Saturday, June 26, 2010

Book 56

Book 56: The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats, Viking board book

When I repairing the spines of my son's board books the other day, I came across this one.

I don't love everything that Ezra Jack Keats does. His books to me are like brussel sprouts -- I know I should like them -- I just don't. They seem to me too earnest, no charm. This book, however, is the exception and is charming and I do like it, very much. The Snowy Day is just the right balance of poignancy and humor. It is a pleasure to read and re-read.

Even when I don't especially like the writing of Keats' other books, I almost always love illustration. In that aspect, this book is no exception. I do love the color-blocky illustrations.

*For other reviews, please see Books I Buy and Why

Book 55

Book 55: A to Z, by Sandra Boynton, Little Simon 1995 (board book)

Today, I noticed that the spines of my son's board books were getting a bit ratty from all the love he's been giving them. So I gathered up all his board books and reinforced their spines with clear packing tape. (The good thing about moving/packing is that packing tape is readily available.) In his stack of newly restored books I rediscovered this little gem.

Every child should own a Sandra Boynton book. Not so much for the writing; although, I certainly wouldn't fault it, but for the illustrations. Her work is instantly recognizable, deceptively simple, and inimitable. Not that I'm especially interested in drawing cartoon characters, but I wish I could say as much for my work. One of her books is an instant pick-me-up, for the adult reading and the child listening, and, of course, looking.

*For other reviews, please see Books I Buy and Why

Thursday, June 24, 2010


Rewarded --
The job
At last.

At last
The job

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Book 54

Book 54: Little Bear, by Else Homelund Minarik, pictures by Maurice Sendak, HarperCollins 1957

You might be familiar with the Little Bear series on PBS and Nick Jr. It is a charming television series for young children, but it is not nearly as charming as the books upon which it was based.

The first Little Bear book is properly titled "Little Bear". In it we are first introduced to delightful bear who wants to play outside, but fears it will be too cold, so he puts on a hat...and is still cold. And so it goes until the little bears is bundled up, still cold, and realizes (with the help of his mother) that he needs a fur coat, which, fortunately, he has.

The illustrations are by the incomparable Maurice Sendak, so they probably need no selling. Although, I will say, for those who may find the drawings of his children in other books impish or slightly sinister, there is nothing sinister about the darling little bear. He is perfectly rendered.

*For other reviews, please see Books I Buy and Why

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Book 53

Book 53: Skippyjon Jones, by Judy Schachner, Dutton Children's Book 2003

What a great title! What a great name! You know from the cover you are in for a good time with a Siamese cat who thinks he is a chihuahua. And so you are.

This book starts out great for a toddler, but the writing becomes increasingly denser as the story progresses. So that my toddler doesn't miss out on this terrific tale, I have had to condense it a bit for him. No doubt in a few years he will enjoy hearing the entire story.

The illustrations are hysterical, and well-worth learning to read aloud upside down so that your audience can participate in every fun-filled page.

*For other reviews, please see Books I Buy and Why

Monday, June 21, 2010

Book 52

Book 52: Danny and the Dinosaur, by Syd Hoff, Harper Collins 1958

Danny is 52 years old and doesn't look a day over eight. Ah, the immortality of a good book.

This book is rather long to read to toddlers, as in it has a lot of pages. But my toddler stayed still for the whole book. Probably because there are only a couple of lines on each page and wonderful, colorful, large illustrations above the words. There is a courtesy in older books that is missing from most newer books. At least, I miss it.

I imagine in another 52 years, young children will still read about Danny and the dinosaur. And they will still find them charming.

*For other reviews, please see Books I Buy and Why

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Book 51

Book 51: Great Children's Stories, illustrated by Frederick Richardson

Just like I can't remember all the nursery rhymes I learned as a child, I can't remember all the children's stories I learned, either. Not so much the fairy tales -- I have volumes of those -- but the folk tales and fables. So when I found this book shortly after my son was born, I snatched it up. And I'm not sorry I did.

It is not a huge collection. There are just seventeen tales in the volume. But it is a well-represented collection, with a little bit of everything. And the illustrations are charming in that very turn-of-the-twentieth-century, Art Nouveau, way.

*For other reviews, please see Books I Buy and Why

Friday, June 18, 2010

Book 50

Book 50: On Top of Spaghetti, illustrated by Gene Barretta, Piggy Toes Press 2008, board book

As I mentioned in an earlier review, I keep a stack of board books within my son's reach so that he can "read" them any time. Whenever we travel anywhere, I let my son choose one item to take with us. Lately, that item has been a book (yay!). Often, that book has been this book. In fact, you can see the cover of this book under his leg in the photo for this site. He loves it that much.

As I mentioned in an even earlier review, I like song-stories -- SO much easier to remember the words, especially when my audience of one has decided that he wants to hold the book. And On Top of Spaghetti is a classic. Even my husband knows the words, although it doesn't quite sound like the same song when he sings it.

The illustrations are wonderfully silly, just like the song. The tree restaurant looks like a fun place to dine, and the characters in the background of the main restaurant are amusing to look at.

I am glad I bought this book in the board book edition. So far it has survived my son's eating-everything stage. Now it just has to survive the loving-it-to-death stage.

*For other reviews, please see Books I Buy and Why

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Book 49

Book 49: Stellaluna, by Janell Cannon, Harcourt, Inc 1993

I've been fascinated by bats, especially fruit bats, for a while, but until Stellaluna came out, I'm pretty sure not too many children were. Now, I know that Stellaluna is a well-circulated book at the library and on one of the library's computers as a game. Bats no longer elicit an automatic scream, at least not the ones that are as charmingly illustrated as Janell Cannon's.

In addition to showing bats in a rather flattering light, Stellaluna is about the importance of family and making friends -- timeless and appropriate themes for a children's book.

If you haven't read Stellaluna, you should, if only to see the cutest little bats ever.

* For other reviews, please see Books I Buy and Why

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Book 48

Book 48: A Harry the Dirty Dog Treasury, by Gene Zion, pictures by Margaret Bloy Graham, 1956

I grew up reading about Harry the Dirty Dog and I quite liked him, so when I saw a recent reprint of the story collection, I just had to buy it. This was before I had a son or was expecting one. When I re-read the stories many years after my childhood, I still smiled at No Roses for Harry. How I could relate to the gift of an unattractive sweater. Harry's solution is rather ingenious.

The illustrations are darling, in a style that would be called "retro" now, but actually was current when originally employed. I guess that would make them "vintage". There is something to be said for a limited color palette. The limitation forces the illustrator to make every line and shading count, or the whole picture would feel flat. It's probably a great artistic exercise.

Anyway, Harry the Dirty Dog is still a gem. Let's see how many generations can enjoy it.

*For other reviews, please see Books I Buy and Why

Monday, June 14, 2010

Book 47

Book 47: Little Quack's Bedtime, by Lauren Thompson, illustrated by Derek Anderson, Little Simon 2009 (board book edition)

My toddler son can't yet say duck, but he can quack, so he calls a duck a "quack, quack". When I read him this story, he quacks at every page. It is incredibly adorable. And so are the illustrations in this book.

I keep a stack of books on a bookshelf within my son's reach. Of course, they are all the virtually indestructible board book (even some of the board books are showing signs of wear, so only virtually indestructible). I let him "read" his books during the day and pick out the books he wants to hear at night. Little Quack's Bedtime is chosen about every other night.

I don't know if he chooses it because he likes the story, or because he likes the illustrations, or because he likes saying "quack, quack". It doesn't matter. I love to see him point at the ducks in the picture and quack for them.

*For other reviews, please see Books I Buy and Why

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Book 46

Book 46: When the Wind Bears Go Dancing, by Phoebe Stone, Little, Brown and Company 1997

I didn't think I'd much like this book -- I never liked dancing bears, especially the one on Captain Kangaroo -- but I did find the cover artwork interesting, and I'm a sucker for a signed book, so I picked it up. But I was wrong. I do like this book.

I think it is such a lovely explanation for a night thunderstorm. There is a lush dream-like quality to the illustrations, and they feature animals playing musical instruments. So much to love!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Book 45

Book 45: Big Bear, Little Bear, by David Bedford, illustrated by Jane Chapman, Little Tiger Press 2001

I bought this book for Jane Chapman's brilliant, beautiful illustrations. Jane Chapman is a young woman and an amazingly prolific one. She is probably best known for her work on Karma Wilson's "Bear..." series, as in "Bear Snores On". Any of those books are wonderful, but "Big Bear, Little Bear" is also a little gem.

Big Bear, Little Bear is about how children want to, and do, grow up so fast; and how their parents enjoy every moment of that journey. It is a sweet and well-told story.

You can probably already tell how much I enjoy the illustration in this book. I especially like reading this book at this time of the 90-degree+ year. The polar picture make the room seem at least ten degrees cooler.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Book 44

Book 44: Froggy Went A-Courtin', by Kevin O'Malley, Stewart, Tabor & Chang 1992

The first time I encountered this book, I was a little appalled, and intrigued. The intrigue won and I ended up buying the book.

Froggy has jumped from the swamp to the big city. So big is the city that, in fact, Froggy is a gangster. And Miss Mousy? She owns a speakeasy. If you go back to some of the earlier versions of this song, it turns out it is not such a big leap after all. Froggy does go riding with a sword and pistol by his side; certainly, that would presage violence. And in those earlier versions, the wedding party is devoured, so serving a seven to eleven year prison sentence seems quite mild.

The illustrations are fantastic. I love Kevin O'Malley's take on the verse where Miss Mousy sits and cards and spins -- he doesn't portray wool -- he shows a deck of cards and a roulette wheel. Very clever interpretation. Have I read it to my toddler son, yet? Um, no. But I will when he's old enough to understand irony.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Book 43

Book 43: 365 Bible Stories for Children, Melanie Burnette, Ottenheimer Publishers, Inc. 1989

If you are looking for Bible stories to read to a young child, this book is great. Most of the stories are so short that they can be read in about three minutes, and, unlike some of the Veggie Tales, they do stay true to the Biblical account.

However, that faithfulness to the original can also be a problem. More than once, we've had to read a second story to balance the negative ending of the first, especially stories from the Books of Kings or Chronicles. Still, we began reading these stories to my son when he was about two months old, and he doesn't wiggle around too much during the readings.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Book 42

Book 42: The Real Mother Goose, illustrated by Blanche Fisher Wright, Checkerboard Press 1992

Can you remember all the rhymes you learned in the nursery? Nope, me neither. So if you want to pass on that bit of childhood to your child, you probably need a book to do it. Also, you can't write altered nursery rhymes without first recalling the original. So whatever your reason, it is good to have at least one copy of Mother Goose.

I am very partial to Kate Greenaway's illustrations; however, I could not find that version when I was book shopping for my baby. Fortunately, I found Wright's version and it works out even better since my baby turned out to be a boy. Wright's illustrations have strong lines and colors. So while I like Greenaway's pretty pastel illustrations, I think Thomas prefers Wright's darker one. Speaking of darker, Mother Goose on the cover is clearly a "wise woman", from her pointed hat right down to her striped stockings and buckle-clad shoes.

I would recommend any illustrated version of Mother Goose, as long as it is comprehensive and familiar to what you learned in your childhood.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Book 41

Book 41: Just Like My Dad, by David Melling, Hodder Children's Books 2002

For Mother's Day, my sister bought my son "Just Like My Mom", so I'm sure I'll be reviewing that later, but, in honor of the upcoming Father's Day, I'm reviewing "Just Like My Dad" first.

There aren't too many good books about dads. I can think of three: The Daddy Mountain -- which I don't really like; Guess How Much I Love You -- which is sweet, bordering on treacly; and Mercer Mayer's Daddy and Me -- which is good, if a little silly. Just Like My Dad manages to be silly and sweet without going overboard in either direction. Because of this balance it can be, and has been, read over and over again to the enjoyment of both the reader and listener.

The illustrations are spot-on and even funnier than the text.

Monday, June 7, 2010


Here is my poem of the week:

Moving –
Not yet
I am still.

I am still
Impatient –
Not yet

Book 40

Book 40: Zin! Zin! Zin! a Violin, by Lloyd Moss, illustrated by Marjorie Pricemen, Simon & Schuster 1995

I love saying "Zin! Zin! Zin! a Violin", so, of course, I love reading this book. Even if that particular phrase does not amuse you, there is still much to love about this book.

It is a counting poem about musical instrument -- that should appeal to math-lovers, poetry-lovers and music-lovers. If you still aren't sold on this book, check out the frenetic and jazzy illustrations. Not only are they multi-national, they are multi-animaled. Pretty much, this book has universal appeal, and, as it is a Caldecott Honor Book, I am not alone in that assessment.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Book 39

Book 39: The Cat Came Back, by Fred Penner, illustrated by Renee Reichert, Roaring Brook Press, 2005

This book triples the national average of books owned by a child, and I'm not even halfway through the books in my son's room.

The Cat Came Back is a song/story, although the verses are not from the version I am most familiar. However, I think I actually like them a bit better. They still are silly and become progressively sillier, but somehow, they start out kinder, more humane. Anyway, it's still a funny book.

The illustrations for this version are extremely rich and color-drenched, and, yes, silly, although the last one, my favorite, is quite sweet. This book is an overall winner.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

poem of the week


All is well:
Sweet cats.

Sweet cats!
All is well.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Book 38

Book 38: Really Useful Engines, by Christopher Awdry, Random House, 1983

We came to the end of the wonderful Thomas the Tank Engine Collection stories and my little Thomas wanted more. I wasn't ready to plunge right back into the collection again and start from the beginning, so I found this little book.

It only has four stories, and it is "based-on" The Railway Series by Rev. W. Awdry, but unlike most of the "based-on" Thomas book, the author did an excellent job of keeping the feel of the original -- probably because he was Rev. Awdry's son.

The illustrations are wonderful, and again, have the feel of the original without attempting to copy them.

All in all, it has been a really useful little book.

* For other reviews, please see Books I Buy and Why