January 19, 2012

Books that call to all ages

Posted in Between Us column, Diversity, Relationships, Women at 11:42 pm by dinaheng

My nieces and nephews range in age from three years old to 17, and while they tend to be glued to their iPads, Nintendo DSs and iPhones, I try to distract them now and then with a good book.

Yes, I know their reading medium of choice will likely be in the form of an electronic tablet, but I still like the feel of holding an old-fashioned bound book and turning its  pages. So before that format disappears, I want to put books into their hands as often as possible.

Books, of course, are aimed at readers of differing ages. When it comes to picture books, my all-time favorite is “Old Turtle” by Douglas Wood (Scholastic Press, $17.95). This parable about a wise old turtle that reminds all creatures of our connection to God, to the earth, and to each other is illustrated with beautiful watercolors by Cheng-Khee Chee.

A new picture book titled “Extra Yarn” by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen (HarperCollins, $16.99) imparts another important lesson to readers… that hope and kindness can transform a community. The book, aimed at ages 4 to 8, tells the tale of a cold little town, where everything is either snowy white or sooty black. When Annabelle finds a box full of yarn of every color, she changes the town and its residents in ways they never imagined.

While the press materials for this book, now out in stores, talk about hope and kindness as a theme, I see a message of appreciating people of all colors in the illustrations. For once things are no longer just black and white, the world becomes a joyous place that  even greedy archdukes and robbers cannot spoil.

Since I’m a fan of fantasy and adventure, my taste in middle-grade books doesn’t always synch with my nephews who love the wise-cracking humor of the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series by Jeff Kinney (Amulet Books). But I’m going to recommend that my  nieces and nephews try “The Grave Robber’s Apprentice” by Allan Stratton ($16.99, HarperCollins), aimed at those ages 10 and older.

This fairy tale about Hans, a grave robber in training, and Angela, a young countess fleeing an evil archduke, has all the elements of a good adventure — non-stop action, characters you care about, and a mystery that shows that everything in life is truly connected. On sale March 6, this book for fifth graders is one that will appeal to readers of all ages.

When it comes to young adult fiction, science fiction and romance seem to dominate the titles, dealing with adult topics in thinly disguised language. One of the best young adult novels I’ve started to read is “Tangled” by Erica O’Rourke ($9.95, paperback, Kensington). The second paranormal book in a series of three, “Tangled” takes the reader into a conflicted world where Maureen (Mo) Fitzgerald faces magical enemies and the Chicago Mob as she must choose between the life she’s dreamed of and the destiny that confronts her.

Now out in stores, “Tangled” is an allegory for readers of all ages, for we all must choose between safety and risk, acting out of love and acting out of fear. Like life, the plot twists and unfolds in an adventure worth taking.

Now, if I can only get my teenage niece to give it a read…

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