Sammy in the Sky by Barbara Walsh, illustrations by Jamie Wyeth
This is a wonderful children’s picture book that I would recommend for ny family with pets, regardless of the age of the kids. Even grownups will like this story, as it goes though the life of a family dog, and with simple, sweet illustrations that are not too cute or too childish, deal with the loss of a dog to old age.
The illustrations are by Jamie Wyeth – and yes, he’s one of THOSE Wyeths, grandson and son of NC and Andrew Wyeth. And as it turns out, he’s a dog lover, too, so when the author contacted him, he happily agreed to do the book.
The story is simple, sweet and deals with the death of a beloved hound, and how “his” girls and family deal with it. It is not at all depressing, or somber, and does not take any religious slant in particular. It’s just a gentle story that ends on a positive note, one that I think any child will like.
As so many families are spread apart geographically these days, children often don’t grow up near grandparents and older generations, so the death of a pet is their first experience with death. This book is the only one like it I have encountered, and is not at all pedantic, just straightforward and loving. Read it to child you love, even if it’s your own inner child!
And by the way, I got to interview the author on the radio, and you’ll be happy to know another hound dog, a rescue named Jack, was sitting in the car with her, as we did the interview while she was pulled over in the car!
Peter and the Shadow Thieves
by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
One of the things about getting books at the BEA is sometimes you enter a series in the middle. This is obviously not the first book in this series, which is based on the children’s classic, Peter Pan. This is like the “real story” the original might be based on, and has more of an explanation of things like why Peter can fly, and how Tinkerbell – who prefers to be called a ‘bird-person,” not a fairy, came to be. I am just guessing the prior book(s) go over the same ground as the original James Barrie story does, but it’s okay to start here,
enough is covered that you understand the lay of the land.
A good, rollicking story, with plenty of action, pirates, mystery, and science fiction via a substance called “starstuff” and the “Others” who covet it, though it does not feel at all sci-fi. The story moves along at a good clip, and the other boys of Neverneverland get more character development, as they cope with Cap’n Hook and his crew while Peter and Tinkerbell are off to the foggy, grimy streets of Victorian London to save his friend Molly and her family from the Others. It is 541 pages, but moves along at a good, satisfying clip, so don’t let the size fool you. Probably written with boys as the target audience, but enough in it for girls – and grown-ups – too.
And it wasn’t until the end that I realized that it is “that” Dave Barry – the guys from Miami who writes the hysterical, wry newspaper columns – who is one of the authors. And that’s why I have a signed copy, I didn’t know what the book was, but I chuckle aloud at Dave Barry’s columns, so stood in line to get a signed copy. But in retrospect, it makes perfect sense. It is a fun and worthwhile read, no matter your age or gender. And there’s nothing in it that’s too scary for younger kids who are avid readers.
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
I have know of Neil Gaiman a long time, as he was the first artists to use the Macintosh to create a graphic novel, back in the ancient days when I was studying illustration at Mass Art. Stood in line for a couple hours at the BEA when it was in Los Angeles to get him to sign Coraline when it came out.
His book that came out this October, of course, considering its genre, is The Graveyard Book. It’s a wonderful, kind of scary but ultimately very sweet story of a little boy whose family was murdered when he was just a toddler. He wanders out into the night as the evil man Jack searches for him, and toddles and crawls through the gates and into the neighboring cemetery. The residents of the cemetery, mostly ghosts of long-dead individuals come to a hasty decision to hide the child, as the ghost of his newly-dead mother passes by and implores them to protect her baby, before she fades away. An old childless couple Mister and Mistress Owens, dead for over 200 years, convince the others that they should protect and raise the child, and so they do, with the help of Silas, the only one who lives there that can leave the cemetery. He’s not a ghost, likely a vampire, but that’s never spelled out.
They name him Nobody Owens, Bod for short, and he grows and thrives in the shadows and among the shades, learning from everyone from the oldest among them, a Roman citizen, to Victorian schoolteachers, and the many children who died at early ages. He learns useful things, like Fading and Disappearing, and Dreamwalking as well as his letters, from the gravestones.
One day he encounters a little girl, whose family is now living in his former house, and their friendship eventually leads to his discovery by the evil Jack, which puts everything and everyone he has grown to love at risk.
It’s a wonderful book, just won a Newbury Award so I am not the only one who thinks so! It is full of creepy, scary things, and wonderful characters from throughout many time periods on the English countryside, and is just a great book. Very young children might be scared, but I doubt it. Really, I recommend it to anyone who loves a good scary story.