Books bring good way to end, start the day

by Jacqueline Briggs Martin
Published: August 10 2014 | 12:01 am in Books, Reviews,

Even when the days are full of outside adventures it’s good to start and end with a good story. And we never know when a rainy day might hit us — a day that’s perfect for a stack of stories.

Let’s start with humor. “How to Cheer Up Dad” (Dial, 2014; $16.99) written and illustrated by Fred Koehler is the perfect tongue-in-cheek, elephants-standing-in-for humans, book about father-son relations. It begins: “Little Jumbo’s dad was having a bad day. At breakfast, Dad put raisins in Little Jumbo’s oatmeal. He should have known what a mess that would make.” We see Little Jumbo shooting raisins onto the ceiling and raisins raining down on Dad. We see Little Jumbo cheering his Dad by going fishing, agreeing to eat an ice cream cone, and reading a story. Finally, he tucks a sleeping Dad into bed and goes off to play superhero. It’s a warm and funny story, which Koehler says was inspired by a standoff he had with his 2-year-old son at a coffee shop.

“The Loch Mess Monster” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014; $16.99) was written by Helen Lester and illustrated by Lynn Munsinger, the same team that gave us the wonderful Tacky the Penguin books. This is the story of a messy monster, who knows “the Five Basic Monster Rules,” No. 1 of which is “Never ever go up to the surface of the loch.” But the mess on his bed grows so tall that it carries him above the water’s surface. He sees a scary trio — “a duck, a goat, and a Heeland coo” — and quickly decides to reform his messy ways. The best part of this book are the Scottish terms the author salts into the story: wee laddie, puggy-nit (peanut), hummie-doddies (mittens), grottie (dirty), and peelie-wallie (sick).

For older children who like to ponder the illustrations, “Rules of Summer” by Shaun Tan (Scholastic, 2014; $18.99) will offer hours of enjoyment. An older sibling is the one who makes the rules, in a beat-up environment that includes a fantastical red-eyed rabbit and threatening birds who appear to be wearing cravats. The haunting illustrations depict episodes in a sibling relationship where the younger brother frequently breaks the rules and is eventually sold to a flock of birds for a crown. The landscape becomes darker and darker as the younger brother is taken away in a metal device with no visible doors. And just when we have almost given up hope, the older brother appears, riding a bicycle that cuts the dark with a headlamp, carrying a pair of bolt cutters. The illustrations may be a little too much for the preschool set, but older kids will really love finding meaning in these evocative paintings.

Also for older readers, especially those who have loved “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, is the new picture book by Peter Sos — “The Pilot and the Little Prince” (Frances Foster Books; 2014; $18.99). This is a beautifully illustrated, layered biography of the French pilot and author. As he has done with past books, Sis varies the pages, some contain one large illustration, others are filled with smaller framed drawings that tell a sequenced story. Here he uses his wondrous images to tell the story of a man who loved flying and writing and penned his most famous work while living, homesick, in New York City. This, too, is a book to linger over and to go back to again and again. And, because it’s summer, we have time to do that — rain or shine.

Jacqueline Briggs Martin of Mount Vernon has published 17 books for children, including “The Chiru of High Tibet.”




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