* Summer Reading 2016 *
FITNESS: The Summer of Our Content
Cry, Heart, But Never Break
Reading List: Ages 5 – 8 years old
Summer Reading for other ages? Look right!
All selections and annotations by WPL Librarian Anna L. Nielsen
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Fan, Terry and Eric. The Night Gardener. NY: Simon & Schuster, 2016. William lives on Grimloch Lane in the orphanage and one day he notices something wonderful: there is a night gardener, giving new life to trees, a topiarist making pretty parakeets and playful elephants. “Something was happening... Something good.” The text is spare and exacting in its slow and steady statements of noticing. The blues and greys and browns of the digitally colored graphite illustrations morph into greens and bright shades of day and night, and steer the growth of the trees, William, and the town into something truly wonderful. Read again and again, just to watch lives unfurl and stretch into something. Something good.
Janisch, Heinz; illus. Wolf Erlbuch; trans. Sally-Ann Spencer. The King and the Sea: 21 Extremely Short Stories. Wellington, New Zealand: Gecko Press, 2015. This Austrian import, illustrated by Germany’s Erlbuch of the incomparable Duck, Death and the Tulip (Wellington, NZ: Gecko Press, 2011), is twenty one stories, each a page long, about the reflections of a king, a tiny king presented in collage and crayon, thinking very big thoughts, very big, about how a king, actually, is not a big thing, not compared to all the other wondrous things. In fact, there are a lot more important things in the world than being a king. Pair with Olivier Tallec’s Louis I: King of the Sheep (NY: Enchanted Lion Books, 2015) about another king who learns the arbitrariness of power. Louis is a roly-poly wooly round of plumpness standing in a field until one fine day when the wind blows a crown upon his head. And then. And then Louis knew he should have a special scepter, and a special throne, and a special bed, too. And he knew he should hunt, and since there were no lions in his kingdom, he had them shipped in; the accompanying portrait of the lion running in terror from hunting sheep in terror is comedy, painful and true. The amusement rolls away when Louis decides all sheep must march in step and be exactly like him, and that “the others must be driven out.” The colors of the pages grow darker. Until we turn, and find one fine day when the wind blows his crown away, and Louis is just a sheep again. How marvelous.
Krauss, Ruth; illus. Marc Simont. The Backward Day. NY: New York Review Children’s Book Collection, 2016 (1950). Krauss’s classic story of a boy who declares, “Today is backward day,” and the family that plays along. Simont’s four-toned illustrations are crisp and clear and matter-of-fact, supporting the logic of their participation. The boy puts his coat on before his suit and they all turn their chairs around from the table and say good night instead of good morning. And then they go to bed again, so they can start again, all over, in a regular forward day. Why not try a day on differently, just for size? Why not try different ways of being? And what a family, to see fit to make it so.
Ringtved, Glenn; illus. Charlotte Pardi; trans. Danish Robert Moulthrop. Cry, Heart, But Never Break. NY: Enchanted Lion Books, 2016. A book about death and life and saying goodbye to those we love and hello to life as it lasts. The pencil and watercolor illustrations give us grief that is gripping and real and compassion that is gentle and as considerate as the truth of unalterable loss can be. Death doesn’t want to frighten the children. He leaves his scythe outside the door and moves slowly through the night. But the children aren’t ready to say goodbye, and they’re not giving up. They “quickly made a plan. They would keep death away… by giving him coffee.” Death doesn’t laugh or lecture; he likes his coffee strong, and he is tired, and he is sad, too, and doesn’t mind resting awhile. He sits with the children until he can’t anymore, and tells a story: what would life be without death? What would joy be without sorrow? “Cry, Heart, but never break,” he says, and the acceptance and peace Death brings with his anguish give the children comfort. Wrenching. And sublime. Recommended.
Rosenthal, Betsy R.; illus. Jago. An Ambush of Tigers: A Wild Gathering of Collective Nouns. Minneapolis, MN: Millbrook Press, 2015. What better way to figure out the world than to learn some words, some ways of identifying what we see and with whom we share the world, and more, how to name natural groups. Did you know a group of lizards is a lounge? And a clan of porcupines is a prickle? Now you do! Additional glossary included explaining what else a lounge and prickle, for example, can mean. And don’t hurry through the endpapers – Jago releases the humor of his canvas paintings with which he matched the informative and funny text and fittingly finishes with cloud animals loping off through the clear blue sky, serious and dreamy, all at once, as the only the acquisition of knowledge can enable.
Schwartz, Joanne; illus. Isabelle Malenfant. Pinny in Summer. Berkeley: House of Anansi Press, Groundwood Books, 2016. Soft pastels and graphite pencil support this set of moments of a perfect summer day for Pinny and her two friends. Not quite a Pollyanna, Pinny is just a nice girl with a nice life and nice friends in a nice place. They meet a seagull and pick blueberries and have a party, and plan to do it all again the next day. She’s happy and grateful. Summer sweet – no saccharine. Just a relaxing sweet.
Thurber, James; illus. JooHee Yoon. The Tiger Who Would Be King. NY: Enchanted Lion Books, 2015. The original Thurber fable rereleased and illustrated in gorgeous and loud hand drawings of two Pantone colors and computer embellishments that thrash and smash about in the quest to be king, in the unquenchable thirst and rageful righteousness of being king. Huzzah. “All of the animals of the jungle joined in.” It’s lion versus tiger, and “some did not know which they were fighting for, and some fought for both, and some fought whoever was nearest, and some fought for the sake of fighting.” The animals gnash their teeth and bare their claws and fight and smite in a vicious double-spread until all of them are dead. Except for tiger. “But his days were numbered.” So. What does it mean to be King?
Vendel, Edward van de; illus. Anton van Hertbruggen; trans. Dutch Laura Watkinson. The Dog That Nino Didn’t Have. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2015. An ode to imagination, to creating exactly what we need when we need it, to accepting what comes next, and to imagining all over again. The illustrations are dun-colored and darker, with fast sketches moving up and across the page in shades of green from bright to light to midnight with brown in-between, flying imagination higher and higher and all around. Nino doesn’t have a dog and so he pretends one, and “the dog he didn’t have” does daring things like dive straight in the river and jump on his great-grandma’s lap, and Nino is happy. And then he gets a dog, a real one, who does different things. And Nino is happy. And then Nino remembers about the deer and the zebra he doesn’t have, and the not-hippopotamus and the not-rhinoceros. And Nino imagines. And is happy.
Egan, Tim. The Dodsworth books. Dodsworth in New York (2007), Dodsworth in Paris (2008), Dodsworth in Rome (2011), and Dodsworth in Tokyo (2013). NY: Houghton Mifflin. Dodsworth wants to see the world. He craves adventure. He has a need for the new. “But first, he wanted breakfast.” Meet Dodsworth, a practical sort of guy. Then there’s Duck. He doesn’t just eat breakfast, he hops up on the table, sings a song about pancakes, and then throws said (sung?) pancakes through the air before finally hunkering down to eat breakfast. Seriously. And then he hides in people’s suitcases so he can see the world, too. And then he runs off to join a magic show. And then, and then, and then. Uh-oh. Dodsworth and Duck, Duck and Dodsworth, traveling the world. It certainly is an adventure!
Willems, Mo. Elephant & Piggie books. The Thank You Book. NY: Hyperion Books for Children, 2016. Elpehant & Piggie are the best friends of the beginner reader set and this book ends the twenty-five book series. How to say goodbye to such excellent companions? By saying thank you, and by reading all the books! Why not? In this ultimate entry, Piggie sets the stage by thinking, as he leans against Elephant and Elephant leans against him, “I am one lucky pig.” Then he races through the book thanking everyone for everything, “a thanking machine,” and Elephant worries Piggie will forget to thank one very important person. Or persons. Ahem. We’re all lucky. Thank you, Elephant & Piggie. Thank you, Mr. Willems.
Cleary, Beverley. The Ramona Books series. Beezus and Ramona (1955), Ramona the Pest (1968), Ramona the Brave (1975), Ramona and Her Father (1977), Ramona and Her Mother (1979), Ramona Quimby, Age 8 (1981), Ramona Forever (1984), and Ramona’s World (1999). The one, the only, the series that started them all, the chapter book series of spunky realistic kids in everyday life – the Ramona Books. Fresh with new illustrations in honor of author Cleary’s one-hundredth birthday this year (herself spunky and still going strong), prepare to read all eight books and enjoy the best of the best. Ramona and her sister Beezus and her father and her mother go through elementary school (the siblings) and job loss and gain (the parents) and all the practices of everyday life. Their tactics make them family and fit, for the good bits and bad, forever after and forever more. Certeau would approve.
Coats, Lucy. Beasts of Olympus series. Beast Keeper (2015), Hound of Hades (2015), Steeds of the Gods (2015), and Dragon Healer (2015). NY: Grosset & Dunlap, Penguin Random House.
Demon is eleven years old and the Official Stable Boy to the gods of Olympus. He used to be a normal boy living in a normal village in Greece with his normal mom, but then his dad turned up – who then turned out to be the god Pan – and swoosh! Demon is whisked away to be caretaker of all the animals on Olympus. It’s not that Demon doesn’t like animals, he does, but really, shouldn’t a boy get a choice in the matter? Even if he is only eleven years old? And even if his dad is a god? Oh, well. The animals are really, really cool. Demon will make it work. He’s fit for anything.
Nilsson, Ulf; illus. Gitte Spee; trans. Swedish Julia Marshall. Detective Gordon: The First Case (2015) and Detective Gordon: A Complicated Case (2016). New Zealand: Gecko Press USA. Detective Gordon is chief of police. Detective Gordon is also a toad. A very gentle toad with a fondness for naps, stamping important documents, warm fires, cups of tea, and cakes, “preferably with blackcurrant jam, ” different cakes for morning, evening, and night. And when he finds a mouse who is starving and without a home he takes her home to the police station and gives her food and a bed, because it isn’t good to have nothing to eat and nowhere to sleep and besides, he could use an assistant. A friend would be nice, too. So Detective Gordon and Buffy the Mouse set out to solve the mystery of Squirrel’s missing nuts. It’s good to have a case. And in the next book, they set out to make the Book of Law. Maybe it’s as simple as, “When you do something, and you’re happy afterwards, then it’s allowed. When you do something and you’re a little sad thinking about it’s afterwards, that’s often forbidden.” Maybe it’s not. Detective Gordon and Buffy will work on it. Spee’s illustrations give such character and emotion to toad eyes and mouse posture that readers can’t help but grow fond of the redoubtable duo. Recommended.
Schmidt, Annie M.G.; trans. Dutch David Colmer. The Cat Who Came In off the Roof. NY: Delacorte Press, Penguin Random House, 2015. Author Schmidt was known as The Queen of Dutch Children’s Literature, an honor well earned, and was awarded the Hans Christian Andersen Medal in 1988. This book is about a woman who swears she was born a cat and the adventures she has with the hapless and kind man who finds her. She tries to stay out of trouble – but it’s hard, when all she wants to do is climb trees and hang out with fisher folk and chase birds. And he tries to help her, he does – but it’s hard when his career as a journalist is flailing and she’s always climbing trees and hanging out with fisher folk and chasing birds. But friendship is friendship, and since she can hear and talk to cats (who themselves hear and talk about everything) and he love cats and to write about cats and other things that matter, voila. All things will be well. Currently also available in translation is her poetry collection A Pond Full of Ink (illus. Sieb Posthuma; trans. David Colmer, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman’s Books for Young Readers, 2014).
Vernon, Ursula. Hamster Princess: Harriet the Invincible and Hamster Princess 2: Of Mice and Magic (2016). NY: Dial Books, Penguin. Harriet Hamsterbone is a princess. And a hamster. “She was brave and intelligent and excelled in traditional hamster princess skills, like checkers and fractions.” She rides a quail named Mumfrey and cliff diving is her very love. She’s spunky. She’s kind. She’s Harriet Hamsterbone, princess and hamster.
Poetry and Folklore
Fogliano, Julie; illus. Julie Morstad. When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons. NY: A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press, 2016. Poems that move through the seasons, slowly, one by one, savoring each moment. “You can taste the sunshine/ and the buzzing/ and the breeze/ while eating berries off the bush/ on berry hands/ and berry knees.” Mortstad’s illustrations are of her signature gouache and pencil crayon, each color and figure deliberate yet blended into the meaning of one poem and the scenario of the next. Wonderful.
Greenfield, Eloise; illus Diane & Leo Dillon. Honey, I Love, and Other Love Poems. NY: HarperCollins, 1978. This author, these illustrators. Nothing more need really be said. Except with talent like theirs, it’s hard not to gush and gush and gush. It is the author’s very first collection and it is exuberant and uninhibited and filled with poems of love and joy that rush to be read aloud and shared. And the Dillons (they who won the Caldecott two years in a row) combine their talents here to create black and white sketch drawings overlaid with mustard renditions of emotion and life. Required reading, again and again.
Steig, Anne & William. A Handful of Beans. NY: A Caitlyn Dlouhy Book, Atheneum, 2016. Rereleased this year, these six fairy tales retold by Jeanne and illustrated by William are a collection pleasurably presented with classic Steig humor and reproofing posh. Little Red Riding Hood is ever so polite, for example, whilst her wolf is a dandy in coat and tie, replete with striped trousers and walking cane. Well-mannered as she is, Little Red also thinks: “There’s something about him I don’t quite care for, but I’m not supposed to be rude.” The rest of the tale is traditional in temperament, even ending with the wolf full of rocks and Granny and Red just fine. It even ends with the storytelling phrase, “Wasn’t that fun? Now this tale is done.”
Woollvin, Bethan. Little Red. Atlanta, Georgia: Peachtree Publishers, 2015. A folk tale fractured can often be worth a peek, and Woollvin’s version of Little Red Riding Hood as a girl with a deadpan stare and an ax is no exception. The graphic illustrations of red and black on white add dash to the daring – this is Red with an attitude. Don’t mess with Red.