Archive for January, 2011
Monday, January 31st, 2011
In 2000, a number of famous picture book illustrators paid tribute to a classic part of the children’s literature canon by creating a piece of artwork inspired by The Wizard of Oz. Images of this artwork and words from thirty authors and illustrators are compiled in a wonderful (and unfortunately out of print) collection, The Hundredth Anniversary Celebration, edited by Peter Glassman. Even while depicting familiar Dorothy and the gang, each artist retains his or her own style and trademark. Can you identify the artist behind each of these Wizard of Oz interpretations?
Bonus: Eric Carle’s contribution would be just too easy to identify because it features a Very recognizable friend. Can you guess what Wizard of Oz character The Very Hungry Caterpiller is dressed up as?
Friday, January 28th, 2011
At The Carle Bookshop we specialize in backlist picture books. Backlist is bookseller talk for the not-so-new picture books that you often can’t find at other bookstores. We carry the fabulous new books too (make sure to read our weekly Top of the Shelf posts for new book recommendations), but we know what makes us unique are the shelves and shelves of picture books you remember from your childhood or books you read to your own children. Each Friday, we’ll highlight one of these special older titles in case you may have missed it or forgotten about it along the way. Let’s keep the picture book alive and loved, shall we?
This week’s Friday Favorite is from 1975:
The Maggie B. by Irene Haas (Margaret K. McElderry Books)
This is what I would call a quiet book. A book meant to be read together, one-on-one, all tucked in and cozy. Margaret Barnstable wishes for her own sailing ship one night and when she wakes up, she’s aboard The Maggie B. She’s captain, crew, and cook all in one, with only her little brother for company, and she couldn’t be happier. In this fantasy adventure with no mention of parents, Margaret’s in charge and is like a parent herself, looking after her baby brother. Unlike a lot of modern books of sibling rivalry, these two get along just fine all on their own.
I love how Margaret’s character is completely competent and fearless. When a storm hits the boat, she’s bravely out in the thick of it preparing the ship and then is able to keep her brother calm, cozy and oh-so-well fed down below deck. The book taps perfectly into a child’s fascination with being the parent and playing “grown-up.” In contrast to her cluttered modern bedroom with too-big furniture on the first page, on The Maggie B., Margaret keeps a tidy, perfect-sized kitchen complete with old-fashioned oil lamps and a hand-pump sink. Dressed in a kerchief and apron, she resembles an little old lady, bustling around cooking, cleaning, gardening and looking after the baby.
The illustrations alternate between subtle watercolors and black-and-white drawings, and the soothing rhythmic text is dabbled with bits of sweet songs to sing. While aboard the Maggie B. the illustrations are small and contained on the page, reinforcing that this is a safe and cozy place. And indeed, this is a cozy book about true adventure and freedom. Margaret runs a tight ship and I for one would spend a day on The Maggie B. anytime.
Thursday, January 27th, 2011
It certainly is a winter wonderland here in the Northeast. After a fresh snow this morning, the sun has come out leaving a sparkly white dreamland.
Photo by Kristin Angel
It’s the perfect day to find a sunny window and curl up with a good book. Maybe after all that shoveling and ice scraping, you need a reminder of how beautiful and fun winter weather can be. Here are a few of our favorite picture books highlighting exceptional illustrations that make us love winter all over again. I wrote about a few more favorites last year that you can read about here.
Winter’s Tale by Robert Sabuda (Little Simon)
This stunning pop-up book brings out the true beauty of nature. Each page features a woodland animal embracing a new snowfall. Glittery white and eye-catching metallic papers complement the pale color palette of pinks and blues for each dramatic page turn. A book that awes the reader not only in its immaculate construction, but also in the beauty that is winter.
Stopping by Woods on a Snowing Evening by Robert Frost, illustrated by Susan Jeffers ( Dutton Children’s Books)
I had to memorize this famous poem in 4th grade, but it never came so alive to me as when I opened a copy of this illustrated version. Susan Jeffers depicts the largeness and stillness of the woods in the snow with perfection, yet infuses a new warmth and humor into the poem by creating a jolly, nature-loving narrator (who stops to make snow angels) and a cast of snowy woodland animals hiding in the illustrations.
Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, illustrated by Mary Azarian (Houghton Mifflin)
This Caldecott-winning biography of Wilson Bentley depicts a man’s love and fascination for snow. The story is told alongside factual sidebars and end matter to offer further information about “Snowflake Bentley” for older readers. The text is perfectly matched by woodcut illustrations by Mary Azarian, who is no stranger to a Vermont winter. Bentley’s photography of snowflakes revealed to the world the delicate beauty and uniqueness of each tiny snow crystal and this book captures the sense of discovery and awe beautifully. For further exploration, you can pick up the Dover edition of Snow Crystals to see the collection of Bentley’s photographs.
Brave Irene by William Steig (Farrar, Straus, & Giroux)
If you’re ever feeling a bit defeated by all this snow, take some inspiration from Brave Irene. When her dressmaker mother is unable to deliver an important gown to the duchess during a snowstorm, Irene boldly takes over the task. I think we probably all have felt that feeling of never-ending trudging through the snow, but Irene keeps pushing forward despite bitter wind and high drifts. The snowstorm takes on a wonderful character all its own as Irene’s nemesis, taunting and bullying her the whole way. Ultimately, Irene’s cleverness outsmarts the storm and the little girl saves the day.
The Snowman by Raymond Briggs (Random House)
A long-time winter favorite, this was a book I returned to again and again as a child. Completely wordless, the comic book format of the illustrations give the impression that you’re watching a movie (and indeed there is a wonderful British animated short film version) and makes it easy for children to read to themselves. A child builds a snowman who comes to life. The boy invites him into the house and the snowman humorously explores the life of humans (flicking light switches, dressing in clothes, driving a car) before taking the boy on a magical winter expedition. A story of imagination, magic and adventure that could only happen during a snowy winter.
What are some of your favorite winter weather picture books? Let us know in the comment below!
Wednesday, January 26th, 2011
With all the snow storms we’ve been getting, the incessant shoveling and slipping on ice, your family might be in need of a good laugh. I know I am! To add a little sunshine to a dreary winter day, here are a few recommendations for books that will get you and your kids laughing out loud.
Rhyming Dust Bunnies by Jan Thomas (Beach Lane Books)
Dust bunnies make surprisingly fabulous characters in this is brightly colored, simply illustrated picture book. These dust bunnies love to rhyme, but poor dust bunny Bob isn’t so good at it. When they’re in danger of being cleaned up (they are dust, after all), we realize Bob was trying to save the day the whole time. A great book to read out loud, 3 to 5-year-olds will especially get a kick out of the fact that Bob can never quite get it right.
Bark, George by Jules Feiffer (Michael di Capua Books)
Another character who can’t quite get it right is George in this hysterical picture book mix-up. Each time George tries to bark, another animal sound comes out! “Quack-Quack!” “Oink.” The repetitious text “No George. Pigs go Oink. Dogs go arf. Now, bark George” encourages helpful toddlers and preschoolers to share their own animal noises in between giggles. A twist brings this silly book to an especially funny close.
Click, Clack, Moo Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Betsy Lewin (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)
If you haven’t already seen this bestselling Caldecott Honor book, pick up a copy right away! Little ones used to not being in charge will delight in the farm animals’ hilarious attempts to negotiate with Farmer Brown to get what they want. A few sequel books have emerged with these same characters, but this book is most certainly the best.
Serious Farm by Tim Egan (Houghton Mifflin)
Nothing funny about farming. In this picture book, another farmer’s animals have also been plotting. Farmer Fred takes everything much too seriously. He never cracks so a smile. So the animals decide it’s up to them to make him laugh. Their silly attempts will make readers giggle, but it will take something quite silly indeed to get Farmer Fred to crack a smile. With delightful deadpan humor, best enjoyed by older picture book audiences (4 to 6-year-olds perhaps), this book proves there is something funny about farming.
Imogene’s Antlers by David Small (Dragonfly Books)
In this ridiculously silly picture book, Imogene wakes up one day with antlers on her head. It makes certain every day things quite difficult as you can imagine (and stresses her poor mother!) but the antlers turn out to be quite useful. Readers will especially laugh at the delightful illustrations which add so much meaning and humor to the simple straight-forward text.
Want more laughs? Try any of the books my favorite go-to funny guys: James Marshall, Mo Willems, and Jon Scieszka. Other favorites? Fortunately by Remy Charlip, Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel, Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watts, and A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever by Marla Frazee are all terrifically funny. What books make you and your kids laugh? Tell us in the comments below!
Tuesday, January 25th, 2011
Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes by Salley Mavor (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Here’s a substantial collection of nursery rhymes every child should hear arranged to meander from morning to evening. This big book drew my hands toward the photographs of felt children, animals, and trees, and made me lean in to examine the stitches’ astonishing detail. The peas in a pod, faces peering from pumpkins, a babe rocking in a walnut cradle and much more echo a warmth in poems we want to chant even when we don’t quite understand them. The images are a good match for rhymes like The Cow Jumped Over the moon, Three Blind Mice, and others hailing from an era when they were often told by knitters, spinners, menders, perhaps with balls of wool on one knee and a contented child on the other.
Click here to purchase and here to read more Top of the Shelf recommendations.
Monday, January 24th, 2011
What turn-of-the-century picture book illustrator got inspiration for one of his books when he saw his child looking at a picture book upside down? Can you name that book?
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.
Wednesday, January 19th, 2011
Open House for Butterflies is one of my ultimate favorite picture books. Written by Ruth Kraus and illustrated by Maurice Sendak, this small format book is perfect for gift giving. Like another book by the same duo, A Hole is to Dig, this book is not a narrative, but a book of sweet and simple observances. With delicate black and white spot illustrations accompanying the text, you learn about the “good things” in life (long before Martha Stewart claimed this term, mind you) from a child’s perspective. “A good thing to think about is what kind of face to make when you say please.” As everyone knows, how your face looks and how you say please can very make or break the negotiations when you’re trying to get something you want.
The language is delightfully odd and pitch perfect to how young children often think and speak. “A baby is so you could be the boss.” The book is filled with terrific advice and silly definitions for both young and old and it still makes me smile whenever I revisit it (which is a lot!). I love to give this book as an unexpected gift, especially to someone who might need a little cheering up. “Everybody should be quiet near a little stream and listen.”
But the page I’ve been thinking about lately?
“A good way to tell it’s snowing is when everybody runs outside and throws their hats in the air.”
Hooray! It’s snowing! That’s how I’ve been feeling lately…
How about you? Do you have a favorite sweet book you love to give as a gift?
Tuesday, January 18th, 2011
Dark Emperor & Other Poems of the Night by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Rick Allen (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Joyce Sidman masterfully uses a variety of poetic forms to bring nights in the woods to readers who are cozy inside. Each poem is accompanied by a love-infused scientific description of the protagonist, which includes the owl of the title, a cricket, mushrooms, a bat, a spider, a porcupette, moths, snails, and an oak (from the sidebar accompanying the poem: “Although they don’t look it, trees — like most plants — are constantly busy.”) Rick Allen’s linoleum block prints hand colored with gouache are stunning. Children’s curiosity will be peaked to learn more about:
“The night’s a sea of dappled dark
the night’s a feast of sound and spark,
the night’s a wild enchanted park.”
ADDED: We are so pleased this book just won a 2011 Newbery Honor! It’s a rare and exciting treat indeed when a picture book text is recognized as being one of the year’s most distinguished contributions to American children’s literature. Congratulations Joyce Sidman!
Pick up a copy of Dark Emperor & Other Poems of the Night and read more Top of the Shelf book recommendations.