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September 6, 2011 > Footnotes


By Dominique Hutches

For babies: Curious Baby My First Book of Color (Curious George Accordion-Fold Board Book), by H.A. Rey.

Researchers have discovered that newborns are only capable of focusing eight to 10 inches from their face. They also prefer black and white, high contrast images to color graphics at first. With that in mind, I was thrilled to discover this wonderful little book. On one side you are given nice simple graphics, such as a white sun on a black background, or a black fish on a white background. On the other side, the pages introduce basic colors of the rainbow, again with simple, engaging images. Made of sturdy board-book construction, the book also includes a magnetic closure and is strong enough to stand on its own. Perfect for helping your infant to focus and to enjoy sharing a book with his/her parents! (HMH hardback, $8.99)

For 1st grade and up: Dog in Boots, written by Greg Gormley and illustrated by Roberta Angaramo.

Dog has just finished reading "Puss in Boots", a terrific tale about a cat with an amazing pair of boots. Inspired, Dog goes to the shoe store and asks for an amazing pair of boots for his own! He loves his new boots, wears them home, and decides to dig a hole in his yard. That's when he discovers a problem - his boots get all muddy and yucky. They are NOT good for digging.

Dog returns his boots, and trades them in for a pair of shoes good for getting muddy - rain boots! These are perfect for his digging project, but when he goes swimming, they fill with water! Oh no! Is Dog ever going to find the perfect footwear for all his daily adventures?

Pictures in this book very funny, and the ending very satisfactory. Have fun looking at the end pages (inside the covers) as well - Dog gets inspired by other fairy tales, and you and your child can have fun trying to identify which ones! (Holiday House hardback, $17.95)

For 2nd grade and up: Why Do I Have to Make My Bed? by Wade Bradford, illustrated by Johnanna van der Sterre.

It's the age old question that kids have been asking their moms since the dawn of time; Why do I have to make my bed?! It's just going to be messed up again tonight - why? Why?"

In this delightful book, we finally get the answer. When one boy asks his mom she responds by saying, "That reminds me of a story about your grandmother when she was a little girl. And that little girl was as grumpy as a groundhog; she said, 'I already washed and dried the dishes, I dusted my rock 'n' roll records, I even picked up my slinky, my Hula-hoops and my roller skates. Gee whiz, why do I have to make my bed?'"

With wonderful illustrations we are taken in a trip back in time, meeting all sorts of kids doing their chores, asking their moms that same question; "WHY?!" At the very end you'll find more information about children from pre-historic times to present day, their chores and what they did for fun. A very enjoyable trip through the ages which doesn't feel like at all like a history book! (Tricycle Press hardback, $16.99)

For 3rd grade and up: Clementine, Friend of the Week, by Sara Pennypacker.

Clementine is so excited - she's going to be the Friend of the Week in class at school! Everyone else is going to get to write good things about her into a 'friend booklet.' When she tells her best friend Margaret all about this honor, Margaret says she must do things to ensure that lots of good things are written into the booklet. Right away Clementine starts complimenting her classmates, and offering to give them artistic tattoos! Disaster strikes when Margaret stops speaking to her for some reason that Clementine can't fathom. Worse, Clementine's little cat goes missing.

She had such great plans for this week - it was going to be the best week ever! How could everything go so wrong?! Will Clementine ever get her cat and her best friend back? And what about that booklet? With humor, creativity and sensitivity, the author brings us the latest in this delightful series about the drama of a third grader's life. If you haven't discovered the other titles in this series, they are all very funny: Clementine, The Talented Clementine, and Clementine's Letter. (Hyperion paperback, $4.99)

For 5th grade and up: Scary School by Derek, The Ghost and Scott M. Fischer.

This book strongly reminded me of Wayside School, only more lethal! You think your school is bad? Imagine attending a school where your teacher could be anything from an 850-yr-old vampire to a hungry dragon! There are zombies, werewolves and monsters walking the halls. The librarian, Mrs. T. (as in T. Rex) can be really nice, as long as you aren't in her detention room; if you are in there, get out before lunchtime - she tends to be dangerous when hungry! There are even living gargoyles who patrol the grounds to make sure no one cuts class - or else!

That aside, Scary School has a great opportunity this year. For the first time ever, Scary School is going to be hosting the annual Ghoul Games (sort of like a monster Olympics). Everyone is excited - unfortunately they don't know that the director of the games is determined that Scary School's students shall fail the games, with the result of closing the school forever!

There are scary situations, true, but they're so absurd you'll spend most of your time laughing (when you're not saying, "Ew! Gross!"). I really liked Mrs. T - I've known some librarians like her. Wait until you meet the chef - I can guarantee you've never seen a cafeteria like this! Have a great time sharing this one with your scary little monster. (HarperCollins hardcover, $15.99)

For junior high school and up: The Dark City, by Catherine Fisher (Relic Master #1).

In this first book of a quadralogy, Raffi is an apprentice Keeper. Long ago on the planet of Anara, the Makers used magic to keep everything balanced and beautiful. When they left, the Keepers were the ones to keep the old ways going, heal the land when needed, and remember the magic. Relics were left behind as well: Keepers are responsible for these and hide them from the Watch.

Watchers are determined to exterminate the Keepers and all they stand for. Members of the Watch raid towns to find anyone with a hint of magic or might be hiding a relic. As a result, the Keepers have all gone into hiding - hardly any are left. Raffi and his mentor Galen have been traveling for what seems like forever, always looking over their shoulders, keeping their heads down. Now there's an even greater problem - something has gone wrong with Galen's magic!

Galen decides that he must travel to the Makers' first city, Tasceron. Lore has it that Tasceron hides a secret place, one that will surely restore Galen's strength and magical powers. Unfortunately, Tasceron is now a grim and dark city, home to a whole army of Watchers.

Raffi and Galen will survive their trek through harsh lands and monsters on their trip to Tasceron, but what then? Does a secret room of trees really exist? Were the Makers real? Or have all the tales of magic and beauty just been folklore told to downtrodden people to help them cope with their miserable lives?

Fast paced, with fascinating characters: I was swept through the four books in record time. These are written by the author of Incarceron, another terrific fantasy book! (Dial hardback, $ 16.99)

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