Saturday, September 29, 2012

Roald Dahl's Revolting Rhymes

Roald Dahl's Revolting Rhymes
Roald Dahl ~ Quentin Blake ~ Jonathan Cape, 1982

Gotta love any book that begins...

I guess you think you know this story. 
You don't. The real one's much more gory.
And so starts the fractured fairy tale of Dahl's Cinderella, the first in six silly stories that make up a world of demonic, devilish fun. In Cinderella, we see our heroine become so disgusted when the prince lops off the heads of her sisters that she decides to shun the monarchy and instead settles down with a simple jam-maker. And lives happily ever after, I might add.
Next up, we peek in to see the giant at the top of the beanstalk eat Jack's mother; the seven dwarves as ex horse race jockeys with a betting streak; Baby Bear getting a taste of predigested porridge (still inside Goldilocks, wink wink); Little Red Riding Hood in a cloak of self-skinned wolf-coat, and finally, Little Red appearing again, crashing the story of The Three Little Pigs as a paid hit-man, slaying the wolf and ending with a twist...
Ah, Piglet, you must never trust
Young ladies from the upper crust.
For now, Miss Riding Hood, one notes,
Not only has two wolfskin coats,
But when she goes from place to place,

This one (along with its companion piece, Dirty Beasts) is so full of ridiculously raunchy fun, that it makes a great short-form introduction into the darker parts of Dahl. I love the juxtaposition below of the front and back covers. Simply sinister!

Also by:
Dirty Beasts
The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me
Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Magic Finger
Danny Champion of the World
James and the Giant Peach ~ Michel Simeon version
James and the Giant Peach ~ Burkert version
Mouse Trouble


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Monday, September 24, 2012

Hector Protector and As I Went Over the Water

Hector Protector and As I Went Over the Water: Two Nursery Rhymes 
Maurice Sendak ~ Harper Collins, 1965

Feels like a Maurice Monday, no? A pure Sendak take on two old Mother Goose nursery rhymes, I love what the jacket copy of our first edition, withdrawn library book says about his take...

There is little in these verses to suggest the settings, the characterizations, the unforeseen twists and turns of Mr. Sendak's fantastical picture-stories.

And it's true. The text is sparse and silly, but the true joy in the book is found in the always-awesome imagination of Sendak himself. First, let's take the ballad of Hector...

Hector Protector was dressed all in green.
Hector Protector was sent to the queen.
The queen did not like him
no more did the King
so Hector Protector was sent back again.

That's the full text, and these few words manage to span 25 pages of picture perfection about a mother who sends her boy with a cake for the queen. Between home and the castle, he encounters a lion and snake and, together, they join forces to sass the monarchy... much to the dismay of his mamma.

Next up is Victor, the sailor boy who manages to get his ship swallowed by a sea monster.

As I went over the water
the water went over me.
I particularly like the sea dragon's wee little wings. I can just imagine him lifting that mammoth body up on those tiny things. Fear not, the monster regurgitates the vessel, and all is well again.

Never a dull moment in the Sendak world.

Always wonderful!

Also by:
A Very Special House
Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present
Moon Jumpers
What Do You Say, Dear?
Pierre: A Cautionary Tale
Some Swell Pup
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
Open House For Butterflies
Dear Mili
In the Night Kitchen
The Giant Story
Griffin and the Minor Cannon


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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Babar Visits Another Planet

Babar Visits Another Planet 
Laurent De Brunhoff ~ Random House, 1972

In memory of the greatest astronaut of all time... who remembers Babar went to space?

I kid you not.

The trip is long, but fortunately they are comfortable. They have already passed the moon and the planet Mars. The rocket continues on still farther. At last, after many days, it nears a reddish planet. "According to my calculations," says Babar, "this planet is unknown. Whatever will we find here?"

The Old Lady musta been so proud...

Also by Laurent:
The One Pig With Horns

By Jean:
Travels of Babar
Babar and Zephir
Babar and Father Christmas

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Monday, September 17, 2012

The Adventures of Madelene and Louisa

The Adventures of Madalene and Louisa
L. and M.S. Pasley ~ Random House, 1980

I wasn't quite sure what to make of this book the first time I saw it, but a closer look at the dust jacket and a little online sniffing around proves it and its publication to be a fascinating tale. Produced by a pair of tween Victorian entomologists, this book gives an electrifying view into an era when young-adult hood meant more than watching the Disney Channel and bullying overweight kids on Instagram.

From the dust jacket:

The authors of this captivating "found" masterpiece--a girlhood fantasy illustrated in exuberant watercolors--were Madalene and Louisa Pasley, the youngest children of Sir Thomas Pasley, Admiral-of-the-Fleet in the Crimean War and at the time this album was written (beginning in 1859 when the sisters were eleven and twelve) Commander and Chief at Portsmouth.

Dedicated entomologists, the girls portrayed themselves as two eccentric spinsters "chasing beetles and butterflies" and all manner of strange things. They also illustrated and recorded, in their beautiful copperplate handwriting, such everyday events of their lives as playing croquet and visiting Papa's ships. The result is a unique record of upper-class Victorian life as perceived by two shrewd children and an uninhibited outpouring of remarkable imagination and artistic talent.

The sisters' work was unearthed by their great nephew, Tim Jeal, who used it to produce this 1980s storybook. (More on the sisters and their story, here.)

When we were young my sister Madalene and I preferred chasing beetles and butterflies to lessons in the schoolroom. We explained to a series of daily governesses that we would rather study ENTOMOLOGY than ARITHMETIC--but none of them was interested in beetles and all of them persisted in setting us sums.

When the the girls were in between nannies, they would sneak out on daring night expeditions and seaside excursions where stink bugs were as big as dogs and dogs as large as houses. Where glow worms could be whipped and lassoed and grasshoppers could drive a horse and buggy.

Funny, magical little drawings that I would have loved to stumble across, tucked away in some old forgotten place. The story is so full of life and youthful, wild imagination, it's a joy to read and ponder. Made all the more awesome when you think of the age of the girls and the time in which they imagined these incredible wonders.


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Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Big Cleanup

The Big Clean-Up
Harvey Weiss ~ Abelard-Schuman 1967

Oh, goodness do I miss visiting his spot every day! I'm always happy to arrive here and be greeted with a comment like this about the post I did on Cynthia and the Unicorn...

Hallelujah! I had that book as a little girl in the early 80's and have spent the past twenty years trying to remember the title. All I remembered was a mermaid who lived in a bathtub and ate chocolate eclairs. I even submitted it to a bunch of "what was that book?" sites and nada. Now it makes perfect sense. My mother collected unicorns, so Cynthia and the Unicorn would've been a natural purchase. Now I just wish I could get a copy for less than $75.

A comment like that makes my day! So I thought I'd peek in and share this little ditty with you guys.

When Peter's mother gets sick of the mess in his room, she orders him to sort his stuff into two groups: to keep and to throw out. But as he ponders the possibly-unwanted items that overpopulate his life, his imagination takes over.

He put his hand over his eyes. With the other he reached in front. His hand closed on a long, thin piece of wood. Peter opened his eyes and examined the wood. "It's too small," he said. "Out." He tossed it into the TO THROW OUT box. "...Unless I wanted to make something small?" He reached into the box, took out the piece of wood and looked at it again. "If it was a little longer I could make a bow and arrow."

Thus, an old rag becomes a bullfighting cape, a rusty plug becomes a necessary life-saving engine-fixer, empty wooden spools become a dog wheelchair and a rusty chain-- the leash for an ostrich.

In the end, Peter decides one man's trash is indeed his treasure, cause you never know when you might need that old broken flashlight to imagine into something awesome!


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Sunday, September 2, 2012

There Was An Old Woman

There Was an Old Woman
Steven Kellogg ~ Parents' Magazine Press, 1974

One of my son's favorite Kellogg books, it's a new take on an old favorite taking the hilarity to its northern-most extreme. The famous story of There Was an Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly, imagining the proportion size of a woman who could eat a dog, a horse and a cow and what that would mean to her waist size and ego.

There was an old woman who swallowed a fly.
I wonder why
She swallowed a fly.
Poor old woman, she's sure to die.

Whereas you usually feel bad for the heroine of this story, Kellogg draws her so wretchedly despicable that it's a gas to laugh along as she spirals down a road of horrid narcissism and gluttony. With every animal she eats, she grows larger and larger, overshadowing her distressed husband and eventually ballooning into a circus freak.

Stick with us, Rosebud, you'll rocket to fame!
By tomorrow the world will be screaming your name!

Have any of you ever seen the movie Monster House? Though the animation seems archaic by today's standards, it's a movie which my seven-year-old son loved, about just that, an evil house, and if you've seen this movie, you'd understand why I'm mentioning it now. I feel like the filmmakers must have snitched a bit of the story from this book... or at least the visual story that runs through behind the actual text. The woman in the movie is named Constance and the one in Kellogg's book is named Rosebud, but the relationships they have with their respective husbands are similar. Both sideshow freaks gone bad.

If the story sounds a bit misogynist, it might be, but I tend to see it as nothing more than a kids' book with a social message towards the horrors of living a life of self-service. Disguised in pictures so lovingly, gross-out funny that even its tasteless lack of tact can be forgiven.

Though Kellogg's aesthetic sense and I don't always get along, my son laps him up, always begging one more read and laughing as he goes.

Also by:
Mysterious Tadpole
You Ought To See Herbert's House


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