Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Flocks of Birds

Flocks Of Birds
Charlotte Zolotow with pictures by Joan Berg/ published 1965 by Abelard-Schuman

I probably overuse the word sweet on this blog, but when you are talking about kid's books, that is the word that most freely pops to mind on titles like this one. Illustrated by the naturalist painter currently known as Joan Berg Victor and written by the kid-lit goddess herself, Flocks of Birds is a weeper for parents remembering or cherishing those bedtime moments when anything is possible as long as mommy says it's so. Those little made-up tales that parents weave when the lights are out to send their babies minds off wandering to dreamland.

The little girl was already in bed
and her mother had kissed her good night.
"But I'm not sleepy," the little girl said.
"Lie here in the dark," said her mother,
"and think your thoughts until you are."
"Give me something good to think about,"
the little girl said, holding her mother's hand.
"Think of flocks of birds," her mother said.
"Close your eyes and think of flocks of birds flying south."

I try and be like this at bedtime... soft stories whispered of winged angels and ancient fables passed down from my mother to me to my son... but my husband has taken to singing him The Beverly Hillbillies theme song when the lights go out, and wondrous stories of flocks and fairies often get squeezed out by Jed and all his kin. Oh well. I can see my future. "Well son, did I ever tell you the story of how your father and I moved from New York to Texas? You see, green acres is the place for your dad and me. Farm living is the life for us. Land spreading out so far and wide. We told all those yankees they could keep Manhattan, and just give us that countryside."

Also by:
The Hating Book
I Have a Horse of My Own
Do You Know What I'll Do?
Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present
The Sky Was Blue

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

My Puppy is Born

My Puppy is Born
Joanna Cole with photographs by Jerome Wexler/ published 1973 by William Morrow and Company

If your kids have never seen the movie Milo & Otis, they are missing out on probably the only real live footage out there for kids of a puppy being born, moment of squirt out and all! The same can be said in book form of the fabulous My Puppy is Born. If you have a dog at home that is preggers and you want the kids to be involved, this is the most real-to-life book I have ever seen on the subject. The photographs of the actual moment of delivery are graphic, but tasteful, and really show you what a birth is like. (Might also be a good choice for parents wanting to explain the birth of a younger sibling without enduring the trauma of a Bradley or Lamaze video!)

The first puppy comes.
It is born inside a sac.
The mother dog tears the sac open with her teeth.
Now you can see the newborn puppy.
It is attached to its mother by a tube
called an "umbilical cord."

The story takes little Sausage (is that a cute puppy name or what?) from the womb to mommy separation anxiety and is totally hip in its frankness. Not to mention it has a rad 70s look and feel. I really couldn't give this book more of a thumbs up. I mean, I guess I could, but then I'd have to borrow a few thumbs from elsewhere... and well, you know, that could get messy!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Benjie Engie

Benjie Engie
Louise Lawerence Devine
Rand McNally, 1950

My son received this in the way that is always the coolest when getting a vintage kids' book. It was a gift from a 84-year-old mother, zoinked from her own child's way-back-when collection.

Those of you not familiar, the books in Rand McNally's Junior Elf series are the best if for no other reason than they are small enough to fit a handful in your purse (or man bag) for idle hands to seize when mommy/daddy has business to take care of, say at the grocery store or waiting in line at the post office. Not to mention that they have a cool retro look and all the titles are pretty silly and fun.

This story is a sweet one and tells the tale of heartache in the fast lane. Benji is the little local train who likes to go slow... taking time to smell the flowers and fall in love with the landscape.

Benjie Engie was a locomotive with a coal car, two passenger cars,
and a baggage car fastened on behind.
And unlike all the other trains Benjie had known, he didn't have a
single problem in the world.

... that is until he is fitted with a new high-speed engine, and life becomes a literal blur that is depressing and joyless. Fear not, this is the Junior Elf world, so all ends with a wink and a smile.

I found this great shop on Etsy that has a nice collection of vintage kid's books reasonably priced, including the aforementioned. Check it out!

Great Monday Give

Good Monday everybody! This would ordinarily be the day I post a vintage kid's book to giveaway for the Great Monday Give, but alas... Come Friday I am headed to Mexico for a month, and shipping the books out would be a problem.... So, you'll have to wait until Monday, June 2 for the next Great Monday Give! However, I WILL be posting reviews while I'm there, so keep tuning in just for the love of it.

That said, the winner of last week's Give (a copy of the awesome count and see) is Melody! She had this to say....

So my 15-month-old is nowhere near counting, but someday soon...
Anyway, the 6-year-old still loves Tana Hoban's great photos.

Congrats Melody! Please get me your info ASAP so I can be sure to get it out before I leave. Just shoot me a note at

Thanks for reading guys!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Hey, Al

Hey, Al
Arthur Yorinks and Richard Egielski
Harper Collins, 1986

There is a lot to be creeped out about when it comes to this book. Even though it is clearly a kid's book and won the Caldecott Medal as such, the pictures and story hint at adult themes like despair and hopelessness. The refreshingly unchildlike tone is used to relay the morality tale of the grass is always greener. The beautiful paintings that illustrate are extremely sophisticated, and I love that the "bad guys" in this book are birds. Appearing to be helpful in one minute then revealing their true colors in the next.

As far as kids' books go, you couldn't get one that is packed with more mystery. A man and his dog lead a dead end life until a strange bird appears at their window and offers them more.

One morning, while Al was shaving, a voice called to him.
"Hey, Al," it said. Al turned and saw a bird. A large bird.
"Al," said the bird, "Are you working too hard? Still struggling and going nowhere? Hmmmmm? Listen. Have I got a place for you.
No worries, no cares -- it's terrific."
"Huh?" Al said. He was confused.
"Al, Al, Al!" You need a change.
Tomorrow, come and be my guest. Eddie, too.
You'll see, you'll love it!"

Then, with a few flaps, the bird was gone.

It took me a few reads to fall in love with this one, but my son dug it so hard, I had to give in. The author started a very interesting theatrical troupe called The Night Kitchen Radio Theater, which to me just adds to the mystery of it all. Though, he famously collaborated with Maurice Sendak and Matthew Reinhart on the pop-up Mommy? a few years back, his best might be the spellbinder It Happened in Pinsk.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Here Comes the Cat

Here Comes the Cat!
Vladimir Vagin and Frank Asch
Scholastic, 1989

Had originally seen this book at a library sale and been put off by the illustration style... A few days later, we ended up checking the Weston Woods version out from the library, and of course my son flipped for it. I backpedaled and was able to get the same copy that I'd originally dissed. Needless to say, the book has grown on me.

The story follows the lives of a veritable village of mice as they are warned and prepare for the imminent arrival of a cat. From what I can tell, the book was a collaboration between two artists, one in Russia and one in America... who worked together by flying sketches back and forth across the ocean. Except for a few exclamations, there are no words except for the repeated phrase....


.... in both English and Russian.

This book was written just before the turning point of the Cold War, and I imagine it was an artistic effort to draw the two countries together. The story echoes themes of prejudice -- being afraid of something because you don't understand it -- mirroring many of the animosities that were blanketed by the iron curtain.

Interestingly enough, Professor Thomas Wartenberg of the Department of Philosophy at Mount Holyoke College has a site that contains reading guides to open up philosophical discussion for kids on select book titles, and the questions he asks on Here Comes the Cat are really deep. What a great resource for reading aloud to children.

I'm glad I gave this one a second look because it is a really top notch. Even though we've only read it aloud a few times, the tale has become an integral part of my son's pretend play lexicon. He lines his toy animals up and has them one by one calling out "HERE COMES THE CAT" and then cowering in fear when his imaginary friend arrives. AWESOME!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Travels of Doctor Dolittle

Travels of Doctor Doolittle
Al Perkins with illustrations by Philip Wende
Random House, 1967

A few months back, my son saw the Rex Harrison Doctor Dolittle from 1967 for the first time (probably jumping the gun for a 2-year-old I know, but I just couldn't help myself) and loved it. So I was totally psyched when I came across what I suspect to be a movie tie-in from the time at Half Price Books. A Random House Beginner Book, it is a retelling of the original novel by Hugh Lofting. The controversial yet fabulously-named The Story of Doctor Dolittle, Being the History of His Peculiar Life at Home and Astonishing Adventures in Foreign Parts was published in 1920 and was the first in what would become a long series about the man from Puddleby-on-the-Marsh.

This retelling was written by Al Perkins and is (of course) appropriate for a first reader or as a read-aloud. It tells the story of the doc who could talk to the animals in a well-truncated version replete with long-limbed monkeys, Polynesian soldiers, Dab-Dab the duck, Jip the dog, good 'ole Gub-Gub the pig and the wondrous pushmi-pullyu.

When they got to the Equator, they saw some flying fishes.
The flying fishes said, "It is only 50 miles to Africa."
But then a great storm came up with thunder and lightning.
The wind howled. The rain poured.
The waves splashed over the boat.
Suddenly, there was a big "Boom!"
The ship stopped.
It rolled over on its side.
"Dear me," said the Doctor.
"We must have run into Africa.

It has animals and Africa, my son's two favorite things in the world, so I think we're sold on this one for the long haul.

Epilogue: Oh my god!.... Near, far, in our motor car/ Oh what a happy time we'll spend/ Bang Bang Chitty Chitty Bang Bang/ Our fine four fendered friend... Just saw that Mr. Perkins did a fantasmogorical version of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang for Random House in '68 as well. Consider it got! (Though I am gonna hold out on a viewing of the film just yet... Ian Fleming's bad guy spies sent by the Baron still give me the goosebumps even though I haven't set eyes on them in 25 years. Particularly that one with the black hat and the long nose. ACK!)

Also by:
The Nose Book

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Lorax

The Lorax
Dr. Seuss ~ Random House, 1971

I know all you hardcore collectors out there are gonna scream OBVIOUS, but seeing as today is Earth Day and this book is THE kid's book on the subject, I had to tip my hat. Not only that, but The Lorax is my all time favorite Dr. Seuss story. Way back when, I saw the animated version on TV, and it terrified me so deeply, that I never looked at a tree the same way again.

This story of the watchful Lorax, the destruction of a forest, and a regretful old Once-ler who brought about its demise is so important and poignant and touching... the mere thought of it gives me goosebumps all over and makes me want to cry with the hopelessness of it all.

"Mister!" he said with a sawdusty sneeze,
"I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees.
I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.
And I'm asking you sir, at the top of my lungs" --
he was very upset as he shouted and puffed --
"What's this THING you've made out of my Truffula tuft?"

The old Once-ler does not heed the warnings of the wee Lorax, and instead cuts down the Truffula forest tree by tree to make his Thneeds (which everyone needs) until there is nothing left. It is a fitting and stunning metaphor for the devastation of the natural world which surrounds us.

The Lorax said nothing. Just gave me a glance...
just gave me a very sad, sad backward glance...
as he lifted himself by the seat of his pants.
And I'll never forget the grim look on his face
when he heisted himself and took leave of this place,
through a hole in the smog, without leaving a trace.

This is a must-have for your child's library, as hopefully the message will get through and break your child's heart the way it did mine all those years ago.

And all that the Lorax left here in this mess
was a small pile of rocks, with the one word...

Happy Earth Day everyone.

Epilogue: Design Mom posted on The Lorax today too and mentioned a groovy new GREEN edition.

Also by:
McElligot's Pool
Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?
Come Over to My House
Bartholomew and the Oobleck

Monday, April 21, 2008

Anansi the Spider

Anansi the Spider
adapted and illustrated by Gerald McDermott/ published 1972 by Holt, Rinehart and Winston

Adapted from an animated film by the author, Anasi is a mythic African folktale. The prologue reads... Anansi is "the folk-hero to the Ashanti. This funny fellow is a rogue, a wise and loveable trickster. He is a shrewd and cunning figure who triumphs over larger foes. An animal with human qualities, Anasi is a mischief maker." According to the Wiki, the tar baby story from Uncle Remus was a retelling of an Anansi fable.

In this case, Anansi is a spider, and he gets into one unfortunate mishap after another, only to be saved by his six sons who each have an exceptional power -- not unlike The Five Chinese Brothers. (Isn't it cool how folktales from all over often have the same themes, leading us back to the time when we were all one?) In the end, it becomes a tale of how the moon came to be.

And so they tried to decide which son deserved the prize.
They tried, but they could not decide. They argued all night.
Nyame saw this.
The God of All Things,
he took the beautiful white light up into the sky.
He keeps it there for all to see.
It is still there.
It will always be there.
It is there tonight.

The book received a Caledecott honor, and the illustrations are bright with simple line drawings that even small kids will be into. I mean, who can resist a wacky spider stirring up all kinds of trouble? That's totally my kind of fun! Since there was a full moon this weekend, (and my son flips for what he calls "my friend the moon"), it is only fitting to tip my hat to this tale today. (Also, '72 was THE best year, no? wink wink;)

Great Monday Give: Count and See

Happy Monday everybody! I'm signing in to announce this week's Great Monday Give. I will be giving away a free, nice, used, reading, exlibrary, hard copy of count and see by Tana Hoban. This is really a great one, and anyone who comments on this post before midnight Sunday, April 27 will be entered into a random drawing.

As for last week's winner by the highly-technical blind scroll and point method.... drum roll please...Jennifer McNichols! She had this to say about Changes, Changes:

This looks like a crazy book, I'd love to add it to my daughter's collection.

And so it is. Jennifer, please e-mail me your info at, and I'll get the book to you via media mail, ASAP. Congrats!

Thanks for entering everyone, and good luck this week. Will be back in 20 minutes with today's review, so check it out!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Stone Soup

Stone Soup
Marcia Brown
Simon & Schuster, 1947

A Caldecott Honor book, Ms. Brown is most famous for the Caldecott Medal winners Cinderella ('55) and Once a Mouse ('62), and according to the Wiki... "she has won the Caldecott Medal three times, the only person to do so until David Wiesner in 2007." (David Wiesner being the amazing illustrator of such contemporary, wordless classics as Tuesday and Flotsam.)

My son digs Stone Soup because it is about people getting tricked... every toddler's laugh riot, no? A threesome of forlorn soldiers arrive at a village looking for shelter and food, but when the greedy villagers deny them, they cook up a plan (and a soup) that makes everyone generous and happy.

Then the first soldier called out, "Good people!"
The peasants drew near.
"We are hungry soldiers in a strange land.
We have asked you for food, and you have no food.
Well then, we'll have to make stone soup."
The peasants stared. Stone soup?
That would be something to know.

I'm not sure what the moral here is -- all kid's books have to have a moral right? -- but I think it must along the lines of "a sucker is born every minute" or "be generous or someone smarter than yourself will come along and take you for a ride". Ms. Brown's drawings are quaint and appealing, and I personally happen to love how she draws noses, all long and crooked.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


Edward Ormondroyd
illustrations by John Larrecq
Parnassus Press, 1969

I am a sucker for tight, little pen and ink drawings, so I was hooked on this one before I even opened the cover. For the California kid at heart, Broderick is the name of a wee mouse with big plans to conquer the world. One night while feasting on old book bindings (his favorite), he comes across an article about surfing and decides he is destined to become the most famous wave bound rodent to ever live. And he does just that in this sweet, silly tale about ambition, fame and practice, practice, practice!

A huge swell rose under him. As he went up the face of it, his surfboard began to slide forward. "Very well," Broderick thought. "Doomed I may be, but at least I can go to my doom in style." He stood up, made a smart kick turn to the right, and began to shoot across the face of the wave. He had never gone so gloriously fast in his life. His ears rippled and snapped behind him like flags in a gale. He shouted defiance and shook his fit at fate.

Thankful, Broderick is saved from various terrible fates and goes on to shine by dazzling a starstruck Malibu crowd "with this sun-bleached fur, deeply tanned tail, and a superb display of hot-dogging."

This book is what I would call beyond cute. Apparently the illustrator was one of the original members of the Santa Cruz Surf Club, so the book is pretty historically accurate (except for the part about a mouse winning fame and fortune on a surf board, of course.)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Professor Wormbog in Search for the Zipperump-A-Zoo

Professor Wormbog in Search for the Zipperump-a-Zoo
Mercer Mayer ~ Golden Books, 1976
reprinted in 2011 by Fastpencil

I know I just did a Mayer a few weeks back, but as I'm still too cheap to break down and purchase this one, it is due back to the library tomorrow. I have to purge all my library books before we head to Mexico for the month of May lest I drown in overdue fees. A first edition of Professor Wormbog is only slightly less expensive than his other 1974 collectable One Monster After Another... both of which will cost you a pretty penny. Even the last edition of PW from 2002 is way over the cover price. That said, this was the first in a series of four books that Mayer did in the late 70s about the good professor, picking them up right about the time that the A Boy, a Dog and a Frog series wound down. My son always talks about Professor Wormbog, so rather than drop the big bucks for it, I just keep returning to the library for a fix.

So there's this little professor see, and he collects monsters, but so far the Zipperump-a-Zoo has illuded him. And so his quest begins...

He had every beast from A to Y, but his collection was incomplete.
There was no Zipperump-a-Zoo in the place marked Z, for...
...the Zipperump-a-Zoo had never been caught.
Without further ado, Professor Wormbog decided to catch one.

Each picture is so full of in-jokes and secret winks, that as an adult it is hard not to get totally sucked into Mayer's world. Plus the monsters are insane. Dude, I totally wanna have a couple of glasses of wine with this guy and get inside his head. I bet it is a crazy fun place!

Extra special treat: I found Mercer doing some book readings on what I have to believe is his Youtube channel, including this one, and they are a riot. I love this guy.

Also by:
Liza Lou and the Yeller Belly Swamp
One Monster After Another
Professor Wormbog in Search for the Zipperump-A-Zoo
Me and My Flying Machine
Beauty and the Beast
A Special Trick
Bubble Bubble
One Frog Too Many
How the Trollusk Got His Hat
Little Monster at Work
The Bird of Time


Read along on Facebook, Twitter, tumblr and Etsy!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Calico the Wonder Horse or The Saga of Stewy Stinker

Calico the Wonder Horse, or the Saga of Stewy Stinker
Virginia Lee Burton
Houghton Mifflin, 1941

I'm sure this isn't a rare find by any means, but I'm a big Virginia Lee Burton fan, and I've never laid eyes on this book until yesterday afternoon at around 10:30 a.m. My son and I were at the library, and I picked it off the shelf to check out, only to find it within the same hour somewhere on sale (this always happens to me!) And, technically, I haven't actually read it to my son yet, but instead had the joy of watching my husband read it aloud to him after dinner last night.

Calico is nothing less than a SAGA. It took over 20 minutes, but I'll swear to you I've never had more fun listening to someone read something out loud. My son was talking up a storm the whole time... pointing things out and generally acting as peanut gallery to my husband's Howdy Doody.

The title of this book alone should be enough to communicate its awesomeness!

Of course Burton's illustrations are superb and these have a comic strip quality, but the WORDS.... God, they are a hysterical slice of heaven! Calico the Wonder Horse is such a bad ass, or as Burton describes her... "she could run like greased lightning and she could turn on a quarter and give you back fifteen cents in change". From there, it just gets better and better.

He had seen Stewy Stinker and his gang of bad men... Butch Bones, Snake Eye Pyezon, Buzzard Bates and little Skunk Skeeter... in the Badlands. Stewy Stinker was said to be so mean he would hold up Santa Claus on Christmas Eve if he had a chance. He rode a horse whose name was Mud.

It goes on and on...

Butch Bones was Stewy Stinker's right-hand man. Butch Bones boasted he was so tough he would bite a live grizzly bear's nose. Snake Eye Pyseson was Stewy Stinker's left-hand man. He was so crooked, they said, that if he swallowed nails he'd spit out corkscrews. Buzzard Bates was so bad even a buzzard wouldn't use him for bate. Little Skunk Skeeter just tagged along because nobody else liked him.

Though Burton is most famous for classics like The Little House and Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, a friend of mine had recommended Life Story (about the origins of the universe and the life of the world), so I'd been on the look out for her work anyway. Finding this one was like the cherry on top.

You know, you have your old childhood favorites, and sometimes you forget that the authors probably wrote a lot of other books you're not familiar with. Dang... this means some author Goggling is in my future. Like I don't have enough to do already!

Also by:
The Little House
Life Story


Read along on Facebook, tumblr, Twitter and Etsy!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Seven Uncles Come to Dinner

Seven Uncles Come to Dinner
Marjorie Auerbach ~ Alfred A. Knopf, 1963

It is just endless. The obsession to have everything. The weekly library sales and the online buying and the Goodwill hunting and the begging your mother for the books you loved as a girl. The envy when you find books you love but can't afford. ACK!

Whew, just had to get that off my chest. I apologize again in advance for my focus on books from the 60s, but there is just sooo much cool stuff out there. Leading me to my son's new favorite of the week. He's been focused on rhymes of late and has taken to calling out words and their rhyming friends in rapid succession, so this book of mistaken cadence plays along swimmingly with his games. (And would be perfect for any of you Francophile mommies out there!)

A little boy and his great-aunt live in the heart of Paris, and when the boy's uncles plan a visit, she sends little Emile to the market armed with a string bag, a cat and a series of rhymes to help him remember what to buy. Somewhere along the way, he gets mixed up and comedy ensues.

"Now listen to me carefully, my dear. First I will need:
Cherries and berries for the fruit compote,
Green beans and tangerines... shall I take a note?"
"Oh no, Tante, I'll remember everything you tell me."
Then Great-aunt Louise had an idea.
"I'll tell you all in rhyme, my pet. Then you won't be likely to forget."
So she continued:
"Nine little sausages and a leg of veal,
A Sainte Honorine tart and some orange peel.
Seven brioches and a long thin bread,
And any flowers, so long as they're red.

"Cherries and berries and tangerines" become "tomatoes, potatoes, and nectarines" and so on, and the child's romp through the markets of La Ville-Lumière is lively and tickling. The wood cuts are bright, and the story moves along at such an engrossing clip, it makes you wish it went on longer than it does.

One of my personal favorite finds and one of my son's top five lifetime picks.

Great Monday Give: Changes, Changes

I'm back and happy to announce the next Great Monday Give! The day when Vintage Kids' Books My Kid Loves gives away a recycled copy of a classic kid's book. This week's giveaway is a nice/hard/ex-library copy of Changes, Changes by Pat Hutchins. In order to win, all you have to do is comment on this post before midnight Sunday, April 20.

Last week's winner of the book The Little Island is Ben Kleinman. Congrats man! You can e-mail me your info at, and I'll get it out to you via media mail ASAP.

I'll get around to all you posters eventually, so keep trying. Meanwhile, tune in around nap time for today's review!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

The Little Island

The Little Island
Golden MacDonald
(aka Margaret Wise Brown)
illustrations by Leonard Weisgard
Doubleday & Company, 1946

The Little Island is to me a story about having faith and believing in things you can not see. When a little kitten comes to this perfect place, she can't believe it is really and truly a part of the big, big world until a fish convinces her that it is all one land under the sea. Animal life abounds here as this tale of peace, nature, tranquility and the changing of the seasons unfolds. Perhaps it is most beautiful in its simplicity. A great bedtime story for my son, it sets a nice calming tone in a world that often doesn't take the time to stop and smell the flowers.

There was a little Island in the ocean.
Around it the winds blew
And the birds flew
And the tides rose and fell on the shore.
Clouds passed over it
Fish swam around it
And the fog came in from the sea
and hid the little Island
in a soft wet shadow.

The imagery goes on like this...

The morning was very quiet
on the Island
with only the spiders sailing their webs
against a gentle wind.

I apologise for being so MWB-ccentric, but if you love vintage children's books, she is hard to ween away from! I recently read Weisgard's acceptance speech on winning the Caldecott Medal for this book, and it is stunning.

"Everything is fast and fleeting around the little island; the sea is never still, the clouds fly quickly into different shapes, the colors change from sunlight to mistlight, the trees are moving and the birds are always flying and screaming. This active little island was too elusive for me to catch in its own time. It was easier to put as much of it as I could wherever it is you store such things, take it home to Connecticut, and remember it all in my own time.

And after all this I don't believe I could really tell you of illustrating or bookmaking, certainly not of the poetry of living and dying, nor of little children.

You already know it. You know it in your own lives, you know it in what is written, in what you see and hear and feel and with children all around you."

If you have a few minutes check out the speech in full here.

Also by:
The Quiet Noisy Book
On Christmas Eve
Christmas in the Barn
The Dead Bird
Little Chicken
Wait Til the Moon Is Full
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Treasures to See
The Big Book of Nursery Tales
The Friendly Book
Sir Kevin of Devon
Cynthia and the Unicorn
The Mouse and the Lion

Friday, April 4, 2008

Vacation Next Week

Hey hey hey readers, it totally slipped my mind, but I will be out all next week on a writer's retreat in Mexico... YEA!!!!! As such, I will be posting the next Great Monday Give tomorrow as well as the winner of this week's Sam, Bangs & Moonshine.

Plus, I won't be back posting until the following Monday, April 14. So check in to tomorrow to see who wins and what the next giveaway will be!


Kit Williams/ published 1980 by Schoken Books

Just so you all know, yes, I admit it. I am a huge Jim Henson fan. From the time I was really small, I was absolutely in love with the man and used to sign all my paintings and letters Mrs. Henson. Dorky, I know. I never actually realised liking the Muppets made me a dork until I went to work for the company in their children's publishing department. Henson fans used to show up by the droves on the doorstep of the Muppet mansion, and believe me, they were oft-mocked at the lunch table. It was my secret shame that years before getting the job, I too had shown up at the door looking for a handout tour. As an employee, it took me a while to figure out I wasn't the only fan who had infiltrated the ranks, and later, when I quit to move to a better job at a publishing house, I secretly mourned leaving my cosmic home...

Anyway, what I'm getting at is the only other person that I felt such a close affinity to growing up was Kit Williams. Sure it helped that the men looked like brothers, but for more than two years, Kit's book Masquerade was all my sisters, my mom and I talked about. In the summer of 1980, this book was released to mass hysteria in both America and the UK. It is a haunting tale of a love between the sun and the moon, and within the story hid the secret to where a REAL buried treasure was located -- a golden jewel handcrafted by the author and artist himself. I was only 8 at the time, but our whole family would spent hours upon days pouring over every page trying to find the keys to where the gold was hidden in England. Our original copy eventually fell apart from so much wear, which only made it that much easier for us to share the search. My mom more than anyone was absolutely obsessed with finding it. She would form all of her correspondence guesses to the author in the shape of a rabbit (the main character of the story and the actual form of the jewel), and once even found his home phone number and bothered his wife for clues.

According to the author, you didn't have to live in the UK to be able to discover the answer, but come on... These were the days before cyberspace, and believe me, after you've spent two years getting to know that book inside and out, once you see the answer, there was no way you could have figured it out without some pretty detailed knowledge of Great Britain. Still it made for a few magical summers. Williams went on to publish another treasure hunt a few years later, with the mystery being the actual title of the book, and though we spent a few months decoding the puzzle, it wasn't the same. You had to guess the name of the book, and then make something to relay the answer without actually writing the name. My mom did construct a bee hive out of balsa wood and bee's wax that she covered in designs with a wood-burning gun. Man, would I like to know where that thing is now! Anywho, I ramble..

Regardless that the treasure has long since been recovered (by someone who cheated no less!) and those summers are only a memory, the books stands the test of time and remains as a lavish testament to the heart of the young reader. And so the tale begins....

Within the pages of this book there is a story told
Of love, adventures, fortunes lost, and a jewel of solid gold.
To solve the hidden riddle, you must use your eyes,
And find the hare in every picture that may point you to the prize.

The romance between the two unlikely soul mates is heartbreaking and wonderful, and the paintings that illustrate are something of another world all together. A paperback edition was published with a full explanation of the jewel's ultimate hiding place. Do your kid's imagination a favor and eBay this one.

Also by:
The Bee on the Comb

Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Wild Birthday Cake

The Wild Birthday Cake
Lavinia R. Davis ~ pictures by Hildegard Woodward
Doubleday & Company, 1949

Let me preface by saying as far as picture books go, The Wild Birthday Cake is really, really long, so be forewarned... however, out of all my son's favorites, this story lies closest to my heart. I'm personally not super-jacked about this era of illustration, but for me, the specialness comes in the writing. I don't know much of anything about this book's author, but the plot is so reflective of my own childhood, I almost could have written it myself.

He was not sure exactly how his day of adventure was going to begin. It might start with damming up the brook at the bottom of Broomstick Hill to make a pool for minnows. It might start with walking down to the valley in search of chipmunks. Or he might begin by going into the woods to see if any sandpipers had stopped off in the marsh on their way north to the sea. Johnny was only sure that his adventure was going to be out of doors because it was such a beautiful day; and that it was going to have something to do with animals because he like animals better than anything else in the world.

Johnny sets out on a nature adventure, but when he becomes preoccupied with what to get a friend for his birthday, the answer ends up landing square in front of him.

I couldn't be more into this book. The way Ms. Davis writes is so striking and confident that the imagery of places and things are poetry unto themselves.

-- His heart clinked around inside his plaid shirt faster than the pop bottle inside his knapsack.

-- Johnny shivered... He wasn't cold... He was just excited at the sight of the ducks and the sound of their quacking.

-- It was a wonderful Fourth-of-July idea that exploded like a rocket right inside Johnny's head.

For all you teacher's out there, this would be a great read-aloud book for kids with a little more attention span who are doing nature studies. The sense of wonder here literally oozes.
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