Monday, May 3, 2010

Library Day

Oh, yes, there is still more to talk about regarding racial and cultural bias - aren't you excited? - but tomorrow is a big day here at Camp Chaos. It's Library day.

Basically, it's Library Day because we have about 10 overdue library books that I was too lazy to take back AND too lazy to renew online, even though it takes about 6 seconds.

I think subconsciously I've also been putting Library Day off because we got a good batch of books this month, and I'm a little sad to take them back. Our library has several branches, two of which we often frequent. One, in the "nice" town by Simon's school has a great story time room, but no books on display. Librarians, I don't know if you realize what a serious problem this is. First of all, story time is doable for families with two kids max, so we're out. (As an aside, since you changed your hours to be decidedly unfriendly to small children, story time is out for us even if I did have the mental energy to parent three kids through music, dancing, sitting still, and crafts.)

Secondly, it's great that your children's section has 8,000 books stuffed into the shelves. I'm sure that about 5,000 of them are good books. BUT, I do not have the time to weed through the other 3,000 annoying books to find them, and it is way too difficult to judge a good book by a 1/4" spine.

What makes a children's book annoying? I'm so glad you asked. In general, I'd say any of the following:
  • No words. If I wanted to make up a story, I wouldn't have drug my three kids to the library.
  • Too many words. Simon gets three books before naptime. Too many words throws our whole schedule off. Plus, he's old enough to know when I'm skipping.
  • No rhythm. I like rhyming. But, if you can't rhyme, then at least have at least some rhythm to the story. These are kids for goodness sake - they can read novels when they're old enough to read to themselves.
  • Bad illustrations.
  • Preachy-ness. 
  • Full of jokes that go way over the head of your average pre-schooler. I just imagine the author chuckling to himself over how clever he is while I have to take the time to explain it all to my four-year-old, who will never think it is funny.
  • No story. Seriously. My pet peeve is the one thousand "books" taking up space on the shelves that are full of stock photos with one-word labels. Those aren't books, those are flash cards, and they are not creative, which means they are a waste of story time.
This brings me to my favorite library branch which is in my town, which is often seen as the poor little stepsister to the nice blue-ribbon-town up the road where there are no books on display at the library. This library is my favorite because there are shelves for books to be displayed, so I can actually see the covers, giving me a better ability to judge the potential annoying-ness of the book before I take it home.

Also, I imagine that the kind and knowledgeable librarians at my library take the time to display the books that they like. They are often seasonal, or new, or by notable authors. It gives me a place to start from when selecting my books. I am rarely disappointed when selecting books from the display shelves.

Here's a sampling of what we will be taking back today. I am so hopeful that we stock up with books that we love just as much (except for the ones that I hated)....

Maybe you don't approve of potty humor at your house, but I don't really mind it. This book is hilarious, and it's a true story which makes it educational, right? Simon picked this one out all by himself, and he especially loved having his Pop-Pop, Grandma, and uncles read this one to him. He calls it the "Tooting Book." It's cleverly written, it rhymes, and the illustrator is really talented: bonus points all around. Plus, it's about a guy who farts, and it manages to seem "smart."

I guess it doesn't take much to please me - rhyming and good illustration do it every time. Simon likes these books, and I have fun reading them to him. Maybe today I'll look for some more duck books that we haven't checked out yet.

I L.O.V.E. these Dinosaur books. The illustrations are so clever, and detailed. The words rhyme. The story isn't preachy or cheesy, but it's full of meaning. This one is about how the parent loves the dinosaur even when the dinosaur is being naughty or mean. My favorite page has a mom yelling at her dinosaur to stop dragging his feet, and the illustration captures the mom's annoyance so well, that Simon stares at the picture in utter understanding.

I try to get the kids books about places we've been, but this is the first picture book I found about Nepal. Simon didn't get all that into it, but I liked the exploration of the greeting, "Namaste," or "The light in me meets the light in you."

I checked out this sweet book about two girls in a Pakistani refugee camp in an effort to help my kids understand more about the world around them - especially the parts we don't like to talk about. I'm trying to do a better job of exposing Simon to suffering in a way that doesn't give him nightmares. He ended up really enjoying this story, even though I think a lot of its deeper meanings went over his head. Either way, now he knows that in many places in the world people have to run away from their homes in fear, and I think he's old enough to start engaging with things like that.
This book is a perfect example of everything I hate in children's books. It doesn't rhyme. Its jokes are stupid and too old for young kids. It's not clever or witty. A 7 or 8 year old who reads to himself and is into monster humor might like this. You know who else might like this? A four-year-old whose Mom hates it but reads it to him every day anyway.

So, what do you recommend we pick up this week?


Stephanie N. said...

I'm soooo with you on your taste in kid's books! I LOVE good kids' books...but there really is a bunch of dreck out there. I semi-started doing a series of posts on my favorites last year, but i didn't get very far...this inspires me to get back to it. I did do a post on board books...but they would be on the younger end of what you're looking for. (It was on 11/19/09 if you want to check it out.) Favorite story books for young kids--which for me, too, means it's all about the rhymes--shall be forthcoming. Not in time for tomorrow, however! :( Happy checking out! (And let us know if you find more gems!)

Rachael said...

Oh books! I have a huge list to post, I've been working my way through recommended book lists online the past few months.

Have you thought of moving S over to chapter books for read aloud?/ We've been doing some and D really likes them.

I'll come back later tonight and post them.

Rachael said...

You know what, I'll just send you a link to my amazon wish list that is full of titles for the kids :)

Rachael said...

And as if I haven't commented enough addition to all the individual books I'll send you via FB, here are three volumes that have great lists for each age of good books both for read aloud and individual reading:

1. The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer
2. Honey for a Child's Heart by Gladys Hunt
3. The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease
4. Sonlight online catalogue - they're a literature-based homeschooling company so I often go through their recommended book lists and request them from the library.

Jocelyn said...

Hi Susie,

I recently loved "Margaret Y Margarita," a bilingual book (English & Spanish) by Lynn Reiser. It is a simple story about two little girls who live in the city, meet at the park, and overcome their language barrier to be friends. I liked that the Spanish was simple, but interesting. I can't vouch that my 5-month-old loved it, but it's definitely one that I'd check out again. Happy reading!

-Isaac said...

Just wanted to comment that your blog/posts make me smile, quite entertaining.. even with childrens books.

Beth Lepore said...

Hilarious, Susie, as always. I agree wholeheartedly. Here are two to consider:
Blueberry Mouse by Alice Low
The Very Lazy Ladybug by Isobel Finn

Blueberry Mouse is about a mouse who lives in a blueberry pie and she can't stop herself from eating her house. Sort of like me with a big cake in front of myself.

The Very Lazy Ladybug is self explanatory--a ladybug who doesn't want to fly and prefers to sleep all day.

Hope you laugh and enjoy book time as much as the kids!

Mamastiks said...

Have you thought about starting chapter books, but only reading one or two chapters at a time? I know these are no good for boys, but Ava's in love with Ivy & Bean. They are for "new" readers (1st/2d grade-ish). There actually a story to follow, a few illustrations. Gets her attention more than the little kids books. I did get them some short bobbsey twin books the last time we were at the library. Also like the Little House short books (more geared to girls, though). We do the library once a week or so. I often search and reserve stuff on line so I'm not stuck reading ridiculous books grabbed off the shelf because the cover was pretty. :)

Susie said...

Thanks for the tips! A couple of you mentioned chapter books, which I'll think about. Too be honest, though, I really like illustrations, and picture books, so I might hang on for a little longer :)

Mackensie said...

Ker-splash and Kapow - superheroes
Circus Ship
Tree Ring Circus
Curious Garden

Flight of the Dodo - for the pooping

Connie D. said...

This post came at a good time, as Friday was our library day. I went online and put a hold on a couple of the books you recommended. "Four Feet, Two Sandals" really got me....almost made both me and Abby cry!
As for our favorites, Luke is hooked on "Skippyjon Jones" books by Judy Schachner. They may not fit into your "not too long" category, but our library stocks the ones that come with a CD, read by the author. If you ask me, they are a little goofy and wacky, but he LOVES them. The nice thing is he can listen to it in his room when I'm not up to reading the whole thing! :)
My kids also like the Classic Curious George books and I'm a big fan of Tedd Arnold...good rhyming, fun story lines.
Hope you have some good resources for next time you go!

Connie D. said...

Just googled Tedd Arnold and realized he's written a bunch of faves are "No More Water in the Tub" and "No More Jumping on the Bed!" Fun reads!