Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Two Winning Toads

In deep hopper space,
long ships fly
from star to shining star.
One ship is slim,
one ship is green,
a lean green space machine.
The captain of this ship is brave and bright,
bright and brave.
His name is
Commander Toad.

That is the beginning to Commander Toad and the Voyage Home by Jane Yolen. Doesn't it have a great Star Trekkie feel to it? Commander Toad is an amphibian version of that classic TV show, which most kids today wouldn't get, but the adult reading it aloud to their child will. There are clever puns and nuances in these stories that make this series a pleasure for everyone to read. Another thing that makes Commander Toad stand out is the language used:

The ship is called Star Warts. 
Its mission:
to find new worlds,
to explore old galaxies,
to bring a little bit of Earth
out to the alien stars.
Commander Toad is not alone
on his lean green space machine.
Mr. Hop
is the copilot.
Lieutenant Lily
is the master of machinery.
Young Jake Skyjumper
keeps an eye on the dials.
And old Doc Peeper,
in his green grass wig,
keeps everybody healthy and hoppy.

This book falls in the early reader category—books for kids five to seven years old. Early readers  generally have very controlled (sometimes even dumbed down) language. But not in Commander Toad. Galaxies. Machinery. Dials. Mission. Lieutenant. These are not words in most early readers. But Yolen manages to pull off a great story with fantastic language that young children can enjoy!

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And Calvin has been LOVING Return to the Willows by Jacqueline Kelly (author of Calpurnia Tate). The illustrations, alone, are worth checking out, and if you loved Wind in the Willows, or even if your kids just love the movie, get them this book! No one is more adventurous than Mr. Toad, and this is a rip-roaring adventure to say the least. Good for kids ages eight and up.
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Hop thyself down to the library or click onto Amazon and get these books for your boys! (And girls, of course).

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