Monday, March 31, 2008

The Hating Book

The Hating Book
Charlotte Zolotow
pictures by Ben Shecter
Harper & Row, 1969

Gee whiz, it seems 1969 was a good year for kid's literature. I've often seen books with this same theme that were poorly conceived, but this, I believe, is the best of the bunch. Having once been a little girl with volatile little girl relationships, I know how hard it is to make up with a friend when it seems the world is against you. The Hating Book is straight forward and honest while remaining short, sweet and to-the-point with a happy ending that both amuses and teaches a lesson. Plus, I just love Mr. Schecter's little pen and watercolor illustrations (the man knows how to draw a frown!)

"You've been so rotten," I said.
"Why?" She looked as though she'd cry.
"It's you," she said. "Last week
when I wore my new dress,
Sue said Jane said you said
I looked like a freak."
"I did not! I said you looked neat!"

Man, this story takes me back to my sixth grade year. The year when classrooms diverge into cliques and best friends transform into the worst of enemies. Beware the ides of puberty, and if you need a tome to help you get through it... check this one out. The good word is still available in a paperback edition.

Also by:
A Ghost Named Fred
Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present
Do You Know What I'll Do?
I Have a Horse of My Own
Flocks of Birds
The Sky Was Blue

Great Monday Give: Sam, Bangs & Moonshine

It's Monday again! Time for The Great Monday Give. For those of you just tuning in, Monday is the day that Vintage Kids' Books My Kid Loves gives away a copy of a free vintage kid's book that I just happen to have sitting around. (For a full explanation of why I do this, click here.) Today's giveaway? A nice/hard/used/ex-library copy of the Caldecott Medal winning Sam, Bangs & Moonshine.

To enter to win, simply leave a comment on this post before midnight, Sunday ~ April 6. The winner will be announced next Monday, along with the following week's giveaway book.

For those of you who commented on last week's Great Monday Give... the winner of Gilberto and the Wind (by the complicated and random blind scroll and point method) is.... Stefan, Sarah and Lukka who had this to say...

Gilberto and the Wind looks so sweet.
I love the simplicity of the illustrations.

Thanks for commenting guys, congrats and enjoy!!! Please e-mail me at with your info, and I'll get the book out to you via media mail ASAP!

To my other loyal 20 readers... keep trying. I've got lots of books, and apparently nothing but time.

Friday, March 28, 2008

There's a Hippo in My Bath!

There's a Hippo in My Bath
adapted from a story by Kyoko Matsuoka with illustrations by Akiko Hayashi/ published 1982 by Doubleday

When my son was old enough to start going to the library, this was the very first book he ever selected for himself. We took it home that day and have subsequently checked it out about a dozen times since (including yesterday). I've attempted to buy him a copy on several occasions, but good ones are few and far between and can get rather expensive. Regardless of price or availability, I think There's a Hippo in My Bath! is one of the best animal books for small children ever printed. It is hard to explain exactly why this book rocks so hard... that is until you witness an actual kid getting it read aloud to them. I think the draw of the story is that something outlandish happens in a very everyday environment (every kid takes a bath, right?), and it just tweaks their imaginations.

Little boy goes to take a bath with his rubber duckie. Rubber duckie comes to life, takes a dip underwater and utters the unforgettable line...

I made my washcloth soapy and washed all over.
But Duckie didn't wash, he just played in the tub.
Bloop. Bloop. Bloop.
He dove down to the bottom.
But he quickly came up again.
"There's something down there," he said.

There's something down there all right. Even me at the crusty old age of 35 can hear words like those and get all a-twitter in my stomach. What happens next is so magical and amazing, that it makes me giggle just thinking about it.

What makes the story extra sweet is that the little boy is naked throughout. But naked and adorable in the innocent and familiar way that having a small child can be. Sadly, one copy I checked out at the library actually had the kid's genitalia censored out via some strategically placed mini post-it notes. Geez, at least when they censored In the Night Kitchen, they put pants on the kid. Too silly. I mean come on, nothing is cuter than this little boy's butt while he's scrubbing the hippo's back. Oops, there, I've said too much. Thankfully, the hippo in the tub isn't the biggest surprise these pages hold.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Millions of Cats

Millions of Cats
Wanda Gág
Coward-McCann, 1928

Even though I would consider this a 101 no-brainer, it's been on the front burner of late in my house, so I thought I'd give it a shout out. Supposedly it is the oldest American picture book still in print, but hey, you never know... somebody might be out there who hasn't fallen in love with it yet. (Though I seriously doubt it.) A lively and evergreen tale, but cat lovers beware... the content may be too gruesome to bear for those with a feline fetish.

So there's this old couple, see, and they live alone on this isolated farm in the middle of nowheres. One day when the wife decides she might like to have a cat to keep her company, the man sets out on a quest to find the perfect one. Said quest takes him to a hillside "quite covered with cats".

Cats here, cats there,
Cats and kittens everywhere,
Hundreds of cats,
Thousands of cats,
Millions and billions and trillions of cats.

Unable to decide on which is the most beautiful, he takes the whole lot of them, and I do mean the WHOLE lot. When he returns home (with what I imagine is a toxic waste dump waiting to happen), the wife announces they can only keep one. The twist? They let the cats decide who is the most beautiful to keep. Thus erupting one enormous cat fight -- right to the bitter end when one lone cat is left standing... leaving us to wonder, where are the rest of the cats? Did that scrawny scrapper eat them all? Ah yes, one of the great mysteries of children's literature. My son, of course, loves this one because there are cats, but even better... cats fighting, the ultimate combo of awesomeness!

I just realized the cats in this book have a vague resemblance to the cats in the new book by my FAVORITE contemporary children's book author, Eric Rohmann. Honestly, I know this blog is about vintage books, but I can't say enough good stuff about this guy. My Friend Rabbit is my son's all time favorite book EVER, and the Cinder-Eyed Cats is not far behind. Both of these books are a MUST for your kid's book shelf (too Clara and Asha, Time Flies, etc.) A few years back I wrote a fan letter to Mr. Rohmann on behalf of my son and got back the sweetest package imaginable from the man... he is truly a gem and his books couldn't be more special and sweet and lovely and fun. PLEASE CHECK HIM OUT!

Also by:
The Funny Thing
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Nothing At All

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast
by Marianna Mayer and illustrated by Mercer Mayer
Fours Winds Press, 1978

Here is a guy I'd really like to know more about. Those who read this blog know that Just for You (the first Little Critter tale published in 1975) was one of those books that really stuck in my head from childhood. The Little Critter series now, for the most part, is super-diluted and pretty blah comparatively. Just think of the Berenstains –- the difference between the hilarious '62 The Big Honey Hunt and the '05 snoozer The Berenstain Bears’ (don't forget the circle C) Seashore Treasure. What Little Critter has become is ultimately and sadly bland -- a phone-in job just like Stan and Jan's books -- preaching humdrum morality lessons with merely OK illustrations. (Sorry guys.)

However, when you see Mayer's books like this one, it is abundantly clear just what an awesome (albeit weird) artist he is. Each page is lush and renaissancey... and just oozes with romance. The monsters and creepies this guy comes up with are far, far out there leading me to believe that his inner life must be a total freak show. He's like the children's book Stephen King, just without the blood and gore.

Written by Mayer's first wife (now he's on his third), this version of Beauty and the Beast is a solid retelling of a timeless story.... if you are a girl, you can't help but go GAGA over this turn-the-frog-into-a-prince saga.

The beast was not dead, but only weak with misery from the loss of her. As Beauty spoke, he stirred, and moved his great head. Before Beauty's eyes, he began to grow stronger. With each breath he took, his beastly appearance began to fade. Hearing his heart still beating Beauty took some water from the pond, and wet his dry lips. But she pulled back in surprise, for her beast was gone and in his place the prince of her dreams lay in her arms.

If you're looking to tempt your daughters away from the Belles, Arials and Jasmines of the world, this would be a nice place to start. I mean, she gets the prince right? And what girl wouldn't want those curls! (Boys too... really... who can resist the beast!?!)

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
A Special Trick
Little Monster at Work
Bubble Bubble
One Frog Too Many
How the Trollusk Got His Hat

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Crow Boy

Crow Boy
Taro Yashima
The Viking Press, 1955

It seems the Picture Puffin series is doing a fine job keeping classics like this in print for cheap. Many times when I find an old book, I look it up and those guys still have it available in paperback. A Caldecott Honor Book, Crow Boy starts out a little strange. When we first meet Chibi, the pictures are mildly scary, and you can see why the other children in class think this kid is weird. As the story pans out, the incredible spirit the boy possesses becomes clear, and you feel bad for being a little like the boy's tormentors -- unjustly judging a book by its cover.

As is often the case in life, only a great teacher can break a shy boy out of his shell. When his class sees all the wonderful bird calls the boy can summon, they understand that Chibi is not at all what he appears.

At the end, to imitate a crow on an old tree, Chibi made very special sounds deep down in his throat, "KAUUWWATT! KAUUWWATT!"
Now everybody could imagine exactly the far and lonely place where Chibi lived with his family.
Then Mr. Isobe explained how Chibi had learned those calls -- leaving his home for school at dawn, and arriving home at sunset.
Every one of us cried, thinking how much we had been wrong to Chibi all those years.

This tale is the ultimate redemption for the class joke and a life lesson for the mournful bullies. The chalk drawings are sparse but lively, and the story is so nuanced, it is hard not to get swept up. I mean, in his isolation, Chibi finds interest in things like the topography of his desk top or the details of the patch on a shirt. Who wouldn't love this kid!?!

Also by:

Monday, March 24, 2008

Aardvarks, Disembark!

Aardvarks, Disembark!
Ann Jonas ~ Greenwillow Books, 1990

No matter how religious you may or may not be, when you birth an animal lover as I did, you'll find that the tale of Noah's Ark will inevitably become your kid's favorite and you'll seek out every single incarnation of the blessed story until you have every book ever written or illustrated about Noah and his animal kingdom brood. Of all of my kid's Noah books (and believe me, there are dozens), this one has to be the most interesting and most unique. (I know 1990 is pushing being called vintage, but think about it all you Generation Xers out there... This book was published the year I graduated from high school, some 18 ODD YEARS AGO! So if they can play Corey Harts' Sunglasses at Night (1983) and John Waite's Missing You (1984) on an oldies station, then I think Aardvarks Disembark can be considered old enough.)

Good 'ole Noah lets all the animals off the ark alphabetically, and once he gets to Zebra, he realises there are still a ton of creatures on board. Not knowing the names of the poor beasts, Noah just pushes them out of the ark and sends them on their way down the mountain. As the beasts descend in backwards-alphabetical order, we find out the names of some of God's more bizarre creations. Zebus... zerens... zorils.. youyous and yaks... and so on.

Finally they all reached the bottom of
the mountain: Noah and his wife, Shem, Ham,
Japheth, and their wives, and all the animals
from aadvarks to zebras and zorils to aardwolves.
It was time to go home.

Aardvarks, Disembark! includes the identification of 100+ endangered and extinct animals, with a short geographical glossary at the back. Very cool read, and thanks to it, my son now knows a jerboa and a sitatunga by sight. Plus, Ann is the wife of children's book author Donald Crews... how cool is that?

Also by:
Round Trip


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Great Monday Give: Gilberto and the Wind

Doing the highly-scientific blind scroll and point, I randomly selected Emily as the winner of last week's The Great Monday Give... The Gunniwolf.

Emily had these fine words to say about VKBMKL....

How fun! I just love reading your blog.
I'm a 2nd grade teacher and a children's book collector
so I get such a kick out of your blog!

Thanks Emily! You can send me an e-mail at with your info, and I'll ship The Gunniwolf out to you media mail ASAP.

Next up, I have another recently reviewed book I'd like to giveaway! It's a nice reading/hard/library copy of Gilberto and the Wind.

Remember, all you have to do to be eligible to win is leave a comment on this post by midnight, March 30. Good luck! And congrats again Emily!

Friday, March 21, 2008

How the Rabbit Stole the Moon

How the Rabbit Stole the Moon
by Louise Moeri with illustrations by Marc Brown/ published 1977 by Houghton Mifflin

Marc Brown is most famous for his wildly popular series about Arthur -- the aardvark who somehow morphed over the years into looking more like a mouse. This tale about how the moon came to hang in the sky is folkish and charming and full of animal illustrations that are similar in style to Arthur and his friends and but I think have way more character.

The animals of the forest come together and decide that the night is too dark and spooky and commence trying to convince the sun to share some her of light with the night. One by one, each animal fails, until at last, it falls on the shoulders of a wee little rabbit to persuade the sun to give up some of her glow.

Now, the rabbit knew he was the last animal who would ever speak to the Sun. Everyone depended on him. He gathered his powerful hind legs under him and sprang up-up-UP-and fastened his big front teeth on the edge of the Sun! Before the Sun knew what was happening, the rabbit had bitten a great piece out of it. And when he fell back to earth, the rabbit started to run!

Currently, these pages are in high rotation in our house (animals, duh), and my son goes silly for the big finish when the rabbit flings the piece of the sun back in the sky. There is a surprise at the end about how the stars came to be, but you'll have to read a copy for yourself to find out.

This isn't really an Easter-themed book, but it is about a rabbit, so that kinda counts! I know I usually post some on the weekends, but with the holiday upon us, I'll probably be out of commission until Monday... be sure to tune in then to find out who won the copy of The Gunniwolf and comment on the next Great Monday Give. In the meantime, Happy Easter everyone!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes

The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes
Du Bose Heyward ~ Majorie Flack
Houghton and Mifflin, 1939

Though this is a fairly obvious pre-Easter pick, it is THE best Easter book of all time, so I HAD to mention it. Unfortunately, my mom still won't release my childhood copy, but she did get my son a vintage edition for his first Easter. If you don't know this book, then you've been living under a rock in a world where the sun doesn't shine, birds have never uttered a peep, rainbows are fiction and all smiles turn upside down. If you do know this book, well then, your folks did good by you.

This was my ALL TIME favorite story as a child. The Country Bunny is the kind of book that dreams are made of. The kind of book that helps shape the way you look at holidays (and the world) forever. The kind of book that inspires girls to become presidents and children's book bloggers. The kind of book that is more like a member of the family than an inanimate object that sits on a cluttered bookshelf. I could literally wax poetic for a lifetime about why this book is so incredibly special (particularly if you are a GIRL!) But alas... I'll let the words and the pictures speak for themselves.

One day a little country girl bunny with a brown skin
and a little cotton-ball of a tail said, "Some day I shall
grow up to be the Easter Bunny: you wait and see!"
Then all of the big white bunnies who lived in fine houses,
and the Jack Rabbits with long legs who can run fast,
laughed at the little Cottontail and told her to go
back to the country and eat a carrot.
But she said, "Wait and see!"

Every single word and frame of this book is so deeply ingrained in my heart, I couldn't possibly cherish it more. You can't choose the books your kids are gonna fall in love with, but it would be pretty hard to not fall for this one head over heals. Simply the best of the best.

I never knew much about this book except that its author was from the South Carolina lowcountry like me until I started researching it this morning. Ends up that the story was one he used to tell to his daughter (thus the "AS TOLD TO JENIFER" on the cover), and it was his only children's book... within a year of its publication, he was dead of a heart attack. Check out this very sentimental write-up of the history here.

Also by:
The Story About Ping
Tim Tadpole and the Great Bullfrog
Angus and the Cat


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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Song of the Swallows

Song of the Swallows
by Leo Politi/ published 1949 by Charles Scribner's Sons

A true artist in every sense of the word, Leo Politi's paintings are whimsical, but still relay a vast, deepness of the soul. Born of Italian descent in California, Leo was so enamored with the Mexican culture surrounding him that he spent his career illustrating its folklore. This Caledecott Medal winner is about a little boy named Juan who falls in the love with the birds that visit his neighborhood mission every spring. I'm huge on books that link kids to nature, and Song of the Swallows is very cosmic in the connection that Juan shares with the small, feathered creatures.

That night when Juan looked out of his window,
he saw the two swallows asleep on the rose vine.
There were so near that he could feel the throbbing
of life through their little bodies. He loved them,
for they were two dear friends who had come to live
close to him for a long while.

Of course, the end of this one brought me to tears the first time I read it to my son, but, you know, when a kid's book evokes that childhood sense of wonder for me, then I know it's doing its job effectively for the little reader as well. Bravo man!

Also by:
Butterflies Come
Three Stalks of Corn

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Terrible Troll-Bird

The Terrible Troll-Bird
Ingri and Edgar Parin d'Aulaire
first published 1933 by Doubleday Doran & Co as Ola and Blakken, then retitled, rewritten and reillustrated in 1976 by Doubleday & Co. ~ 2007 edition available from NYRB

Of late, my son has been on a d'Aulaire kick, so I thought I'd give this one a nod as well. Looking through the pages even now gives me the semi-shivers. When I was wee, the mere mention of this over-sized chicken and his troll-y masters would send me into a massive spell of the heebie-jeebies. I guess it's a boy thing, because my son is crazy for it. With him, anytime something evens hints at smashing something else, he digs it. Figures.

Starring the previously reviewed Ola, this is what happens when you roast a troll's rooster.

"Where is the wood you were to bring?" she asked.

"We can't bring you any wood today," said Ola, "for a big, bad bird wants to take our Blakken."

"I have never heard such silly talk, to think that a bird could fly off with a horse," said their mother. But as she turned around she saw the huge bird landing on top of the storehouse. It was so big it had to perch on both roofs. "Oh, for all the world's pancakes," she cried.

"It is the terrible rooster that belongs to the trolls in the mountain."

The signature, lush illustrations of this husband and wife team tell a wonderful tale, half in black and white and half in color... all in a style that makes the characters look woolly and warm. The gigantic cock-a-doodle-doo is a hoot, with colorful feathers that (literally) explode off the page. Let's just say it takes a village to cook a chicken, but simple, common sense to trap a troll.
Also by:
D'Aulaire's Book of Animals
D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths
Benjamin Franklin
Don't Count Your Chicks

Monday, March 17, 2008

Great Monday Give: The Gunniwolf

Because I am neurotic and can't say no to a good deal on a used children's book even if my son has multiple copies.... AND because I hate people who get kid's books cheap and then resale them for a bloated amount, I am going to start doing The Great Monday Give here on Vintage Kids' Books My Kid Loves, just for the hell of it. So on Mondays (could be every Monday... could be only when I have a copy of something to give), I am going to be giving away a reading copy of a book I have reviewed. These will be nice enough copies I have lying around or have found at book sales, but I just thought it would be fun to share children's books with other people who love children's books. I am only doing it because I think it will be a gas, and that said, the books and shipping will be absolutely free! So, to start, the first book I'll be giving away will be a used/library/hard copy of The Gunniwolf that I reviewed last week.

I will pick a winner at random from people who comment on this post between now and Sunday, March 23. Since, like, only 20 of you read this blog, it should be pretty fun and all in the family. Good luck!

One Monday Morning

One Monday Morning
text and pictures by Uri Shulevitz/ published 1967 by Charles Scribner's Sons

The illustrations of tenement New York in this book have to be some of my all time favorites. The drawings are just incredible, and the detail -- from the plaster cracks in the wall to a lone kite tangled up in a street sign -- is breathtaking. Plus, the simple story of a city boy's imagination... it couldn't be more fun and adorable.

One Monday morning the king,
the queen, and the little prince
came to visit me.
But I wasn't home.
So the little prince said,
"In that case we shall return on Tuesday."

The week progresses like this until the threesome have brought the cook, the barber, the royal guard, the jester and more to call upon the little boy. Seeing this gang trotting up the steps and buzzing the apartment over and over is too funny. Born in Warsaw, Poland during the time of the blitz and moved to New York in his early 20s, it is easy to see the influences of time and place in Uri's art. I can't say enough good stuff about this book. Easily available in paperback, please check out a copy! It's definitely a keeper.

Also by:

Friday, March 14, 2008

Oh Lord, I Wish I Was a Buzzard

Oh Lord, I Wish I Was a Buzzard
Polly Greenberg with illustrations by Aliki/ published 1968 by MacMillian

Based on the childhood recollections of a Mississippi sharecropper named Gladys Henton, Oh Lord is the story of a little girl picking cotton and all the animals she daydreams she'd rather be. Though the story is told in a somewhat lighthearted matter, the more serious theme is constant, but still stays within the innocent realm of a child's thinking. Oh Lord provides a wonderful opportunity to open up a larger conversation, and gives lots of room for asking questions. The story encompasses everything wonderful about the heart of a child, and shines a light on how even in the bleakest moments, our imaginations can serve as the perfect escape.

It was hot, oh my, it was hot.
I looked up with the water running off my face,
and I saw a snake, curved up cold and
cool near a rock like snakes do.
I said, "Oh Lord, I wish I was a snake."

I love the illustrations and how they begin tight in the girl's own personal space and span out so that eventually you can see everyone picking in the fields. The graphic design look of the drawings is classic, yet the faces of the children are drawn very much in the dated style of the 60s, which gives them a hip feeling. Chronicle Books has a reissue available in hardcover, but lots of older copies are available online for cheap.

Also by:
Keep Your Mouth Closed, Dear
This is the House Where Jack Lives
That's Good, That's Bad

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


James Marshall
Houghton Mifflin, 1973

I have a love/hate thing with James Marshall. Like every good kid o' the 70s, I grew up with the George and Martha series, but even as a child I found his humor to be strangely adult-oriented. Whenever I read his books, it always felt like I was a five-year old at a cocktail party... overhearing bits and pieces of grownup conversation and only understanding half of it.

Reading them as an adult now to my son, some of his books do read like an inside joke for parents. I might be way off base here, but it almost seems liked he didn't like kids (or parents maybe?) very much... or at least had a healthy cynicism about the magic of childhood. His stories are more in line with the Charles Schultz school of childhood funny. Still, you can't deny his tales tickle, and his illustrations are simple yet full of personality and humor. Of course my son loves all his books because the main characters are animals, and this one starring a pig and a turtle is a big winner. Let's just call this a cautionary tale about overeating and learning to love your friends as they are.

Emily Pig was upset.
She was gaining weight and didn't know why.
"Maybe I should get more exercise," she said to herself.

Emily the pig decides to take her buddy Eugene the turtle on a healthy walk and then just happens to eat everything in sight along the way. Needless to say, Emily gets an enormous tummy ache in the end, and Eugene gives sage, punchline advice.

Eugene smiles. "Maybe you should stay in bed
and eat plenty of good food."
"Oh, yummers," said Emily.

Oh, yummers, indeed.

Also by:
MacGoose's Grocery

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Gunniwolf

Wilhelmina Harper ~ William Wiesner ~ E.P. Dutton, 1967

Sure to scare even the most adventurous child away from forbidden temptations, The Gunniwolf is a great tale full of intrigue and edge-of-your-seat excitement. After her mother warns her repeatedly not to go near the jungle, where does the Little Girl head as soon as her mom is out of sight? The jungle, of course. And who is waiting, nay, lurking for her beyond the white and pink and orange flowers? You guessed it, the Gunniwolf.

He said, "Little Girl, why for you move?"

Trembling she answered, "I no move."

The Gunniwolf said, "Then you sing that guten sweeten song again!"

So she sang: "Kum-kwa, khi-wa, kum-kwa, khi-wa" and then--the old Gunniwolf nodded his head and fell fast asleep.

In the same repeating action, the Little Girl is able to lull the wolf to sleep and escape further out of the jungle until he catches up with her and the same scene is repeated. Each time, the Little Girl sings the wonderful tune, then "pit-pat, pit-pat, pit-pat, pit-pat" she goes back through the jungle again. The simple rhythm of the words is poetic, and the illustrations of the large, sly beast friendly, yet menacing enough so you are unsure whether he is friend or foe.

This book is currently in print with new illustrations, but I haven't had a chance to check it out yet. Neither have I seen the other book these two did together, Ghosts and Goblins: Stories for Halloween, but I'm off now to look it up on the library database!


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Monday, March 10, 2008

Gilberto and the Wind

Gilberto and the Wind
Marie Hall Ets
The Viking Press, 1963

A while back, Nicole left me a comment on a post for the book Just Me where she mentioned another Ets book called Gilberto and the Wind. I had just added Gilberto to my collection, and since that day, it's been in major circulation. We've read it two times already just since last night. The book's namesake is a curious little boy who takes on the wind as a playmate. (I envision this same future for my only-child son. Already he's made best friends with the moon and the stars... though seemingly pretty sad and lonely, still packed to the gills with imagination.)

Wind loves to play with the wash on the line. He blows the pillow slips into balloons and shakes the sheets and twists the apron strings. And he pulls out all the clothespins that he can. Then he tries on the clothes--though he knows they are too small.

I'm not positive, but it seems as if the illustrations are done in simple ink and charcoal (pencil?). Though stark, they are filled with such emotion and movement, it is easy to see the wind as the boy does, a living breathing companion to be enjoyed. I love the way the author draws personality comparisons to the mainly finicky traits of the wind. Gilberto races the wind. The wind always wins. When he flies his kite, the wind always drops it. When he rakes the leaves, wind scatters them about again. Super sweet.

Also by:
Just Me

Friday, March 7, 2008

McElligot's Pool

McElligot's Pool
Dr. Seuss ~ Random House, 1947

My son and I attended story time at our local independent children's bookshop this morning, and it just so happened they were celebrating the birthday of one Mr. Theodor Seuss Geisel, aka, Dr. Seuss. Born May 2, 1904, the master would have just turned 104 if he was still kicking around today. The store storyteller tipped her Cat-in-the-HAT to the master by reading Green Eggs and Ham and two shorts from the book I Can Lick 30 Tigers Today! and Other Stories. So when we got home, I figured we'd continue the tribute with my son's all time favorite Dr. Seuss, McElligot's Pool.

My mom once met a man in rural South Carolina who had a small hole in his backyard from which he could catch trout and all kinds of other river fish. Though it was probably just an underground river, the man and his friends called it a "glory hole" and thanked the heavens daily for its existence. McElligot's Pool imagines nearly the very same thing. A boy fishes in a small pool even though the local farmer warns him away.

"The pool is too small.
And, you might as well know it,
When people have junk
Here's the place that they throw it."

Not to be deterred, but our boy Marco fashions a story of a pool with a bottomless bottom. Why, he might catch a thin fish.... he might catch a stout fish... he might catch a short or a long, long drawn-out fish. Dog fish... cat fish.. a fish with a kangaroo's pouch... the kind that likes flowers... some circus fish... or even a THING-A-MA-JIGGER. This one is an absolute joy to read aloud, and more than a hoot with its wild variations of aquatic vertebrates. The guy knew what he was doing. He's like the John, Paul, George and Ringo of children's books, and even after all these years, no one still comes close. Happy birthday man!

Also by:
Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?
The Lorax
Come Over to My House
Bartholomew and the Oobleck
The Sneetches
I Can Write! A Book By Me Myself!
Hooper Humperdink?... Not Him!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Stewed Goose

Stewed Goose
James Flora
Atheneum, 1973

I'm not quite sure if my son gets that this book is about a bear trying to assassinate a goose, but he has to be able to pick up the sinister yet hilarious undertones throughout no matter how young he is.

Mr. Benjamin B. Bear decides he is sick of eating just berries and honey, and sets his mind to stewing the innocent gosling Walker Goose. He hatches one elaborate plan after another, each one failing miserably, until at last, he gives up and has his goose stew sans goose.

All of Mr. Flora's books are big on the absurd, and this one delights. The four-tone illustrations are really fun to look at and the story outlandish. The bear spends so much time and money and effort on getting this goose, that it hardly seems worth it. I mean, in a land where bears eat at the dinner table and fowls go to school, you'd think he could get something good to eat at the market, no? But you can't blame a bear for trying. At one point, he seems poised to off little Walker with a frying pan. In another scene, he cons the goose into getting his portrait taken when really the camera is just a gun in disguise. Perhaps he will be able to crush him with a balloon filled with cement? Yea, the violence in this one is pretty intense, but it is cartoonish. (Ah, Wile E. Coyote... isn't that what they all say?)

"Two big things I learned today," he said to himself. "A goose stew is very hard to cook and people with false faces shouldn't shake pepper shakers."

Don't ask... you'll have to see that one for yourself.

Also by:
Kangaroo for Christmas
Grandpa's Farm
Pishtosh Bullwash and Wimple
Great Green Turkey Creek Monster
Leopold the See-Through Crumbpicker
The Day the Cow Sneezed
Little Hatchy Hen
Grandpa's Witched Up Christmas
My Friend Charlie
Sherwood Walks Home
The Fabulous Firework Family
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