We started our little bookstore and immersed ourselves in the world of children's literature because we love it. It doesn't matter how long it's been and how many books come through our store, we still get excited when a new book is delivered. We get all giddy when we find out that there will be a new release from one of our favourite authors or illustrators and when we discover an amazing new book we become borderline annoying because we can't wait to share it with everyone we can.
This kind of thing happens a lot for us because, although there are a fair amount of bad books out there, there are just so many great books for children and young adults. Every once in a while though, a truly special book comes along.
A couple of months ago I had finished the book I was reading and started to dig through the ever-growing pile of novels to read next. For some reason or another which I still can't figure out, I chose an advance copy of "Floors" by Patrick Carman (Scholastic 2011) which the publisher had sent to us. I went in with zero expectations and was "floored" (ha!).
"Floors" tells the story of Leo and his father who are both live-in maintenance workers at the Whippet Hotel. This isn't just any old hotel however but one of the craziest, zaniest hotels in existence! Designed and built by the eccentric inventor Merganzer Whippet, the hotel boasts oddly themed floors, hidden passages, roller-coaster-like elevators, and a resident family of ducks. When Merganzer Whippet disappears, Leo is sent a strange puzzle box and a quest which must be completed in only four days. Along with his new friend (the hotel bellhop Remi), adventure, riddles, and hijinks await Leo as he endeavours to unlock the mysteries of the Whippet Hotel.
Full of humour, great characters, and a quickly paced narrative, "Floors" is a near to perfect novel. The best part is that it's so squeaky-clean and entertaining that you could read it to children (and adults) of any age. Seriously, run out to your local bookstore or library and get a copy. Send copies to every kid you know. Buy one for your child's teacher to read in the classroom. It's that good and we want everyone to know it.
Now go read a book with your kids...
Right now, as I am writing this post, a good friend of ours is in the middle of labour, expecting her third child (Hi Sandra!). As we've been waiting for this day, we've been thinking about some of our favourite books to give to expectant parents. Of course there is the old stand-by "Love You Forever" by Robert Munsch and Sheila McGraw, but we aren't huge fans of it. Instead, we'd like to offer up these three alternatives that you may not have heard of.
"Oh, Baby, the Places You'll Go! A Book to Be Read in Utero" adapted by Tish Rabe from the works of Dr. Seuss (Random House 1997)
As we have said before, we believe that it's never too early to read to a child - which includes even before they are born! This sweet and funny book serves as a quick tour around the world of all of Dr. Seuss' books and characters and is meant to be read to babies while they are still in the womb. The book starts off with an interesting forward by Dr. Seuss' wife, Audrey Geisel. She tells about some research a number of years ago where a copy of "The Cat in the Hat" was read to babies in utero. They found increased uterine activity when the story was read and this reaction also continued after birth, meaning that the children remembered the story from when they were still in the womb. This book is a really fun way to introduce an expectant parent to reading to their child and is a great way to bond before the birth.
So now, as my voice
burble-urps in your ear -
with a bump-thumpy sound
that is not very clear -
the words I am saying
you hear in your heart,
and know that I wish you
the very best start.
It's a scrumptulous world
and it's ready to greet you.
And as for myself...
I can't wait to meet you!
"I Will Hold You 'Til You Sleep" written by Linda Zuckerman and illustrated by Jon J. Muth (Scholastic 2006)
We are HUGE Jon J. Muth fans and actively seek out any picture book that he illustrates. This constant search led us to "I Will Hold You 'Til You Sleep", an absolutely gorgeous message from parent to child about caring and being there for them their entire lives. Muth's paintings are amazing as always and perfectly capture the mood and sentiment of each line of the book.
Dearest baby, child of mine
I will hold you 'til you sleep.
I will hug you when you wake
Summer sun will fill your day.
But if gray clouds storm and thunder
I'll be shelter from the rain.
"Someday" written by Alison McGhee and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds (Simon and Schuster 2007)
We saved the best for last. This book is absolute perfection and is guaranteed to make you cry (seriously, I just read it for the twentieth time and teared up again). With a similar idea to "Love You Forever", "Someday" is about a mother watching her daughter grow from a baby to a parent. With beautiful prose and adorable artwork, this is the gift to give to all expectant parents - especially if you want to make them cry.
Someday your eyes will be filled with a joy so deep that they shine.
Someday you will run so fast and far that your heart will feel like fire.
Someday you will swing high - so high, higher than you ever dared to swing.
Someday you will hear something so sad that you will fold up with sorrow.
Someday you will call a song to the wind, and the wind will carry your song away.
Quick reviews and quoting some of the lines just doesn't do these books justice. You really need to experience the entire story and illustrations to really understand these books completely (especially in the case of "Someday"). So, next time you know someone who is expecting a child, seek out these titles.
Now go read a book with your kids...