In the Stacks: Kids who outgrow picture books can move on to illustrated fiction

Posted: Sunday, March 21, 2004

This week I've got a sampling of new picture books of all varieties for you! Picture books are generally for ages 0-8, and (juvenile illustrated fiction (JIF) are aimed at older kids who appreciate the pictures but who are ready for a more sophisticated storyline.

"Why Heaven is Far Away," by Julius Lester, illustrated by Joe Cepeda: In the beginning of this delightful melding of two folktales, God is the only one who thinks snakes (which come in all the colors of amazement) are beautiful. People try to kill them, and other animals think their name is Snack, so God and his wife get together with Shaniqua (the angel in charge of everybody's business), and Bruce (God's secretary) to find a solution. Fantastic, colorful illustrations (I particularly love the snakes) make this a winner for all ages. (JIF)

"Players in Pigtails," by Shana Corey, illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon: In 1943, women finally got a chance to play baseball officially! During WWII, when so many men became soldiers, there weren't enough left to play baseball and the country's favorite pastime was languishing, so talent scouts fanned out across the nation and tryouts were held for women. This fictionalized account of the character Katie Casey (named in "Take me out to the ball game") is a perfect introduction to a unique time in American society. (JIF)

"Loveykins," by Quentin Blake: When Angela Bowling finds a baby bird who's fallen from his nest in this quirky story, she knows just what to do. Wrapping him in sweaters so Augustus won't catch a chill, she stuffs him with gourmet treats and takes him for walks in a baby carriage. Augustus thrives on the attention and is soon big enough for his very own little house in the backyard, but one night his house is blown down by a windstorm. When he spreads his wings to fly for the first time, Angela is afraid she's lost him forever - but has she? (picture book)

"Solomon's Tree," by Andrea Spalding, illustrated by Janet Wilson: Solomon's favorite tree is a big old maple that shows him a hummingbird's nest in the spring and gives him golden leaves to play with in the fall. But one winter, a terrible windstorm blows the tree down, and Solomon is devastated. His uncle offers to show him the spirit of his tree, and, with Solomon's help, carves a beautiful mask. Gorgeous oil paintings illustrate this gentle book on grieving. (JIF)

"The Happy Hocky Family Moves to the Country!" by Lane Smith: From one of the creative minds behind the Stinky Cheese Man comes another tongue-in-cheek story, this one highlighting the differences between city life and country life. Though it looks like a beginning reader with large type and simple dialogue, save this one for the older kids who liked Kevin O'Malley's "Velcome"; the deadpan delivery of the most absurd situations will send older kids and their parents into hysterics. Great retro illustrations! (JIF)

"Just One More Story," by Jennifer Brutschy, illustrated by Cat Bowman Smith: Every day is different for Austin and his mom and dad: they are the Swamp Snakes who travel from town to town playing music for people to dance to. No matter where they are, though, the nights are the same: Austin has a drink of water from his dinosaur mug, lines up his stuffed animals, pulls his quilt up and listens to his dad tell a story. Always just one story. Until the night they stay in a two-story house! (picture book)

"Baby Signs for Bedtime," and "Baby Signs for Animals," by Linda Acredolo and Susan Goodwyn, photos by Penny Gentieu: These two board books are just right for babies learning basic signs. Following the format of most concept books, these offer a photo or two of each object named accompanied by the written word, and on the facing page, a photo of a baby performing the sign for the word alongside written instructions for the parent. Cute babies, great idea, good word choices. (picture books)

Author Alert! Next Sunday, the 28th, come downtown at 7 pm and meet Virginia Euwer Wolff, the author of such fantastic chapter and young adult books as "The Mozart Season," "Make Lemonade," and "Probably Still Nick Swanson"! Then, on Monday the 29th, she will conduct a writer's workshop at 2 pm for young adults. Call Carol at 586-0434 to register for the workshop or for more information.

Monday, March 29th is Seward's Day and the Downtown and Douglas Libraries will be closed (except for the Writer's Workshop) and there won't be any Toddler Times at any of the libraries. The Valley Library will be open.

If you'd like to place a hold on any of these titles, call the Juneau Public Library at 586-5249. If you have internet access, your library card, and a PIN, you may place your own holds by going to our website ( and looking at our catalog. Placing holds on items featured in In the Stacks is now even easier! The new columns are hyperlinked to the catalog: simply look up the column, click on the title you want, and you will be ready to place a hold.

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