Saturday, February 28, 2009

I Think I Love The Bad Hat.

Ludwig Bemelmans, Viking Press, 1956

Like many children's book characters (Paddington Bear, Winnie the Pooh, Eloise, Olivia and so forth) Madeline is recognizable, memorable and dear. Bemelmans' illustrations (his full color ones in particular) are fantastic and they create a Paris I long to visit.

In this episode a fine and dignified Spanish ambassador moves next door and "his excellency" has a boy who terrorizes the little girls. He seems so sweet when the adults are around but when no one is looking he commits multiple terrifying acts... with a sling shot, while ice skating, with cruelty to cats, one in which he creates a guillotine.

The cat episode ends badly for poor Pepito, and it's up to Miss Clavel to rescue him. The girls visit him in the hospital and Madeline quite simply tells him he got what he deserved. He promises to change his wayward ways and "the barbarian becomes a vegetarian."

Filled with humorous images and the creative antics of a naughty boy, Madeline and the Bad Hat is sure to delight.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Some of my First Friends.

My Little Blue Story Book by David H. Russell,
Odille Ousely, illustrator, Ginn and Company, 1948

When I was first learning to read I loved these old Ginn Basic Readers my mom had lying around. This softback book was one of my favorites. The illustrations depicted a sort of dream world for me. A world in which one could look at beautifully decorated cupcakes in a bakery window. How very Leave it to Beaver. (only that was in black and white) We didn't have a local bakery in my town and none of our trees had benches that wrapped around them. Our dog didn't have a house and in the winter he slept in one made from straw bales which probably gave him better insulation than our old farmhouse.

Tom, Susan, Betty and Flip were the kids I learned to read by. Who were Dick and Jane? :) The competition apparently. The Dick and Jane series came first, published by Scott Foresman company in 1927. Their success spawned "copycats" such as Alice and Jerry (Row, Peterson, and Company), Ned and Nancy (DC Heath and Company) and my very favorites, Susan and Tom (Ginn). Of course, I'm not really old enough to have to have been in a classroom where any of these were used. No, even in my youth these were vintage.

Perhaps exploring this quaint world in pictures and words was my first introduction into my love of the past, memories, and all things vintage. The series ACTUALLY used in my first grade classroom involved some kind of black and white reproducible with a dog named Lad. I really don't remember much else.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

And they lived happily ever after...

Walt Disney Productions, 1967

In the Disney Bad Guys Hall of Fame, I'd say Malificent ranks highly. Cruella DeVille is pretty rotten. Madame Medusa would have my knees knocking, but Malificent takes the cake. Just look at those flames. Yowzers. Sleeping Beauty was one of my favorite Disney films until Beauty and the Beast came along and I saw in Belle a kindred spirit... a girl with her nose in a book dreaming of a world beyond her provincial life.

These illustrations are from the read-along record and for this one I actually still have the record. The three fairies are so sweet in this story and I love the sappy image on the last page... posted here for your viewing pleasure. And they lived happily ever after... with blue birds and chipmunks in lush green grass.... (of course it was kind of a bitch to have to walk all that way to and from the castle to frolic in that grass...)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Mother Goose in the City

Dora Leder, illustrator, Western Publishing Company, 1974

It turns out that I have a ton of Mother Goose books. Here's one from my Little Golden Books collection I completely forgot about. The verses in the book are the traditional ones rather than an urban version suggested by the title. I guess the "in the city" aspect is portrayed in the illustrations. Here are some of my favorites.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Boxcar Children

The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner
L. Kate Deal, Illustrator,
Albert Whitman & Company, 1942

This is the story of Henry, Jessie, Violet and Benny, four orphaned children who make their home in an abandoned railway car after their parents death. They fear their grandfather for some reason and though they try to make a go of it on their own their success is short lived. In the golden days they dig a swimming hole, scavenge the dump for useful items, Henry gets a job which provides them with food, and they even find a dog. I think that many children of that age dream of independence--of having their own cup, making their own food, having their own space.

Gertrude Chandler Warner's famous Boxcar Children series began with this one book. The language is very basic and great for beginner readers. I read a few of the others in the series, but never felt the same allure. There were more than 100 books in the series, with Warner writing only the first 19. Half the fun was the idea of four kids living alone in an abandoned boxcar, cooking their own food and eating it on salvaged dishes. When they were safely in the care of their Grandfather some of the allure and excitement vanished. The following books fell more into the mystery genre.

My siblings and I count this book as a beloved favorite. I don't really remember when I discovered it. Maybe my second grade teacher introduced me to the series. What I do remember is reading it aloud to my brother and my sister. First we'd read the story and then we'd act it out.

Nearly 15 years ago I was employed in a babysitting gig for a pair of sweet kids and I had the privilege of introducing them to the wonder of a read aloud from a chapter book. They were at the age where their family focus was on the picture book and we read from plenty of those as well... But I started them off with The Boxcar Children and this was a gateway to a new reading experience for Luke and Hannah too. I still remember Luke remarking with wonder, "You know I don't need pictures. You can see the pictures in your head."

A couple of years ago, I ran into Hannah (now in high school) and her mom at a local bookstore and of course we said hello. Hannah hadn't seen me in years and didn't really remember who I was. As her mom tried to explain, she said one thing that made Hannah's eyes light up and my heart swell... "she's the one who read The Boxcar Children to you." Apparently they still remember.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Modern Monday --A Poke in the I

A collection of concrete poems
selected by Paul B. Janeczko Chris Raschka, illustrator,
Candlewick Press, 2005

My copy of this book is signed by Chris Raschka and for that reason I've had to stop using this particular copy of in the classroom and invest in a "school edition" that can be handled again and again by careless students. This is a wonderful example of the art of concrete poetry.

Some old favorites are in the book --"Swan and Shadow," being one of them--but I also found some new loves. I even enjoy the "Table of Contents" page which is in the shape of a table... why not? :)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Illustrated by Al White, Western Publishing Company, 1965

This is a Golden Super Shape Book with rather simplistic text, but pictures that are burned on my brain. I loved the mouse shaped swimming pool at Mickey's house, his cool blue convertible, and all his exciting "movie roles" as the book points out: cowboy, spaceman, swordsman. The book has a very limited plot. I think the story is... "meet Mickey, here's what his life is like." The book features some of the rest of the gang: Pluto, Minnie, Goofy, Donald Duck, and even his nephews, Mortie and Ferdie. The story ends with a big picnic on the beach.

Truly this book is nothing "special" but when I suddenly spotted this copy at the local thrift store, I didn't hesitate to shell out the 50 cents necessary to make it mine.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Cheerleading and Baton Twirling by Roberta Davis
Weekly Reader Books, Xerox Corporation, 1970

I actually WAS a cheerleader in high school. Apparently it was a dream for years prior? After all, I have this well-worn copy--though the only markings in the book are the stars I placed by favorite cheers, or "yells and chants" as the book identifies them. The book betrays its copyright in a lovely sort of old-fashioned language and ideas from another era. For example:

Should girls wear glasses or leave them at home? This depends on the extent of your real physical need for them... Today, glasses are so readily accepted that wearing them is never held against a cheerleader candidate. However the frames should be as attractive and flattering as possible without being obtrusive. Your glasses should be on the light side, particularly if you have a light complexion. Leave the horn-rims for the brunettes. And whether blond or brunette, avoid long hair and glasses. They don't mix well.

The book is a bit like my cheerleading advisor Mrs. Tupa giving us suggestions for moves in our cheers--ones that involved lots of twirling rather than the suggestive or jerky moves we kept coming up with. I never took the whole cheerleading thing too seriously, though owning this book suggests otherwise. When I was in grade school and probably reading this guide from cover to cover, I remember playing with my cousin Julie's full size red and white pom poms, though when I was in high school we didn't use pom poms anymore. I had a homemade cheerleading uniform for my Barbie doll too.

In response to a meme on Facebook I was forced to recall some things from high school and I was shocked to realize I had no idea what our school song was. I sang that song and did our cheerleading routine to it for two sports for four years. And whoosh... 20 years later, it's gone. With a little intent concentration and a phone call to my mother, it came back and I have to say... it's sort of dorky. It was something like this:

We're gonna go, go, go for Rolla
Keep our spirits high.
We're gonna fight, fight, fight for Rolla
Hear our battle cry,
Rah Rah Rah.
When the game is over,
as the story's told,
we're gonna fight a victory for the
Purple and Gold.

The following images are some sample pages offering tips on grooming, stretching, and some cheers. I never learned how to twirl a baton, but that doesn't mean I didn't try. I am sure I was the most uncoordinated cheerleader in the world.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Betsy and the Chicken Pox by Gunilla Wolde

Gunilla Wolde, illustrator and author
Random House, 1976
Originally published in Sweden as Emmas Lillebror Ar Sjuk

When I was small I had the book Betsy's Baby Brother. I remember the pictures quite distinctly. They were sort of explicit. As in, you could see the baby's bottom in one shot and in another see him nursing. Even at that young age I sensed that this was sort of unusual in puritanical America. Now that I understand that Gunilla Wolde is Swedish, well, it all makes sense, right? Free from our American conservative tendencies. Even in this book there is an illustration of Betsy's brother getting his temp taken in his bottom.

The stories, on the other hand, are typical. A sister must adjust to a new brother. And in this book, Betsy must deal with all the attention going to her sick brother and she longs to have the chicken pox too. She paints spots on her face and has a temper tantrum when no one really pays much attention. Of course as they wash off the paint, they discover she has real spots and she's sick too. It turns out, it wasn't as much fun as she thought! :)

Wolde has a very distinct style of illustration and it reminds me a bit of the pictures of Ramona on the covers of my Beverly Cleary books. It all feels very 1970s to me and really just brings me right back. I will have to try to track down a few more of her titles.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Is Marvin Oppositional Defiant?

Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now!
by Dr. Seuss, Bright and Early Book
Random House, 1972

Seuss brings new meaning and transportation options to the phrase, "Hit the road, Jack." Whether by Bumble-Boat or Zumble-Zay, Marvin K. Mooney has orders to go! The mysterious large and bossy hand with his large wrist watch offers plenty of friendly suggestions before getting tough. It's a bit like how I feel some days as a teacher. Friendly and firm to start and finally letting loose with some all-in-caps words!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Hooray for Puppets!

Puppet Party by Goldie Taub Chernoff
Pictures by Margaret Hartelius
Scholastic Inc, 1971

I love the author's note:

Children should always be given the freedom to create things of their own... in their own way... and with materials of their own... in their own way... and with materials of their own choosing. The projects in this book will show children some new ways to use materials and some simple techniques for making different kinds of puppets. But they can and should be modified according to a child's needs, skills, and imagination.

Using paper bags, socks, old gloves, paper tubes, rubber balls, and even just your hand, one can make all kinds of puppets. The illustrations are so cheerful and the directions are so easy to follow it's hard to resist the siren call to craft. I loved this sort of thing as a kid and still do today.
Finger puppets are a particular "passion" of mine.

I included scans of my favorite pages. The last image featured explains different ways to present a puppet show.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

We Like Kindergarten.

by Clara Cassidy, Pictures by Eloise Wilkin
Western Publishing Company, 1965

Books about starting school and kindergarten are all over the place now, The Kissing Hand or Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten or Countdown to Kindergarten,
but when I was young, this was the book. I loved kindergarten and Carol's experience was a lot like mine or at least what I remember about it. I was so proud of my rug for naptime. It was a soft white furry carpet square with my name written on the back in black marker, and we hung them on a hook just outside the room. Other than naptime, I mostly remember games. I do know we had all day kindergarten, but we only met every other day.

Cassidy's book features all the best bits of school... classroom pets, finger painting, musical instruments, show and tell, recess on the playground, story time, and Farmer in the Dell -- a game I've not thought about in YEARS. I love how Carol comes home and "plays school" with her little sister Laurie and Rusty and Patches (pets) are her "boys and girls."

Monday, February 16, 2009

Modern Monday -- That Book Woman

by Heather Henson, David Small, illustrator
Atheneum Books--Simon & Schuster, 2008

I will admit the first thing to draw me to this book was the cover art. Even from a distance too great to read the names on the cover I could tell it was done by David Small. I'm a huge fan of his work and I expect to talk about many of his books on this blog, over time. Small is a perfect example of artwork that makes my mouth water. Images that won't leave my mind. Often his work is watercolor (the copyright page says the illustrations for this book are rendered in watercolor, ink, and pastel chalk) but it's the ink or the dark outlines on the people that seem to define his style for me.

Heather Henson is a children's book author from Kentucky and she draws on her own love of books and the history of her region in writing That Book Woman. I am not sure what I was expecting from this book, but I wasn't expecting to have tears running down my face as I read the final page.

The book is set in the Appalachian mountains and the words are tinged with local color that really sings on the page:

"My folks and me--we live way up as up can get. So high we hardly sight a soul--'cept hawks a-winging in the sky and critters hid among the trees."

Cal is the main character, he's the oldest boy in the family and works hard helping his Pa with plowing, and fetching, and sheep watching among many other things. He seems resentful of his sister Lark,

"Who would keep her nose a-twixt the pages of a book daybreak to dusky dark if Mama would allow. The readnest child you ever did see--that's what Pap says."

Cal isn't interested in the "chicken scratch" within the pages of a book and claims he is "no scholar-boy." But he's observant and he's the first to see a woman riding up on her horse with a pack filled with books. Theirs is a more old fashioned time and to see a woman wearing pants is shocking to young Cal and he's less than impressed with "that book woman."

At first it seems she is there selling books, like the peddler who passes by and Pap offers to trade some fresh-picked berries for a book, but that book woman just says,

These books are free, as free as air! Not only that--why, two weeks to the day she'll come again to swap these books for more!

As time passes--the seasons change--and the book woman keeps returning like clockwork, Cal begins a transformation that is sure to warm any reader's heart and make one appreciate the libraries and the book women in our lives.

I found THIS book at our local library and I think I need a copy of my own to treasure.

Not only is this book a wonderful story, it's based on historical events. In the 1930s FDR's Works Progress Administration founded the Pack Horse Library Project to bring books to remote regions where there were few schools and no libraries. I always have a special place in my heart for the stories that include book mobiles (Big Stone Gap, The Evidence of Things Unseen) and libraries (Where the Heart Is, The Library) and a pure love of books (These is My Words, Matilda). There's even a reading guide --discussion questions on the Simon and Schuster site.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A Book So Good it Makes my Heart Hurt a Little.

Written and drawn by Antoine De Saint-Exupery Translated from the French by Katherine Woods Harcourt, Brace, & World, Inc. 1943

With the holiday o' love in the not so distant past, I am still thinking of love stories and beloved books. The Little Prince is a beautiful tale, supposedly for children, but truly for all ages. It has wonderful fantastical moments involving a little prince from planet B612 and sheep and a desert, a flower and a fox. And it has beautiful and highly memorable artwork done by Antoine De Saint-Exupery, himself. The book is also rich with wonderful, thoughtful, quotations that resonate even outside the confines of the story. The entire book is available online here.

When the narrator of the story crashes in the Sahara desert he meets a little blonde boy who asks him to draw him a sheep. As the narrator and the readers gets to know him we learn the little prince comes from a small planet that he, alone, takes care of by making sure it is never taken over by the baobab trees. His life is changed one day by a rose with whom he falls in love, yet leaves because of a breach of trust. The little prince explores six other planets, each with a unique inhabitant and finally ends up on earth. At first the prince fails to meet any humans and is alone in the Sahara. Then he meets a snake, then a rose garden which depresses him because he felt his rose was the only one of its kind. He meets a fox who helps him to understand the important things in lofe and finally he encounters two unimpressive men. And then our narrator. The prince's time on earth was not in vain and he prepares to return home a wiser prince. The narrator's life is changed too and he hears the prince's laughter in the stars and asks that we watch for him, in case he ever returns.

The very first page of the book is one of my favorites. I love this bit:

I showed my masterpiece to the grown-ups, and asked them whether the drawing frightened them. But they answered: "Frighten? Why should any one be frightened by a hat?" My drawing was not a picture of a hat. It was a picture of a boa constrictor digesting an elephant. But since the grown-ups were not able to understand it, I made another drawing: I drew the inside of the boa constrictor, so that the grown-ups could see it clearly. They always need to have things explained.

I still remember my friend Tiffany showing me that picture, years ago, and asking me what I thought. I think, for her, it was a test of one's power of imagination, observation and the like. When I showed it to my mom, she dismissed the page with a wave, "Carmyn, you KNOW I hate snakes. Get that away from me!" I guess some of us can be grown up and see clearly.

And he went back to meet the fox.

Goodbye, he said.

Goodbye, said the fox. And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.

What is essential is invisible to the eye, the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.

It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.

It is the time I have wasted for my rose--- said the little prince, so that he would be sure to remember.

Men have forgotten this truth, said the fox. But you must not forget it. You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed. You are responsible for your rose.

I am responsible for my rose, the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

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