Toys Go Out

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If you liked Toy Story, you’ll like Toys Go Out: Being the Adventures of a Knowledgable Stingray, a Toughy Little Buffalo, and Someone Called Plastic.  This 2006 chapter book by Emily Jenkins (gorgeously illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky) will remind you what it’s like to be 9 years old and wonder what happens to your toys when you go to school.  The main characters are Plastic, Lumphy the buffalo, and StingRay.  The mystery of what type of animal Plastic is makes up one of the first chapters.  These three friends have worries that may mirror the struggles of childhood (What am I? Who loves me? What about change?).  

This is a light, fun read for elementary school children.  It features six chapters, each containing a whole story.  One illustration per chapter leaves just enough to the imagination.  For some reason, the prose sometimes cuts into free verse for several lines before changing back; I personally found this unnatural, but others may enjoy it.  I found it very funny and safe: perfect for a bed time story.

Published by Schwartz & Wade. 128 pages. List Price: $16.95.

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The Snowy Day

Sick of the winter weather?  Peter, the protagonist from The Snowy Day (by Ezra Jack Keats) isn’t!  I love this book–I think it’s an American classic.  It’s sparse, imaginative prose coupled with its simple collage illustrations perfectly capture the sense of wonder felt by young children in a world blanketed with snow.  The book was first published in 1962 and was immediately celebrated for starring a black protagonist–it really stood out in the white-washed field of early 1960s children’s literature.  I personally feel that it’s very important that all kids have a chance to read books about kids that look like them, and that’s why this book was so monumental in the history of children’s literature in America.  This is a great book for story time in the library, or for a bed time story at home.  Enjoy!

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The Higher Power of Lucky

The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron just may be my new favorite children’s book.  Lucky is a great role model for 10-year-old girls; even though her mother is dead and her dad has abandoned her, she’s an empowered young woman that I really admire.  She lives in the tiniest small town you’ve ever heard of, but she still manages to have fun collecting insect samples (à la her hero Darwin) and working at the Found Object Wind Chime Museum and Visitor Center.  

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One thing Patron did right was to keep the cast of characters to a manageable minimum.  Lucky has a lovely French caretaker, Brigitte (Brih-zheet)–but she’s worried Brigitte will move back to France instead of adopting her.  Her best friend Lincoln is an avid knot tier, which sounds boring, but is actually interesting.  There’s also the pesky Miles, a younger boy who always wants a cookie and for someone to read him Are You My Mother?.

I listed to this book as an audiobook, read by Cassandra Campbell.  She did an excellent job and really brought the (already excellent) story to life for me.  I highly recommend the book, especially the audiobook!

Robert McCloskey

I’m slowly making my way through Elizabeth Bird’s definitive list of “100 children’s books that belong in every library (snarky annotations included)” from Children’s Literature Gems: Choosing and Using Them in Your Library Career.  It’s a great list and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to dive head first into kids’ lit.

This list brought to my attention two classics by McCloskey that I hadn’t read before.  One is “Make Way For Ducklings.”  As two duck parents try to find a duck home for their ducklings, they see (and the reader sees) Boston from a “duck’s eye view.”

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Mr. Mallard has caught some heat for having something come up (abandoning Mrs. Mallard?) as soon as the eggs began hatching–although he was looking for a home for them.  Like a lot of the older Caldecott winners, you may be offended but I think the book is a trailblazer.  Boston now has bronze statues in honor of its most famous ducks.

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I also enjoyed Time of Wonder by McCloskey.  This is a very unique picture book because it’s told in the second person (“Now you even see the drops on the water…on the age-old rocky point…on the bayberry…on the grass…. Now take a breath–IT’S RAINING ON YOU!“).  The reader is transported to 1950s Maine, then spends an enjoyable day at the beach before an oncoming storm starts to pick up.  The second person narration really makes the storm seem immediate, although it’s such an unusual storytelling method that it does almost create a surreal effect.  This was McCloskey’s second Caldecott.  Yeah, it’s about rich white kids, but it’s so unique in the children’s literature cannon (for telling a story about the reader) that it’s worth looking through.

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