Sunday, September 6, 2009

Children's books part 2

Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran

Roxaboxen celebrates the imagination of children who, no matter the time or place, can create whole worlds out of what they find around them--here, rocks and boxes, cacti and sand. Marian and her friends find a "special place" in the desert where in time-honored fashion, they play the games that will prepare them for their grown-up lives. The rules are simple: you make them up as you go along according to the whim of the day or the personality of the residents. In Roxaboxen, "Marian was mayor, of course; that was just the way she was. Nobody minded." The rules don't even have to be consistent--as long as they make sense. Speeding was not allowed by car but "ah, if you had a horse, you could go as fast as the wind . . . All you needed for a horse was a stick and some kind of bridle."

The real beauty of the story is that it is true. The author's grandmother recalls fondly playing in their imaginary town of Roxaboxen when she was a little girl. The author even tracked down other children who played in Roxaboxen to get their memories into the story.

This book is part of the Five in a Row curriculum. They have put together a remarkable list of books. Some of them are out of print or otherwise hard to find, but they are great collector's items if you come across them.

We're Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen

A father and his four children--a toddler, a preschool boy and two older girls--go on the traditional bear hunt based on the old camp chant: "We're going to catch a big one. / What a beautiful day! / We're not scared. / Oh-oh! Grass! / Long, wavy grass. / We can't go over it. / We can't go under it. / Oh, no! / We've got to go through it!" The family skids down a grassy slope, swishes across a river, sludges through mud and, of course, finally sees the bear, who chases them all back to their home. It's a fantastic journey--was it real or imagined?--with the family's actions (and interaction) adding to the trip a goodnatured, jolly mood.

The rhythm of this book is great. It's easy to memorize and then you can "act it out" with young children and they love playing the game of looking for the bear. Here is a video of Michael Rosen acting out the story and you can get an idea of how the book is almost like a song.

Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell Hoban

Frances loves nothing better than jam and bread, and turns up her nose at other kinds of food. Then her mother starts giving Frances jam and bread for breakfast, lunch and dinner. "What I am/is sick of Jam," Frances sings to herself. That's the end of Frances's jam-only days, as she discovers, in her own winsome way, that variety really is the spice of mealtimes.

I adore Frances' description at the end of what she is having for lunch. "I have a thermos bottle with cream of tomato soup. And a lobster-salad sandwich on thin slices of white bread. I have celery, carrot sticks, and black olives, and a little cardboard shaker of salt for the celery. And two plums and a tiny basket of cherries. And vanilla pudding with chocolate sprinkles and a spoon to eat it with."


  1. Enjoying these posts on children's books.
    Thanks for visiting my spot and your quite right The read aloud handbook is an ideal gift to new parents, I wish everyone with kids could be given a copy of that great book.

  2. Thanks for pointing me towards Roxaboxen - it sounds wonderful, and is now high up my amazon wishlist!! Looking forward to reading more of your book reviews.