March-April 2000 - Columns
So Many Books - Joan Torkildson
How Are You Peeling?
How Are You Peeling?: Foods with Moods, by Saxton Freymann and Joost Elffers, Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic, Oct. 1999, ISBN 0-439-10431-9, $15.95 hardcover, all ages
When Saxton Freymann and Joost Elffers, creators of the wildly popular Play With Your Food and Play With Your Pumpkins, were asked to create a similar book for children, this book was the happy result. It consists of spare, rhyming text ("When you're angry, do you pout? Whine? Cry? Scream? Shout?") paired with page after page of uncommonly - and often hilariously - expressive vegetables and fruits. The produce sculptures were given their various personalities with the aid of an Exacto knife and natural materials, such as black-eyed peas (for eyes) and beet-juice coloring (for mouths). Apples, oranges, tomatoes, kiwis, onions, mushrooms, strawberries, and other fruits and vegetables variously display a host of emotions: anger, timidity, outrage, ennui, shyness, grumpiness, boldness. You will never look at an apple, orange, or onion quite the same way again after perusing this creative book.
Winter Poems, selected by Barbara Rogasky, illus. by Trina Schart Hyman, Scholastic Paperback, Nov. 1999, ISBN 0-590-42873-X, $5.95, ages 7-up
This book, along with steaming cups of hot cocoa, would be just the ticket for warming up a snowy winter afternoon. Voted an ALA Notable book and an SLJ Best Book of the Year, the book features 25 poems by various authors - Shakespeare, Poe, Wallace Stevens, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Ogden Nash, among others - all accompanied by acrylic paintings of wintry, yet cozy, landscapes. The illustrations are based on real people, pets, and buildings, as explained by Rogasky in the introduction. The poem "Oregon Winter" by Jeanne McGahey is preceded by an illustration of Petey the cat, sitting complacently by a barrel of kindling as he gazes out at the sheep pen. John Greenleaf Whittier's "Snowbound" is paired with an illustration of a house, barn, and car, their shapes nearly obscured by thick, fleecy blankets of snow. The book follows a somewhat seasonal progression, beginning with "Something Told the Wild Geese" by Rachel Field, and ending with "Blossom Themes" by Carl Sandburg, which speculates whether one's nose gets the "cry of spring first of all."
Look-Alikes Jr. by Joan Steiner, Little, Brown & Co., Sept. 1999, ISBN 0-316-81307-9, $13.95 hardcover, all ages
The arrival of this book was met with unanimous glee at my house, since we'd already met and savored Joan Steiner's earlier book, Look-Alikes (see review in Nov/Dec '98 HEM), which was named a "Best Book of the Year" by the New York Times Book Review, Time, Parenting, Child, Publishers Weekly, and Parents. Like its predecessor, Look-Alikes Jr. features a series of clear and colorful three-dimensional photographs, each ingeniously incorporating an abundance of common objects - over 700 in all - in 11 different everyday scenes: rocket ship, house, kitchen, parlor, bedroom, school bus, classroom, movie theater lobby, construction site, farm scene, and choo-choo train. Look-Alikes Jr. is a bit simpler and bolder than the author's earlier book, making it accessible to a wider audience.
Scenes are depicted on two double-page spreads, along with simple rhyming text. The kitchen scene, which incorporates 94 look-alikes, has kitchen chairs fashioned from dog biscuits, breadsticks, cheese doodles, and clothespins; a microwave that's really a paperclip dispenser; an oven door formed from an audiocassette; a clock made from peppermint stripe candy, and so on. Candy fruit slices, tiny safety pins, Triscuit crackers, Christmas cookies, cinnamon sticks, an oven mitt, and 64 other objects make up the homey parlor scene. If you're stumped you can always jump to the back of the book, which helpfully lists all the look-alikes used in each scene. Asterisks, "for super sleuths only," mark the hard-to-find items.
Dino Safari: Fun Places for Adults and Children to Learn About Dinosaurs, by R. L. Jones, Cumberland House, 1999, ISBN 1-58182-035-6, $12.95 paperback, all ages
Described as an "illustrated Jurassic phone book," Dino Safari is stuffed with information about all the places where dinosaurs - what's left of them, anyway - can be found in North America. The book catalogs more than 250 museums, parks, and fossil quarries, listing their addresses, phone numbers, and web sites. First appearing in the book are the top 25 dinosaur attractions in North America, arranged by region. For instance, at the Peabody Museum of Natural History in New Haven, Connecticut, visitors can stroll through the Great Hall of the Dinosaurs and admire the Age of Reptiles, a gargantuan mural (110 feet long, 16 feet high) that depicts 300 million years of earth history and represents over 7,000 hours of work. The remaining dinosaur sites in the book are also arranged according to region: New England, Mid-Atlantic, South, Midwest, Texas and Oklahoma, Four Corners, Upper Rockies, Far West, and Canada. A final section of the book, "Digging for Dinosaurs," lists places where fossil hunters and dinophiles can dig for shark teeth and trilobites, take courses in paleontology, go on expeditions, make castings of dinosaur footprints, and more.
The Young Person's Guide to Shakespeare
The Young Person's Guide to Shakespeare, by Anita Ganeri, Harcourt Brace & Co., Oct. 1999, ISBN 0-15-202101-9, $25.00 book-and-CD set, ages 8-up
An inviting overview of the life, times, and collected works of Shakespeare. The CD, tucked into the front cover, features excerpts from the more famous plays and sonnets, performed by members of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Aided by informative sidebars and over 50 photographs and illustrations, the text explores Shakespeare's early life, the Elizabethan theater, the actor's life, plays and playwriting, Shakespeare's final years, and his collected works. The plays are grouped according to theme; brief (usually one-paragraph) summaries are provided for the histories, the comedies, the dark comedies, the tragedies, the Roman plays, and the late plays. The text concludes with notes on modern-day performances (preparing for a role, rehearsing, setting the scene, etc.) and the complete text for all the speeches and sonnets on the CD. The book and CD set would make a great jumping-off point for further explorations into Shakespearean theater.
National Geographic Beginner's World Atlas
National Geographic Beginner's World Atlas, National Geographic Books, Oct. 1999, ISBN 0-7922-7502-0, $17.95 hardcover, ages 5-8
A wonderful atlas for the younger set, with all the excellent features you might expect from National Geographic. The overall format is clear, inviting, and accessible. The text begins with the bare-bones basics ("What Is a Map?") and introduces both physical and political maps of the world. From there each continent is explored in depth, first with a physical map (covering land regions, water, climate, plants, and animals), and then with a political map (covering countries, cities, people, languages, and products). More than 100 outstanding photographs offer kid-appealing images of people, animals, and dramatic landscapes. A final section, "World at a Glance," lists the continents and oceans from largest to smallest, as well as other interesting facts. A brief glossary includes a pronunciation key and various greetings in native languages, so young explorers can learn to say "I salute you" in Nepalese.
National Geographic United States Atlas for Young Explorers
National Geographic United States Atlas for Young Explorers, National Geographic Books, Oct. 1999, ISBN 0-7922-7115-7, $24.95 hardcover, ages 8-12
Another, equally spectacular, atlas for slightly older kids, bursting with text, maps, photographs, and art. It is an indispensable reference even for those well beyond the specified 8-12 age group. Following introductory material on how to use the various features of the atlas, the text begins with separate maps of the entire United States - physical, natural environment (weather, climate, and geologic forces), federal lands, endangered species, political, territorial growth, population, transportation, and our nation's capital. From there the text branches off into the five distinct regions of the U.S.: the Northeast, the Southeast, the Midwest, the Southwest, and the West. Each region is introduced with a physical map of the entire region, followed by a photo essay, and then a huge, easy-to-read double-page map of each state in the region. Each state map includes information about waterways, natural resources, and industry. An at-a-glance boxed key lists area, population, capital, largest city, industry and agriculture, statehood, nickname, and interesting facts (example: Indiana produces more popcorn than any other state), and includes illustrations of the state bird and flag. The text concludes with maps and a photo essay of the 13 U.S. territories, a one-page "Facts and Figures," a glossary, and an extensive index.
© 2000, Joan Torkildson
HEM General Information
Subscribe to HEM