Whenever someone learns that I work at a library, they usually ask one of three questions:
1. What’s your favorite book?
2. What are you reading?
3. What do you recommend?
The last two are usually more enjoyable to answer than the first question, but lately those questions have been very difficult for me. I’m going to be honest here. Yes, I work at a library, but I am not a librarian. I’m also the parent of a one-year-old, and so right now between working full time and parenting that little fellow, the answer is that I read a lot of the same five books. Over, and over, and over again. I hope that some time in the next year I will learn how to get dinner on the table before 8:30 at night; I hope that I will find time and space to read for myself again; I hope that maybe Calvin will learn to like more books (he will). But for now, it’s these five. So I present to you Calvin’s (the one-year-old) favorite five books, which I somehow still don’t hate even though I read them each at least five times a day.
The premise of this book is simple: four words, combined in varied ways, create new pictures. I don’t want to spoil the jokes, so I’ll leave the description there. Calvin loves to be asked, “Where’s the bear?”; the bear looks slightly different on every page, so it feels like a challenge. Plus, I roar when he finds it, so there’s that.
This was the first book Calvin actually listened to in its entirety. And then asked to hear again. And again. In Calvin’s eyes, this book has three real strengths: first, it’s not too long. Second, it’s filled with a variety of animals. Third, as each animal represents a different emotion, the opportunities for silly and changing voices abound. This one’s a great read-aloud for little ones, and I’m still amused by the book’s final insistence that “A difficult mood is not here to stay. Unless you’re that duck. He’s always this way.”
It’s always satisfying when your child loves a book that you loved as a child, so when Calvin willingly sat in my lap and listened as we read about all these variously positioned, colored, and tempered feet, we both felt as fuzzy inside as “fuzzy fur feet”. This book is fun for all the usual reasons that a Dr. Seuss book is fun: delightfully silly rhymes, that signature art style, the way that something so ordinary becomes whimsical. After we’re done reading, Calvin loves to open up to either the very front or very back pages (which have tons of images of the main character) and we just keep saying, “Feet! Feet! Feet! Feet!” This is a part of the story his Dad invented, and it’s his favorite.
This is probably the book we spend the most time with. Our copy is a large board book that we picked up at the Library’s Used Book Store, and Calvin loves to carry it around because his first love is carrying objects that seem much too large for him (at grandma’s house, his favorite thing to play with is her steam mop. But I digress…). This one is great for especially young kids; lots of animals, each isolated on a bright colored background (making it easy to distinguish them from one another and point to your favorites). Calvin’s favorite is the bunny. The chicken and the giraffe are close seconds.
I fully expect Calvin to move on from a few of these books before he can really comprehend their message, but this is one I hope he sustains interest in long enough to really understand the story. In I LOVE YOU, STINKY FACE, a child prolongs his bedtime routine by posing an escalating series of “what if?” scenarios to his patient, patient mother. “What if I smelled so bad my name was Stinky Face? What if I was a terrible meat-eating dinosaur? Would you still love me?” The book is silly and playful, but reinforces maybe the best lesson: that no amount of bad breath, big teeth, or bug-eating can stop a parent from loving their child.
True confessions of Carla: I love vampires! Well, I love books about vampires and a few years ago a little book titled PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES introduced the world to an amazing new genre of mashups mixing fantastic horror with established classical novels. With the film version of Grahame-Smith’s best-seller screening this weekend, I thought I’d take the opportunity to share a few of my favorite classic/horror parody titles.
Be honest. Heathcliff as a vampire just makes sense! His brooding, mysterious nature lends itself perfectly to a reimagined WUTHERING HEIGHTS where his brutal thirst wars with his love for beautiful Catherine Earnshaw. And then there’s the part where he digs up her corpse…
This is the first book in an imaginative young adult series which follows poor Alice as she falls into an open grave. Finding herself in a nightmare of death and decay she must learn to fight the monsters that inhabit this strange, mad world. Admit it, Carroll’s Wonderland was a little creepy even without zombies.
This is actually my favorite mashup to date. I love the thought of young orphan Jane escaping her vampyre relations (and that creepy red room) and learning to fight the evil in her world. Taking a governess job for the mysterious Mr. Rochester introduces our brave heroine to romance though true love may yet be thwarted when Jane discovers Mr. Rochester’s first wife, a mad werewolf, locked up in the estate attic. JANE SLAYRE is a fantastic twist on beloved story.
Instead of retelling Pride and Prejudice, MR. DARCY, VAMPYRE picks up after Elizabeth and Darcy have tied the knot. Now part of the family, Elizabeth becomes aware of their well-kept, deadly secret. Danger and darkness face the newlyweds as they travel across the Continent in attempt to break the curse and assure their future happiness.
If you are not quite sure about the supernatural spins on these well-known classics, you may want to try something on the lighter side. P.D. James has written a delightful murder mystery picking up six years after Elizabeth and Darcy’s marriage. An autumn ball is violently interrupted with Lydia’s unexpected and hysterical entrance proclaiming that Wickham has been murdered. What follows is an excellent crime drama perfectly recreating Austen’s beloved characters and atmosphere.
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Today is Groundhog Day, that holiday when a little creature emerges from its burrow to see if it's sunny or not and decides whether it wants to hurry back home and curl up for 6 more weeks of beauty rest.
Regardless of what the groundhog decides to do this morning, I think curling up for a while with a good book will be my goal of the week. So grab a warm blanket and a cup of cocoa while I present for you: four teen books to help you ignore the outside world!
Nothing helps you ignore the real world better than a book about a girl ignoring the real world! Anda starts playing a massively-multiplayer-role-playing game and begins to see how the lines between the real world and the online one can become blurred. This is a gorgeously illustrated graphic novel with an interesting message to share.
If your preferred reason for staying in bed is because you can't put your book down, this one is for you. Working from letters, manuscripts, reports, books, and other documents, Swanson has pieced together the story of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the ensuing chase of John Wilkes Booth. Readers not only follow the course of Booth and his co-conspirators, but also Lincoln's final moments and the reactions of those around him. It's a serious page-turner, and you have the added bonus of saying it's a "history book" if anyone asks you any questions.
If you haven't read this one yet, go get it from a library right now. Eleanor and Park are both misfits in 1986 who have no choice but to sit next to each other on the bus one day. That act starts an unlikely friendship that grows from comic books and shared music. I know it doesn't sound like much, but you won't be able to eat, sleep, or breathe until it's done.
If you've ever spent a night on the couch watching The Bachelor while texting your friends to say you're watching The 100, this book is for you. America Singer is "Selected" to participate in a televised competition to compete to be the bride of Prince Maxon. The only problem is it's the last thing America wants. This book is a guilty pleasure that is best enjoyed from behind the book sleeve of something serious and intimidating like Crime and Punishment.
You have your list, now grab a blanket and stay inside until it's warm out!