Monthly Archives: June 2012


by Laurence Yep
Overall: 3 out of 5 stars

Category: Contemporary Realistic Fiction (Multicultural)

Personal Evaluation: I skimmed this one so I’m sure there was a lot I missed out on, but I thought that the similarities between the state of Robin’s feet due to ballet dancing and her grandmother’s feet due to being bound as a girl in China was an interesting and fresh one. I liked how the grandmother came around – that definitely seems to be a common theme in children’s books: adult-child familial relationships in conflict and one or both coming around somehow.

What might interest children: I think this would especially appeal to dancers (mostly girls, though Thomas was definitely an interesting character). It would probably also appeal to Chinese kids, or kids with friends who are Chinese and want to learn more about that culture. And of course kids will find the relationships between Robin, her parents, and her grandmother interesting.

One Crazy Summer

by Rita Williams-Garcia
Overall: 3 out of 5 stars

Category: Contemporary Realistic Fiction (Multicultural)

Personal Evaluation: Wow, this book made me uncomfortable. I hated the mother and could not understand why the girls were being sent to her for a month. I could understand that they would want to meet her finally, years after she abandoned them, but she was such a horrible mother when they got there that I wondered why she ever agreed to have them for the summer. But as the book reached its end, I was satisfied with how Cecile came around and explained her life. I also thought this book should be more like historical fiction since the author wrote it in 2010 about 1968 and seemed to put emphasis on placing it historically by mentioning President Kennedy and calling the girls Negros. But the children’s librarian at work considered all that and said she’d still call it contemporary realistic fiction instead, so here we are.

What might interest children: Kids in need of understanding adult decisions, especially parental abandonment, might find this book interesting. I’m not actually sure how many kids will like it because Cecile is so unlikeable, but the girls definitely are likeable and their relationships with each other are so believable. Also kids who are aware of racial tensions might find that aspect interesting.

Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever

by Mem Fox
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars

I think it’s safe to say this book changed my whole philosophy of storytime. I had asked a new librarian friend for a recommendation about kids and reading and this was what she handed me, without hesitation. This book showed me how important it is to make reading fun from a very young age. I do like order and quiet (come on, I’m in library school) but now I understand that being noisy and involved also has its place (within reason, of course).

I took these lessons to heart this week in my very first storytime at my new job and it was so much fun! The kids and I, and even some of the parents, had a ball. One of the moms even came up to me after to tell me that it was the best storytime she’d ever been to (and she’s a regular).

My one complaint is that, while Mem Fox is a respected author and apparently also teaches about literacy, she makes many claims about what is “commonly known” or that “studies have shown” without backing it up. And really, it was 200 pages with wide margins and lots of space, so there was plenty of room for sources. But in general I loved this book and I am sending it, along with some board books, to a friend who just had a baby.

After all, it’s never too early to read to your child!

Bringing Up Bebe

by Pamela Druckerman
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars

I’m taking a quick break from posting the reviews from my kiddie lit class last semester to write a review of this book before I forget what I wanted to say about it 🙂 I really think everyone who works with or has kids should read this. It was reviewed in the New York Times and has long waiting lists at many libraries. Not having any kids yet, but being an avid observer of children and parents, I was intrigued. A good friend of mine spent significant time in France working with kids and is now a lawyer for children in the U.S. so I am curious to hear what she thinks.

But this is my review, so here’s what I thought: The Times review is not terribly conclusive, though it does seem to try to dispel some of Druckerman’s claims. It raised enough questions in my mind to be interested in someone presenting the other side, though Druckerman thoroughly cites her statistics and studies. And there are some things that my American mind just cannot get around, such as no snacking. One mother I know gets agitated when her sister-in-law feeds her kids five minutes before the whole extended family sits down to dinner, so sure, that makes sense. The whole philosophy of learning to be okay with being a little hungry has its place. However, since reading this, I decided to try to stop snacking to see if I could set that example for my own kids one day and I realized that it is incredibly difficult! It’s hard because I would get so hungry – like, nauseously so – and be unable to fall asleep or wake up ravenous and nauseous and unable to do anything until I ate even just a little something. It’s also hard because American culture is not set up for a no-snacking policy. Everyone snacks. There are baked goodies all over my workplace, all the time. Meeting leaders provide them. It is more or less expected, in a way that I gather is not true in French culture. It’s helpful if, as Druckerman claims, an entire country is in on it.

All of France is apparently also in on waiting in general. Druckerman learns to implement “the pause” – wherein the parent, upon hearing the baby fussing while sleeping, waits a few minutes before rushing in to attend to the baby. She states that much of the time, this fussing is just a little waking between sleep cycles and, if left alone, the baby will learn to fall back asleep and therefore learn to sleep through the night much earlier (3 months is the norm in France).

There are other benefits to French culture that I just don’t see happening, like fully funded day care and year-long maternity leave, complete with home visits from a trained medical professional. But the ideas I’ve taken most to heart involve waiting – the pause, and, later, telling your little one to occupy himself while you take care of yourself. Read it for yourself and see what you think!

I Hadn’t Meant to Tell You This

by Jacqueline Woodson
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

Category: Contemporary Realistic Fiction (Multicultural)

Personal Evaluation: I tried skimming this but it was so short and powerful that I ended up reading most of it. I thought Woodson did an amazing job of portraying Lena, and of course although I was sad with Marie at the end when Lena and her sister disappeared, I knew it was the best outcome for her. I feel like all I’ve been reading lately are books about parents who abandon their children (especially mothers) or pass away, so hopefully some happy home lives await in my next set of books! I loved how insightful Lena was but at times it sounded like an adult talking. I also liked how Marie explored her relationship with Sherry and realized that they were only friends because Marie didn’t have the courage not to be Sherry’s friend, and that realization gave her the freedom to be Lena’s friend.

What might interest children: The relationships between friends and between fathers and daughters. I would be careful about who to give this to because child molestation / rape (unclear exactly what happened to Lena) is a subject that requires a lot of maturity, even if (or especially if) the reader is going through something similar.