Friday, May 30, 2008

Harry and the Lady Next Door

Harry and the Lady Next Door
Gene Zion with pictures by Margaret Bloy Graham/ published 1960 by Harper & Row

My husband informed me that I have a pile of little packages waiting at home for me from a myriad of online used book sellers (I've done some late night surfing here in Mexico during my evenings alone), so be guaranteed that next week's posts will be jammed packed with rare finds and yummy treats! In the meantime, as the last post from my son's paperback collection we brought to Mexico (and my last post from Mexico period), please give it up for my son's favorite book in the Harry the Dirty Dog series (though Harry by the Sea is pretty up there too).

All around him were cows mooing.
They mooed very low notes.
Harry listened.
He thought the cows made beautiful music.
He had never heard anything so soft and low.
He wished the lady next door would sing like the cows.
Suddenly Harry had an idea.

In this episode, we find Harry the black and white dog utterly annoyed by the vocal antics of his operatic neighbor. In order to drown out her incessant caterwauling, he enlists dogs, cows and even a marching band. Though ultimately, he finally finds the answer to his ears in a pair of funny frogs. Such a hoot. The illustrated, upturned nose of the neighbor is beyond snooty, and the lovely sounds that Harry hears are a gas to read aloud. Music to my mouth.

Also by:
Be Nice to Spiders

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Harold's Circus

Harold's Circus
Crockett Johnson/ published 1959 by Harper & Row

Growing up, I was familiar with Harold and the Purple Crayon (if for no other reason that it resembled my favorite Captain Kangaroo bit -- Simon in the Land of Chalk Drawings).

It was only after I had my son that I came to realize Harold had way more than one adventure (Harold's Fairy Tale/Trip to the Sky/at the North Pole/ABC/etc.) And this "astounding, colossal, purple crayon event" about Harold at the circus.

It was the tail of a lion.
Somehow a lion had gotten loose in the circus.
Before anyone could quite recognize the
danger and become alarmed, Harold
was at work getting the lion into the cage.
He got into the cage himself, with nothing
but a lion tamer's chair.
Then, like the bravest of lion tamers, he faced the lion.
With no thought of fear, he put his head right in the lion's mouth.
After he took his head out of the lion's mouth
it occurred to him that lions have big teeth.

That last part is my favorite, as we see Harold drawing in the lion's teeth even as his face grows blank with fear. Every book in this series is such a vivid illustration of the wonders of a child's imagination. Really, anything by Mr. Johnson or his wife Ruth gets a million thumbs up in my book.

Also by:
The Happy Egg

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Let's Be Enemies

Let's Be Enemies
Janice May Udry with pictures by Maurice Sendak
Harper & Row, 1961

Just can't get enough of that Sendak stuff. Really, his backlist is a lovely, endless highway that just goes on and on through the most beautiful and shocking landscape. Always a surprise around the corner. I don't remember the why of how this perfect little paperback came into our lives, but my son loves flipping through it saying... "On this page, they are friends." *page turn* "Uh oh, now they are enemies."

When James was my friend
I invited him to my birthday party.
I always shared my pretzels
and my umbrella with him.
I showed him where the horny toad lives.
We were such good friends
that we had the chicken pox together.
But I wouldn't have the chicken pox
with James now.
He is my enemy.
James always wants to be boss.

Don't we all have friends like that? The little faces Sendak draws here alternate between delightful, soft smiles and grumpy, downward grins. They project such emotion that kids can immediately relate to the actions and feelings of the two boys without having to read the story. (Though Janice's back and forth plot line rocks hard too!) Plus, the book itself is tiny, and I am all about tiny books with tiny illustrations for heaven's sake. Another honest lesson learned at the pen of the man who doesn't write/draw for kids, but for his own wicked sense of self. Sharp as a tack that dude.

Also by:
A Very Special House
Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present
Moon Jumpers
What Do You Say, Dear?
Pierre: A Cautionary Tale
A Tree is Nice
Some Swell Pup
Chicken Soup with Rice
Lullabies and Night Songs
Outside Over There
I'll Be You and You Be Me
The Juniper Tree
Where the Wild Things Are
Seven Little Monsters
The Giant Story

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Big Honey Hunt

The Big Honey Hunt
Stanley and Janice Berenstain
Random House, 1962

The very first in the currently overexploited franchise (edited at Random House Beginner Books by Dr. Seuss himself), it is easy to see why kids get such a kick out of these books. Like some Homer Simpson of children's literature, the early titles in the series featured a Papa Bear who was more of a lovable dunce, always screwing things up and getting easily outsmarted by his own two kids.

The drawings here are primitive compared to the current incarnation of the family Bear, but there is something in their simplicity that makes them irresistible even today. The Big Honey Hunt quite literally makes my son squeal out loud repeatedly, then jump up and down, and finally throw his arms around my neck whilst flopping his head back, guffawing hysterically. A laugh riot guaranteed.

We ate our honey.
We ate a lot.
Now we have no honey in our honey pot.

Go get some honey.
Go get some more.
Go get some honey from the honey store.

We will go for honey.
Come on Small Bear!
We will go for honey and I know where.

The store...
She said to get it there.

Not at the store.
Oh, no, Small Bear.

If a bear is smart.
If a bear knows how.
He goes on a honey hunt.
Watch me now

Papa and Small Bear get skunked by skunks, chased by bees, attacked by an owl and scared by a porcupine before...

...they get smart and do what Mama told them to do in the first place.

The couple who would later be have their pen names shorten to Stan and Jan started out doing cartoons in the 40s and had a pretty exceptional love story. I give huge kudos to artists who are able to spend a life creating in partnership with the one they love. Such an inspiration. Stan died in 2005 at age 82, and Jan still writes and illustrates occasionally with their son Mike. While I find the current Berenstain Bear books to be overwritten, boring and pretty dorky (don't get me wrong though, my son still has a huge collection and for the most part they all stay in high rotation), these early works are a real joy. Check out Inside Outside Upside Down '68, Bears on Wheels '69, Old Hat New Hat '70 and Bears in the Night '71. Sooo good. (Plus, if anyone can find me a reasonably priced copy of The Bears’ Activity Book circa 1979, I will give you naming rights on my second born.)

Also by:
Berenstain Bears and the Spooky Old Tree
The Bears' Activity Book
The Bears' Nature Guide
The Bears' Almanac

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Little Lamb

The Little Lamb
story by Judy Dunn
photographs by Phoebe Dunn
Random House, 1977

I'll admit, I've been stalking the 70s on this trip, but there is just so much rad stuff out there, it is hard to bounce around from era to era without your head spinning entirely off. I imagine every kid from that time had one or more of these photography storybooks written and photographed by this talented mother/daughter team (i.e. The Little Rabbit, The Little Kitten, The Little Duck, etc.) The nostalgia is so thick when I read this to my son that I get all warm and snuggly inside.

Emmy (I was this close to naming my son that if he'd ended up a daughter) is a little girl who finds herself the caretaker to a motherless, newborn lamb that she names Timothy. She takes it home and bottle feeds it and loves it and gives it a little leather collar with a bell. They play hide and seek in the grass and make dandelion chains and all is happy and fun. That is, until Timothy gets bigger and wreaks havoc all over everywhere. In the end, Emily must give her lamb back to the farm where he rightfully belongs...

Early the next morning,
Emmy walked Timothy to the Wetherbee Farm.
She hugged Timothy's wooly neck
and promised to visit whenever she could.
Then he took off his purple leash
and Timothy scampered out to meet the flock.
He buried his nose in the clover patch,
and grazed with the other sheep in the morning sun.

The story sort of riffs on the first half of Charlotte's Web, before the spider, the rat and all the complicated doings of the farmyard.

I love this book, as does the wee one. The little girl (particularly in her party dress for the birthday scene), the sheep and the photographs are all adorable and made me wistful for life on the farm when I was small. The Little Lamb was my favorite in the series as my sisters and I had a lamb named Tina, and though she was wilder than Timothy, I often fantasized about sleeping with her in bed at night and buying her a purple leash just like Tim had. (Then she'd eat my coloring books, and I'd remember why she lived out in the barn.) Sweet, sweet book for the gentle at heart.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Make Way For Ducklings

Make Way for Ducklings
Robert McCloskey
The Viking Press, 1941

Possibly one of the best books EVER for kids. A timeless classic, I remember it from my youth, even if One Morning in Maine was the one I always took everywhere with me. We spent a good deal of time in Maine when I was little (both my sisters were born there), and McCloskey's books have always made me get that New England feeling in my bones. Of course, my son is an animal nut, and the animal that floats to the top for him every time is the duck. If ducks have a quintessential kids' book, this is it for sure.

I won't get into the history of Make Way here, as it is a bountiful and lively one (and has been written about everywhere), but you can check out the Wiki entry to get more details. McCloskey also did a great interview with Horn Book where he spills on the making of, including how he famously lived with ducks in his studio for a while so he could draw them just right. That said, this Caldecott Medal winner begins simply enough...

Mr. and Mrs. Mallard were looking for a place to live. But every time Mr. Mallard saw what looked like a nice place, Mrs. Mallard said it was no good. There were sure to be foxes in the woods or turtles in the water, and she was not going to raise a family where there might be foxes or turtles. So they flew on and on.

Sure, Mrs. Mallard is picky, but she is a strong and independent Momma who ultimately leads her family to the Public Garden in Boston. The rest of the Mallard's story follows them finding the perfect nesting spot, raising the kids and finally Momma taking her young ones (sans Dad) on a long and harrowing walk through Downtown Boston that literally has people stopping in their tracks. The duck illustrations are utterly flawless -- full of personality, humor and comic realism. Ten thumbs and ten toes definately WAY up!

Also by:
One Morning in Maine
Burt Dow Deep-Water Man
The Man Who Lost His Head
Journey Cake, Ho!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Ox-Cart Man

Ox-Cart Man
by Donald Hall with pictures by Barbara Cooney/ published 1979 by Viking Penguin

I'm over the moon that finally my son has taken to this sweetheart of a book. The winner of the 1980 Caldecott Medal, the pictures are quaint and charming, but it is the story that really sets my imagination ablaze. I love tales that transport a reader back to another time, and this one is told so well and so "of a moment", that it really couldn't be better. The moment begins...

In October he backed his ox into his cart
and he and his family filled it up with
everything they made or grew all year long
that was left over.

... and it goes from there. The man is packing up all the things the family has to sell at market: mittens the daughter knits from the wool culled from their sheep, brooms the son whittles, linen the mother makes from the flax they grow, potatoes the father harvests, etc. I love how the story conveys self-sufficiency and an overwhelmingly GREEN message about taking only taking what you need and living off the earth. Very Little House on the Prairie. Very cool. It offers a gentle and slowly-paced message for kids in this era of poorly written movie tie-in books that use sound effect buttons and sparkle stickers to turn kids on.

I love that after the dad's gone to the market and sold everything from the bags the potatoes were in to the ox itself, he walks the ten days home with his new purchases (namely: a knife for his son, a needle for his daughter, a kettle for his wife and a bag of wintergreen peppermint candies for all). When he gets home, they start all over again... building a new ox-cart, raising a baby ox, etc. And of course, everyone enjoys a wintergreen peppermint candy. Such a delightful read.

Also by:
Christmas in the Barn
Chanticleer and the Fox
The Crows of Pearblossom
Wynken, Blynken and Nod
The Man Who Didn't Wash His Dishes

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Guinea-Pig Podge

Guinea-Pig Podge
Racey Helps/ published 1971 by The Medici Society

Published by the illustrious UK stationary and art book house, I had a number of books by this man and others who were made famous by this society. (I.E. Ella Bruce, Jean Gilder, Truda Mordue, Audrey Tarrant, but most namely Molly Brett -- I'll be posting on her in the days to come). This guy talks a little about the author and the society, but his blog post was the most I could find without going too deep.

Needless to say, these books littered my bedroom floor when I was wee. This one in particular happens to be my son's favorite of the Mexican moment. It is yet another tale of a naive domestic animal that believes his cushy, caged life is far superior to a wild one. I imagine under the influence of Beatrix Potter -- who was and is a national monument in the UK -- there were a lot of British illustrators who grew up wanting to draw and write stories in a similar style. The Medici Society authors all did it... i.e. spin sweet stories of quaint talking animals roaming the English countryside.

Podge is a guinea pig with an adorable cowlick. Told from his point of view, the story opens with him getting plucked from the pet store and out to a new home with his two elementary-school masters. The likable Podge quickly becomes friends with some of the local wildlife. A romp with an impish rabbit almost gets him disemboweled by a hawk -- making him thoroughly appreciate his luxe wire mesh walls and bed of fresh hay. Too cute is this scene where the rabbit (aka Floppitty) introduces Podge to his hare family.

"We've never seen anyone quite like him before. What exactly IS he?"
All of the rabbits stared at me very hard. I began to wish very much that I had long ears and some sort of tail.
"It's a sort of a pig thing and costs about a guinea," explained Floppitty. "He's very rare you know, so I brought him to show you -- and show you to him."

"I haven't heard him grunt," said one young rabbit. "Farmer Mangold's pig grunts no end--and his ears flop over his eyes."
"That just shows how rare this one is," said Floppitty.

These books are must-haves for those wanting to raise a houseful of Poppins' tots, as I'm sure every Generation X kid in the United Kingdom fell asleep to these stories. Definitely worth rediscovering.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Some Swell Pup

Some Swell Pup
Maurice Sendak and Matthew Margolis with pictures by Sendak
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1976

First off, I'd like to apologize for dropping the ball on Friday, but hey, things happen. Secondly, I have no idea why Maurice Sendak would team up with a dog expert to write this book, but it is nothing short of brilliant. The cover of my paperback edition gives a quote from Job Michael Evans of Dog Fancy that gives some insight -- "Sendak himself is an absolute nut about dogs, and his concern and affection shine forth." Still, if anyone has details on how this odd collaboration came to be, please step into the light my friend.

That said, I feel like if you have a kid, and said kid wants a dog, this book is a MUST READ. It is colorful and hysterical, and at times spooky and far out, but always informative and wickedly truthful. The subtitle is "Or Are You Sure You Want a Dog?" and that pretty much sums up what you're gonna get outta the story before you even crack the cover.

Boy and girl get dog. Boy and girl love dog. Dog begins to crap/bite/chew. Boy and girl get mad at dog. Boy and girl want to take it out on dog. Giant hooded mystery dog arrives to talk some sense into boy and girl. The rest is magic.

The illustrations are (as always) brilliant, and in this case, done in a comic book format that really brings the story to life. If you want your kid to get a vivid picture of what life with dog is like, this book will do the trick. It speaks well to the nature of children, and how that nature and a brand spanking new puppy can often be a fatal mix.

I do read this one to my son, but I also keep it hanging around just for me. The candor and wit crack me up. Or maybe it's just that I have a thing for children's books with drawings of animals defecating. Always a hit with the kids!

Also by:
A Very Special House
Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present
Moon Jumpers
What Do You Say, Dear?
Pierre: A Cautionary Tale
Let's Be Enemies
Chicken Soup with Rice
Lullabies and Night Songs
Outside Over There
I'll Be You and You Be Me
The Juniper Tree
Where the Wild Things Are
Seven Little Monsters
The Giant Story

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Banner Day

Notice: I did indeed get my hands on Photoshop today to fix the offending apostrophe. Behold, the new and improved typo-free banner. That said, just in case anyone was wondering... the photo is of my sisters and me taken somewhere around 1975. That's me in the middle. :)

Oscar Otter

Oscar Otter
Nathaniel Benchley
illustrations by Arnold Lobel
Harper & Row, 1966

Bought my old-school Oscar at a little shop in Southport, NY, but it is still in print in an early reader edition. My son the (animal) nut often pretend-plays using the plot line, and even gets our two golden retrievers into the game. The writer was the son of the famous Alquonquin Round Table author, Robert, and the father of the man who created JAWS, Peter.... and the illustrator, of course, the beloved Mr. Lobel -- king of the muted monotones. There is just something about this book. I can't quite get an index on it. Maybe it is the sweet combination of the imagery of aloneness and breaking the rules with the escaping evil and coming home again that makes me tingle. Sort of a nice little metaphor about going out on your own, but being able to come back. It makes the world seem like a really safe place.

So, Oscar is all about building otter slides, see. But when he gets PO'd at a beaver for cramping his style, he heads out on a secret adventure that almost gets him eaten alive.

"You're late for supper, his father said.
"Where have you been?"
"Late?" said Oscar.
"I almost was supper--a fox's supper."
"Next time," said his father,
"will we try to be not quite so smart?"
"What next time?" replied Oscar.
"I am happy right where I am."

The element of "I told you so" has been very effective in my house. My son is fully aware that Oscar is a "bad boy", and totally gets the real life correlation. Nice, right? Oh, the things kids pick up from books!

Also by:
A Ghost Named Fred
The Terrible Tiger
Red Tag Comes Back
Oscar Otter
The Star Thief
Mouse Tales
Prince Bertram the Bad
The Secret Three
Benny's Animals
Miss Suzy
Martha the Movie Mouse
Terry and the Caterpillars
The Strange Disappearance of Arthur Cluck
Ice Cream Cone Coot


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Vintage Kids' Books My Kid Loves

OK all you educators out there who read this blog. How come no one ever mentioned to me that it should be KIDS' BOOKS, no? I never thought about it until tonight. My logic being... CHILDREN'S BOOKS... KID'S BOOKS... see the connection? Only tonight did it occur to me that children is already plural, duh.

So yes... please feel free to chime in all you grammaracs. I know I'm not the best with tenses, spelling and the like, but the TITLE OF MY BLOG? Come on!

Technically, it should be Vintage Kids' Books My Kid Loves, no? I need some professional validation on this people!

(Please note though that in Mexico, I am without my Photoshop, so a new and improved banner will have to wait. You will just have to excuse my poor punctuation for now and love me anyway.)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Ezra Jack Keats/ published 1969 by Macmillan

Again with the classics. The tone is a little darker that some of the others about Peter and his gang (Snowy Day, Whistle for Willie, Pet Show!, etc.) My son really likes this book, but sometimes the older bad boys spook him a bit. Me thinks he thinks it is delightfully menacing.

So Peter and his friend Archie find a pair of motorcycle goggles and are psyched... that is until some older kids try and take them away. With the help of Peter's trusty dachshund, Willie, they manage to evade the gang.

They got to Archie's house.
Archie laughed and said,
"We sure fooled 'em, didn't we?"
"We sure did," said Peter, handing him the goggles.
"Things look real fine now," Archie said.
"They sure do," said Peter.

I love how Keats' books quit on an open-ended note that is upbeat but still ambiguous. For some reason they remind me of that Soderbergh film Sex, Lies and Videotape. How the final scene ends with Andie MacDowell and James Spader sitting on the steps. She says... "I think it's gonna rain. And he says... "It is raining". I love that.

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

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

One Monster After Another

One Monster After Another
by Mercer Mayer
Golden Press, 1974

You know, whenever I hit an author often, I feel guilty that I'm not getting around enough, but hey, eventually I'm gonna run out of books to blog about right? (RIGHT?) Mayer wrote a TON of books (some genius and some wretchedly crappy), and as this is one of the most collectable picture books from my childhood era, I had to give it props.

Yes, I did worship the whole Beatrix Potter collection. Yes, Kate Greenaway was one of my idols. Yes, there is an original watercolor by Tasha Tudor in my son's room. But damn it, being from a broken home, I worshipped Mayer's Just Me and My Dad. I used to visit it at the book store when I was 6 years old... and though I don't remember when I actually got a copy of my own, that and Just For You were two of my favorites. (I read on the Wiki that Just For You --released in 1975-- was subsequently published less five of the original pages. My son's been reading a newer, bastardized edition. SAVE ME EBAY!)

That said, I never saw this book until last year, and had I seen it when I was wee, odds are it would have scared the crap out of me. My son, however, loves it. Yea, it is about monsters, but the monsters (some of them at least) are funny, funny, funny. The premise is clever. A little girl mails a letter, and the letter runs into a series of monsters, each out to get the letter from a myriad of different angles. Mayer loves to make up crazy, make-believe words like Bombanat and Grumley and Typhoonigator and Yalapappus. If your kid is anything like mine, I'm sure he'd love to hear you try and read the words FURIOUS-FLOATING ICE-FERG without busting a gut.

The Paper-Munching Yalapappus trundled after him,
shouting and loudly grimming.

I mean, what the hell does that even mean!?! Kids eat this stuff up. Please do yourself a favor and keep your eye out for a copy of this book. The Rainbird paperback edition from 1993 can still be picked up affordably. I believe I bought my copy at Half-Price Books for $2.95. Score! (And do check out the Little Critter series circa the 70s. Those first few titles were great even if the newer ones aren't as imaginative.)

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

Monday, May 12, 2008


Ruth and Latrobe Carroll/ published 1951 by Henry Z. Walck

When I was little, I had these spectacular reoccurring dreams about tiny pet deer and monkeys and dogs that were so small I could keep them in a shoe box and let them dance on my fingers. Alas, it seems I am not the only one with miniature fantasies. I was delighted to find this little paperback ditty at a library sale about a dog with a name that fits him to a tee. This married couple from North Carolina apparently did a number of children's books on dogs, but none so petite as our little Peanut.

Once there was a pet store in a very big city
where a man sold very little dogs.
One puppy was so small he could sit in a teacup.
Another was so small he could sit in a shoe.
Three could sit in a hat together.
Six were so very little they could all get on a roller skate.
And one was so very very tiny he could sit on a spool of thread.
The name of this tiny, tiny puppy was Peanut.

This dog is so cute... he's like a marshmallow with legs... you could squeeze him forever and then eat him up... his sweet little face is oh so yummy. Plus the story is rather hee-haw. Little dog loves boy. Boy loves little dog. Boy gets bigger dog he loves more. Little dog becomes desperate for companionship and looks for friends of the rodent variety. Little dog gets lost down a mouse hole. Big dog finds little dog, and all is forgiven. The book is bit long for a picture book, but check out the contraption the boy finally makes so that Peanut will no longer be left behind. Is that an awesome ride or what?

Friday, May 9, 2008

The Three Little Pigs/ The Three Little Kittens

The Three Little Pigs
pictures by Tadasu Izawa and Shigemi Hijikata/ published 1968 by Dairisha and printed and bound by Zokeisha Productions

A girlfriend of mine bought her daughter a large lot of these Twin Puppet Storybooks off of eBay and gifted my son one, and at the time, they seemed vaguely familiar. After further investigation, I think I was remembering the ones from the Golden Books series by Shiba (The Little Mermaid goes for a mint... and you can find out more here). Both sets of books have the same premise with the lenticular 3D covers and the photos snatched from puppet films. Not sure if the man behind the Shiba books is related to the folks who did the Twin Puppet Storybooks, but as both are out of Japan in the 60s and 70s, I'm sure there is some connection. Anyone know? Regardless, it seems the Twin Puppet series is still pretty affordable on eBay, thus easier to collect. That said, these books with their little puppet actors and handmade sceneries are beyond freaky and totally retro.

Even though I'm not hip enough to know the full history behind the pictures, the stories of course are the familiar tales about the kittens and their mittens and the three little pigs, la la la.

Once there were three little pigs
who each wanted to build a house of his own.
"I will build my house of straw," said the first pig.
"I will build my house of twigs," aid the second pig.
I will build my house of bricks," said the third pig

Then there's a wolf and some huffin' and puffin', etc. You know the drill. Same goes for the cats.

Three little kittens
They lost their mittens,
And they began to cry,
“Oh Mother dear,
we sadly fear that we have lost our mittens.
“What, you lost your mittens!
You naughty kittens!
Then you shall have no pie.”

If anyone knows anything about how the two book series are connected, shoot me a comment. Let the mystery unfold.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Sam and the Firefly

Sam and the Firefly
P.D. Eastman ~ Random House, 1958

Again, I apologize for the obvious and will be back with random, abstract thrift store finds next month, but for now... it's time to give it up for the classics. Strangely, this one falls into the top five favorite books from my own childhood (even before Eastman's Go, Dog, Go), and my son glommed on to it pretty quick. Again, the fact that the story takes place at night and mostly in the dark gave it an air of experiencing something that only went on when I was passed out in my toddler bed... something spooky and mysterious (I mean, come on... isn't there always an owl pictured in a tree when something mysterious and spooky is afoot!?!) That said... I still love this book. In fact, I can't get enough of it, and am always pushing it on my son and giving it top bedside table billing just so I can experience it again and again and again.

The way all the pictures are shadows in a deep blue expect for the yellow glowing eyes of the owl, the tail of the firefly, and the firefly's leave-behind light... with some white light (the moon, car headlights, street signs) thrown in for a perfect trifecta of color. This book rocks my world in the hardest way.

So yea, Sam the owl and Gus the firefly are friends, that is until Gus learns that his tail light it the perfect conduit for rascal–isms. Man that firefly’s butt gets them in a mess of trouble. Gus begins his shenanigans by writing all kinds of bad, bad words in the sky…

What was Gus up to?
Gus made some words.
Gus made GO FAST and SLOW.
He made GO RIGHT and GO LEFT.
And did those cars GO!
They went BASH!
They went SMASH!
Gus did words that made the cars CRASH.

Sam tries to stop him, but Gus is having too much darn fun!

“Now see here, Gus…”
But Gus would NOT see.
He would not hear.
I like to make words,
LOTS of words,” he said.
"I LIKE this game!
Let me be, you old GOOSE, you!”
And away he went.

When his bad behavior gets the best of Gus, and lands him in some pretty deep water, it is Sam who must save the day! This book has it all, really. A wicked sense of humor, suspense and talking animals! If for some reason you’ve been living on Mars, and haven’t ever read this book, buy it NOW. It is that great. (Plus for the past year and a half… whenever I am spoiling the fun, my son calls me YOU OLD GOOSE. Nice right?) Like Roy McKie, I also harbor a secret crush on this guy... but don't tell my husband! Too bad I was only 14 when he died.

Also by:
Are You My Mother?

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

A Tiny Family

A Tiny Family
Norman Bridwell ~ Scholastic, 1969

Obviously a man obsessed with all things large and small, this story by Norman Bridwell (author of the famous Clifford the Big Red Dog series) follows the adventures of a tiny girl, her tiny brother and a tiny lost umbrella. Mine is just an old yellow Scholastic Book Services paperback from the era, but this title is still available in an early reader edition with an updated cover.

Hello. I'm a tiny girl.
I live with my tiny family in a garden.
Our home is under the flowers.

The drawings are typical Bridwell... a bit crude, but able to illustrate the story in a most delightful way. The little people have antennae for god's sake! For all those little girls who love miniature things (and don't they all?), these kids sleep in a watering can, cook dinner in a thimble and use bottle caps for plates.

But what happens when little meets big... and a GIANT girl lifts the tiny grandfather's umbrella? It's up to the wee little ones to get it back and make friends with the GIANT from the other side. (Using fireflies as flashlights, no less!) There is a hidden nod to Bridwell's daughter Emily as well in these pages. Not as obvious as the name of the little girl heroine in the Clifford books, but still cute nonetheless.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Terrible Tiger

The Terrible Tiger
Jack Prelutsky
pictures by Arnold Lobel
MacMillian, 1970

I happen to like books for kids that are a wee bit spooky and shocking. Those of the old school mindset where children aren't these precious PC angels who shouldn't be exposed to any sort of picture book unless it is filled with fairies and Disney Princesses and sanitary stuff. I love this one in particular because it is about a tiger that eats people. (I mean, what girl of the 70s wasn't scarred for life in the best possible way by the "Ladies First" story in Free To Be You and Me?) It helps too that this story carries a righteous rhyme... one that is so lyrical and fun, it's hard to keep yourself from humming it under your breathe after the first reading.

"Oh, I'm the most terrible,
terrible, terrible
tiger that has ever been,
and anyone who comes my way
I'll surely swallow down today,
I'll eat him whether he's fat or lean,
for I'm so terribly, terribly mean.
Yes, I'm the most terrible,
terrible, terrible
tiger that has ever been."

So, yea, there's this tiger see, and he marauds the countryside eating up everyone in his path... that is until he meets a tailor with a pair of scissors and a knack for keeping his wits about him. With Jack's poetry as the guide, the creator of Frog and Toad did a great job of bringing the story to life; drawing a tiger that is menacing but laughable. Such a good one!

Also by:
The Terrible Tiger
Red Tag Comes Back
The Ice-Cream Cone Coot
Oscar Otter
The Star Thief
Mouse Tales
Prince Bertram the Bad
The Secret Three
Benny's Animals
Miss Suzy
Martha the Movie Mouse
Terry and the Caterpillars
The Strange Disappearance of Arthur Cluck


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