Friday, September 12, 2008

The Best Book To Read

Bertram, Debbie & Susan Bloom. 2008. The Best Book To Read. Illustrated by Michael Garland.

This book is the follow up to two previous books: The Best Place to Read and The Best Time to Read. I haven't read those books. However, I did enjoy this one. While it flirts with the idea of being didactic, I think it works to a certain extent. In other words, it's a message book that everyone can generally agree is a message book, yet it has a few charming qualities about it that make you okay with the fact that it's all about the message. If that makes any sense.

The writing. I was on the fence with this one to be honest. At least in the very beginning. There are places where it seems to have rhythm, to really flow, and then there are a few places where it doesn't quite make it. Still, there are no awkward places.

Hooray! It's a trip to the library today.
We line up as we get off the bus.
We've been specially invited. Our class is excited!
The librarian is welcoming us.

See, maybe it's not the *best* poetry out there (Adam Rex comes to mind), but it's far from awkward.

"Hello, boys and girls," the librarian says.
"I see faces I've seen here before.
Finding books can be fun!
You may choose more than one.
And my job is to help you explore--

This is the kind of text that had to grow on me. I had to read it (in my head) several times, but then it clicked and I found the beat. (Which is just one of *many* reasons, adults should practice before they read aloud--well, if it's part of their job--teacher, librarian, etc.)

Picture books, chapter books, books that pop up,
nonfiction, and fairy tales, too.
You may look by yourselves.
Take some books from the shelves.
Then check out the best book for you."

The librarian character then proceeds to highlight certain books--certain types of books really--from her collection to show kids that there are many different books for many different kinds of readers.

It's a message that is close to my heart. I do believe that every book has the potential to be *the book* (a.k.a. the best book ever) for some reader out there. One person's "best book" is another person's worst. And librarians do have the joy of potentially matching readers with their "best book ever" and changing a life or two along the way. Sometimes all it takes is one magic book to turn a non-reader or a struggling reader or a reluctant reader into someone who loves reading.

That being said, the message is clearly good. The only question is will readers (adults and children alike) feel that they're being preached at? Is the message hitting you over the head with a hammer, in other words? That's something every person will have to decide for themselves. I liked this one. I don't know that I loved it as much as say The Boy Who Was Raised by Librarians. But it is infinitely better than Born to Read.

I love how perfectly the illustrations match the text. On one side of the spread, the librarian is holding up a book and describing it. And the other half of the spread, is an action spread. For example, when the librarian talks about bug books--entomology--then the next page, the second half of the spread, shows kids actually out gathering and collecting bugs. When the librarian is talking about dog books--dog training books to be exact, the next page shows a little boy trying to control his dog from jumping on the bed. So some of the pages illustrate the fact that reading is practical, is useful, is applicable to daily life. That you can read to learn. But at the same time, there are examples the librarian gives of people (children) reading for pleasure, to escape. So both types of reading are applauded. And I really loved that aspect of it. I'm sure it was intentional on the author's part, yet I'm not sure it is as obvious to readers--at least not the first time round.

If you ask a roomful of people--kids, preteens, teens, adults--to name what they think "the best book to read" is you'll hear many different answers, responses, books. Everyone has their own personal idea of what "the best book to read" is. And this book reflects that in a way that is clear and concise and fun.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

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