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.
Get a jump on your holiday shopping, and get excited about reading at Pleasant Valley Elementary School's 2009 Book Fair—Destination Book Fair: Read Around the World. Organized in cooperation with Scholastic, the Book Fair offers hundreds of different titles for all ages—even parents, with many at bargain prices, in both paperback and hardcover. Popular titles and series include Flat Stanley, Magic Tree House, I Spy, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and more.
Destination Book Fair takes place from November 16 through 20 in the multi-purpose room at Novato's Pleasant Valley Elementary School, located at 755 Sutro Avenue (between Center and Vineyard Roads). Hours are Monday-Thursday 8 am to 2 pm and Friday from 8 am to 1 pm, with a family shopping night on Wednesday, November 18 from 6:30 to 8:30 pm. The Fair is open to the public, and inexpensive Scholastic books made great gifts and stocking stuffers.
Books may be purchased with cash, check, or credit card, and all proceeds go to support the school. You can also purchase books to donate directly to the school library and classrooms.
In today's economy, families are always looking for ways to maximize their budgets without skimping on the fun. That's why a resource like Free San Francisco: The Ultimate Free Fun Guide to the Bay Area (Corley Publications, 326 pages, $15.95) is a great thing to have around. While it's small enough to fit into a coat pocket, purse, or backpack, this pocket guide is filled with over 400 things for families to do all over the Bay Area without breaking the bank.
The book's sections cover the city of San Francisco itself, Bay Area venues ranging from art museums and galleries to nature centers and zoos to parks and historic sites, free activities like art walks, hikes, bike rides, concerts, and film screenings, and a roster of free or almost-free Bay Area events for every month of the year. It's a lot of fun to read to discover a new place to go or activity to do, and it's indespensible when out-of-town guests make an appearance.
This fall, the work of legendary children's book author and illustrator Maurice Sendak will be on view at San Francisco's Contemporary Jewish Museum. The exhibition There's a Mystery There: Sendak on Sendak is a major retrospective of over 100 works by Maurice Sendak, and features original watercolors and drawings from more than 40 of his books—including the groundbreaking Where the Wild Things Are and In the Night Kitchen—as well as rare sketches, working materials, and interview footage.
There's a Mystery There: Sendak on Sendak opens Tuesday, September 8, and runs through January 19, 2010.
The exhibition is organized by the Rosenbach Museum and Library in Philadelphia, the world's only repository of Maurice Sendak's work. The exhibition allows both children and adults to gain a deeper understanding not only of Sendak's beloved characters and books but of the author himself, as well as explore the real-life people, places, and events that inspired many of the elements in his stories.
When our kids decide they're bored, we counterattack by getting a stack of paper, some pencils, and the giant bin-o-crayons (full of stumpy crayon pieces thanks to my 3-year-old daughter's erstwhile habit of systematically breaking the things in half when she thought nobody was looking). This is good to keep them occupied for an hour, maybe two on an exceptionally lucky day. But how can you do this in, say, the car, a waiting room, Aunt Edna's house, or at the airport? Enter Pocket Doodles for Kids!
Pocket Doodles for Kids (272 pages, Gibbs-Smith, $9.99), written by children's author Bill Zimmerman and illustrated by Tom Bloom, encourages kids to be creative through writing and drawing and to even learn a little something at the same time. It's a little 4x6-inch activity book that's perfect for carrying around in a backpack, purse, glove compartment, or jacket pocket. Each page contains a clever word or picture prompt that inspires kids to start drawing and writing right in the book. Much more than a simple coloring book, it really grabs hold of child's imagination and keeps them occupied and interested.