Bird & Squirrel books by James Burks


Sometimes we underestimate the attention span of our youngest children. When I saw the first Bird and Squirrel book, I thought of my 7-year-old son, someone who loves reading but may need a nudge to get interested in a new series or even genre. He has not had much experience with graphic novels, so I thought he would enjoy the book.

To my great surprise, it was my toddler daughter who was drawn to the zany illustrations and the fun story. She insisted that I read every frame in the book. Although she is young, I  was delighted to see her enjoying and responding to a different type of picture book.Continue Reading

Alice Have I Been by Melanie Benjamin

Alice Have I Been by Melanie Benjamin (Random House, December 2010) is a fictionalized historical biography of Alice Liddell Hargreaves, the woman who was as a child friends of Charles L. Dodgson (the man who later wrote under the pen name Lewis Carroll). It was young Alice Liddell who begged Mr. Dodgson to write down his improvised story of a girl chasing a white rabbit to a fantastic wonderland. And it was a middle-aged Mr. Dodgson who took dozens of photographs of young girls, including Alice Liddell, during the late 1800s.

Was Mr. Dodgson a perverted man? Was Alice his fantasy? Or was it a part of Victorian custom to photograph children in costume as he appeared to have done? Did Alice’s family know of the photograph of Alice as a beggar girl?

Due to destroyed correspondence and our own possible misunderstandings of the era, we may never know for sure. Yet, the mysteries in Alice Liddell Hargreaves’ life seem real in this novel. Her story here is both interesting and emotional.

A fictionalized biography is always a difficult situation. Given the lack of documented evidence, the situation could have been quite different from what Ms Benjamin portrayed. Nevertheless, regardless of what one thinks of Mr. Dodgson, Alice Have I Been is still a fascinating fictionalization.

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My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannet

My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannet (published 1948) won the Newbery Honor upon publication. It is an adventure story about a child and geared for a child.

In this story, a child named Elmer Elevator (called “my father” throughout the book) befriends an alley cat, who tells him of a captured dragon forced to work  on Wild Island, near the Land of Tangerina. Continue Reading

One Came Home by Amy Timberlake

Sometimes a clever and intriguing story line makes a novel great. Sometimes, it is the interaction of a number of interesting characters. And other times, a novel is great because because of the carefully developed setting that gives life to the situations and characters. In One Came Home (January 2013, Knopf Books for Young Readers), Amy Timberlake manages to win in all three ways. Continue Reading