Generations of children and their parents love the classic Curious George books authored by the husband-and-wife team of Margret and H. A. Rey. This fall, San Francisco's Contemporary Jewish Museum (the CJM) presents the fascinating exhibition Curious George Saves the Day: The Art of Margret and H. A. Rey, which opens on Sunday, November 14, 2010 and runs through March 13, 2011.
The story of the Reys is an adventure in itself. H. A. Rey (born Hans Augusto Reyersbach, 1898–1977) and Margret Rey (née Margarete Waldstein, 1906–1996) were both born in Hamburg, Germany, to Jewish families. They lived together in Paris in the late 1930s, and fled Europe after the Nazi invasion of France in 1940, eventually settling in New York City by way of Brazil. They went on to publish over 30 books, including their iconic series about the little monkey with insatiable curiosity (and his friend the Man with the Yellow Hat, of course).
If you get grumpy occasionally (and hey, don't we all?), then this is the book for you. Jeremy Tankard's Grumpy Bird(32 pages, Scholastic, 2007) tells the story of Bird's case of the grumpies, which is so bad—he's too grumpy to play, eat, or fly—he can only go for a walk. Along the way he runs into his friends who tag along on his walk, oblivious to his grumpiness and sarcastic comments. Eventually, they overcome Bird's bad mood, and it all ends with a surprising twist.
If the phrase "Stilton, Geronimo Stilton" means anything to you, then most likely you're not a fan of stinky British cheeses, but rather you're the parent of a grade-school child who's discovered this series of books about the doings of anthropomorphized mice who live in the metropolis (or "mousetropolis" as the books might term it) of New Mouse City on Mouse Island. The titular Geronimo Stilton is the editor of the newspaper The Rodent's Gazette and purportedly the author of the 40-odd books in the series. While it's nice to believe that a talking mouse journalist did write them all, they're actually the product of a Milanese publishing company, Edizioni Piemme, and are produced for the American market by Scholastic.
Titles in the series range from The Curse of the Cheese Pyramidto the Halloween themed The Peculiar Pumpkin Thief. They're all "chapter books", designed for intermediate readers, and probably appropriate for children in third through sixth grade, although my son's been bringing them home since he was in first grade last year. The writing, adapted from the original Italian, isn't all that gripping for adults, but kids seem to love the series. My son has been bringing home a seemingly endless series of Geronimo Stilton books from the library and devouring them one after the other, sometimes reading an entire book in an afternoon.
This week's book is Thanking the Moon: Celebrating the Mid-Autumn Moon Festivalby Grace Lin (32 pages, Knopf, 2010). As the name suggests, it's the ideal story to share with your children at this time of year, especially with the gorgeous "Super Harvest Moon" we've had in the night sky this past week.
This week we got our hands on a review copy of the new book from acclaimed musician Gordon Titcomb and amazing illustrator Wendell Minor, The Last Train(32 pages, Roaring Brook Press, 2010). Although it's a children's picture book, The Last Train should appeal equally to parents and grandparents and anyone who appreciates the vanishing world of our country's trains and railroads.
Based on a 2005 song by Gordon Titcomb, The Last Train is a nostalgic look at the steam trains that used to pass through nearly every American town, and celebrates the passing of the golden age of railway travel. Let's face it—everyone loves trains to some extent, and this book celebrates them and the culture surrounding them. Even if you're too young to have experienced this time in America's history, you surely know about it, and you'll feel probably feel pangs of nostalgia for a era long before you were born.
Our reading last week of Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith's hilarious Cowboy and Octopus led us to re-read our copy of their earlier book, The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales(56 pages, Viking Juvenile, 1992). Consisting of several different twisted takes on traditional fairy tales, The Stinky Cheese Man has been one of our favorites since I brought it home one day.
I happened upon The Stinky Cheese Man at, of all places, the de Young Museum store (which has a fantastic selection of children's books, by the way). Of course I'm going to take a look at any book titled The Stinky Cheese Man, so I did, and subsequently found myself laughing out loud in the store, which resulted in a few funny looks being thrown my way. Anyhow, I decided it was a worthwhile addition to our library and immediately purchased it.
Since we seem to be reading a lot of books lately, we thought we'd start reviewing a new favorite children's book every week. The books aren't necessarily new, but are those that are new to us! If you have a book that you'd like to have us review for the site, please contact us and let us know about it.
Our favorite children's book this week is the delightfully twisted Cowboy and Octopus, by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith (40 pages, Viking Juvenile, 2007). Scieszka and Smith are the creative team behind the equally funny and offbeat The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales, which my husband brought home one day and has remained a favorite in our house ever since.
Discover some of the finest Italian children's literature available at the third annual Festa del Libro, a children’s Italian book fair extravaganza that takes place Saturday and Sunday, August 29 and 30 at Book Passage in Corte Madera, and September 5 and 6 at Book Passage's second location in San Francisco's Ferry Building. Both events run from 10 am to 6 pm. Festa del Libro is also taking place this year in San Jose, during the Italian American Festa at Little Italy Kids School, noon to 6 pm, August 28 and 29. Story time, in Italian, takes place at the Corte Madera location at 11 am and 4 pm on both August 28 and 29.
Over 400 illustrated children’s books from distinguished publishers will be on hand direct from Italy. With vivid illustrations and trademark Italian creativity. the selection on hand is ideal for children 0–10 and beginning Italian language students of all ages. If your child or anyone else in your family is learning Italian or is interested in Italian culture this is an event not to be missed! This year's event features additional multimedia materials, as well as works from smaller specialty publishers that are difficult to find even in Italy.
One of the things I take great pride in is our daily habit of settling down at the end of the day and reading for at least a half hour. This is something I've done with both my children since they were old enough to sit up and look like they were paying attention. I think it's partly responsible for the fact that my son is a pretty advanced reader for his age, too. It's also responsible for helping to instill the idea that reading is a fun form of entertainment, as well as a necessary life skill. It also gives my wife a priceless daily moment of "me time" after being around two small kids all day.
These days, our current nightly reading repertoire is dominated by the A to Z Mysteries series of books by Ron Roy. If you've never heard of them, you probably will at some point. The A to Z Mysteries are aimed at about the second- or third-grade level, and, as the name implies, are mysteries that are solved by a team of ordinary third-graders from fictional Green Lawn, Connecticut who just happen to have a natural aptitude for detective work. Each book—there are 26 in all, but you probably figured that out already—has a title tied into a letter of the alphabet, such as The Absent Author, The Jaguar's Jewel, or The Zombie Zone.