Thursday, February 28, 2013

Thomas' 20th Story -- Illustrated





Once upon a time, there was a kitten named Kitten.  She was under the bed.  She was lost.  And sad.  She was crying.  Thomas found her with a light.  No more crying.

The End.

(November 2012.)

Thomas' 19th Story -- Illustrated





Once upon a time, there was a cold shadow.  It was lost and sleeping.  The cat found it with its singing.
The End.

(November 2012.)

Thomas' 18th Story -- Illustrated



Once upon time, there was a house.  It was a space shuttle house.  Light hit the house and broke it.  Mommy put a band-aid on the shuttle and it was all better and it could fly.

The End.


(November 2012.)

Thomas' 17th Story -- Illustrated





Once upon a time, there was a green blanket.  It went to a frog pond, far, far away from the sun.  And it was lost.

The End.


(November 2012.)

Thomas' 16th Story -- Illustrated





Once upon a time, there was a little boy in a purple shirt -- A bug ABC shirt.  He was on top of the world with a camera.  He spilled milk all over his shirt.

The End.


(November 2012.)

Thomas' 15th Story -- Illustrated





Once upon a time, there was a little bear who sneezed.  Achoo!  Bless you.
The End.

(November 2012.)

Thomas' 14th Story -- Illustrated






Once upon a time, there was a painting.  It was a green painting, with leaves and a dragon.  The dragon's tooth was loose.  The dragon lost his tooth and grew a green beard.

The End.

(November 2012.)

Thomas 13th Story -- Illustrated





Once upon a time, there was a rabbit.  He lost his bed.  He was sad.  It was all Thomas' fault.  Thomas changed the batteries in the lantern, and it was better.  Big hug.

The End.

(November 2012.)

Stream of consciousness poem -- part XII


October 15, 2011 – Later still

We leave
The hospital
We three sisters
And walk
Across the parking lot
To the nearest
Drug store

Inside
We pick up
Some items
For our brother
Some things to
Amuse him
And things
That he would need
In life

When the
Cashier sees us
Laughing
He thinks that
We have been
At the hospital
Because of a new life
And, in a way,
He’s right.

Thomas 12th Story -- Illustrated





Once upon a time, there was a camera and a robot.  They were outside.  They were playing.  They were lost.  They saw the biggest clock they had ever seen.  The clock helped them.

The End.

(November 2012.)

Thomas' 11th Story -- Illustrated





Once upon a time, there was a crystal ball.  It was lost.  It jumped into a flashlight.  The flashlight was lost.  The flashlight jumped on a train and came back.

The End.

(November 2012.)

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Thomas' Tenth Story -- Illustrated





Once upon a time, there was a donut.  Thomas ate it.  It was delicious.

The End.


(November 2012.)

Thomas' Ninth Story -- Illustrated





Once upon a time, there was a little boy named Thomas.  A goblin got Thomas.  He was hungry.  The kitten found him.

The End.

(November 2012.)

Thomas' Eighth Story -- Illustrated





Once upon a time, there was a duck.  And he quacked in the water.  I put him in the dirt and he popped.

The End.

(November 2012.)

Thomas' Seventh Story -- Illustrated





Once upon a time, there was a little boy and he was lost.  He was sad.  He scratched his foot, and the music stopped.

The End.

(November 2012.)

Thomas' Sixth Story -- Illustrated





Once upon a time, there was a goblin.  He was cold and lost.  The goblin was sad.  He found a happy door.  He found some candy.  And a plane.  And candles.  The goblin was happy.  It was his birthday.

The End.

(November 2012.)

Thomas' Fifth Story -- Illustrated





Once upon a time, there was a star.  And it exploded.  And I was grumpy.

The End.

(November 2012.)

Thomas' Fourth Story -- Illustrated




Once upon a time, Buster was lost in candy sprinkles.  On the space shuttle.  Molly found him.

The End.

(November 2012.)

Thomas' Third Story -- Illustrated



Once upon a time, there was a little boy and his name was Thomas.  His mommy turned to stone and the angels got Thomas.

The End.

(November 2012.)

Thomas' Second Story -- Illustrated


Once upon a time, there was a jumping frog, and it jumped down my throat.
The End.

(November 2012.)

Thomas's First Story -- Illustrated



Once upon a time, there was a ghost clown, and he helped at Thomas' house.
The End.

(November 2012.)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Book 161

Pete the Cat, I Love My White Shoes, written by Eric Litwin, Illustrated by James Dean, Harper Collins 2010.  Preschool to Early Elementary.

In my house, I have some pretty cool cats, but not one is as cool as Pete the Cat.  First of all, he wears Converse hightop Chucks (like me).  And he is completely unflappable (not so much like me).  He is able to turn any potentially bad situation into a good one (I wish that were me).  Anyway, my little boy heard this cool cat story at the library during a recent Story Time.  He told me that he wanted that book.  Instead of checking it out, I just went ahead and bought it.  We just got our copy in the mail.  He sang the story with me and said, "I love it!"

The illustrations accompanying the lovable text are equally lovable.  I love seeing those hightop Chucks change color, as does my son.  And the additional props in the drawings just add to Pete the Cat's coolness.  Such a winning book.  There is a summed up moral at the end of the story, which normally would annoy me, but Pete the Cat is far too cool to be gorpy.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Book 160

The Search Committee, by Tim Owens, Tyndale House, 2012. 

Occasionally, very occasionally, I buy books for myself.  Usually they are classics.  Or, like with The Search Committee, I know the author.  In this case, he is part of my writers' group.  I have read short pieces of his before and know him to have an intriguing voice in his writing and a strong sense of humor and some quirky characters.  All of that is present in The Search Committee.  I was, however, surprised by how Southern this novel is. 

The real main character in this book is the setting.  I had just finished reading Barbara O'Connor's How to Steal a Dog before I started The Search Committee.  It was amazing how well the writing dovetailed -- it wasn't the same -- Ms O'Connor writes for children, but there is a quality to the writing that is shared by both authors.  In case you are wondering, I love Barbara O'Connor's writing, so I loved the writing in The Search Committee as well. 

The Search Committee ostensibly is about the four women and three men who make up a committee searching for a new pastor for their church.  Every main character is given a view point and flashbacks to his or her past.  I don't really have a problem with that.  I do, however, think this book could have been improved by tighter editing.  That, to me, is more a reflection on the publishing house than on the author.

I do know that Mr. Owens is working on another book.  I do know that I'll be buying it when it is released. And I do know that I expect to enjoy it.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Book 159


How to Steal a Dog by Barbara O'Connor, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Inc., 2007.  Mid to Upper Elementary.

How to Steal a Dog opens with the best and most heartbreaking beginning sentence in any recent piece of children's literature:  "The day I decided to steal a dog was the same day my best friend, Luanne Godfrey, found out I lived in a car."  When I read that sentence, I felt like I was sucker-punched.  Twice.

With a title like How to Steal a Dog, you might think this book was about the dog.  You'd be wrong.  It is about so much more.  It is about relationships.  It is about love.  It is about suffering.  It is about wrestling with the conscience.  It is about life.  I had no trouble relating to all the main characters in this book:  The mother, who was working two jobs just to try to provide the basic needs for her children and still failing to provide the shelter; Carmella, whose dog is her best friend, child and center of her life; Toby, the younger sibling who is called "stupid" when he points out flaws in the older sibling's plans; and the dog-stealing Georgina, who tries to give her family the help that they so desperately need.

I became so invested in the lives of these character during the course of the short 165 pages that I would have felt cheated if Ms. O'Connor gave them an easy, happy ending.  She didn't.  She gave this story a perfect ending, one that was full of hope and unresolved problems.  Just like life.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Book 158

Bugs Galore, written by Peter Stein, illustrated by Bob Staake, Candlewick Press 2012. 

It's Valentine's Day, so I gave my son a book:  Bugs Galore.  I definitely am not a fan of bugs.  I will rescue any ladybug unlucky enough to end up in our house; I won't kill spiders if I know they are innocuous; and I'll even leave fire ant nests alone if there are in areas where no one walks -- they prey on termites; and if I'm outside and the bugs leave me alone, I will leave them alone, but that's pretty much is the extent of my affection for bugs.  So, I wasn't really expecting to like a bug book.  But I did.  And more importantly, so did my four-year-old son.  He called this a "beautiful bug book".  The description is perfect.

We already have Cars Galore, and I really liked the writing in it.  If possible, I like the writing in Bugs Galore even more.  Peter Stein writes like he is reading out loud to a young child, which, of course, is the best way to write for young children.  I don't know how he manages it, but his rhyming scheme and meter never feel forced or artificial.  His text is so wonderfully picturesque that he just holds the door wide open for Bob Staake's illustrative wackiness to stomp right in.  And it does.

Again, although I am NOT a bug person, I like the artwork in Bugs Galore even better than Cars Galore.  Every page in Bugs Galore crawls with "beautiful bugs".  There is a wonderful freedom in the sprawl of the crawling bugs that could not exist with cars on the road.  I should point out that I am writing this review without having the book in front of me because my son took the "beautiful bug book" to his room and he won't let me have it back.


Saturday, February 16, 2013

Thomas' January stories, part 3


40.
Once upon a time, there was a kitten named Molly.  She was lost and sad.  She was lost in the fish tank.  Poor new fish!  A Thomas named Thomas found her.  Drippy-drop.  Poor Molly!  The End.


41.
Once upon a time, there was a Thomas named Thomas.  He lived in the garden.  He found a key.  A gold key.  A gold key to a dream.  The End.


42.
Once upon a time, there was a Thomas named Thomas.  He was lost and sad.  He found a blanket.  And a lantern.  And a smoking penguin.  And he found the man in the moon.  And it was a robot.  The End.


43.
Once upon a time, there was a castle.  And there was a princess in the castle.  And there was a king.  The king wore a necklace of beautiful diamonds.  The End.


44.
Once upon a time, there was a Cowboy Woody Thomas.  He was lost and sad.  He had red monkey bow underpants.  Molly Kitten found his underpants.  Molly Kitten found Thomas.  The End.


45.
Once upon a time, there was a story page.  And there was a light.  A very big light.  And there were numbers.  Very big numbers.  And the number grew in the light.  The End.


46.
Once upon a time, there were bubbles.  Bubbles in the bathroom.  Bubbles in the hallway.  Bubbles on the bedroom.  Bubbles in the highway.  They were bubbles for the king.  They were bubbles for King Thomas.    The End.


47.
Once upon a time, there was a frog.  It was a Frog Thomas.  And there was a waterfall castle.  And it was made of bubbles and stars and soapy floors.  And Thomas was slippery King Frog Thomas.  The End.


48.
Once upon a time, there was a Thomas named Thomas.  He had a four-leaf clover.  And train underpants.  The sun kissed him.  He was very lucky.  The End.


49.
Once upon a time, there was a Thomas named Thomas.  He found a monster.  In a lighthouse.  A monster lighthouse.  Thomas said, “Monster, monster, monster.  I’m not scared of you.”  And he sang the monster to sleep with his song.  The End.


50.
Once upon a time, there was an ocean.  With seahorses.  Singing seahorses.  Out in the water.  And there was a Thomas named Thomas.  He was in a car.
“Uh, oh,” said Thomas.  “We’re out of gas.  No more stories.”  The End.


51.
Once upon a time, there was a Thomas named Thomas.  He was lost and sad.  He found a Mr. Blue Goldfish.  Wearing Scooby Doo underpants.  Thomas said, “Scooby Doo underpants?  I can’t believe it!”  The End.


52.
Once upon a time, there was a Thomas named Thomas.  He had a booger in his nose.  He caught the booger in a tissue.  “Hooray for boogers!” said Thomas.


53.
Once upon a time, there was a king.  In a yellow truck.  He boomed the house.  Molly was under the bed.  Thomas was crying.  The End.


54.
Once upon a time, there was a Thomas named Thomas.  He wore Scooby Doo underpants.  They made his eyes pop.  And there was a snow dog.  He was lost and sad.  Thomas found the snow dog.  The End.


55.
Once upon a time there was a ball.  A Molly ball.  It rolled and made music.  For Molly.  Doesn’t that sound nice?  The End.




56.
Once upon a time, there was a balloon.  A doggy balloon.  It floated up, up, up, outside.  And disappeared.  The doggy balloon was caught in a tree.  Woof, woof, woof.  The End.


57.
Once upon a time, there was a Superman, and he could fly.  Like Thomas.  The End.


58.
Once upon a time, there was a Thomas named Thomas.  He lived in the garden.  He lost his pants.  He was sad.  He picked some flowers.  For his mommy.
“I farted,” said Thomas.
“Thank you,” said his mommy.
“You’re welcome,” said Thomas.
The End.


59.
Once upon a time, there was a Thomas named Thomas.  He was nine years old.  He had a robot.  On the ceiling.  The End.


60.
Once upon a time, there was a monkey.  He had long hair tied up with a bow.  And there was a pink frog.  And a woodpecker.  And a bear.  A purple bear.  And they were friends.   The End.


61.
Once upon a time,  there was a Thomas named Thomas.  He was drawing a goblin.  A goblin in a train.  To toys.  And to colors.  And to Mommy’s coffee.  The End.


62.
Once upon a time, there was a monkey.  He was flying upstairs.  He was a blue monkey.  He had green monkey feet.  And blue monkey legs.  And a monkey head.  And monkey hair.  He was flying in the color lights.  “We’re free!” said the monkey to the coconut.  The End.


63.
Once upon a time, there was a Thomas named Thomas.  He was chasing a train.  The train got away.  Thomas hurt his leg.  He needed a boo-boo bag.  And a popsicle. 
“I’m having a bad day, “ said Thomas.  The End.

63.
Once upon a time, there was a Thomas named Thomas.  He found a pirate glass.  He saw a Thomas in the mirror glass.  It was a Pirate Thomas.  And he had a map.  A treasure map.  To gold chocolate coins.  The End.


64.
Once upon a time, there was a guy.  On a bicycle.  He had a black jacket.  And Scooby Doo underwear.  And he went to the top of the world.  The End.


65.
Once upon a time, there was a brick wall.  And a green light.  And a Thomas with a paper spyglass.  He was a pirate.  And there was a monkey.  A little sad monkey.  In a tree.  And Thomas said, “Who goes there?”  The End.


66.
Once upon a time, there was a fountain-fly.  In Thomas’ family room.  It had wings like a big fish.  It flew to the ceiling and ate goldfish and popsicles.  And it wore pajamas.  The End.


67.
Once upon a time, there was a robot pig.  A pink robot pig.  He had yellow eyes and purple teeth.  And he ate monkey food.  The End.


68.
Once upon a time, there was a penguin.  He lived in a pond.  On the rocks.  A Thomas named Thomas made a house for the penguin.  And a bridge.  And the penguin drove the train over the bridge.  The End.


69.
Once upon a time, there was a Molly-pop kitten.  First she was in the room, then she was on the front porch, and then she was outside.  She flew up, up, up like a bird, on a windy day.  The End.







70.
Once upon a time, there was a Thomas named Thomas.  He had a windy adventure.  In a picnic woods.  It was a laughing woods.  With curly, laughing trees.  And a giant crow.  And it was a scary woods.  The End.


71.
Once upon a time, there was a monkey.  It was a blue monkey.  And Thomas built it.   The monkey rode in the sky on a rainbow.   The End.


72.
Once upon a time, there was an R.  For rabbit.  And rocket.  A rabbit rode the rocket.  And walked on the moon.  The End.

Book 157


My Father’s Luncheonette, by Melanie Hope Greenberg, Dutton Children’s Books, 1991.

My Father’s Luncheonette starts off with these lines:  “My father’s luncheonette is twelve hops on my left foot, eight hops on my right foot, twenty-three skips, and around the corner from where I live. “ And that perfect opening sentence sets the tone for this book.  The story takes place in an age that I did not live, and in a place that I have never lived, and yet, because this story is so wonderfully personal, I can relate to it.  It feels familiar.

The artwork also feels familiar.  Maybe because I’ve seen Ms. Greenberg’s work before and for a while – maybe Unicef?  Her illustrations are packed with charm and whimsy.  They look deceptively simple, almost as if the narrator herself drew them, if, that is, that eight-year-old narrator had an unerring eye for color and balance, and textures and patterns.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Book 156


Ace Lacewing, Bug Detective, by David Biedrzycki, Charlesbridge, 2005.

Some years ago, I saw a show at the Orlando Science Center that featured a bug in a trench coat who talked like Sam Spade.  I wondered what it was based on.  Now I know:  Ace Lacewing, Bug Detective. 

The voice in my head when I read this book had a Sam Spade accent still.  Maybe because I saw that skit years ago.  Maybe not.  In any case, Ace Lacewing, Bug Detective does read like Dashiell Hammett meets the insect world in picture book form.  It’s great fun.  And funny.  When I reached the line “I wondered if he had a license to pass gas” I laughed out loud.  I know people who need that license.

The artwork is wonderful.  The bugs look like bugs.  In clothes.  And having facial expression.  In film noir.  And yet the species is still recognizable.  Perfect!


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Book 155


The Cow Who Clucked, by Denise Fleming, Henry Holt, 2006.

The Cow Who Clucked starts off with a quote by Vincent Van Gogh in the preface and an homage to Van Gogh in the endpapers.  It’s a great start – a brilliant start -- to a wonderful book.

The Cow Who Clucked is about animals.  Farmyard animals.  Talking farmyard animals.  Silly talking farmyard animals.  It is repetitive enough that young children can catch on right away, but no so much that their parents will be driven crazy.  The story is funny.  And silly. And full of animal noises.

The star of this book, however, is the artwork.  Denise Fleming is wonderfully imaginative, not only in what she creates, but how she creates it.  As a result, the illustrations are lush in color and rich in texture. 

Thomas' January Stories, part 2


18.
Once upon a time, there was a Doctor Thomas.  He had smoke in his house.  He had a ghost in his house.  A ghost with his pants on backwards.  The End.


19.
Once upon a time, there was a robot snowman.  He lived in the garden.  He had no buttons.  He had no black hat.  He had a yellow hat.  He didn’t like rain.  Or snow.  The End.


20.
Once upon a time, there was a lighthouse.  And there was a bottle of water for the lighthouse.  A bottle of water from the ocean.  And on the ocean was a boat.  It was a ship of no stories.  The End.


21.
Once upon a time, there was a Molly named Molly.  She was grumpy.  She was lost.  She said, “I want my cat food.  And some water.  And a sparkler cake.” 
She found a rock.  And an acorn.  The End.


22.
Once upon a time, there was a Thomas named Thomas.  He jumped in the curtains.  He broke the curtains.  His mommy said, “Why did you do that, Thomas?!”  The End.


23.
Once upon a time, there was a Thomas named Thomas.  He had a pocket watch.  Like Sir Topham Hatt.  He was a train master.  Like Sir Topham Hatt.  He was Trainmaster Thomas.  With a pocket watch.  The End.


24.
Once upon a time, there was a Thomas named Thomas.  And a mommy named Mommy.  Mommy had a gold piano necklace.  Thomas played the piano necklace.  Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding.  The End.


25.
Once upon a time, there was a Thomas named Thomas.  He made a button.  On a lantern.  It pushed an airplane out into the sky.  Out to the twinkle stars.  The End.



26.
Once upon a time, there was a train.  It had floors and windows.  It had coal.  It had a BIG caboose.  It went down the stairs of the house.  It sounded like an express.  Toot!  Toot!  The End.


27.
Once upon a time, there was a Thomas named Thomas.  He was lost and sad.  He lost his tooth.  He said, “I lost my tooth!  I want it back!”  The End.


28.
Once upon a time, there was a Thomas named Thomas.  He had a pocket watch.  Like Sir Topham Hatt.  Thomas wasn’t a train master.  Thomas was an angel.  The End.


29.
Once upon a time, there was an ocean.  With fish.  And whales.  And starfish.  And a duck.  It was in Thomas’ house.  It was Thomas’ ocean.   The End.


30.
Once upon a time, there was a soap.  A blue soap.  It was lost and sad.  It was running.  It ran into a red soap.  Whoosh!  Splash!  And they slipped away.  In the rain.  The End.


31.
Once upon a time, there was a phone box.  A music box phone box.  It played happy music.  It was happy.  And it was “surprise!”  And it was a happy birthday every night.  But not really a birthday.  And the happy music went on and on.  The End.


32.
Once upon a time,  there was a Thomas named Thomas.  He had a purple shirt.  Like the story.  He had a balloon.  A beautiful balloon.  There was a helicopter outside.  Thomas flew with his balloon.  To the helicopter.  He said, “Hello, Helicopter.  Go away, please.”  The End.








33.
Once upon a time, there was a birdhouse.  A blue birdhouse.  A Thomas birdhouse.  The birdhouse lost its hook.  It fell out of a tree.  It fell in the mud.  And a bird fell in the water.  The End.


34.
Once upon a time, there was a Thomas named Thomas.  He was sad.  He had a sad mask.  He was hot.  His stomach hurt.  Poor Thomas.  The End.


35.
Once upon a time, there was a Thomas named Thomas. He built a house. With blocks. For Mommy. It was red, and green, and blue, and yellow. It was a beautiful house. It was a lighthouse phone box castle. A beautiful castle. Molly broke it. The End.


36.
Once upon a time, there was a Thomas named Thomas.  He built a Lego city.  With a xylophone.  And a violin.  And a guitar.  And a snow angel.  And a ghost.  The End.


37.
Once upon a time, there was a Thomas named Thomas.  He was ten years old.  He had a racecar.  A white racecar.  And there were six racecars.  Thomas’ racecar vroomed away.  And there was a monkey.  With a screw and a screwdriver.  And an elephant that squirted water.  And Thomas was winning.  He was ten.  The End.


38.
Once upon a time, there was a robot monster.  He was lost and sad.  He lost his head.  He lost his neck.  He lost his hair.  He lost his glasses.  Then he found them.  And the sun closed down.  The End.


39.
Once upon a time, there was a Thomas named Thomas.  And there was a kitten named Molly-pop.  Molly was playing.  In Thomas’ room.  Thomas said, “Get the kitten out!  I want to go to bed, Mommy.”  The End.