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Just the wibs, ma’am.

January 23, 2012

Reading the non-fiction today.

The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That! books are awkward because keeping the rhyme scheme going when you need to be informative means you don’t have a lot of room to play and yes, some of the lines are a little awkward.  If I Ran the Dog Show, which I read today, is a lot of information tucked inside a lot of rhymes and dog names.  Perhaps this is a good way to pass on information; I dunno.  Maybe the kids will get the rhymes stuck in their heads and the information sticks more easily.  Maybe it’s easy for Seuss fans to get interested in non-fiction if the Seuss characters are all together in one book.  Either way, it might be something you’d want to take out from the library to try out on your little one.  Same with Why Oh Why Are the Deserts Dry?  Both books are by Tish Rabe.

Jessie Hartland’s How the Dinosaur Got to the Museum is the story of one dinosaur’s trip from life to death to discovery to Smithsonian.  It’s good information combined with a “There was an old lady who swallowed a fly” kind of listing, giving the roles of the people involved, from dinosaur hunter to museum director.  I really enjoyed this book, and would say it’s a must-read for dino fans.  The art is child-like but clear.

Oh my gosh, Worst of Friends: Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and the True Story of an American Feud by Suzanne Tripp Jurmain is SO GOOD.  I could still be emotional over the interview I read with the girl who’s playing Rue in the Hunger Games movie, but maybe this book is as good as my teary eyes believe.  Although, frankly, I could live without the panel of the men snoring over Jefferson’s violin playing–hello, what do you think was popular music at the time there, Larry Day?–or, if it’s true that his playing was snooze-worthy, put it in the text.  This story is about how two people can and have had different views on incredibly important things, and eventually can get to the point where their friendship is what matters most.  Sometimes it takes a long time.  Sometimes people fight, like Jefferson and Adams, for years at a time.  And sometimes it just takes one letter to heal the rift.  But what I think is the important thing to take away from this is that we can be in different political factions, and truly believe with all our of hearts completely opposing things, and still manage to be friends, to find connection despite our differences.  Jefferson and Adam start out on the same page with the fight against the British, but they break over how the country should be run–with a strong leader or laissez-faire.  Any parent who’s been on Facebook since 9/11 will find this book relevant to their interests and the future of their children.  Connecting political muckraking to children’s interpersonal battles is damn clever.  This is a good read and a great jumping-off point for discussion about friends with different views.

It is difficult to review Darrin Lunde’s After the Kill.  After all, it’s brutal.  But it’s brutally true–it is the story of a lioness attacking, killing, and eating a zebra, and the groups of predators that come in to fight for or scavenge off of the carcass.  It does not hold anything back.  However, I do not believe it is a bloodthirsty book, although it is not for faint of stomach.  Although the art, watercolor, I believe, is far from realistic, the sense of motion and tension are.  You will want to flip through this one before you decide to check it out.

Speaking of bloodthirsty, Aesop’s Fables, retold by Beverly Naidoo and illustrated by Piet Grobler, are horrible stories of murder and feasting–and yet, don’t we read these to our children?  (Admittedly, the most popular ones I can think of don’t have the “and then the animal was eaten” end of most of the fables.)  Well, I don’t mean HORRIBLE.  They’re good stories with strong, clear morals, but the horrible is how quickly we want to root for an animal, and how quickly in these page-or-two stories they are taken out by a predator.  Tell me again how post-apocalyptic stories are too depressing and horrible for kids, please.

Naidoo’s stories and Grobler’s art are based on Naidoo’s theory that Aesop was an African slave in Greece, and the text is peppered with words in Afrikaans, while the art is bright and simple, often with borders in the colors of the desert.  If you don’t want just the dog and his reflection and the tortoise and the hare for you child to read, you might want to pick this up.  But again, a lot of death, a lot of eating of animals–your call.

To shrink the backlog, here are a few suggestions of mine from the non-fiction section:

Suryia and Roscoe: The True Story of an Unlikely Friendship by Bhagavan Antle

Easy Animal Origami by Christopher L. Harbo (and all the books in the series!)

Emporer Penguins by Deborah Lock

How to Make a Liquid Rainbow by Lori Shores

Energy Island: How one community harnessed the wind and changed their world by Allan Drummond

ZooBorns! Zoo Babies from Around the World by Andrew Bleiman

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