November 18, 2012

Books teach kids about discovery

“Penguin’s Hidden Talent” written and illustrated by Alex Latimer (Peachtree Publishers, ages 3-8, $15.95) is a charming story of finding your personal worth.

“Penguin’s Hidden Talent” written and illustrated by Alex Latimer (Peachtree Publishers, ages 3-8, $15.95) is a charming story of finding your personal worth.

Everyone is practicing for the big talent show. Bear juggles. Rabbit does magic tricks. Fox burps the alphabet! Penguin resigns himself to helping with the show since he can’t find a talent.

Alex Latimer is a wonderful writer. His perfect blend of sparse text and color-filled line drawings present a complete story. Not only does he leave out unnecessary words, he rarely illustrates a detail that is not needed.

Despite a hugely successful show, Penguin is sad that he did not win a medal. His friends throw him a party for doing a great job. What a disaster! Only when Penguin organizes his own thank you party does he realize the value of his own talent.

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“I Like Old Clothes” by Mary Ann Hoberman (Random House, ages 4-8, $16.99) is a re-issue of the 1976 edition with new updated illustrations by Patrice Barton.

A young girl likes “old clothes, Hand-me-down clothes, Worn outgrown clothes, Not-my-own clothes.” She expounds upon the many fun ways to use and wear old clothes and wonders where various pieces of clothing have been in the past.

Mary Ann Hoberman’s text rings true for readers today with her lyrical rhythms and rhymes. The beauty of this new edition is the illustrations by Patrice Barton. Modern settings with soft pencil drawings and mixed media help the reader almost feel the clothing.

Today’s young readers will love the old, but new, edition of “I Like Old Clothes”.

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“Lost and Found” written by Bill Harley and illustrated by Adam Gustavson (Peachtree Publishers, ages 5-10) explores one of the great mysteries of grade school: Lost and Found.

Justin has lost his hat. He looks everywhere – on the playground, in his classroom – to no avail. His grandmother, who made the hat, is coming to visit, so he must go to the dreaded lost-and-found. This means talking to the even more dreaded grumpy old Mr. Rumkowsky.

The story by Bill Harley may appear to start slow, but that is largely because so many details (like Justin’s hat missing the fuzzy red ball on top, and Mr. Rumkowsky’s decades as the school janitor) are needed to prepare the reader for the powerful ending. The artwork by Adam Gustavson is bright and detailed.

Once Justin visits Mr. Rumkowsky, he goes on an almost mystical trip to the bottom of the huge lost-and-found box. Justin not only finds the hat that Grandmother had made, he makes a good, new, old friend.

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There is also a mystic, mysterious quality to “Jangles, a BIG Fish Story” written and illustrated by David Shannon (Scholastic Press, ages 6 – 12, $17.99) a story of the big fish that got away.

Jangles got his name from the dozens of lures and fishhooks that remained dangling from his jaw when he broke their lines over the years. Here a father tells his son of the time he caught the one that always got away complete with a journey to the bottom of the lake, a talking fish, and stories from the beginning of time.

Every bit as entertaining as his David books, “Jangles” is for a slightly older, more sophisticated reader. David Shannon’s text and illustrations combine for the best storytelling that a picturebook can provide, leaving the reader wanting more and pondering all that has happened.

You don’t have to love fishing to love “Jangles”. All you have to do is love a great story.

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