‘Crow Call’ a touching tale for kids

  • By Karen Macpherson Scripps Howard News Service
  • Sunday, November 29, 2009 4:30pm
  • Life

Here are some great new children’s books by previous winners of the Newbery and Caldecott Medals:

Two-time Newbery Medalist Lois Lowry has just published her first picture book, “Crow Call” (ages 4 to 8, $16.99).

Based on a memory from Lowry’s childhood, “Crow Call” tells the story of a special day that a young girl named Liz spends with her father, just back from World War II.

It’s not easy to pick up the emotional threads; Liz even practices saying his name: “Daddy. Daddy. Saying it feels new.” Liz loves the oversized men’s wool plaid hunting shirt her father has purchased for her, as well as the cherry pie they share before heading out to hunt crows.

But Liz’ obvious discomfort at killing and her delight in the way the birds respond to her use of the “crow call” persuade her father to refrain from shooting.

Nonny Hogrogian is a two-time Caldecott Medal winner, for “Always Room For One More” (1966) and “One Fine Day” (1972). “Cool Cat” (ages 3 to 6, $17.99), is her first new picture book in many years, and it’s definitely worth the wait.

In this wordless tale — which begins on the cover — Hogrogian focuses on a cat who has tired of the barren, litter-strewn place where he lives.

No problem: This is a cat with creative energy and, just as important, a suitcase full of paints and brushes.

With the help of some animal friends, Cool Cat transforms his world into a place of blue-sky beauty, a page-by-page transformation that will enthrall young readers. Hogrogian’s art can seem deceptively simple, but she is a picture-book master who knows how to keep readers turning the pages.

Sid Fleischman was visiting Mexico City one day when he spotted a hand-carved figure “of some wildly imaginative and dappled creature.” Told it was a “dream stealer,” Fleischman immediately began creating a story around the sculpture.

The result is “The Dream Stealer” (ages 7 to 10, $16.99), in which Fleischman chronicles the efforts of a girl named Susana to seize her happy dream back from the Dream Stealer.

Fleischman’s short, action-packed fantasy is complemented by Peter Sis’ whimsical line drawings, which open each chapter.

She’s back! Grandma Dowdel, that shotgun-toting, redoubtable elder with a Robin Hood-like love of justice, returns in her third adventure, “A Season of Gifts” (ages 9 to 12, $16.99). Author Richard Peck won a 1999 Newbery Honor for “A Long Way From Chicago” and the 2001 Newbery Medal for “A Year Down Yonder,” the two previous books featuring Grandma Dowdel.

“A Season of Gifts” is set more than a decade later, in 1958. The narrator is 12-year-old Bob, the son of a preacher whose family has moved in next door to Grandma Dowdel in rural Illinois.

At first, Bob and his family think she’s a wild woman who doesn’t “neighbor.” As time goes on, however, they realize how much their lives have been touched — for the better — by Grandma Dowdel.

Katherine Paterson, who won two Newbery Medals (for “Jacob Have I Loved” in 1981 and “Sarah, Plain and Tall” in 1986), is a born storyteller as she demonstrates once again in her newest novel, “The Day of the Pelican” (ages 8 to 12, $16).

In this story based on modern-day history, Paterson focuses on the plight of Muslim Albanians living in Serbian-controlled Kosovo. But this isn’t a tale of someone far away; instead, Paterson brings it home to readers through Meli, her engaging 11-year-old narrator who, with her family, is forced to leave home, live in refugee camps and finally emigrate to America.

Paterson’s story, drawn from the experiences of a family in her Vermont church, rings true and will help bring headlines — and a different part of the world — alive for young U.S. readers.

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