Just because a children's book is listed on a "best-seller" list doesn't guarantee it's a great book. While a best-selling book might be terrific, the fact is that many books appearing on "best-seller" lists are not.
Surprised? Don't be. There are times when a best-selling book has a lot to do with the amount of money the publisher puts behind marketing the book. Of course publishers are interested in making money. It's too bad, though, that sometimes publishers will lose their focus and promote books for profit without thinking about their impressionable and vulnerable audience - the child.
While a couple of celebrities have written some good children's books, I have found most of them to be pretty lame. So why are these books getting so much attention? Simple - both are easy to market, and that translates into big bucks.
So how do you know whether a book is worth the money you're plunking down? Either read it yourself or let me do the work for you here, in this column. Think about the content of the book and decide what you want the child to be exposed to. I think that's really important, don't you?
Books to Borrow
The following book is available at many public libraries.
"Amos & Boris" written and illustrated by William Steig, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 28 pages
Read aloud: age 4 and older. Read yourself: age 7 and older.
Adventurer mouse Amos has become separated from his sailboat in the middle of the vast ocean. Preparing to accept his fate, he is befriended by Boris the whale, who transports Amos back to shore.
During their travels they develop a close friendship, and although they must go their separate ways, they vow never to forget each other. In their parting, Amos promises to help Boris in his time of need. While Boris is touched by his friend's words, he can't imagine that a mouse could ever help a whale.
Years later, however, when a storm washes Boris onto the very beach where Amos lives, Amos knows that if Boris isn't soon returned to the ocean, he will die. Springing into action, Amos proves he is a worthy and capable savior for his friend, Boris.
Amusing, heartfelt, and with the message of friendship and being true to your word, this story is perfect.
Library: Carson City Library, 900 North Roop St., Carson City
Library Director: Sally Edwards
Youth Services Librarian: Cory King
Choices this week: "In the Tall, Tall Grass" by Denise Fleming; "Days with Frog and Toad" by Arnold Lobel; "Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing" by Judy Blume
Books to Buy
The following books are available at favorite bookstores.
"Rosa, Sola" by Carmela A. Martino, Candlewick, 2005, 236 pages, $15.99 hardcover
Read aloud: age 10 and older. Read yourself: age 10 and older.
Growing up in Chicago in the 1960s, all of Rosa Bernardi's friends have siblings. But Rosa doesn't, and she feels very alone - sola. Despite the attentions of her parents and aunts and uncles, Rosa wants a baby brother more than anything.
Rosa decides she will pray very hard for God to send her a brother of her own. At last, Rosa's prayers are answered, but when the time comes for the baby to be delivered, Rosa's world unravels. The baby is stillborn, her parents are filled with immeasurable grief, and Rosa feels more alone than ever. Through unexpected events, Rosa finally discovers what it means to be a family and that she isn't alone after all.
Beautifully and sensitively written, "Rosa, Sola" is a bittersweet story.
"Challenger: America's Favorite Eagle" by Margot Theis Raven, illustrated by Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen, Sleeping Bear Press, 2005, 46 pages, $17.95.
Read aloud: age 5 and older.
Read yourself: age 7Ð8 and older.
When the young bald eagle's nest was blown from a tree during a storm, he is rescued and cared for by various humans. Eventually the chick forgot that he was an eagle and thought he was human, too. Attempts to release him back to the wild failed, for the eagle didn't know how to catch his own food.
The orphaned bird was finally placed with a man who loved eagles - Al Cecere. Al named the bird Challenger, and quickly understood that the eagle was so comfortable among humans that he and Challenger could work together to educate people about the plight of the endangered American bald eagle and other birds of prey, which is precisely what they did.
n Kendal Rautzhan writes and lectures on children's literature. E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.