SATURDAY MORNINGS FOR KIDS

In a box of books donated to my Little Free Library, I found and read You Have a Girlfriend, Alfie Atkins? by Gunilla Bergstrom, which was published back in 1988. I hope it was a young boy who owned this book, and his parent or grandparent donated it, for the “lesson” that Alfie, the protagonist learns is one young boys everywhere should learn. Friendships with girls are not “unmanly” and something to be avoided at all costs, but certain girls like Milly, Alfie’s friend are “not exactly a girl.” When the other boys tease Alfie for playing with Milly, and even write “Alfie loves Milly ” on the bathroom wall for the whole school to read, these same boys end up envious of Alfie and Milly’s tree fort which has many ingenious features and inventions thought up by Milly.

My favorite parts are the pages with the illustrations of how girls are, and how Milly is NOT like a girl, and then the page where Alfie lists how Milly IS like a boy:

” Milly almost never cries./ She invents things./ Right now she is making a mailbox, with a rope pulley for the fort./ (Milly never tells anyone about the fort. She knows how to keep a secret.)/ Everyone says that Milly is a REDHEAD./ Alfie doesn’t think so. / Her hair isn’t red; it sparkles like gold–at least when the sun is shining./ And she even wears a heart of gold around her neck!/ Milly is a good friend because she knows…

How to make candy and bake cakes…and build a toy circus…and do a handstand on one hand. She’s not afraid of jumping off the garage roof, and she can make really disgusting faces. Look!

Now she is working on a bell for the mailbox. It will ring when you pick up the mail. You can find out things from Milly. You can learn things from her.”

These quoted passages are included in five of the most wonderfully illustrated pages of Alfie and Milly’s adventures (and “things that girls, in general, do” and “the boys” Alfie is friends with), but I could not find the illustrator’s name anywhere! I must assume that he/she is an illustrator with R&S Books. The book is originally a Swedish book and is distributed in the US by FArrar, Straus and Giroux, N.Y and in the UK by Ragged Bears, Andover; in Canada by General Publishing, Toronto; and in Australia by ERA Publications, Adelaide.

It is a book every boy should read!

 

SATURDAY MORNINGS FOR KIDS

Today’s Saturday morning selection, Is That A Sick Cat in Your Backpack? is by Todd Strasser.  It is the second book in “The Tardy Boys Series” (No, that is not a typo.) published in 2007. The target audience for the book is ages 7-10, according to the author’s hilarious “Author’s Note and Warning.” Strasser explains that “Tardy Boys” is a two book series, the first book titled, Is That A Dead Dog in Your Locker?  He allows kids to read Sick Cat as a stand-alone, reminding them that he, “the author,” at the end of book one, mentions “The Meowians from the Planet Meow in the Feline Galaxy.” He goes on to tell readers, “The Meowians have changed their name and the name of their planet.”

The cover is the biggest hook of the book.  One of the boys is holding a scarf over his nose as “fumes” of smell arise from his school backpack. Greg Swinson, responsible for the cover art is amazing. The book opens with “The Missing Cat Mystery,” written in the form of a memo from” Commander Claw on Planet Hiss in the Feline Galaxy,” and the zanyness goes on from there. We meet The Tardy Boys: T.J., Wade and Leyton, coming home from a party.  The mystery builds raucously as a skinny, foul smelling, raggedy cat is delivered at night by a weird “person?” and becomes the source of their woe.  Other characters like Fibby Mandible and Barton Slugg make the boys’ lives miserable throughout the book.

I laughed until I gagged; I reached for the air freshener at times, and continued on.  It will delight seven to ten year old boys everywhere. If they read it with a friend, they will punch each other and giggle madly at the second adventure of The Tardy Boys.

SATURDAY MORNINGS FOR KIDS

The children’s classic, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler appeared on the literary scene in 1967. Assigned to the school I did my student teaching in, I was a young, green, brand-spanking-new junior high school teacher. The school district was affluent, where the live-in-maids made more money than struggling teachers. All the kids were talking about a book–“the book,” the one next in line after their elementary favorite, Charlotte’s Web–Mrs. Frankweiler. 

The story is about a brother and sister who feel unappreciated and unnoticed at home who run away to New York City and hide out/”take up residence” in the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. They sleep in a huge bed from the Renaissance; they bathe in a fountain in one area, and are intrigued by the current mystery that they read about in discarded New York Times newspapers. Is the little angel statue acquired for only $250.00 really something made by Michelangelo, which would make it the “bargain of the century” or is there some way to determine whether it was made by one of his apprentices or just a “nobody”? Claudia, the “brains of the outfit,” which all older sisters must be, takes on solving this puzzle.

The strategy for running away and their escapades in New York are carefully planned by Claudia and financed by the penny-pinching Jaime, her younger brother. He often nixes Claudia’s elaborate schemes, and lends the practical advice to them which is perhaps what allows the kids to live in New York for a whole week. The dialogue and give-and-take, back-and-forth discussions/arguments between the two show not only their sibling rivalry, but the deep loyalty and love they feel for each other. The children are clever and outwit all the adults (naturally). Mrs. Frankweiler provides even more humor as she treats the children as adults.  She is the quirky, elderly (and, yes, lonely) rich, sharp-minded grandmother every kid dreams of.

The whole book is a kid’s dream, and Konisburg, the author, certainly captures the kid’s mindset and view of looking at the world and bustling New York City. It is a fun, enlightening, although a  bit out-dated adventure-“read” that kids loved back then, and  grandmothers’ delight to enjoy and share with their grandkids.

SATURDAY MORNINGS FOR KIDS

Since I once was a very young reader, I am offering a Saturday morning post that might help children and younger young adults (and especially parents and grandparents of the same) find some really good reads. Today I have picked two books that function as read-alouds or read-alones.

The first, I encountered volunteering at a primary school (ages 4 yrs. to second grade) in Alvin, Texas. When I read the title aloud and offered the cover with, yes, a pig high in the treetops, the first graders I was with broke out in “silly giggles.”Then I found a discarded library copy (Does anyone know where the Koennecke Library is?) in a box of books I bought at a garage sale in my neighborhood. Do Pigs Sit in Trees? is written by Jean Zelasney and illustrated by Mr. Stobbs. (There’s bound to be a story behind that pseudonym!) In the children’s literary tradition there is often a young animal looking for his/her mother. Various animals suggest to little Quinton, a piglet, where his mother might have gone.  All Quinton knows is his mother is nowhere to be seen, and he’s hungry! After searching around the farmyard and forming laugh-out-loud images of his mother in ridiculous places, he finally finds her in the cornfield’s mud with all his brothers and sisters happily munching away. The anxiety of the piglet and the satisfactory drawing of the family snuggle at the end make delightful reading and a jumping off place for kids to discuss with Mom/Dad/Grandma/Grandad the times they have felt anxious.

All kids seem to like dinosaurs, and Dinosaur Poems by Jack Prelutsky and illustrated by Arnold Lobel is a wonderful book for the “read-to-me-Mommy” demand from a little one. Since T-Rex seems to be hands-down the favorite, his poem comes first:

“Tyrannosaurus Rex was a beast

that had no friends to say the least.

It ruled the ancient out-of-doors.

and slaughtered other dinosaurs.”

 

Other types of dinosaurs are treated equally humorously, but let me skip to the last–Seismosaurus.

“Seismosaurus was enormous,

Seismosaurus was tremendous,

Seismosaurus was prodigious,

Seismosaurus was stupendous.

Seismosaurus was titanic,

Seismosaurus was colossal,

Seismosaurus now is nothing

but a monumental fossil.”

 

And so goes life….I predict giggles and the learning of and love for big words out of this one.

 

SATURDAY MORNINGS FOR KIDS

Today’s book is an older book, published in 1996, by the renowned children’s writer, Patricia Polacco. Aunt Chip and the Triple Creek Dam Affair, deals with modern issues like time management, public apathy, and conformity.  As the story opens, nothing is happening in Triple Creek because its population does nothing but watch TV. This town is so addicted to TV that often a picture of a family’s TV set appears on the fireplace mantel along with pictures of family members. Young Eli’s Aunt Charlotte is the only objector to this takeover; she is so upset that she “takes to her bed” and refuses to get out of it. Eli visits her often and one day asks her where the stories she tells him during his visits came from. Her reply, “books,” reveals the fact that Eli and the other townspeople have lost the art of reading and are only using books to prop up wobbly table legs, use as a doorstop, sit upon, and other reasons. NO ONE can read a book, for they are too busy watching TV. Even the public library has been closed for years. After Aunt Charlotte teaches Eli to read and use books for their proper function: relay stories, take readers to far-off lands or other times, entertain, distribute information, teach skills and more; Eli reads to the other children, who are enchanted and begin reading themselves.  Aunt Charlotte lends her books to them, and when those run out, the children attack a huge pile of stacked up books outside the library. “If’n we were meant to read, there surely would have been a sign,” the town soothsayer says, At that moment, all the TV’s went dead because the dam that had provided electricity blew apart, sending books high in the air and falling to earth again. It looked like it was raining books! The townspeople were amazed and agreed it was “surely a sign.” Children taught parents to read, and pretty soon the whole town was reading.  Nobody even noticed when the TV’s came back on–they were too busy reading!

Polacco’s book is categorized as a “contemporary fantasy,” and is the perfect read for “anyone who believes in the power of books.”