Saturday, December 27, 2008

Piano Piano

Sometimes parents try to live their dreams through their children. “Piano Piano” by Davide Cali is about a mother like that.
Marcolino has to practice the piano every day at 3, but he hates it. He forces himself to practice for just 13 minutes, but then he escapes to the television.
“Get back to the piano now!” his mother orders.
But in another couple minutes, “Aarrh! I’m sick of this!” he yells.
Marcolino’s mother wants him to practice so he can become a grand pianist. She tells him she used to practice for hours as a child, but she never became a grand pianist because after he was born, she didn’t have time to practice. He feels guilty, even though it really wasn’t his fault. So he practices, but he doesn’t like the piano. He wants to be anything but a grand pianist.
Does Marcolino escape the piano and get to become what he really wants to be?Read this very entertaining book!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Tie Man's Miracle

It's Christmas week, but this is also the season of Hanukkah, which this year happens to be celebrated during this same week!
In honor of Hanukkah, also spelled Chanukah, I read The Tie Man's Miracle , A Chanukah Tale by Steven Schnur.
It's a haunting, beautiful story that doesn't tell you everything. You have to use your imagination.
The tie man is an old Jewish man, Mr. Hoffman, who sells neckties for a living. He comes to Seth's house when the menorah candles are about to be lit to begin the eight days of Chanukah. Seth's mother lets him inside and buys a few ties. The family invites the tie man to stay, and participate in their celebration. He does so, humbly.
He particularly seems fascinated by Hannah, the baby.
Seth asks questions, and finds out why.
Curious? Read the book!

Saturday, December 13, 2008


Ever seen the old Disney movie Pollyanna? Did you know it was was based on a book?
I loved the movie when I was a child, and even bought a copy on VHS years ago so my kids could see it too. I have to admit they weren't as excited about the movie as I was, years ago. So it may be a generational thing. Whatever.
I remain confident that the story is timeless. Admittedly, it's a little goofy at times. Pollyanna can be almost Amelia Bedelia in her deliberate misunderstanding of people's words and actions. She's determined to put the happiest, kindest, gladdest spin on everything and everyone she encounters.
This past week I've been reading the book Pollyanna, by Eleanor H. Porter, for the first time. I happened to notice it as I was looking for something to read during one of the library's slow times. I found out that the book was first published in 1912 -- almost 100 years ago!
But I still liked it.
Pollyanna Whittier is the daughter of a missionary and his wife, both of whom die fairly young. She's then sent back from the West to a little town in Vermont to live with her aunt. Polly Harrington is wealthy and bitter. She's about 40 and has never married. Pollyanna, with her loving, bubbly and overwhelmingly positive nature, is a shock to Aunt Polly's life, as well as to the entire town.
But it's a good shock. Pollyanna teaches one person after another to find something to be glad about in everything that happens. In doing so, she changes the sour outlook of the village residents, as well as her aunt, to one that's more loving and kind and hopeful.
The story may be a little difficult for elementary school children to understand, but girls in fifth and sixth grade should enjoy it. It even has a little romance!
Has anybody out there read Pollyanna? Or even seen the movie? Write and tell me what you thought of it!

Saturday, December 6, 2008


In Ayortha, a kingdom of singers, Aza has the most beautiful, magical voice of all. She has even learned how to throw her voice – a skill she names illusing.
Yet she spends most of her time fretting because she’s not pretty and because, in a country of small people, she is tall – two inches taller than the king.
“Fairest” by Gail Carson Levine is a fantasy about a girl who’s gifted, uniquely talented, but who just wants to be attractive in the most obvious way there is: physically.
Aza wants to be pretty, but in her own view, and that of most of her fellow Ayorthians, she’s ugly.
Still, life gets better, and more complicated, for Aza. She’s befriended by a cat-loving duchess, and the new queen makes her a lady-in-waiting. There’s a prince, too, named Ijori, who seems to like Aza.
Then the king is injured and cannot rule. The people want to hold a Healing Sing for him, but the queen, Ivi, is not a singer. Knowing Aza’s talent, she wants her to illuse for her – to make it seem that Aza’s voice is her own. Despite reservations, Aza finally agrees to do so.
Then Aza finds a magic mirror. When she looks into it, she sees herself as the fairest in the land. To find out how the mirror changes Aza’s life, you’ll have to read the rest of the book!

Saturday, November 29, 2008


Santa Claus has everything, right? Well, not quite. When a thoughtful boy writes to Santa, asking him what he wants for Christmas, it turns out that there is something the jolly old elf desires, more than anything else.
A daughter.
And in response to his wish, he and his wife are blessed with a baby girl, Holly Claus, who has “the purest and most compassionate heart of anyone ever born.”
But then the land of Forever, where Santa Claus reigns, is invaded by an evil warlock. He curses the land and encases Holly’s heart in ice. If she ever leaves the frosty land of Forever, her heart will melt and she will die.
Santa, his family and all the inhabitants of Forever are forced to stop their annual travels to the human world. Christmas is suspended, indefinitely.To find out how Holly manages to conquer the curse, save Christmas and find her own destiny, you’ll have to read Holly Claus: The Christmas Princess,

If you had been granted just one wish, what would you wish for? That’s the dilemma faced by a woodcutter in The Faerie’s Gift, a story retold by Tanya Robin Batt, with pictures by Nicoletta Ceccoli. For sure, the woodcutter has plenty of needs and wants. He and his wife have longed for a child for many years. His mother has grown blind in her old age. Life is hard, and every winter his family is cold and near starvation. If you were the woodcutter, what would you do? How would you choose? To find out what the woodcutter wished for, you must read the book!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Hans Brinker lives!

One of my favorite books from childhood was “Hans Brinker, or The Silver Skates” by Mary Mapes Dodge. First published in 1865, the book has long been a classic.
But like many children’s classics, it’s a hard read for today’s kids. It has 289 pages, for one thing. The plot is long and involved, which makes it very satisfying for those with the patience and reading ability to see it through. But it’s a challenge for children who’ve been used to reading Captain Underpants or the Backyardigans.
In my view, it’s a challenge that ought to be taken up far more often. This book is full of old-fashioned morals, character models and useful information – all things that aren’t in high demand these days.
But even the pictures in the book aren’t that great. In the library’s copy, which has a 1945 copyright, some of the reproduction is blurry and the colors are dull.
What a delight it was to find a new “Hans Brinker” book, condensed into only 30 pages and packed with stunning artwork by Laurel Long. The pictures alone would keep any child’s attention. They are simply gorgeous.
The story is retold by Bruce Coville, a popular children’s writer. It’s a very basic, skeleton outline of the original story, but in tandem with the pictures, it’s still touching and inspiring.
Maybe it will even inspire some children to want to read the original book.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Mozart Question

Sometimes books make us cry. Michael Morpurgo’s “The Mozart Question” did that to me.
It’s the story of a famous violinist, Paolo Levi, who’s being interviewed by a young reporter for a newspaper story. The reporter, Lesley McInley, has been warned not to ask “the Mozart question.” But she doesn’t even know what the question is.
So when she talks to Paolo, she innocently asks him to tell how he got started playing the violin. Because she has kind eyes, and because Paolo was once told “all secrets are lies,” he decides to tell her the truth – the tragic yet beautiful story of how he became a violinist, and the origin of the battered old violin on top of the cupboard in his parents’ bedroom … and why Mozart’s music is off limits.
I can’t tell you the whole story without spoiling it for you. But this wonderful book is one of the best I’ve read all year. The illustrations by Michael Foreman are perfect. If you don’t mind getting a little choked up and sad, read this book!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Lovely books

We don’t always think about it, but there’s some truly lovely and fabulously imaginative writing in some of the children’s books on the shelves at the library.

Even beginning fiction, which is written for fairly young children.

Consider When the Sky is Like Lace, by Elinor Lander Horwitz. This book was published in 1975, when most of the parents of current young children had barely set foot on the planet yet themselves. But its delightful blend of silliness and dreamy imaginings appeals to this generation as much as the last.

A sample paragraph:

“You will also find that, on bimulous nights when the sky is like lace, the grass is like gooseberry jam. It’s not really squooshy like jam, because then the otters’ feet would slurp around and the snails might drown. It only smells like gooseberry jam. But if you walk barefoot, it feels like the velvet inside a very old violin case.”

Beautiful. You can almost feel the grass.

Another gorgeously written book is Monday by Anne Herbauts. Monday is about the passage of time, days, weeks and seasons. It says far less than it implies. But the implications are enough.

Here’s a page:

“Do you remember Monday?
He waited for Lester Day
and thought about Tom Morrow.
He felt so small, so very small
That he knew almost nothing
about Thursday
or Friday.
On Saturday he smiled dreamily,
Sunday passed in silence.”

Both of these books can be found on the “new” shelves in the Children’s Department. Unless, of course, somebody beat you to them!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Want to read a book in 5 minutes?

"The Library of Doom is the world's largest collection of strange and dangerous books. The Librarian's duty is to keep the books from falling into the hands of those who would use them for evil purposes."

So begins each of Michael Dahl's series of books about the Library of Doom. In each of these little books (they really do take about 5 minutes apiece to read), the Librarian is the hero as he must figure out how to defeat the Spellbinder, the Paper Bats, the Beast of Books, the Collector, the Word Eater, the Lizard Bookends and the other malevolent invaders of the Library of Doom.

The Findlay-Hancock County Public Library has 12 of these new books, which can be found on the "new" shelves near the entrance to the Children's Department.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Happy Prince

I just read The Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde, retold by Elissa Grodin. It's a sad story, but happy too. It's about a bird and a statue. The bird is a swallow, who happens to see a small park where a statue of the city's former prince is placed. The swallow decides to sleep by the statue's foot, but he soon discovers that the statue is more than just a statue. The prince's heart still beats within the statue, and he's far more compassionate as a statue than he was as a prince, living the good life in his palace and ignoring the problems of his people.
I liked this book. It almost made me cry, though, even though it's a happy ending. Sort of. I'd call it bittersweet.
Anybody else read this book? What did you think of it?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

E. Nesbit

One of my favorite writers is a British woman who died almost 100 years ago. Edith Nesbit Bland used the pen name E. Nesbit. She was born in 1858 and died in 1924. But during her lifetime she wrote some of the most delightful children's books imaginable.
E. Nesbit loved dragons and children (she had five of her own), so many of her books are about dragons and children.
The Deliverers of Their Country is a tale about Effie and Harry, a pair of siblings who live in a time when Britain has been overrun with dragons. With characteristic British pluck and determination, they investigate all sorts of possibilities in order to deliver their country from this plague.
Five Children and It concerns five siblings who accidentally discover a wish-granting sand fairy while on vacation in the country one summer. That may sound like incredible luck, but somehow the children's wishes tend to have unforeseen and not always happy consequences.
The Complete Book of Dragons is a collection of E. Nesbit's short stories about, you guessed it, children and dragons. They're perfect bedtime stories.
Lionel and the Book of Beasts concerns a boy who unexpectedly becomes king of his country at a very young age. Since the previous king, his great-great-great-great-great grandfather, loved books far more than regalia, Lionel investigates the library. He discovers a wonderful book called the Book of Beasts. When he opens the book, he finds that whatever creature is depicted on the page will pop out of the book and come to life! Which is lovely, until he lets the dragon loose.
E. Nesbit wrote many other books, all of which are superb. My all-time favorite is called Melisande -- and it doesn't even have any dragons in it.
Melisande is a princess who shortly after birth is cursed by an evil fairy that she will be bald! Her father the king eventually remembers that he had a wish given to him years ago. He obtains permission to transfer that wish to his daughter. She wishes, understandably, for golden hair a yard long that grows and inch every day and twice as fast when it is cut.
That creates enormous problems. It isn't long before Melisande's hair has become the chief export of her country in the form of stuffing for pillows, hair brooches and girdles. But the consequences of the foolish wish aren't overcome until a determined prince and a fairy get involved.
If you like imaginative and intelligent stories, read those of E. Nesbit, which can be found in the Juvenile Fiction section of the Children's Department at the library.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


Dinah Ormsby and her brother Zeke live in a remote part of the world. They are homeschooled by their parents, so they don’t have much contact with other people.
Then comes the visit of their cousin Gage, followed by the storm.
It’s a terrifyingly violent and lengthy storm. It knocks out the power, so everything is cold and dark. And their parents are missing. So Gage decides to distract the Ormsby children by telling them a story.
So begins What-the-Dickens: the Story of a Rogue Tooth Fairy by Gregory Maguire.
What-the-Dickens (yes, that’s a name) is a skibberee, aka a tooth fairy. He’s a very tiny fellow clothed only in the webbing that grows on his body, and he’s in love with a cat named McCavity. So in the course of his amazing adventures, he tries to find a gift for McCavity that will win her heart.
A tooth.
Can you imagine the rest? I doubt it! You’ll need to read this book!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Strawberry Girl

Anybody ever read old books?
I mean, everybody who reads, seems to read the new books like Harry Potter, Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series and the Spiderwick Chronicles.
But there are lots of old books that are just as good.
I’m an old person, and there are still some books at the library that were there 45 years ago when I was a kid. So I decided to see if Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski was still a book that I would enjoy as much as I did when I first read it many years ago.
The book is about Birdie Boyer, whose family raises strawberries for a living in Florida in the early 1900s. Birdie works hard on the strawberry farm, but she dreams of learning to play the organ. Even going to school is a challenge in a place where the students can beat up the teacher. And the farm is a struggle too, with droughts, animal invaders, grasshoppers and ants, mean neighbors and other challenges. But they have fun too, with candy-pulling and other social events.
At first the book is kind of strange. The people talk in a dialect that some might find hard to understand. But if you keep going, you get used to it. The people are strange too, but they feel like real people because they have the same feelings people have today … feelings like pride, hurt, anger, love and ambition.
Did I like the book? Yes. Would I recommend it? Yes, to anybody who likes to learn about how people lived in the past. Strawberry Girl is an American story, about a way of life that disappeared many years ago. And it has great pictures, by the author.Does Birdie get her wish and learn to play the organ? You’ll have to read the book. If you do, please blog here about what you thought of it.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Penderwicks redux

Well, I read The Penderwicks, by Jeanne Birdsall. It was OK ... kind of a growing-up story. It takes place in Massachusetts, at a house in the country that the Penderwick family has rented for a month. There are four girls in the family, and their dad, a professor who drops Latin quotations a lot. Their mother died after the youngest girl was born. Oh, and there's also their dog, Hound.
The oldest kid is Rosalind, who has to take care of her younger siblings. She's practical, hard-working and pretty, and on the edge of her first real crush. Batty is the youngest. She's emotionally addicted to the butterfly wings she wears all the time, and to Hound.
Jane is a dreamer who wants to become a writer. And Skye is the rebel.
Throw this lovely family into a guest cottage on an estate, complete with an interesting teen-age gardener, a nasty landlady, and the landlady's son, Jeffrey, and you have a great formula for what should be a wonderful book.
But it didn't do much for me. Maybe the people just didn't have quite enough character? I love Roald Dahl's delightfully nasty characters. But the Penderwicks, for me, were rather flat.
Anybody disagree? Write and tell me why I'm wrong! Or right.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Penderwicks

Has anybody out there read "The Penderwicks" by Jeanne Birdsall?
This book looks really interesting to me. The subtitle is, A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy. How can you not want to read something like that?\

I notice, too, that it's turning into a series. The second one is called, The Penderwicks of Gardam Street. Yeah, it sounds like something you'd watch on PBS, but I have always liked that kind of literature.

OK, I'm going to read it. If anybody else has read it, please write and let me know if you liked it, or if I'm wasting my time.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Seeking the new Merlin

“One thousand years have passed since I, Merlin, mighty wizard of the Pendragons, magical defender of the Britons, and wise enchanter of the sword Excalibur, was imprisoned for all eternity in an oak tree by the cunning sorceress Vivienne, whom some call Nimue. One thousand years have passed since wizardology was practised in its true form, for the secret knowledge has grown scarce. Now most of those who call themselves wizards are but meddlers, unworthy of the name, while those who would make the best apprentices squander their time on a host of fledgling sciences.
“I have therefore, by that magic which still remains to me, caused a part of the oak that is my prison to be made into a book, so that at last an apprentice may be found to seek out and learn the old secrets, and by his efforts raise wizardology to its rightful place once more. …”

I discovered these words, and more, on a slip of paper inside a tiny envelope glued to the inside of a book – at the library.

Is anybody out there interested in taking up Merlin’s challenge?

If so, read the book! “The Wizardology Handbook: a Course for Apprentices,” edited for the modern reader by Dugald A. Steer. It’s on the “new” shelves in the Children’s Department, under Y Steer.

And if you read it, please write on this blog and tell the rest of us what you learned … and what you have become.

Is it possible that Findlay, Ohio (or Arlington, or Arcadia, whatever) could be the home of the future greatest wizard in the world?

“As I will, so mote it be!” -- Merlin

Thursday, August 21, 2008

This is YOUR blog!

Hey kids,

If you like books, and want to talk about them with your friends or kids you don't know, this is the place!

The Kids' Books blog is for you. If you're reading a great book, old or new, write about it! Ask questions. Criticize it. Write about what you like or don't like about it. Tell about the other books you've read by this author.

Or write about new books that you know are coming soon. Harry Potter fans -- J.K. Rowling's new book, 'Tales of Beedle the Bard,' will be out in December. So write about how excited you are ... or aren't.

Write about your favorite book, or one that your mother used to read to you when you were little. If there's a book you would like to re-read, but you can't remember the title or author, write about what you can remember. Maybe somebody will read it and be able to help you.

You can use this blog any way you want, so long as it has to do with books. Have fun!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Rose Blanche

I just read "Rose Blanche" by Roberto Innocenti. I was left feeling sad and thoughtful. It's a short book that you can read in about 10 minutes. The pictures are absolutely stunning with lots of detail.
The book's title is the name of the main character, a young girl who lives in Germany during the second World War. She experiences the war, but she doesn't really understand it. I read in the author's notes that the name Rose Blanche was chosen because it was the name of a group of young Germans who were against the war, and who finally were all killed.
I don't want to tell the whole story, because then people wouldn't want to read the book for themselves. I hope you will read it, and then blog here to let others know what you think.