Polar Bear Puzzle is part of the Adventures of Riley series by Amanda Lumry and Laura Hurwitz, endorsed by the Smithsonian Institute and the World Wildlife Fund. This series is really creative in that it mixes photographs with drawn illustrations, and stories with non fiction facts. For instance in Polar Bear Puzzle Riley goes to visit his biologist uncle Max in Churchill Canada, Polar Bear Capital of the world. Due to climate change, Uncle Max must tag and transfer bears to colder parts of the country, and Riley gets to help! On the way they meet several other arctic animals, and even see the northern lights. This is a very cool book with tons of timely information.
Ghosts in the House is a charming picture book by Kazuno Kohara. The illustrations are all orange, black, and white, making it a perfect read for Halloween! The story begins with a little girl and her cat who’ve gone to live in a nice big house on the edge of town. Unfortunately, the house is haunted! But that’s just fine with this little girl because she happens to be a witch. She’s going to whip this house’s ghosts into shape! Before you know it, she’s caught and cleaned them all, and turned them into linens for her new home. She’s got ghosty curtains, ghosty table cloths, and ghosty blankets for her bed! Ghosts in the House is an adorable story about a girl, a cat, and some ghosts, that all live happily ever after.
You may have already heard about And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell. It was the most challenged book of 2008. If you’re at all curious to see what the fuss was about, I highly recommend you check it out, because beneath all the controversy this is a story for children about an unconventional family of penguins. Roy and Silo were two real male penguins at the Central Park Zoo who played surrogate fathers to an egg, helping to bring little Tango into the world, and you can still visit them all today in New York City! Heartwarming illustrations provided by Henry Cole.
Jabberwocky by Christopher Myers is a fantastic re-imagining of the nonsensical poem from Lewis Carroll’s classic Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There. Myers interprets the piece to be about a particularly intense game of basketball (an analysis, by the way, he backs up with a tremendous amount of research on both Carroll and James Naismith, the “inventor” of basketball, and their mutual interest in an ancient Aztec ritual called ollamalitzli). The words of the story are practically gibberish, for instance, the narrator warns us to “beware the jubjub bird and shun the frumious bandersnatch!” The illustrations that accompany the poem really tell the story of a David-and-Goliath-esque courtside battle of epic porportions, held on a hot summer day in the inner city.
There’s probably no historical figure I find more admirable than Abraham Lincoln. That explains why I love Abe’s Honest Words by Doreen Rappaport, featuring illustrations by the fabulous Kadir Nelson. This is a lovely juvenile biography of our sixteenth president, who had the unenviable job of leading our country through, and out, of the Civil War. Rappaport treats us to Lincoln’s life story–his upbringing after the death of his mother, his love for reading and writing, his election and presidency, to his tragic assasination–insterspliced with his own words. The book is a touching tribute to the man who wrote “If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong. I cannot remember when I did not so think, and feel.”
Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories is a collection of three great stories by Dr. Seuss, each with a lesson to teach us (as Seuss so often has). “Yertle the Turtle” is supposedly an allegory for Hitler-era fascism (and Horton Hears a Who is supposedly an allegory for Japanese internment camps. Who knew Seuss was so political). Yertle is the king of all he sees, which is a bunch of turtles in a pond. But he realizes if he commands all the turtles to stand in a stack with him on top, he could rule so much more! His plan seems to go swimmingly until Mack, the poor base turtle, does something very impolite… In “Gertrude McFuzz” (one of my childhood favorites) we meet a bird with a bit to learn about envy and vanity, and then there’s “The Big Brag” in which a rabbit, a bear, and a worm argue over who has the best senses. All classics!