Sunday, November 25, 2012

Book 136

Cars Galore, written by Peter Stein, illustrated by Bob Staake, Candlewick Press, 2011.

Cars Galore is a really fun read.  It is exactly the sort of book I would have chosen for Toddler/Preschooler story time at the library.  It reads as if Peter Stein wrote it by reading it out loud to a four-year-old.  It is silly, funny and packed with visual words and onomatopoeia.  And now I love it even more because I got to use the word "onomatopoeia" in a review.

I love everything about Bob Staake's artwork for this book, from the cover, to the end papers, to every illustration inside.  Again, this would be a perfect book for story time, not just because of the text but because illustration stands out and could easily be seen from a distance.  It is silly, funny, visually appealing, and if there were a word to describe artwork like "onomatopoeia", I'd use it. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Book 135

A City Is, poems by Norman Rosten, illustrated by Melanie Hope Greenberg, Henry Holt & Company, 2004.

"A City Is" is a collection of poems about life in New York City throughout the year.  Some are charming and resonate well, even with non-city dwellers; others are very New York City-centric.  All, however, are just the right length for reading to pre-schoolers.

Melanie Hope Greenberg's illustrations have a joyful playfulness that seems to mark her work, and I just love it.  She was an excellent choice of illustrator for this book because she can make all the poems in this collection relatable to everyone. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Book 134

Pets Go Pop!, by Bob Staake, L.B. Kids (Little, Brown & Company) 2009

As a children's librarian, I had a love/hate relationship with pop-up books.  I loved them because they were fantastically cool, so cool that kids always wanted to check them out, which was great.  What I didn't like was how quickly the ones that were for circulation fell apart, or even worse, some of the more elaborate pop-up books were turned into reference books and could not be checked out at all.  As a children's librarian, pop-up books frustrated me.  Now, however, I buy books as a mother, and I just love pop-up books.

As much as I want to jump in and write about the mechanics of Pets Go Pop!, I'll stick to my formula and write about the text first.  The text is simple and it works.  I don't buy pop-up books for the writing, so if is at all amusing, I am happy.  And I am happy.

In general, the only way that Bob Staake's artwork could possibly be improved would be to make it 3D, like a pop-up book, like Pets Go Pop!  The engineering of this book is beyond amazing.  My husband is an engineer and mechanics of this book fascinated and baffled him.  He kept opening and closing the book to see how everything fit together until my son had enough and took the book back.  My son doesn't yet appreciate engineering; he just loves the way the crazy, colorful animals jump off of the page every time he opens the book.  So far, this book has stood up to my Tornado Thomas.  That also makes me happy. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Book 133

How to Bake an American Pie, written by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Raul Colon, Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2007

How to Bake an American Pie was written to be a Fourth of July book.  I didn't have this book on the Fourth of July.  I do, however, own it in time for Veterans' Day, which still feels quite relevant.

The text in How to Bake an American Pie is a lovely poem about ideally what it is to be an American and what forms America.  Karma Wilson, author of the charming "Bear" books, is equally charming here and surprisingly poignant.  As an adult, it reminds me of what is best about my country and countrymen.  After a fractious election season, I savored every heart-warming word.  For a child, the book gives ideals that are attainable, if not always present. 

As much as I love Jane Chapman as the illustrator for the "Bear" books, I think Raul Colon was a perfect choice to illustrate this sweet and powerful poem-story.  In addition to his illustrations also being sweet and powerful, they are wonderfully whimsical in a way that actually enhance the poignancy of this book. 

So I will read this book to my young son for Veteran's Day, and later for the Fourth of July, and many, many days in between.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Stream of consciousness poem, part VI

October 13, 2011 -- Hospital Room

He is here
He has been found
He has no name
Just a label
A vegetable
Because he is non-responsive
A vegetable
My heart 

And there 
On the bed
He lies
A tangle of tubes 
And wires
Not moving
Not responsive
A vegetable
My heart clenches
Still tighter and
I cry

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Book 132

Blue Chicken, by Deborah Freedman, Viking 2011

I saw an image from this book and that was enough to make me want to buy it.  I am so not disappointed.  This book combines farm animals AND art.  Brilliant!  The artwork in this book propels the story, but the text is still delightful and simple enough for the youngest of listeners and the youngest of readers.  My son as been known to capsize his paints and color more than he intended, so this story is very relatable for him.

Of course, the illustrations are wonderful.  As much as I love the helpful, clumsy blue chicken, I think it is the blue-yellow duckling that captured my heart.   I highly recommend this adorably whimsical book, especially for preschoolers, whose "help" can sometimes lead to some colorful situations.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Bailey's Cheesecake

3/4 milk; 2 tsp Bailey's; 1 tsp vanilla; 2 eggs; 1 cup sugar; 1/2 Bisquick; 16 oz. cream cheese (softened and cubed)

Heat oven to 350.  Grease 10 inch pie pan (or use two smaller ones).  Blend all ingredients on high for two minutes (or until well-blended).  Bake until center is firm (about 40 mins.).  Spread topping on top. Garnish with chocolate if desired.

Topping:  1 cup of sour cream; 2 tbsp sugar; 1 teaspoon Bailey's; 1/2 tsp vanilla.

Book 131

Mary Blair Treasury of Golden Books, 2012.

I bought this book because I remember owning as a child a Golden Book collection that featured Mary Blair's "I Can Fly".  All the stories in that book were very good, but I remember Blair's work the most of all.  In the "Mary Blair Treasury of Golden Books", the illustrations are bigger, and, therefore, even better.   I think parts of the Golden Book of Little Verses were also in my childhood book, because I remember some of the illustrations, but none of the text.  Two of the stories in this collection are completely new to me.

Anyone who has been to Disney World or Land has seen Mary Blair's work.  Yup, it's a small world.  Really -- "It's a Small World"; which explains why the animatrons are so charming even if the song is so annoying.  Also, her work heavily influenced Disney's "Alice in Wonderland", which probably explains why it is my favorite Disney animated film.  And "Ichabod Crane", another film with intriguing illustration.

It wasn't until I flipped to the songs in the back of the book that I realized that I already owned something quite spectacular:  The New Golden Song Book, illustrated by Mary Blair, from 1955.  My copy was loved and used quite a bit before I inherited it, but still...!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Book 130

Hello, Robots, by Bob Staake, Viking 2004

I heard "Hello, Robots" before I saw it, and because I was distracted, it didn't quite grab me like other Staake books did.  My then three-and-a-half year old son, however, was immediately interested and wanted to check out the book.  So we did.  Then he didn't want to bring it back to the library, so we had to buy our own copy.  Now whenever we read this book, i.e., every day and usually more than once a day, my son "reads" the refrain in a robot voice.  I get it now.  It's funny.

The illustrations are typical Bob Staake artwork, which is a shorthand way of saying that they are brilliant, funny, a bit twisted, and convey the unexpected.  The two pages showing the robots in the rain so intrigue and worry my little boy that he has painted his own scene of robots in the rain.  Good children's books entertain.  Great children's books spark the imagination.  Excellent children's books inspire.  It's pretty clear to my young son what kind of books Mr. Staake creates.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

My Miracle Baby

I wasn’t supposed to be able to have children.  

I had struggled with endometriosis from the time I was fourteen, although I wasn’t diagnosed until I was twenty-seven.  Two months after that first surgery for endometriosis, I was diagnosed with a congenital heart condition.  The endo seemed to thrive with every hormone that was supposed to control it.   Less than a year later, I had a second surgery and the endo was even worse than the first time.  I had a third surgery for endo complications.  After that, I was facing a hysterectomy -- nothing more could be done for the endometriosis, and the scar tissue was already extensive.  I was not yet thirty. 

A few times, the pain was so intense that I seriously considered the hysterectomy, but something stopped me.  My head accepted that I could not have children, but my heart never did.  I lost a few relationships to what I thought was my inability to have children.  But my husband, whom I met when was 35, accepted me and all my flaws.  We married on my 37th birthday.  

About two years into our marriage, I became pregnant.  We were elated.  The pregnancy, however, only lasted about six weeks.  Pretty much almost as soon as I realized I was pregnant, the pregnancy was over.  I had four more very early term miscarriages over the next eighteen months.  By now, we were well into a children’s home system and the county system to adopt a child.  While taking the parenting courses to adopt, I had one more early term miscarriage.  After completing the courses and two home visits, I was pregnant for the seventh time.  I was three months along -- further than I had ever been.

Mine was a very high-risk pregnancy:  I was forty, I had six miscarriages, I had scar tissue from the endometriosis and surgeries, and I had a heart condition.  The pregnancy itself was not horrible for me.  It wasn’t until the last six weeks that I lost my ankles and shoes were challenging because of the swelling.  At around five months, I developed pain around my ribcage on the right side.  None of the doctors at the high-risk hospital were concerned about it, so neither was I.  

The morning I was scheduled for my C-section, I was bumped back a few hours because of an emergency delivery.  By the time I was brought in for my delivery, I started having labor pains, but the pains on the right side were even worse.  The standard epidural was ineffective for my pain by then, so the dose was doubled.  My blood pressure bottomed out.  During the procedure, the additional fluid was too much for my heart and I developed congestive heart failure.  The epidural wore off before the end of the delivery and nothing more could be given to me.

I spent the first twenty-four hours after giving birth in ICU.  I saw my son once, for about ten minutes.  The next day I was moved to the critical care unit.  My son could only be brought up to me if there was a guard on the floor, so again, I only saw him once, but this time for an hour.  The third day, I could not see him at all.  I was in the hospital two more days.  Meanwhile, the pain from the C-section improved, but the pain in my right side never did.  It wasn’t until a night-time trip to the ER three months later than I learned I had developed calcium gallstones during my pregnancy.  

I don’t regret anything.  My son is worth it all.  And I do think, even now, he is something quite remarkable. 

Book 129

The Ballad of the Pirate Queens, written by Jane Yolen, illustrated by David Shannon, Harcourt, Brace & Company, 1995.

Hallowe'en is quickly approaching and, trust me on this, not every girl wants to be a princess.  Some would much rather be a pirate for a day.  And if you plan to be a female pirate, you should be a Pirate Queen, like Anne Bonney or Mary Reade.  I wish I knew about them when I was younger.

The Ballad of the Pirate Queens is a book that I picked up long before I ever planned to have a child or work as a children's librarian.  It was just one of the books that are so stunning and so intriguing that I felt I had to have it for my own library.  It was also my first encounter with Jane Yolen's writing.  I have since become a huge fan of this amazingly prolific writer.  Every book she writes, and she writes a staggering array, is pitch-perfect.  The Ballad of the Pirate Queens with its mix of poetry and history reads like a troubadour's song.  I dare you to not lilt as you read it out loud.  What I love best about this book, however, is the spotlight on the female pirates. 

This book also introduced me to David Shannon's work.  Powerful and beautiful only just begin to describe the illustrations in this book.  Some of the pieces of artwork in this book are so stand-alone-gorgeous that I would frame them and hang them on my wall if they were available as prints. 

Stream of consciousness poem -- part V

October 13, 2011 -- At Hospital Reception

“What do you mean
He’s not here?
He was brought in
I spoke to his doctor.
I know he’s here.”
But in what sense
“He was here”
I did not know
And I so feared
That we 
Already were
Too late.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Stream of consciousness poem, part IV

October 13, 2011 -- Fayetteville

In Fayetteville
Cars come at us
From all directions
Like derailed bumper cars
Our adrenaline spikes
And mixes with the
Too strong coffee
Pulling us

We drive past
The hospital once
Past the entrance once
Past the parking garage twice
Until we find a sign
Of sorts
And here
We turn

We stumble
From the car
And wonder
Where to go now
An older man
Stops his golf cart
And offers to take us
To the entrance
His kindness moves us
To tears

In the golf cart
We don't speak
And the kind older man
Doesn't speak
Until he drops us off
At the main entrance
And he calls out
"I hope everything
Turns out well
For you."

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Book 128

Scarlett Angelina Wolverton-Manning, written by Jacqueline K. Ogburn, illustrated by Brian Ajhar, Dial Books for Young Readers 1994.

Scarlett Angelina Wolverton-Manning is a beautiful Halloween book, which is what attracted me to it in the first place.  It is also a very funny book, in rather a twisted way, which is why I bought it.  I won't give any details because I don't want to give away the story, but the ending is well worth the buildup.  I will say that this a wonderfully well-written book, which is not surprising, because Jacqueline K. Ogburn was a children's book editor before she became an author. 

As I said, this is a beautiful book, and yet the illustration still seem to be properly sinister --  a delectable combination.  Every page is stand-alone wonderful.  I'm not sure what other books Brian Ajhar has illustrated, but I would like to find out.