I am astonished to discover that I never wrote about Bo at Ballard Creek, one of my favorite books of 2013. That book is about the realistic (and yet fantastic) adventures of Bo, a four-year-old girl, who was adopted as a tiny baby and raised in a mining camp by two best-friend miners, Arvid and Jack, in the 1920s. After reading all about her wonderful town full of people that love her, I was sad to reach the end–particularly as the book ended with her little family (recently increased by the addition of another orphan in need) having to leave Ballard Creek after the mine is played out.
I never expected to see a sequel, but I was thrilled when I found out that Kirkpatrick Hill had continued to chronicle Bo’s adventures in her new mining town: Iditarod Creek. Bo’s new town is very different from Ballard Creek — it’s bigger, uglier, and MUCH louder, and there are almost no other children aside from Bo and her younger brother Graf. She misses the trees and the tundra of Ballard Creek, but most of all she misses all of her friends — the Eskimos that lived in the village along with the miners. (Hill makes it clear in an author’s note that ‘Eskimo’ is the self-preferred name of the particular group of native Alaskans that she’s writing about).
Bo never stays down for long, though, and makes friends with almost all the residents of her new town, young and old, male and female, Athabascan, Finnish, Inuit, Japanese, and white. Throughout the year she has her usual myriad adventures–making hundreds of donuts, catching guppies, going to the miner’s Fourth of July celebration, and even (gasp) learning to read! Bo’s sweetness of spirit is utterly charming, and this book would make a wonderful read-aloud for children too young to read a 200-plus-paged novel on their own, or any child who loved the Little House books. (A caveat for parents, though: the miners do occasionally say ‘Damn’, and in one chapter there is a conversation about hurtful names for people of other races).
This book also ends with Bo and her family on their way to a new living situation–I can only hope that Kirkpatrick Hill continues this delightful series.
Posted by: Sarah
This month, Sarah shares a great edition of the Just So Stories, by Rudyard Kipling, with new illustrations by Ian Wallace.
Elliot is a very polite and proper boy, so when his father asks him if we wants to attend Family Fun Day at the aquarium, Elliot responds, “Of course, thank you for inviting me” although he is actually thinking “Kids, masses of noisy kids”. In order to avoid the noisy kids, Elliot goes to the less popular penguin exhibit where he immediately feels a kinship to the proper birds. He rushes back to ask his father for a penguin and in a hilarious misunderstanding, his father gives him $20 to purchase a plush penguin, without ever looking up from his National Geographic.
Elliot happily stuffs a real penguin in his backpack and the family heads home. Elliot’s father remains oblivious to the South American bird as Elliot builds an ice rink in his bedroom, shares an anchovy pizza with the penguin and sets the penguin up to sleep in the freezer. However, his father cannot miss the penguin swimming in the bathtub with him which is when a delightful twist is put into the story that will make readers want to go back a review just where this all was leading. It turns out; Elliot’s father has an exotic pet of his own.
The cool color palette and use of white space create a very reserved and proper feel, while the penguin and character’s facial expressions are warm and engaging. Readers will want to look for details that lead to the discovery of Elliot’s father’s pet, such as his research on the Great Barrier Reef and the artist’s rendering of the HMS Beagle hanging on the wall of their home. A wonderful winter read for children ages 5 and up.
Posted by: Kelly
An ambulance arrives one rainy day at City Hospital. The Pengamedics call out “Urgency Emergency! We have an injured spider.” As it turns out, Miss Muffet was the one who had called the ambulance because she found the spider at the bottom of the waterspout. Everyone knows that Miss Muffet is afraid of spiders, but that doesn’t stop her from worrying. While Doctor Glenda examines the injured spider she learns that her name is Itsy Bitsy, and that she was climbing the waterspout when the rain washed her out. After the cut on Isty Bitsy’s head is stitched up, she is a bit wobbly and needs someone to help her home and take care of her. Once again Miss Muffet comes to her rescue!
How fun this beginning reader is! Dosh Archer is very successful at combining the nursery rhymes of Itsy Bitsy Spider and Little Miss Muffet . I recommend a refresher on both those rhymes before reading this story to thoroughly enjoy the characters. The reader doesn’t have to stop with this book as there are more books in the Urgency Emergency series.
Posted by: Wendy
This little picture book starts out with a quirky little story about an octopus and a boy. The octopus seems to be taking care of the boy and when it is time for bed, the octopus has prepared a nice warm bath …… of egg salad!! “No thank you, Octopus!” says the boy. And when it is time to brush his teeth, the Octopus wants to brush the boy’s teeth ……. with paint brushes!! “No thank you, Octopus!” says the boy. When the octopus is assuring the boy that there are no monsters under his bed …… he has put them all in the closet!! “No thank you, Octopus!” So the story continues in this way; and by the time it is finished, children and adults will definitely appreciate the author’s offbeat sense of humor. Very clever!
Posted by: Mary
In Bear Sees Colors, the latest addition to their series of Bear picture books, author Karma Wilson and illustrator Jane Chapman do not disappoint. Bear Sees Colors is a delightfully bright and interactive romp through Bear’s colorful world. As Bear and mouse take a stroll through the forest on their way to a picnic they gather their friends and discover a rainbow of colors along the way. Each color is introduced by a rhyming cliffhanger with a visual clue as to what color is coming. A page with two blue dragonflies reads:
“Mouse and Bear are walking;
they are chitter-chatter-talking.
So much for them to do.
And the bear sees… ”
The following two-page spread reveals the colorful, rhyming answer – “blue!” Additionally, the repeated refrain – “Blue, blue EVERYWHERE! Can you spy blue with Bear?” – invites readers to spot all of the various items of that color within scene. Chapman’s soft acrylic illustrations of the jubilant woodland creatures are as delightful as ever, and the alternating white background with a hint of the color to come followed by the bright scene bathed in the featured color adds another level of excitement to the story. The combination of the anticipatory format, I Spy game, rhyming text and repeated refrain begs for audience participation making this a perfect choice for a read aloud both in a one-on-one or group setting.
Posted by: Staci
A boy, a girl, a Viking babysitter, and a vicious (but still kinda cute) merbaby – To Catch a Mermaid has it all! When Halvor (aforementioned Viking babysitter) sends young Boom Broom down to the docks to pick up fresh fish for dinner, Boom finds himself with only enough money to choose from the reject seafood bucket. What he brings home turns out to be a growling, sharp-toothed merbaby. Naturally, Boom’s sister falls in love with the merbaby and they decide to keep her instead of returning her to the sea. Danger, hilarity, and fantastical adventures ensue!
To Catch a Mermaid is a favorite of mine, by the hilarious and imaginative author Suzanne Selfors (click here to read a review of her book Fortune’s Magic Farm). This is a great read for kids 8 and up (or even younger as a read-aloud or for a strong reader).
Posted by: Parry