One of the nicest things about books for children is that the good ones stay around for a long time or are reissued after a rest, shined up and polished for a new crop of children to enjoy.
There is now a new edition of A Weed Is a Flower: The Life of George Washington Carver, written and illustrated by Aliki. Originally published in 1965, it tells the story of this man, the child of slaves, who challenged the system and grew up to be a college professor and one of the greatest scientists of his century. With quiet words and vivid paintings, Aliki tells of a life that:
"Turned evil into good, despair into hope and hatred into love."
Stories of courage age well. Rhymes for children, handed down from generation to generation, age well, too. Sarah Pooley has selected and illustrated a new collection. The book is A Day of Rhymes, and it is a charmer. Bouncing boys and girls and an assortment of endearing animals romp through a day filled with play, a zoo visit . . . even a trip to the store with Mom. And each occasion is accompanied by a rhyme, familiar or not-so-familiar.
"Ladybird, Ladybird" and "Incey Wincey Spider" we know. But what about:
"Little Arabella Miller
Had a fuzzy caterpillar.
First it climbed upon her mother,
Then upon her baby brother.
Put away your caterpillar."
The merry illustrations beg for another joyful examination and still another. With girl characters as active and sassy as the boys, happy looking parents and a nice, racial balance, "A Day of Rhymes" is a delight all day long!
For those young people who prefer their information about living creatures to be factual, there is Nature's Living Lights: Fireflies and Other Bioluminescent Creatures by Alvin and Virginia Silverstein. The Silversteins have written more than 70 science books for children and adults, and they know how to present facts in a readable, entertaining way. Did you know, for instance, that there are fire beetles in the Caribbean that can be used as "living lanterns"? The natives use them to light their houses and tie them to their hands and feet to light their way through jungles. Did you know there is a fish that French divers call "the little Peugeot" because it has "headlights" below its eyes?
In addition to fascinating facts such as these, the authors provide scientific information about these mysterious, bioluminescent creatures. The detailed illustrations by Pamela and Walter Carroll will further the knowledge of the child eager for information. A glossary of terms is included but, unfortunately, there is no index.
Sketching Outdoors in the Summer by Jim Arnosky is the perfect start-of-summer-vacation gift for the young artist. Particularly if the book is accompanied by a sketch pad and a clutch of pencils.
Written almost in the form of a journal, Arnosky shows and tells how he captures the essence of summer in his words and drawings. We see the nest-box in his garden, the garter snake that ventured inside the house, the sheep sheltering under the evergreens. The artist tells us that for this sketch:
"I used the broad flat lead of the carpenter's pencil as I would a squared-off paintbrush, applying large areas of tones and 'chiseling out' shapes."
The reproductions are splendid, and Arnosky's love of nature illuminates every page. His simple advice on sketching will encourage budding artists to keep seasonal journals of their own.
The final drawing in the book is of a lone dory, pulled high on a beach.
"In time, every season comes to an end. A chilly autumn wind was blowing across the lake when I made this last sketch of summer."
Yes. But for us, the lazy, sun-filled, book-filled days of summer are still to come.
A WEED IS A FLOWER The Life of George Washington Carver by Aliki (Simon & Schuster: $5.95; 32 pp.) A DAY OF RHYMES by Sarah Pooley (Alfred A. Knopf: $11.95; 75 pp.) CONSIDER THE LEMMING by Jeanne Steig; pictures by William Steig (Farrar, Straus & Giroux: $6.95; unpaginated) NATURE'S LIVING LIGHTS Fireflies and Other Bioluminescent Creatures by Alvin and Virginia Silverstein (Little, Brown: $12.95; 42 pp.) SKETCHING OUTDOORS IN THE SUMMER by Jim Arnowsky (Lothrop, Lee & Shepard: $11.95; 48 pp.)