Friday, February 26, 2010
What would it be like to wake up one day and realize you were truly gifted in some way you’d never imagined? That premise could apply to any number of fantasy books (Harry Potter, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, Rick Riordan’s The Lightning Thief ). The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz, illustrated by Angela Barrett, however, puts a slightly different twist on this idea: a magical being is rendered rather ordinary, because she cannot use her wings after a bat accidentally crumples them. Flory must figure out how to get from here to there, find shelter from her predators, gather food one cherry at a time because that’s all she can hold. And she must do all these things without her wings.
For Flory, now nearly everything in Nature poses a threat. She is, understandably, angry. Things are not going the way they were supposed to go. And yet she figures out how to take care of herself in this new predicament. She grows accustomed to her new routine. She begins to accept her situation as it is. And that turns things around for Flory. She opens up to the possibilities around her, for friendship and forgiveness and flights on hummingbird wings. This is the paradox: as Flory begins to accept her new reality and the world the way it is, she also sees a world of opportunities in front of her.
Friday, February 19, 2010
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Friday, February 12, 2010
Just by observing babies and toddlers, we can see how much they absorb through their eyes, nose, and fingers. They want to taste and touch everything. (That’s why board books are perfect at this age – if they wind up in your baby’s mouth, the pages can handle it.)
Four board books by husband-and-wife team Anne Gutman and Georg Hallensleben—Daddy Cuddles; Mommy Loves; Daddy Kisses; and Mommy Hugs—encourage cuddling and tickling between you and your toddler listener as your child learns about other animals and their young. Many of the creatures will already be familiar to babies and toddlers, but some of the animals’ behavior may not be—the fact that male penguins keep their young warm by tucking them under their bellies and between their legs, or that elephants show affection by intertwining their trunks. These scenes reassure young children by showing them a range of different animals that love their babies, while also introducing them to new words--like the koala’s “joey”—and also new environments through illustrations of the Antarctic or the Serengeti plains.
The impressionistic brushstrokes in the artwork keep the mood playful; this is no science lesson. Still, your youngsters will delight in being able to name and point to young animals who, just like them, have someone older and wiser looking out for them and giving them an encouraging squeeze, tickle, or offering a trunk to intertwine with theirs…
Friday, February 5, 2010
For Penny Lane Bloom in The Lonely Hearts Club, the Beatles play her life’s soundtrack. She’s a modern teen and, by all rights, she admits she should be rebelling against the Fab Four, since her parents are fanatics. The couple met at a makeshift vigil in Chicago after John Lennon’s death, all three of their girls are named for prominent Beatles characters—along with Penny Lane, Lucy (“in the sky with diamonds”) and (lovely) Rita; and the Blooms will not abide knockoff bands. But Penny sees the wisdom of the Beatles’ lyrics (each section of the novel begins with a quote from a song), and hears the genius in their music, and she proudly hangs their posters on her bedroom walls. So when she gets jilted, who can blame her for turning to the only men who’ve been true: John, Paul, George and Ringo.
Penny is a girl-next-door; she’s someone you know or grew up with (“...there beneath the blue suburban skies...”). She’s down to earth and no-nonsense. And that’s what makes her belief in the kind of true love that the Beatles sing about (“All you need is love…”) so compelling. When she realizes that her childhood flame is not the eternal one she’d hoped it would be, she decides it’s better to be true to herself than to abide by the “unwritten rules” of male-female dynamics. She will not compromise herself or her values for someone who does not value her. She swears off guys until she graduates and though she begins alone in the Lonely Hearts Club, she soon attracts many more young women through her example. When romance comes to Penny again, it’s in the form of a friendship that evolves into something more, with someone who respects the principles that led to the founding of her club.
It’s impossible to read this book and not hear the Beatles’ songs in your head. So why not give in to it? Get out an old Beatles album or two, and either play them while your teen is in earshot or leave them out where your teen can find them. There’s a reason the Beatles speak to generation after generation.