Tuesday, May 31, 2011

One Morning in Maine

One Morning in Maine, written and illustrated by Robert McCloskey (c. 1952), remains a quintessential example of excellent storytelling paired with exceptional artistry.  Seriously, do not let your children's childhoods slip by without reading them this classic story!  It's much more than just another book about loosing that first tooth.  One word: i-d-e-n-t-i-f-i-c-a-t-i-o-n.  Kids identify with Sal's disappointment.  I would mention that this could be a lengthy read for the younger set, yet from the age of two, my children would let me read it to them every single day if I could handle it.  It's in their top ten favorite books.  And it's one that you parents will enjoy just as much as your kids.  What's more to say?!  Except that we're all dying to visit Maine!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Strawberry Girl

Some of you are busy scrounging around books (and lists?) for summer reading.  Well, let me make a recommendation.  In fact, I'm going to try to make at least one recommendation a week for those who are itching to read on their very own.  Try Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski (c. 1945).  Don't be deceived by the cover, this is a Florida pioneer story that holds the boys' attention as much as, if not more than, the girls'.  Along with her family, our heroine Birdie Boyer braves carving a new living in a new region.  If you're thinking of Little House on the Prairie, just kick it up a few notches in the vein of the musical Oklahoma.

Lois Lenski received the 1946 Newbery Medal for her story Strawberry Girl.  You will also enjoy her illustrations which so perfectly accompany her story.  Lenski wrote a whole series of regional stories.  I'd like to try Blue Ridge Billy next, a story about a boy who lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  For a complete listing of Lenski's regional stories, click here.
And if you're looking for more of Lenski's illustrations, be sure to check out the heartwarming friendship stories of Betsy, Tacy and Tib.

There, that gives you many books (especially if you click on the links) to include in your summer reading lists.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Mama, Is It Summer Yet?

So, are your kids asking you that question as much as mine are asking me?  Then by-all-means, check out this book!  In Mama, Is It Summer Yet? (c. 2010) Nikki McClure revisits that age-old question through the backdrop of the changing seasons.  Let you kids read Mama, Is It Summer Yet? with you by repeating the entitled question, and help them determine which season each spread depicts.

Monday, May 23, 2011


Three words: pure eye-candy!  When I first picked up this book, I thought it must have been published in the '40s or early '50s.  Nope!  What we have here, my friends, is graphic artist's delight, published in France in 2009 and then published in the USA in 2010, that parents will enjoy as much as their children, if not more so.

This write-up, straight from the publisher's website, describes my exact experience:
A visually stunning meditation on the seasons, this book invites the reader to explore weather and the passing of time through strongly evocative images and curious associations.

Using objects, landscapes, activities and different types of people associated with each season (e.g. a skier, a swimmer, fruit pickers), Blexbolex explores the cyclical nature of time, rendering the seasons in a fresh way through the imaginative leaps and puzzle-like play that relate the different images to each other.

The purpose of this book is to encourage observation of the world, and thereby to spur on the reader to form all sorts of logical and imaginative associations having to do with the seasons, memory and the cycles of time.

SEASONS is the result of a beautiful vision matched with great talent. It is an intimate book as well as a book that is ideal for sharing within a family, a classroom, or among friends.

We hope this book will accompany each of you -- its readers -- for a long time in your ceaseless discovery and rediscovery of the world. 

                                              ~     ~     ~     ~     ~

Born in France in 1966, Blexbolex entered art school with the intention of becoming a painter, but left having discovered his talents as a silk-screen artist. He works both as an illustrator and a comic book artist. His work, which is inspired by vintage design, mixes old printing methods with new interpretations and techniques. An illustrator of graphic genius, he received the prestigious Golden Letter Award in 2009 for best book design throughout the world. 

I will note that the Mister and I thought there were a few random illustrations.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Hello, Goodbye Window

That's the Hello, Goodbye Window.
             It looks like a regular window,
                                            but it's not.

Norton Juster and Chris Raschka give us another wonderful story that fosters imaginative play in their 2006 Caldecott Medal Winning book The Hello, Goodbye Window (2005). Discover why Nana and Poppy's window remains more than just a mere kitchen window.

And a special thank-you goes out to our Nana for the wonderful recommendations of The Hello, Goodbye Window and If Anything Ever Goes Wrong at the Zoo.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

If Anything Ever Goes Wrong at the Zoo

Here's a case where the title of a book perfectly and succinctly describes the story contained inside the book.  Written by Mary Jean Hendrick and illustrated by Jane Dyer, If Anything Ever Goes Wrong at the Zoo (1993) beautifully blurs the line between the real and the imaginative.  You'll see that magic reflected on your children's faces and in their twinkling eyes as you read this inventive story.  My youngest didn't ask a single question through the reading of this book.  And that's saying an awful lot!

  • This is a wonderful title to read on a rainy day.
  • Be sure to read this other delightful story about a trip to the zoo.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Rain Rain Rivers

Once again Uri Shulevitz provides us with a beautifully illustrated and lyrical book entitled Rain Rain Rivers (1969).  Check it out.  And listen.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Lilac Fairy

The Song of the Lilac Fairy
      by Cicely Mary Barker 

White May is flowering,
    Red May beside;
Laburnum is showering
    Gold far and wide;
But I sing of Lilac,
    The dearly-loved Lilac,
Lilac, in Maytime
    A joy and a pride!

I love her so much
    That I never can tell
If she's sweeter to look at,
    Or sweeter to smell.

from Cicely Mary Barker's The Complete Book of the Flower Fairies

Sunday, May 15, 2011


What a delightful surprise!  One of my favorite children's illustrators Jane Dyer has paired up with the highly acclaimed children's author Jane Yolen in a collaboration that has given us none other but Piggins (c. 1987).  Piggins, the puzzle solving pig, adds skill and dexterity to his proper position as butler to the Reynard household.

Oh, yes, this is a children's mystery series in the spirit of Masterpiece Mystery.  Set in the Edwardian Age, Piggins is said to be "a sophisticated English mystery parody for the primary set."

So check out the Piggins books for the children while Masterpiece Mystery runs their mystery series this summer.  And see if the kids can figure out the mystery before Piggins.  Rather unlikely, dear sir.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Mr. Popper's Penguins

Right now, we're reading Mr. Popper's Penguins (c. 1938) by Richard and Florence Atwater with illustrations by Robert Lawson.  The recommendation kindly came from Jo Betsy Kinser and her grandchildren Ashley and Jacob who went to the Chattanooga Aquarium to see all the penguins once they completed the book.  Can't wait to see photos!

Anyway, my kids won't let me put this book down!  I especially recommend reading it during the heat of summer so that you're transported into a much colder climate.

I could write and write about this charming read, but let me quote from the jacket cover instead:
Mr. Popper's Penguins is one of the handful of American books for children that has attained the status of a classic.  First published in 1938, this story of a housepainter who is sent a male penguin by the great Admiral Drake . . . has amused and enchanted generations of children and their parents.

Right from the start, Mr. Popper's Penguins was received warmly.  The New York Herald Tribune wrote of it: One of those books which parents will carry downstairs to finish after the fifteen minutes' bedtime reading is done.

That charm has exerted its power for fifty years, and Mr. Popper's Penguins continues to delight readers, old and young alike.

I especially encourage you to read Mr. Popper's Penguins before seeing the upcoming movie starring Jim Carey.  Personally, I can't imagine Carey's zaney antics to properly represent the absent-minded Mr. Popper.  What do you think?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


I just discovered a new book!  I thought I had read most all of Robert McCloskey's books (at least all the ones I can get my hands on).  But oh no, as I was rummaging through our library shelves, I discovered this little gem: Lentil (c. 1940).

Now, I want you to close your eyes and think back.  Amble down the streets of Mayberry, USA, past the courthouse over to Floyd's Barber Shop.  Notice how time slows down with the traffic.  Pull up a chair and listen to Andy and Floyd spin a few yarns.  This story, Lentil, by Robert McCloskey could easily be one of Andy Griffith's yarns (but remember, it's Robert McCloskey's) describing the homecoming of the local celebrity, Colonel Carter.  Sometimes town heroes pop up in the most unexpected places, impersonating themselves in the most unassuming people!

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Most Perfect Spot

Make sure you check out The Most Perfect Spot (c. 2006) by Diane Goode.  Dear son, Jack, sets out with his mama to find "the most perfect spot for a picnic."  Unfortunately, various mishaps seem to accompany them.  Be sure to look for the spotted dog on each page, for Goode always tells her stories as much with her illustrations as her text.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mama Loves

Mama Loves (c. 2004) by Rebecca Kai Dotlich and illustrated by Kathryn Brown subtly (and nostalgically) chronicles the different seasons through a child's point-of-view.  Since Botlich and Brown randomly disperse the various seasons throughout the pages, it also presents a learning activity in identifying each two-page spread's particular season.

The rhymes weave the story of a mother's time spent with her young, spinning memories into their hearts.  Our worn cover gives testament that this remains one of the kids' very favorite books.  I think they find comfort in having it read and re-read to them every night.  It's a cozy book, radiating warmth in both illustrations and text, that's almost as good as a hug from Mom.  Here's an excerpt:

Mama loves
apples in autumn.
Sidewalks and leaves.
Sweaters and pumpkins
and walking
with me.

Note: Mama Loves makes a wonderful Mother's Day gift to mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers.  My own mother gave this to me for my very first Mother's Day.

p.s.  The Mister says, "That's one of my all-time favorite books."

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Bluebell Fairy

You can see where Cecily Mary Barker derived her inspiration for the Bluebell Fairy in Laura's English woodland photographs at On A Bluebell Quest.  Isn't it breathtaking?!

The Song of the Bluebell Fairy
by Cecily Mary Barker

My hundred thousand bells of blue,
    The splendour of the Spring,
They carpet all the woods anew
With royalty of sapphire hue;
The Primrose is the Queen, 'tis true.
     But surely I am King!
              Ah yes,
     The peerless Woodland King!

Loud, loud the thrushes sing their song;
    The bluebell woods are wide;
My stems are tall and straight and strong;
From ugly streets the children throng,
They gather armfulls, great and long,
     Then home they troop in pride --
             Ah yes,
     With laughter and with pride!