"I was hired at Vroman's Bookstore in 1989. Since then, I have become something of an expert in Kid's Books and remainder buying."
Mr. Steve’s High Fidelity-like Top Five Lists
A picture book divided into very short chapters, Hooray for Amanda & Her Alligator! is another home run from Mo Willems, the man who brought us the ongoing Pigeon saga, and the Elephant and Piggie series. Overflowing with cleverness, heart, and humor (plus a few tips on how--and how not to--tell jokes, and surprise your friends), Amanda and her Alligator is a wonderful friendship story, and the perfect antidote for "girly girl" pink-a-princess books; in fact, I think most boys at our Storytimes find the Alligator pretty darn cool.
The artist formerly known as "Weird Al" is not one to "write down" to kids: he adapted his talent for writing clever, funny song lyrics, and has written a clever, funny picture book that's reminiscent of Dr. Seuss' style, but with many words and concepts that are aimed at older, more sophisticated readers. Wes Hargis' super-detailed illustrations enhance the text with additional sight gags. Like Al's music and videos, his picture book is for smart kids with a sense of humor. When I Grow Up is a book that can be grown into, and it's also a perfect gift for grown ups who are "growing into" one of life's next levels (graduation, new baby, retirement). Dr. Seuss' Oh, the Places You'll Go is still a great gift-of-passage, but When I Grow Up is for the generations who have loved and laughed at "Weird Al" Yankovic. DISCLAIMER: As a huge "Weird Al" fan, I must admit that this was not exactly an unbiased review.
On one hand, The Great Hamster Massacre is a funny, quirky, and unique children's mystery, about a girl's naïve attempts to figure out what "really" happened to her pets; at the same time, the adult subtext and humor, which should (hopefully) pass way over most kids' heads, will keep grown up bedtime story readers awake--and laughing--well after the kids are asleep. CAUTION: The title is not a euphemism, nor is it figurative; it does not refer to a dream, an exaggeration, or any other "imaginary" point-of-view that American children's books use to step around dealing with death. With gut-busting British humor, Katie Davies bluntly confronts some of the grimmer realities of having pets, and certain gruesome aspects of animal behavior that may be difficult for young humans to understand. Not for coddled or overly sensitive children!
So what's with the top hats, goggles, corsets, and waistcoats? Good, God, man! Get with the times (i.e. the faux Victorian Era), and up to snuff with one of the fastest-growing subcultures of geek chic. More than mere dress-up fandom, Steampunk encompasses literature, music, retro science, history and politics, as well as design, fashion, art, and crafts. The Steampunk Bible is a ripping good overview, filled with most excellent picto-graphics, for the novice as well as the veteran mad inventor/explorer/airship-traveler.
All the World is one of the finest picture books I've ever read; it elevates the standards of storytelling for children to a new level.
A charming poem in the spirit of The Power of Now is lifted into the stratosphere by Marla Frazee's cinematic illustrations.
Frazee's wordless story about a family's get-together near the seashore runs parallel to the poem, and ingeniously illustrates the text. The layout and the pictures are packed with details that can be discovered, studied, and treasured by children and adults time and time again.
All the World is an excellent children's book, and many well be one of the best gift books of the 2009 Holiday Season.
It doesn't matter if a story is written "for children": some of our most popular books for young readers have universal themes that can be enjoyed both by kids and their parents. A fine example is A Crooked Kind of Perfect, a hilarious debut novel by Linda Urban. The climax and the resolution will draw a laugh and a smile. A Crooked Kind of Perfect reads as if a friend is telling a very funny story. Urban uses a pleasant, first person narrative, and a non-traditional format, to relate the classic struggle between "how it should be" and "how it is." It's a great read-aloud, although it might be distracting if grown-up readers keep laughing at the pop culture references that are aimed at adults. Linda Urban's name may be familiar to Vroman's customers: during her time here at Vroman's, Linda was a bookseller on the sales floor, then Events Coordinator and Newsletter Editor. Of course, that did not affect my opinion of my fellow Vromie's book--not in the least. Really.