their second or third edition. And some of these books may be available at your local library. Time may have passed since my reviews were originally written, but a good book will always be a good book. Lottie Hirsch


BOOKS KIDS WILL SIT STILL FOR * (THE COMPLETE READ-ALOUD GUIDE)
BY JUDY FREEMAN

The next time you go to the library, and don't know which books to select for your child, take a look at Books Kids Will Sit Still For. What you will find is an extraordinary guide to children's books. Not only does it list and summarize more than 2,000 different books for children, it is chock full of great advice, hints and tips. But keep in mind, the book is geared towards teachers. At times you will have to use your imagination to apply some of the "book based" projects at home with your child.

The book begins with an opening introduction called "Raising Readers" and then moves on to teach you the tricks of the trade. You will learn how to read aloud to your child and how to avoid some of the mistakes people make. There are sections on telling family stories, using poetry and there is even a discussion on joke telling. And right before you get to the heart of the book (The Annotated Read-Aloud List Of Books) there is a chapter called "101 Ways To Celebrate Books". Although the bulk of the ideas are not practical for home use, quite a few are easily modified.

And then we come to the main thrust of this book, the book's vast list of books and summary information. The annotated book list begins at the preschool level and covers everything all the way up to books appropriate for sixth graders. Every type of book is covered from fiction to legends to poems to biographies and much, much more. Complete title, author, publisher and ISBN information is listed for each book, as well as a story and topic summary. And to make finding a particular type of book easy, four indexes are included--a title index, an author index, an illustrator index and a subject index. It's the story and topic summaries that make this book a great tool for parents. Besides describing the book, most of the summaries suggest an activity based on the book.

So, if you're looking for a good book. The best place to start is at the library. Just pick up a copy of Books Kids Will Sit Still For. Not only will you find dozens of great books for your child, you will also get some good helpful advice inside its vast 660 pages.


3 PANDAS PLANTING * WRITTEN BY MEGAN HALSEY

More than a simple counting book, "3 Pandas Planting" introduces things we all can do to help take care of our planet. Starting with 12 crocodiles carpooling, different animal species depict ecologically correct, earth friendly activities. At the back of the book additional information and facts are provided explaining the positive impact of recycling, carpooling and planting trees. Ideal for preschoolers, this is a nicely illustrated counting picture book with an ecological twist.


THE POP-UP MICE OF MR. BRICE * WRITTEN BY THEO. LESIEG
ILLUSTRATED BY ROY MCKIE

Originally published as The Many Mice of Mr. Brice this hard to find book is one of the best hands-on books you will find. Not only does it have more than four dozen flaps to flip, strips to pull and wheels to turn--each page is a learning experience. With the help of super-silly mice your child will learn about music, telling time, colors, the alphabet, food and much more. This book will entertain and educate even the reluctant reader.

The book's illustrations are bright, colorful and very inviting. And luckily, the book is very well made and printed on heavy stock because once children get their hands on The Pop-Up Mice Of Mr. Brice they will definitely want to read and play with it over and over again. Perfect for children ages 3 to 8.


MOTHER EARTH * BY NANCY LUENN
ILLUSTRATED BY NEIL WALDMAN

Through a unique combination of words and pictures Mother Earth will make you think about our planet in a way you may not have thought about it before.

Using simple poetic language ("The ground is her skin, mountains her bones") and beautiful pastel drawings, this book shows us the earth as our mother and the provider of all we need. Mother Earth reminds us that we must not only take from the earth, but return her gifts with respect and love. This is a very special book! For all ages.


THE VERY LONELY FIREFLY * WRITTEN AND ILLUSTRATED BY ERIC CARLE

It began more than 45 years ago with the publication of The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Now with over 30 million copies sold worldwide Eric Carle returns with the fourth book in his "Very" series featuring the biggest, brightest surprise ever!

The story is about a very lonely firefly who goes out into the night searching for other fireflies. It sees a lantern, a candle, and the eyes of a dog, cat and owl all glowing in the darkness. It even sees a surprise celebration of light. But it is not until it discovers other fireflies that it finds what it is looking for. This is an innovative book that will light the fire in children's imagination ages 3 and up.


FOLLOW THE MOON * BY SARAH WEEKS
ILLUSTRATED BY SUZANNE DURANCEAU

Here is a book which really impressed me. If a book can be said to have "class" then this is the book that has it! It is a beautifully illustrated storybook about a newborn sea turtle whose instinct is to "follow the moon" to find the ocean, but is dangerously drawn instead to a glittering mirrored ball in a dance club. He is rescued by a young boy who protects and guides the hatchling while it orients itself to the world. And as a special bonus, included with the book is a cassette tape on which the story is told in song by the author. Ages 3 to 8.


LOVE YOU FOREVER * WRITTEN BY ROBERT MUNSCH
ILLUSTRATED BY SHEILA MCGRAW

Love You Forever is a sentimental favorite which is certainly appreciated more by adult readers than children. A young mother cradles her newborn son and lovingly sings:

I'll love you forever,
I'll like you for always,
As long as I'm living
my baby you'll be.

As the years pass and the young baby grows into manhood, the mother continues to sing the verse to her son. But the day comes that she is too ill and weak to complete the verse and her son must continue for her. It is a story of enduring unconditional love and the inevitable changes that occur as parents age and children become parents themselves.

Time after time I have heard women telling their friends to read this book. This simple story is almost guaranteed to bring a tear to your eyes. Read it yourself and see.


THE RAINBOW FISH and RAINBOW FISH TO THE RESCUE
WRITTEN BY MARCUS PFISTER

Since its publication several years ago The Rainbow Fish has been a very popular book among young readers. With his glittery shiny scales, the rainbow fish of the title is simply the most beautiful fish in the entire ocean. Rainbow colored holographic foil stamping right in the book really makes the rainbow fish look very special. The story is a simple one about sharing and about how good it can feel to give to others. The soft pastel illustrations, along with the shiny glitzy scales, makes this an engaging picture book. This book is loved by preschoolers and was a special favorite of my daughter's second grade class. The Rainbow Fish is almost guaranteed to be a hit with your child too!

The popularity of The Rainbow Fish inspired the sequel Rainbow Fish To The Rescue. Once again the illustrations are done in soft pastel colors with the trademark holographic rainbow scales on every page.

In this new adventure Rainbow Fish must choose between his new friends and another fish who lacks a shiny scale. The presence of a hungry shark propels the Rainbow Fish and his buddies to work together to save the other fish.


TAKE TIME TO RELAX * BY NANCY CARLSON

If after work, chores, chauffeuring the children around town and attending PTA meetings you sometimes feel there just aren't enough hours in the day--then this book is for you. This brightly illustrated picture book's dedication says, "Dedicated to busy people everywhere." The story revolves around Tina the beaver and her family. They are constantly rushing off in different directions--to sports, ballet, aerobics, etc. until a major storm finds the family snowbound at home. Unable to get to their various activities, the family rediscovers some of the simple pleasures in life. And even after the roads are cleared the family chooses to stay home together. It is a good book to read if your family is constantly on the go.


MAMA, COMING AND GOING * WRITTEN BY JUDITH CASELEY

The Mom in this book is a woman I can really relate to, a true kindred spirit. After Mama's second baby is born, Mama is so hassled that she doesn't know if she is coming or going. Poor Mama forgets water is running in the tub, in a rush she accidently locks her child in the car and she even shows up for a birthday party one week too early. Yes, she doesn't know if she is coming or going. If you ever had days like that (I have them more and more frequently) sit down and read this book. It's great therapy for us moms of the 90's!


NATE THE GREAT * WRITTEN BY MARJORIE WINMAN SHARMAT
ILLUSTRATED BY MARC SIMONT

Yes, it's Nate the Great--boy detective. The mystery solving sleuth's stories have been a big hit with children for many years now. A six year old girl I know recently said that she likes Nate the Great books because "they have a good mystery and give you a lot to think about."

Nate the Great books are top notch beginner readers because they offer more than the other books in the beginner reader category. Each book revolves around a mystery which only Nate the Great can solve. The stories appeal to both boys and girls and they are the perfect "next step" after your child masters Dr. Seuss. For ages 6 and up.


WHERE DOES THE GARBAGE GO? * BY PAUL SHOWERS
ILLUSTRATED BY RANDY CHEWNING

Children ages 5 to 9 (and adults) will learn some very interesting facts about garbage, recycling and our planet in this very satisfying book. This book offers a simply fascinating look at a topic that isn't too glamorous. Brightly illustrated and filled with interesting charts, graphs and diagrams. I personally found the cross-section of a common landfill pretty neat!


THE ULTIMATE BUG BOOK * BY LUISE WOELFLEIN
ILLUSTRATED BY WENDY SMITH-GRISWOLD

Here is a fact filled book that explores the fascinating world of bugs in an exciting and unique way. Written with help by consultants from the Smithsonian and National Zoo, pop-ups, flaps, pull tabs and other "bells and whistles" help children learn facts that will even startle you. For instance, some ants live in colonies of more than 20 million! If your child is interested in bugs or learning about them in school this is the book for you. Recommended for all ages--even my "40 something" husband enjoyed (and learned from) this book.


CARDINALS, ROBINS, AND OTHER BIRDS * WRITTEN BY GEORGE S. FICHTER
ILLUSTRATED BY PATRICIA TOPPER

This superbly illustrated, fact filled book about birds features an easy to read guide to some of the more common birds found in the United States. This book is ideal for elementary age children who are learning animal facts in school or who are just interested in birds. It is a good guide to have in the spring and summer if you want to do a bit of bird watching. This is a really nice and interesting book about birds!




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