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The View from Monday – New titles available in March

March 12, 2012

Hooray for Monday! We’re back to share some of our favorite new books that will be available at your favorite bookstore or library in March. Happy reading!

Picture Books

Good Night, Laila Tov by Lauren Snyder, illustrated by Jui Ishida

Though this book is about the Jewish concept of Tikkun Olam (heal the world), it’s also a perfect spring/environmental story about planting trees. My kids love the easy rhyme and especially love when they “stopped [the car] so I could pee!” A perfect family read-aloud. –Deanna

The Cloud Spinner by Michael Catchpool, illustrated by Alison Jay

Another strong spring/environmental story is The Cloud Spinner by Michael Catchpool.  The underlying message here, set against the intricate and gorgeous illustrations of Alison Jay, is the importance of conserving our resources and using only what we need.  A great family read aloud that will appeal to kids 5-8 and their parents. –Sarah N.

Mrs Harkness and the Panda by Alicia Potter, illustrations by Melissa Sweet

I am convinced that these are the glory days of picture book publishing. Not to say we haven’t always had an abundance of beautifully illustrated, well-crafted stories to read to our kids, but I am amazed at the ingenuity of our current crop of picture books. Many of these are rooted firmly in the tradition of the “classics” in terms of using artwork to move a story along, but they also incorporate more sophisticated, multimedia effects to lend texture.

Few picture books do it better than MRS. HARKNESS AND THE PANDA by Alicia Potter, illustrated by Caldecott-Honor winner Melissa Sweet.  This book packs a wallop on so many levels…where to begin? First the story (which is based on true events)…It’s 1934. William Harkness, an American explorer, embarks an expedition to the remote western mountains of China in search of the elusive panda bear. Few people outside of China had ever seen a panda, and William’s goal was to bring a panda back to the United States and introduce to the world press this majestic creature. Unfortunately, William died while in China and his wife Ruth–against all odds or proprieties of the day–decided to take up his cause, leaving the comforts of New York and setting off on a long sea voyage eastward to China. Ruth finally landed in Hong Kong where she met up with a guide Yang Di Lin who went by the English name Quentin. Quentin was a godsend: he helped Ruth find the right clothes and supplies to make the trek down the Yangtze River , by car through wet farmland and eventually the harsh, snowy mountain terrain – more than 300 miles total andwith 22 pieces of luggage. Ruth’s determination and doggedness paid off, and in the midst of the bamboo forest, she and her team came upon an adorable baby panda they immediately named Su Lin meaning “a little bit of cute”.  The rest of the story is easy to imagine: Ruth returns to America with Su Lin in her arms and their return was front-page news everywhere. Su Lin eventually found a home at Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo where it spent the remainder of its days. Melissa Sweet’s illustrations are truly amazing: She has created a mixed-media collage of watercolor paintings, maps, period postcards, newspaper article reproductions and photos of the real Ruth and Su Lin. For most of us concerned about the ethics of removing animals from their natural habitat, the author provides an important end note about worldwide conservation efforts to save the panda from extinction.-Tim

The book will have wide appeal for kids, parents, teachers and librarians. Angela Sherrill, collections development director at Children’s Plus in Illinois, just sent this in (appropriately timed for Women’s History Month):

 I am keeping my fingers crossed that this will get recognized for its amazing illustrations and the importance of Ruth Harkness’s role in women’s history (with irresistible pandas, to boot!). This is an excellent addition to the long list of male explorers studied in schools and a great pairing for studies on Jane Goodall. Highly recommended.

Middle Grade 

Chomp by Carl Hiaasen

I am a fan of Carl Hiaasen, it started with his first grownup novel Tourist Season back in the 80s, and I’m happy to report that after over 2 decades, not only is he still giving us great books to read, but later this month his fourth novel for young readers CHOMP goes on sale and it may just be his best one yet! Our hero Wahoo Cray is the son of an animal wrangler in Florida–think gators, snakes, parrots, rats, monkeys & snappers. Then along comes  Derek Badger, “star” of a reality TV show, and though he doesn’t know it, he’s the creature who needs to be wrangled most of all. With his usual hilarious view of both the good and bad of human nature, Hiaasen takes us along with Wahoo, his dad and a friend in need named Tuna, and shows us that good triumphs over crazy, one more time. –Kate

Young Adult

Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard

18-year-old Bria sets off for adventure in Central America, but the middle-aged tour group she is with isn’t exactly what she had in mind. She soon meets Rowan and his sister Starling, and what follows is romance, self-discovery, and new experiences. As lovely and thoughtful as her first book, Like Mandarin, this is the perfect read for any teen dreaming of a bigger world out there to explore. –Erin

Guy Langman, Crime Scene Procrastinator by Josh Berk

OK, even if I hadn’t been a fan of Josh Berk’s first novel The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin, I would have picked this one up based on the very clever title–yes, I’m also a fan of CSI. Well our main man Guy isn’t exactly a CSI fan, he joins Forensics Club when his friend tells him it will impress girls, so imagine his surprise when they stumble on a real dead body at the simulated crime scene. Guy is also dealing with the mystery of who is recently deceased father really was. A funny and sensitive story about solving mysteries with a narrator you don’t want to see go when the story is over. –Kate

Thanks for joining us for our look at March titles here at RAoR. Please share your thoughts with us in our comments section.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. hooray4books permalink
    March 12, 2012 10:22 am

    Love, love, love Mrs. Harkness and the Panda!

  2. March 12, 2012 2:31 pm

    Yes! I just finished GUY LANGMAN and laughed and cried all the way through. Never read a book with so many, uh, male-anatomy-type jokes in it, but it was hilarious. Guy comes across as so vulnerable and human and likeable, you just want to stay in his world. And I don’t even like CSI!

    And as a writer of picture books, I’m thrilled to hear you’re convinced these are the glory days of picture book publishing. Especially after so much negative news about picture books in the past two or three years.

  3. March 13, 2012 10:07 am

    I’m looking forward to The Cloud Spinner.

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