Monday, September 27, 2010

Hoglet the Spineless Hedgehog

I have a special guest reviewer for me today for Hoglet the Spineless Hedgehog, my oldest stepson, Paulie. The occasion that Hoglet came to join us was quite harrowing, and you can read about it here. As such, we've enjoyed his sweet presence in our home even more.

Summary: This book is about a spineless hedgehog named Hoglet. Hoglet will have to endure many things, such as starvation, frostbite, cats and owls. It will be especially hard for Hoglet because he is particularly small and, of course, has no spines. He has no clue what the future holds for him.

What I think: I thought this book was very entertaining. It was funny at first because he was very small and had no spines. But I soon became sorry for Hoglet because he didn't get a proper name. It was also suspenseful. For instance, when Hoglet was being carried off by the own, I thought he was a goner, but he wriggled free from the owl's talons. Sometimes it became scary, and I had to stop myself from leaning too close to the book. I was very happy when he got to Second Chance House and got his new name, Handsome!! I loved the story and wish there was a sequel.

Thank you, Paulie, for such a sweet review of a lovely, heartwarming tale. I'm sure Paulie's love of hedgehogs didn't color his review at all. ;)

We really did thoroughly enjoy this tale. As Paulie mentioned, there were a few tense scenes and even some sad parts, but his struggles proved to make the ending all the more satisfying. We are definitely looking forward to more of Allyson Marnoch's books!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

apples in autumn

With the advent of autumn, we've been eagerly pulling out our favorite autumn books, and it's been especially fun to pour over our books on apples since our apple-picking excursion a few weeks ago. One of our favorite apple books is this photographic odyssey by Ken Robbins.

I really love how he illustrates his text with so many unique photographs. The colorful bee hives are one example. The orchard we visited kept bees as well, although their homes weren't quite as vibrant. :)

Apples contains many pictures of apple picking and the many varieties of apples with a bit of explanation about the planting and pruning.

But you'll also find unique artifacts like this shot of a hundred year old apple press used for making cider. Everytime I see this, I wonder if my great-grandfather (who farmed apples a little bit west of here, in the mountains of NC) used a press like this when he made cider. I should remember to ask my grandmother!

And the applesauce! One of our more popular autumn pastimes; the reason for all the freezer bags full of apples we stored away for winter. I also love their orange pot! See, it's a great book for mamas and little ones to drool over together.

Are you including some apple activities in your autumn?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Happy Autumn!

Autumn was the first Gerda Muller book that made it's way into our collection when Finn was about 1 1/2 years old. At the time, he was content to sit with it for about 10 seconds before wandering off to find a car...but that was the case for most books at that age. As the season progressed and he moved toward his second birthday, I found myself referring to this wordless picture book when we engaged in a particularly autumnal task, and as a result, he began sitting with it on his own for longer periods of time.

Now Autumn is an eagerly anticipated join to move to the seasonal book basket we keep in our living room, and the rest of Gerda Muller's seasonal books have joined us as well. Her illustrations are simply darling and so handily capture the magic of each season from a young child's perspective.

I think Finn may have even learned a trick or two about enjoying each season's nature from these books. I remember him asking me last year if we could throw some leaves. :)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Little House on the Prairie

What is the first thought that enters your head when you hear the words, "Little House on the Prairie"? I can scarcely ever hear those words without the theme song from the tv show entering my head. I know that not much can be written about Little House that hasn't been written before, but my kids are very much in a Little House phase right now, so here we are.

This evening during our family reading time, we will finish On The Banks of Plum Creek. We have been wading through the Little House series for more than a year now, with breaks between each book to bounce around to other literature. Last night, when I asked the kids what they would like to read next, all 3 of the older kids immediately replied, "the next Little House book."

And so I wondered, what is it about these books that remains timeless and appealing to my 21st century family. Even though we choose to live more simply than many folks in this day and age, we are a far cry from uprooting our family to travel via horse-drawn wagon across the countryside, living in a wagon until a new house can be built, and foraging/planting/hunting all of our own foods. Is it the real-life adventures by children so similar to them, yet so foreign in experiences? Is it the unflagging earnestness with which the Ingalls faced each hardship? Is it the secret naughtiness that Laura sometimes wishes she could express that they can identify with?

What do you think? What in this series still holds appeal for you and your children?

As a side note, the My First Little House books are a wonderful introduction to the magic of the Ingalls family for young children. We've purchased several used and they are all thoroughly enjoyed.

The illustrations are very true to the original style of Garth Williams' illustrations which lends a level of authenticity to the picture books that might be otherwise lacking.

Even though we buy these with Finn in mind, I often catch the older kids reading them and pouring over the illustrations. I think they wish they could visit this unusually magical, yet sometimes stark and frightening, place in time.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Shakespeare...comic book style?

Shakespeare doesn't strike me as the type of stuff you read via comic strip, but I'm willing to give it a fair shake if my kids become interested in Shakespeare as a result. So when I saw this book on the shelf at our favorite local used bookstore, I was intrigued to put it mildly. Elizabeth, who attends an art school which instills a love of Shakespeare at an early age anyway, practically squealed when I handed it to her.

Marcia Williams apparently has quite the repertoire of comic book style illustrated classics, which I discovered after googling this book. What a fun introduction to the classics for the millennial generation, raised on Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Ugly Doll comics. With quotes from the plays and her own narration at the bottom of the pictures, Williams does a great job bringing the text to elementary level without making the style seem compromised.

I really love the illustration of Macbeth. The darker haze as a backdrop to each illustration really lends the perfect mood.

Elizabeth was particularly excited that A Midsummer Night's Dream was included since next year as a fifth grader she'll be performing this play with her class at school. Because each section of the comic strip is made to look like the staged play, I think it really gives them a good feel for watching the play performed, but in a kid-friendly manner.

Are any classics popular in your house right now?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

adventures of Harry

After seeing this Harry the Dirty Dog Treasury on another blog, and feeling only a wee bit jealous since I never even knew such a treasury existed, I managed to stumble on a copy while thrifting over the weekend. Woohoo, 3 Harry books in 1 hard-backed volume for $4!

First in the volume, of course, is Harry the Dirty Dog, complete with his messy, sooty, muddy puppy friends and lots of construction vehicles. Needless to say, Finn loves this book and meticulously combs over every illustration.

We hadn't read No Roses for Harry before, so it was a nice treat to have a new book in the mix. Harry is gifted with a rose-covered sweater which is not quite his style. When a bird unravels his sweater and flies off with the long strand of wool yarn, Harry is thrilled.

You'll love seeing where the wool ended up and there's a happy surprise in store for Harry at the end. A win-win situation mixed with adventure, the makings of a wonderful tale.

This summer before our beach trip, I looked high and low at all my thrifting haunts hoping to snag a copy of Harry By The Sea. Alas, Harry and his sea-going adventures evaded me but now we have a copy for next time! I remember reading this to Elizabeth ages ago and loving the part where Harry is covered in seaweed and everyone thinks he's a sea monster. That's first rate preschool-age humor right there!

Of course, he manages to escape the seaweed in the end and enjoy the rest of his adventure at the beach. The mid-sixties beachside hot dog stand is adorable, as are the rest of the drawings in their tri-tone illustration. A sweet puppy of a find, for sure!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


After our walk through the woods the other weekend, I began searching in earnest for a preschool/early school age book on mushrooms. I didn't have much luck at my local library, but I did find Good Mushrooms and Bad Toadstools used on Amazon for $1 plus shipping. We're already enjoying flipping through the pictures and simple text.

This book depicts everything from colorful, unique mushrooms, to ordinary forest and field mushrooms.

A few photographs even show the various parts of the mushroom including the root system, the gills, the stems, and of course, the beautiful caps!

Here the field mushrooms are shown, but you can also see farmed mushrooms, morels and underground truffles. I'd love to meet the person who originally thought truffles might taste nice. They look almost like clumps of mud or *ahem* animal droppings.

Although I definitely don't want my kids to immediately head out to picking backyard mushrooms to eat, I think the ending is a bit flimsy by saying that you should only pick mushrooms out of the grocery store or off your pizza. I might have ended a little cleaner by recommending to only pick eating mushrooms when with a knowledgeable mushroom-picker. :)

Either way, the rest of the book makes up for the ending, and I'm definitely glad we added this little gem to our collection. We plan to take it with us on our next walk through the woods!