Archive for the ‘Bookselling’ Category
Monday, September 10th, 2012
We’ve had such a great summer with three fabulous exhibitions. We were so lucky to host original artwork from Eric Carle’s Slowly, Slowly, Slowly Said the Sloth in our West Gallery, a breath-taking collection of pieces by Ezra Jack Keats in our East Gallery and the bright cheerful work of Lucy Cousins in our Central Gallery all summer long!
As summer vacation comes to an end, we welcome a change of pace and season here at The Carle. We’re ready for changing leaves, cooler temperatures and the return of the yellow school bus. We’re lucky to be hosting Maisy artwork until November, so this week we thought a change was due to our Lucy Cousins book display. We’ve replaced our bestselling summer Maisy titles:
with a few new titles to get us in the back-to-school spirit.
Happy September everyone! What books do you like to read to get ready for fall?
Friday, January 13th, 2012
Bad days. We all have them. Sometimes it’s really hard to keep your cool when EVERYTHING seems to be going WRONG, even when you’re adult. And adults have had LOTS of practice with bad days, believe me. So imagine how hard it is for kids!
I often have customers come in the store looking for picture books that deal with anger, bad days and emotions in healthy, productive ways. They want books that not only offer suggestions for how their children can deal with their own emotions, but also to validate that it’s okay to feel mad sometimes. It’s okay to be angry. What’s important is knowing how to deal with those emotions so that you don’t let it ruin your day.
The first book I always think of is Judith Viorst’s Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, illustrated by Ray Cruz (Simon & Schuster, 1972).
From the minute he wakes up to gum in his hair, Alexander’s day is on a downward spiral. With humor and uber-specific detail, Viorst depicts a very bad day, in terms kids will understand perfectly. “At school Mrs. Dickens liked Paul’s picture of the sailboat better than my picture of the invisible castle.” Alexander reacts to his bad day in fairly typical ways. He sulks, he shouts at his friends, he fights with his brothers, he cries and he threatens to move to Australia.
What I love about this book is that it’s not overhanded or preachy. Viorst isn’t saying, Look how naughty Alexander is. Don’t act like this, boys and girls. Instead, she validates his emotions by acknowledging that “some days are like that. Even in Australia.” Readers come away knowing that bad days happen everywhere to everyone, but tomorrow you get to start over fresh. The pacing, the illustrations and the repetition in the text all add to the humor, making it such a fun book to read aloud.
Mrs. Biddlebox: Her Bad Day…and What She Did About It! by Linda Smith, illustrated by Marla Frazee (Harcourt, 2002)
Mrs. Biddlebox woke up on the wrong side of the bed and starts her morning in a foul mood. But instead of dwelling on her bad day, she decides to do something about it. “I will cook this rotten morning! I will turn it into cake! I will fire up my oven! I will set the day to bake!”
She starts literally gathering up the day, starting with the lawn and dirt, right up to the sun and the sky, shoving it all into her cooking pot. Illustrator Marla Frazee adds to the delightful rhyming text as she plays with darkness and white space on the page. The book begins with dark full-bleed double-page spreads and with each page turn, the darkness recedes as Mrs. Biddlebox collects the bad day, until she stands alone on a white page. In a delightful release of pent-up bad energy, Mrs. Biddlebox whisks and beaks the dough and stomps it into a cake pan. She then proceeds to dance and sing around the stove as the bad-day-cake cooks. And when it’s done, the bad day has become something sweet, and well…delicious. This book gives a great example of positive thinking to turn something nasty into something nice, as well as acknowledging that the process won’t always be easy. You might need to stomp around and shout first, but pretty soon you might find yourself singing, dancing and laughing. A great book for storytime to encourage kids to get up and do the motions themselves. An extra bonus for readers: finding the adorable pet duck on every page.
Sometimes the answer to getting rid of a bad mood is right inside your imagination. Max in Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (HaperCollins, 1963) is making a lot of mischief, terrorizing the pet dog, nailing holes into the wall, and shouting at his mother. As punishment, Max is sent to bed without dinner. Max is angry at being locked up and takes delight in proving that he can escape to a place where he can do whatever he wants, make any kind of mischief and never get punished.
He escapes to where the Wild Things are, a place of monsters and wild rumpuses where he is the king and takes orders from no one. It isn’t until he gets lonely and wants “to be where someone loved him best of all,” that he decides to head back to his room. When he gets there he finds that his mother has brought him dinner after all, and that even though days and years seemed to have passed, “it was still hot.” This book, now a beloved classic, gives child readers the security that even if they act badly sometimes (and we know that we all do) that their parents won’t stop loving them. This Caldecott-winning book reminds us that we all get angry, and sometimes the best way to deal with our anger is to take a break and go somewhere in our imagination that only we can go, until we don’t feel so angry anymore and are ready to come back to reality. Our friends and loved ones will be waiting.
When Sophie Gets Angry — Really, Really Angry… by Molly Bang (Blue Sky Press, 1999)
Molly Bang’s Caldecott Honor book also shows a child using escape as a way to deal with anger. When Sophie’s sister steals her toy and their mother sides with her sister, Sophie gets angry. Really, really angry. She kicks and screams and and starts to throw a tantrum. But like, Mrs. Biddlebox and Max, she decides to take action. She goes outside to cool off, running into the backyard and woods behind her house to help get rid of her overpowering angry energy. Then she is able to release it by crying. Being in nature helps Sophie. The trees, the birds and the wind all remind her that she’s small part of a much bigger world and her problems don’t seem quite so large and daunting anymore. When she finally feels better, she heads home where she is welcomed by a loving family. I’ve heard this book criticized for promoting running away from home and for being dangerous as it shows Sophie alone in the woods, climbing trees without supervision. I think it’s important to remember that, like Where the Wild Things Are, Sophie’s journey is more symbolic. She needs to separate herself from the situation that caused her to get so angry, to get outside and be in nature to remind herself that things will be okay. And that is something that she needs to figure out how to do alone.
This book is a masterpiece of design. Molly Bang strategically uses color and proportion to show Sophie’s emotional journey. Happy characters are outlined in green, but when Sophie gets angry, her outline is red. Her red shadow grows to be a giant when “she wants to smash the world to smithereens.” Everything then becomes outlined in red, even the furniture in the house and the trees outside, as we see through Sophie’s angry eyes. From red, to purple to a calming blue, the outlines change as Sophie gradually calms herself down. Proportion on the page again changes as she becomes literally smaller as the “wide world comforts her.” Even the endpapers have changed from fire engine red to a bold blue at the end.
The Quarreling Book by Charlotte Zolotow, illustrated by Arnold Lobel (HarperCollins, 1963)
Are bad moods contagious? They sure feel like that sometimes. On a rainy day, Mr. James forgets to kiss Mrs. James good-bye on his way to work. This one small action starts a chain reaction of bad moods for a whole slew of characters. Mrs. James snaps at her son, who in turn is mean to his sister, who then insults her friend, and so on.
It takes a good-natured dog (who doesn’t seem to understand the concept of “bad mood”) to get everyone one-by-one out of their funk. A little bit of play and laughter puts everything in perspective and Zolotow shows that even if you say something mean, things are always fixable with a heartfelt apology.
Mean Soup by Betsy Everitt (Harcourt, 1992)
Horace has had a bad day. He forgot the answer in school, was embarrassed by a friend, and had to get a ride home with crazy Miss Pearl instead of his mother picking him up after school. “Horace felt so mean he stepped on a flower.” He hisses and growls at his mother when he gets home. His mother knows that it’s time to make Mean Soup. They put a pot on the stove to boil. As the water heats up, they scream into the pot. They growl and make mean faces. They bang on the pot with a spoon. Horace even breathes “his best dragon breath” into the water until he realizes he’s feeling better.
This is an odd and silly book, with many hilarious details awaiting in the illustrations. I love that Everitt casually tosses in mentions of a “show-and-tell cow” and the fact that Miss Pearl nearly misses not one, not two, but three poodles on the drive home. This is a quirky and fun-loving kind of mom who seems to know exactly how to cheer everyone up. In the background of the illustrations, you can catch her making faces, doing headstands and even wearing the pot on her head. Best of all, she shows Horace how to get rid of his anger and frustration by letting it all out. Like Mrs. Biddlebox, they are able to turn their bad day into something physical that they can then stir and stir away.
Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes (Greenwillow Books, 1996)
When Lilly goes shopping with her Grammy, she gets a new pair of movie star sunglasses, three shiny quarters and a purple plastic purse that plays music when it opens. She’s so excited to show it to her classmates that she can’t seem to focus on school at all, which irritates her teacher, Mr. Slinger. Finally after Lilly’s outburst in class, Mr. Slinger confiscates her purse and glasses until after school. Lilly at first feels sad, but then she gets ANGRY. She decides to write a mean note to Mr. Slinger and slips it into his bag.
When Mr. Slinger returns her things at the end of the day, he includes a special understanding note and some snacks. “Today was a difficult day. Tomorrow will be better.” Lilly immediately feels remorse for the note she wrote Mr. Slinger while she was angry. She even punishes herself by sitting in the uncooperative chair when she gets home. She writes Mr. Slinger an apology letter and asks her parents for help. Her mother writes Mr. Slinger a letter as well and Lilly’s father bakes Mr. Slinger some snacks. The next day, after her apology, all is forgiven. We’ve probably all done something we regretted because we were angry and rash at the time. Through great comic pacing, Henkes shows that everyone has flaws. It’s just important to find ways to fix mistakes made in the heat of anger and to learn from those mistakes.
Harriet, You’ll Drive Me Wild by Mem Fox, illustrated by Marla Frazee (Harcourt, 2000)
I love this book because it shows both sides of a bad day, a parent’s and a child’s, equally. Adults can relate to the mother getting increasingly more frustrated with Harriet as she constantly makes messes, while children will know what it’s like to be constantly reprimanded for things you aren’t doing on purpose.
Her mother didn’t like to yell, so instead she said,
“Harriet, my darling child. Harriet, you’ll drive me wild.
Harriet, sweetheart, what are we to do?
Harriet, Harris, I’m talking to you.”
“I’m sorry,” said Harriet, and she was.
Finally, after Harriet makes the biggest mess yet while Mom is trying to work, Mom loses her cool. She yells and yells and yells. And Harriet is sorry and she cries and cries and cries. Her mother takes a deep breath and then hugs Harriet tight and apologizes. “I’m sorry, too. I shouldn’t have yelled, and I wish I hadn’t. But sometimes it happens, just like that.” I like picture books that acknowledge and embrace flaws because that’s what makes us human. Kids will sometimes make a mess and moms will sometimes get mad and yell. Fox and Frazee show it’s how we handle these flaws, by hugging, apologizing and talking it out, that’s important.
We all have bad days, kids and adults alike, but it’s up to us to figure out how to get through them. Do you have any go-to books that help you talk about anger with kids? What do you do to get rid of a bad day?
Wednesday, November 30th, 2011
Here’s a gift guide for our favorite items all for under $10. Perfect for stocking stuffers or when you just need to give a little something. Check out our website for even more recommendations.
We are crazy for these Eric Carle band-aids that come in a retro metal collector’s tin. They come in two different styles, featuring characters from Carle’s Bug and Bear books. $5 each.
2. Bathtub Toys
Move over rubber duckie! Bath time is made a whole lot more fun with these cute Eric Carle squirt toys. Comes as a set of five for $9.95.
3. Mini Sketch Books
Encourage your budding artist or writer with these blank book sketch pads. They’re made of recycled paper, each with a different Eric Carle character on the cover and are small enough to fit in your purse. $2.95 each – choose one or buy a complete set!
4. Mini Bead Rollercoaster
We love wooden bead rollercoasters because not only are they fun, but also help stimulate brain activity and fine motor skills in young children. This colorful mini rollercoaster is small enough to bring along on car rides and is only $7.95.
5. Coloring Books
While they may be too big to fit in a stocking, these Eric Carle coloring books are a steal at $5.99. They each tell the complete story of Eric Carle’s familiar books, but give the chance for your child to be the artist and color the illustrations any way he or she likes! Choose from four styles.
6. Flip Books
These are a winner with all ages. We especially love the mini Petit Cinema flip books that bring the art of the old silent movie to life. Choose from four styles. $4.99 each.
7. Sticker Packs
These super cute sticker packs include a blank collector’s book and six sheets of Eric Carle stickers. The best part? They’re on sale for $3.50 each! Choose from two styles.
8. Silly Bands
Everyone is going crazy over these Mo Willems’ Pigeon Bands! 20 colorful bands per package, perfect for sharing and trading among friends. $5.95 each.
9. Pin Badges
Each set comes with 9 adorable pins, each with a different image from Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Gift the whole pack for a whole lot of flare or break open the set and divide among your friends. $4.95 per set.
10. Caterpillar Plush
This lil’ guy is super soft and the perfect size for little hands and is baby-safe. $9.95.
For more stocking stuffer ideas, click here. For other gift ideas from The Carle, visit our holiday shopping page here. Happy Holidays!
Wednesday, June 29th, 2011
School may be out, but summer reading is IN! I have an ever-growing to-read list that I keep quite haphazardly in many different places – online, on my computer, on post-it notes, and in margins of notebooks – anywhere I can write down the title of a book that I want to remember to read. Summer is the perfect time to chip away at that list, whether it’s a day at the beach, a rainy day stuck inside, a long car trip or a late night in bed. School and library summer reading programs are a great way for kids to track what books they read and how they felt about them. I know I still feel accomplished when I am able to check something off my to-read list!
These Eric Carle Reading Records are a great place to record what books you and your children read this summer, including a spot for the title, author, and the date you finished the book. For extra incentive, these Eric Carle stickers sheets are all about $1 and are a fun reward. Of course, nothing is more rewarding than looking at a long list of finished books at the end of the summer!
Happy summer reading! Tell us, what are you and your kids reading the summer?
Friday, June 10th, 2011
What’s better than a June birthday? There are so many talented and creative people born in the month of June, such as Norton Juster, Eric Carle, Charlotte Zolotow and Chris Van Allsburg and *ahem* me, just to name a few. And today marks the birthday of another children’s book great, Maurice Sendak. It’s the perfect time to share with some of our more faraway fans a very special piece of our bookstore here at The Carle.
About two years ago, we were gifted this gorgeous full-size wooden display unit by Justin G. Schiller. It was originally made for the Metreon entertainment center in San Francisco, which at one time housed a Where the Wild Things Are playground, an In The Night Kitchen restaurant and a Sendak-themed gift store. We now use this two-sided case to display Maurice Sendak’s books and toys in our store. It makes quite an impact on customers when they walk in, especially the young kids who recognize the characters from Where the Wild Things Are right away. Sometimes it’s a little frightening (the bookcase is considerably larger than they are!) but most of the time, kids are drawn right to it, proudly pointing out “Max!” or “Wild Thing!” as if they’re introducing their parents to good friends.
Since Sendak’s exhibition was one of our very firsts at The Carle, and his Wild Things have the proud placement on our logo, we often get guests anticipating seeing original Sendak artwork every time they visit. While we’re happy to have galleries full of constantly rotating artwork, it’s also nice to have this piece of consistency in the store. You can always come and see a Wild Thing here.
Thursday, June 9th, 2011
Summer might be approaching and school winding down to a close, but we’re hoping that your summer is still filled with LOTS of books and leisure reading. Around this time of year grateful parents start asking us for suggestions for end-of-the-year gifts for their children’s teachers. Here are a few of our favorite ideas:
BIG BOOKS FOR THE CLASSROOM
These oversized picture books are hard to find in stores, but seem to be on every teacher’s wishlist. While they might not make the cut in a teacher’s classroom budget (especially when most supplies are bought out of the teacher’s own pocket), they have huge impact on the students. With these big books, everyone can clearly see the pictures during story time, and the large size makes independent reading and art exploration even more fun.
You can never have enough tote bags! Great for carrying papers and materials back and forth to work, storing your lunch, using for quick trips to the store, or even for just toting around town to show off your love of children’s book character.
THANK YOU CARDS
Teachers can always use thank you cards and these Very Hungry Caterpillar ones are super cute!
Teacher/Librarian memberships to The Carle are only $35 and would give your child’s educator the chance to visit the Museum free of charge for the year, get a discount in the store, and get invitations to exclusive museum events – including our fabulous annual Educator night (plus free Membership goodies).
Want more ideas? We’ve made it easy for you. Visit our “For Educators” section of our online shop. Readers, share some of your favorite teacher gift suggestions with us in the comments.
Saturday, January 22nd, 2011
We’ve had our fair share of snow days already in the Northeast and chances are…we’ll have a few more. I know I always spent hours and hours playing in the snow as a kid, but the time always comes when you get too cold and cranky outside, but are desperate for something fun to do inside. Instead of turning on the TV, here are a few of our favorite recommendations for keeping boredom at bay. While the weather’s nice, why not plan a trip to the local bookstore or library and stock up on new books and games so they’ll be exciting and new when you’re house-bound.
1. The Mixed-Up Chameleon Maze Board: This wooden maze game is played with a small magnetic stick and little colored balls. It takes a surprising amount of patience and skill to get all the right color balls into their designated holes. We have a sample in our library here at the Museum and this is one toy that sells itself as children are drawn to it like, well, magnets.
2. Animal Lacing Cards: Another one of those activities that challenges motor skills and dexterity, these cards are perfect at home or in the car. The animal cards are so cute that they can even be hung up on the wall when you’re finished with them!
3. Match-ominoes: What I love about this one is that it’s three games in one and can be fun for a range of ages – perfect when you’re trying to find something for ALL your kids to do together. Includes cards for bingo, dominoes, and matching games. For older kids, you can make a tournament of it, with small prizes of things found around the house or coupons for fun things to do in the future.
4. Scribbles and 5. Doodles: These super giant activity books by Taro Gomi (Japanese author/illustrator of favorite books like Spring is Here – a Carle Bookshop favorite) are jam packed (over 360 pages!) with pages to draw, color, puzzles to solve, crafts to make and games to play. What I love is that they challenge you to use your imagination (“Spring has arrived. Imagine what might be sprouting”) and your brain (“Draw something whose name begins with the last letter of the thing before it”). And they’re really funny, too. Definitely a great book to have around that with a box of crayons or markers makes a fabulous birthday present for your next party.
6. The Anti-Coloring Book: Another great activity book that is a great fit for kids ages six and up. Instead of a traditional, perhaps boring, coloring book, this is filled with imaginative scenes to color and develop. “Design a robot that will do a chore you don’t like doing” or “Scientist have just found a new species of fish, but they haven’t named it yet. What do you think it looks like and what would you call it?” Created by Susan Striker, author of another of our favorite books, Young at Art.
7. Mazescapes by Roxie Munro: Similar to I Spy books or Where’s Waldo, Roxie Munro takes readers through pages and pages of various landscapes. On each one, you search out the intertwining roads and cars and try to find the same car, the same school bus, etc. somewhere on each of the pages. When you’ve found them all, go back and search again for something starting with each letter in the alphabet! There are even hidden letters hiding on each page.
8. D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths: Folktales and myth anthologies are a great way to absorb the attention of older readers. I pored over this book hundreds of times as a kid and was especially fascinated by the wonderful double spread illustration of the family tree of all the gods and goddesses.
9. The New Way Things Work by David Macaulay: A must-have book for every household, you can learn in amazingly easy-to-understand detail how just about everything works. From nuclear fission to supermarkets. I especially love the pages on paper making and bookbinding. Older children can spend hours looking at this book and it’s a great launching point for home experiments and exploration.
10. George & Martha: The Complete Stories of Two Best Friends by James Marshall: I don’t always sing the praises of picture book anthologies because often you lose a lot of the original book’s essence and formatting when trying to cram multiple picture books in one big volume. However, this one is truly fantastic. The George and Martha stories are simple, charming, and oh-so-funny. Not only can you sit down with your kids and read story after story, but it’s also filled with wonderful anecdotes about the late author, James Marshall, from some of children’s literature’s favorite people – including Maurice Sendak and Jon Scieszka. Definitely a great book to add to your collection.
I hope your snow days are a flurry of art activities, science experiments and lots and lots of reading. We’d love to hear what keeps your kids busy when they’re stuck in the house. Share your tips in the comments below.
Friday, October 8th, 2010
One regular customer has been stopping in to buy books for his grandson for about three years now. It’s been so nice for me to be able to watch how this child’s tastes and preferences for books has changed over the years. While Eric Carle’s 10 Little Rubber Ducks used to to be his absolute favorite book, on his most recent visit to the store, the now 3-year-old had a new, very specific request: “I want a scary book.”
Now selling scary picture books can sometimes be tricky territory. Every child reacts to a story differently, of course, but I notice that the kids more so than the parents gravitate to the scary books. These are the books with monsters and suspense, unexpected surprises, and dramatic tension with every page turn, oh, and monsters. Did I mention the monsters? But the two words we hear all too much from the parents? “Too scary.” As the bookseller, I’d feel terrible if a suggestion of mine triggered a nightmare, but also know that some fear is a good thing. I’d bet we’ve all felt that special thrill that comes from being scared and felt that wonderful sense of relief when you find out everything is going to be all right. Adult and children both tend to seek out pleasant sensations of fear, from games of peek-a-boo and Hide and Go Shriek (my 6-year-old nephew’s shock-inducing reinvention of Hide and Go Seek) to riding rollercoasters and watching scary movies. So how to find a picture book that delivers the fear and the thrills without the nightmares and tears? As it nears Halloween and I get more and more requests for scary books that aren’t too scary, I’ve put together a quick list of some of my favorites to share.
There are lots of picture books out there that deal with friendly monsters and even more that deal with being afraid to go to bed at night. One of my favorites (and actually the final choice of our 3-year-old scare-seeking customer) is There’s a Nightmare in My Closet by Mercer Mayer. The little boy is at first too scared to go to bed because he thinks there’s a monster in his closet, but when he makes up his mind to get rid of the monster, ends up actually making friends with him instead. Mayer masterfully drags the suspense of the monster creeping out of the closet in the dark shadows of the room, but balances the tension with incredibly humorous illustrations and a delightful role reversal in the story’s twist ending.
Another two of my favorite recommendations that are especially a big hit in October are versions of the traditional Halloween poem that starts, “In a dark, dark wood…” and usually ends with a ghost or spooky creature jumping out at you. There are many different versions of this poem available, but Ruth Brown’s A Dark Dark Tale is delightful and child-friendly one. The illustrations are dark and spooky and the book’s verse builds and builds onto itself as you’re taken further along through the woods and into a house. Just when a child can’t bear the suspense any longer, expecting the worst – goblins, ghosts, maybe a witch? – to jump out of the dark, you discover a teeny-tiny mouse and so the built-up fear is replaced with laughter and delight.
A Beasty Story by Bill Martin Jr. and Steven Kellogg uses similar verse, but lighter and more colorful illustrations to break the tension. There are even four little mouse characters to keep you company through the dark, dark house with their own funny rhyming commentary and a sub-story that even teaches colors. Like Brown’s book, this version also has a delightful surprise ending that provides humorous relief.
Richard Michelson’s Oh No, Not Ghosts! has a similar building technique to its story. Two siblings are trying not to wake their dad as they lie awake at night, but the big brother gets more and more carried away terrifying his sister (as big brothers tend to do) with stories of ghosts and werewolves and vampires. The rhyming text and delightful sound effects make this a great read-aloud, and while the original was illustrated by Leonard Baskin’s delightfully creepy art, this reissue illustrated by Adam McCauley provides a good balance to the spooky text. Instead of illustrating real vampires and demons, the reader clearly sees the children’s imagination at play, providing a reassuring, while still spooky, experience.
These last two picture books are perfect for Halloween. David Costello’s Here They Come is filled with spooky magical creatures like werewolves and hobgoblins meeting together for a party. The smiling creatures are actually more funny than scary in the illustrations, offering the perfect balance of the unfamiliar and the safe. The twist comes when their party is interrupted by creatures even scarier than them – human children dressed in their Halloween costumes! “That was a fun scare,” the creatures say after the kids leave. I couldn’t agree more!
Annie Was Warned by Jarrett J. Krosoczka touches on the tricks our mind can play on us on a dark and spooky night. Annie was told not to go to the creepy old mansion, but she sneaks out anyway. Along the way shadows and sounds just may be scary spiders, bats or ghosts, but each time have a more practical explanation. I not only love Annie’s boldness as a character, but also that each turn of the page heightens the suspenseful tension. A fold-out final page reveals a fun surprise ending.
You parents and teachers know your audience best and what their limitations are, but I bet you’ll find that these picture books to be just the right amount of scary for your 3 to 6 year olds. And like riding a rollercoaster, once you read it once, they just might want to hear it again and again.
If you interested in purchasing any of the above titles, you can find them all on our store website here. Enter HALLOWEEN in the coupon code at checkout and we’ll give our blog readers and fans 15% off any of the books featured in this post. The offer expires Friday, October 15th.
I’m sure you must have some favorite scary, but not-too-scary, books to read aloud. Share them with us below!
Thursday, July 29th, 2010
I was working at the cash register on a busy Saturday a few weeks ago. I asked my customer, “Do you have a membership to the museum?”
“Yes I do,” answered the friendly man with glasses and graying hair, “but I’ve never been to the museum before. I live in Minneapolis.” He was buying a hundred dollars worth of books and toys.
I gave him the 15% membership discount and said, “You’re a member but you’ve never been to the museum?”
“I’m visiting my cousin, who lives nearby.” He put his arm around the woman beside him and continued. “I’d been planning to visit the museum ever since I saw your exhibit in Washington last year.”
“Oh, you joined…online, after you saw the Stanford in D.C. show?”
“Yes. I bought that print online.” He pointed to the shop’s rear wall, where Eric Carle’s signed and numbered prints are displayed: the image of the Very Hungry Caterpillar creeping along the ground as a huge warm sun fills the background.
“You know, we sold quite a few prints because of that show in D.C.”
He became animated. “I bought that print just at the time my grandson was born. It hangs in the hallway. Whenever I pass it, I think that he is like the caterpillar, and I, his grandfather, am like the sun. So you can imagine, I was looking forward to finally visiting the museum.”
We continued to chat. Later as I thought back to this conversation—and to the way this reader identified with a secondary character (the sun) in a story I always considered to have only one character (caterpillar/butterfly)—I recalled a different conversation about the interpretation of Eric Carle’s most famous book.
It was 2003; a slow day in the store. Eric Carle had stopped in to sign some copies of his books. I asked him, “Did you have some moral in mind, when you began to write The Very Hungry Caterpillar?”
He said, “I was trying to make a book that would also be a toy. I wanted holes in the pages: I needed a character to move through the holes.”
I hadn’t heard this story, and I was surprised. I said, “I think of the story as redemptive, because the caterpillar eats all that junkfood and suffers a stomachache, but he still gets to turn into a butterfly.”
Eric smiled and said, “That’s what you see.”
I asked him, “You must have encountered so many interpretations. What was the strangest?”
He raised his eyebrows. “I was in East Berlin in 1989, at a library conference. I was seated at a round table with many East German librarians. They told me that good socialist children should never read The Very Hungry Caterpillar, because it is a tale of the Western consumer society; it teaches over-consumption. A capitalist parable.”
I suspect Eric Carle would get more pleasure from the interpretation of our museum member from Minneapolis.