Thursday, January 21, 2016

Muggie Maggie

Written by: Beverly Cleary

First line: After her first day in the third grade, Maggie Schultz jumped off the school bus when it stopped at her corner. 

Why you should read this book: It’s a sly little piece about a girl who, in the style of Bartleby the Scrivener, decides that she would prefer not to learn cursive. This being a children’s book, of course the adults in her life eventually use their own wiles to convince her to change her own mind. A short chapter book, perfect for reluctant readers.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: Maggie’s main argument again learning cursive is that it’s pointless because she can type on the computer instead, so her story exists in a very narrow window of time (the very early ‘80s) and comes off as incredibly dated; of course, today children are not taught cursive, in favor of using the computer. In fact, Maggie is right, and all the adults are wrong, but it took 40 years to vindicate her. If only we could all go back in time and throw our cell phones at the 4th grade teachers who insisted that we had to learn our times tables because we weren’t going to all walk around with calculators in our pockets as adults.  

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

Written by: Grace Lin
First line: Far away from here, following the Jade River, there was once a black mountain that cut into the sky like a jagged piece of rough metal.

Why you should read this book: Melding a thrilling fantasy adventure with gorgeous, luscious prose and a series of interlinking stories within stories, this Newbury honor book follows little Minli on her quest to change her family’s fortune. A young girl living in an impoverished village with loving parents, Minli takes her father’s fairy tales and the advice of a fish on good faith and sets out to ask a question of the Old Man of the Moon, winning friends and influencing people along the way. Just a perfect example of great world-building, storytelling, and working with the English language to make it do what you want.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: You value money above all things.

Zlateh the Goat and Other Stories

Written by: Isaac Bashevis Singer
First line: Somewhere, sometimes, there lived a rich man whose name was Kadish.
Why you should read this book: Full of whimsy and delight, Singer offers this short collection for young readers, full of silliness and trickery and even a couple demons. Chelm stories and bubbe-tales figure prominently among them, and the detailed, black and white illustrations by artist Maurice Sendak offer an air of realism to this fantasy world. Great fun for children who love nonsense and magic.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: When I was a little kid, I found the incredible stupidity of the Chelmites a little disturbing. 


Written by: Clive Barker

First line: The storm came up out of the southwest like a fiend, stalking its prey on legs on lightning.

Why you should read this book: Candy Quackenbush is sure that there is no place in the universe more dull than Chickentown, Minnesota, so when she meets a criminal with eight heads on the outskirts of town, she’s eager to follow him to across the Sea of Izabella to the magical islands of Abarat, despite the fact that she’s likely to die on the way, or at least to never return home. But Candy has certain qualities that seem to keep her afloat as she’s initiated into the delights, and the dangers, of this magical land that somehow feels more like home than Chickentown ever did. This adventure tale offers terrible villains, great world-building, and a strong, unsinkable heroine who’s eager to rise to the challenges ahead. 

Why you shouldn’t read this book: When you get the end, it’s pretty obvious that you’ve actually just started.

Chu’s Day

Written by: Neil Gaiman
First line: When Chu sneezed, bad things happened.
Why you should read this book: A little panda with a fierce sneeze resists the urge to lose his head over book dust and pepper air but somehow finds he is allergic to circus animals. It’s more of a short visual gag than a story, but the pictures are detailed and amusing. Great for kids with short attention spans, provided the adults can make the sneezing sounds dramatic enough.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: Not the author’s greatest work of literature. Probably would have never been published without his massive name recognition. 

East Dragon, West Dragon

Written by: Robyn Eversole
First line: East Dragon lived in a palace.

Why you should read this book: I loved this fresh take on the differences between eastern and western dragons, which demonstrates why we should learn about others ourselves instead of making assumptions about their differences. West Dragon thinks East Dragon is a snob, while East Dragon thinks West Dragon is a slob, and both dragons are terrified that they might not be the fiercest dragon. Eventually, of course, they must work together for a common cause and learn that two monsters can be different and still have plenty in common.

Why you shouldn’t read this book:  You’re trying to sow xenophobia into your child’s psyche.

It’s Raining Bats and Frogs

Written by: Rebecca Colby  

First line: Every year, Delia looked forward to flying in the Witch Parade

Why you should read this book: For kids who like Halloween nonsense, this silly book that beings with a literal take on the phrase “raining cats and dogs” and proceeds to get even more ridiculous from there will hit the spot. Delia tries to salvage a rained out parade by transforming the weather into various other objects falling from the sky, with mixed results. Fun for reading aloud, but also a good choice for early readers looking for a little challenge. 

Why you shouldn’t read this book: Don't approve of witch on witch violence.

Olive and the Embarrassing Gift

By: Tor Freeman

First line: Joe gave Olive a gift.

Why you should read this book: The gift of friendship is something separate from gifts given in friendship, as Olive the cat learns when Joe the turtle gives her a hideous hat to celebrate their bestie status. Olive does everything possible to get out of wearing her present, short of actually admitting she hates it, while her other friends snicker at Joe's terrible taste in headgear. When Olive realizes that her shame is second to Joe's disappointment in her, she realizes that it's worth a lot more humilition to show her friend how much she cares.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You don't care who gets hurt in your quest for fashion.