Quirky, Weird and Wonderful:

These are books that I have discovered over the years and want to celebrate.
Some are out of print, some are new, but most of them have fallen through the cracks for some reason
or another and are not on the general must read lists of books for children.
This does not mean I do not love award winners and best sellers,
but I have a soft spot for the unappreciated and misunderstood.
Please understand that my taste is eclectic, slightly warped and a bit dark.
I like books that make me laugh, books that make me cry, and books that make me think.

I welcome suggestions. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Harvey Potter's Balloon Farm by Jerdine Nolen, illustrated by Mark Beuhner

You know how you remember little bits of a story, but not enough to find it again? That is what happened to me with Harvey Potter's Balloon Farm. All I remembered was balloons growing out of the ground and how much just the idea made me smile. I tried looking up books about balloons, but could not find the book that niggled at my memory. (You would think I would have remembered it was a FARM!)

Then, one day while walking my dog with illustrator and fellow writer, Carolyn Conahan, I mentioned my search for the balloon book. "Oh, Harvey Potter's Balloon Farm!" said Carolyn. "We have that." And sure enough, that was it, a Balloon Farm! I can't believe I did not remember the cow on the cover.

Rereading it, I felt that same feeling: what a wonderful idea! The plot is a bit thin, but the pictures more than make up for it with fields full of bright, candy colored, balloons. This book is just a bit different. Farmers in overalls dancing under the moon. Monster balloons growing out of the ground. I particulary like that the first person main character is a black girl, even though there is no mention of race or gender in the text. Read this and smile and wish it were true. A Balloon Farm!

  • Harvey Potter's Balloon Farm by Jerdine Nolen, illustrated by Mark Beuhner
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; 1st edition (April 29, 1994)
  • ISBN-10: 0688078877
  • ISBN-13: 978-0688078874

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Double Trouble in Walla Walla by Andrew Clements, illustrated by Salvatore Murdocca

There are some books that work best as read-a-louds. Double Trouble in Walla Walla is one of them. It almost doesn't work when read silently. Instead the rhythm and exuberant excess of the "wibble-wobble word warp" that happens in Walla Walla needs to be heard. Just remember to breathe (and practice!).

Andrew Clements went on to write a whole slew of school stories with Frindle at the top of the list, but, for younger students, I love this one. There is barely a plot, but so what! As readers, we get to follow Lulu and her teacher into the word warp. Full of tongue twisters and double slang, this book is just fun. The illustrations are bright and cheerful, but it's really the word warp that pulls you in.

"Fie-fie, my my, rag-bag, tie-dye! Beep-beep, ho-ho, paw-paw, dodo!" This is how we rap in the Northwest!
  • Double Trouble in Walla Walla by Andrew Clements,
  • Illustrated by Salvatore Mudocca
  • Millbrook Press (September 1, 1997)
  • ISBN-10: 0761302751
  • ISBN-13: 978-0761302759