Today's children's books are works of art

October 10, 1999
Elisabeth Sherwin -- gizmo@

Children's picture books today are works of art. Take, for example, "No Matter What" by author/illustrator Debi Gliori ((1999, $16, Harcourt Brace). The plot involves Large (a mother fox, I think) and Small (the baby fox, ditto). Adults and children will love the illustrations, which are bright, cartoonish and fanciful.

" 'I'm grim and grumpy,' said little Small, 'and I don't think you love me at all.'

'Oh, Small,' said Large. 'grumpy or not, I'll always love you, no matter what.' No matter if Small becomes a bear, a squishy bug, or a crocodile. This is a really sweet book for children 2-6.

But $16 is a lot for kid's book, even if it is a big beautiful one like Gliori's (who lives with her family outside Edinburgh, Scotland). If you don't want to spend that much, here are two other recommendations, both in soft cover. The first is "Operation Ghost" (1999, Harcourt Brace) by author/illustrator Jacque Duquennoy, and it's only $6 in paper (although it's also available in hardback). This is wonderfully whimsical and not as predictable in terms of plot as some children's books tend to be. A little ghost needs an operation because his internal clock is out of whack. The man who performs the operation is Dr. Ouch. If you have an accident-prone child age 3-8 who seems to be spending a lot of time at the doctor's office, he or she might enjoy this.

I wish I could give a rave review to "A Bed Full of Cats" by Holly Keller (1999, $3.95, Harcourt Brace). I did enjoy her illustrations. Have you noticed? It's hard to draw a cat. But I found her plot frustratingly predictable. I read the teaser on the back: "Nothing can ever replace Lee's lost cat, Flora, or so he thinks."

Hmm, I thought. I bet Flora returns...with a bunch of kittens. Yes, that's exactly what happens. Although I was happy that Lee had a bed full of cats at the end of the book, I was sorry his parents didn't have Flora spayed. Kids as young as 6 to 8 need to know that pet over-population is a big problem. Maybe young Lee should have taken a trip to the pound and seen the many homeless cats caged there before finding Flora.

A more sophisticated children's book, for kids age 5-10, is the latest from the prolific Eve Bunting of Pasadena, author of more than 150 children's books. It is, "A Picnic in October" (1999, $16, Harcourt Brace). The excellent illustrations by Nancy Carpenter are more realistic than the picture books for younger kids, and the subject matter requires a little more reach, too.

Tony doesn't want to take the ferry out to Liberty Island for a picnic on his grandmother's birthday. It's windy, it's cold, and what does the Statue of Liberty have to do with anything? In this little story, Tony notices how much a new American family respects Lady Liberty and thereby begins to understand his roots, too.

What's one of the biggest problems parents have with young children, say age 3-7? Author/illustrator Katie Davis says it's getting them to go to bed. During his first night in a big-boy bed, her son got up no less than 37 times. That's exactly when she got the idea for her second book, "I Hate to Go to Bed" (1999, $14, Harcourt Brace).

This, too, is a predictable theme, but Davis handles it well. The little girl in this book is convinced that her parents are waiting for her to go to sleep so they can have a big party. She even catches them celebrating, when she finds her dad in a costume and her mom hanging streamers. But really her dad is wearing his pajamas and her mom is flossing. You get the idea.

Finally, for the older readers age 11 and up, there's "Mary, Bloody Mary" by Carolyn Meyer (1999, $16, Gulliver Books). If your pre-teen is into history, this is a good one. It even sounds like "A Little Princess": "You are Mary, a beautiful young princess in a grand palace filled with servants. Then, suddenly, you are banished to live in cold, lonely place without money, new clothes or even your mother."

The Mary in this case is Mary Tudor and the banishment came at the orders of her father, King Henry VIII. This is a wonderful way to get young readers interested in history.

With the holiday season just around the corner, any one of these books would be a good gift choice.

To inquire about ordering any of the above mentioned books from an independent bookstore,
Bogey's Books at discounted prices [ Click Here ]

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