I’ve made some progress on my personal Notable Books challenge. I hadn’t expected The Hub Reading Challenge to start so early when I began this one. I never did set specific targets from the Notable Books discussion list and I won’t now. But I will continue to read from the list alongside the YA books I read for the Hub’s challenge.
I’m going to start with a book with which I was actually quite disappointed, The Book of Blood: From Legends and leeches to Vampires and Veins by HP Newquist. The cover art and book design makes it seem like the book is going to be a creepy look at blood, and parts of the book do carry through the theme. But the central parts that discuss the actual facts of blood and the circulatory system read a bit like a Health class textbook. But I could overlook that if it weren’t for a major factual error. The page that explains blood flow to the kidneys has an illustration whose caption directly contradicts a statement in the text just above it. Is the amount of blood flowing to the kidneys nearly as much as to the brain or nearly twice as much? Once I noticed that error, which should definitely have been caught by the editor and never made it to print, I started to question the level of accuracy of the entire book. What other careless errors made it through? Some of the explanations aren’t especially clear and could lead to misunderstandings and confusion. In particular, I had trouble with the sidebar about blood types. This book did not make the final list of Notable Books for Children and I suspect that these issues came up in the discussion. I don’t normally like to write about books I don’t like, but a nonfiction book for children with factual errors deserves special mention. I would definitely hesitate to recommend this for any young person to read.
On a happier note, I read several picture books that were quite good.
Underground by Denise Fleming
This is a beautifully illustrated book about creatures that for various reasons dig in the ground. They may actually live underground or build nests for their babies there or store food in the earth. The actual text is very simple. At the end is a section that focuses on each animal individually with a close up of the illustration where it appeared in case you missed it on the first time through. What each does under the ground is explained in clear terms. As always, Fleming has created a winner.
Mac, the writer is absolutely sure this is his book and becomes unhappy with Adam, the illustrator, when he won’t draw things exactly the way Mac wants them. Mac fires Adam, and things go downhill from there until Chloe has step in to make sure the book gets finished. This is a hilarious look behind the scenes of the creation of a picture book. The concept is a bit sophisticated for the Preschool set, but it should be a hit with elementary-school-aged children.
Jasper Rabbit can not resist the carrots that grow in Crackenhopper Field. But then he begins to see and hear carrots following him. Is it his imagination or are the creepy carrots out to get him? The nearly monochromatic illustrations with pops of orange create a real sense of atmosphere and setting. It shouldn’t be a surprise that this is a Caldecott Honor Book.
You might see this book and think, “Ho, hum, another book about colors, boring. . . .” But you’d be wrong! Seeger’s illustrations bring the various shades of green to life. Cut outs in the pages allow the different shades to interact with each other, clearly illustrating the effects of contrast and surrounding colors on our perception in a way words can not begin to describe. This is also a Caldecott Honor Book.
I’m a fan of Emily Gravett, especially of Monkey and Me. So I definitely had to check out this story of what happens when the three little pigs capture the wolf and put him in the circus. The illustrations really capture the wolf’s changing emotions from clearly cowed and nervous to varying degrees of impatience and irritation with the tricks he is expected to perform. While I don’t think this story is as engaging for a very young audience as Monkey and Me, it is worth checking out.