Bargain Book Roundup!

Skimming through the current Bargain Books on Amazon can be daunting because there is so much chaff and very little wheat. But here are some notable hardcover books that are currently on sale for a good price! Get 'em while they're hot!

The Donkey of Gallipoli: A True Story of Courage in World War I I just talked about how much I love Frane Lessac a couple weeks ago! I was so excited to see this book on sale, it's my favorite WW1 picture book to date.

The Legend of Saint Nicholas Demi's version of the story, criticized for having a Catholic bias. I hate to break it you everyone, but Nicholas of Myra was in fact, a Catholic bishop.

Martin de Porres: The Rose in the Desert This is a pretty new book on St. Martin. I bought it full price last year when it came out... so great was my curiosity. Some folks were a bit offended that the monks in here were portrayed as meanish or critical. I don't know St. Martin's story really well, but I do know that the Church is a hospital for sinners, not a hotel for saints... and that sometimes, holy people have faced more persecution from INSIDE the church than outside of it! So I was not too bothered by any biases that some saw in this book. It had lovely art and was a good primer on a wonderful man.

Louisa: The Life of Louisa May Alcott I just learned a little about this famous author and was surprised to find out that she never WANTED or INTENDED to write a book for girls! She had other material that her first publisher didn't love and she was asked to write a story for girls... so she did, and did the sequels just to keep the bills paid. Despite the fact that those stories weren't what was initially on her heart, she sure made a success of herself for generations to come!

The Trouble with Wishes This is a light, fun retelling of the famous myth about Pygmalion.

Pandora I love Robert Burleigh's Hercules book and he writes a bunch of other excellent non-fiction titles as well.

Adèle & Simon in America I absolutely love Barbara McClintock; her illustrations are so old-world evocative... and this is a fun little look and find book for little eyes.

Seed by Seed: The Legend and Legacy of John "Appleseed" Chapman One of my favorite Johnny Appleseed picture books.

Snow Superb picture/text symetry here. This would be a great addition to anyone's winter basket (the general part of this season sometimes gets overlooked in deference to the millions of Christmas season books...)

Close to the Wind: The Beaufort Scale I have not seen this in person yet, but it looks absolutely delightful and original and perfect for explaining not only the scale on which wind is measured but so many other nautical things too, lovely art!

Angela and the Baby Jesus A beautiful picture book embodying the "real meaning" of Christmas from the author of the famous Angela's Ashes.

Merry Christmas, Curious George! I don't generally advocate for commercial characters in picture books, but Curious George was cool before he became... well... cool. So if you have any young fans in your house who'd love a George Christmas book, this is your ticket...

Corn. Gail Gibbons may not author the most beautiful books on the planet, but they sure are excellent contributions to non-fiction topics. Corn would be a great addition to anyone's harvest or autumn basket of books. I recently found Spiders at the thrift store for our Fall basket and think Corn would accompany that nicely!

Panorama: A Foldout Book I don't know much about this book, but it looks intriguing and like it might make for a beautiful, unique gift. Here is a blog post I found describing it a bit more in depth.

Little Black Sambo/Little Babaji

The new and the old
The Preface to the version of The Story of Little Black Sambo  by Helen Bannerman that we have reads like this:
The original
Applewood Books is proud to reissue this classic edition of Little Black Sambo. During the last thirty years, the book and its little hero have been the center of a big controversy.  Sambo became, to some, a symbol of racism, and to others, he remained a long-remembered favorite.
Many may wonder why we are reissuing this book.  As with all the books we publish, we are reissuing the book as a window on our past. Recently, I read this book to my two young sons. When I asked them what they thought, they said they thought Sambo was a hero and marveled at his bravery.
This was my experience with the story as well.  I loved hearing the story when my mom read it to us kids and I never once thought anything of the pictures or the use of the term "black" to describe Sambo and his parents Mumbo and Jumbo.  I can't remember a single incidence of racism in my household growing up and I had plenty of shades of brown among my friends in school.

The new, PC Babaji
There are now politically correct versions of this story available. These are well done. We have and love The Story of Little Babaji —illustrated by Fred Marcellino—as well as the original tale and it is faithful in essence and spirit. The only difference is the culturally appropriately named and colored Babaji, Mamaji and Papaji.  My children seem to like both stories equally while only one son prefers the crude-ish drawings of Black Sambo over Babaji.

I think it's a shame to overthink race and to ignore the heritage that shaped our culture. Whatever you think on the issue, I encourage you to BUY at least one of the versions of this story because it is an absolute favorite of children everywhere and one of the most requested items on our own plentiful shelves.

Loving Lessac

Lately, I've been enjoying the work of a wonderful author and illustrator—Frané Lessac.  Her style is deceptively childlike: at first you see her paintings and think Psssh! My 8 year old colors like that! I guess anyone can illustrate children's books. Then you look a little closer or turn a few pages and realize that her folk art is absolutely filled with thoughtfulness and detail... color and feeling.  This is more than what most children can do— Lessac has a bright ability to make stories come alive with innovative attention to detail.  And every new book I see illustrated by her, I inevitably love.

She spent part of her life living on the Carribean island of Montserrat and this has influenced her work heavily.  The story My Little Island  was the first encounter I had with her and I was struck with how fitting her style is with summery, beachy, island themes, similar I guess to the way that Jan Brett really shines brightest in her Scandinavian themed books.  The flavors of island life practically jump from the pages in My Little Island.  And they do this as well with Drummer Boy of John John which is a fun story about the upcoming festival of Carnival featuring lots of foot stomping, hand clapping onomatopoeia.

The next time I stumbled across Frané was when I picked up On the Same Day in March at the thrift store.  What a gem! I really love LIVING social studies books and this one immediately went into my homeschooling basket for my 2nd grade and under crew. It examines different parts of the world at the exact same time of year.  It is so fun to see the differences in weather and lifestyle!

Next I found Monday on the Mississippi at the library and marveled at how beautifully the text and pictures complemented each other.  This book takes the reader from the headwaters all the way to the Gulf of Mexico... I immediately pegged it as a great companion to Minn of the Mississippi and any other studies of this river or rivers in general.

I really loved Lessac's illustrations in Queen Esther Saves Her People by Rita Gelman also.  I think it can be a challenge to translate many Bible stories into children's books while retaining the story element. But this one absolutely brings the fantastic story alive and wonderful to kids while remaining faithful to the story of Esther.

Lastly, I want to highlight the best World War I picture book I've seen so far: The Donkey of Gallipoli: A True Story of Courage in World War I.  How do you bring the horrors of war into a picture book without horrifying young children?  I think the answer to this is in the art of storytelling and the way the pictures fill in the blanks.  For example, while Patricia Polacco's highly acclaimed Pink and Say is a moving story taking place during the Civil War, I removed it from our collection.  I just had an aversion the graphic depiction of blood even if it was couched in beautiful sentiment.  But the Donkey of Gallipoli is balanced beautifully.  There are war scenes to be sure and the story doesn't avoid the topic of death.  Yet, the folk style of Lessac really helps to soften the harshness of what is being read and the lovely story really is one that all children will enjoy.  The ending leaves us thoughtful and hopeful... not scared or disturbed.  Highly recommended!

Frané Lessac is a wonderful artist whose style is a refreshing and quirky change on my bookshelf of classic artists.  There are many other books she's collaborated on not listed here which I am eager to get my hands on... and I understand she has many more in the works so keep your eyes open for her vivid bursts of delightful art.

The difference between good and great

Last night, the children picked a couple story books before bedtime. Two of the books chosen last night struck me for two different reasons. I wouldn't classify either of these books as "must have" literature... they were picked up probably at a garage sale or some such for a quarter a piece in my efforts to rely less on the library and more on our own shelves for read-alouds (these overdue fines are killing me!)

The difference in good and great text in a picture book is sometimes very subtle.  It's an attention to quirky details or a particular knack for speaking in a child's language.  We read Babar Visits Another Planet and in the story Babar loses a shoe on the sticky surface of the planet.  Read this next part:

The concept of an elephant being conscious of dignity in footware is wonderfully fresh and thoughtful for a reader to stumble upon.  This is partially why Laurent de Brunhoff has been successful in furthering the Babar series that his father—the famous Jean de Brunhoff— created in 1931.  I tend to love the originals by Jean best... this visit to another planet thing doesn't amuse me as much as my boys but I really did appreciate this little line. 

The next book we read was the wonderful The Giant Jam Sandwich.  Fun rhyming, a superbly inventive concept... what's not to love?!  But just try to imagine what this book would look like with illustrations like digital, bright, generic cartoon characters.  *shudder*  The magic would be gone.  John Vernon Lord hits a home run here because of his wonderfully detailed images:

Just look at this last one!  There is a photographer down the road, a morose looking man along the parapet, three children chasing each other on the horizon, and a bunch of women laying out the blanket in the field.  But the text is only about the horses pulling the bread to the site. This is how illustrations should be: not just showing a visual of what the words say... but filling in the idiosyncrasies of a tale and doing half the tale-telling themselves. This book illustrates (Ha! Punny.) that concept so well it is no wonder that Vernon Lord is a lecturer on the art of illustration!  Delicious!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...