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On My Nightstand: Fall Book Round-up for the Younger Set (“Ruffleclaw,” by Cornelia Funke; “ABC Dream,” by Kim Krans; “Space Dog,” by Mini Grey; “Toys Meet Snow,” by Emily Jenkins & Paul O. Zelinsky)

October 11th, 2015

Funke is a cool, talented illustrator and author — the kids really respond to her work. When it comes to certain authors, readers (of all ages) just grab them up and claim them as “theirs.” It’s kind of funny. Funke is one of those. Ah, that territorial feeling you get over a certain book or author. I get that. She’s the author of the “Inkheart” series, which are for more advanced readers, but her new book, “Ruffleclaw,” is a chapter book for kiddos who are transitioning to chapter books. (Random House, 2015, $9.99, 102 pages.) Ruffleclaw is a wicked smart, icky lil monster, who has a “scrumptiously smart plan” to live with some humans and sleep in their cozy beds and eat their yum-yum food. Will he succeed?

Here is a YouTube clip of an interview with Funke. I show it to my students when I booktalk her work, along with some of the J.K. Rowling interviews, and Lemony Snicket. He’s a lot of fun in video clips. Neil Gaiman is another one who is a great interview. I read the first few pages of “The Graveyard Book” to the 5th and 6th graders the other day and gave everyone the shivers. And “Coraline” is still never checked in. I tell the kids that she and Babymouse — the Jennifer & Matthew Holms’ series of graphic novels — just stop by the library to say hey and then leave again.

(Always a good sign for a book.)

By the way, the Goosebumps book are getting a new surge of interest, too, with the Jack Black movie coming out in time for Halloween.

Now, on to some beautiful art…

Galleys for a book by Kim Krans appeared on my doorstep. (love.) “ABC Dream” is one of the best picture books I’ve come across recently. (Random House, 2016, unpaged, $16.99.) (Yes, I’m reviewing it even though it might only be available for pre-order at the moment.) Wait, she’s a Portland, Ore. girl like moi? Fantastic.

The art is precious. Beautiful, thoughtful, bright, just lovely. No words, just letters. I like books that the littles can enjoy, savor, and not have to worry about “Wait, I can’t read yet!” I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again… I love picture books for the big kids and the grown-ups. Anything that inspires us to do art makes me happy. I am really happy about the new coloring craze that’s going on. Titles? OK, here, here and here. My favorite letters in the book: R & T (and the key in the back that tells me, “rain, red, reflection, ring, robin, rope, rose” and “tigers, tired, tree, trunk, two”).

Mini Grey’s new release, “Space Dog,” (Alfred A. Knopf, 2015, $17.99, unpaged) is a wild ride through space, but of course. It’s always more interesting when a little conflict is introduced in a work of literature, and our conflict in this picture book is between Space Dog, Astrocat and the darling lil Moustronaut.

“It’s the year 3043 and for as long as anyone on Home Planet can remember, Space Dogs, Astrocats and Moustronauts have been sworn enemies.”

When the Queen of the Cheese Ants comes along, you know it’s going to get extra lively.

“Toys Meet Snow: Being the Wintertime Adventures of a Curious Stuffed Buffalo, a Sensitive Plush Stingray, and a Book-Loving Rubber Ball” is a new collaboration between author Emily Jenkins and illustrator Paul O. Zelinsky. (Schwartz & Wade Books, 2015, $17.99, unpaged.) Their previous series, “Toys Come Home,” has been a long-time favorite with young readers. This one is for the littler-littles — ages 3-7. The art is sweet, the story is good, and it’s nice Jenkins and Zelinsky paired up for the younger kids in the crowd.

Words of wisdom (they sent an interview along with press kit):

Zelinsky says: “I’m not an expert in this, but I say read to your children, and don’t stop. Nobody is ever too old to be read to. Picture books make good out-loud reading for any age.”

And from Jenkins: “Oh! Am I opinionated on this topic! Don’t shame their reading choices. Ever. I see this happen so often in bookstores and libraries, or at school book fairs. ‘You’re too old for that.’ ‘That’s too easy for you.’ ‘Why do you like that junk?’ ‘That’s a book for girls, not boys.’ Instead, I recommend parents try this approach: Don’t try to get your child to choose appropriate books. At all. Just bring them to the library, where they can choose inappropriate books at zero cost to you.”

Hear, hear!

Bon appetit, babies.

– wm