Flight School (2014) by Lita Judge. This is one of my favorites of the books Elaine and I read this morning. It's about a Penguin who comes all the way from the South Pole to a flight school in what appears to be Florida. He was hatched to fly! He has the soul of an eagle! So, despite misgivings the flight instructor and his aide, Flamingo, admit Penguin to the class. But when the other birds take off on their first flight, Penguin ends up swimming instead of flying. He is leaving in despair when Flamingo has an idea how to help him. Will Penguin get to fly like an eagle?
I liked this book so much I sent a copy to my sister, who runs a real, actual flight school, Don's Flying Service, at her airport. I don't think she has ever had any penguins enrolled.
Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue (2006) by Anna Harwell Celenza is in a tie for my favorite this morning. It's a picture book telling the story of how band leader Paul Whiteman put an ad in the paper saying he was giving a concert in five weeks that would feature a concerto by George Gershwin. George phoned Paul in a tizzy. Only five weeks to compose a classical concerto - he had never composed classical music before. "You can do it," said his friend, Paul, and indeed, he did. It was comprised of foxtrot and ragtime rhythms, blues and Klezmer tunes, and an undeniable feel of the city of Manhattan. Ira, who wrote the lyrics for George's famous tunes, came up with the title, Rhapsody in Blue.
We listened to the music as we read the book.The illustrations are by Joann E Kitchel.
We both loved Gloria Whelan's Queen Victoria’s Bathing Machine (2014) with illustrations by Nancy Carpenter. One hot summer day Queen Victoria looks out the window and says, "I wish I could jump in the ocean and swim." Her lady-in-waiting faints dead away at the very thought of any of her subjects seeing more of the queen's person than her hands and her face.
But Prince Albert, who in real life was a brilliant engineer along with his many other talents, comes up with an idea. A bathing machine which Victoria can enter fully clothed and from which, after she changes into a bathing costume (see cover), she can emerge between curtains and submerge herself into the sea. It works perfectly until some sailors in Her Majesty's Royal Navy spy what they think is perhaps a flatboat floating off the coast . . .
The remaining three books were very good but not quite as special as these first three.
The Short Giraffe (2013) by Neil Flory is about the difficulties Boba the baboon is having taking a group portrait of giraffes. Geri is so short his head hardly appears at the bottom of the photo. The other giraffes think of various ways to raise Geri so that she appears the same height as they, but stilts and springs and filling Geri with helium don't work very well.
And then Boba has another idea. Cute illustrations by Mark Cleary, and a sweet but not overdone lesson in helping others.
Here Comes the Easter Cat (2014) by Deborah Underwood, illustrations by Claudia Rueda. This book is about a cat with Easter Bunny envy. Why, he asks, can't he, a cat, deliver Easter Eggs and be beloved by millions of children and have plush toys made to look like him? So he gathers eggs to give to children, but then he needs a nap. (He has had only 7 naps that morning and it's clearly time for another.) Then he meets up with the Easter Bunny, who is exhausted from his work delivering eggs and Bunny has an idea. A brilliant idea . . .
Oliver’s Tree (2014) by Kit Chase. Oliver is an elephant and as the story opens he is playing hide and seek with his friends the bunny and the owl. They both hide up or in a tree, but when Oliver tries it he finds the trees either too tall to climb, or too short to hide him. After a disastrous attempt to climb and hide in a low-branched tree, he falls asleep on a tree stump, exhausted. And that's when his friends get an idea how they can help their friend get the full I'm-in-a-tree experience.