Browsing Archives for Children’s Books

Books for the Weak and Shaky

January 30th, 2009

A few weeks ago a reader asked me to compile a list of some of my favorite children’s books.

Of course, I am far too weak and shaky to take on such an arduous task and I would hope by now that my readers would understand that! Especially when you consider that I had to go back to work this week… only one day a week… but still… when you are give over to ‘spells’ and ‘fits’ and ‘spasms’ and you have been diagnosed over the internet as clearly having a delicate constitution, one four hour shift at work in a Garden Center in January during which only three customers darken the door, could literally mean death.

Still, for the sake of that one reader who asked, I am offering a few of my favorite children’s books in a giveaway today, as well as two books that are not children’s books but fit under today’s category quite nicely. That category being

Books That Feature the Weak and Shaky.
I love weak and shaky books.
They make me feel so welcome.

Have you ever read anything by Haven Kimmel?
She is especially hilarious if you grew up in a small town surrounded by weak and shaky people.

No one brings to life the world of the weak and shaky like Haven Kimmel.

I came slowly to Haven’s book, A Girl Named Zippy. It was almost as if the book was haunting me. I saw it everywhere I went. In the grocery store, the gas station, the dollar store, the dry cleaners, the city park. Everywhere I went there was this book with the wide eyed baby on the cover staring back at me. That baby kind of creeped me out. Finally, in a sort of desperate attempt to ward off the wide eyed creepy baby ghost that was haunting me, I checked out the book and I read it.
I don’t know if I have ever felt more in sync with a writer that I did with Haven Kimmel in the pages of A Girl Named Zippy.

One night, I was reading the book in bed and laughing my eyeballs out and the Country Doctor asked me what I was reading. I read a few pages out loud to him, in between wiping the gush of tears that I was crying due to so much hilarity.
“She sounds just like you.” he said.

That may be the nicest thing he has ever said to me.

“She Got Up Off The Couch” is a sequel to “A Girl Named Zippy”.

This book tells the story of Haven’s mom finally… well finally… getting off the couch.

You see, Haven’s mom was very weak and shaky.

This book is also very funny and relates her mother’s triumph over difficult circumstances… in a weak and shaky way of course.

Which is the only way to triumph if you ask me.


Back when I was working as a children’s librarian, one of my jobs was to read through a cart load of new books every week in an attempt to stay familiar with the collection. Most of the books were picture books and most of them were TERRIBLE. It is truly disgusting how many horrible children’s books are published each and every day!

The true gems…. the timeless classics…. the moving, engrossing, adventurous, riveting, jewels are so rare that when you finally pick one up and open the cover and start to read it, you feel like you have entered a parallel universe.

Knuffle Bunny is one of the rare jewels. In this book, both Trixie and her dad are kind of weak and shaky and prone to ‘going boneless’ which is one of my favorite expressions in all of literature.

Sometimes when I am feeling especially weak and shaky, I also go boneless.

It is a wretched thing to witness. I hope it never happens to you!

This book won a Caldecott and it’s author – Mo Willems – is a writer for Sesame Street.

I have written of my love for Arnold Lobel many times. Frog and Toad may be the penultimate weak and shaky characters in all of literature.

Is Frog the weak and shaky one… or is it Toad?

Maybe they switch back and forth?

Nevertheless – the one always has the other to pull him through and isn’t that what friends are for?

I have both a Frog and Toad collection of books as well as a collection of Frog and Toad collection on CD up for grabs today.

My eldest son was soothed to sleep by the warm, fuzzy voice of Arnold Lobel reading from Frog and Toad on many, many nights, which was a weak and shaky triumph for me.

Thank you Arnold.


Avocado Baby, might be my favorite weak and shaky picture book of all time.

Written by John Birmingham, Avocado Baby tells the heartwrenching tale of one family that is almost impossibly weak and shaky.

You aren’t even sure they are going to make it!

They are too shaky to remove the toys from the fruit bowl. They are too weak to carry their newborn baby up the steps without help. And then… to make things even worse… the pathetic, puny, pale baby won’t eat anything!

Until one day, they feed the baby an avocado pear.

And wondrous things happen.

To win one of the books today, just leave a comment.

Winners will be selected at random.

Please note -my books are usually gently used, but occasionally they are new.

You never know what you are going to get.

Which weak and shaky character said that?

If there is a book you would particularly like, feel free to mention it in your comment, but I can’t make any guarantees. I am just too weeeeeeaaaak and shaaaaaaaaaaky.

I better go lie down now.

Sadly, this contest has come to an end.

I recently placed a huge order at Alibris, my favorite on-line used bookstore for some new book giveaways. The new books will start arriving any day forcing me to clear some space on my desk for all the new books which brings me to the reason for this post…

I know… it has a certain ring to it doesn’t it? 

Earlier this Fall, I was all hyped up to do a James Bond Giveaway. I had the books, I took the photos, I prepared a James Bond survey where readers could choose their favorite Bond, I rehearsed my speech, I chose my outfit, I brushed my hair, I groomed the cats… and then I went to see the Quantum Solace, the new James Bond movie.

It was such a disappointment to me, that I lost heart and could not bring myself to post the give-away. Then I felt like such an old fuddy duddy for not liking the new James Bond movie that I struggled with even looking at myself in the mirror for several days. Then I read several reviews that basically felt the same way that I did -that the missing gadgets, and the quirky characters, and wondering if James Bond was suffering an identity crisis and thinking he was actually Jason Bourne, that I started to feel a tiny bit better. I did appreciate the scene in Quantum Solace where Bond refused to stay in a run-down hotel and moved over to more glamorous headquarters as that’s my James! I recognized that guy! But everything else was weird and new and all cutting edge and trying too hard… and it seemed that the real James… the suave James… the cool, collected, debonair James… had disappeared into a new James… a moody James… a brooding James… and I didn’t quite know how to connect to him.

So I put the give-away on the back burner and moved on with my life.

Now that I have had sufficient time to grieve and to heal, I really need to give away these James Bond Books.

They are not just any James Bond Books. They are James Bond for kids books!

Charlie Higson, a writer for British sit-coms, is the author of the series. The books are wonderful action/adventure/thrillers that tell the stories of a young James Bond, orphaned and residing in an English boys boarding school where he manages to get himself caught up in world wide intrigue and espionage on a regular basis. I have the first three books of the series to give away today. The first book, Silver Fin is really the best one, but the others are also entertaining reads.

I also have a copy of Where the Red Fern Grows up for grabs today. The Country Doctor read this book aloud to my kids several years ago and the boys loved it. It is a great classic adventure tale of a boy and his beloved dogs.

I have two books (possibly three) that were unclaimed from previous give-aways. If you are the winner of one of these books and you would like to get the book now, you can certainly e-mail me at Otherwise, this copy of House Dreams by Hugh Howard is up for grabs again. I wrote about it here – but in quick synopsis, it is the non-fiction story of a man building a house. I have probably read it six times… but please remember, I have a slight “people building houses and writing a book about the experience” addiction problem.

Also never claimed, was this copy of S. J. Perelman’s Acres and Pains, a true classic. Acres and Pains is the hilarious story of a city man taking on country life with nothing but a ruddy handy man, a pitchfork and his sterling wit. No one does it better than S. J. Perelman. I wrote more about this author here.

I gave away a few Jeanne Marie Laskas books a while ago. Ms. Laskas is another one of those crazy people with the ability to move from a well established city life to the crazy turmoil of country life and write about it with style and humor. In this book she also writes of her attempt to start a family and the eventual arrival of her little girl.. or maybe that is the other book??? I can’t remember! Either way, Jeanne is a wonderful writer and I am pretty sure that this is a wonderful story. Oh… she likes dogs and horses and other animals too and manages to collect quite a menagerie. Something for everybody!

And now for something COMPLETELY DIFFERENT!
This book has come up frequently in the lists of favorites among the comments of the crazy people who read this blog. A Confederacy of Dunces is really one of those books everyone who likes to read… should read… yes… should… mostly because I would hate for any “reader” to be at a cocktail party or a backyard barbecue, or a book club meeting, or checking out at the grocery store and for this book to come up in the course of conversation and for you not to have read it and not be able to talk about it like a well versed expert.

For what would life be if one can’t occasionally be the expert?

Or at least pretend to be the expert.

There is so much to be said about this book, and I am running out of time because I am meeting a friend for lunch today and I still haven’t fixed my hair or brushed my teeth! So please – click this link here to read about the book, the Pulitzer prize it won, as well as the tragic and sad ending of the author John Kennedy Toole’s life prior to the book being published.

To enter the give-away, simply leave a comment. If comments are just too infuriating for you, you may also e-mail me at You may request one of the books in your entry, but I can’t make any guarantees. Winners will be chosen randomly. This contest will end at 9:00 am CST Thursday January 8th.

Off to lunch!


Sorrowfully and with much wringing of the hands, I must tell you that this contest is over.

Due to a recent article I wrote about Phillip Pullman and The Golden Compass, I had a request to mention some of my favorite children’s books. There is only one author that I begin this series of posts with – one of my very favorite children’s authors of all time – Arnold Lobel.

Arnold started out as an illustrator during the “Dick see Jane…run Spot run era of children’s literature.” Soon after Dr. Seuss swept onto the scene and introduced a drastically new approach to children’s books and how they are written, Arnold Lobel was encouraged, by his agent, to write an “easy reader”. The resulting book Frog and Toad are Friends left a deep impression on the children’s literary market with Lobel’s dry wit and quirky sense of humor.

Since he was trying to write an “easy reader” Arnold used short sentences and oft repeated words and phrases in the first book. This style of writing made his characters, Frog and Toad, seem almost neurotic or maybe they just are neurotic, either way, it became a stylistic part of their charm creating a book that was funny and warm and was named a Caldecott Honor book.

The Frog and Toad books are classics. We read these books to all of our boys, but also found that one of the few ways we could get our oldest son to sleep at night without hours of drama, was to play the Frog and Toad tapes in his room after the lights were out. Lobel’s deep warm voice somehow comforted our son and miraculously soothed him to sleep.

Frog and Toad are so recognizable, funny and endearing that you will find yourself laughing out loud as you read them and comparing them to people you know or to yourself and your spouse which is what we inevitably did. The Country Doctor is sooooo Frog and I am sooooo Toad. I still love to read these books and I have read these books literally hundreds of times.

A series of books that is somewhat similar to the Frog and Toad series are the George and Martha Books by James Marshall. Also an illustrator, James created two hippos to share stories of silliness and demonstrate how to be a good friend. These stories are told in a more traditional picture book format, while Frog and Toad are easy readers, but kids of all ages will enjoy them.

So if you are looking for a good set of books to check out from your local library, buy at your local bookstore or HEY – even purchase RIGHT HERE on my site! I would have to recommend Arnold Lobel and James Marshall. I can almost guarantee that you will not be disappointed.