I look forward to the opportunity to write this particular column every year even though it’s difficult because of the great number of books I review. This is what I’ve come to call "the best of the rest." The following books didn’t fit into any of my monthly categories but I found them to be enjoyable reading and thus recommend them to you.
PUFF, THE MAGIC DRAGON, by Peter Yarrow and Lenny Lipton, with paintings by Eric Puybaret, Sterling, $16.95; ages 3-7.
Twenty-five years ago, Peter, Paul and Mary sang "Puff the Magic Dragon." Now, as part of the 25th anniversary, readers can enjoy the story of Puff and his friend Jackie Paper as they sail in the land of Honalee. Through the illustrations of Eric Puybaret children can follow along as they listen to the CD included with the book, an instrumental version of Puff and Peter and his daughter, Bethany, singing "Puff," "Froggie Went-a-Courting" and "Blue Tail Fly."
THE WIZARD, by Jack Prelutsky, illustrations by Brandon Dorman, Greenwillow; $16.99, ages 5-10.
Jack Prelutsky has been named by the Poetry Foundation as the first children’s poet laureate. With more than 40 children’s books to his credit, he is a great selection and will create an interest in poetry for children. His newest book comes at a time when wizards are popular. Brandon Dorman’s illustrations have the Wizard looking very familiar to Dumbledore with his long, white flowing beard. One day the Wizard finds a frog and immediately starts casting spells to make him go through many changes. We all should be careful if we encounter a frog or a lizard because it just might be the work of the Wizard.
CLORINDA TAKES FLIGHT, by Robert Kinerk, illustrated by Steven Kellogg, Simon & Schuster, $16.99; ages 4-8.
One morning, as the sun comes up, a swallow swoops by Clorinda the cow, who decides she wants to fly. Clorinda tells her friends Hop the pig and Len the farm hand she needs their help. They start at the city dump, gathering the supplies to make a plane, including a motor from an old washing machine. Eventually they launch a balloon, allowing Clorinda and Hop to fly. This is the second book by Kinerk with the whimsical illustrations of Kellogg. The two plan on future Clorinda adventures.
GINGER AND PETUNIA, by Patricia Polacco, Philomel, $16.99; ages 7-10.
Polacco lives in Union City, Mich., and raises goats and ducks that appear in her stories. She has a friend named Ginger Folsom, who is a pianist, with a pet pig named Petunia, just like in the story. Now we know where the idea for the story began. Ginger is invited as a guest soloist to perform in London. Before she leaves, she makes arrangements for a house sitter to watch Petunia and do a list of chores. Shortly after Ginger leaves, the phone rings with a call that the house sitter has changed her mind. The story continues with Petunia dressing up as Mrs. Folsom and carrying out all the everyday chores, including piano lessons, shopping, cooking and even social engagements.
YOU READ TO ME, I’LL READ TO YOU: VERY SHORT SCARY TALES TO READ TOGETHER, by Mary Ann Hoberman, illustrated by Michael Emberley, Little Brown, $16.99; ages 4-8.
Reading should be fun and what better way is there to show it than by sharing stories? This is the fourth book in the You Read to Me series. For those not familiar with the format of the books, the lines are printed in three different colors, one color for each of the two readers and then orange words to be read together. Although scary stories are usually associated with Halloween, children will have fun with these original selections any time.
MAZEWAYS: A TO Z, by Roxie Munro, Sterling, $12.95;, ages 4-8.
Roxie Munro has created a book with several levels. It is an alphabet book filled with mazes to represent each letter of the alphabet. The reader is asked to follow a path through each maze as if following a map. There are puzzle answers if you get stumped. When that is completed, children can go back for a search-and-find, looking for listed items in each picture. I enjoyed the zoo page where children are asked to follow a path around the zoo to visit a variety of animals. Other pages include the airport, a circus, an art museum and the fire house.