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Tuesday Book Review: “A Child’s Calendar,” “Nighttime Ninja” and “Waking Dragons” (day 20: November blogging)

November 20th, 2012

Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Talk about the opening of your favourite book.

“In an old house in Paris that was covered in vines, lived twelve little girls in two straight lines. They left the house at half past nine… The smallest one was Madeline…” — “Madeline,” Ludwig Bemelmans

“A Child’s Calendar” is a book of poetry by John Updike, with illustrations by Trina Schart Hyman (Scholastic, unpaged, all ages). I use this book when I teach, and it’s just always what the students and I need on those days. You know the ones. When nothing is running on time, when plans go askew, when we don’t know exactly what it is we need or want. I recommend getting a copy of this for your home library and paging through it when you need to.


by John Updike

The stripped and shapely
Maple grieves
The loss of her
Departed leaves.

The ground is hard,
As hard as stone.
The year is old,
The birds are flown.

And yet the world,
Displays a certain
Loveliness —

The beauty of
The bone. Tall God
Must see our souls
This way, and nod.

Give thanks: we do
Each in his place
Around the table
During grace.

“Nighttime Ninja” is a new release from Barbara DaCosta, with art by Ed Young (Little, Brown, 2012, $16.99, 32 pages, ages 3-6). Wacky Boy likes this one and says: “It doesn’t have any really big sentences, so that’s good for the younger readers. The illustrator was really creative with the collage art.” The illustrations were done in cut paper, textured cloth, string and colored pencil.

This is DaCosta’s first children’s picture book. The story is sweet and engaging. Young, who was born and raised in China, moved to America as a young adult, in order to pursue his art. Success! He has illustrated more than eighty books for kids. “The House Baba Built” is about his childhood in Shanghai. He is a Caldecott medalist (for “Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood Story from China”) and also wrote “The Emperor and the Kite.” My favorite work by Young is “Seven Blind Mice.” He has been the U.S. nominee for the Hans Christian Andersen Award on two occasions, and has received a number of other award and honors for his work.

Jane Yolen’s latest work is “Waking Dragons,” which was illustrated by Derek Anderson (Simon & Schuster, 2012, $16.99, 32 pages, ages 4-8). Another hit with my son, who says: “It also doesn’t have any big sentences, so it’s good for the younger kids. The drawings are really good.”

I’m a fan of Yolen’s — everything she’s ever done, basically, as I’ve written here before. How many writers can you say that about? Her dinosaur series (“How Do Dinosaurs Say I Love You,” “How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight,” and others)? Just perfect. Her newest is just as fun as the others.

“Don’t forget
wake the dragons
before school.

the book begins, and you know you’re going to enjoy going along for the ride. Derek Anderson (who also illustrated the “Little Quack” series) did a lovely job on the paintings. They’re whimsical and won’t scare the littles.

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