Friday, August 31, 2007

The Red Balloon

The Red Balloon
Albert Lamorisse ~ Delacourte Press, 1956

Again, if you were a child of a certain era, The Red Balloon was more than a movie and a book, it was a way of being. It was a stolen moment that encapsulated the fight against everything that seemed closed-in or monotonous about life. It was to "rebelle" against anything that was black and white and ordinary like school or dreams not coming true or the bully with an eye on you.

He climbed up the lamppost, untied the balloon and ran off with it to the bus station. But the conductor knew the rules, "No dogs," he said. "No large packages, no balloons."
People with dogs walk.
People with packages take taxis.
People with balloons leave them behind.

Gosh, I loved this book as a kid, which is basically just still shots from a 1956 short film by French filmmaker Albert Lamorisse. My mother bought me and my sisters the book years before we saw the movie at a film festival when I was in elementary school.

It amazes me that at two years old my son was equally entranced by it, even never having watched the film. There is something about that big red balloon and the fact that it listens to the boy and at the end the entire world of balloons saves the day and whisks him away from all his pain and sorrow. I also remember being particularly fascinated that the story took place in Paris. How the streets looks so old and curvy and so different from the dirt road/ Spanish moss/ windblown/ ocean/ barefoot childhood of my youth.

Here in 2011, my son's seen the movie dozens of times, and always weeps openly at the end. I know how he feels. I can't even think about The Red Balloon without filling up with so much bitter sweet emotion.

A powerful story, beautifully told.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Animals Everywhere

Animals Everywhere
Ingri and Edgar Parin d'Aulaire ~ Doubleday, Doran & Co., 1940

The miracle workers at The New York Review have been handpicking important and wonderful out-of-print children's titles for reprint in their Children's Collection, and the results are remarkable.

I had never seen this book until I stumbled on it in a book store today. Like most people my age, Ingri and Edgar Parin d'Aulaire's book D'aulaire's Book of Greek Myths was a staple, and my sisters and I spent hour upon hour pouring over its pages. The tale of the imprisoned man who has his ears licked clean by a snake and can then hear the voices of termites as they plot their next meal made a huge and fantastical impression on me. So seeing the words D'aulaire and animal together on one book cover today nearly made my head spin.

Far to the South live the animals that like very hot weather.
There is never cold and never winter, and the sun burns all through the year.

Originally published under the name Animals Everywhere, the new edition is called D'Aulaire's Book of Animals, and it's a fold-out tale told in lavish illustration tracking wildlife from the hottest of hot climates to the coldest of cold... from yawning hippo to floating narwhal. The original version, isn't fold-out but told in back-to-back color-B&W rotation. THIS BOOK IS AWESOME. Flipping through the pages I almost can't believe how awesome it it. This definitely bodes well for the rest of the books in the series, and as soon as I finish writing this post, I'm gonna be off in search!

Also by:
D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths
The Terrible Troll-Bird
Benjamin Franklin
Don't Count Your Chicks


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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

1 is One

1 Is One
by Tasha Tudor/ published 1956 by (I think) some imprint of Macmillan

Tasha Tudor was one of my favorite children's book illustrators when I was a child, and my parents were somewhat obsessed with her. Anyone not familiar with who she is, Tasha Tudor lives her life as it appears in her books. She has to be 93 now, but still lives in in Vermont in a frozen time circa 1830. Making everything from scratch... her home, her furniture, her clothes, her coveted dolls... and raising her children this way, she's created a fantasy life to be admired by anyone who still appreciates the "way things used to be."

5 is five eggs in a pretty round nest
6 is six children all dressed in their best
7 is seven apples on a little apple tree
8 is eight daffodils you are picking for me

My sisters and I had all her books when we were little. This wonderful little counting ditty won a Caldecott honor medal, but my absolute favorite was A Time To Keep with its amazing illustrations of holidays of yore. She and her family still have a thriving home enterprise selling everything from books to prints to handmade grandfather clocks to doll house furniture. The fact that a woman like this ever existed at all is truly a nod to the human spirit.

Also by:
A Time to Keep
Pumpkin Moonshine
First Graces
Five Senses
A Tale for Easter

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Bear's Toothache

The Bear's Toothache
David McPhail
Little Brown & Company, 1972

Out the year of my birth, I've always liked the way this guy draws. I also like how most of his books are tied into the active imagination of a child. So many of his stories are real life situations that are taken to the extreme when something unbelievable happens. In this case, a small boy helps a bear out with his pain in the mouth.

And just as he hit the ground, the tooth popped out! The bear was so happy that he gave me the tooth to put under my pillow.

His animals always look so friendly and fun, and his children with their little faces are innocent and endearing. If we all had a talisman like a gifted bear's tooth, we'd be in good shape.

Also by:
The Bear's Bicycle
The Magical Drawings of Moony B. Finch

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Indian Bunny

Indian Bunny
Ruth Bornstein
Children's Press, 1973

Renamed at some point Brave Bunny for obvious reasons, I purchased it right after my son was born when I first started casing used book shops for gems.

One day a bunny said, "Good-by, I'm going to be an Indian."

So good-natured and pure, Indian Bunny is a real testament to nature and the sky and the animals and the trees and the world. His little journey speaks wonderfully of living a simple life and finding awe in the magic of everyday things.

In the stream I'll find a tadpole and he'll tell me how he turns into a frog.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Old Man Rabbit's Dinner Party

Old Man Rabbit's Dinner Party
based on the original story by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey, edited by Nova Nestrick, illustrated by Robinson and Bonnie & Bill Rutherford/ published 1961 by Platt & Munk

Not sure what the deal is with Old Man and all his editors and stuff, but I received it I believe in my Easter basket when I was wee (or maybe it was a giveaway at Judy’s). This particular copy however was extracted from my father-in-law's home... it being only one of the two children's books he keeps under his roof. Last week, I was sitting opposite from him as he was holding my son and he started reading it to him and without even seeing it, as soon as I heard the first few lines, I knew exactly what it was. Weird being that I haven't seen or read that book since I was, oh about 7.

Old Man Rabbit said to himself, I have lots of food. I will give a dinner party for all my friends. They will help me eat the food.

I'm not sure why, but I remember being slightly obsessed with this book. The kind old rabbit, collecting the food in the dead of winter and then sharing it with all his creature friends. I guess it was something about the illustrations or maybe that I was curious about wild animals actually having to fend for themselves.

My son digs this one. It has his two favorite things in it. Animals and a picnic.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Let's Find Out What's in the Sky

Let's Find Out About What's in the Sky ~ Martha and Charles Shapp with pictures by Peter Costanza/ published 1961 by Franklin Watts

With that idealized look of the 50s and early 60s, LFOWITS follows a few curious kids and all the wonderful things they see when they look up. Simple and to the point, I love the illustrations of airplanes and the dated look of the elementary school.

The sun seems to move across the sky.
In the morning, we see the sun in the east.
In the afternoon, we see the sun in the west.

This drawing of daughter running to daddy illustrates what comes down in the afternoon light. So cool that men wore hats back then, and even cooler that they actually took them off when they went inside. Yes, this is from an era when girls wore shirts and kids still marveled at what it would be like to go to the moon someday.

I remember when I was little, the sky was a huge thing. My family would park outside on blankets whenever meteor showers occurred and any kind of eclipse was a HUGE deal. I wonder if kids today still get jacked about that kind of stuff? Anyway, I just love how the girls and boys in this book gaze at the sky as if it is the most amazing/spectacular thing they have ever seen.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Be Nice to Spiders

Be Nice to Spiders
Margaret Bloy Graham
Harper Collins, 1967

I love looking for the less famous books of authors who are famous for one character is particular. In this case, Harry the Dirty Dog is the more known cousin of writer and illustrator Margaret Bloy Graham.

Helen went from one building to another, spinning webs, and eating up all the flies. The Zoo became a peaceful place.

A tale of conservation, motherhood and never undervaluing the little guy, it follows the life and times of Helen, a wee spider that is adandoned on the front steps of the zoo by a little boy who can't keep her anymore. She ends up becoming loathed and then loved in the short span of 30 pages and reunites with the boy at the end for a literal explosion of love.

Also by:
Harry and the Lady Next Door

Monday, August 20, 2007

Keep Your Mouth Closed, Dear

Keep Your Mouth Closed, Dear
by Aliki/ published 1966 by The Dial Press

Originally a library checkout, reading about Charles tickles me every time. The story of an alligator who because he can't keep his mouth shut, inadvertently swallows everything in his path and becomes more and more bloated with house hold goods.

But things grew worse. After the wooden spoon, Charles swallowed a sponge and Father's hat. And then he swallowed a can of baby powder. This caused a problem, for every time he coughed, Mother had to turn on the kitchen fan to clear the air.

The climax comes when he accidentally swallows the vacuum cleaner hose and the whole lot is expelled. I'm not sure what the moral of this story is. (Liposuction?) But it is good fun all the same.

Also by:
Oh Lord I Wish I Was a Buzzard
This is the House Where Jack Lives
That's Good, That's Bad

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Chipmunk's ABC

Chipmunk's ABC
by Roberta Miller with pictures by Richard Scarry/ published 1963 by Western Publishing Company

Originally with this blog, I thought I didn't want to get too deep into Little Golden Books, but seeing as there are just so many awesome ones out there and they make up such a large portion of everyone's childhood book memories, it can hardly be escaped. That said, I am choosing a Richard Scarry book aptly because when I was little, he was my absolute favorite. In all of his books, there was always so much to see and do. It was AWESOME. You could look at the same title again and again and again and never see the same picture the same way twice. My son loves them for the very same reason I have to imagine. (Well, that and they are all about animals for God's sake!)

B is for burrow. Guess who lives in the burrow under the apple tree?

Or perhaps it was the constancy. The same little worms and kittens and rabbits inhabited all the pages... and even in early books like this one, you can still see those familiar little faces peeking out from the pages right into your soul.

J is for jump. Froggie jumps for joy. He loves ice cream.

Also by:
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
I Am a Bunny
Great Big Air Book
Rabbit and His Friends
The Bunny Book
Richard Scarry's Best Rainy Day Book Ever
Tommy Visits the Doctor

Friday, August 17, 2007

Whistle for Willie

Whistle For Willie
by Ezra Jack Keats/ published 1964 by The Viking Press

I love everything this guy touched. Every time I find a new one of his (particularly all the delightful Peter stories) my kid and I can't get enough. Snowy Day I think has to be one of the top five children's books ever, and this one has that same sentiment. Just a simple story, with a short narrative, yet leaving so much up to the imagination. Funny too that my whole life I thought this guy was black, but according to his Web site he was from Polish/Jewish decent.

First he walked along a crack in the sidewalk.
Then he tried to run away from his shadow.
He jumped off his shadow. But when he landed they were together again.

So many little things happen in this book. Peter spins round and round. Peter draws a line of the sidewalk. Peter wears his father's hat. Just exactly the way days unfold for kids who are not too consumed with TV and activities. Those days when we all used to be able to spend all day away from home, without parents batting an eyelash.

His site also states that he wrote and illustrated some 85 books. I've only seen about five of them, so it looks as if the surprises will be infinite.

Also by:
In a Spring Garden
Maggie and the Pirate
How To Be A Nature Detective

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Georgie's Halloween

Georgie's Halloween
by Robert Bright/ published 1958 by Doubleday and Company

Truthfully, this one is a renter. Halloween is the big talk of the week. Planning parties... buying patterns for costumes... so, little books about ghosts and goblins are the order of the day. As such, we hit the holiday section at the library and came up with Georgie.

Wherever there are children, there is Halloween, with pumpkins and funny faces, with tricks and with treats. But in the little village where Mr. and Mrs. Whitaker lived there was always something extra besides, and that was Georgie, the little ghost that lived in the Whittaker attic.

I know it is naive to trust there were truly simpler times in the world, but to think there is a gentle, shy little ghost out there sends some warmth to my heart. A decade or so back when they made that horrific live-action/animated version of Casper the Friendly Ghost, I though it was interesting that at the end of the movie Casper had the realization that Casper was a ghost... meaning that he was a child that was dead. At the time, I thought that was pretty heavy and cosmic theme to put in a so-called kid's movie. Not that I thought there was anything wrong with it. Quite the opposite, but that movie came into my mind tonight as I was reading the book about sweet little Georgie to my son.

I suppose one day he will ask what a ghost is, and I'll have a hard time pretending it's nothing more than a cute, little happy... thing, too shy to trick-or-treat on Halloween.

Also by:
My Hopping Bunny

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


Stop Stop
by Edith Thacher Hurd with pictures by Clement Hurd/ published 1961 by Harper & Row

Bought an old copy of this ages ago, and after the first run through, I thought to myself "Boy, what a crappy book." It's loaded with animals, so my son was hooked and I was forced to read it again and again and again. Only now do I fully appreciate its simple neurosis and how my son might find the come-up-ins the adult figure receives to be hilarious.

Suzie liked Miss Mugs, but she thought she WASHED too much.

That's about the gist of it. 'Ole anal Miss Mugs washes everything and drives poor little Suzie insane, until the animals at the zoo get quite enough of her washing and poo pooing and give her a washing she'll never forget!

Most famous for illustrating The Runaway Bunny and Goodnight Moon, these Clement drawings are not as whimsical, but you can definitely see the style there. According to the Harper Collins Web site, Clement married Edith after he was introduced to her by Margaret Wise Brown. Along with Leonard Weisgard, they must have been the most merry bunch of creative folks to be around.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


Tomi Ungerer ~ Harper Collins, 1958

Kept alive by the good folks at Reading Rainbow, Crictor is my son's book du jour. The mere thought of someone sending a snake through the mail in a O-shaped box sends him into peals of giggles.

To make sure it was not a poisonous snake, she went to the zoo. She identified it as a boa constrictor. So she called her animal Crictor.

Snakes are not a fave as mentioned before, but this hero is totally lovable. Describing to my son what a sculptor is when we reach the part where the town immortalizes Crictor in stone is a joy.

I LOVE TOMI, seriously.

My only kvetch is that on page 21, a drawing of an octopus is used to illustrate the number eight, yet the animal is drawn with only seven legs. Tsk. Tsk. Ha! Though I'm sure the master had something in mind when drawing it. Perhaps the eighth leg is off doing something particularly wicked. I'm sure he's a rascal.

Also by:
I Am Papa Snap and These Are My Favorite No Such Stories
The Mellops Strike Oil
Zarelda's Ogre
Seeds and More Seeds
The Three Robbers
Moon Man
Orlando The Brave Vulture
Christmas Eve at the Mellops'
The Beast of Monsieur Racine
Book of Various Owls
The Hat
Beastly Boys and Ghastly Girls
The Mellops Go Spelunking


Read along on Facebook, tumblr, Twitter and Etsy!

Sunday, August 12, 2007


by Margret Rey with pictures by H.A. Rey/ published 1944 by Harper & Row

At the local independent book store last week, my son and I attended the tail end of story time, and I saw they had a Pretzel plush for sale. So, apparently, this classic title has had some new life breathed into its marketing, but it is still one of my kid's favorites. Written by the gods of Curious George fame, it the story of how true love leads to happiness, or at least a litter of pups.

I'm not sure the "size does matter" theme sends a very positive message out to young boys, but still... There are lots and lots 'o dogs in it, so what does my little guy care.

Greta was the little dachshund from across the street.
Pretzel was in love with her and wanted to marry her.
But Greta just laughed at him.
"I don't care for long dogs," she said.

Ahhhhh, unrequited love.

Also by:
Curious George Flies a Kite
Katy No-Pocket

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Mr. Biddle and the Birds

Mr. Biddle and the Birds
by Lonzo Anderson with illustrations by Adrienne Adams/ published 1971 by Charles Scribner's Sons

There is a forward of sorts in this book that goes as follows...

A Voyage to Cacklogallinia, an 18th century political satire by Samuel Brunt, has as it frontispiece a drawing similar to the "flying boat" in this story. We used it in the end papers of Bag of Smoke, a book about the beginning of human flight, in balloons. It was such a delightful picture that it kept picking at us and finally pushed us into doing the present story about Mr. Biddle and the Birds.

A strange little balding man has befriended the birds, and convinces them that building a boat that they can use to fly him about the sky is a good idea. The plan fails at first, as it is hard to tame a wild animal, even when it wants to be tamed. But in the end, friendship conquers all, and the birds help Mr. Biddle get his wish of the world in bird's-eye-view.

The story is really interesting, with lots of illustrations of Mr. Biddle drawing, planning and building his air boat. The birds are really the best part with their cockiness... My favorite line?

Deep into a forest.

Also by:
The Day We Saw the Sun Come Up
A Woggle of Witches
The Wounded Duck
The Easter Egg Artists
Butterfly Time
Ponies of Mykillengi
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