Archive | January, 2012

Word play!

“Chickens aren’t the only ones/there’s no more to discuss-/everyone who lays an egg/is OVIPAROUS!”  And of course we all know what “oviparous” means: an animal that procreates by laying eggs (we mammals don’t, except a few in Australia – but that’s another story…).

I remember this because I read  Chickens Aren’t the Only Ones about 600 times back in the day.Chickens Aren't the Only Ones  So I can still tell you that “Most snakes lay eggs/and lizards, too/and crocodiles, and turtles do.”  To say nothing of octopus (octopi?), butterflies, sharks, spiders, and on and on and on.

Ruth Heller, the wonderful author of Chickens Aren’t the Only Ones, wrote a few dozen books about animals, animal camouflage, plants, seeds, the Sargasso Sea, experimentation with color, parts of speech and the Galápagos Islands.  “Galápagos” Means “Tortoises”, by the way – and here’s where the islands are, with some of their fascinating denizens:

An artist herself, Heller loved color – she even told my children what kind of pencils she used, to get the richest, truest colors in her drawings.  In her book Color, Color, Color, Color, she explained artistic media, how inks are printed in books, primary and secondary colors, tints, shades, cool colors and warm ones.

The animal camouflage books that she wrote have always been favorites; preschoolers love to find the hidden animals in books such as How to Hide a Crocodile  and How to Hide a Butterfly & Other Insects.  I imagine it helps that the drawings of the animals are so lovely: 


It’s not just animals, though.  She wrote another series about parts of speech, starting with collective nouns, which are some of the most entertaining in the language.  A rafter of turkeys, a leap of leopards, a sleuth of bears, a cache of jewels, that looks like this: There are several other  parts-of-speech books, like Up, Up and Away: A Book About Adverbs and Many Luscious Lollipops:  A Book About Adjectives.

Parents may not be consciously aware that their children who can’t read yet are perfectly able to learn words like “oviparous” and “gymnosperm” and “complementary” and “achromatic,” especially when these “difficult” words show up in verse – as is the case with ALL of Ruth Heller’s books.  But what could be more fun?  Beautiful drawings, accurate science and grammar, rhyme and advanced vocabulary…  let’s sit down together and enjoy some colorful words!


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Navy SEALs, in the Air, on the Sea and Land, also on the Shelves

By quietly thanking Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on his way to deliver the State of the Union address last Tuesday, President Obama  brought attention to yet another daring action by the Navy SEALs.  That same day they dropped into Somalia and struck the abductors of two aid workers that had been held since October.  The last year has seen a lot of action by this specialized group and there are a number of new books for those of you who enjoy reading about the Navy’s Sea, Air, and Land Teams.

We Got Him!: A Memoir of the Hunt and Capture of Saddam Hussein, by Steve Russell.
SEAL Target Geronimo: The Inside Story of the Mission to Kill Osama Bin Laden, by Chuck Pfarrer. This book is also available as an audiobook on CD.
American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History, by Chris Kyle with Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice.
The Heart and the Fist: The Education of a Humanitarian, the Making of a Navy SEAL, by Eric Greitens. This book is also available as an audiobook on CD.
Inside SEAL Team Six: My Life and Missions with America’s Elite Warriors, by Don Mann and Ralph Pezzullo. This book is also available as an audiobook on CD.
SEAL Team Six: Memoirs of an Elite Navy SEAL Sniper, by Howard E. Wasdin and Stephen Templin. This book is also available as an audiobook on CD.
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Awards for Children’s books

This was a big week in the child lit world as the winners were announced for the big Newbery, Caldecott, Prinz Awards and more.  Check out what the judges consider the best books for the year– they are so good and so popular (especially once the awards are announced) that you might have to place a reserve to get the titles you want,  but these are worth waiting for!

John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature:

"Dead End" coverDead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos

Jack Gantos combines autobiography with humor, mystery and history as he depicts small town life in the 1960′s.  Young Jack Gantos, growing up in Norvelt, Pennysylvania spends the summer grounded for his multitude of offenses until he is assigned to an elderly neighbor to help with some unusual tasks.

Two Newbery Honor Books also were named: Inside Out & Back Again written by Thanhha Lai, and Breaking Stalin’s Nose, written and illustrated by Eugene Yelchin.

Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children:

Ball for Daisy coverA Ball for Daisy  illustrated and written by Chris Raschka

A lovely, nearly wordless story about the joy and heartbreak of a favorite toy.




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Remembering Officer Larson

Officer Gary Larson

Astute observers will notice City flags flying at half-staff this weekend.  This is in memory of Public Safety Officer (PSO) Gary L. Larson who, fifty years ago, became the first Sunnyvale officer killed in the line of duty.

On Sunday, January 28, 1962, PSO Larson responded to the armed robbery of a Murphy Avenue liquor store, and pursued the suspects to an orchard near El Camino Real and Wolfe Road.  During a gun battle, Larson was shot multiple times and died from his injuries.  Other officers shot the gunman and took him and his accomplice into custody.  According to news stories, the robbery had been the killer’s third since arriving in Sunnyvale after jumping bail on felony check charges in Missouri.

PSO Larson, a native of Reno, was just 23 years old.  He was survived by his wife and two children, a 4-year-old daughter and 4-month-old son, Kevin, who eventually also became a Sunnyvale Public Safety Officer and served the city for 15 years.

Two days later, an editorial in the Sunnyvale Daily Standard noted: “It is all too easy for us to shrug, utter some meaningless words of sympathy, and then forget Gary Larson and others like him in other cities of this nation who have died protecting life and property.”  We hope that, along with us, you’ll take a moment this weekend to remember Officer Larson.

An overflow crowd including over 300 officers from every Bay Area city attended Officer Larson's funeral.

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The Rule of Three

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.  I Came, I Saw, I Conquered.  The Three Stooges.  Some of the best things in life come in threes.  Here are three retellings of three favorite childhood tales.

Goldie and the Three HaresGoldie and the Three Hares by Margie Palatini
Papa, Mama, and Baby Hare are enjoying a lovely day in their rabbit hole when… THUMP!  In drops a very large and very demanding Goldie who causes nothing but trouble.  Who can return the rabbit hole to peace and quiet?  Why, the three bears of course!


The Three Bully GoatsThe Three Bully Goats by Leslie Kimmelman
Gruff, Ruff, and Tuff are no ordinary goats.  They are the Three Bully Goats, who trip trap trip trap across kindly little Ogre’s bridge to bully baby animals in the meadow.  Ogre must enlist the help of some surprising friends to send those bullying billy goats back where they belong.


The Three Little Aliens and the Big Bad RobotThe Three Little Aliens and the Big Bad Robot by Margaret McNamara & Mark Fearing
Once upon a time there were three little aliens named Bork, Gork, and Nklxwcyz.  Unfortunately, this story comes with a Big Bad Robot as well, who is determined to crack, smack and whack their houses down.  Which galactic dwelling will be strong enough to withstand the robotic strike of a triple blaster?


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