Wednesday, October 15, 2008


BATS AT THE LIBRARY by Brian Lies (Houghton Mifflin)
An open window means open house at the library for a bunch of literary bats, who at first are a bit feral, playing with the copy machine and creating shadow plays on the overhead projector ("Please keep it down--you must behave! The library is not your cave!"), but soon settle down to storytimes, during which they are all ears (and wings). Many delights await on these dark pages, as the bats explore a pop-up book, but builds into a crescendo of artistic inspiration as we are treated to not one but two amazing double-page spreads of bats engaged in reading, and their interior imaginings: bats crossing the street uder whistling policeman's guard a la Robert McCloskey's MAKE WAY FOR DUCKLINGS; a blind bat Rochester blundering in the darkness in search of Jane Eyre; a bat at attention in a tribute to Ed Emberley's DRUMMER HOFF; Peter Rabbit scuttles under McGregor's fence with a bat-like wing instead of paw; an upside-down Cheshire Bat, a bat sporting Pippi longstocking's braids and a bat at Pooh Corner; and besides all of these nods to beloved classics there are many clever details, such as bats reading books upside-down and a bat mother reading her preschooler from a copy of "Goodnight Sun." A companion to BATS AT THE BEACH, it stands solidly on its own; enthusiastic and largely unobtrusive couplets make for the text, but the visual wit of this book is what is truly boundless, an unbridled tribute to all that we love about the children's section. My one complaint about the book would be since the book is set in darkness, there is not a stark contrast between the action and the background, which is fine for laptime or a few children, but more difficult to see when held up in a larger storytime group...that said, it is certainly worth the effort to lean in, to point out, or to use the opaque projector to share with a crowd. Worthy of a Cybils award (not yet nominated!) and recognition beyond, this title is inspired and actually beautiful, a bona fide booklover's delight. So many children rail against bedtime, thinking that when they sleep, they are missing something; now I see what we all are missing. (5 and up)

The trouble with October is that even with thirty one days, there isn't enough time to read all of the great seasonal and thematic books available. I always open my bat storytimes with a little non-fiction, namely the wild and crazy full-page photographs in EXTREMELY WEIRD BATS by Sarah Lovett (sadly out-of-print, but still easy enough to find used on-line) which always inspired screams and squeals, then I like to share my other favorite bat-in-the-library tell-all, LITTLEBAT'S HALLOWEEN STORY by Diane Mayr, illustrated by Gideon Kendall (Whitman). Don't forget Randall Jarrell's THE BAT POET (HarperCollins), a masterful and elegant nature story for older kids and good listeners, and I know you won't forget everyone's favorite, Jannell Cannon's STELLALUNA (Harcourt). Keep swinging these bats all through the fall...not just just for Halloween!

Also of interest:
Another spooky new offering!
NIGHTMARE AT THE BOOK FAIR by Dan Gutman (Simon and Schuster)
A sporty non-reader gets roped into helping out at the PTA book fair, and after being clouted by some falling books, he finds himself in a fantasy world of characters that have come to life...many of whom would be better off in the bindings. While a bit of a sitcom-like premise (and peppered with some R.L. Stine-ish gore...try Eth Clifford's HELP! I'M A PRISONER IN THE LIBRARY if you need something tamer), the popular Dan Gutman knows how to hook those reluctant readers with improbable storylines, and continues to establish himself as the creator of books with a Danny Dunn-like appeal for a modern audience. (9 and up)

Links are provided for informational use. Don't forget to support your local bookseller.
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Diane said...

Thanks for the mention of Littlebat's Halloween Story! In this era of published one season, out of print the next, I'm pleased to report that it has been in print for seven years. I hope you'll take a look at my most recent picture book, Run, Turkey, Run! (Walker, 2007). I think you'll like it!

I always enjoy your posts!


Anonymous said...

Nice Post. Thanks for sharing this information with us.

Anonymous said...

oh wonderful! my son's been obsessed with bats lately. these titles look too good to pass up for the school library, too...

Annie said...

I love "Bats in the Library"! The storyline combined with the entertaining art was fabulous! A must buy for me.


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