I sometimes joke that I should just retitle my Library Monday posts "Ode to Cynthia Rylant." As anyone who has read this blog for any period of time (or who has read an issue of Alphabet Glue) can attest, I'm a big, big fan of Rylant's books. Fair enough. She writes wonderful stories for small folks, particularly for children in the preschool and elementary years. It wasn't until about this time last year, however, that I realized that in addition to her beloved series (Poppleton, Henry and Mudge, Mr. Putter and Tabby), Rylant also writes chapter books.
Among Rylant's longer books is Gooseberry Park, a tale of a grand and dangerous wintertime rescue mission conducted by a labrador retriever on behalf of a dear friend of his: a squirrel he met in the park one day. With the help of a bat and a hermit crab, our loyal hero sets out to find his friend after an ice storm destroys her winter nest and leaves her separated from her baby squirrels. Gooseberry Park is, among other things, a creatively woven tale of friendship, loyalty and bravery. There is just enough dramatic tension to keep the tale moving along at a good pace, but not so much that young readers will fear that the story might end badly. It also gets points at our house for incorporating a bit of humor in just the right places. Rylant's ability to weave in funny moments is one of the reasons that Mariam enjoys her writing so much, and she does a fine job of it in this book, without losing the thread of the narrative as a whole.
The weather here in Vermont has suddenly turned very, very cold and icy over the last few days. Because of the baby's relative newness, this has meant that we've chosen to stay in for the last few days rather than to brave subzero temperatures with a newborn. Too bad that it took me until this morning to realize that we might have used the time to reread Gooseberry Park- it really is the perfect book for these icy afternoons!