I might keep doing this. I might make it a regular thing.
If I'm lucky and pay close attention, I might just learn something from this. Yup. I'm banking on it.
“But Suki was just a small dog, and the stairs were big and sandy, and she hadn’t had lunch yet, and her foot hurt a little, and she might get a shell stuck up her nose…”
Why I like it: Try to read this line out loud without laughing. Here’s where a cute list of small fears and picayune complaints turns ridiculous and so, so funny. The reader knows puppy Suki doesn’t have far to go to conquer her fears, and we’re rooting for her to take that first small step.
“So Sukie sat at the top of the stairs with Chunka Munka by her side.”
Why I like it: This is the first appearance of the book’s funny and charming refrain, “with Chunka Munka by her side.” Chunka Munka is the puppy’s security toy—a floppy plush monkey. This moment is so childlike, so relatable—both the situation and the depth of feeling behind it. Those deeply felt small fears juxtapose hysterically against the name Chunka Munka, which is pure comic relief.
The Antlered Ship, by Dashka Slater / The Fan Brothers
“He had so many questions. Why do some songs make you happy and others make you sad? Why don’t trees ever talk? How deep does the sun go when it sinks into the sea?”
Why I like it: I like how the third question in the sequence shows us the character’s limited world perspective. We know he’s going to strike out soon (onto that sea) and find a bigger world.
“We are going to a wonderful island, with tall, sweet grass and short, sweet trees.”
Why I like it: I like how this vision captures what a deer’s idea of paradise might be. It's fun and fanciful, and thoughtful to imagine that perspective.
After the Fall, by Dan Santat:
“Then one day, I fell. (I’m sort of famous for that part.)”
Why I like it: I like the candid voice established by the parenthetical. It feels personal and confiding.
Blue Ethel, by Jennifer Black Reinhardt:
“Ethel was old. She was fat. She was black. She was white. And she was very set in her ways.”
Why I like it: I like the sense of her orneriness.
“Every day Ethel went outside to survey the land, monitor the weather, chase villains, and explore her favorite sidewalk square…”
Why I like it: I bring my own childhood associations to the idea of the sidewalk square. I can feel it, earthy and solid and sun-warmed.
“It wasn’t easy being Ethel, but she was good at it.”
Why I like it: This is cute and contradicts the illustrations, which are of a cat being rather lazy.
Adele and Simon, by Barbara McClintock:
“Simon, how can you lose things like this?” asked Adele.
Simon shrugged his shoulders. He shook his head. He didn’t know.
Why I like it: I love the short sentences. I love the realness of this. It’s exactly how a dreamy little child would respond.
Bernice Gets Carried Away, by Hannah E. Harrison
“Everyone else had gotten a frosting rose on their piece of cake…but not Bernice. All she’d gotten was a plain white square from the middle.”
Why I like it: To me this is brilliant. We all know what it feels like to get the piece with no frosting—the hopeful anticipation, and then the disappointment. We know it, yet probably no one has written about it before.
Balderdash! John Newbery and the Boisterous Birth of Children’s Books, by Michelle Markel / Nancy Carpenter
“Welcome! This book’s for you. Every page, every picture, every word, and even its letters are designed for your pleasure. Lucky, lucky reader. Be glad it’s not 1726.”
Why I like it: Fantastic voice. It reaches right out and grabs me. I’m so hooked. What were things like in 1726? I have to read on. I know the story will be historical with a contemporary voice that will reach through time and allow me to relate to the past.
A Sick Day for Amos McGee, by Philip Stead
“He would wind his watch and set a pot of water to boil--saying to the sugar bowl, ‘A spoonful for my oatmeal, please, and two for my teacup.’”
Why I like it: I adore that he speaks to his sugar bowl, and politely too. When I’m alone, I often talk to myself—and probably also to my household items. This is a cute, tender, intimate moment that shows me the character’s good heart.