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.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

In ND, the Weather is Important.

Harry Devlin, Parents Magazine Press, 1975

Harry Devlin of the Cranberry Port books writes a book about weather. This is a timely tale considering today is a snow day and the flood waters are rising. Devlin's tales focus on thunder and lightning, but I am guessing there are tales for these other phenomena too.

An excerpt from Devlin's foreword:

"A wild crashing thunderstorm is awesome to us all. But to a child the explosive fury of lightning, followed by thunder's sonorous booms can be a terrifying experience.

By the time we reach adulthood, most of us vaguely understand the causes of electrical storms. We have respect for, but little fear of, the phenomena.

Whether thunder and lightning will frighten or delight a child, however, depends on how that child relates imaginatively to storms. And this, no doubt, explains the folklore collected in this book..."

He goes on to explain how the the 15 tales in the book were collected largely through personal encounters with people from many cultures and bits of those cultures were reflected in the tales. Devlin marvels over how often people from different cultures, separated by many miles often told very similar stories.

The book identifies the cultures and includes a Devlin illustration for each of the 15 tales. The first illustration I included was from the Mayan tale called "The Giant Who Smoked Cigars" which identified lightning as the sparks that flew as one of the gods striking a great piece of flint to light his cigar and the loud noise it made was the first thunder and I suppose the black clouds would be the cigar smoke. Some of the other cultures represented include German, Polish, Nigerian, Peruvian, Irish, Czech and more.

When I was young I believed thunder was "God rearranging the furniture in heaven" which more or less matches the tale from Trinidad below. (click on each image to read the text or see a bigger pic)

I happen to love Norse myth so I included this story here too.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Ode to Spring.

Pussy Willow by Margaret Wise Brown
Leonard Weisegard, illustrator, Western Publishing, 1951

Mud puddles, chirping birds, the crocus, buds on trees, and the pussy willow are all happy signs of spring. Oh, and the opening of Dairy Queen. :) I decided to post on this Little Golden Book in celebration of spring's arrival, though it seems to be in fits and starts.

Weisgard's illustrations in this book stand out to me in part because of the page layouts. I find it intriguing how the entire page is an illustration and then the text is written on solid colored squares that almost look like they were pasted on by some amateur scrapbooker. Yet, I like it. This little kitty seems too sweet for words, not like those mind-reading-spooky-little-buggers.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Modern Monday--The Library by Sarah Stewart

The Library by Sarah Stewart
David Small, illustrator, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1995

In my quest to reign in my own overindulgence in books, I was reminded of this gem of a book by Sarah Stewart.

The Library is written in rhyming verse telling the story of Elizabeth Brown from infancy to old age. She is never without a book. In one illustration, we can see other young people hand in hand outside the window and we see Elizabeth's feet propped on the sill as she reclines in the chair wrapped up in a good book.

The problem, however, is clear. Her books are taking over and so her solution is to donate her house and her books to the city to be used as a library and she moves in with a friend. I'm not quite at that stage yet!

David Small's watercolor and ink illustrations offer touches of humor throughout the book. Note the sweet image of baby Elizabeth falling to Earth.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Best Tag Line Ever.

Andre Norton & Dorothy Madlee, Arch Paperbacks, 1978

Best tag line ever: Jim and Elly Mae must save their cat friends from killer robots.

Not long ago, my pal Jennifer and I were reminiscing old books from our childhood and she reminded me of this Andre Norton novel which we both read. I was trying to find out the title of one of the scariest books from my past, one that involved aliens taking over earth in a kind of body snatcher way and the last lines of the book involved the main character turning to her friend who now had "jelly eyes" which was apparently the sign that the baddies had taken over the body. Still don't know what that one was... anyone out there have a clue? Anyway... pardon the digression.

Star Ka'at World is apprently the second book in the series, but it's the only one I've read. In this one, Jim and Elly Mae are taken from earth by their cat companions who are more than house cats, they are part of an alien race called Ka'ats. These "cats" can communicte using their minds and in ancient times on Earth they coexisted quite nicely with humans. Over time, humans changed and were unable to understand the Ka'ats and to adapt to these changes the Ka'ats changed too, learning to hunt and survive in new ways. Some even forgot their mind communication skills. Now a fresh wave of Ka'ats have come to earth to liberate their cat friends and they discover there are still humans who can communicate with them.

Both Jim and Elly Mae are orphaned and have limited ties to others on Earth and so they are willing to embark on this space voyage. The world of the Ka'ats is quite different: green skies, different smells, food you think into creation using their special machine that you instruct with your mind. I started rereading it last night and would have kept going if I could have stayed awake. I am not really sure how it ends. I know the humans begin to regret their stay in the Star Ka'at World. And it sounds like there is some serious robot crisis going on. I may have to pick this one up again soon.

I've actually had a bit of a fear of talking cats. I had a dream once in which I was being stalked and terrorized by a large black cat who could communicate telepathically. I've never quite trusted cats since that night. I wonder if that bizarre nightmare has its roots in these books? Probably more likely in Edgar Allen Poe's short story. "The Black Cat."

Here are the book titles in the Star Ka'at series:
* Star Ka`at (1976) Collection of Stories with Dorothy Madlee
* Star Ka`at World (1978) Collection of Stories with Dorothy Madlee
* Star Ka`at's and the Plant People (1979) Collection of Stories with Dorothy Madlee
* Star Ka`at's and the Winged Warriors (1981) Collection of Stories with Dorothy Madlee

Saturday, March 21, 2009

A Pocket Full of Fun: 5 Favorite Children's Stories

Hallmark Cards, Unknown year

Apparently Hallmark didn't see fit to acknowledge the author or illustrator of this little five story fairy tale collection. This book is a 4 X 6 sized paperback. I have a memory of a bunch of Hallmark Pop-up books but I can't remember the titles and I'm having a devil of a time even finding a listing for Hallmark books from the 1970s. I'm going to press on because I would love to recover some of them. One was an alphabet book with all sorts of animals, if I'm remembering correctly.

I love the illustrations. And the cover. I think it's so cute that the little joey is reading the same book I am holding.

The Jack and the Beanstalk illustrations, in particular, remind me of the style of Rocky and Bullwinkle.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Raggedy Ann and Andy

Raggedy Ann and Andy in the Tunnel of Lost Toys
by Catharine Bushnell, illustrated by Vernon McKissack

Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc., 1980

I was never all that into Raggedy Ann as a child, but as an adult I have a bit of a fascination with these sweet dolls. My Raggedy Ann was actually quite "raggedy" and had missing hair and a resewn on limb. I must have played with her because she was pretty worn out. What I love now are the stripey legs and that there was a red heart on her chest.

I remember reading some of the Catharine Bushnell books about Raggedy Ann and Andy at our school library, and I specifically remember this one. I was super excited to find a copy for sale at a local thrift store.

In this story, Marcella takes the Raggedies with her to an Amusement Park and they ride on all the rides, ending with the Tunnel of Fun. At first it seems tame and then a witch jumps out at them, and then vampires, monsters, pirates, and skeletons. "Even Andy's shoebutton eyes were very wide." When they see a dragon up ahead they assume he will be like all the other creatures they'd seen so far and she the dolls are surprised when the dragon steals them so quickly that Marcella didn't even notice.

The toys try to plot an escape but their efforts go unrewarded when the dragon returns and catches them. Ann talks to the dragon and discovers he's not mean, but lonely and with some of her clever efforts and the lost and found, all of the toys are set free and the Raggedies are reunited with Marcella.

My cousins used to have the Raggedy Ann and Andy doll house and I remember it fondly. Here's a 1977 version found on ebay:

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Hey, Diddle, Diddle!

Feodor Rojankovsky, Harper and Row, 1942

My copy of The Tall Book of Mother Goose is well worn. I have loved it to pieces. I have a soft spot for Russian born children's book illustrators and Rojankovsky is no exception. Of course I'm not alone in my adoration; he won the Caldecott Medal in 1956.

This Mother Goose collection has some verses I can't find in my other books which adds to the attraction. If I counted correctly it has 102 of the verses. Of course, some of my faves I scanned in for you.

But a few other memorable ones are as follows:

Mistress Mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells and cockle shells
And pretty maids all in a row.


There was a crooked man
and he went a crooked mile,

He found a crooked sixpence
against a crooked stile;

He bought a crooked cat,
which caught a crooked mouse,

And they all lived together
in a little crooked house.


There was a little girl
and she had a little curl
Right in the middle of her forehead
When she was good,
she was very, very, good,
But when she was bad she was horrid.

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