Sometimes, I am so grateful for movies. I know some of us loathe the fact that books are frequently made into movies. I get it. But for me, it is incentive to pick up (or revisit) a book. And in this case, the book is Little Women.
My friend and I went to the theater to see the latest release of Little Women directed by Greta Geriwig, starring Emma Watson (of Harry Potter) and Saoirse Ronan (of Brooklyn). I was skeptical, as Little Women has been adapted several times and my loyalty remains to the 1933 version starring Katharine Hepburn. But I was pleasantly surprised by how enjoyable this latest version was, even though there was a change at the end (which was quite satisfactory).
That got me thinking about the book. I remember reading it for school and I just loathed it, probably because I had to analyze it so much in class. As is the case with most novels I read in school. But let me tell you, I have enjoyed it immensely as an adult. I forgot how absolutely charming the girls were. As an adult I recognize and understand the themes and empathize with every character. What strikes me though, is how Alcott was able to develop such strong characters at such young ages! And all of them are likable in their own way. I laughed, I cried and I rejoiced for all the girls throughout the book. How perfect! Makes me wish I had a sister! Well, not when they burn my written pages. Please do borrow Little Women from us today!
I admire an author who writes a children’s book that works both as a great read-aloud while also appealing to youngsters just graduating from the easier beginning reader books. Local author Jamie Michalak has one such book with Frank and Bean.
In less than 50 pages and four short chapters we meet Frank, an introverted fellow who craves the peace and quiet required to write in his secret notebook, and Bean, who arrives on the scene with seemingly every instrument known to man. Not surprisingly, Frank (who if you haven’t already guessed is a frankfurter), is not happy about the intrusion. Bean (yes, the musical fruit) honks and toots and vrooms, loudly. (He’s also brought his motorcycle.) This is not auspicious for a workable relationship. And yet.
Bean is on a quest. And it turns out that Frank has the poetry that Bean is seeking to turn his (loud) musical musings into song. The humorous illustrations of Bob Kolar enhance this humorous yet warm story of the beginnings of friendship.
A sure winner with a gentle message.
By Nancy Kellner
The holiday season is a particularly bountiful time of year for sharing stories with children. There are so many beautiful children’s books about Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and more – and reading stories with children is a wonderful way to keep family traditions alive and build new ones. When my own children were young we started a family tradition of keeping a basket of Christmas books on the hearth in December, inspired by childhood memories of my dad reading aloud from The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore. That book was the first one I put in the hearth basket, and each year my children and I would add a book to the basket, so that eventually we could read a book almost every night leading up to the 25th.
The one I love the most is Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree by Robert Barry. Like Mr. Moore’s well-known tale, this is a story in verse and a bouncy, joyful read-aloud. The story opens with the arrival of a Christmas tree bought by the dapper and wealthy Mr. Willowby, a tree that turns out to be just a bit too tall. When a hasty solution is devised, to the dismay of Mr. Willowby’s butler, readers are treated to a rollicking tale of generosity and gratitude that moves through the snowy countryside surrounding Mr. Willowby’s grand estate and ends up in a surprising place. With charming illustrations and a satisfying ending, this clever story is sure to bring smiles and laughter to your jolly holiday! The hearth basket of books is a tradition that is easily adapted to any of the holidays celebrated at this time of year. For inspiration, visit the Children’s Room at Rogers Free Library, or try a Keyword search of our online catalog for holiday-themed books and request they be sent to RFL for easy pickup! – Kristen Q.
Old Man of the Sea
By Stella Elia
Illustrated by Weberson Santiago
This beautiful picture book for ages 4-8, is the tale of a young boy who visits his grandfather in his room on Sunday afternoons. In the beginning, they just sit. Then, Grandpa tells his grandson the stories of the times he spent at sea. He tells his grandson about falling in love with Europe, Africa, Asia, Oceania but how he always came back the beautiful calm blue ocean. Then, Grandpa found America and found true love and married and made a family. It ends with sage advice and lots of love. This Brazilian story is perfectly illustrated with watercolor on paper by Weberson Santiago, a noted illustrator. This is a great read-aloud.
by Lori Degman
I really, truly enjoyed this children’s book. Sometimes it is the simple things that count. And in this book, the simple thing is the joy of reading. Not just reading at home but everywhere in the real world and a world of imagination! Degman’s book is full of simple rhymes and gorgeous illustrations. What better book than one which encourages children to discover the joy of reading?! Read this to your children and you will have a bookworm in the making! – Kristin
The Benefits of Being an Octopus, by Ann Braden
The debut author, Ann Braden, is a middle school teacher in Vermont. Frustrated that there are books about urban youth and well off suburban teens, but there were so few books about struggling teens, she decided to write her own book about teens in Vermont. The result is a fantastic multilayered book! Zoey is a seventh grader, living in a trailer with her mother who works nights at a pizza place, her boyfriend, Lenny (and his father) and Zoey’s younger brother and sister. Zoey know her life would be easier if she were an octopus with eight arms who could get everything done with them. In her real life, she can’t get her homework done at night because she is too busy taking care of her brother and sister while her mother is at work. The trailer that her family lives in is Lenny’s and she and her mother try to make everything right so that Lenny is happy with them. When a teacher gets Zoey on the after school debate team,
she begins to think a bit more about what is going on around her and what she can do to change it for the better.
The whole atmosphere of this book is the real Vermont, with friction between the well-to-do middle class and the working poor and how neighbors can help each other. All the characters are very real and well done in a story with real tension. Terrific book!