Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Million-Dollar Bear

Written by: William Kotzwinkle and David Catrow

First line: Argyle Oldhouse was a grouchy old millionaire.

Why you should read this book: There is something hilarious and sweet about this story of two millionaires who know the price of everything and the value of nothing. The Million-Dollar bear lives unhappily in a dark and lonely vault, because he is the world's first teddy and extremely valuable. As a result of a robbery and an incompetent cleaner, the Million-Dollar Bear finally gets out of the vault and finds the true place of a teddy bear in this world.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You still have mint in box Star Wars action figures from the seventies, and no one can ever play with them because they're worth so much money.

The Bad Beginning

Written by: Lemony Snicket

First line: If you are interested in stories with happy endings, you would be better off reading some other book.

Why you should read this book: In book one of A Series of Unfortunate Events, the Baudelaire children, Violet, Klaus, and Sunny, lose their parents, home, and possessions in a terribly fire, and become wards of the bank that houses their late parents' fortune. Placed in the custody of an evil and terrible actor called Count Olaf, they suffer through various physical and emotional punishments. With their intelligence, determination, and quick-thinking, they escape a very terrible fate, but their story is just beginning. 

Why you shouldn't read this book: If you are interested in stories with happy endings, you would be better off reading some other book. 

Tight Times

Written by: Barbara Shook Hazen and Trina Schart Hyman

First line: This morning I asked Mom, "Why can't I have a dog?"

Why you should read this book: With a child's perspective on economic troubles, this book shows a protagonist who doesn't understand his parents' financial worries, except as it pertains to what he can and can't have. He can't have a dog. Then he finds a kitten who's in even worse condition than his family....

Why you shouldn't read this book: You hate cats.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Buffalo Woman

Written by: Paul Goble

First line: There was a young man who was already a great hunter.

Why you should read this book: This compelling retelling of a Native American legend shared by many Great Plains buffalo-hunting tribes, highlights the compact between human beings and the natural world they inhabit, while also functioning as the most powerful kind of love story. A hunter is rewarded for his faithfulness with a beautiful bride and a delightful child, but when his people reject Buffalo Woman as just an animal, the hunter chooses his family over his people and risks everything to reunite with the ones he loves. Determination, faith, love, honesty, and a little bit of magic.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You don't believe you're part of the natural order.

Pecos Bill

Retold and Illustrated by: Steven Kellogg

First line: Back in the rugged pioneer days when Pecos Bill was a baby, his kinfolk decided that New England was becoming entirely too crowded, so they piled into covered wagons and headed west.

Why you should read this book: I knew the name Pecos Bill but I didn't remember any of his tall tale about a Texan boy raised by coyotes. Kellogg's warm and friendly illustrations soften some of the more horrifying details of a story that depends on the defeat of monsters and criminals. Bill invents the modern rodeo, modernizes the cattle industry, and finds true love on the back of a catfish.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You believe strongly in the power of community and need to get along with your neighbors no matter what.


Retold by: Barbara Karlin and James Marshall

First line: Once there was a widower with a kind and beautiful daughter.

Why you should read this book: Marshall's hilarious drawings pair well with this deadpan retelling that highlight the grotesque aspects of Cinderella's interpersonal relationships while maintaining the tale's faith in love and magic. Cinderella has a terrible life, meets her fairy godmother, finds her prince, and loses her shoe, just as you expect her to. Happily ever after is assured, with a wink.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You remarried for the free labor.

Why the Tides Ebb and Flow

Written by: Joan Chase Bowden and Marc Brown

First line: Not in my time, not in your time, but in the old time, when the earth and sea were new, a stubborn old woman had no hut.

Why you should read this book: The kids and I both enjoyed this piece of mythological folklore explaining the tides as a result of a stubborn old woman demanding the bare necessities of life from her creator. Old woman seems helpless, but she's  trickster figure who takes advantage of Sky Spirit's human failings to get what she wants from the universe. A great lesson in determination, too.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You believe in making polite requests of your deities and accepting their decisions when they ignore you. Also, I wish there was a note about this story's origins, or whether the author created her own mythology.

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Rainbow Tulip

Written by: Pat Mora and Elizabeth Sayles

First line: Every morning my mother gives me a huge spoonful of thick, yellow, cod liver oil.

Why you should read this book: Stella feels different from the other children, because her mother doesn't speak English or dress like the other mothers. When she learns that all the girls in her class get to dress as tulips for their May Day dance, she chooses to set herself apart further by dressing as a rainbow-colored tulip. While noticing her differences, she finds that she can also embrace and enjoy them.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You work tirelessly to fit in.

Two Cool Coyotes

Written by: Jillian Lund

First line: Way out West, when Frank the coyote was just a pup, he had one best friend.

Why you should read this book: Two coyotes are best friends from infancy, and do everything together. Sadly, one coyote moves away, and the other misses her dreadfully. Soon, a new coyote moves into her den, and Frank finds that he can have different friends, and play different games.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You accept no substitutions.

Elphabet: An ABC of Elves

Written by: Jane Yolen and Lauren Mills

First line: A is for Acorn Elf always acrobatic.

Why you should read this book: With brief captions and delightful illustrations, here's an alphabet book for kids who want to see tiny hipster elves doing weird elf behaviors while learning their letters. Can be read straight through or examined page by page, for kids ready to identify the illustrations by their first letters. Cute and attractive.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You already know your letters and you hate cute elves.