We had a small, but verbal group at our last meeting, including the grandson of one of our members, a third-grader, who read our picture book, Nanette's Baguette aloud to us. In his opinion it was great! He said it was "weird, but in a good way," and that it was a "tonguetwister." He also loved the use of the words, 'Krack!' and 'Kaboom!' It was neat to hear the opinion of a real kid! We pretty much agreed with him. We liked it a lot, the use of '-et' words throughout a delightful story of a little girl sent for the first time to buy a baguette for her family at the neighborhood bakery allowed for many language activities in a classroom. One of our members who grew up in France explained that this was a real honor for a small child, and that it was very normal to eat up the pointy ends of the warm, good-smelling baguette on the way home. Nanette, however, ate the whole thing, and was worried about her mother's reaction once she returned home, but we loved how the mother understood perfectly and they both returned to the bakery for another one, which mom proceded to eat on the way home. (Krack!) We thought the illustrations were humorous, and appropriate for the story, although some of us would have preferred that the characters shown were actual humans instead of frogs. We learned that Mo Willems had actually created a paper village for this story, and that the scenes in the book all occurred in parts of this village -- as shown in each illustration...quite an unusual and creative premise. Altogether, positive opinions on a fun read.
We also all liked our novel, Full of Beans by Jennifer Holm. We liked the fact that it reminded us of a simpler time (1934) when kids were pretty much left alone to explore their town and solve their own problems without helicopter parents. We liked that Beans and his friends were very resourceful in finding ways to earn a bit of money during this Depression-affected time in Key West, FL. A few readers felt it was somewhat reminiscent of many of the Beverly Cleary books. A couple of readers were a bit put off by the fact that Beans did some illegal things: transporting liquor for a rum-runner in his wagon and setting of fake fire alarms to distract attention from what he was doing. They thought that he wasn't adequately punished for these things, even though his guilt had a profound effect on him. We thought it was a well-plotted and well-written story, and we liked Beans' voice as he described his life and the activities of the WPA people who had come to Key West to revamp the town to attract tourists. We also liked the Author's Note, which explained that many of the incidents in this story had actually happened, and the list of resources at the end provided many websites with further details and photos of Key West before and after the WPA project. So -- two good books, two positive reviews. It's great when that happens!