Archive for Sunday, May 2, 1999


May 2, 1999


Rhyming baboon tale a likely hit with youngsters

Janie Bynum's drawing style and use of light colors give a comfortable feel to the book.

When a young monkey gets bored, a young monkey's got to hit the road. Or rather the hot-air "balloon-a."

"Altoona Baboona" (Harcourt Brace, $13) is a fresh new tale from author and artist Janie Bynum that follows the travels of a pea-flicking baboon by the name of Altoona.

This clever story for youngsters ages 2 to 6 effortlessly rhymes every line with Altoona by adding an "a" on the end of key words. Altoona gets bored on her sand "dune-a" and goes for a ride in her hot-air "balloon-a" (you get the idea). The winds take her farther than she imagined, but they kindly blow her (and some friendly stowaways) back home again.

Bynum's drawing style and use of light colors give a comfortable feel to the book that children will enjoy as much as the story. All of this leads me to this conclusion. "Altoona Baboona": You've got to get to it soon-a.

Some people have bad memories of hand-me-down clothes. Henry, the subject of "The Emperor's Old Clothes," by Kathryn Lasky and illustrated by David Catrow, is likely to be one of them.

That's probably the only bad thing about this creative take-off on the classic Hans Christian Andersen tale of a similar name.

As our simple farmer Henry is heading home from the market he is nearly run over by a glittering carriage. As he's about to shout out an insult to the passing carriage, he notices something silky floating to the ground. He realizes they are beautiful, fine silk stockings (of the kingly variety). He tries them on for size and enjoys them immensely. As he continues his journey, Henry finds more fancy finery and haute haberdashery -- all exquisitely illustrated by Catrow -- that had been jettisoned from the rapidly rolling royal carriage. Henry considers himself quite fortunate as he dons these discarded duds, too.

The regal wraps, however, are not all they seem at first. Henry finds they aren't very good for work around the farm. It seems they scare the animals a bit, too. Lasky does an admirable job sharing the lesson that it's better to just be yourself than to try to be someone you're not.

"The Emperor's Old Clothes" (Harcourt Brace, $16) is a delightful sequel to the ages-old tale most children know. Try it on for size.

Tornadoes are part of our Kansas heritage. We can't escape it.

Because everyone we meet outside this state expects us to know EVERYTHING about that "Wizard of Oz" weather wonder, maybe we should. After all, in the case of tornadoes, what we don't know can hurt us.

"Tornadoes," Seymour Simon's latest in his series on natural disasters, is an intensive first look at the powerful storm systems.

With dramatic photos on every page, young readers will be introduced to the destructive force that is carried in every one of the overgrown gusting funnels. Simon takes a complex scientific subject and tries to break it down into ways a second-grader might find fascinating. The book even tackles the famous Fujita-Pearson Tornado Intensity Scale that ranks the potency of each twister by the devastation it leaves behind.

"Tornadoes" (William Morrow, $16) might just blow you away.

It's not a storybook yet. But it could be. It's something current and cool that's targeted toward preteen and early teen girls: "My Life According to Me." It's basically a book about you, by you.

The editors of Klutz Press have put together this flash new "diary," if you will, that has a glitzy twist to it. The wire-bound pages of this sturdy journal are black. The accompanying pen is silver. Together they are the essence of cool.

About half of the journal's 66 pages are blank, ready for young girls to record their life and their thoughts. In case of writer's block, the rest of the pages are filled with little quizzes and games that years later will help a girl remember what she was like, what she thought and what mattered most.

Because the silver pen is useful for more than writing, budding journalists are encouraged to draw self-portraits, likenesses of friends and family, their dream prom dress and hairstyles of today and tomorrow.

Klutz also has released a companion journal to "My Life According to Me" (both are $14.95) for older teens. The blank "Journal" features the same silver ink pen and wire-bound hardcover format, but features 100 blank black pages.

A journal is only as good as what is put into it, but with beginnings like these every girl can be a star.

-- Jill Hummels is the Journal-World features editor and the mother of Haley, 7, and Tess, 6. Her phone number is 832-7150. Her e-mail address is

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