Sunday, February 28, 2010

Thanks Dave!

grain edit t
Came home today to find this awesome grain edit t-shirt (designed by Invisible Creature) in my mailbox. A limited number of adult sizes are still available, otherwise, you'll have to wait for the new edition in the works. However, if you're hoping for a kid-sized one as pictured above, sorry, this one was cooked up for the boy especially by the man in charge. Thanks Dave!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Preep, The Little Pigeon of Trafalgar Square

Preep, The Little Pigeon of Trafalgar Square
Milton Shulman, pictures by Dale Maxey
Random House, 1964

My son's current favorite picture book involves two of his favorite things: pigeons (because pigeon are , duh, birds) and London (because Harry Potter's from there). It doesn't hurt either that the pictures are incredible and the story is suspenseful and super well-told. Really, it would be the perfect gift for an English child or a kid going to London for the first time. Or a child who just dreams of going, like my little guy.

As the story opens, we learn about Admiral Nelson and the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 and how Nelson's Column (the monument at the center of the square) came to be. Then we meet a delightful pigeon family that lives atop the monument; a father and mother and seven little baby pigeons called Emilie, Harriette, Jonathan, Lucy, Jeremy, Willie and Preep.

"Preep? What an odd name!" neighboring pigeons would say to Mamma Pigeon. "Why did you call your youngest that?" "Well, just look at him? answered Mamma Pigeon. "Isn't he an odd color? And see, his legs are much shorter than they ought to be. And what a ridiculous beak he has. And has anyone ever, ever seen wings like that? When my husband first saw him come out of the egg, he was so astonished he shouted, 'Preposterous!' And who could blame him? So we decided to call him Preep which was a short way of saying Preposterous. Although we love him very much," Mamma Pigeon would continue, "you must admit he is not much like us. I think Preep suits him very well."

As we've learned from a million children's books, being different is just about the best thing there is to be. Preep's jovial demeanor makes him popular with everyone, so it's no surprise that when he's bird-napped from the square one day, it sends the pigeons of London into a tail-spin. The birds collectively strike against London until Preep is returned to their loving wings.

Now, in full disclosure, my son always cries when Preep is kidnapped. But the sadness drives the rejoicing, making it that much better when the story ends. A longer read than most picture books, everything about it makes me happy: the size, the shape, the colors. An all-around joy to read. Now, off to find Dale Maxey's Seeing London. Mega WOW.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Fat Cat

The Fat Cat: A Danish Folktale
Jack Kent ~ Parent's Magazine Press, 1971

I know Jack Kent week is long gone, but this was the last book I attempted to track down to share. I went to three different library locations in town only to find that all the copies in the San Antonio Library System went missing long ago. I tried to buy one online and they are all very expensive. I finally found a paperback for $12 plus shipping, so I figured it was my last chance and went for it. Only it took a while to get here, so it never got included in the festivities. And since this week the give is another famous book about a fat cat, I thought it apropos. It's been floating around our house getting loved big time and read over and over and I didn't want it to feel left out, so...

My son is all about potty humor at the moment, and while this isn't technically potty humor, it certainly falls in the same gastrointestinal species. So, there's this old woman, see. And she has to go out one day to run an errand and she asks her house cat to watch her gruel, boiling over the fire, while she's gone...

"I'll be glad to," said the cat. But when the old woman had gone, the gruel looked so good that the cat ate it all. And the pot, too. When the old woman came back, she said to the cat, "Now what has happened to the gruel? "Oh," said the cat, "I ate the gruel and I ate the pot, too. And now I am going to also eat YOU." And he ate the old woman.You can imagine where the story goes from here. The cat becomes more and more overweight, gorging himself on Mr. Skohottentot and Mr. Skolinkenlot, a bunch of birds, some little girls, a lady and a priest before a woodcutter shows up, and well, you've heard that song before. Somehow I'd missed this folktale in my youth (I know it has other children's book incarnations), so the first read was a total (delightful) surprise to me, and the boy thinks it's hysterical. Once he gets going with the giggles, it's hard to stop him. That said... I promise, no more Jack Kent for a while. (Fingers crossed silently, offline.)

Also by:
Jack Kent's Twelve Days of Christmas
I Was Walking Down the Road
The Grown-Up Day
The Fox and the Crow
The Biggest Shadow in the Zoo
The Animobile Book
Jack Kent's Book of Nursery Tales
Dooly and the Snortsnoot
Mr. Meebles
Cindy Lou and the Witch's Dog
The Blah
Jack Kent's Valentine Sticker Book
The Bremen-town Musicians
Round Robin
Just Only John
Fly Away Home
Piggy Bank Gonzales
Socks for Supper


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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Little Boy Blue: Finger Plays Old and New

Little Boy Blue
Daphne Hogstrom with pictures by Alice Schlesinger
Golden Press, 1966

It's late. It's been a big day. A great day. The sun shone. Enough said. Too nice to stay indoors. (The kookaburra birds at the zoo say HI!) So to make sure you're not left empty-handed this afternoon, here are some totally non-subversive and squeaky clean images from an awesome big Golden Book about playing with your fingers... illustrated by Alice Schlesinger, one of Rad Library's favorite artists. Hours of fun I tell you!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Daddy Book

The Daddy Book
Robert Stewart ~ pictures by Don Madden
McGraw-Hill, 1972

I don't give my husband enough credit on this blog. While it was I who innocently began this hobby four years back, he has wholeheartedly supported it, both emotionally and financially. He's clocked hundreds of hours reading aloud and reaped the benefits of a child with a huge vocabulary. He's shelled out hundreds of dollars to help me fund this obsession whenever my mad money account has run dry. It's he who gets angry when we listen to Harry Potter number seven on audio tape without him during the day, and it's he who races to tuck the boy in so he can finish off reading aloud the final chapters of Harry Potter number one all snug and cozy in bed.Daddies are the often unsung heroes of children's literature. The read-aloud kings who aren't afraid of making silly voices. Who never seem to lose patience with the phrase "just one more chapter." Many a night I've had to go in and intervene as the clock ticks by 8, 8:30 and into 9, and I still hear the words of JK Rowling echoing down the hall. The dads who tote stacks and stacks of picture books into restaurants and read story after story as their dinners sits cold and uneaten. It's for my husband and daddies like him and daddies all over the world that this little gem was written and illustrated. A testament to the never-dying love and devotion that emminates from the man who helped create you.

Daddy often does what Mommy does. He changes diapers. Daddy cooks dinner and washes dishes. Does your Daddy give you a bath? Put your pajamas on? Put you to bed? Sometimes daddies get angry. Does your Daddy ever tell you to eat all your food? Wash your hands? Stay in your bed? Pick up your toys? But all daddies love their little boys and girls. No matter what.

Covering all things Daddy, from what they look like to what they wear to what they do for a living to what they love to do (though, I can't imagine there are a ton of daddy pipe smokers out there nowadays). The colors here are so vibrant and the pages so alive with activity. I never get sick of looking at this book or reading it, though, whenever the boy strolls over with it tucked under his arm, his smile spreading out ear to ear, he's usually not headed in my direction. Thanks to all you daddies out there who read to your children... and, oh yeah, all that other stuff you do...

Also by:
Is There Life in Outer Space?
One Kitten for Kim
Oxygen Keeps you Alive


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Monday, February 22, 2010

What's in the Dark?

What's in the Dark?
Carl Memling ~ pictures by John E. Johnson
Parent's Magazine Press, 1971

I personally love books that deal with nighttime and the dark. A few of my favorites... Switch on the Night, The Moon Jumpers and There's a Nightmare in My Closet... Here, I love the deep, dark blue of the illustrations and the quiet understanding of the world at rest around the sleeper. My son gets truly snuggly when we read this book together. It's so peaceful and full of wonder.

What's in the dark?
After they've clicked the light off
And everybody's said goodnight,
What's in the dark?
The pants that you wore today,
Your shoes, your socks, your T-shirt--
They're in the dark.

Your crayons in a jumbled pile,
The new ones, used ones, broken ones--
They're in the dark.
The radiator under the window
Makes a jiggety shadow
On the wall
In the dark.

Around the house and soon out the window into the world, up to the sky, we hear about all the soft, silent, wonderful things that happen in the dark. One of my favorite things to do if I wake up in the middle of the night and can't go back to sleep is sit out on my front porch and watch the world NOT go by. All the night things that happen when no one is looking. This book certainly casts that spell.

(Plus, these sleepy houses remind me of the "Talking Houses" on The Muppet Show. Super cool!)

Great Monday Give: The Wuggie Norple Story

As promised, today's Great Monday Give involves a much sought after OOP book that I bought at a library sale. Now, let me state, I'm giving this away because we have it already, and I know it's one that people seek out so I wanted to share the wealth. But let me also state, it's not in the best shape. It's a great reading copy, but there are some tears, staining, library markings etc. It's a first edition hardcover with the Mylar cover still on, and has seen way way better days but still has years left in it! (The scan is of the actual book.) That said, any of you who are willing to take on this super-loved book and continue loving it, please write up a little something about why you'd love to have it in your collection. The person with the most compelling reason wins!

So without furthur blah blah, here is the amazing, the fabulous... Wuggie Norple Story by Tomie dePaola and Daniel Pinkwater. To be entered to win, all you have to do is comment on this post before midnight, Sunday... February 28. A winner will be announced the following day. Now for last week's give of the adorable Chicken Soup with Rice.... the winner is Cissy! Congrats and send me your address to webe(at)son(dot)com. Have a great one you guys!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Prince Bertram the Bad

Prince Bertram the Bad
Arnold Lobel ~ Harper & Row, 1963

I have some time today, so I'm gonna do a write up and fill you in on a few things. In going to the library this week to sniff out vintage African American books, I, of course, shopped some library sales and found a handful of treasures... one of which I am going to give away on Monday because I already have a copy and this one isn't in the best shape but even ones in bad shape sell for tons of money and I thought that I'd make someones day and give it away. But unlike other gives, I'm gonna make you work for it as I want to make sure it gets to the person who will appreciate it most. That said, tune in on Monday to find out what it is... that is, if the suspense doesn't kill you first. Tee hee.Now, onto another much-loved book I found that the boy took to instantly. Unfortunately for you, I'm holding on to this one because it is so totally AWESOME! Who doesn't love a Lobel... and in particular, an out-of-print Lobel!?! Have a look and feel the envy my friends! Yes, I am on the hunt for books to share with my son, but in the same breath, I do get a rush out of the find. Nothing beats the light-headedness that comes with getting your hands on something really good... or really BAD, in this case!Once upon a time a prince was born. "Long live Prince Bertram!" shouted all the people in the kingdom. His mother and father, the king and queen, were very happy and proud. But Prince Bertram was not a good baby. In his crib in the royal nursery he cried all the time. When his mother took him to the park, Prince Bertram was not friendly to the other babies. Even before he was old enough to walk, he had torn up all the roses in the royal garden. The king and queen hoped that Prince Bertram would grow up to be a good boy. But as each year passed, he grew meaner and naughtier.His bad behavior gets more and more horrible until one day, while he's hitting birds with stones from his slingshot, he nails a witch who teaches him a lesson he won't soon forget, turning him into a wee little dragon. File this moral under "do unto others or ELSE!" Funny, funny stuff. I do love to see nasty little kids get their comeuppance. Lobel never, ever, ever disappoints. I just adore him, and I have yet to find a book of his the boy doesn't die for.

Also by:
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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John Steptoe ~ Harper & Row, 1969

My final post for American American History Month, and many thanks to Esme and Dawn for helping me sniff out some classics this week... and I have to say, when I read this to my son for the first time last night, I couldn't help but cry... thus is the lot of the mother of an only child... and looking up the history of this book makes me weep even more. The only other book by Mr. Steptoe we've read previously was Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters, after we saw a fabulous theatrical production of it last year by the Dallas Children's Theatre. There is a huge leap of artistic growth between that book published in 1987, and this one, a story that was created and drawn beginning when the author was only 16 years old. If I was looking for an African American children's book pioneer, Mr. Steptoe would certainly be it... What an extraordinary talent.

One day my momma told me, "You know you're gonna have a little friend come stay with you." And I said, "Who is it?" And she said, "You know my friend Mrs. Mack? Well, she has to work all week and I'm gonna keep her little boy." I asked, "For how long?" She said, "He'll stay all week and his mother will come pick him up on Saturdays."And so Robert is thrown into living with Stevie, who has a knack for foiling all his fun. So many thing go on within this story. There is the anxiety of the separation of mother and child. The rivalry between the two makeshift siblings. It's filled with compassion, and childhood innocence of bigger, grown-up world problems. All told in Robert's sweet, funny, jealous and frustrated voice. It's when Stevie has to leave that the true spirit shines through. What is so moving about this book is that the story is universal, and the feeling of loss is something every child and adult can relate to.

I'm often inspired to write to children's book authors, thanking them for the dear moments when they reach from the pages and shift our hearts. This would have been one of those times, though sadly, Mr. Steptoe passed away before he even reached 40. He is quoted on the dust jacket...

"I am a painter and not yet an artist. I don't just happen to be black. I also happen to have the ambition of being a fine painter. This is the beginning of my life and this book is one of the things that has happened to me so far."

I hope he understood how grandly he'd achieved that ambition. What an incredible legacy to leave behind for all the writers and illustrators for whom he helped pave the way. Hats off.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Just Us Women

Just Us Women
Jeannette Caines ~ pictures by Pat Cummings
Harper & Row, 1982

After being sent on a mission to seek out vintage African American children's authors, I made my way to the library this morning and found plenty. Now, I can safely say this book will NOT be a vintage kids' book my kid loves for no other reason than it is about girls, but when has that stopped me before? What I do know is this book makes me wish a) I'd had a girl, b) my aunt was still alive and c) I could hug my mom right now. Except for the fact that both the author and illustrator are African American (as are the characters), the story is basically colorblind. It's the tale of a drive and day with the wonderful Aunt Martha as told by her niece.

Saturday morning is jump-off time. Aunt Martha and I are going to drive all the way to North Carolina in her new car. Aunt Martha says, "No boys and no men, just us women."

What follows is like my dream day. As a young girl from the south, driving from South Carolina to North Carolina was always my favorite thing to do. I remember a time my mother and I took that drive in the summer of 1986... we stopped on a back road and found a chained gate that said "Private Property... Columbia Pictures". We looked at each other... thinking "No, it couldn't be!", and my mother (being the badass that she is) helped me jump the fence. Sure enough, we found ourselves on the abandoned lot where Spielberg filmed The Color Purple. It was all there... the house... and down the road was the church and the juke joint. It's still my mother's favorite movie, and I remember standing out in the sun with her there as she cried and cried.

It was a magical day... and the rest of it was probably filled with all the same things this book has. There's fried chicken and chocolate cake wrapped in wax paper. There's thrift shopping at roadside markets and peach shopping at farmer's markets. There's picture taking and a stop at a fancy restaurant... followed by foraging for wild mushrooms. (Well, OK, we didn't forage for mushrooms, but we did go to an all-you-can-pick gladiola farm and fill the car!) Seriously, I am inspired to hop in my Subaru right now and enjoy the beautiful day outside. Told in green, orange and blue (my favorite color combo!), this book evokes so many memories of my own childhood, I know I'm gonna force the boy to read this more than a few times before it heads back to the library.

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