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Sunday Book Review: “Larf,” “Get Outside: The Kids’ Guide to Fun in the Great Outdoors” and “Earth-Friendly Buildings, Bridges and More: The Eco-Journal of Corry LaPont”

June 3rd, 2012

I’ve come across some really fun and educational books lately. (No, that’s not a contradiction.)

“Larf” (written and illustrated by Ashley Spires, Kids Can Press, 2012, unpaged, $16.95) is one wild and furry guy. He is a Sasquatch, and he lives with his bunny, Eric. If I had to choose two imaginary friends, and those two were the only friends I could have, they would be Larf, and Schmidt from the show “New Girl.” Larf is living a pretty peaceful and solitary life, but that may be about to change…

The illustrations and story are hilarious; Larf is a vegetarian, which delighted the 10-year-old vegetarian at my house; and we just really enjoyed his story. This book is perfect for the 10-and-younger set.

Just in time for summer, we have Jane Drake and Ann Love’s book, “Get Outside: The Kids Guide to Fun in the Great Outdoors.” Illustrations were created by Heather Collins. (Kids Can Press, 2012, 176 pages, $16.95.) Yes, I know. People are still yammering on and on about how kids never have recess at school anymore. They never go outside. They’re glued to their video and television screens and on and on. I can speak to what I see around me, and what we saw in our old neighborhood: People riding bikes, skateboards and scooters. Kids running back and forth to each other’s houses. Practices, practices, practices, for soccer, basketball, swim meets, concerts and dance. Kids throwing balls and frisbees and hitting things with sticks. We’re all on the computer too much. In fact, I’m sitting in front of a computer right now. Earlier today, I sent a few text messages. I watched part of a movie. But I also gardened and hung out the laundry on the line outside. We could be doing better, as world citizens, but we could also be doing a lot worse.

That being said, it is a little frustrating as a parent when you tell your kids to go outside and play, and they are literally the only kids out there because everyone else is inside. (We’ve taken to texting our friends, Going to playground, meet us there ;)

I think this book will come in handy for us. Want help learning how to garden? Making a scarecrow? Playing Stone Toss games? It’s in there. How about bird feeding, kite flying, or marathon card games? The book is divided into the four seasons (Summer: Make A Night Sky Dome, Pebbles in the Sand; Fall: Wildlife Blind, Worm Farm, for example.) and is straightforward — easy for the kids to leaf through, and perfect for those days when you can’t come up with any new ideas.

And there’s no one outside to play with.

Another new release is “Earth-Friendly Buildings, Bridges and More: The Eco-Journal of Corry Lapont” (Kids Can Press, 2012, 64 pages, $18.95). This was not written by Corry Lapont, though — she apparently is an imaginary, architecture-crazy young girl, with the stereotypical pesky younger brother. This one is named Riley, aka “The Question Box,” aka “The Factoid Finder.” And yes, that is the first and last time you will see the word “factoid” written on these pages, because “factoid” is not a word. The book was written by Etta Kaner and illustrated by Stephen MacEachern. OK, I’m kind of a stickler for calling a book a “journal” or “the almost-true story of,” etc. but hello, Dear America and My Name is America series. Yeah.

Am I too fussy? Probably.

Moving right along… This is an amazing book. Skyscrapers, dams, domes; various kinds of bridges; building green; job descriptions for architects, urban planners, structural engineers and other builder-type people; and yes, Portland’s own Hawthorne Bridge gets a little picture and a shout-out. (Thanks, y’all.) It’s a very cool book. My son would probably call it “one of those books that grown-ups love and kids don’t” but you know what? I think both of my kids are going to be into this one. You can answer a whole lot of those “how did they build that?” questions with this as a guidebook. There is a glossary in the back, and lots of good art and fact boxes sprinkled throughout.

Enjoy, and here’s to summer reading.

– WM

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