Monday, January 23, 2017

Stella Fairy of the Forest

Written by: Marie-Louise Gay

First line: "Stella!" called Sam.

Why you should read this book: Two semi-feral children follow their fancies into the forest, the big sister boldly leading them on while the little hangs back a bit. It's a pretty story where nothing exactly happens, but a relationship, full of love and tenderness and excitement, is beautifully illustrated. It's just on the edge of magic.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You would never allow little kids to run unsupervised in the woods.

Fishing in the Air

Written by: Sharon Creech and Christ Raschka

First line: One Saturday, when I was young, my father and I left the house early in the morning, when it was still blue-black outside.

Why you should read this book: An award-winning writer and an award-winning artist team up to craft this nostalgic and poetic father-son story. A fishing trip turns into an extended metaphor/infinite loop/fact-finding expedition as actions and surroundings summon memories. Father and son are closer, and wiser, at the end of the story.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Like many of the most finely crafted stories, this beautiful work seems to appeal much more to the child within grown adults than to actual children.

The Fish Who Cried Wolf

Written by: Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

First line: Once there was a fish and his name was Tiddler.

Why you should read this book: A chronically tardy fish called Tiddler tells a series of increasingly unbelievable stories to explain his absence during roll call. Even though most of the fish don't believe his tales, they repeat them ad nauseum. When Tiddler actually has a legitimate absence, and finds himself lost far from home, he is able to make his way back home by tracing the course of his story, from teller to teller, across the ocean, until he makes it back to school as the bell is about to ring.

Why you shouldn't read this book: It sort of sends the message that lying will be rewarded, if you just lie well enough. Although maybe that's the foundation of western literature.

My Abuelita

Written by: Tony Johnston and Yuvi Morales

First line: I live with my grandma.

Why you should read this book: A little boy goes through his daily routine with his very unconventional abuelita, who seems to have a great sense for the theatrical, as well as great comic timing. She is getting ready for work, and, eventually, we learn that all her action prepare her for her job: she's a storyteller. Of course, the young narrator wants to follow in her wacky footsteps.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You want your kids to aspire to real jobs, like tax preparation or retail.

These Hands

Written by: Margaret H. Mason and Floyd Cooper

First line: Look at these hands, Joseph.

Why you should read this book: Based on a true story, a grandfather reminisces about what his hands once has the power to accomplish, and rejoices in what power remains to them. As he teaches his grandchild the skills he has learned throughout his life, he also tells the boy about his own part in the civil rights movement, and the protests against prohibitions against black people in the baking industry. Meanwhile, the boy takes delight in all the abilities he has learned from his grandfather.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You don't believe in teaching children that they can do anything.

Ribbon Rescue

Written by: Robert Munsch

First line: As soon as her grandmother finished making the ribbon dress, Jillian put it on and ran out into the front yard.

Why you should read this book: With playful repetition that appeals to young readers, Munsch tells the story of a girl who is more concerned with helping others than maintaining her finery. Jillian's tradition Mohawk costume pays a heavy toll in aid of a bunch of people who are not as prepared for their big day as she is. In the end, Jillian has no ribbons, but she has the gratitude of many.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You wouldn't have set food outdoors in your beautiful new dress.

The Giving Tree

Written by: Shel Silverstein

First line: Once there was a tree...and she loved a little boy.

Why you should read this book: This is the enduring tale of selflessness, framed as the relationship between a human boy and an apple tree who will do literally anything in her power to keep this kid happy, because, apparently, she can only find happiness by offering it to others. The tree gives; the boy is happy. Even unto death, the tree gives; the boy is happy.

Why you shouldn't read this book: It's also, in its way, a story about a soft colonialist mindset and the idea that natural resources exist to be exploited, and that women should sacrifice themselves for men, but kids never see any of this; they just want the boy and the tree to be happy.

Sycorax's Daughters

Edited by: Kinatra Brooks, Linda D. Addison, and Susana Morris

First line: Thistle stepped over and upturned root that twisted from the dark, wet earth.

Why you should read this book: This thick anthology collects horror fiction and poetry written by dozens of black women, offering a platform for voices that have often been silenced, and rarely given the spotlight in genre fiction: a new perspective on an old form that completely reframes the very idea of what, and who, is horrifying. Like most anthologies, it features a wide variety of work, some by unknown authors, but generally speaking, the stories in this book are strong: mostly-well written and all featuring provocative characters and ideas. A joyful, and thoughtful, compendium of scary stories that ought to please those who love the creepy side of storytelling.

Why you shouldn't read this book: I read an ARC that was desperately in need of multiple copyediting passes. Hopefully, by the time of publication next month, this distraction will have been addressed.