Monday, January 10, 2011

Books to help you beat the winter blues and blahs

Snow and ice. And then more snow. And then more ice. And ... then more snow. If you're feeling trapped because of the bad winter weather that's kept you inside for days, here are some books that may help you beat the blahs! Look for them using BookBag's search boxes for Amazon and World Catalog for library copies. And phone ahead -- you want to make sure your library is open when you get there!

Papertoy Monsters: Make Your Very Own Amazing Papertoys!
by Brian Castleforte (Workman) Ages 9-12. Paper airplanes meet Origami meets Pokemon. Created and curated by Brian Castleforte, a graphic designer and papertoy pioneer who rounded up 25 of the hottest papertoy designers from around the world (Indonesia, Japan, Australia, Italy, Croatia, Chile, even Jackson, Tennessee), Papertoy Monsters offers 50 fiendishly original die-cut designs that are ready to pop out, fold, and glue. The book interleaves card stock with paper stock for a unique craft package; the graphics are colorful and hip, combining the edginess of anime with the goofy fun of Uglydolls and other collectibles. Meet Pharaoh Thoth Amon, who once ruled Egypt but is now a mummy who practices darkmagic in his sarcophagus. Or Zumbie the Zombie, who loves nothing more than a nice plate of brains and yams. NotSoScary, a little monster so useless at frightening people that he has to wear a scary mask. Yucky Chuck, the lunchbox creature born in the deepest depths of your school bag. Plus Zeke, the monster under your bed, Nom Nom, eater of cities, and Grumpy Gramps, the hairy grandpa monster with his very own moustache collection.

Up and Down, by Oliver Jeffers (Philomel) Ages 4-8 Once upon a time, in a book called Lost and Found, a penguin appeared at a small boy's doorstep. Since that adventure, in which the two traveled to the South Pole in a rowboat, the boy has crash-landed his plane on the moon and rocketed into space to catch a star. In this installment, the fearless, practical, and sympathetic child–drawn as a circle (head), square (striped shirt), and two lines (legs)–is back with his penguin friend. A chance sighting of a circus help-wanted poster takes the penguin off on his own and both friends must follow exciting, suspenseful, and wistful paths back to one another. Jeffers has an endearing, deceptively simple style that will warm the hearts of children and adults. An expert draughtsman and a gifted colorist, he creates artwork that is as masterful as it is eccentric. (Devoted readers will be delighted to find pictorial references to his earlier books.) His peculiar plots combine with a saccharine-free sensitivity to the nuances of friendship, making this book just plain special. (Susan Weitz, Amazon)

DC Super Heroes: The Ultimate Pop-Up Book (Little, Brown) Ages 4-8. Reinhart incorporates images created by a number of DC artists into a set of spectacular 3-D portraits – both the sort that leap up in massively muscled splendor from the center of each spread and smaller but no less eye-popping figures tucked into folding booklets in the corners. Superman leads off, of course, a solar-powered “living symbol of truth, justice, and the American way” towering over a view of his spacecraft while escaping an exploding Krypton on one side, and, on the other, cameos by a trio of sidekicks. Plus Lois Lane, Lex Luthor, and (temporary) nemesis Doomsday. The Man of Steel is followed by Batman (with battery-powered Bat-Signal), “Warrior Goddess” Wonder Woman, the squad of intergalactic Green Lanterns, Lord Darkseid (in a spread devoted to the Bad Guys), and, finally, a 45-character composite of the Justice League of America and its prominent adversaries complete with a numbered legend. Other heroes and villains from Captain Marvel, Teen Titans, and even the Justice Society of America to the Joker and Anti-Monitor take bows in the side galleries.

Scribbles: A Really Giant Coloring Book, Taro Gomi (Chronicle Books) Ages 4-8. Scribbles is full of many zany ideas to get kids' imaginations flying. Gomi's simple artistic style is appealing to kids and adults alike. Pages have simple instructions that will guide kids without them feeling hemmed in. Gomi often has several pages in a row with the same simple illustrations but with different leaders: a quaint town drawn at the bottom of several pages has the headings: "Its a beautiful day today: draw a bright sunny sky," "Today it is not so nice: Draw a dark cloudy sky," and "Today there's a thunderstorm: draw lighting and rain." Or a simple stick drawn on several pages and children being asked to draw a dragonfly sitting on one, a sparrow on another, a crocodile balancing on another and finally an elephant! Kids will love the crazy ideas. There are also masks, mazes, time-telling exercises etc. The sheer abundance of ideas makes up for the few that fall short of perfect.

Fortune Cookies,
by Albert Bitterman & Chris Raschka (Beach Lane) Ages 4-8 An intense meditation on the ups and downs of life? Or, a super adorable kids book, complete with kitties? We'll let you decide which. A box arrives for Fortune from her Uncle Albert with seven fortune cookies. How wonderful ... a cookie and a fortune for each day of the week! Best of all, each fortune comes true, but not in ways that Fortune expects. A. Bitterman is the pen name of Pete Cowdin, owner of the beloved independent children's bookstore Reading Reptile. This is his first book. Chris Raschka is the illustrator of The Hello, Goodbye Window, which was awarded the Caldecott Medal. He is also the illustrator of the childrens' books Yo! Yes?; Charlie Parker Played Be Bop; Mysterious Thelonious; John Coltrane's Giant Steps; and Can't Sleep.

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