Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sarah, Plain and Tall

Author: Patricia MacLachlan

First line: "Did Mama sing every day?" asked Caleb.

Why you should read this book: Anna remembers the mother who died bringing her little brother, but when her father announces that Sarah is coming, Anna's only concern is enticing this new potential mother to stay. Anna and Caleb fall in love with Sarah, but they worry that their flat, prairie home is not lovely enough, and that Sarah will pack up her cat, Seal, and her seashells, and return to the ocean instead of marrying their father and staying with them forever. This classic, award winning volume is a fast read about the forms that love takes and the intersection of family, place, and identity.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You had a recent bad experience with a mail order bride.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Carolinda Clatter

Author: Mordicai Gerstein

First line: Once there was a lonely giant who fell in love with the moon.

Why you should read this book: Gorgeous, lyrical, and romantic (in every sense of the word) this is a satisfying tale in the realm of legend, encompassing the adoration of a Titan for a heavenly body and that of a small child for loud noises. In desperation at unrequited love, the giant sleeps so long and so soundly that plants, animals, and human take him for a mountain, albeit one that is shaped exactly like a giant. The people who live on his stomach are superstitiously careful not to wake him until the birth of Carolinda Clatter, whose propensity for noise first imperils and then saves the town.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You believe children should be seen and not heard.

The Giant Ball of String

Author: Arthur Geisert

First line: For generations, the youngsters of Rumpus Ridge had collected string.

Why you should read this book: This book has it all: theft, revenge, remarkable feats of engineering, incredibly intelligent porcine children, and a giant ball of string. When their town's one claim to fame is washed away in a storm and appropriated by the folks downstream, the piglets set about to recovering their stolen property. With a plan that would make Rube Goldberg sit up and smile, they infiltrate the enemy encampment and reverse an act of municipal espionage.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You believe strongly in the doctrine of "finders keepers" and you're gearing up to celebrate Columbus Day.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Yertle the Turtle

Author: Dr. Seuss

First line: In the faraway island of Salamasond Yertle the Turtle was king of the pond.

Why you should read this book: Seuss's elementary primer on the horrors of fascism and the power of grassroot revolt against tyranny is a taut drama depicting the battle against ego-maniacal power-mongering and the need of turtles--and all creatures--to be free. Children eagerly embrace the thesis of this book and embrace its message of justice and equality for all. Children seem to get it just fine.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Nobody gets a pass on this one. If you don't like this book you're a sociopath.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

This Crowded Earth

Author: Robert Bloch

First line: The telescreen lit up promptly at eight a.m.

Why you should read this book: Harry Collins lives in an untenable future, one where overcrowding threatens the very structure of society and government cover-ups hide the extent of the damage from clueless citizens. But when Harry can't take the pressure anymore, his attempt to escape leads him to the heart of the biggest conspiracy the world has ever known, or else the most radical solution it could imagine. Spanning decades and multiple points of view, Bloch works out his future history for a human race that needs a bridge between rampant consumerism and growth and unchecked destruction and degradation.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You can't wrap your head around the idea of 1997 being a futuristic time, and even if you can, you can't wrap your head around a future Earth where women are seen as breeding sows.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Tunnel Kids

Author: Lawrence J. Taylor

First line: The noon skies turned midnight black and cracked open, roaring with lightning.

Why you should read this book: They are street kids--cholos--who run with gangs, huff spray paint from old soda cans, and lie in wait amidst the filth of the tunnels that run under Ambros Nogales, ambushing the pollos trying to cross secretly into America, robbing them of their money, and sometimes worse. Yet they are still children, and human beings with intelligence, ambition, and emotion, as Lawrence and his partner, photographer Maeve Hickey learn over several summers spent volunteering at Mi Nueva Casa, a shelter for street kids on the Mexican side of the border. With Hickey's stark portraits of the children brought to life through Taylor's prose, this is part-documentary, part-ethnography, an outsider's peek into a dark, frightening, and often forgotten world of poverty and desperation at the US-Mexico border.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Your hobby is patrolling the border with a shotgun and you have INS on speed dial.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Never Too Little to Love

Author: Jeanne Willis

First line: This is Tiny Too-Little. He loves somebody.

Why you should read this book: A cumulative poem, a lesson on perseverance, and a pop-up book. A small mouse sets his sights high and uses all his resources to achieve his goal, but ultimately finds that he cannot get there on his own. Fortunately, the giraffe object of his affections is willing to meet him a little more than halfway.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: Sizeism.

The Sneetches and Other Stories

Author: Dr. Seuss

First line: Now, the Star-Belly Sneetches Had bellies with stars. The Plain-Belly Sneetches had none upon thars.

Why you should read this book: Four classic Seuss tales brought together in a single binding, including the title story, Seuss’s intelligent and compelling anti-racism opus, in which the reader learns that outward physical appearance has no bearing on an organism’s inherent value. “What Was I Scared of?” is another story about the follies of making judgments based on appearance, as well as a balm against irrational fear; “The Zax” confronts stubborn dogmatism and its effect on personal and social progress. “Too Many Daves” asks the reader to think before making a commitment and provides a bit of amusing foolishness and a palette for Suess to unload a bunch of hysterical names.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: You are teaching your children that your value system must never be questioned or compromised, and to fear and deride people who look different.

Dragon's Fat Cat

Author: Dav Pilkey

First line: One snowy day in January, Dragon heard a funny noise.

Why you should read this book: Upon rescuing a large and tragically pathetic kitty cat from a snow drift, Dragon finds himself an eager, if completely clueless, pet owner. This early reader is arranged into short chapters in which Pilkey allows his words and pictures to work together to comedic purpose, for instance, when Dragon goes to great effort to build a bed for the cat, which then falls asleep in Dragon’s bed, leaving the large and unwieldy Dragon to martyr himself by sleeping in the tiny cat bed. Of course the ending, which explains the reasons (five of them) for Cat’s rotund stature, is sure to delight young readers.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: They first thing you’d do would be to have the cat neutered.

Monday, September 1, 2008

The October Country

Author: Ray Bradbury

First line: May I die before my voices

Why you should read this book: Welcome to the world of crinkling dead leaves, early dusk, and a blurring between worlds--this is the October Country. Often cold, sometimes cruel, frequently murderous, but never dull, these eighteen stories drag the reader through a chilling constellation of lovely corpses and beautiful fear, crafted with love and devotion. A stunning collection for Halloween or any time you seek the icy fingers of delightful terror to run down your spine.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You've ever suspected your infant of attempted matricide.

I Sing the Body Electric

Author: Ray Bradbury

First line: I arrived in the truck very early in the morning.

Why you should read this book: Sixty years after its original publication, the science fiction themes of this classic collection still ring true. Beginning with a story that uses a time-traveling pickup truck to provide Ernest Hemingway with the death he deserves, and running the gamut from prophetic chickens to kindly electrical grandmothers to madness that activates sanity, Bradbury takes us on a journey to strange islands, deserted Martian landscapes, and improbable dimensions. Fresh, joyful, and full of hope, this is the foundation of speculative fiction.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You can't muster any sympathy for the Irish Republican Army.


Author: Donna Jo Napoli

First line: Xing Xing squatted by the water, silent and unmoving.

Why you should read this book: Another remarkably successful historical novelization of a fairy tale from celebrated children's author Napoli. This time around, she tackles Cinderella, drawing on Chinese sources and setting the tale in the Ming dynasty, where she can make use of the foot-binding theme, add a blind demon raccoon, and transform the dead mother's benevolent spirit into a giant koi. Although we know how the story ends, the journey there is joyous, poignant, and amazing.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Your fairy godmother has to say, "bippity boppity boo," and wave a magic wand.