Kid’s Book Corner: A Fresh Year of Reading (and Poems) Starts Now

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“Whatsoever your hands find to do, do it with all your might.” ––Moina Belle Michael

I hope the holidays brought stacks of books for your children. Here is a bright bouquet of picture books for everyone in your family to enjoy. Happy New Year!

Although Jen Bryant’s A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin is geared toward readers between 5 and 8 years old, Jen Bryant’s complex and vibrant illustrations, memorable quotations from Pippin, and the biographical information and links provided at the end of the text make this a picture book for all ages. My only wish is that Pippin’s own works had been featured more prominently. Still, this story of self-taught African American artist Pippin is a tale of a gift realized, and of tenacity and inspiration—just what we all need as we embark on the new year.

The Poppy Lady: Moina Belle Michael and Her Tribute to Veterans by Elizabeth Walsh is another bright, beautiful nonfiction picture book that will engage readers young and not so young. During World War I, Georgia schoolteacher Michael worked to make the red poppy the symbol of soldiers lost on Flanders Field, and then all veterans.  Layne Johnson’s paintings are gorgeous and informative, taking young readers from the trenches of the First World War to scenes from Moina’s life as she worked to help and to honor American soldiers. Proceeds from the sale of this book will to go support the National Military Family Association’s Operation Purple, which benefits children of the U.S. military. 7-11 years.

I love Stephanie Spinner’s Alex the Parrot: No Ordinary Bird—A True Story. Readers 8 to 12 years old (and any others lucky enough to read it) will cherish this surprising and moving story of the African gray parrot graduate student Irene Pepperberg purchased in 1977 from a pet store. Pepperberg wanted the bird as a subject of study and she called him Alex, short for Avian Learning Experiment, the results of which showed the world how much birds know, learn and think and feel.

Poet Jane Yolen’s Waking Dragons, with rollicking paintings by Derek Anderson will delight readers 4-8. The fun begins when a little knight finds a note from his mother: “Don’t forget to wake the dragons before school. Love, Mom. ” The romp of a story unfolds in simple rhymes (“Dragons blind, dragons bumble/ dragons leap, dragons tumble/out of bed/ to brush their teeth/ the fangs above/the fangs beneath . . .”). I loved finding out what dragons eat for breakfast and where they go to school. You and your children will, too.

Jane Yolen is offering subscribers a new poem for each month of 2013. Subscribers must either buy one of her books or read one at the library.  Go to and then email her via her website’s “Contact” link. Here her poem for January, 2013:

Resolved: Combustion

“Success isn’t a result of spontaneous combustion. You must set yourself on fire.”  — Arnold H. Glasow

First find the right tinder,

a handful of dry grass,

the idea of the poem, piecemeal,

shaggy, rough, flaking in the hand.

A bit of flint next, the hard idea,

needing something striking at the core.

Find a stick, not for poking about with,

that will come later in the revision,

but to cradle the nascent flame.

Then blow. Oh–wait,

your hot air is not regulated enough.

You might put the small spark out.

Thrust the ember into the pith,

into the heart of the poem.

Feel the heat of it, browning the edges,

curling, curing, curating your lines.

Now you are ready, the fire is set.

Breath deep. Blow yourself apart.


Jo Perry has a Ph.D. in English, taught literature and writing, and worked as a college administrator and as a television writer and producer. She is a reviewer for and is an ongoing contributor to kidsLA Magazine for which she writes about the city, children’s books, and conducts interviews. For two years she wrote the Kids’ Book Club column for the L.A. Times’ Kids’ Reading Room page.



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About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.

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