Thursday, October 9, 2014

New Books to Love



::  The Pilot and the Little Prince: The Life of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

If you’ve read a book written and illustrated by Peter Sis, you will know that it is less a continual story than words and art blended together into a beautiful masterpiece. And this book is a beautiful masterpiece worth poring over. [If you a linear person who hates visual distractions in a story or you dislike small print, this book is not for you.] I happen to love The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery and Peter Sis, so I was ecstatic to discover this biographical picture book (one of my favorite genres!) at the library.

It begins: “Long ago in France, at the turn of the last century, a little boy was born to be an adventurer.”

We then learn about Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s childhood in France, his interest in airplanes (and the development of this new invention), his job as a pioneer air mail pilot, his life in the African desert where he rescued stranded flyers, his writings, his airplane crash in North Africa, his expeditions, his time as a war pilot in WWII, and finally his disappearance while on a flight in 1944.

It’s magical. And very much in keeping with the dreamy, random, thoughtful spirit of The Little Prince.

After I read through The Pilot and the Little Prince, I was inspired to re-read the lovely picture book The Glorious Flight: Across the Channel with Louis Bleriot July 25, 1909 written by two of my favorite author-illustrators, Alice and Martin Provensen.




::  Mystery of Meerkat Hill: A Precious Ramotswe Mystery for Young Readers

From the author of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series (a delight for more mature readers), we are given the childhood story of Precious Ramotswe for young readers. If you are tired of wading through insipid, junk-food beginning chapter books to find the hidden gems, let me save you some trouble. This story, set in Botswana, Africa, is lovely and entertaining in every way. I smiled all the way through. The simple red and black illustrations are charming. The setting is vivid, and the characters come to life. The book is full of shorter fascinating stories about ostriches, cobras, meerkats, and missing cows.

Botswana is very beautiful—it has wide plains that seem to go on and on as far as the eye can see, until they join the sky, which is high and empty. Sometimes, you know, when you look up at an empty sky, it seems as if it’s singing. It is very odd, but that is how it seems.

She loved her father’s stories, especially when he told them at bedtime. There is something very exciting about a bedtime story, and it is even better if the story is told after the lights have been turned out. The words sound different—as if they are being whispered just for you and for nobody else. The words are all around you, like a warm blanket.

Precious was very curious to find out as much as she could about other people. That was why she would become such a good detective when she grew up—detectives have to keep their eyes open; they have to look at people and think I wonder who that person is. I wonder where he comes from. I wonder what his favorite color is. And so on. She was very good at all that. But of course one of the best ways of finding something out is to ask somebody. That was a rule that Precious Ramotswe learned very early in her life, and would never forget.

Sometimes people who are very poor are ashamed of it, even if they have no reason to be. Being poor is usually not your fault, unless it’s because you are very lazy. There are all sorts of reasons why people can be poor. They may have not been able to find any work. They may be in a job where they are not paid very much. They may have lost their father or mother because of illness or an accident or, Precious thought, lightning. Yes, lightning was the reason here, and it made her sad just to think of it.

Precious looked at the house. It was not very large and she wondered how everybody could fit inside. But she did not want to say anything about that, as people are usually proud of their houses and do not like other people (and that means us) to point out that their houses are too small, or too uncomfortable, or the wrong shape. And so she said, “That’s a nice house, Teb.” That was not a lie. It is not a lie to say something nice to somebody. You have to remember that you can usually find something good to say about anything if you look hard enough. And it’s kind too…

Meerkats like attention. They like people to pat them on the head and say nice things. Rather like the rest of us, don’t you think?

I am eagerly looking forward to reading the rest of the books in this series. My boys have also enjoyed the Akimbo series of beginning chapter books by the same author.




::  Going Solo by Roald Dahl

No, this isn’t a new book (it was first published in 1986), but it may be new to you. If you or your older readers are interested in (auto)biographies, entertaining stories of life in Africa, the experiences of war pilots of World War II, and airplane crashes in the African desert, this is the book for you.

This autobiography by Roald Dahl is full of adventurous spirit, optimistic attitude, and hilarious stories. It made me laugh out loud several times.

[Heads up: This book does contain mild profanity such as hell, damn, and ass. It also contains one very funny story about naked adults in the first few pages.]


Amy said...

I am a fan of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, but I didn't know about the spinoff series for kids! What age range do you think it would appeal to? Would it make a good readaloud?

Heidi said...

I'd say that it would appeal most to ages 6ish to 10ish. All of my boys loved it (8, 10, 12), but my oldest loves all stories and is not at all worried if stories sound "young." It would be a wonderful read-aloud!

Rachel said...

I LOVE your book recommendations! I have your blog up in one tab on my computer and our library-request page up on another. Thank you for taking the time to do them.

Ariana Sullivan said...

This is literally perfect timing as for some reason my 8 year old, Sierra has developed a fascination with North Carolina recently and after looking at it on our giant wall map saw a little airplane symbol which lead to reading about the Wright brothers and now she's basically obsessed with learning all about the early days of flight! I'll have to find somewhere to get those books from. Thanks!