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Children's Book Reviews


Summer Daze

SUMMER DAZE


by
Kate Marley


How better to spend the dog days of August than curled up with a book? At the mountains, or at the beach, or just chilling in your own room, thereís nothing like a few good books to keep the end of summer doldrums away. Hereís a few titles to get you started.

PICTURE BOOKS


The Big Big Sea by Martin Waddell. c 1994, Candlewick Press.
One summer night, a mother and child go on a nightwalk by the ocean during a full moon, and share a magical time together. Told in rhyme, itís a gentle, heartwarming story. The luminous illustrations by Jennifer Eachus were inspired by the authorís home near the Mountains of Mourne.

Old Salt, Young Salt by Jonathan London. c 1996, Lothrop, Lee & Shepard.
Hereís another book thatís a quiet celebration of a special time between parent and child. A father takes his son out for a day of fishing, and the boy sees his first whale, and catches his first salmon. Glowing illustrations by Todd L.W. Doney bring a sunlit day on the water to life for us.

Waterman's Child by Barbara Mitchell. c 1997, Lothrop, Lee & Shepard.
Three generations have made their living from the waters of the Chesapeake Bay; readers glimpse vignettes of their way of life as well as the gradual decline of the bay. Like her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, the little girl wants to marry a waterman - after she finishes college and while helping to study and save the bay. Illustrations are by Daniel San Souci.

My Life With The Wave by Catherine Cowan. c 1997, Lothrop, Lee & Shepard.
This is based on a story (with the same title) by Octavio Paz; the author translated and adapted it for children. Basically, itís about a boy who meets a special wave at the beach, and convinces his father to let him take her home. Once there, he describes their days together. Along with the lyrical text are impressive pictures by Mark Buehner. For a bonus, there are hidden objects within the illustrations.

Farmer's Market by Paul Brett Johnson. c 1997, Orchard Books.
The bounty of the earth is as much a part of summer as time on the water. This book, with illustrations by the author, is about a little girl who helps her family every Saturday selling their produce. The hard work, and the fun times, are the rythym of those who live close to the land.

The Summer My Father Was Ten by Pat Brisson. c 1998, Boyds Mills Press.
Every summer when they plant their garden, a little girl hears about the summer her father was ten - when he and his friends thoughtlessly destroyed a neighbor's garden. How he atoned for his mistake, and the surprising friendship that ensued, makes for a sentimental and satisfying story.

TRANSITIONAL BOOKS


There's A Frog In My Sleeping Bag by Susan Clymer. c 1997, Scholastic.
Although this campout is with her class from school, itís still a fun summer story about a girl named Janna, and how she puts up with three days of tricks from a mysterious person. Naturally, she wants the pranks to stop, and she canít help but wonder as well - why would someone pick on her? Any kid who has ever suffered this will sympathize.

Science in Seconds at the Beach by Jean Potter. c 1998, John Wiley & Sons.
Easy but informative, these quick experiments and observations are great for curious kids. Activities for ponds, lakes and rivers are also included, and while the equipment needed is minimal, adult supervision is recommended.

Summer Smarts by Jeanne Crane Castafero and Janet van Roden. c 1998, Houghton Mifflin.
This is actually three separate workbooks, each with the same title. Lots of kids (more than will admit to) donít mind doing workbooks, and these graded "activities and skills to prepare your child for 2nd (or 3rd , or 4th) grade" are a short, fun way to get in the groove (albeit briefly, for it IS summer!) before school starts.

Wish You Were Here by Kathleen Krill. c 1997, Doubleday.
A non-fiction book disguised as a travel memoir, this gives a quick description of each state and the District of Columbia. A young girl named Emily is taken on an incredible tour of the US by her grandmother, and writes down her impressions of interesting things she sees along the way. Most are predictable, but some are not - such as West Virginia having three state songs! But they made a mistake about Baltimore, claiming they could smell spices from the nearby factories on a harbor tour! Hunt Valley is near the harbor? Someone with a fond memory of McCormick, I suppose, who didnít make sure that it was still there. But it's still an interesting and fun book.

FOR OLDER READERS


Help! I'm Trapped In The First Day of Summer Camp by Todd Strasser. c 1997, Apple A boy named Jake keeps on waking up on the bus trip to camp, reliving his first day over and over. While it may sound like the movie Groundhog Day, there is a difference - it seems as if Jake wonít advance into the next day until he gets the first one right. Is it hanging with the "in" guys? Protecting the dorky kid from malicious pranks? Learning to stand up for whatís right? Itís a cool little story, with a very unexpected ending.

Home Run by Michael McRae. c 1998, Polestar Book Publishers.
Subtitled "a modern approach to baseball skill building", this non-fiction book will be a hit with Cal Ripkin wannabees. I could be wrong about the reading level; but when the author talks about "hip explosion during the pivot means quicker bat speed" and "direction is essential to throwing mechanics", he seemed to be talking about fairly advanced strategy. Not to mention that on his recommended reading list are books like The Physics of Baseball. Itís also 202 pages, with plenty of clear drawings, diagrams and drills for both player and coach. My only quibble is that an index should have been included.

Trout Summer by Jane Leslie Conly. c 1995, Henry Holt.
There have been a lot of changes for Shana and her younger brother Cody. Shana is still missing her grandfather, who died from cancer last year, when her father abruptly leaves, and no one knows where he is or if heís ever coming back. Her mother is offered a better job in Laglade, Maryland, but the kids hate the cookie cutter suburb and feel out of place with the suburban kidsí lifestyle. So when they have a chance to live in a cabin in the woods during this difficult summer, they convince their mother to let them try it. But a strange old ranger, a few lies here and there, and the summer becomes much more exciting - and frightening - than either Shana or Cody had planned. This is another excellent story from the Baltimore author who brought us Crazy Lady and Rasco and the Rats from NIMH.

Mine Eyes Have Seen by Ann Rinaldi. c 1998, Scholastic.
Annie actually wants to go and spend the summer with her difficult father. The boy she likes is going to be there also, so thatís even better. But mostly she wants to mend fences with her father, to show herself worthy of his respect and regard. Given that Annieís father is John Brown, and the summer of 1859 was when he moved to the Kennedy farm in Maryland to plan and execute his plan to take over the federal arsenal at Harperís Ferry - well, readers will know ahead of time how a major part of the story turns out. But seeing this famous man from history, from a usually ignored angle (a fifteen year old girl) gives readers a whole new perspective. Annieís job is to watch. She sits on the porch every day, with sewing, or a book, and watches from her vantage point to warn off strangers who might question why there are so many men on the farm, and why they arenít farming. The summer begins quietly, with an inquisitive neighbor the worst problem. But as plans evolve and tensions rise, Annieís hopes seem to be as doomed as her fatherís plans to topple the government. Itís a wonderfully gripping story of how regular people cope with irregular times.


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