Tag Archives: Diverse Books

Three Strong Women: A Tall Tale from Japan

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Famous sumo wrestler Forever-Mountain thinks very highly of himself. But when he plays a joke on a young woman she (literally) drags him home to her mother (who carries around their pet cow around to spare its delicate feet) and grandmother (who pulls oak trees out of the ground if she trips over their roots) and the three of them offer to make a truly strong man out of him. When he agrees:

Every day he was made to do the work of five men, and every
evening he wrestled with Grandmother. Maru-me and her mother agreed
that Grandmother, being old and feeble, was the least likely to
injure him accidentally. They hoped the exercise might be good for
her rheumatism.

We love this book. It is unexpected, funny, and satisfying from start to finish.

Author: Claus Stamm
Illustrator: Jean and Mou-sien Tseng

 

Argus

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[T]he children drew pictures
of their chicks to post on the walls. All
of the other children’s pictures were cute
and yellow and very much alike. Sally’s
picture… wasn’t.

“Good work, children,” said Mrs. Henshaw. “Now let’s
investigate what our little chicks like to eat.”

“Mine likes seeds!” said one boy.

“Mine likes beetles!” said another.

“Mine is trying to eat the other chicks,” said Sally.

One of these chicks is really not like the others. But every time Sally tries to point this out, her teacher simply tells her not to be difficult. While the teacher’s careful refusal to acknowledge the elephant (dragon) in the room is increasingly absurd, Sally begins to love her “chick” despite the many challenges it presents.

Ultimately, this sweet, dryly funny book is about differences, unpredictability, and loving the one you’re with.

Author: Michelle Knudsen
Illustrator: Andrea Wesson

 

Million series

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Visualizing a million, billion, or trillion (or other concepts like compound interest and the metric system) isn’t easy, unless you read this fun series of books.

For example, a tank big enough to hold a million goldfish would be big enough to hold a whale. A tank big enough to hold a billion goldfish would be as big as a stadium. And a tank big enough to hold a trillion goldfish would be as big as a city harbor. (Keeping in mind a tank should hold one gallon of water for every one inch goldfish!)

Steven Kellogg’s cheerful illustrations keep things light, bright, and engaging. How Much is a Million? is our favorite of the series.

Author: David M. Schwartz
Illustrator: Steven Kellogg

The Animal Family

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Once upon a time, long, long ago,
where the forest runs down to the
ocean, a hunter lived all alone in a
house made of logs he had chopped for
himself and shingles he had split for
himself. The house had one room, and
at the end closest to the ocean there was
a fireplace of pink and gray and green
boulders–the hunter had carried them
home in his arms from the cliff where
the forest ended….

In spring the meadow that ran down
from the cliff to the beach was all foam-
white and sea-blue with flowers; the
hunter looked at it and it was beautiful.
But when he came home there was no
one to tell what he had seen–and if he
picked the flowers and brought them
home in his hands, there was no one to
give them to. And when at evening,
past the dark blue shape of a far-off
island, the sun sank under the edge of
the sea like red world vanishing, the
hunter saw it all, but there was no one
to tell what he had seen.

This strange and beautiful book has hunters and mermaids; bears and lynxes; loneliness, love, and luck; and moments of violence and deep sadness. More than anything else it is about making a family.

Author: Randall Jarrell
Illustrator: Maurice Sendak

Big Snow

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“Mom,” said David, “when will it snow?”
“I think soon,” said Mom. “Why don’t you help make
cookies while you wait.”

Everything that David does makes him think of snow. Is it coming yet? And when it does come, will it be Big Snow?

We wait and watch with David as his day progresses and the storm rolls in. We see the skyline of his overcast neighborhood slowly disappear into ever growing clouds and snow (the boys really like this part), we watch the roads get covered and uncovered. We watch the light outside disappearing and homes’ lights appear (including his neighbor’s menorah). We watch (the very capable, if somewhat distractible) David help his Mom with an impressive number of getting-ready-for-holiday-guests chores. When naptime comes, we watch David’s dream of Big Snow come a bit too true (I’m amused by how his mom keeps right cleaning throughout) and the book ends as he wakes up to play with outside with his family.

The further away from snow we get, the more popular this book becomes.

Author: Jonathan Bean
Illustrator: Jonathan Bean

The Bake Shop Ghost

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Miss Cora Lee Marriweather
ran the best bake shop in
these parts–maybe even in the whole
state. The chocolate in her Mississippi
mud pie was darker than the devil’s
own heart. Her sponge cake was so light
the angels kept hoping it would float up
to heaven. No birthday was complete
without a Merriweather layer cake with
her special buttercream frosting.

It would be hard to find a sweeter ghost story than this one, although it does start out sadly. Miss Cora Lee’s baked goods get lots of attention, but she is basically ignored. After she dies (no one cries at her funeral until they realize her desserts are a thing of the past), her ghost refuses to leave her bake shop until a new baker can fulfill a very special request.

This book is very enjoyable to read aloud and the boys love hearing about (and dreaming of choosing from) the bake shop’s wares.  I especially like the gumption, persistence, and–ultimately–friendship of the two main characters.

Author: Jacqueline K. Ogburn
Illustrator: Marjorie Priceman

Blueberry Girl

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Ladies
of
light
and
ladies
of
darkness
and
ladies
of
never-
you-
mind,
This is a prayer for a blueberry girl.

First, may
you
ladies
be kind.

Lovely. And utterly girl-centric. (I may need a niece.)

Author: Neil Gaiman
Illustrator: Charles Vess


 

Cinnamon Baby

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In honor of Mother’s Day, I’m going to share a few books that I enjoy a good bit more than the boys do (at least so far–I haven’t entirely given up hope they might become more general favorites).

The first book in this category, Cinnamon Baby, charms me completely. I love the story (filled with baking, music making, passion and jobs, romance and support, the joy and excruciating helplessness of parenting a newborn, love and exhaustion, playfulness, creativity, and beauty). I love the illustrations, which complement and enhance the story (which in a mere 34, unrushed pages addresses working, meeting, marrying, pregnancy, co-parenting, a very unhappy baby, and finally a very happy family). And I love how the boys indulge me and listen to it with a smile.

Author: Nicola Winstanley
Illustrator: Janice Nadeau


 

Bembelman’s Bakery

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This is the origin story of a (fictional) hugely-popular bakery. Back in the Old Country, seven children decide to help their mama by baking bread. Like The Duchess Bakes a Cake, things quickly spiral out of control, but the flavor of this book is completely different:

“This is not just bread,” he cried. “It’s meat and potatoes!
It’s strudel and pie! It’s breakfast, lunch, and dinner all at
once! It’s apples and raisins, vodka and noodles, every taste
you ever wanted to taste, all in each wonderful bite.”

I always enjoyed this as a kid and it is now one of my youngest’s very favorites.

Caveat: Corporal punishment clearly is an option for this family, but the reference is fleeting.

Author: Melinda Green
Illustrator: Barbara Seuling

Chugga-Chugga Choo-Choo

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‘Round the mountains, high and steep.
Through the valleys, low and deep.

Into tunnels, underground.
See the darkness. Hear the sound.
Chugga-chugga choo-choo, echo calling,

Whoooooooo!
Whoooooooo!

Whoooooooo!
Whoooooooo!

This simple, rhythmic story of a special journey works best at bedtime and is perfect for little ones who are interested in trains. It is a real pleasure to read aloud.

Author: Kevin Lewis
Illustrator: Daniel Kirk