Thursday, August 18, 2011

Cyndy Szekeres, Western Publishing Co., 1983

Found this little gem at my friend Jenny's house. I had not idea who Cyndy Szekeres was but examination proves I'm quite familiar with her work and I love it. I have a soft spot for mice and the ones in this little counting book are as cute as it gets!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Fisher Price Little People

Fisher Price Play Family "A" Frame House, Fisher Price, 1974

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit some friends and spend time with their family. Their youngest asked me if I wanted to play "Little People" and I seized the opportunity. Soon he was lugging a plastic tub of people and vehicles and next the castle appeared and what looked like a Main Street set complete with stop signs and a blue postal box. We started setting everything up and then I said, "Wait, I'm going to go out to my car and get my "Little People" house." The look on Griffin's face was priceless... his little kid brain was whirring.... She carries "little people" stuff around with her in her car??? In truth, I'd just picked up the A-Frame House at a garage sale and it came without it's door and any furniture or people. Though I just found a site where I can order those things piece by piece! I love its sliding glass doors, such a nice touch!

We created a park next door to the house.

They have the castle and so do I, but they seemed to have more of the pieces that went with it. Even in the Fisher Price playsets I had as a child I have managed to lose most of the beds, people, thrones, etc.

I'm not even sure which set this one is. But I love it!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

It's my Birthday! Yippee!

My 7th birthday. Mom made our hats.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Old Witch and the Polka-Dot Ribbon

Wende & Harry Devlin, Parents Magazine Press, 1970

I loved the Cranberryport books by the Devlins when I was young and I just discovered Old Witch and the Polka-Dot Ribbon by Wende and Harry Devlin and I'm sort of surprised I didn't read this one when I was young since my parents seemed to have collected all of the Parents' Magazine Press books. Their illustrations are very distinct and while they aren't my typical aesthetic there's a kind of nostalgia there that I can't ignore.

Old Witch lives in the attic of the Jug and Muffin Tearoom in Oldwick. One day she wakes up to discover Nicky and his mother baking a cake for contest. The contest is part of a fundraising carnival aimed at raising funds for a new bandstand. Old Witch raises some havoc in the kitchen until she's banished and she sulks outside muttering little rhymes like the one in the next illustration.

Finally Old Witch gets an idea to enter the contest herself and she unwittingly discovers some contest fraud and solves the problem in her own unique way. The story is full of clever, wry language that makes me chuckle and like all Devlin books it comes complete with a recipe for Old Witch's Magic Nut Cake.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Modern Monday -- Just Being Audrey

Margaret Cardillo, author; Julia Denos, illustrator
Balzer + Bray, an imprint of Harper Collins, 2011

I discovered this picture book on the newly arrived shelf at our local library and I snatched it up, read it once and now it's on my "must-have" list. I love Denos' illustrations, and the simple story really captures the greatness of Audrey Hepburn. I've long loved this classic actress for her style, her quirky mannerisms, and her fantastic movies. One of my favorites is Charade with Cary Grant. I recently purchased a book for "grown-ups" called Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany's, and the Dawn of the Modern Woman by Sam Wasson.

The story begins with a ten-year-old Audrey who dreams of becoming a ballerina. It describes how she and her family survived WW II in Europe and how following the war she and her mother moved to London where Audrey traded her dreams of dancing for the reality of being an actress. The illustrations capture Miss Hepburn's classic look--her hair, her expressions, and some of her most notable acting roles (Funny Face, Sabrina, My Fair Lady, Breakfast at Tiffany's and more) and the costumes that defined them.

Here's a short trailer for the book with even more illustrations!

And because it's just not right to pay tribute to Audrey Hepburn through a children's book without a glimpse into the real life wonder, here's the original trailer for Breakfast at Tiffany's.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Stay Gold, Ponyboy.

The Outsiders, Francis Ford Coppola, 1983

Coppola's film is based on S.E. Hinton's classic book, first published in 1967. I read the book before I saw the movie, as it should be. I was in 5th grade. I still remember where I was when I finished the final pages. Sitting in the van outside my aunt and uncle's house. We were gathered for some event, a holiday meal perhaps. I had to compose myself before I could go inside because I was crying so hard--the kind of cry where tears splash down on the neck and there aren't enough tissues to really mop up the sorrow.

I watched this film again on New Year's this year and I was reminded of the power behind both the film and the book. The all-star nature of the cast is almost unbelievable: Emilio Estevez, Rob Lowe, C. Thomas Howell, Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio, Patrick Swayze, and Tom Cruise and I'd nearly forgotten Diane Lane as Cherry Valance.

As an English teacher I usually touch on some Robert Frost poetry in my American Literature class and I'm always impressed when students recognize "Nothing Gold Can Stay" and make the connection between The Outsiders (whether film or book) and the poem.

Nothing Gold Can Stay
by Robert Frost

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

I believe it was S.E. Hinton who really kicked off the era of "young adult literature." If you've not read the book or seen the movie, though I find that hard to believe, it's about a group of kids, "greasers," who are from "the wrong side of the tracks" in Tulsa, Oklahoma. They constantly clash with the Socs, the preppy kids in town. It has all the 60s good stuff like drive-in movies and rumbles. Great nicknames like Ponyboy, Two Bit, and Sodapop. And then there's Johnny. Everyone loves Johnny. Without saying too much more, I'll just add that it's a tragic, yet feel-good drama that reminds us all of the power of friendship, resilience, and the challenges life throws at us.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Love Those Little Golden Books

Ryan Novelline, designer, 2011

Apparently I'm not the only one. I just ran across this gem in the School Library Journal. Artist, Ryan Novelline used approximately 1500 pages from 300 Little Golden Books which he found at thrift stores and sewed together with golden thread. There are AMAZING pictures of this wild dress here on his site. Do check them out.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Messy by Barbara Bottner

Barbara Bottner, Delacourte Press, 1979

Messy by Barbara Bottner is the story of Harriet, the messiest six-year-old girl around. Mostly she's okay with her mess, but she's aware of the stark contrast between her messy ways and those of her friends and ballet classmates. However, Harry's esteem soars pretty high, much like her quality dance moves, when she's praised by her dance teacher, Mrs. Markova, and when she is offered the role of princess in their recital she vows to become a changed woman... or six year old. It mostly works.

It's a simple book--nothing profound--but I've been looking for this one for years. I've found little evidence of its existence online (one reference with no images on Amazon) and then one day I managed to find a copy through inter-library loan. There is satisfaction in simply knowing I didn't "make this book up" in my brain.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Tupperware Toys -- Busy Blocks

Tupperware, 1971

All of I have of this toy from my childhood is a single green figurine. We were hard on toys and then when my mom had a house fire little was left of the things she still had at her place. Sadly, these blocks were a casualty. I remember bringing them with me in a little suitcase when I went over to Carlson's to babysit. We'd link them together and play with the figures. I didn't remember that they were alphabet blocks but now that makes the choices of the little green figures make sense.

Airport, Boat, Camel, Dog, Elephant, Fox, Giraffe, Horse, Indian, Jeep, Kangaroo, Lion, Monkey, Nurse, Owl, Pig, Queen, Rabbit, Seal, Train, Unicorn, Violin, Whale, Xylophone, Yacht, and Zebra.

I LOVE that there was a unicorn. Yay, Tupperware!

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Bunny Book by Richard Scarry

Richard Scarry, Western Publishing Company, 1965

This book is more informative than anything. Simple descriptions and explanations introduce young readers to the variety of characteristics that make up the bunny. This book appears to have many different cover options, but it's the content I care about. I simply adore this "Rabbits have large families" image.

Young readers will learn that some rabbits have giant ears and some have tiny ones and rabbits can run very fast. The book also focuses in on a few rabbit examples: the snowshoe rabbit turns white in winter and brown in summer, Angora rabbits have soft, cuddly fur. Lop-eared rabbits have long, floppy ears. Then on one page five different breeds are illustrated: Dutch, Chinchilla, Flemish Giant, Vienna Blue, and Cottontail. Ah yes, this is more than just your "Easter bunny" book. Though there is a page dedicated to that too.

There is only one "true to form" busytown looking page with two little bunnies dressed to the nines. "Rabbits like to get all dressed up if they are going to be in a story book." Yeah, you can't beat that!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Golden Egg Book

The Golden Egg Book by Margaret Wise Brown
Illustrated by Lilian Obligado, Western Publishing Company, 1947

I've managed to pull together a handful of bunny books in time for Easter and trust me, there are more. It turns out that bunnies and rabbits are a great subject for the children's book.

This Little Golden Book is a lovely story about a duck and a bunny. It begins with bunny finding a mysterious egg and wondering what is inside. In his impatience, he pushes it with his foot, rolls the egg down the hill, throws rocks at it and finally gets so worn out from wondering and waiting that he falls asleep.

Of course, a watched egg never hatches but when bunny sleeps, duck emerges. Duck is mystified by this furry thing beside his egg and he tries to rouse it by doing all the same things bunny did to the egg... nudges him with his foot, throws a rock, rolls him down the hill until finally the bunny wakes and the two embrace and no one was ever alone again!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Pat the Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt

Dorothy Kunhardt, Golden Books Publishing, 1940

I distinctly recall this 18 page Golden Touch and Feel book from my younger days. Anything scratch and sniff was hugely exciting for me, and this book had all sorts of sensory treats. I love this sandpaper jaw image how Judy can feel daddy's scratchy face. Readers can play peek-a-boo with Paul or look in the mirror and my flowers still smell fragrant.

For years this was a standby for a baby gift since I'd found the softest sweetest bunny to go with the book. It's been awhile since I've seen Pat the Bunny dolls but if I find some I may need to stock up. Those friends of mine keep on having the babies and babies must be given books!

"My mother wrote "Pat the Bunny" in 1940 when I was 12. "Wrote" is not quite the right word, even though the book is 135 words long; "made" would be more accurate. Before "Pat," books for very little children were for reading aloud and looking at. This one was for playing with as well. Right on the pages themselves were a variety of real things all babies love to go after. There was a fluffy little cottontail to pat, a peekaboo cloth to pick up and peep behind, a red ball that squeaked, a shiny mirror to look into, a daddy's scratchy beard to feel, a miniature book about a bunny with pages to turn and a mother's wedding ring to stick a finger through. It was the original "touch and feel" book, as they call the genre in the trade today, and even though it has inspired a hutch of imitations, Golden Press still goes on cutting and gluing and stamping out and hand-finishing a quarter of a million new copies of "Pat" each year, annually using up acres of sandpaper beard, six football fields of peekaboo cloth and enough metalized polyester to mirror over a small lake...."

Check out the rest of this article by Philip B. Kundhardt Jr. about Pat the Bunny's 50th anniversary, back in 1990! Good stuff!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Modern Monday -- La Cucaracha Martina: A Carribean Folktale

La Cucaracha Martina A Carribean Folktale
retold and illustrated by Daniel Moreton
Turtle Books, 1997

Simply put: While searching for the source of one beautiful sound, Martina, a ravishing cockroach who is tired of the city life, rejects marriage proposals from a menagerie of city animals which woo her with their noises. All ends well when she finally meets the cricket of her dreams and after the wedding they move to the country.

The illustrations are sharp and colorful and were created on a Mac with Adobe Illustrator. The book has a ton of delicious details and a spattering of Spanish: Aeropuerto, Telefono, Autobus... by way of example. The signage in particular is all in Spanish, and the porcine waiter wears a name tag which reads "Me Llamo Puerco."

The sounds the various animals make are all written in large funky fonts and the illustrations feature text all over the place, not exactly in the hyper text sense but in something fresh and unusual from the picture books of the past.

While I'm not a fan of the common cockroach in regular life, I have a soft spot for Miss Martina and I'm glad she found her wonderful noise and the creature that belonged to it!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The King of the Elephants

Laurent de Brunhoff, Random House, 1973

As they move through the four seasons in and around Celesteville, the city of elephants, we see the lives of Babar and Celeste and their children--Alexander, Pom, and Flora. We meet Old Lady (also their teacher) and cousin Arthur and his friend Zephir, the monkey.
This is a family "on the go" and we follow Babar and Celeste from the domestic fun of gardening to tennis, warm days of swimming in the lake to throwing parties at Celesteville gardens. Sometimes they go sailing or for drives in the country. The children enjoy soccer and like their teacher who is not strict. In the winter they go ice skating, and downhill skiing and one of the children suffers a small mishap which requires a doctor visit. "This is not too serious," he says. Though I think the wound looked pretty nasty!

I really don't remember Babar from my youth though I seem to have a few books. I guess I was always vaguely aware of this French elephant. I think I'm more intrigued by him and his family now than I was when I was small. This particular 8 X 8 book is a sanitized and simplistic version of the Babar stories which merely serves to intoduce the characters.

I realize now that Laurent is the son of the original author, Jean de Brunhoff. Jean first published his popular French children's book in 1931. He wrote six more before his untimely death and his son Laurent has continued the series.

Jean de Brunhoff's Babar books, and the titles of the English translations, were:

* Histoire de Babar (1931) - The Story of Babar
* Le Voyage de Babar (1932) - The Travels of Babar, or Babar's Travels
* Le Roi Babar (1933) - Babar the King
* L'ABC de Babar (1934) - A.B.C. of Babar
* Les vacances de Zéphir (1936) - Zephir's Holidays, or Babar and Zephir
* Babar en famille (1938) - Babar and His Children, or Babar at Home
* Babar et le père Noël (1941) - Babar and Father Christmas

You can read more about Babar's history here, on the TV website-- Babar is also a popular TV show.
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