Keep kids reading this summer

Books - June 2006


Judy Belanger

I am often asked if I have a favorite author or illustrator. The truth is I have had many over the years. Here are a few.

AMELIA BEDELIA UNDER CONSTRUCTION, by Herman Parish, pictures by Lynn Sweat, HarperCollins, $15.99; ages 5 and up.

When Amelia Bedelia, everyone’s favorite sincere but mixed-up babysitter, arrives to care for the Hardy kids, she tells Mrs. Hardy she was confused because all the houses look alike. Mrs. Hardy says she wishes their house looked different and that she is on the way to the doctor because they are expecting an addition.

Amelia Bedelia fans can guess what happens next: A construction truck stops in front of the house asking directions to No. 81. Amelia turns the paper upside down and says they are in the right place, No. 18, because they are expecting an addition. The men get busy in the yard, and Amelia and the kids start on dad’s to-do list: sanding the deck, painting the chairs with two coats and fixing a new marble countertop for mom. Dad is really surprised when he gets home from his board (bored) meeting. But, he decides, with the new family addition they can really use the extra space.

BELOW, by Nina Crews, Henry Holt, $16.95; ages 3-6.

When Jack gets out his blocks, cars and little plastic man named Guy, it is the beginning of many adventures on the stairs of his house. Jack and Guy visit mountains, cities and forests. Once, Guy falls through a hole in the stair. Jack can’t see his toy friend and wonders if there might be dragons, wild horses or even other toys in the hole. Jack uses his construction trucks to pull Guy up from under the stair.

Crews uses photographs to show Jack playing on the stairs; other pictures in the background show the mountains, the city and the forest. When Guy is under the stairs, Crews uses line drawings to show the various encounters the toy might be facing. What wonderful adventures your children can have after reading this story.

HANSEL & GRETEL, by Will Moses, Philomel Books, $16.99; ages 4-8.

In the introduction, Will Moses explains this fairy tale was one of his favorites when he was a child, although it does contain some dark aspects. Don’t just enjoy the story, though. Spend time looking at the detail in his double-page, folk-art-style pictures. Then pull out another version of the fairy tale and ask your children to compare the two versions.

THE INVISIBLE MOOSE, by Dennis Haseley, illustrated by Steven Kellogg, Dial, $16.99; ages 4-8.

The girl moose is not only a beautiful moose, but also kind to the other animals. The boy moose is shy and figures she probably wouldn’t even pay any attention to him.

He finally gets up enough courage to walk up to her when a tremendous ruckus erupts: Steel McSteal, the animal trapper, has thrown his net around her and hauled her off to New York.

The boy moose, now very lonely, visits Professor Owl McFowl, the scientist and geographer, for help. The professor gives him a couple of bottles of potion that will make him invisible. He then goes to New York to rescue the one he loves.

Dennis Haseley has created quite an adventure for this moose as he wanders around New York looking for his friend. The comic illustrations by Steven Kellogg add to the enjoyment of this story.

KING OF MURDER: A HERCULEAH JONES MYSTERY, by Betsy Byars, Viking, $10.99; ages 9-12.

Herculeah is about to go into her favorite shop, Hidden Treasures. Her friend, Meat, tries to discourage her because every time she gets something from the shop, it leads to murder. While inside, the two meet Mathias King, mystery writer and former magician known as the King of Murder. He is looking for a weapon to inspire him in the writing of his next book.

Herculeah has an uneasy feeling about Mr. King and decides to visit Death’s Door, the local mystery book shop, to get copies of his books to read. The proprietor tells Herculeah about the time the folks from the Magnolia Downs retirement center came to the shop to hear Mr. King speak. One of the seniors told King she had a friend who died just like the victim in his book, A Slash of Life. She wondered if he knew the woman. King said he must have read about it in the newspaper and immediately went on with the book signing.

What does this woman really know about her friend’s death and how is Mr. King able to describe the incident in such accurate details? Find out how Herculeah helps solve this murder mystery.

Not only has Betsy Byars written six other Herculeah Jones mysteries, she has also written many other stories for children, such as the Ant series for beginning readers. For intermediate readers, her themes vary from the trials of growing up, such as Bingo Brown or The Blossom Family, to more serious topics such as a mentally impaired child in her Newbery Award-winning story Summer of the Swans or Cracker Jackson, which deals with abuse.

Byars is an author children can grow with. She has something for everyone. I enjoy them all.

Judy Belanger is a retired elementary learning resource center teacher who lives with her husband in Addison. They have two grown children and four grandchildren. She continues to substitute in grades K-6 in the school where she taught.


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