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.