A friend of mine passed along a thought provoking quotation penned by a wise sage: "In the case of good books, the point is not to see how many of them you can get through, but how many of them can get through to you."

Although I am a proponent of making reading a lifelong habit, I've never thought it important to read something simply to read it. With the exception of assigned reading that we all have to do when in school or for business, reading for pleasure should be just that - a pleasurable experience.

Well written books can and do get through to the reader and will touch them and expand them in ways we can't measure. Books can and do make us laugh, provide a momentary pause from the day's events to explore new ideas and places, enrich and expand our minds and souls. Don't focus on quantity. Focus on quality, because if the book is good, it WILL get through to the reader. After all, that IS the point, isn't it?

Books to Borrow

The following book is available at many public libraries.

"The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain" written and illustrated by Peter Sis, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 52 pages

Read aloud: age 9 - 10 to adult.

Read yourself: age 10 - 11 to adult.

In 1948, Peter Sis was born in Czechoslovakia. That same year the Soviets took control of his country and closed the borders. "I was born at the beginning of it all, on the Red side - the Communist side - of the Iron Curtain."

In school and outside of his home, young artist Peter was told what to draw and what to think. At first he didn't question what he was being told, but later "he found out there were things he wasn't told. This was the time of brainwashing." Throughout, there were many people who wanted to be free from Communism, and as Peter grew, he was one of them.

A deeply personal memoir of the author/artist's life in Communist Czechoslovakia and his ultimate defection is brought forward through his rich, complex art and never-before-seen private photos and journal entries. A cautionary tale, "The Wall" provides deep reflection on freedom and subtly teaches what transpires when freedom is compromised.

Librarian's Choice

Library: Jefferson County Public Library, 420 West Main St., Madison

Library Director: Brent Stokesberry

Children's Librarian: Kara Pettey

Choices this week: "Freight Train" by Donald Crews; "All the Places to Love" by Patricia MacLachlan; "A Year Down Yonder" by Richard Peck

Books to Buy

The following books are available at favorite bookstores.

"Alex the Parrot: No Ordinary Bird-A True Story" by Stephanie Spinner, illustrated by Meilo So, Alfred A. Knopf, 2012, 42 pages, $17.99 hardcover

Read aloud: age 8 and older.

Read yourself: age 9 - 10 and older.

There was a time when most people thought animals were not very intelligent, believing the larger the brain, the smarter the creature. In 1977, graduate student Irene Pepperberg wanted to prove this long-held belief wrong. And so, Irene purchased an African grey parrot, named him Alex, and began teaching him.

While an African grey parrot's brain is about the size of a walnut, Irene felt certain this had nothing to do with intelligence. And it turned out she was right. Over many years of working together, Alex learned and communicated things that astonished both Irene and the world, including counting, adding, subtracting, color-shape-size identification, and understanding and speaking hundreds of words. And throughout, Irene and Alex developed a loving friendship that lasted for thirty wonderful years.

A magnificent story perfectly written and illustrated, Alex the Parrot is thought-provoking in many, many ways.

"My First Day: What Animals Do on Day One" by Steve Jenkins, illustrated by Robin Page, Houghton Mifflin, 2013, 32 pages, $16.99 hardcover

Read aloud: age 4 - 6.

Read yourself: age 7 - 8.

When some animals are born, they are immediately on their own with no parent to help them, such as kiwi birds and sea turtles. Others need a helpful parent to help them survive. This delightful, informative book by award-winning team Steve Jenkins and Robin Page introduce readers to 22 different animals and what they do on the day they are born.

Engaging, fast-paced text with lovely illustrations combine to make this a fascinating little book.

Nationally syndicated, Kendal Rautzhan writes and lectures on children's literature. She can be reached at her website: www.greatestbooksforkids.com.