Friday, December 31, 2010

Owl Moon

Owl Moon was first introduced to me through a reading-in-schools program I participated in when Elizabeth was about 3. She and I proceeded to check it out from our local library many times, especially during the coldest parts of the winter. I'm not really sure why it never found it's way into our permanent collection.

Earlier in the year, when my mother was asking about Christmas presents for the kids, she asked me if Finn had a copy of Owl Moon. When I answered "no", she determined that he should have a copy, which proved to be a good call as it is now one of his favorites.

Winner of the 1988 Caldecott medal, Owl Moon showcases the beauty and expanse of a snowy winter on a farm. The perfect bedtime story, it whispers quiet winter softness and you can practically hear the echo of father's who-ing.

The illustrations depicting the owl's point-of-view are a beautiful change of pace when they appear. You'll find yourself wondering how you might find your way to a snow-covered farm for a bit of late-night owling.

As you can see, Finn didn't take kindly to my kidnapping his book for even a few photos. I think this will certainly remain a treasured piece of our winter book basket for years to come.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Snowy Day

Ezra Jack Keats' popular and ubiquitous winter book has never been more popular in our house than the last week with our Christmas night snowstorm.

Finn tremendously identifies with Peter and his track-making, angel-making, tree-smacking, snowball-making fun.

I never tire of the depth of the Caldecott-winning illustrations and the beautiful color peeking through each page bringing a chilly breath to each scene.

I think my personal favorite is the snowangel page. There's something sweetly preschool-like about Peter's little gnome-hat angel.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas in Noisy Village

Although one of the first posts I wrote here on The Book Children was a review of the Noisy Village series, I feel the need to bring them to you again now that it's Christmastime. Christmas in Noisy Village is one of the favorite books from our Christmas book basket and for good reason. The child-like expression in the writing and authentic seasonal activities captivate my kids every time.

One thing that I appreciate in older children's literature, like Little House on the Prairie, is the inclusion of children's work. It's rarely mentioned in modern children's books except for a possible mention of basic housekeeping. The fact that these 6 children spent all day gathering firewood, happily, and kept track of a toddler in their midst is amazing. I'm glad Astrid Lindgren included this activity and mention of how important the children's work was to the village.

I also enjoy Ilon Wikland's depiction of their work, like the sealing wax and gingerbread cookies. The children have messes everywhere, yet it's cute and authentic to the work that children do.

My older kids always giggle about the Christmas Eve rhyming (maybe we should try that this year), especially when Karl declares Bill's silly rhyme to be "the worst rhyme I've ever heard".

By the time you get to dinner, you'll be wishing you could step back in time for a few minutes with Lisa's family at Christmastime...or maybe that's just me.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Jan Brett's beautiful treasury

I discovered this little jewel compilation of Jan Brett's Christmas (or winter, really) works while on a trip to NYC a few years ago. I knew that my little Christmas baby would need this treasury so I lugged all 10 lbs of it on the plane home. Fortunately he loves it as much as I do, well actually, all the family does.

I love how the Christmas stories that Jan Brett tells are atypical from the standard Christmas tales. Between the trolls and the ornery reindeer, it's definitely not Norman Rockwell-esque story-telling. But there's a sweetness in each narration and a happy ending for all so it's nice to have a book of alternative stories.

Interestingly, Finn's favorite stories in the book are The Mitten and The Hat, both of which we had separately before this treasury. I also like that these books are included in the treasury despite the fact that neither is truly a Christmas book, more like a winter tale.

And of course, Jan Brett's illustrations are marvelous. The kids love how much there is to see in every picture. The left side bar reflection from the previous page and right side bar peek into the next page are particularly loved.

One thing that my kids find particularly delightful about Jan Brett's stories is the hedgehog that appears in so many of her illustrations, if not the stories themselves. Paulie has turned the whole family hedgehog-crazed so they squeal with delight upon finding an extraneous hedgie.

And it doesn't hurt that Jan Brett draws them so adorably!

Finn especially gets a kick out of the final page of The Hat when all the animals scatter wearing the little girls woolens. He often will pick up any woolens he finds laying around our living room and wear them on his head to join in the game!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Room for a Little One

Our seasonal book basket has been reloaded with holiday books and we've been spending some time reading them nearly every day. One in particular that Finn seems to gravitate toward is Room for a Little One. Room for a Little One is a sweet re-telling of the nativity story from the perspective of the barn animals.

The text is so simple and flows so quietly that it's easy for little ones to be satisfied with the pace and understanding of the story.

Jason Cockcroft's illustrations are simply stunning, full of light and peace. They have such a beautiful ethereal quality while remaining realistic and life-like.

In the end, you'll feel like you're peering in on the story, watching the animals welcome the Christ-child to earth.

*Don't forget to check the giveaway to see if you won!*

Thursday, December 2, 2010

a tomten double giveaway!

A long-loved tale in our home, The Tomten is such a rich story of the quiet of a winter night and the tomten who trails through the farm aiding and comforting all the animals and children therein.

I've written of this book before, on my other blog, but when a gently used copy appeared at our favorite local bookstore, I couldn't resist bring it home as well.

My inability to resist this gentle, comforting winter tale is your gain as I am offering it, as well as a little wooden tomten to match, in a double giveaway!

After all, "winters come and winters go" but generosity lasts forever and is what this season is truly about. I hope there is a little one in your life who needs a tomten story!

Enter here by leaving a comment. Double your chances of winning both the book and the wooden tomten by leaving another comment on An Art Family tomten giveaway! Become a new follower of either An Art Family or The Book Children for an additional entry. The winner of both items will be drawn next Thursday, 12/9, at 9 am EST.

The winner of the wooden tomten and The Tomten book is Carolyn!
Carolyn said...

I just became a follower. Would love this for my grandson, Arlo.

Carolyn, please contact me at joy[at]anartfamily[dot]com with your information so I can get the tomten items to you right away! Thanks everyone for participating!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Cranberry Thanksgiving

A Thanksgiving tale set in brisk and chilly New England, Cranberry Thanksgiving is a sweet story of kindness, generosity and judgment of others. The first of the Cranberry series, Cranberry Thanksgiving is widely recognized as the most popular.

Grandmother and Maggie each invite a Thanksgiving guest every year, and this year Mr. Whiskers makes the guest list, much to Grandmother's chagrin. When Grandmother's famous cranberry bread recipe disappears, she's suspicious of the unkept Mr. Whiskers who smells of clams and seaweed.

With adorable 1970s illustrations reminiscent of the Rankin/Bass holiday specials of the 60s and 70s, Cranberry Thanksgiving is sure to stir a bit of nostalgia back into your Thanksgiving celebration.

Cranberry Thanksgiving ends with a lesson for everyone and a copy of Grandmother's famous recipe!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

When Elizabeth was in the first grade, she came home one afternoon talking incessantly about Edward Tulane. I listened with one ear as she regaled me with storied of Edward's various adventures, leaving out connecting details, as first graders often do. When the book fair came to Elizabeth's school and they offered this hardback copy at a reasonable price, Elizabeth begged and begged me to buy it to read it again to her. I relented...and a love affair began.

The following autumn I picked up The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane to read aloud to the kids. (Philip had just started kindergarten at the time, and I probably would have waited if I had read the book myself before I read it to the kids. He's a sensitive one, although ultimately, he handled this book very well and eagerly awaited each chapter.) I was no stranger to Kate DiCamillo, having read Because of Winn Dixie, but I was completely captivated by the language of Edward Tulane. His personality was so intricately developed that although his thoughts were arrogant and vain, you loved him in spite of his flaws as his spirit is continually broken during his despairing journey.

He travels from Abilene, who truly loves and cherishes Edward, to the bottom of the ocean floor, to the fisherman's wife, to the transient, to sickly, poor little girl, to the doll shop. Along his miraculous journey, he learns about life, and the various lessons that each owner teaches his eventually melts his frozen heart.

The ending is too precious and moving to give away here, but you'll be hard pressed to make it through the coda without a tear in your eye. The illustrations of Bagram Ibatoulline really lend an air of soft sensitivity to the story. He has a way of making a cold-hearted china rabbit look scared and distraught that really confers an emotional edge to the writing. I have to say that along with Inga Moore, he's one of my favorite illustrators of children's literature.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Pumpkin Moonshine

The first time I heard the title of this book, I remember thinking, "was there really a vintage children's book about making moonshine?!" (I guess I'm a true Southerner!) Fortunately, I'm here to tell you that Pumpkin Moonshine is actually a very sweet story and not at all about making moonshine. (Well, at least not the illegal alcoholic kind.) This book, written in 1938, is about making what we commonly call a jack-o-lantern.

Sylvie Ann learns about making pumpkin moonshines from her grandparents and it's on their farm that she sets off on an adventure to find the perfect pumpkin from which to make her moonshine.

Adventure and havoc ensue, of course, on her way from the pumpkin field back to her grandparents' house.

The illustrations, like all of Tasha Tudor's picture books, are simply sweet and full of the gentle breath of nature. From the animals to the pumpkin fields, the watercolors are comforting, and guaranteed to make you feel the of nostalgic pull of your own pumpkin moonshine-creating childhood.

Be sure to head over to the giveaway on An Art Family!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Findus & Pettson

When I first heard of the Pettson and Findus series of books, I was drawn to them because the Findus sort of reminded me of my own Finn. Once I found out the books are Swedish, I was completely sold as some of our very favorite children's books come from Swedish authors. We currently own 2 of the Pettson and Findus books (although a little birdy told me Finn might receive a few more for Christmas), and they are some of our favorite picture books.

When Findus Was Little and Disappeared is actually one of the later titles in the series, but it's a favorite as it features Findus as a tiny little kitten and explains the story of his coming to live with Pettson and being named Findus. Of course, in typical Findus and Pettson fashion, there are many hijinks along the way, and the tiny creatures who also live in Pettson's house, and often mischievously move his belongings, are introduced.

Pettson treat Findus like a child, makes britches for him and they spend most of their time doing mundane things like crossword puzzles, making meals, and feeding the chickens. Nordqvist's illustrations add another layer to each story with little side details learned through the studying the pictures.

In Pancakes for Findus, Pettson's neighbors think he's a bit odd to celebrate Findus's birthday multiple times a year and to make pancakes using rather unorthodox ingredients.

Pettson and Findus have a blended relationship that's part parent-child and part grumpy co-habitors which makes for humorous and delightfully silly interaction. All's well that end's well when Pettson and Findus finally enjoy their pancakes in the garden by the gramophone.

I have to say that these picture books are some of my favorites to read aloud, and fortunately, Finn loves them too. We will definitely have fun building on this collection.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Tyger Tyger, burning bright

This is such an odd little poetry book that I'm not sure how to begin describing it, but since each of our kids could quote the first verse of The Tyger before they were out of diapers, I couldn't avoid it's inclusion here at The Book Children. A Visit to William Blake's Inn is a Newberry Medal-winning, Caldecott honor book that I just stumbled upon at our favorite used bookstore. (Don't you just love happenstance that provides little gems like that?) With Chagall (notice flying animals) meets Rousseau meets Russian Orthodox art/architecture, the illustrations lend a vintage feel, however you shouldn't assume that all is as it seems. Much like the myriad of interesting characters hosted at Blake's Inn, the illustration and verse will lead you on an imaginative journey not unlike Blake's own writing.

The older kids especially think the mirror of Blake's Tyger poem is particularly hilarious, and this book was probably worth the $2 price tag just for that snippet.

Although this is clearly a children's book, I really think that any collector of poetry or Blake admirer would find it enthralling. A Visit to William Blake's Inn definitely stands as a poetry book in it's own right.