My son had a doctor’s appointment on Wednesday, and I was really impressed with the quality of the reading material in the waiting room. Sure, there were a few really dog-eared Mickey Mouse “Little Golden Books” and some older books which were obviously donations, but several were published within the last three years, which is pretty unusual for a hospital waiting room.
Three that struck me:
Title: Madame Martine
Author/Illustrator: Sarah S. Brannen
Publisher/Date: Albert Whitman & Company (September 2014)
The “gist”: Madame Martine is very set in her ways and thinks the Eiffel Tower is just for tourists until she meets a dog and he makes her see the city in new ways.
My favorite part: Madame Martine’s response when she finally looks out over Paris from the Eiffel Tower reminded me of the way I felt seeing the city for the first time.
My response as a reader: I love Paris and I love dogs. (Come to think of it, I also love a lot of little old ladies). The intersection of the three was really sweet. The illustrations are also really lovingly done and bring Paris to life. I am not sure how young readers would react if they don’t live in families that travel (my sons haven’t been to Europe, but they see a lot of my pictures and we talk about other cultures a lot), but the story is still very relatable.
My “take-away” as a writer: This is a story made up of little moments: the moment she stops at the bakery, the moment she finds the dog, the moment she climbs the tower (which, by the way, I did find a tad unrealistic– she must have been in superb shape, because that sucker is tall! But whatever, the story is good!), the charming ending shot of them on the carousel, etc. It was a predictable enough plot, but who doesn’t love a dog story?
Title: This Orq. (he cave boy.)
Author: David Elliott
Illustrator: Lori Nichols
Publisher/Date: Boyds Mills Press (September 2014)
The “gist”: Orq loves Woma (the wooly mammoth), but his Mom doesn’t want him to keep him until Woma proves he’s really useful.
My favorite part: I totally loved how this was told in caveman speak!
My response as a reader: I would love reading this aloud and although I probably could have seen the ending coming, I was so caught up in the story I just didn’t, so I was able to give a good cheer for them both. Like “Madame Martine”, this one also has a sequel that came out last September. Looking forward to reading it!
My “take-away” as a writer: David Elliott took a chance and put forth a really sparse text– some agents might have balked at the lack of “proper” grammar, but obviously with the first person story it totally works. I’m a pretty wordy writer, so I can definitely take some lessons from Orq.
Title: Megan Owlet
Author/Illustrator: Beth Anne Maresca
Publisher/Date: Sky Pony Press (April 2015)
The “gist”: Megan tries the hobbies her brothers do (karate, basketball, and violin), but is unsuccessful. She’s also unsuccessful at the hobby she decides SHE loves (dance) until her brothers come in and coach her.
My favorite part: There was a great “Karate Kid” moment when her brothers brought all their skills together to help her.
My response as a reader: I have boys, so it was interesting to see the gender clash of a girl who didn’t want to do what her brothers do. I’m also not a sports person, so it was encouraging to see Megan find her own way in something that incorporated sports skills but wasn’t a sport. This would be a great story for a younger sibling looking to figure out where they fit in and what their talents are.
My “take-away” as a writer: This story sort of breaks a major rule: the main character doesn’t solve her own problem. But she DOES show persistence in difficulty and there are really no adults present here so it was great to see the siblings jump in and help her.