Lynn Beckwith

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In honor of Women's History Month, we're spotlighting a group of books that will entertain and inform young readers about some important females who helped shape our world. From authors to pilots to politicians, women have with courage, knowledge and yes, muscle! filled a variety of roles throughout history. These books celebrate their special contributions.

The dark, gothic cover of Sharon Darrow's Through the Tempests Dark and Wild: A Story of Mary Shelley, Creator of Frankenstein beckons the young reader with the promise of a dark tale. The book doesn't disappoint. The narrative of Mary's childhood is a sad one, more like a Cinderella story, but without the happy ending. Mary's mother, the radical thinker Mary Wollstonecraft, died in childbirth. Her father remarried to a woman who did not care for his stepdaughter. Mary was sent to Scotland to live with the Baxters, family friends with whom she spent two happy years, growing close to the Baxter children, Isabel and Robert. Later, Mary's marriage to the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and the too-late proposal of Robert Baxter add to the general sadness of the woman who went on to write one of the most famous books of all time. The fascinating details, accompanied by Angela Barrett's dark, overcast watercolors, made me want to blow the dust off of my old copy of Frankenstein and read it again with greater understanding of its author.

There has been a growing interest in women overlooked by the history books. Nikki Grimes examines one such figure in Talkin' About Bessie: The Story of Aviator Elizabeth Coleman. Grimes presents the tale as a series of fictional voices from Bessie's life and such unique and varied voices they are! From her parents and siblings to an unnamed field hand, the author's free verse monologues paint a complex picture of the aviator and her times. Grimes works in references to Jim Crow laws, World War I, discrimination against women and many other fascinating details of life in the early 1900s. She paints a picture of a real character vibrant, stubborn, publicity-seeking, tough and proud. "Queen Bess," one reporter called her. Accompanying Grimes' words about this little-known figure are stunning watercolors by E.B. Lewis, which recently earned him the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award. This is a beautiful book about an unforgettable woman.

The pitcher is in the box, winding up with a fastball but wait, this player is different! She's wearing a dress! Deborah Hopkinson (a frequent contributor to BookPage) has written Girl Wonder: A Baseball Story in Nine Innings, the fascinating tale of Alta Weiss, a woman who pitched for a semi-pro men's team in 1907. Terry Widener's stylized acrylic illustrations add to the tall-tale feel of Hopkinson's first-person narrative. Whether it's Alta's dead-on strike with a well-thrown corncob or her delightfully oversized glove, Widener captures the larger-than-life story of the doctor's daughter who defies social norms to pitch with the Vermillion Independents of Ohio. A timeline highlighting the role of women in baseball follows the story.

Cheryl Harness is back with Rabble Rousers: 20 Women Who Made a Difference, 20 short, informational essays about famous women in history. Much more than the traditional resource for school projects, this volume celebrates the lives of women who changed America by seeking equality of opportunity for all. The book is full of names that most people will recognize: Sojouner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, Eleanor Roosevelt. But what will make the reader stop and explore further are the lesser-known faces of history. Ida Wells-Barnett's feisty life as a black newspaper writer and publisher is told in its boldness. And who knew there was a woman like Mary E. Lease ("Yellin' Mary Ellen, the Kansas Pythoness") who worked for the rights of Kansas homesteaders being gouged by bankers and became a lawyer for the Populist movement. Harness includes many memorable details that will hook readers. More than just a fine historical resource, this is captivating reading.

In honor of Women's History Month, we're spotlighting a group of books that will entertain and inform young readers about some important females who helped shape our world. From authors to pilots to politicians, women have with courage, knowledge and yes, muscle! filled a variety of roles throughout history. These books celebrate their special contributions. […]
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BookPage is celebrating the virtues of verse during National Poetry Month with a group of volumes sure to inspire budding bards everywhere. For young readers, the economy and emotion of poetry hold a unique appeal, and this special month is the perfect time for them to learn more about a genre that's centuries old but still as fresh as an April shower.

A prolific and established children's poet, Karla Kuskin has put together a marvelous collection titled Moon, Have You Met My Mother?. From the understated (I have a little guppy/I would rather have a puppy) to the hilarious (Butter/butter/butter/butter that's a word/I love to utter) to the profound (Watch the day curtains close/hear the wind going grey/at the edge of the edge/you and I/turn the page), Kuskin covers topics that will engage and challenge young readers.

Poems about pets, the seasons, the human body and the moon are enlivened by Sergio Ruzzier's simple line drawings. Sometimes funny, sometimes disturbing, his classic illustrations will remind readers of the sketches of Shel Silverstein. The Sun in Me: Poems About the Planet, compiled by Judith Nicholls, is a wonderful tribute to the natural world. Though works by Emily Dickinson, Issa, David McCord and Sappho are included here, lesser-known writers also shine. The opening poem, Mary Kawena Pukui's "Behold" sets the tone: "Sing out and say/Again and refrain/Behold this lovely world." What follows are 28 poems that celebrate and encourage respect for the earth, each accompanied by Beth Krommes' charming scratchboard pictures. Detailed, energetic and full of the life of the planet, they're the perfect visual complement to this broad collection of provocative poetry.

Author Diane Ackerman and illustrator Peter Sís have published a lovely, understated volume of verse called Animal Sense. In five chapters that reflect the five senses, Ackerman muses on the magic of various animals and their special ways of interpreting the world. The section on hearing, for example, offers an homage to bats and their remarkable auditory powers, as well as a tribute to the songs of baby birds. Readers of Animal Sense will find it hard not to be charmed by the millions and millions of dots that make up Peter Sís' remarkable illustrations. A star-nosed mole poking his head out of his hole looks especially sweet, and Jackie the German Shepherd, with his phenomenal sense of smell, fairly pops out of his page. A delight for animal and poetry lovers alike.

The first time I read The Wishing Bone and Other Poems by Stephen Mitchell, I was struck by the book's old-timey feel. The watercolor and ink illustrations by Tom Pohrt are reminiscent of Kate Greenaway's pictures, and the playful, unusual word choice similar to the work of Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll will transport readers to another time. In the illustrations to a poem called "The Trial," a kangaroo serves as judge, and a bewigged pig is the attorney. Any person privy to the inner workings of the judicial system will love the confusion that ensues when the defense attorney (a bear) states, "I know my client's innocent/But can't remember why/You'll have to take my word for it/He wouldn't hurt a fly. /If only I could find my notes/The proof would make you cry." Such celebrations of words and their sounds are what poetry is all about.

Paint Me Like I Am: Teen Poems from WritersCorps is a different sort of poetry anthology. Published as a project of WritersCorps, a program that allows at-risk youth to "improve their literacy and self-expression," this slim paperback is filled with all the joy and angst urban teens feel today. Relationships, racism, homelessness no topic is taboo or too difficult for these young writers to reflect on in verse. At the beginning of each chapter in this powerful collection is a writing prompt for readers to consider as they compose their own poems. Given the wide popularity of poetry slams in many schools, this volume should serve as an inspiration for any fledgling poet.

BookPage is celebrating the virtues of verse during National Poetry Month with a group of volumes sure to inspire budding bards everywhere. For young readers, the economy and emotion of poetry hold a unique appeal, and this special month is the perfect time for them to learn more about a genre that's centuries old but still as fresh as an April shower.

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My first thought when seeing the titles of these books was, “I love books about airplanes!”  Well . . . now I love books about flies . . . as in insects. These three books for very young readers will open their eyes to the joys and challenges of being a reviled critter in a butterfly world.

MAKING MOVES
Karl Newsom Edwards' Fly! is just the thing for the youngest nature lover. With one word repeated on each spread, we see a young fly trying to figure just how to get around. At first, a pink worm encourages, “Wiggle!” and the big-eyed fly tries, but can’t quite figure out the moves. The page turn reveals a grasshopper (“Jump!”) and then a pill bug ("Roll!") until a butterfly and bumblebee finally give the fly good advice: “Flutter! Flutter! Flit! Flit!” Soon, our hero is flying! The humorous illustrations are sure to bring a smile, but clever readers will enjoy discovering one subtle touch: Each new critter is foreshadowed on the page before. My favorite is the spider’s legs flying off the right side page, with the ants marching after them.

SWATTER VS. FLY
Petr Horáček’s The Fly is sure to engage readers right from the endpages. Dozens of flies, ready for flight, grace the inside cover, making experienced adults instinctively reach for the fly swatter. Heavyweight paper, bright colors and one well-spoken fly all add up to a funny and surprising book. The opening spread has the fly addressing the reader with an enormous speech bubble. The page turn is a shocker: An enormous blue fly swatter flaps from the top, nearly hitting the quick-moving narrator. The next page turn is equally unnerving: Now the world is upside down, with the clever fly hanging from the ceiling and the boy, flyswatter in hand, looking up. (Except that for the human reader, everything is tosy-turvy!) The fly escapes the house, finds some cows (who have tails for swatting) and faces the real world of hungry flies and birds. Cleverly cut-out swatters make this an interactive book of a different sort. In the end, the reader has a moral decision of her own—to close the book and squash the fly or to carefully read it again. I would read it again.

A CREATURE GREAT AND GROSS
The fly-as-narrator trope goes one step further in I, Fly: The Buzz About Flies and How Awesome They Are by Bridget Heos. This pop-eyed fly is tired of all the attention that schools give to butterflies, when, what with flies’ metamorphosis and wings and flight, they are just insects like flies. Our fly wonders, what's the big deal? After reading this informational book, not only will young readers have new respect for poop and garbage-eating flies, they will know lots more about these less glamorous insects. Like the students shown in illustrator Jennifer Plecas’ marvelous cartoon illustrations, readers will recoil at the discussion of maggots at first, but will warm up to Fly’s arguments and tales of amazing procreation and scientific wonder. As he compares himself to butterflies, it’s impossible not to admire the fly’s halters (little spinning appendages to help with balance) and astounding wing speed (200 times/sec versus a butterfly’s paltry 5 to 12). The glossary and bibliography at the end reminds us that even though this is a light and very, very funny book, it’s chock full of information!

All three of these books will make readers of all ages think differently about flies. But adults will still feel the urge to grab the swatter.

My first thought when seeing the titles of these books was, “I love books about airplanes!”  Well . . . now I love books about flies . . . as in insects. These three books for very young readers will open their eyes to the joys and challenges of being a reviled critter in a butterfly world.

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It seems I have been reading about the death of the printed book for half my life. And still we keep reading real books and writing about them, too. And now I find myself picking up so many wonderful picture books in which the main character is a book. It’s enough to bring a tear to this book lover’s eye and a smile to teachers and librarians everywhere.

A BOY FINDS HIS BOOK
One intriguing new book feels good to read. Its red cover and faux linen spine harkens back to the days when picture book covers were plain, with little more that the title and author on the cover. Perhaps that’s where the adage, “Don’t judge a book by its cover” comes from. The cover of The Good Little Book does have googly eyes and the hint of a smile inside the word “good,” but that’s it. It’s just a book. If you want to know more, you’re going to have to open the cover. Canadians Kyo Maclear and Marion Arbona must have had a ball with this one, imagining a bad little boy, sent to the book-filled study to “think things over.” This is not a book-loving boy, either, at least not until he reads The Good Little Book.

Wildly imaginative, colorful gouache and pencil illustrations and fabulous storylines amaze the boy so much that he finishes the book, and turns right back to the beginning and reads it again. And again. The book is the boy’s constant companion for months, until it is lost. He imagines the worst and searches for the book everywhere, even putting up posters and looking in the library.  Eventually, he “opens up to other stories,” which is just what a good book does. I'm not usually given to fables about books, but I'll make an exception for this little treasure and will read it aloud over and over, knowing its humor will lead many children to find their very own special book.

THE JOY OF LIBRARIES
Another book about books, this time a compilation of poems, is Jumping Off Library Shelves. It’s hard to say what’s more delightful, Jane Manning’s warm, watery gouache and pencil illustrations or the 15 carefully chosen poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins. Just when I think I have found a favorite, I turn the page and the next poem tugs at my heart. In the middle is Hopkins' lovely tribute to Augusta Baker, the groundbreaking African-American librarian who was heralded for her storytelling skills. Turn the page and smile to find a red-faced girl lifting a heavy dictionary, the perfect accompaniment to Deborah Ruddell’s "Dictionary Dare," which ends with the delicious “Raise me above your head / fell the quiet weight / of words.” This beautiful volume belongs in every library. Children and adults will find the poems easy to love and easy to memorize.

NARRATIVE FREEDOM
Young readers often want to write their own stories. And why not? It looks so easy! Rebecca Kai Dotlich teams up with illustrator Fred Koehler in One Day, The End: Short, Very Short, Shorter-Than-Ever Stories for a humorous but clever look at children’s storytelling. Any parent who has asked, “What happened today?” will recognize their child between the pages of this book. The first “story” is, “One day . . . I went to school. I came home. The End.” The “stories” continue with every page turn: The beginning and end are there, but the middle is missing, much like many a story in an early elementary writing classroom. While a teacher might tease out the middle of a classroom story, the illustrator provides all the details in his humorous, action-packed digital drawings. One can imagine teachers reading this book aloud and encouraging students to slow down and really explore the illustrations, catching details and nuance along the way. Beginning writers and storytellers are often told by their flabbergasted teachers, “You need more details in your story.” This picture book will allow the young writer to really understand what a detail is and how to add it to her stories.

It seems I have been reading about the death of the printed book for half my life. And still we keep reading real books and writing about them, too. And now I find myself picking up so many wonderful picture books in which the main character is a book. It’s enough to bring a tear to this book lover’s eye and a smile to teachers and librarians everywhere.

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Political correctness might be a tired concept to many, but it's done wonders for the world of children's books. Now, young readers can learn all about the customs and cultures of people of color, including those who lived on North American soil long before Columbus, the Pilgrims or the Vikings arrived.

Verla Kay's simple, rhyming text in Broken Feather gently informs the youngest reader about the life of a young Nez Perce boy. Broken Feather loves his home and life a life filled with hunting, harvesting, dancing and time spent with family. But this existence is jeopardized by the arrival of white settlers.

Early in the narrative, the reader sees white men and their long guns, hunting the land. Later, the wagons start arriving, and the territory becomes crowded with new settlers "bringing wagons/Cutting trees/Building houses/Where they please." The words of Broken Feather's father cut to the heart of the story, just as the settlers cut to the heart of the forests surrounding the Nez Perce land. Stephen Alcorn's stylized block prints add a wonderful extra dimension to the story. The author's note and final map of the Northwestern states add details that older readers and parents might want to know about the history of the Nez Perce people.

With her newest volume We Are the Many: A Picture Book of American Indians, Doreen Rappaport has written a beautiful nonfiction book about notable Native Americans. The artistic team of Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu illustrates each chapter with their signature watercolors, filled with detail, emotion and life.

Young readers will love the book's brief biographies, which employ both native and familiar terms (did you know that "Asiyahola" is the Seminole name for Osceola?). They'll marvel at the number of different tribes that live on our continent. Some familiar characters are included in the book (Sacajawea, Squanto and Jim Thorpe), but readers will also learn of William McCabe (one of the Navajo code talkers) and the Conley sisters (who argued the Wyandot Indians' land ownership case before the U.S. Supreme Court). Readable and accessible, this lovely volume fills in many of the blanks left by textbooks.

Paintings by Oneida artist Lisa Fifield and stories by Ojibway writer Lise Erdrich comprise Bears Make Rock Soup. Each brief tale is based on a principle of Native American lore. Both animals and people play the role of helper, and the earth is revered and respected.

Erdrich's gentle language is natural and has a cadence that makes it perfect for reading aloud. In hues as varied as the earth they celebrate, Fifield's pictures spill across the page. Though these are new stories rather than fresh interpretations of old narratives, each has the feel of a familiar and much-loved tale. "The nest is our home, our Earth. We share it with all creatures. Because of this there is always hope and life continues," Erdrich writes. Her book is a true treasure.

While the previous stories will be of greater interest to younger readers and listeners, Joseph Bruchac's The Winter People is historical fiction aimed at an older audience. Set in 1759 during a global conflict between France and England, the story opens in a little village in Quebec, one of the arenas of the war. Based on historical fact, Bruchac's novel is a retelling of true events through the life of Saxso, a young Abenaki boy who fights against the British and their Stockbridge Indian scouts.

After the battle, which left much of their village destroyed, the surviving Abenaki people attacked the retreating Bostoniak (as they called the British) and followed them to rescue family members who had been kidnapped. All the help he receives along the way shores up Saxso's bravery. His family sustains him with their gentle teachings, and a Southbridge warrior admires his courage all part of the young warrior's coming-of-age.

Bruchac, who is of Abenaki descent, is known for his dedication to retelling the stories of his people, which are often forgotten or left out of history books. This novel is one of his best.

Political correctness might be a tired concept to many, but it's done wonders for the world of children's books. Now, young readers can learn all about the customs and cultures of people of color, including those who lived on North American soil long before Columbus, the Pilgrims or the Vikings arrived.

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Once kids hit the age of 13, they seem to be stuck between different worlds. They're still children, but they wish they were adults. They want to be trusted, but often act impulsively. Their reading, appropriately enough, is just as unpredictable as they are. One minute, they pick books from the bestseller lists, and the next, they nostalgically curl up with Dr. Seuss. Because teens are such a tough audience, we've rounded up some new books that are sure to keep them entertained during those long June afternoons.

KEEPER OF THE NIGHT
In her new book Keeper of the Night, writer Kimberly Willis Holt takes on a sensitive subject a mother's depression and suicide. Holt addressed the topic of mentally challenged parents in My Louisiana Sky and the treatment of the morbidly obese in When Zachary Beaver Came to Town. Both books have a loyal following and are on summer reading lists across the country. Set in the Guam of her military brat childhood, Holt's newest novel has a shroud of mystery hanging about it, as the child narrator struggles in the months following her mother's suicide.

Holt's plain, direct prose belies the deep pain the narrator feels as she tries to understand her mother's life and death. The book opens with the breathtaking sentence, "My mother died praying on her knees." Slowly, almost like the stories that surface during therapy sessions, Isabel's sadness and confusion emerge. The death is terrible enough, but the aftermath threatens to engulf every member of Isabel's family. Tata, her father, sleeps curled on the floor next to his bed. Little sister Olivia's bedwetting and nightmares disrupt her sleep. Older brother Frank uses the long nights to carve words in the wall next to his bed and eventually into his own skin.

Isabel's story is both heartbreaking and inspirational, as we watch her sink further into sadness. But, at the breaking point, she and her family are saved by their ability to tell their stories, forgive themselves and begin again.

THE DREAM BEARER
Walter Dean Myers returns this summer with another powerful story of young men growing up in Harlem. In The Dream Bearer, David Curry meets mysterious Moses Littlejohn, an African-American man with white hair, a stubbly beard and baggy clothes, who professes to be a 303-year-old dream carrier. Moses is looking for someone to pass his dreams to, and, as it turns out, David could use a few.

Caught between his violent, unpredictable father, his dedicated mother and Tyrone, his older brother, who is beginning to succumb to the temptations of gang and drug life, David is a gentle boy who listens to the older man's dreams, which soon become a part of him, adding to his understanding of himself, his family and the larger world of Harlem. Myers' latest is a tale that will linger with readers.

A NORTHERN LIGHT
Jennifer Donnelly's first book for young adults, A Northern Light, is a story as big and bold as the North Woods of New York State where it is set. In the tradition of Gene Stratton Porter, Donnelly delivers a novel filled with the particulars of life at the turn of the century, weaving in details of the local farming and logging cultures, and examining attitudes of racial prejudice and feminism.

Narrator Mattie Gokey loves poetry and would like nothing more than to accept the scholarship to Barnard that her teacher, Miss Wilcox, has helped her earn. But her mother recently died of breast cancer, her brother left the family farm after a fight with her dad, and she is desperately needed at home, where her sisters and brothers are too old to be bossed but too young to do farm work.

A talented writer with a thirst for books, Mattie tells her own story in a strong but conflicted voice. Her best friend, Weaver Smith, is also hoping to go to college, but as a black boy saving money for Columbia he faces his own challenges. Their unusual but completely believable friendship sustains Mattie through a difficult year and helps her decide on a course for her life. As the novel progresses, she makes two big promises, and these promises frame the narrative.

For readers who will eventually graduate to the sweeping books of John Irving and Barbara Kingsolver, A Northern Light is the perfect stepping-stone. Deft foreshadowing and a real-life mystery keep the story moving along.

LUCAS
With Lucas, author Kevin Brooks tells the poignant story of Caitlin McCann and her family, who are also reeling from a death. Caitlin's mother died almost 10 years ago, but the wounds still fester, especially for her father. At his suggestion to "let it all out," to "cry herself a story," Caitlin recounts the events of her 15th summer, from the first time she sees the beautiful outsider, Lucas, to the tragic events on the mudflats.

In between, Caitlin spins a dark, suspenseful tale of British life in a small island village not the resort town you might imagine, but a small-minded, inbred community characterized by alcohol abuse, gossip, prejudice and evil. When Lucas, a pale boy with a ghostly presence, suddenly appears on the island nothing is the same for Caitlin. She is bewitched by his manner and his kindness. Lucas seems to have a sixth sense about people, and he warns Caitlin about her companions, whom he sees as dangerous, angry and cruel. Turns out he's right about everything.

This taut story, though quite a bit longer than most young adult novels, will keep readers in its web, much like Lucas keeps Cait captivated throughout the narrative. As the tale unwinds, we see Lucas become the object of jealousy and suspicion, as mean Jamie Tait and his cohorts plot to rid their island of this "gyppo." Brooks' wonderful novel, told by an unforgettable protagonist, reminds us of the redemptive power of stories.

Once kids hit the age of 13, they seem to be stuck between different worlds. They're still children, but they wish they were adults. They want to be trusted, but often act impulsively. Their reading, appropriately enough, is just as unpredictable as they are. One minute, they pick books from the bestseller lists, and the next, they nostalgically curl up with Dr. Seuss. Because teens are such a tough audience, we've rounded up some new books that are sure to keep them entertained during those long June afternoons.

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Perhaps no other genre has the power of poetry. With the ability to get at the heart of the most common or complex ideas and examine them anew, the form offers something for every youngster, from the fledgling reader to the reflective teenager. April National Poetry Month is the perfect time to acquaint children with the pleasures of verse.

Jack Prelutsky, the high king of humorous rhyming poetry, has written a hilarious new volume called The Frogs Wore Red Suspenders. Accompanied by wonderful illustrations from Petra Mathers, these verses are about people and places from all over the United States. The poems range from the amusing title piece to the historic "In the Heart of South Dakota." Short, readable and easily memorized, they are sure to amuse the youngest readers. Prelutsky's signature rhythmic cadence is a favorite with kids, and this book will not disappoint his fans.

Better read with the eyes than heard with the ears, Outside the Lines: Poetry at Play is a collection of concrete poems written by Brad Burg and illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon. For the uninitiated, concrete poems are those that have a shape and a feeling of motion. The words in "Swing" follow the trajectory of a swinging child's feet. The words of some poems, like "Kites," start at the bottom of the page and soar to the top. "Soccer" is made up of words connected by dots that follow the trail of a soccer ball to an exuberant "GOAL!" Surely this is one time when the author and illustrator worked closely together. Concrete poems may be new to many adults, but the playful discipline they require is a lot of fun for children.

Alison Jay and J. Patrick Lewis team up in A World of Wonders: Geographic Travels in Verse and Rhyme, a book of intriguing illustrations and whimsical poems that celebrate geography. Jay's ingenious visuals oil paintings that appear to be overlaid with cracking varnish charmingly complement the varied verses. The collection includes concrete poems and explores many other forms as well, including the acrostic, a child-pleasing poetic trick in which the first letter of each line forms a word or phrase. For instance, the first letters of the lines of the poem "Christopher Columbus" actually form the words "Santa Maria." Young readers will enjoy the volume's riddles and may be inspired to write some of their own.

The simple elegance of haiku makes it a pleasure to read, and Miriam Chaikin has put together a lovely introduction to this ancient form in Don't Step on the Sky: A Handful of Haiku. The subject matter is typical of the form a celebration of the natural world but this is the natural world of young children. Chaikin deviates from the strict rules of haiku we learned in high school, and the freedom she demonstrates in her verse reflects the wildness of her subject. Capturing the curiosity of a child, she writes, "A blade of grass/pushes through the cement/Hello, world." Hiroe Nakata's nearly translucent watercolor illustrations have a naive style that is the perfect accompaniment to this marvelous helping of haiku.

More serious and reflective are the poems of Naomi Shihab Nye. Her newest volume, 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East, is a collection of poems for young people that focuses on one of the world's most troubled areas. Adults may be familiar with Nye's passionate voice from her visits to A Prairie Home Companion or her various volumes of poetry. Now young readers can experience her clear, heartfelt words in this slim, accessible volume. Nye's introduction to the book is a new poem entitled "Flinn, On the Bus." It begins, "Three hours after the buildings fell,/he took a seat beside me./Fresh out of prison, after 24 months,/you're my first hello!" Nye goes on to chronicle, in painful, careful free verse, the story of an ex-con who does not yet know of the events of September 11. She ends, "He'd find out/soon enough. Flinn, take it easy./Peace is rough." Most of these poems have been published in other volumes and journals, and most were written well before the events discussed in Nye's introduction. Perhaps that is why they are doubly powerful. Though high school students and adults might best appreciate her verse, this is a powerful, thought-provoking volume for all.

Perhaps no other genre has the power of poetry. With the ability to get at the heart of the most common or complex ideas and examine them anew, the form offers something for every youngster, from the fledgling reader to the reflective teenager. April National Poetry Month is the perfect time to acquaint children with the pleasures of verse.

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It's time again for new pencils, paper and folders, and the excitement that rolls around for kids as the school season returns. A fresh crop of books out this fall will help students face the year with confidence and, most importantly, a sense of humor.

Laura Numeroff's If You Take a Mouse to School continues her popular mouse series. With the comforting, familiar story line that has made her previous books such a hit with the preschool set, the newest installment in the adventures of Numeroff's jolly little critter finds him following his boy-owner to school. The mouse is packed and ready to go, starting with a lunchbox, which leads to a sandwich, then notebooks and pencils and a cozy spot in the boy's backpack. You get the picture. Or do you? Look closely at the illustrations and the fun really begins. As the children are solving basic addition problems, the mouse is blithely sailing through calculus. Look inside the children's house of blocks, and you will see the mouse lounging in a tidy mouse-made house. Because this is certainly a book that readers will want to return to again and again, they'll enjoy discovering new details in the illustrations each time.

Further hilarity is in store with Lynn Plourde's School Picture Day. Thor Wickstrom's cartoony illustrations are the perfect complement to Plourde's exaggerated situations. It seems that Josephina Caroleena Wattasheena the First does not know that it's picture day at school. Everyone else starts the morning dressed in their best outfits, but our heroine marches onto the school bus in overalls, with a jaunty hat over her multiple pigtails, carrying her trusty toolbox. She's not thinking about the photograph; she's just wondering how things work. When the bus' gearshift makes an odd sound, Josephina rushes to the rescue. After some highfalutin "fidgeting, fiddling, fuddling, and foopling," she solves the problem, but her oilcan sprays grease on all the well-dressed kids on the bus! Josephina's "help" with the pencil sharpener, school sprinkler system, heating vent and a wind-up chicken culminates in a rather odd class picture. The photographer is hilariously goofy, asking the children to show their "teethy weethies" and to say "cheesy weezy if you pleasy." And what about the fidgeting, curious Josephina Caroleena Wattasheena the First? She is off to bigger and better projects even a rocket that looks ready for the moon.

Hunter's Best Friend at School is Laura Malone Elliott's delightful tale of the pleasures and perils of friendship in the classroom. Lynn Munsinger's wonderful signature watercolors illustrate this story of peer pressure. Hunter and Stripe, two raccoons, like the same things: striped sweaters, Goldilocks and the Three Raccoons and cartwheels. However, sometimes their friendship can be a problem. "When Stripe comes to school one day in a mischief-making mood," he distracts Hunter at reading time, uses poor table manners at lunch and misbehaves during painting time. Hunter ends up following his friend's lead, but he's disappointed in the results. After a loving talk with his mother, he figures out a way to follow her advice: "Being a best friend doesn't mean always following along," she says. "Sometimes being a best friend means you have to help your friend be his best self." Good advice for any student!

It's time again for new pencils, paper and folders, and the excitement that rolls around for kids as the school season returns. A fresh crop of books out this fall will help students face the year with confidence and, most importantly, a sense of humor. Laura Numeroff's If You Take a Mouse to School continues […]
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The flags that began flying right after September 11 might have faded a bit in the sun, but the feelings of patriotism they symbolize remain as strong as ever. Just in time for Independence Day, BookPage spotlights a number of books that will remind kids of what makes America so special.

Lynne Cheney, besides being the wife of the vice president, is an author and senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. Along with noted illustrator Robin Preiss Glasser, she has written America: A Patriotic Primer. This alphabet book follows the familiar routine, starting with A is for America, the land that we love. Each page is jam-packed with information about our nation its history, symbols and people. Cheerful watercolor-and-ink illustrations are filled with details about everything from how to fold Old Glory to the concept of patriotism to the philosophies of Jefferson, Madison and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. As with many alphabet books, some letters work better than others, but readers will forgive the occasional awkward letter ( X marks the spot, Z is the end of the alphabet. ) because the illustrations are so interesting and marvelous. Children will pore over the pages and find new details in the borders each time they look at this book. Who would have thought a children's book would mention the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 or the 1924 Indian Citizenship Act?

Kids like to know about presidents. They remember that Abe Lincoln was skinny and wore a tall hat, and that George Washington had wooden teeth. After reading Michael Garland's hilarious The President and Mom's Apple Pie, they will never forget that William Howard Taft was an enormous man with an equally big appetite . . . and an excellent sense of smell. In Garland's charming tale, the rotund Taft pays a visit to a small town in order to dedicate a new flagpole, and everyone is all a-twitter. After the young narrator gets over the shock of seeing the president fill the doorway of the train (and I do mean fill), the whole town gets into the act of walking with Taft to the flagpole. Just as he approaches it, he suddenly sniffs the air and moves in the direction of a mysterious, wonderful aroma. Everyone follows the 27th president as he runs down the street and samples the variety of foods the city has to offer. From a big pile of spaghetti at Tony's Italian Village to ribs at Big Ed's Barbecue to steamed vegetables at Mrs. Wong's Hunan Palace, Taft is up to the task of searching for the marvelous aroma! Who cares if he has a little snack on the way? Well, Taft eventually finds the source of the intoxicating aroma: an apple pie baked by the narrator's mother. Garland's drawings are impossible to forget: Taft's enormous body looks like a bowling ball with tiny legs, and his handlebar mustache bisects his square head. A rollicking, memorable story.

Poet and author Janet S. Wong's newest offering, Apple Pie 4th of July, will make young readers reconsider the significance of the nation's birthday. The story is told from the perspective of a young Chinese-American girl whose family owns a Chinese restaurant. Like many children, she does not think her parents understand the world. Even though my father has lived here since he was twelve, even though my mother loves apple pie, I cannot expect them to know Americans do not eat Chinese food on the Fourth of July. Although the restaurant is open for business on the Fourth, the day wends on with nary a customer, and the sun lowers in the sky. But eventually patrons do arrive. They buy picnic food: chow mein, egg rolls and sweet-and-sour pork, among other things, turning the Fourth of July into a celebration of America's multi-culturalism. Brightly painted illustrations that resemble collages reveal more details of the story. The narrator is decked out in all-American red, white and blue, and one of the customers is carrying a pie into the restaurant. The family, after feeding so many other families, climbs the steps to the rooftop of their restaurant, where they watch fireworks and eat their own apple pie. This vivid book is the perfect menu for a patriotic celebration.

Happy Birthday America!

The flags that began flying right after September 11 might have faded a bit in the sun, but the feelings of patriotism they symbolize remain as strong as ever. Just in time for Independence Day, BookPage spotlights a number of books that will remind kids of what makes America so special.

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Lush, beautiful coffee table books aren't only for adults. A number of stunning new volumes will please the younger members of the family and make welcome gifts this holiday season.

HarperCollins Treasury of Picture Book Classics: A Child's First Collection covers a lot of territory and will make the perfect gift for a new baby or a child who is just entering the world of books. Most adult readers will sigh and smile as they turn the pages and renew old friendships. The magical first words of Goodnight Moon, published in 1947, still sound fresh and spare and alive: "In the great green room/There was a telephone/And a red balloon/And a picture of/The cow jumping over the moon." Like Brown's classic, each book in this volume has stood the test of time, from the funny peddler and his monkeys in Caps for Sale to Harold and his magical crayon. There are a few lesser-known characters here, but that's all the more reason to love this treasury of 12 stories, all beautifully illustrated and presented in one big (and heavy!) volume. The perfect way to start a library.

Yann Arthus-Bertand and Robert Burleigh have created the breathtaking Earth From Above for Young Readers. Arthus-Bertand is the well-known aerial photographer and author of numerous adult books, including last year's Earth From Above 365 Days. Though readable and interesting text accompanies these double-page spreads, the photos are the elements that will truly captivate young readers. Each photo demands close inspection: Is that a human dancing on a block of ice? (Nope it's an exuberant penguin.) Are those really ghostly camels? (Or shadows?) Each continent is represented in these brilliant pictures, which reflect the awesome diversity of life on earth.

The Making of America is a history book for elementary readers and a fine reference book for every family. From the first chapter, the author, Robert D. Johnston, Ph.D., does not mince words about Columbus' role in American history. "It was Christopher Columbus who set in motion the most dramatic and devastating assaults on Native American life and culture," he says. This straightforward telling of the story of our country's birth and development is just one of the reasons this beautifully designed and illustrated book should find a spot in the library of every family and school. The chapters are sensibly short, and each page has informative paintings, pictures, photographs or maps to draw the reader into the story and allow browsing by the casual reader. Biographical profiles and questions for debate punctuate each of the eight chapters, giving a framework for the interpretation of history. Even the last chapter, which brings us to events that are shaping our history right now, asks the difficult question, "How Should America Combat the War on Terrorism at Home?" Web sites, a state-by-state visitors' guide to historic places and scrupulous source notes complete this reference book .

The World Almanac for Kids 2003, edited by Kevin Seabrooke, is just the sort of book my children loved and dragged out during games of Trivial Pursuit. What child can resist looking up his birthday in an almanac to find out who shares it? The colorful, busy pages will attract and keep the attention of the most dedicated multi-tasker in your house. Even the table of contents, with subtitles like "Largest, Smallest, Fastest" and "20 Popular Kids Videos of 2001," will draw in fact-finders. While there is certainly enough information in these pages to help with almost any school assignment, most kids will stick this under their pillow to sneak a forbidden peek late in the evening. In the morning, your little scientist will be able to tell you all about puffer fish and their toxins and the number of Chihuahuas registered with the American Kennel Club. All this might come in handy if your well-informed child ever gets to show his stuff on Jeopardy. And if you keep supplying him or her with good books, it could happen.

Lush, beautiful coffee table books aren't only for adults. A number of stunning new volumes will please the younger members of the family and make welcome gifts this holiday season.

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Being a teenager isn't easy. With various social minefields, clothing styles that change by the minute and academic stresses, each day seems fraught with danger: Is that boy going to be nice to me? Am I good enough to make the team? Should I give in to peer pressure about drugs and alcohol? Am I too fat? It's a wonder any kid makes it through these years.

Enter two new books for adolescents, For Teens Only: Quotes, Notes and Advice You Can Use by Carol Weston and No Body's Perfect: Stories by Teens About Body Image, Self-Acceptance, and the Search for Identity by Kimberly Kirberger. Both these titles provide invaluable advice to young people on how to survive and flourish during the difficult coming-of-age years.

Carol Weston, author of Girltalk and the Melanie Martin books, talks directly to teens with advice straight from her heart and mind. Each short essay in her new book starts with a quotation. With wise words from notables like Pablo Casals, e.e. cummings and Wallace Shawn, along with up-to-date advice from such successful female role models as Jennifer Aniston and Alicia Keys, Weston's breezy book offers advice that young adults may actually take to heart. Never didactic, always comforting, Weston writes in a just-chatting-with-you-on-paper style, and she knows her audience. A grown-up with valid advice, she's more like a fun aunt or older cousin than a mom or a teacher.

One of the book's most provocative pieces begins with a quotation from Lisa Kudrow: "This is who I am. Not everybody has to like it." What follows is Weston's direct style at its best. "You don't have to like everybody. Not everybody will like you. And that's okay. . . . When people are not friendly, let that be their problem, not yours. Focus on the people who are your friends. And on pleasing yourself." Hear, hear!

At the beginning and end of this appealing book are a few pages of inspiring quotations. I know many teens who keep journals of meaningful lines they hear in music and read in poems and books. This volume will be a treasure trove for them.

In her new book No Body's Perfect, Kimberly Kirberger, author of Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul and Teen Love: On Relationships, A Book for Teenagers, has compiled a variety of poems, essays and stories by teenagers that address issues surrounding body image, food and self-acceptance. Though the stories vary in length and quality, they are heartfelt, moving and, in some instances, devastating. No problem escapes the insightful reflection of these young, mostly female, writers. Difficult topics like anorexia, bulimia, drug addiction and alcohol abuse are discussed with unflinching honesty.

The raw scabs of young adulthood are exposed here, but Kirberger also offers hope between the covers of her book. There are chapters brightly titled "Give Yourself a Break" and "Stay True to Yourself" and "Ask for Support." Young people who are recovering from the ravages of adolescent choices write some of the hopeful pieces; others are simply the words of supportive friends who care about their suffering peers and offer encouraging words. Many read like journal entries complete with the horror and angst of new pain and the joy of self-discovery and healing.

Kirberger has also created a fill-in-the-blank journal to accompany her new book. The No Body's Perfect Journal offers exercises in self-reflection along with writing activities all perfect opportunities for young readers to stop, ruminate and record their feelings about peer pressure, body image and conformity.

These new books are the perfect way to open up sensitive discussions about how to deal with the everyday stresses of being a teen. Leave them on the bedside or coffee table for your youngster to find, and they're sure to discover words of wisdom on negotiating the bewildering road to adulthood.

Being a teenager isn't easy. With various social minefields, clothing styles that change by the minute and academic stresses, each day seems fraught with danger: Is that boy going to be nice to me? Am I good enough to make the team? Should I give in to peer pressure about drugs and alcohol? Am I too fat? It's a wonder any kid makes it through these years.

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