Saturday, July 31, 2010

pig week: partying pig with a pancake

Sure, Laura Numeroff is more famous for a cookie-eating mouse, but everyone knows that the pig's where it's at. If You Give a Pig a Pancake and If You Give a Pig a Party were more popular with Elizabeth, although the boys seem to enjoy them all the same. It probably had something to do with the CD version we own, with David Hyde Pierce narrating, which has the fabulous "Piggie Polka" song at the end.

How could you not love a sweet little piggie sitting in the window sill eating her piping hot pancake?

The illustrations are simple and the story so charming in celebrating the small joys of life through a cyclical narrative.

And the party book, well, the pig has friends! Who wrap their fur turban-style! I remember Elizabeth being so amused by this when she was about 4.

The fort-building page made a huge impression on Elizabeth from the first time she saw it. She studied and thought hard about every angle of the fort. To this day, she builds more forts than our other 3 kids combined. I credit it mostly to the piggie.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

pig week: Mercy Watson

Next up on pig week is a buttered-toast-loving porcine wonder named Mercy Watson. Written by Kate DiCamillo, the author of Because of Winn Dixie and The Tale of Despereaux, the story has quite a but more substance than most other books in the simple chapter book/early reader categories. (I'm a huge DiCamillo fan though so I'm not sure she's capable of writing something I wouldn't love. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane is my personal favorite; read with lots of tissues.)

DiCamillo's style is certainly less apparent in these simple reads, but you'd be hard pressed not to love Mercy and her doting "parents." The chapters are simple enough for readers who are starting down the path of Junie B Jones and Magic Tree House and it's nice to have some variety there. We only own 2 of the 6 volumes that make up this series, but they've all been checked out at the library, and enjoyed, at some point.

I can't say that the illustration is my favorite. The cartoonishness of Mercy and her owners are a bit much for me asthetically, but they lend a certain charm to the story.

The first book, Mercy Watson to the Rescue, comes complete with beds crashing through the ceiling, a chase scene with the antagonist neighbor, the fire department to the rescue and lots of hot, buttered toast. What more could you want?

You'll be licking your chops and rooting for Mercy when she finally gets her hot, buttered toast.

Stay tuned for a few more swine tales to come. Who is your favorite literary piggie?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

pig week: Olivia

You knew pig week wouldn't be complete without the amazing Olivia, so here she is! Olivia has become quite the phenomenon now complete with her own website, tv show, and merchandizing. But before she was all that, she was just a black and white pig, in fabulous red clothes, with a little bit of attitude and a whole lot of heart.

I first met Olivia on a shelf at a local seaside bookshop while on vacation with Elizabeth when she was only 8 months old. Still not quite identifying with her preschool impishness, I only had an infant myself, I was nonetheless completely drawn in by the amazing illustration of Ian Falconer.

With his mix of charcoal and simple color, usually red, and occasional splashes of photograph, like the Jackson Pollack painting in the first Olivia or the fireworks in Olivia Forms A Band, Falconer breathed new life into the picture book genre earning a Caldecott Honor for his first work.

Olivia quickly became one of Elizabeth's favorite books, a constant on her bedside book pile and she eagerly collected each new Olivia book as they were published. Of course, along the way, Philip became equally immersed, and most recently Finn has been seen with the entire pile of books in his bed.

Because what little one wouldn't identify with all of Olivia's everyday adventures, including wearing herself out.

When pressed to identify her favorite, Elizabeth hesitated before saying that she loves all the circus acts that Olivia performs in Olivia Saves the Circus.

Stay tuned for more swine here during pig week...

Monday, July 26, 2010

pig week: Toot & Puddle

A chance stumble upon the 10th Anniversary edition of Holly Hobbie's Toot & Puddle won Finn's heart in the biggest way. He has since acquired a few more Toot & Puddle books and borrowed a few from the library (and he *might* even have a few coming for Christmas) but his favorite, by far, is the one that started it all...

Watching Toot travel through so many foreign lands on so many adventures, he is mesmerized by "what Toot's doing now" and "where is Toot?"

And then there are Puddle's adventures, less glamorous but sweetly familiar.

The illustrations are gentle but charmingly silly, unlike so many children's books today that really can put you into sensory overload.

And Finn loves to hear, over and over, the funny postcard messages that Toot sends from his travels:

I also really appreciate how the adventures Puddle enjoys back in Woodcock Pocket travel through each month, generally sticking to nature appreciation. Isn't Puddle jumping into the pond the sweetest picture?

Join us for the rest of the week and meet a few more amazing porcine picture books.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

spreadin' the Bobbsey love (through a giveaway!)

I've mentioned a few times in the past (including the intro to this blog!) of my childhood love of the Bobbsey Twins. Through an unfortunate circumstance, I lost all of my childhood volumes that I spent many Christmases and birthdays collecting. Since then, I've always checked used bookstores and thrift shops hoping to catch someone offloading a Bobbsey Twin book or two but have been mostly unsuccessful. Even on eBay, most of the auctions I've seen would cost upwards to $200 to replace my entire collection.

Recently however, my luck in finding Bobbsey Twins books turned around in a big way. I found someone's old collection of about 20 Bobbsey Twins books at one of my favorite local used bookstores and within days found an auction on eBay that also had 20 books that were selling Buy It Now at less than $2/book. I now have something close to two-thirds of my original collection for less than $60. Of course, I realized that I would end up with a couple of duplicates. My duplicates are your gain! I'm offering a double giveaway of the following Bobbsey Twins books: The Bobbsey Twins' Adventure in Washington and The Bobbsey Twins The Secret At The Seashore.

The Secret At The Seashore is #3 in the series, although the books in this series can be read independently without needing context from previous books. Each chapter has a sketch of a main event. I can remember as a child how the pictures of the stories in my head were shaped by these sketches.

And in typical Bobbsey fashion, each book begins with the same description of the twins. Tall, slender dark-haired Bert and Nan and short, chubby blond Freddie and Flossie.

Adventure in Washington is #12. I remember feeling so much more informed about Washington, it's city, monuments, government buildings and even the political process after reading this book. What a joy it is to take the trip back to my childhood each time I read these. My own kids have really enjoyed them too. They were almost as excited as I was with our recent acquisition of so many volumes!

This giveaway will run from now through Friday at noon. At that time, I will draw 2 numbers to each win a book. To enter, simply leave me a comment (if you want to tell me about your favorite childhood book, that would be special too). To double your chances, become a follower of The Book Children (or be a current follower) and let me know in the comments. To gain another entry, blog about this giveaway and leave me a link in the comments. I'd love for another Bobbsey-lover to be born through this giveaway! :)

The winners are Bending Birches and Janice! Congrats. Email me with your address and I'll mail these out right away!

Monday, July 19, 2010

flower fairies

If you've never had the pleasure of reading one of Cicely Mary Barker's fairy books, you need to head straight to the library pronto and resolve that little problem. ;) We, and by we I mean mostly Elizabeth, are huge fans of her work here. Her drawings are so beautiful and ethereal you'll want to head straight into your flower beds to start searching your buds for their fairy inhabitants.

The verses she writes to accompany each fairy are simple and quite amazing. The poetry in Flower Fairies of the Summer is particularly enjoyable. She really seems to capture the magic of summer and the nature which lies therein.

I think her depictions of children in many of her fairy drawings invite children to identify with them more. And her anatomically correct flowers are a fascination to observe in such a magical setting.

This book and many of Barker's others have truly inspired Elizabeth's imagination, as I'm sure they do for many children.

Psst...come back tomorrow and you'll likely find another giveaway!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

first art books

I discovered one of these at a high end children's shop and one at a thrift shop when Finn was very small and they quickly became two of his favorite board books. With such vibrant color and varied art, they captured his attention and even occasionally now he'll flip through one and want to talk about the images he sees.

Part of the Mini Masters board book series, A Magical Day with Matisse features such lovely, vibrant color overflowing even beyond the magical paintings of Matisse.

Loosely describing the scene, lyrical text accompanies the paintings, although sometimes we would just talk about the items in the room, for example, instead of reading it like a book.

Elizabeth has held immense love for Van Gogh since she was about 3 so it was natural that she would want to share In The Garden With Van Gogh with her brother.

Even now as Finn is moving beyond the board book phase, we enjoy counting the irises and grouping them by color. Endless possibilities!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

I *heart* Tasha Tudor

I *heart* Tasha Tudor. I love her for many reasons. I love her for 1 is One, I love her for the Corgiville books and I especially love her for Pumpkin Moonshine. Most of all, though, I love her amazing illustrations set to Scripture. And It Was So is the latest in our collection of these beautiful books and the luminous illustrations I've come to adore and expect in her work are abundant.

She takes some of the more simple verses from the Bible and brings new relevance for children with her simple watercolors and charcoal drawings that speak to children where they are.

This book, like many of her others, alternates between colored pictures and simple charcoal drawings, and covers verses from creation through the life of Jesus.

Her dream-like quality of illustration really enhances the spiritual meaning in the verses while bringing pictures of children doing what they do best, such as the below photo of a child playing with the ducks in a puddle: God prepares rain for the earth. All children identify with the rain God prepares when they are placed in the middle of an activity they've surely participated in.

We have others of Tasha Tudor's books illustrating Scripture as well, and I may blog about them at some point, but this book with it's broad coverage is truly a treasure to behold.

Monday, July 12, 2010

a hidden beauty

It seems appropriate to share this book this week since it was acquired this same week last year and has become a favorite in our summer book basket. What's Hiding in There? is the latest in a line of beautifully illustrated, magical books from Daniela Drescher. With just a bit of simple text and lift-the-flap fun, Finn was entranced from the minute I bought this book last year.

In the land of elves and fairies, you can find hidden wildlife, sweet fruits and other fairy folk around every corner, or behind every flap.

The animals are beautifully rendered and the landscapes full of light. And the flowers look like you could smell them right through the page.

As the night falls, you'll find yourself flipping back to the beginning to explore the forest anew.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Wily Woodchucks

A few months ago while visiting the Strand, I stumbled on this little jewel of a summer book by Georgia Travers. The Wily Woodchucks follows the Gág family's summer in New Jersey and their experience with the woodchucks that would pirate their vegetable garden. The Wily Woodchucks was illustrated by a younger member of the Gág family.

Georgia Travers was a childhood friend of Wanda Gág, who became a famous illustrator, printmaker and author, and wrote the biography for her friend. This book offers a charming, if rare, glimpse into Wanda Gág's childhood.

The simple, 1940s illustrations are a sweet addition to the funny and mischievous story of these two woodchucks who alternately plague and thrill the family who is trying to protect their garden while enjoying the presence of the delightful woodchucks.

I particularly enjoy the illustration of various organic tactics of keeping pests from the garden. What an impression it makes on kids who see the humane, non-chemical way to have their veggies and cute little woodchuck friends too.

Friday, July 9, 2010

undercover life of a housecat

Another guest blogger for today! Paulie, my 10 year old stepson, has graciously agreed to give you a review of Warriors Into The Wild. A view into the oftentimes ferocity of the natural world of cats, Warriors Into The Wild transports an ordinary housecat into a fantasy warrior world.

In this amazing book, Warriors into the Wild, an ordinary housecat runs out the back door and into the woods. In the woods, he meets four clans: Thunderclan, Shadowclan, Windclan and Riverclan. He is named Firepaw and taken as an apprentice in Thunderclan. He will be trained to be a warrior.
I would not recommend this book to kids under nine. It is sort of scary and can be really long. I would rate this book and series, out of 1-10, as a 9. If you pick up this awesome book, and you're over 9, then you won't be able to put it down!

Thanks Paulie for a great review of Warriors into the Wild.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Tail of Emily Windsnap

Today, I have a guest blogger to share a bit about The Tail of Emily Windsnap. Elizabeth is my 9 year old daughter and a lover of fairy tales and magical stories. She discovered Emily Windsnap at a local bookstore and fell in love with her so she wanted to share Emily's story with you.

Emily Windsnap is 12 years old. She never knew her secret until she saw it. Her mom had never let her in water before (except showers). One day she begged her mom so much to please be allowed to take swim lessons. On the first day, she jumped in the pool. Soon her legs stiffened like stone; she shrieked. The lifeguard dove in after her and pulled her out of the water. She told him what happened, and he said it was just a cramp.

That night, she couldn't get over it. Since they lived on a houseboat, she decided to try again in the ocean water. So she put on her swimsuit and dove into the ocean. The same thing happened. She tried to tell herself that it was another cramp. Then her legs disappeared, and in place of them was a long green and blue tail. She was very excited, and she quickly swam around a little bit. This discovery led to finding a friend just like her and finding her father who she had never met.

I really enjoyed The Tail of Emily Windsnap because it's a great book, full of adventure, great details and even some mystery. The Tail of Emily Windsnap also has two sequels which I'm reading now!

Thanks, Elizabeth, for writing a review of The Tail of Emily Windsnap!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Eastman classics

P.D. Eastman's classics, Go, Dog. Go! and Are You My Mother? have been staples at our house for a long time. Both have exquisite appeal for the preschool set and both have the perfect repetition that make them excellent beginning reader books. Of course, Finn is thrilled with any book containing cars, so Go, Dog. Go! was a favorite of his from the first time he saw the cover. I also remember Go, Dog. Go! being the first reading book longer than 6-8 pages that both Elizabeth and Philip read.

You can see some of the influences of Dr. Seuss's work in P.D. Eastman's illustrations. As an understudy to Dr. Seuss, P.D. Eastman's first books, including these, were released under Seuss's Beginner Books label.

Finn and Elizabeth both crack up when the little birdie starts calling the backhoe a "snort".

Dogs in cars...going away fast! One of Finn's favorite pages in Go, Dog. Go! Who wouldn't love the line-up of colorful dogs in fast cars?!

My own personal favorite: the hat doggy in the crazy party hat.

I can remember both of these books from my childhood, but especially Are You My Mother? I can remember the tension of the "snort" lifting the baby bird so far off the ground and wondering how the baby bird knew he even had a mother when he'd never met her. Now I know the answer to that wondering.