Dec 10, 2012

BOOK REVIEW: Children's books: Space, bugs, saints, humor and more


 

NATIONAL

Reviewed by Barb Fraze
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) - The following children's books are suitable for Christmas giving:

Legendary Journeys: Space, by Mike Goldsmith. Kingfisher (New York, 2012). 32 pp., $19.99.

After reviewing children's books for more than 25 years, I would have to say this book would make the Top 10 of my "way cool" booklist. It is chock full of information about the history of the space program, the science behind key elements of space, how the equipment works and bios of important people. Photographs from NASA and ITAR-TASS news agency fill its pages. But what makes this book amazing is its design: not just the normal pop-up or peer-behind tabs, but whole cardboard pages that pull out to three times the original size to illustrate things like space spiders. This book promises hours of fun and learning. Ages 9-up.

Glamorous Glasses, by Barbara Johansen Newman. Boyds Mills Press (Honesdale, Penn., 2012). 29 pp., $16.95.

When Bobbie's cousin Joanie needed glasses, Bobbie decided she wanted a pair, too. Her eyeglass envy even had her faking not being able to see the board in class. Humorous, colorful illustrations add to this picture book with a twist, and a lesson. Ages 4-8.

My First Hymn Book, by Clare Simpson. Paraclete Press (Brewster, Mass, 2012). 64 pp., $14.99.

Know a child who likes to sing? This seven-inch long hardback has illustrations and lyrics to 11 different hymns, ranging from songs preschoolers can sing, such as "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands," to hymns more appropriate for a young elementary school student. What the book does NOT have is the music, but all the hymns I did not know I found on YouTube. Ages 3-7.

The Herd Boy, written and illustrated by Niki Daly. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers (Grand Rapids, Mich., 2012). 32 pp., $17.

This book is the whole package! Beautiful color illustrations depicting South Africa span two-thirds of each set of facing pages. In the tale, the herd boy watches his family's sheep and dreams and plays as he does -- until a baboon threatens the herd. Daly's story captures many cultural aspects of rural South Africa, and the young herdsman even gets a surprise visit from a famous South African who had humble beginnings. Ages 6-10.

Juan Diego: Mary's Humble Messenger, Kateri Tekakwitha, Model of Bravery, by Barbara Yoffie, illustrated by Katherine A. Borgatti. Liguori Publications (Liguori, Mo., 2012). 32 pp. each, $4.99 each.

These two small paperbacks, designed for early readers, are the first two titles of Liguori's Saints of North America series. The saints' basic stories are told in simple language. Colorful illustrations should engage young readers, who normally would not notice that indigenous Americans are lacking indigenous facial features. Pre-readers will enjoy having these read to them. Ages 4-8.

Bug Off! Creepy, Crawly Poems, by Jane Yolen, photographs by Jason Stemple. WordSong (Honesdale, Penn., 2012). 30 pp., $16.95.

"So many legs/How do you know/Which ones go fast/And which ones go slow?" This verse from "Daddy Very Long Legs" is one of many whimsical poems about creatures ranging from a fly to a tick to a praying mantis. Yolen's poems show the power of words -- few, but very carefully chosen to make a point or paint a picture. Stemple's nature photographs are fascinating and will also make this suitable as for curious nonreaders. Each poem and photo is accompanied by some scientific information on the bug featured. Of all the poetry books I looked at, this was my favorite. Ages 4-10.

Popposites: A Pop-Up Opposites Book, by Mike Haines. Kingfisher (New York, 2012). 40 pages, $16.99.

This clever design has 40 interactive elements that help teach the meaning of opposites. Pull the tab, and the scuba diver standing in "shallow" water appears swimming in "deep" water. Pull the closed zipper with its teeth "together" and see it come "apart." Colorful illustrations, a variety of words and sturdy construction will help keep this book a favorite for years. Ages 5-8.

Hope and Tears, by Gwenyth Swain. Calkins Creek (Honesdale, Penn., 2012). 115 pp., $17.95.

This book is a treasure! Swain has researched Ellis Island -- not just immigrants, but workers and inhabitants even before it became the gateway to the United States -- and has written short, personal essays about many of them. The essays are fiction, but are based on true accounts. Photographs illustrating the person's situation accompany each of the essays. This book puts a very human face on many of the millions who have passed through this island. Ages 8-up.

  • Fraze, who reads to her granddaughter, is CNS international editor.