Maine stories to keep children reading all summer

Posted June 13, 2011, at 2:04 p.m.
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Bug bites acquired and grass stains collected, children flop into bed and somehow still seem full of energy at the end of a fun-filled summer day. Instead of dozing off to the chirping of crickets, they want a voice and colorful illustrations — a story to dream about.

Favorite storybooks pepper childhood memories, and none seems more special than those books that take place close to home, created by authors and illustrators with ties to Maine.

Certain magical books grace nearly every nursery shelf throughout the state. There’s Barbara Cooney’s 1982 “Miss Rumphius” about the Northeast’s coastal landscape being decorated by purple lupines; Robert McCloskey’s 1948 “Blueberries for Sal” about a little girl and a bear cub; and Peter Roop’s 1986 “Keep the Lights Burning, Abbie” about a lighthouse keeper’s daughter on Matinicus Rock.

“Every year, I present the newest Maine children’s books [at the Maine State Library],” said children’s book author Lynn Plourde of Winthrop. “And every year, there’s 60 to 80 new Maine children’s books published — whether it’s a Maine author or illustrator or in relationship to the topic of Maine. There are some really exciting ones this year.”

A few new Maine children’s books to look for this summer:

“The Summer Visitors,” by Karel Hayes, June 2011, Down East Books

The companion to “The Winter Visitors,” this book contains few words, instead expressing its story in bright, whimsical illustrations. A family of black bears watch with curiosity a human family who comes to stay at a lakeside home for the summer. The bears’ playful antics carried out in Hayes’ illustrations make for a memorable summer tale. Find the book at www.downeast.com/node/23927.

“My Cat, Coon Cat,” written by Sandy Ferguson Fuller and illustrated by Jeannie Brett, May 2011, Islandport Press

In 1985, the Legislature made the Maine coon cat the State Cat of Maine because the cat — known for its shaggy coat, fluffy tail and tufted ears — is thought to be native to Maine. Brett’s colorful illustrations and Fuller’s rhyming prose tell the story of how a stray Maine coon cat enters the life of a young girl playing in her sunny backyard. Find the book at www.islandportpress.com/mycatcooncat.html.

“One Horse Farm,” by Dahlov Ipcar, July 2011, Islandport Press

First published in 1950, this beautiful children’s book will be reprinted in July. The story is of Johnny and Big Better, a boy and his horse that grew up together on a farm during a time when machines were replacing animals. It also is loosely autobiographical, about Ipcar’s experiences living on a small farm in Georgetown. “It was a life I lived,” said Ipcar in a press release about the book. Find the book at www.islandportpress.com/onehorsefarm.html.

“Paul Bunyan vs. Hals Halson: The Giant Lumberjack Challenge,” by Teresa Bateman and illustrated by C.B. Canga, March 2011, Whitman, Albert & Company

The celebrated lumberjack is challenged by another giant to determine who is the best lumberjack in this tall tale for ages 4-8. The touching story explores Bunyan’s lifelong quest for friendship. For information about the book, visit www.albertwhitman.com/content.cfm/bookdetails/Paul-Bunyan-vs-Hals-Halson.

“Riparia’s River,” written by Michael Caduto and illustrated by Olga Pastuchiv, June 2011, Tilbury House

The spirit of rivers comes alive to teach children about river systems and habitats in the mystical illustrations of Pastuchiv of Richmond. The fairy tale inspires thought about ecosystem restoration in a state abundant in lakes, ponds and rivers. Find the book at www.tilburyhouse.com/childrens/riparias-river.htm.

“Pond Babies,” by Cathryn Falwell, Down East, June 2011, Down East Books

An exploration of the natural world for children ages 2-5, “Pond Babies” is a book of vibrant cut-paper collage, Falwell’s signature style. Find the book at www.downeast.com/maine/books/our-books/pond-babies.

“Too Many Frogs,” by Ann and John Hassett, July 2011, Houghton Mifflin

The beloved Nana Quimby of Hassett’s “Mouse in the House; Cat Up a Tree” is back, and she has a flooded cellar, something that many Mainer’s can relate to. As frogs invade her home, the comedic story is filled with silly noises, repeating phrases and rhymes for ages 4-8. Both author and illustrator are from Waldoboro. Find the book at www.houghtonmifflinbooks.com/catalog/titledetail.cfm?titleNumber=1422025.

“Seven Days of Daisy,” by Jamie Hogan, June 2011, Down East Books

Hogan of Peaks Island captures the summer of an island child through a young girl. She counts down sun-filled moments full of imagination while she waits for her Nana to visit. Find the book at www.downeast.com/node/23896.

“If I Never Forever Endeavor,” by Holly Meade, April 2011, Random House Inc.

In bold collage artwork, a fledgling clings to the edge of his nest, deciding between the comfort of home and the joy of change and independence, the monotony of staying and the uncertainty of a first flight. Meade of Sedgwick is a Caldecott Honor-winning artist, and her new book is reminiscent of the classic graduation book “All the Places You’ll Go” by Dr. Seuss, according to Plourde. Find the book at www.randomhouse.com/book/211643/if-i-never-forever-endeavor-by-holly-meade.

“Dino Pets Go to School,” written by Lynn Plourde and illustrated by Gideon Kendall, July 2011, Dutton

The little boy from Plourde’s “Dino Pets” is back, and this time, he’s showing his menagerie of dinosaurs to his class. The boy attempts to bring just the right dinosaur to school for pet day. The tallest dino wrecks the bus, and Plourde writes about the spikiest dinosaur: “At recess time, we played a game. Our soccer balls were not the same.” The detailed picture book is for ages 3-8. Find the book at www.amazon.com/Dino-Pets-Lynn-Plourde/dp/0525477780.

“Down East in the Ocean,” by Peter and Connie Roop, May, Down East Books

The award-winning authors of “Keep the Lights Burning, Abbie,” explore Maine sea life with numbers and rhymes. Together, Connie and Peter have written 100 children’s books, ranging from historical fiction to nonfiction, many of which have gained national recognition, and seven of their books are “Reading Rainbow” books. Find the book at secure.downeast.com/books/maine/down-east-in-the-ocean-may-2011.html.

“About the Lost Trail: Nine Days Alone in the Maine Wilderness,” by Donn Fendler with Lynn Plourde and illustrated by Ben Bishop, November, Down East Books

This graphic novel is a combination of Donn Fendler’s autobiographical account of being lost on Mount Katahdin, “Lost on a Mountain in Maine,” and accounts of the search efforts recorded in Maine newspapers and stories gathered from people involved in the story. More than 70 years after, Fendler worked with Plourde to recapture the story of his nine-day struggle for survival on the mountain after being separated from his family and friends by a storm at age 12. Fendler now spends his summers in Newport, Plourde is from Winthrop and Bishop is from Portland. Find the book at www.downeast.com/maine/strong/books/our-books/lost-trail.

For a list of classic Maine children’s books, visit www.maine.gov/sos/kids/about/books.htm. For information about Plourde, visit www.lynnplourde.com.

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