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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A Peek at New Books

By Jan Pease
This week’s crop of new books contains 2 picture books that provide a slice of real life, two books that are really unusual, and one book that is, to be honest, a disappointment.

Every parent who has raised a toddler knows about the terrific twos, usually referred to as the terrible twos. Rosemary Wells captures the amazing and frustrating twos in her new book, Sophie’s Terrible Twos. Wise Grandma knows how to tame wild tiger Sophie and help her be the charming mouse that she should be.

In Maisy Goes to the Movies, by Lucy Cousins, Maisy and her friends go to see their hero, Troy T. Tiger, starring in “Hero of the Jungle.” Ms. Cousins must have taken groups of children to movies, because she includes everything from spilled popcorn to a bathroom break.

Louise Borden creates very large, somewhat unusual picture books like America Is…. and The Little Ships.  Her new book, Baseball Is…. reads like a long poem which would be enjoyed by nostalgic baseball fans, but it looks like a picture book. I’m not sure if the format matches the content and target audience. I think this book would be perfect for a baseball – loving grandpa to share with a grandchild.

Donna Jo Napoli has published a new book, Storm. Ms. Napoli is famous for re-imagining well-known stories. For example, Beast is inspired by “Beauty and the Beast.” Storm was inspired by the Biblical account of Noah and the flood. Ms. Napoli explained that Og, King of Bashan, appears in the book because he is mentioned in a Jewish midrash as an interloper on the ark. Sebah, another stowaway, is the narrator of the book. She is pregnant. The father of her baby is her first husband. She calls Og Bash, and he calls her Sheba. Life on the ark is described in detail, and the physical and emotional toll of being cooped up in a claustrophobic space is palpable. The birth of Sebah’s baby is told simply, but graphically
The really odd and somewhat disappointing book is Pete the Cat Old MacDonald Had a Farm, by James Dean. James Dean illustrated the hilarious books by Eric Litwin starring Pete the Cat, such as Rocking in My School Shoes, Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons, and I Love My White Shoes. The illustrations in Old MacDonald are typical James Dean, the usual farm animals with the addition of Pete the Cat wearing overalls and looking cool. As I read, I kept waiting for something clever. I couldn’t believe this was a Pete book. This is just the normal song, “Old MacDonald Had a Farm.” One reviewer at said that young children benefit from looking at the pictures and matching the familiar words, so it isn’t a total loss. I should add that it was a huge hit at Toddler Time!

Speaking of feeling cooped up, a visit to the library is a great cure for cabin fever. On a sunny but cold day it’s always cheerful and bright, with lots of natural light. See you at the library.