Saturday, June 9, 2012

A LOOK BACK AT MY TEN TOP BOOK PICKS

I have now posted my thoughts on 100 books I think are worth reading.  More posts are on the way.  However, I am pausing to look back on my recommendations and to follow a pervasive trend that exists in society:  encapsulating ideas in a numbered list (e.g., Letterman’s Top 10, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, my neighbor’s Top 3 reasons for cranking up the pressure washer the moment I choose to have a Saturday afternoon nap). 

Herein, is my Top 10 list, an encore trumpeting of some outstanding books I have previously reviewed.  Initially, I felt a Top 3 would suffice, but that left out too much.  A list of ten proved difficult as well.  My draft list included nineteen titles and I felt guilty about the runners up that would have proudly appeared in a Top 30 or Top 70.  I am, after all, the type of person whose favorite book may vary depending on my mood, the amount of Vancouver rain during the week or what I’ve read most recently to an engaged audience.

Perhaps because the process proved so challenging, I have included links to other books I have recommended that I connect for one reason or another to The Chosen Ones.  I can’t imagine anyone having read all my posts, so this provides another opportunity to read my thoughts about books I strongly believe are worth sharing with boys...and girls.  I encourage you to go back and peruse the original posts.  Just click on the title to read my initial thoughts.  The blurbs below are written based on my lingering impressions of each book.

Trumpets ready?  French horns?  Oh, let’s shake things up and throw in a ukulele and a couple of kitchen pots and ladles.  Drum roll, please...

Number 10:       
365 PENGUINS

By Jean-Luc Fromental and Joëlle Jolivet
(Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2006)



Love the fact the book is oversized.  Love the odd color palette.  The book has an environmental message and contains all sorts of math that kids will enjoy spotting.  Forget the counting from 1 to 10 books.  Fromental and Jolivet go much bigger!  More than anything though, this is a silly story about always lovable penguins (at least, when they come in manageable groupings).


Other math-themed recommendations:  A MillionDots, Tale of a Great White Fish.

 

Number 9:         
SURPRISING SHARKS

Written by Nicola Davies
Illustrated by James Croft  
(Candlewick Press, 2003)

Here’s a book that presents nonfiction in a fun way. Sure, the topic is a perennial favorite, but Davies helps debunk the popular misrepresentation that all sharks are enormous beasts intent on terrorizing humans while an ominous score plays in the background. It’s been a hit every time I’ve read it to groups of kids. Give them the facts and make it fun. Davies has done just that.

 

Number 8:         
SCAREDY SQUIRREL

By Mélanie Watt

(Kids Can Press, 2006)

For some, safety trumps adventure.  Scaredy Squirrel loves his routines, set in his familiar tree.  Danger lurks in the great beyond:  poison ivy, killer bees, green Martians and savage sharks (Note to Scaredy:  read book pick #7.).  Elaborate emergency plans must be made in case the dangers ever become a reality.  Poor Scaredy soon discovers, however, that sometimes you just can’t plan for the unexpected.  This book is guaranteed to amuse!





Number 7:          
 THE DOT

By Peter H. Reynolds

(Candlewick Press, 2003)


I can view the book literally as encouragement toward my woeful abilities as a visual artist, but this book has a broader application.  It prods all of us to go ahead and try things, to be acknowledged and to set our own standards instead of comparing ourselves to others.  This book is truly inspirational.  Every time I have read it, the audience spontaneously applauds the message.


Other books that celebrate art:  The Art Fraud Detective, Augustine.



Number 6:         
 THING-THING

Written by Cary Fagan

Illustrations by Nicolas Debon

(Tundra Books, 2008)

This book is great fun to read aloud.  Fagan packs the picture book with a broad range of characters, allowing readers to create so many different voices to represent the crazed salesman, the nostalgic old lady and the nervous suitor who tries to garner the courage to blurt a marriage proposal.  More than anything, however, this is the story of an odd looking toy, unceremoniously rejected by a spoiled boy named Archibald Crimp, and Thing-Thing’s hopes that someone will accept and love him.  The illustrations and the toy’s floor-by-floor observations at the Excelsior Hotel make this story completely fresh and wholly memorable.
Other heartwarming books I recommend:  Big Wolf & Little Wolf, A Visitor for Bear, Otis, Toy Boat.

 
Number 5:         
THE INCREDIBLE BOOK EATINGBOY

By Oliver Jeffers  
(Harper Collins, 2006)


If only it could work.  Get smart by eating books!  Feast on stacks of books—Mmm!  Found a red one!—and obliterate the competition on lucrative quiz shows!  Become brainier than your teacher!  (Kids typically gasp and say, “That’s impossible!”)  Of course, Henry’s book-eating ways go terribly wrong.  The tale captivates young readers and underscores the value of books.  Digesting facts just might not be such a literal endeavor.  The title lets us know this will be a goofy read.  Indeed, it is.  I am so thankful that we can be entertained by the zany mind of Oliver Jeffers!


Number 4:           
FLOTSAM

By David Wiesner

(Clarion Books, 2006)

An old camera washes up on the shore.  Whose is it?  This is an opportunity to discover so much more than a mere message in a bottle.  Here is a wordless picture book that can take an hour or more to “read”.  It reminds children of the importance of attending to pictures.  Wiesner is another creator with a truly unique mind.  I am in absolute awe of this masterpiece collection.  It is candy for the eyes.

Other wordless books I’ve recommended:  Why, Ship Ahoy!,  Imagine a Place (okay, it has words, but I prefer to pass my time gazing at the pictures).


Number 3:         
BUILDING

By Elisha Cooper  
(Greenwillow Books, 1999)


I would never have thought that such a plainly named book about erecting a building would  be so brilliant in terms of text, illustrations and layout.  With each reading, something different stands out in Cooper’s portrayal of the people and the process of building a structure on a vacant lot. 

More recommended books about how things are made:  If I Built a Car, Transformed, Angelo.



Number 2:         
SCRIBBLEVILLE

By Peter Holwitz

(Philomel Books, 2005)


I see so many ways to use this book in working with students, but more than anything, this book is pure entertainment.  For me, it is a treasure that I only discovered by browsing the bookshelves in a library.  As transformed in the story, Scribbleville is the kind of enlightened place where I’d love to live.  And how true that the first people to show acceptance are the children...and a teacher.  You must track down this title!



Number 1:         
 BIRD

Written by Zetta Elliott                 

Illustrated by Shadra Strickland

(Lee and Low Books, 2008)


I love dining on green eggs and (veggie) ham, imagining where the wild things are and fretting over a bus-driving pigeon, but Bird is a picture book that shows us how deep picture books can go, addressing complex subject matter like drug addiction, death and dreams.  The book shatters stereotypes and assumptions we make about drug users and reminds us that some who possess a core of goodness may still go astray.  Strickland’s illustrations are exquisite and Elliott’s story will linger with you.  If I could only keep one book (and thank goodness I am not faced with such a ludicrous predicament), this would be it.  Thank you, Shadra.  Thank you, Zetta.
If you like this, you might also be interested in these books about social issues: Way Home, Riding the Tiger, The Boy from the Sun and Shin-Chi’s Canoe.


4 comments:

  1. I came upon your blog after reading one of your Tweets. I enjoy your reviews--it's good to meet a fellow book enthusiast. I've recently made a resolution to review one book per week on my blog. Thanks for posting :-)

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  2. Hi Val,
    I'm so glad you stopped by the blog and posted a comment! Nice to know who reads my posts. I checked out your blog at valmuller.com and will return to find out what books you are recommending.

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  3. Hi Gregory,
    I desperately need to find boy books at grade seven level. Have you talked about those yet?
    Suzanne de Montigny

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  4. Hi Suzanne,
    I have not featured novels for that grade level as yet. However, I recommend anything by Iain Lawrence, especially The Wreckers. As well, I did discuss Brian Selznick's Wonderstruck and The Invention of Hugo Cabret in January. They may appeal to reluctant readers.

    My own novel, Fouling Out (Orca, 2008), features two grade 7 boys as they deal with the challenges of school, family and their own friendship. Here's a link to the publisher: http://www.orcabook.com/productdetails.cfm?PC=490. Should you choose it, the students could send me questions by posting comments on this blog or on the blog for the book: http://foulingout.blogspot.ca/.

    I shall keep you in mind as I come across other possible recommendations.

    Gregory

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