Mr. Bach Comes to Call

By Susan Hammond

The basic premise is this: A young girl is practicing Bach on the piano, despite any desire to do so. Mr. Bach then appears and teaches her the value of the piano, while simultaneously telling her of his life and music.

Mr. Bach Comes to Call is a great mix of back-from-the-dead autobiography and concert CD. Many of Bach’s most famous musical works are played within the story, both in the background and featured on their own without any interruption. I don’t really remember what I enjoyed most – the story or the music. But I don’t even have to choose, because Mr. Bach Comes to Call gives us both in one.

Suggested Ages: 4+

Hammond, S. (1990). Mr. Bach Comes to Call. The Children’s Group.

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And Tango Makes Three

By Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson

I was speaking with a co-worker the other day, and the topic of banned and challenged books came up. She was shocked to learn that not only are books routinely challenged, nor that occasionally a book is actually banned, but that most of these books are children’s books. Parents have this belief that reading a book will automatically put ideas in that child’s head and turn them into a gay/satanic/drug-using/etc. monster. Mostly these challenges are to school library, where they are not protected by a iron-clad collection policy, and it is there that most challenges win.

One of the most challenged books of the last decade is a small children’s book called And Tango Makes Three. Written by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson, it’s based on real-life events at New York’s Central Park Zoo, between two male penguins named Roy and Silo. In the book and in real life, they formed a pair, built a nest, even nursed an egg-shaped rock. One year, they were given a real egg from another pair, and the two penguins successfully hatched and raised a female chick named Tango.

The story is simple,  the artwork equally simple and effective. There is nothing offensive about this book; it could equally be a book about any form of adoption. If anything, it’s heartwarming, two penguins unable to reproduce getting a chick to raise. If it wasn’t for all the controversy and the fact the two penguins were male, this book would probably be lost in a sea of other children’s literature.

I like books with a message, and this book would certainly be among the books I read to my child. I don’t think there’s a single thing wrong with portrayals of the gay community in literature for children – if anything it’s necessary. Parents may want to believe that their children will grow up like them, and in most cases they will. But some won’t, and encouraging them, and letting them know there’s nothing wrong with being different, is important to instill at an early age. To me, there’s nothing worse then alienating your child or forcing them to hide because you never told them it was okay to be different.

Targeted for ages 3-5, I recommend reading this book, with or without your child. Read it, then make a decision if you think it should be banned. The worst thing about banned books is the lemming effect it seems to have – one person complains about the subject matter, and everyone joins in without even having laid eyes on the book. Don’t let this be you – be informed, and give challenged books a chance.

See How You Grow

By Dr. Patricia Pearse

(See How You Grow: A lift-the-flap book is more of a medical book then a story, meant for children who ask where babies come from. The first half of the book is dedicated to Sarah’s little brother Ben – his conception, growth, and birth.

This book was written by a doctor, and the medical diagrams are excellent, though perhaps beyond the true comprehension of children. The growth of baby Ben and the lift-the-flap aspect of the book will keep children’s attention, and it has some interesting analogies when describing why and how the body changes when it grows (motorcycle messengers delivering messages). Overall, it’s a good (if somewhat dated) guide to the beginning of life.  Some parts, like the page on nutrition, will fall absolutely flat with kids, since they don’t control what they eat, and they likely won’t like half of what is on the page.

Suggested Ages: 3-5+

Pearse, P. (1988). See How You Grow. Barron’s Educational Series.

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Martin’s Big Words

By Doreen Rappaport

Martin’s Big Words is a short biography of Martin Luther King Jr.’s life, from childhood to death. Meant for young children, the story is told bluntly and as simplistically as possible as it covers his life is separatism, his life in the church, cries for de-segregation, and death.

On the cover, there is no title, no author or illustrator, only MLK’s face.  The focus, simply and elegantly written, is on MLK’s message, presenting it to children in a way that they will understand. It is likely they will not truly grasp this importance – the target audience is too young – but it is likely to be one of those books that stays with them as they grow and learn.

Suggested Ages: 4-9

Rappaport, D. (2007). Martin’s Big Words. Disney Book Group.

What Do People Do All Day?

By Richard Scarry
Less of a storybook and more of a casual, introductory view of what, exactly, do people do all day? WDPDAD (What Do People Do All Day?) is a fabulous book full of details that will keep any child entertained as they learn the words associated with everything, from specific buildings to tools to people.

WDPDAD does not shy away from giving in-depth details either: in the chapter of building a house, Richard Scary shows us exactly what goes into building a house, including the sewer pipes. It teaches children what the keystone of a bridge is, and how people ride on a train. For the inquisitive young mind, What Do People Do All Day is one of the best books you could ever find.

Suggested ages: 3-5

Scarry, R. (1968). What Do People Do All Day? (Abridged). Random House.

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