New picture books appeal to youths

In the stacks

Posted: Sunday, April 10, 2005

There are plenty of new picture books for the young and young at heart at the Juneau Public Libraries.

"Beach Day!" by Patricia Lakin, illustrated by Scott Nash

Alligators at the beach? Why not? And so, on a hot, sunny, sweaty day, four friends gather everything they need for a day at the beach and hop on their bicycle-built-for-four. But it's a long way to the beach, and along the way they get distracted by a playground and lost in a field of clover. When they get to the beach, night has fallen, but that doesn't spoil their fun.

"T. Rex at Swan Lake," by Lisa Carrier and Lenore Hart, illustrated by Chris Demarest

T. Rex is all bones now, but as she stands in position in the museum, she remembers the days when she ran in open fields and drank from clear streams. The admiring crowds that have surrounded her every day for almost a century no longer thrill her and she yearns for something more.

One day she overhears two women talking about ballet, and she decides to find out about it for herself, so, wrenching her feet out of their bolts, she darts out into the street. She finds the Opera House, borrows a pink tutu, and is ready for her first performance. But is the audience ready for her? Great illustrations - who'd have ever thought a skull could ever be so expressive and a skeleton so graceful?

"Tigress," by Nick Dowson, illustrated by Jane Chapman

This stunningly beautiful book follows two tiger cubs and their tigress mother as she moves the very young cubs to safety, teaches them to hunt, and ultimately, sends them off on their own when they are 18 months old. There are two sets of text: the first, in large type, tells the story, and the second, in smaller letters, gives facts about tigers. Lovely metaphors grace the story (the roaring tigress leaps "like fire") and concrete comparisons (her nose is "bigger than your fist") make it easy for kids to imagine the power and enormity of the tiger.

"Stella and the Berry Thief," by Jane B. Mason, illustrated by Loek Koopmans

Really lovely illustrations grace this longer picture book about a woman who loves her raspberries so much that she doesn't ever share them, and the bear who shows her the error of her ways. Stella makes the best raspberry preserves and pies in the whole county, but she eats all she makes. Her neighbors call her stingy, and her friends... well, she doesn't have any. Then someone starts stealing her berries and she is desperate to find out who it is and stop them. But how do you stop a bear from doing whatever it wants?

"What Did You Do Today?" by Toby Forward, illustrated by Carol Thompson

A single line of text does double-duty for each two-page spread in this first day of school story. Opposing pages show child and mom in their respective daytime activities, from packing lunches together in the morning to parting at the school entrance, greeting classmates and co-workers, having snacks and doing writing assignments. The parallel pictures are quite funny, especially the after-lunch sleepy-time one, and tiny grey-tone pictures show the two thinking of each other during the day. In the end, of course, mom and child are reunited at the school gate and walk home together, asking each other: What did you do today?

"Construction Countdown," by K.C. Olson, illustrated by David Gordon

For the young heavy machinery crowd, here's a counting book about their favorite topic. Each page features a different piece of equipment, starting with dump trucks (10 of them) and ending with (surprise!) the one sandbox they are all in. In between are earthmovers, skid loaders, graders, and more, all shown doing their jobs, while the perspective (and the little people) hide the fact that these are all toys.

"Baby on Board," by Kes Gray and Sarah Nayler

A young girl talks about her mother's pregnancy (rosy cheeks, morning sickness, bigger bras, and more) and the baby's development (from the size of a pea to a budding soccer player). Along the way, Dad proposes baby names (John, Elvis, and Hulk are a few), but in the end, none of them are deemed suitable in this cute, lightweight book.

"Vera Rides a Bike," by Vera Rosenberry

Vera's sadness after her beloved tricycle gets stolen from the park is short-lived when she graduates to a real bicycle. Pretty soon, she can ride by herself, as long as someone helps her start and stop. One day when she wants to ride her bike, everyone in her family is busy, so she puts her helmet on and walks her bike to the playground where she finds a friend who helps her start riding. Around and around she goes, until it's time to go home and she discovers that her friend has already left. How will Vera stop her bike?

"The Little Cat Baby," by Allan Ahlberg, illustrated by Fritz Wegner

Once upon a time, there was a couple (in period costume) who wanted a baby. So, as it was done in those days, they went to the Baby Shop to pick one out. Instead of choosing the pink or bouncing, or flowerpot-throwing baby, they chose a little cat baby, and brought her home to live with them. The little cat baby (also in period costume - she seems an amalgam of human and cat), drinks milk and has adventures in this odd, but charming book that reads like a story that a child might make up for herself.

And, as always, placing a hold on our material is easy: call the Juneau Public Library at 586-5249, or, if you have Internet access, your library card, and a PIN, you may place your own holds by going to our Web site ( 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 on our Web site, click on the title you want, and you will be ready to place a hold.

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