Monday, May 11th, 2009
Shotgun Book Reviews: Bragging from a Helpless Hoarding Dad
Last weekend was a good weekend for acquiring books. I scored 137 children’s books in good to new condition for about $40.
Where??? Three garage sales and one library sale where I got first dibs because I volunteered to help set up the sale. Two other dads were clued into this insider’s bounty and brought their tween daughters to the library. Thank goodness those girls considered picture books to be baby stuff.
Why so many??? To make reading as fun and interesting as possible. Yes, this is one area where I plan to completely spoil my children. And besides, when’s the last time you saw a library stock Richard Scarry books?
Yep, neat orderly stacks are boring, so I shoved ‘em around for this photo.
What follows are highlights from the catch. And yes, we do read them all. The story books don’t get put on our shelves until they’ve been read at least once. And yes, I do weed some lackluster titles out now and then.
But wait, more books!
Oh goodie, a few stacks.
Okay, now some quick reviews…
1. Different Just Like Me by Lori Mitchell. This picture book is my surprise favorite. It follows a girl’s trip around town each day, observing people along the way.
She sees a child using sign language, and riding on the bus “just like me.” And she sees people of all colors speaking multiple languages, all shopping at the farmer’s market “just like me.” Some people she meets are different from the majority population (say, a woman in a wheelchair) while others (say, a white man eating at a diner) might see ordinary if you’re white in a predominantly white town like me.
There are three nice touches:
- People-spotting pages depict individuals in full color while the background scenery is black-and-white.
- A sign language alphabet is included on a hearing-impaired page.
- The numbers 1 through 5 are depicted in raised Braille dots on a vision-impaired page.
The story concludes with the girl bringing home a bouquet of flowers from her grandmother’s garden, and remarking that they are all different and beautiful just like the people she has met. See the book’s website too.
2. Richard Scarry – Our journey began three years ago with Richard Scarry’s Biggest Word Book Ever. Either you remember Huckle Cat, Lowly Worm, Mr. Frumble and the gang from your childhood, or you wonder what’s all the fuss.
Our latest additions are: Learn to Count, Best Counting Book, Great Big Schoolhouse, and Rudolf Von Flugel’s Busy Day, bringing our collection to 24 books. If you can pick only one, go with Cars and Trucks and Things that Go for sheer lots-of-stuff-to-look-at fun, not just regular vehicles, but also hot dog cars, egg trucks and bananamobiles.
3. No More Water in the Tub by Tedd Arnold. In this picture book, the kids overfill their bath tub, the door busts open, and they go surfing through their apartment complex on a tidal way. Their neighbors get carried along one-by-one in this very light-hearted story. My daughter loves the zaniness and as a storyteller it’s an easy tale to ham up.
Also see: No Jumping on the Bed by Tedd Arnold where the bed falls through the floor, collecting neighbors floor-by-floor as everyone tumbles to the basement.
4. The Moon Seems to Change by Franklyn M. Brankey. This picture book does a great job of explaining the phases of the moon. Included is a walkthrough for using a flashlight and a ball to understand how the moon’s appearance changes each day. I’ve done something similar with a desktop globe to explain how the sun is always rising and setting somewhere in the world at every moment.
5. Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown. This is a sort of famous short chapter book that has become a series. Stanley is flattened when his bulletin board falls on him, and he realizes the fun that flatness provides. He’s flown like a kite, mailed to exotic places, and so forth. The original book sparked the Flat Stanley Project in schools across the US where kids mail naked Stanleys to distant lands and ask people to draw clothing on him.
I also picked up Stanley, Flat Again!, Stanley’s Christmas Adventure and Stanley’s Wordwide Adventures #1 and so far my daughter is enjoying them all.
6. The Magic School Bus series. This is a title for 4- or 5-year-olds at the earliest. Ms. Frizzle takes her class on field trips in a bus with magic powers. Science principles are taught along the way. The books are based upon a PBS cartoon I’ve never seen, so I was surprised at how much science information is packed into these schizophrenic stories.
7. Isaac Asimov’s Library of the Universe (28 books). Holy cow! This 1990 series is written by one of the giants in science fiction writing. This will be a great browsing primer as my daughter and I use a telescope this summer (oh yes, a fifth birthday present to be sure).
The series has typical titles about the sun and the planets that may be outdated on small points such as how many moons orbit a planet. But there are some great unusual titles too, such as Space Garbage, The Asteroids, Ancient Astronomy, The Space Spotter’s Guide and Mythology and the Universe.
So, umm… I’m not sure where my book hoarding will end, but now at yard sales I’m snatching up beloved books we already own… so we can use them as party favors at my daughter’s birthday party. Goodbye useless plastic trinket goodie bags!