Jan Smith

<B>The Spiffiest Giant</B> in Town takes place in an enchanted land where giants loom over a smaller world inhabited by people, elves and animals, and where all coexist peacefully. It's a magical land beautifully drawn by Axel Scheffler: envision Richard Scarry's Busytown combined with Hansel and Gretel, set in a European-looking, storybook world.

Scottish children's author Julia Donaldson writes about a lovably, truly scruffy giant named George, who one day decides it's high time to give himself a giant-sized makeover. He heads to a haberdashery run by small people in a small store, which means he can't go in, so he views the merchandise by lying on the ground and peeking through the door. Soon he's outfitted and seemingly a new man, having traded his worn-out, monk's-style gown and grungy sandals for a "spiffy" shirt, pair of pants, belt, tie, socks and shiny black shoes.

George's new look doesn't last long, however, as he runs into a series of creatures who need help: a giraffe with a cold neck, a goat whose boat needs a sail, a family of mice whose house has burnt down. Immediately, he starts doling out his clothes to help. His tie warms the giraffe's neck, his shirt becomes a sail, and one of his new shoes becomes a mouse house. Before long, George has given away practically everything, only to finally find himself outside the haberdashery in his skivvies! The store is closed, and George can only put on his dirty old clothes once more. In the end, however, George is warmly thanked by all those he has helped, and he learns a valuable lesson: that it's much more important to be kind than spiffy.

Young readers will enjoy the form of the story, the repetitive sequence of different creatures who need George's help. They'll also enjoy guessing what article of clothing George might next peel off to help each creature he encounters. The tale is simple yet delightful, and its moral is one that people of all ages and sizes should keep in mind. The world definitely needs more Georges like this gentle giant.

 

 

<B>The Spiffiest Giant</B> in Town takes place in an enchanted land where giants loom over a smaller world inhabited by people, elves and animals, and where all coexist peacefully. It's a magical land beautifully drawn by Axel Scheffler: envision Richard Scarry's Busytown combined with Hansel and Gretel, set in a European-looking, storybook world. Scottish children's […]

Those who enjoyed Jamie Lee Curtis' and Laura Cornell's previous books (When I Was Little and Today I Feel Silly) are in for a treat: a brand new collaboration called I'm Gonna Like Me: Letting Off a Little Self-Esteem. Like the previous efforts, this one is a joyous romp, filled with humor and lots of understanding about what makes kids tick.

As fans know, Jamie Lee Curtis can not only act, she can write best-selling children's books. She says her goddaughter inspired this one when she was trying on a dress Curtis had given her and proclaimed, "I'm gonna like me!" Two narrators, a boy and a girl, do the talking, so the upbeat, funny messages about self-esteem are squarely aimed at both sexes. The kids alternate by explaining many different "I'm gonna like me when . . ." situations, some fun but many universally distressing or scary for kids, like getting on a school bus alone and waving goodbye to one's parents, giving the wrong answer in school, or falling down and getting hurt. The rhyming text is short and jaunty: "I'm gonna like me when I don't run so fast. Then they pick teams and I'm chosen last." Curtis adds funny twists to familiar childhood pains: "I'm gonna like me when I eat something new even if Grandma makes octopus stew."

Matters of politeness and morals are also addressed, as in "I'm gonna like me when I open the box and smile and say 'Thanks' even though I got socks." Laura Cornell's artwork is nothing less than exuberant. Her cute, cocky kids have boundless energy and winning smiles, and each page is filled with a multitude of interesting expressions and details. Just watch the bespectacled boy go through numerous gyrations as he sails through the air before falling flat on his face. Watch grandma whip up that octopus stew (after hauling it out of the ocean). Read the various lunch containers at the cafeteria table: T-Bone on a Stick, No Beef Allowed, Global Warming Soup Thermos and even Pork By the Foot! The humor brings to mind a Roz Chast cartoon.

I'm Gonna Like Me is a great way to give a child a little lesson in fact many little life lessons without them ever knowing it! And the best part is, both you and the child will be smiling as you read.

Those who enjoyed Jamie Lee Curtis' and Laura Cornell's previous books (When I Was Little and Today I Feel Silly) are in for a treat: a brand new collaboration called I'm Gonna Like Me: Letting Off a Little Self-Esteem. Like the previous efforts, this one is a joyous romp, filled with humor and lots of […]

If Snoopy ever needed a soul mate, terrier Ike LaRue would fit the bill. Poor, misunderstood Ike: He has been banished for two months of behavior training at the Brotweiler Canine Academy, and he is miserable. But, like Snoopy, Ike is handy with a typewriter, and Dear Mrs. LaRue compiles his pleading letters home to his owner, Mrs. Gertrude R. LaRue, along with a few related newspaper articles that further relate his exploits.

Artist and writer Mark Teague's books always feature great humor, intriguing, unusual plots and witty, eye-catching illustrations. Not surprisingly, Dear Mrs. LaRue: Letters from Obedience School serves up all the good things readers have grown to expect from the author.

Juxtaposing his letters home with scenes from what he actually experiences at the school, the book begins when Ike writes: Dear Mrs. LaRue, How could you do this to me? This is a PRISON, not a school! You should see the other dogs. They are BAD DOGS, Mrs. LaRue! I do not fit in.” The spread shows Ike mailing his letter in a plush, flower-filled area, with signs pointing to the pool and sauna. Ike's imagination, however, features a Transylvania-like scene, complete with a winding road leading up to a foreboding castle, surrounded by bats, ravens and lightning.

Poor Ike. He can't understand why Mrs. LaRue was so miffed when he ate her chicken pie, chased cats and tore her camel coat. Were you really so upset about the chicken pie?” he writes to his mistress. You know, you might have discussed it with me. You could have said, ÔIke, don't eat the chicken pie. I'm saving it for dinner.' Would that have been so difficult? It would have prevented a lot of hard feelings.” Kids will enjoy Ike's hilarious comments and adventures, while adults will snicker at the sophisticated humor. Not surprisingly, Ike plots a daring escape from his canine prison and braves a long journey home. He ends up a hero, with the entire town saluting his bravery and holding signs that say I Like Ike.” Mark Teague has created a book full of canine capers, with superb details in every corner. Ike is so endearing, I wouldn't be surprised if he returns in a sequel.

If Snoopy ever needed a soul mate, terrier Ike LaRue would fit the bill. Poor, misunderstood Ike: He has been banished for two months of behavior training at the Brotweiler Canine Academy, and he is miserable. But, like Snoopy, Ike is handy with a typewriter, and Dear Mrs. LaRue compiles his pleading letters home to […]

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