London's the Place to Be

In the coming weeks, Newsbee will have his red specs focused on the opening ceremonies as the Brits unfurl the Union Jack and welcome the world to the Olympics. All eyes will be on London as athletes from over 200 countries go for the gold. It's the third time in history that London has staged the games -- a perfect time to highlight books set in the historic, royal city by the Thames. Page on, and until next month, TTFN -- ta, ta for now!

"A Walk In London," by Salvatore Rubbino

Though most of us would love to see the Olympics from a ringside seat in the stadium, that's an unlikely possibility. Instead we'll have to settle for an armchair and a television remote -- and have a copy of "A Walk in London," by Salvatore Rubbino open on our lap.

This marvelous picture book is a fun, informative read about a little girl and her mom seeing all that London has to offer. The end pages, front and back, and all the pages in between, lay the city out at your fingertips -- Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, The London Eye, Buckingham Palace, St. Paul's Cathedral and even the pub, Ye Old Cheshire Cheese, which you'll read more about in my Oldest Pick on this page. Sidebars offer more details about sites you'll soon be seeing when the games begin.

Tour guides warn travelers not to bite off more than they can chew in a bustling city like London. But the mother and daughter featured in "A Walk in London" sure make tracks, even getting a glimpse of the royal family before they call it a day.

"Touch the Sky" by Ann Malaspina

A poor Georgia girl in the 1930s, Alice Coachman rose to great heights in the 1948 London Olympics. Coachman, a high jumper, became the first black woman to win an Olympic medal. You can read about her tough road to glory in "Touch the Sky," by Ann Malaspina.

Early on, it was obvious Coachman had a gift for athletics -- no formal training of course -- just a passion for running, jumping and playing basketball with the boys. This didn't set well with her father who continually reminded her "to sit on the porch and be a lady."

But Coachman's fire couldn't be drenched. She had a dream, one her high school coach helped her achieve when he chose her as a high jumper in the Tuskegee Relays. Coachman virtually soared in the competition, winning first place for the Golden Tigerettes. It was the first of Coachman's many wins, but her victories weren't without obstacles as she set her sights on the Olympics.

Told in sparse, expressive text, with realistic illustrations by Eric Velasquez, "Touch the Sky" will touch your heart. It's a story of perseverance, hard work, and believing in self.

"The Cheshire Cheese Cat, A Dickens of a Tale," by Carmen Agra Deedy and Randall Wright

Established in 1667, Ye Old Cheshire Cheese is a public house in London frequented by Charles Dickens and other writers. Skilly, a feline "fleet of foot," moves into the establishment on Fleet Street in hopes of knowing where his next meal is coming from, but it isn't mice the cat's after.

Skilly adores cheese, and the best cheese in London can be found at the pub, the setting of "The Cheshire Cheese Cat, a Dickens of a Tale," by Carmen Agra Deedy and Randall Wright.

To Skilly, the idea of eating mice is revolting. But he has to pretend he's a mouser to earn his keep. To prove he's a seasoned hunter, Skilly pounces on Pip, and carries the tiny mouse away, much to the delight of the innkeeper. But once Skilly's out of sight, he releases Pip and the mouse catches a whiff of cheese on the cat's breath. Skilly's secret is out.

The unlikely pair soon become allies, battle Pinch an alley cat with an attitude, and derail a conflict threatening Great Britain. This creative tale with drawings by Barry Moser also features fictional diary entries by Dickens, who is struggling to write "Great Expectations."

Reprinted with permission, Missourian Publishing Company. Copyright 2012.