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.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

In a People House

In a People House by Theo LeSieg
Illustrated by Roy McKie

Random House, 1972

Even in this remarkably simplistic book, Dr. Seuss uses rhyme and rhythm to capture the attention of his young readers as mouse gives bird a tour of the "people house."

"These are doughnuts. Here's a door. Come along, I'll show you more...."

One of my favorites is a page with baked beans, bureau drawers and books, and mini me crossed OUT the word bureau and wrote "dresser" because I was apparently concerned someone might not understand that word since it wasn't the one --I-- used in describing that bit of furniture. I love my young editorial marks in books, they really crack me up!

Friday, April 3, 2009

R is for Remarkably Cute.

Richard Scarry's Chipmunk's ABC by Roberta Miller
Illustrated by Richard Scarry, Western Publishing Company, 1963

I love Lowly Worm and the rest of the Richard Scarry gang, but I think my heart will never be the same after looking through these darling pictures. His work is softer and more tender in this ABC book from 1963. I love the head bandage, the picture of cheese on the wall, the way the mouse's records are strewn about, and how his pal chipmunk is saying hello from the window, because "Mouse has Mumps!"

My cover is the white one, and the woodsy one seems to be an earlier copyright. I just couldn't scan all the pictures in, but I ADORE the one with Froggie playing the oboe and Donkey drinking from an orange up. Something about these animals in bibbed overalls, in life jackets on the lake, carrying tea kettles and getting phone calls just makes my heart pang.

Here is a comparison between the pages of a 1963 and a 1991 version of Richard Scarry's The Best Word Book Ever. Very interesting stuff. Scarry wrote and/or illustrated over 300 books.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

A Picnic Hurrah!

A Picnic Hurrah! by Franz Brandenberg
Illustrated by Aliki, Random House, 1978

This book probably counts as a beginning reader but it's not labeled as such and for me, it was just a great story. Writing letters was a very big thing for me when I was a kid and so I'm sure the idea of sending out invitations and watching the mail for responses was something that resonated. I also love the imaginative way that Elizabeth and Edward handle their picnic plans that were spoiled by the rain. Their father suggests an indoor picnic, and I can only imagine mini me loved the idea of doing things differently, an INDOOR picnic? How absurd! They don't let it stop their fun and they find ways to still do all the things they wanted to do outside.

Here's a sweet Harper Collins link to How a Book is Made featuring Aliki.

Aliki, or Aliki Brandenberg, was born 1929, in Wildwood Crest, NJ; Education: Graduated from Philadelphia Museum School of Art (now Philadelphia College of Art), 1951. Hobbies and other interests: Macrame, weaving, music, baking, traveling, reading, gardening, theater, films, museums. Muralist and commercial artist in Philadelphia, PA, and New York, NY, 1951-56, and in Zurich, Switzerland, 1957-60; commercial artist, writer, and illustrator of children's books in New York, NY, 1960-77, and London, England, 1977—. Has also taught art and ceramics. She was also married to the author of this book! Hurrah!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Choose Your Own Adventure

Deadwood City by Edward Packard
Illustrated by Paul Granger
Bantam Books, 1978

You are the star of the story! Choose from 37 possible endings! I do find it somewhat annoying to read a book in "second person" or whatever this point of view is actually called. I do like that the main character shown in the pictures is a cowgirl, a gun-toting girl.

Edward Packard, practicing lawyer and the author of this book, conceived of the idea for the Choose Your Own Adventure series in the course of telling bedtime stories to his children. This title is just one I picked up at a thrift store, but I remember reading these as a kid. I scanned the list of titles for a familiar one but nothing is triggering a memory. Here are a few of the wonderful adventures YOU could go on:

The Cave of Time
Journey Under the Sea
By Balloon to the Sahara
The Third Planet for Altair
The Mystery of Chimney Rock
The Lost Jewels of Naboo

Hippity Hoppity!

Man, I love that outfit. I totally remember it too. Apparently I had a strong connection to my clothes even then. I sort of wish my mom had done something different with my hair. It looks like me and my bro have the same 'do. Nice.

I may be wrong, but I think this is 1979.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A Knight Like No Other

Hilary Knight, Random House, 1978, w/new illustrations in 2001

Hilary Knight's fantastic style fits right in with the magic and wonder of the Cinderella tale. His cinder-sitting girl seems even more lovely and delicate and pure than the famous Disney face we've all grown to love. Knight, famous for his work on the Eloise books with Kay Thompson, has illustrated fifty books for children. The message from Hilary Knight recognizes his mother as the inspiration for the styling of this famous story. I love love love it, so thank you Katharine Sturges Knight for your fine inspiration. A few favorite elements: The woodsy font on the title page, the chubby freckly prince who seems so happy, the mousey little blue fairy godmother who truly does seem like a tiny sprite of a fairy, and the recipe for her party garb:

""Now, Cinderella," ordered the fairy, "fetch me the following":
Guinea-fowl feathers and bottles of blue,
Mothwings and cobwebs sprinkled with dew!
I'll mix them with berries and sassafras,
And dress you in gossamer with slippers of glass!"

Monday, March 30, 2009

Modern Monday-- The Seven Silly Eaters

Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman
Illustrated by Marla Frazee
Voyager Books-Harcourt, 1997

Each of Mr. and Mrs. Peters SEVEN children is fixated on one particular food in this charming story told in rhyme, written by Mary Ann Hoberman, our current children's poet laureate! I love the way it unfolds and how the busy kid-filled illustrations hold details about their lives: Mom plays cello, they live in a home on lake, mom looks sporty, love dad's beard. Frazee does a great job capturing the spirit of the story in her illustrations -- someone is always reading, the laundry is always in progress, their are cats and dogs all over, chaos abounds but in a good and loving, happy sort of way.

Now time went by as time will do;
And as it passed, the children grew.
The problem was that as they grew,
Their appetites kept growing, too!
But not their choice of what to eat:
Each child continued to repeat
They wanted what they'd had before--
The trouble was
they wanted more!

Finally both mom AND the house are a wreck and the children decide to surprise HER for a change on her birthday by making all their favorite foods. A great for picky eaters and parents alike!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Illustrated Classics Edition

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
adapted by Mitsu Yamamoto, Illustrations by Pablo Marcos Studio
Moby Books - I. Walman & Son, Inc, 1979

The back of the book reads:
"After fourteen years in a dungeon, Edmond Dantes escapes by taking a dead man's place. Because Dantes is starting life over as a penniless sailor, his pursuit of vengeance will only be poosible if a huge treasure, revealed to him by a babbling, dying prisonmate, actually exists on the Island of Monte Cristo. Follow Edmond Dantes as he discovers the long-lost treasure and becomes wealthy, powerful and hard-hearted Count of Monte Cristo, whose one aim in life is revenge on the three men responsible for his imprisonment."

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain
Adapted by Lucia Monfried, cover illustration by Al Leiner
Moby Books- I. Waldman & Son, 1977

This is the book I remember owning. I was never a fan of these books simply because they weren't the "originals." I considered them inferior because they were adapted or edited or abridged books. I also had a copy of The Wizard of Oz among other books and was always fascinated by the bits and pieces of the novel version that were so far away from the film version. Yet, to this day I've not read any of the Frank L. Baum versions though I've always meant to. They look so intriguing, book after fantastical book, all lined up on the shelves at the library or the bookstore.

The back of this book reads:
"Knocked on the head in the nineteeth century, Hank Morgan wakes to find himself in King Arthur's England! The Connecticut Yankee uses all his scientific knowledge to become the King's chief minister, outwits the master magician, Merlin, and finally wins the kingdogm. But can he ever get back to Connecticut? Or is it all a dream?"

I enjoy time travel books and films (reminds me a wee bit of Kate and Leopold) and this makes me think of the recent essay I heard Chuck Klosterman read at the UND Writers Conference. What fun!

This book doesn't mention an illustrator but all three books have the same cover designer -- Al Leiner.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
Adapted by Mitsu Yamamoto, Illustrated by Brendan Lynch
Moby Books - Waldman Publishing Group, 1983

The back of the book reads:
"Henry Jekyll, though a respected medical doctor, is shunned by his friends and associates because of his incredible belief that man is not truly one person, but two! Determined to prove his belief and to separate one man into two personalities and two bodies, Jekyll concocts a drug and tests it on himself. After that his life changes, bringing him into contact with the evil Mr. Hyde. Everyone but Jekyll despises the slimy Hyde as soon as he shows his repulsive self, but the doctor befriends him and even makes him his heir. What is the mysterious hold that the murderous Hyde has over Dr. Jekyll? Can it be broken--or will Jekyll become Hyde's next victim?

Is it just me or do the backs of these books tell a teensy bit too much? I really am a purist when it comes to not having TOO much knowledge going in to a book. I prefer the blank slate or the barest bit of an idea of the plot. Oh well. I guess many people know the basic premise of each of these stories. Though a "young reader" about to read one of these books for the first time may not. Of course, they may be pared down so much that one needs this extra bit of info. Who knows? At any rate, it was fun to revisit these blasts from the past. Here's a listing of some of the other titles in the series.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Bambi Grows Up

Walt Disney Productions, Random House, 1979

This book takes us from newborn fawn to young stag in the life of Bambi, the young prince. We meet his best pal, Thumper and we encounter a skunk called Flower. His mother explains how to behave when hunters are near and tells him about his father. We also meet Faline, his love interest and watch as Bambi challenges Ronno, a strange deer, for Faline. He's all grown up and his father "The Great Prince of the Forest" is proud.

In a small way this is a precurser to The Lion King without all the Hamlet. I adore the artwork in this book. I realize it's just "Disney," but that doesn't change the appeal for me... Nearly every picture is one I'd like to frame.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Weeny Witch by Ida DeLage

Weeny Witch by Ida DeLage Illustrations by Kelly Oechsli
Xerox Education Publications, 1968

I simply adored this book as a child. I think the pictures have a lot to do with it, but the story is pretty wonderful too. It's about the witches plot to keep the night dark by capturing the night fairies who light the sky with their wands. Their plan is to gather spider's webs and capture the fairies by dawn. The main character is a tiny misfit witch who can't seem to do anything "right"... she's late for the witches meeting, she's afraid of spiders, she likes the night bright with stars. Instead of searching for webs for the net, she plays zooming around with her broom until a great horned owl decides to make her his meal and she and her broomstick are knocked from the sky. Unable to fly with a broken broomstick, Weeny set off on foot toward the Witches Hollow.

This turn of events works in the favor of both Weeny and the night fairies whom she rescues by sweeping away the sticky silken net holding them captive. They take her with them when they fly to freedom to protect her from the witches' rage, but there is a surprise in store for Weeny.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Play it Again, Charlie Brown.

Charles Schulz, World Publishing Company, 1971

Dear sweet serious Schroeder. I love his dedication to the craft of composing. I love his devotion to Beethoven. And Lucy, forever fighting a losing battle for his affection. She's willing to try anything...

"Beethoven now comes in spray cans."

I'm not even sure what that means! In this story she volunteers Schroeder to do a concert for the PTA at the suggestion of Peppermint Patty. After he agrees and actually thanks Lucy, she finds out that it's meant to be a rock concert and Beethoven will not be welcome there. He refuses to play with a "combo" and feels it would be selling out.

When Lucy fails to produce an act for the PTA performance she is apologetic to Peppermint Patty and suddenly has an idea...

"PTA programs also come in spray cans."

Seriously. What the heck? This must be some bit of 1970s Peanuts humor I am just not getting.

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