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December 14, 2007 Edition

The Arrival, written and illustrated by Shaun Tan

Readers never learn the name of the man who leaves his family and country for a better life in this wordless book, but they will be affected by his story. Tan’s illustrations let us feel the man’s own bewilderment as he arrives in his new land where only the people are recognizable. All else – the animals, food, language, transportation, architecture – is puzzling and strange to both the man and readers. The friends the man makes help him settle in and find work, and soon he is eagerly greeting his wife and daughter as they arrive as new immigrants. Beautifully detailed, with the feel of looking through an old photo album, this multi-leveled book will capture the minds of both kids and adults.

How Many? designed and executed by Ron van der Meer

Give this to the kids and adults you know who love Waldo but are ready for something a little different. Each page of this pop-up book features an elaborate paper sculpture and questions such as: how many squares are reflected in the mirror? Which line is the longest? There are no right or wrong answers and no one way to enjoy this book; in fact, looking at the page from different angles may elicit new discoveries. Enjoy this with kids 6 years old and up: younger ones may not be able to resist playing with the delicate paper structures.

Blue 2 designed and executed by David A. Carter

Here’s another fascinating but delicate pop-up find-it book for older kids and adults, this one focused entirely on the blue number 2s that are hidden in each page. There’s an alphabetical clue on each page to help readers along, and some 2s are happy to be found. Others, however remain elusive after many searches, which will spur the dedicated and obsessive to return again and again.

Asian Kites, by Wayne Hosking

This beautifully organized book introduces the history of kites in Asia, discusses both traditional and modern materials used in kitemaking, covers the parts of kites and ways of decorating them, and then launches in to, well, launching your kite and keeping it aloft. After these preliminaries, you’ll find instructions for making your own kites based on designs from China, Malaysia, Thailand, Korea, and Japan. Meant for kids ages 7 and up (with adult assistance), there are step-by-step instructions for each kite along with a photo of a finished and decorated example to whet your appetite. Keep this in mind for a project day at home.

The Great Circle, by Neil Philip

This ambitious book takes on the question of white/native relationships in America from the time the Vikings first arrived up to modern times. Philip’s underlying explanation for the atrocities that occurred on both sides is that the worldviews of Europeans and First Nations people were so incredibly different that there was almost no common ground. Where Europeans saw themselves moving straight forward through life, Native Americans saw themselves as part of cycles of change. Each lavishly illustrated chapter examines the interactions between a variety of tribes and the settlers to their areas, and the conflicts between and within each group. Philip’s sophisticated ideas are thoroughly researched, clearly written, and appropriate for middle school readers, but high school and adult readers will find this fascinating reading as well.

Here’s Looking at Me, by Bob Raczka

This collection of self-portraits is designed to help young art lovers understand why an artist might chose to paint him or herself in a particular way. For instance, Artemisia Gentileschi’s portrait of herself as Pittura, the spirit of painting, shows her defiance of what a woman’s role should be, and Diego Velasquez’s portrait of himself as the court painter for the Spanish royal family expresses his pride of position while acknowledging that he will never be the equal of royals. Featuring a wide range of media, styles, eras, and moods, as well as short and interesting biographical paragraphs about each featured artist, this is a great way to introduce young (and even not so young) artists to the idea of self-portraits.

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