Friday, September 18, 2009

Book Review: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

When a book skillfully taps into the imagination of a child, it can break all worldly rules and take readers on a journey out of a dream. Such picture books stand the test of time and are now reaping the benefits of advanced technology that translate them into amazing movie experiences.

Two examples include Horton Hears a Who! and Where the Wild Things Are.

Most recently, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is receiving rave reviews after making its debut on the big screen. The book, published in 1978, originally captured the attention of children.

The story begins with a grandfather’s bedtime story about a curious town called Chewandswallow.

By all accounts, the place looks like quaint small-town America, complete with Main Street, tidy homes, and bucolic surroundings. But three times a day, storms move in like clockwork delivering a strange mix. Instead of rain, sleet, or snow, this sky drops juice, eggs, pancakes, hamburgers, hot dogs, and other dietary objects.

At first, Chewandswallow represents recycling at its best.

Fresh food without plastic wrap and wasted packaging drops onto the plates of townspeople who consume what they need. Excess food is fed to the animals on land and at sea, and the remaining leftovers are placed back into the earth to make rich soil for flowers.

Then one day the once predictable weather system goes off course. Pea soup fog paralyzes the town, bizarre food combinations upset the palates, and a jumbo sized pancake envelopes the school. The onslaught of food worsens, forcing the residents to build boats, (using monster-size toast for the base and Swiss cheese for the sail), and flee to a strange new land.

The new town had a grocery store that sold raw food in packages that required refrigeration (how odd!). When clouds rolled in, wet drops simply saturated the ground. And the people lived happily ever after, never again fearing an attack of edibles on steroids.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs could have easily been written by a child as part of a creative story assignment. This comment is meant as a compliment of the highest order. Of course, the grammar and story sequence is clearly that of an accomplished author.

But it’s the premise itself that feels like the product of a child’s boundless imagination. The book is funny, preposterous, thought-provoking, and action-packed all at the same time, keeping little ones tuned in from start to finish.

The illustrations humorously depict the lives and fate of the sated folks from Chewandswallow. Details galore pack the pages and can practically tell the whole story independent of the text.

If you don’t have a copy, grab a copy at the bookstore or library and snuggle up with a little one to enjoy. Then off to the theatre with a bag of popcorn to see this fantastic story come to animated life!

Sweet Reading!
Karen Gallagher

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Rosh Hashanah Books for Kids

The Jewish New Year is right around the corner, so we have picked the best Rosh Hashanah books for you to share with a little one. These wonderful stories cover the traditions and values celebrated on this special holiday.

Engineer Ari and the Rosh Hashanah Ride: This colorful story about the first train ride from Jaffa to Jerusalem in 1892 teaches an important lesson about Rosh Hashanah. When Ari is selected as engineer of this historic train, his ego takes over, he brags to his friends, and he fails to say farewell. Along the journey, the train stops to pick up items to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, and Ari learns about the true meaning of the holiday.

Even Higher! A Rosh Hashanah Story: In this retelling of a classic Rosh Hashanah story, a rabbi disappears every year right before the New Year. The congregation assumes he has gone to speak with God about the fate of the townspeople. One particular naysayer doubts that such a miracle could happen, so he decides to investigate. When he uncovers a touching secret involving human compassion, even this biggest of doubters changes his mind.

n's Monster: A Story for the Jewish New Year: This tale, based on a Hasidic legend of the Jewish New Year, is about a baker named Gershon who refuses to take responsibility for his mistakes. Instead, he stuffs his bad deeds into a bag and dumps them into the Black Sea. Gershon ignores his rabbi, who urges him to make amends each year. He ultimately finds resolution when his collective errors come back to haunt him in this foreboding story.

Sammy Spider's First Rosh Hashanah: Sammy Spider learns all about the traditions and symbols of the Jewish New Year. His mother teaches him all about challah, apples and honey, and the special services at his synagogue. Sammy’s mischievous behavior will delight small children as they read about how he learns to celebrate Rosh Hashanah in his own special way.

New Y
ear at the Pier: A Rosh Hashanah Story: Izzy is a little boy who especially enjoys Tashlich, a ceremony performed at Rosh Hashanah whereby people confess their wrongdoings and begin the New Year with a fresh start. Nieces and nephews will relate to Izzy as he grows upset about revealing his long list of “mistakes”, but realizes the value in making amends. Overall, this is a touching, humorous story that entertains and teaches young ones a lot about the holiday along the way.

Sweet Reading!
Karen Gallagher

Halloween Gifts for Kids

Add a little extra fun to the holiday by giving a sweet Halloween gift to a child. This time of year is chock full of festivities in anticipation of the Big Night! So if your child is invited to a Halloween party or if you simply want to give something special, here are some Halloween Gift Ideas that are sure to delight:

Halloween Gift of Books from The Lollipop Book Club: We offer a spooky collection of the best Halloween books around! Each Halloween gift includes a Halloween book of your choice and a delicious Halloween lollipop, complete with a scary gift note from you.

Halloween Window Decals: A great Halloween gift idea is a set of Halloween window decals perfect for adding some Halloween spirit to a child’s bedroom.

Halloween Craft Supplies: Another fun Halloween gift idea is a box of craft supplies to get a child’s creative juices flowing. Visit your local craft store and pick up Halloween stickers, foam kits, glitter, markers, and more!

Halloween Cookie Kit:
There is no better way to celebrate Halloween than by baking some festive cookies with a child. A fabulous Halloween gift idea would include cookie cutters, Halloween sprinkles, and other decorative candy all wrapped up in orange & black cellophane.

Tickets to a Halloween Ghost Walk: An eerily perfect Halloween gift idea is a pair of tickets to a Halloween ghost tour in your local town!

Halloween is one of the most exciting and festive holidays for children. Any one of these Halloween gift ideas will add the right amount of spookiness to the Halloween experience and create fond memories for years to come!

Sweet Reading!
Karen Gallagher