Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Ira Sleeps Over

Written by: Bernard Waber

First line: I was invited to sleep at Reggie's house!

Why you should read this book: A boy's anticipation of his first sleepover is marred by the question of whether or not his friend will laugh at him for still sleeping with a teddy bear. His parents insist he won't; he sister claims he will. In the end, Ira sees that he and Reggie see eye to eye on the teddy bear question.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You don't allow your children the comfort of a primary love object; they must face the dark on their own.

Curious George Rides a Bike

Written by: H. A. Rey

First line: This is George.

Why you should read this book: Who doesn't love the story of the curious monkey who is given way too much freedom for a human being, let along a mute creature born in the jungle? I loved this book as a child because it offers step by step instructions for turning a newspaper into a boat. Kids also enjoy the fancy bike-riding, the animals, and, of course, George's unerring ability to get into trouble.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You believe monkeys should not be raised in homes or allowed to play outside unsupervised, and you definitely don't think they're qualified to deliver newspapers or follow directions.

Each Kindness

Written by: Jacqueline Woodson

First line: That winter snow fell on everything, turning the world a brilliant white.

Why you should read this book: There's a sense of bittersweet nostalgia on every page, words and images, in the story of a little girl who rejects, out of hand, the new kid in school because her clothes are secondhand. Gradually, as the new girl, Maya, continues to make friendly overtures and the teacher speaks of kind acts, Chloe comes to regret her behavior, but by then it is too late. Maya has left the school, Chloe can never make up for her cruelness, and she must live with the consequences of her childish decisions.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You like being a snob and it never makes you feel bad about yourself.


Written by: Calle Claus

(This book doesn't have any words in it.)

Why you should read this book: A precious story about an outcast teenage mermaid, it's told entirely in images. Findrella and her BFF are more interested in mer-boys than in school, but when the friend is more successful in love, Findrella tries to transform herself into a more alluring creature. It's a much nicer version of "The Little Mermaid" than either Hans Christian Anderson or Disney ever told.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Well, you can't exactly read something without words.

Before Watchmen: Comedian/Rorschach

Written by: Brian Azzarello

First line: "I'm open!"

Why you should read this book: I don't know: normally I don't review books I don't like, or even finish them, but I kept trying to figure out what part of this prequel to the bestselling graphic novel of all time was so important that it had to be told in this format. There's something almost interesting about the relationship between the Kennedy family and the Comedian, but it doesn't really add up to anything, whereas Rorschach's story is completely pointless; obviously, this book was written solely for the purpose of making money, not to communicate something that Alan Moore might have missed in his seminal work. Rorschach already had a fully fleshed origin story, and Comedian didn't really need one, so I would only recommend this book if you somehow loved either character so much you wanted to read some kind of half-baked fan fiction.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You can articulate some qualities that make the work of Alan Moore so compelling.

Mick Harte Was Here

Written by: Barbara Park

First line: Just let me say right off the bat, it was a bike accident.

Why you should read this book: Phoebe wants to tell readers about her brother, who died because his bike tire hit a rock and he wasn't wearing a helmet, and she doesn't want to pull any punches. This is a radically honest novel about a sibling relationship; Phoebe provides brutal accounts about the fight she had with Mick the day he died, the way her parents cope with their loss, the time she yells at the principal who's just trying to comfort her and then runs out of the front door of the school and goes home to cry. It's sad but it's true, and it's a story about healing from loss and celebrating life.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You need time to grieve.

The Lovecraft Anthology Volume 1

Edited by: Dan Lockwood

First line: The most merciful thing in the world is the inability of the human mind to correlate its contents.

Why you should read this book: Lovecraft's world does not typically lend itself easily to any visual medium, given that so much of the terror depends on the reader's imagination, but this volume does a fair job of communicating the emotional range of seven of his most popular stories. The most successful is probably "The Rats in the Walls," possibly because the horror in this tale is based on rats and cannibalism, which are much easier to render realistically than unspeakable horrors and colors not of this earth. Fun for a little light reading.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Sometimes pictures make it less scary.

Ghost Boy: The Miraculous Escape of a Misdiagnosed Boy Trapped inside His Own Body

Written by: Martin Pistorius

First line: Barney the Dinosaur is on TV again.

Why you should read this book: A remarkable page turner of a memoir, it's the autobiography of a boy who contracts an unknown degenerative neurological disorder in his twelfth year, loses half a decade to darkness, and then gradually reawakens, horrifyingly with a type of locked-in syndrome: he is well aware of everything going on around him, can see, hear, feel, and think, but is unable to move or communicate his cognizance in any way. At the age of twenty-five, a care worker decides that he is not a complete vegetable and Martin slowly begins to train his body and mind to employ adaptive technology and rejoin the world. Although he can neither walk nor talk, Martin is able to hold down a steady job, find the love of his life, and take his place as a fully fledged adult.

Why you shouldn't read this book:  You love Barney.

What Do You Do with an Idea?

Written by: Kobi Yamada

First line: One day, I had an idea.

Why you should read this book: There is something achingly beautiful about a little boy whose idea (represented as a walking egg wearing a gold crown) provides the only small spot of color in his grayscale world. No matter what he does, the boy can't shake the idea, which keeps getting bigger and spreading its color, so finally he embraces the idea until it grows large enough to change the world so that everything is in color. A lovely tale about creativity, self-belief, and tenaciousness.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You fear change.

The Schmutzy Family

Written by: Madelyn Rosenberg

First line: First thin Sunday morning the Schmutzys rolled up their jeans and went wading in the malodorous Feldman Swamp.

Why you should read this book: If you know just a little bit of Yiddish, you can imagine what the Schmutzy family's primary passion is: getting dirty. Even Mom and Dad get in on the fun and don't mind the filth, up until Friday afternoon. When it's time to prepare for the Sabbath, the entire family cleans their home and their persons and enjoy a schmutz-free holy day.

Why you shouldn't read this book: If a speck of schmutz dares enter your sparkling home, you attack it with the nearest schmatta.

The Heart and the Bottle

Written by: Oliver Jeffers

First line: Once there was a girl, much like any other, whose head was filled with all the curiosities of the world.

Why you should read this book: Both subtle and sublime, the text speaks of an almost existential dilemma regarding thinking and feeling, while the illustrations put the story in context in a way that younger readers may not grasp. It's an allegory about emotional openness, but it's also a very realistic story of loss and growth; the language is metaphorical but the images are grounded in reality. A little girl's curiosity is always satisfied by her loving father, but when her father dies, she protects herself in such a way that she loses some of that love of learning, until her own child reawakens her spirit of inquiry so that she symbolically takes her father's place.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You find it's safest not to give anyone access to your heart.

The Monstore

Written by: Tara Lazar

First line: At the back of Frankensweet's Candy Shoppe, under the last box of sour gum balls, there's a trapdoor.

Why you should read this book: A real crowd-pleaser of a picture book, this is the story of a boy named Zack who purchases a monster named Manfred to keep his sister, Gracie, out of his bedroom. Gracie, apparently a cut above the typical little sister, instead befriends the monster, and the two of them torment Zack exponentially. The Monstore does not offer refunds, and instead baits Zack into purchasing increasing numbers of ineffective monsters until Gracie commands a virtual army of them and Zack is displaced to the basement. At last, Gracie develops a terrible fear of something (not a monster) and requires her big brother's assistance, allowing the world to shift back into balance.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're looking for an effective way to keep a sibling out of your personal space.