Monday Children’s Book Reviews for January 31, 2011

Children’s Classics, Part 4: Moving Up Fiction

When you’ve read all the Early Readers, but you’re not quite ready for the thicker books, check out the Moving Up section!

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett

“Life is delicious in the town of Chewandswallow where it rains soup and juice, snows mashed potatoes, and blows storms of hamburgers — until the weather takes a turn for the worse.”                    [J BARRETT]

The Velveteen Rabbit, or, How Toys Become Real by Margery Williams Bianco

Nursery magic is very strange and wonderful, and only those playthings that are old and wise and experienced like the Skin Horse understand all about it.

“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real. It doesn’t happen all at once. You become. It takes a long time. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”                                 [J BIANCO]

Freckle Juice by Judy Blume

More than anything in the world, Andrew wants freckles. His classmate Nicky has freckles — they cover his face, his ears, and the whole back of his neck. (Once sitting behind him in class, Andrew counted eighty-six of them, and that was just a start!)

One day after school, Andrew screws up enough courage to ask Nicky where he got his freckles. And, as luck would have it, who should overhear him but giggling, teasing Sharon (who makes frog faces at everybody!)

Sharon offers Andrew her secret freckle juice recipe — for fifty cents.                                  [J BLUME]

My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett

“This Newbery honor book captures the nonsensical logic of childhood in an amusingly deadpan fashion. The story begins when Elmer Elevator (the narrator’s father as a boy) runs away with an old alley cat to rescue a flying baby dragon being exploited on a faraway island. With the help of two dozen pink lollipops, rubber bands, chewing gum, and a fine-toothed comb, Elmer disarms the fiercest of beasts on Wild Island.”         [J GANNETT]

Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown

“Meet Stanley Lambchop. He’s an ordinary boy with an extraordinary problem. He’s four feet tall, about a foot wide . . . oh, and half an inch thick.

“At first being flat is fine. It’s fun going in and out of rooms simply by sliding under the door. And it’s exciting being mailed to your friends in California for a visit. But it’s not always easy being different, and soon Stanley wishes he could be just like everybody else.

“Will he ever be normal again?”                                          [J BROWN]

Knots on a Counting Rope by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault, illustrated by Ted Rand

“Boy-Strength-of-Blue-Horses begs his grandfather to tell him again the story of the night he was born. In a question-and-answer litany, the boy and his grandfather share the telling of the events on that special night — the wild storm; the frantic ride for the grandmother/midwife; the birth of the frail, sickly boy; and the blessings of the blue horses. Through dialogue, readers learn how the boy, who was born blind, teaches his horse to run the trails. They enter a race, and although the boy does not win, his grandfather tells him that he has `raced darkness and won.'”                                     [J MARTIN]

Blue Moose by Daniel Pinkwater

“A man who runs a restaurant on the edge of the big north woods meets a talking blue moose that moves in and spends the winter serving as head waiter.”                                             [J PINKWATER]

Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg

“The game under the tree looked like a hundred others Peters and Judy had at home. But they were bored and restless and, looking for something interesting to do, thought they’d give Jumanji a try. Little did they know when they unfolded its ordinary-looking playing board that they were about to be plunged into the most exciting and bizare adventure of their lives.”               [J VAN ALLSBURG]

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

“It is Christmas Eve. The boy is in his bed waiting. A train pulls up to his house. The conductor calls to the boy to board the train. To where? Why, to the North Pole! The boy boards the train. There he finds other children, all heading to the North Pole to see Santa Claus.”                                        [J VAN ALLSBURG]

Heckedy Peg by Audrey Wood

“The poor mother of seven children, each named for a day of the week, goes off to market promising to return with individual gifts that each child has requested and admonishing them to lock the door to strangers and not to touch the fire. The gullible children are tricked into disobeying their mother by the witch, Heckedy Peg, who turns them all into various kinds of food. The mother can rescue her children only by guessing which child is the fish, the roast rib, the bread, etc., a trick she neatly performs by matching each kind of food with the gift that each child had requested (Monday asked for butter, so Monday is the bread, etc.).”                             [J WOOD]


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