Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Curious Cow

Many, many years ago, I began recalling a foggy memory of a book that I had as a child. I had vague recollection of a cow who kept getting into trouble, particularly when the cow went into the house startled the farmer's wife. The cow's name was at the tip of my brain but slightly repressed and I thought the farmer's name was Brown (which was wrong, it's actually Green). About 6 months ago, I finally remembered that the cow's name was Katy, which is a different enough spelling that the google search engine provided me with a book name: The Curious Cow.

The book was originally published in 1960 with the last publication in 1977 so it's clearly been out of print for many years, hence my trouble in locating a copy. I finally did locate a reasonably good copy in hardback, the kind used in school libraries. What a fascinating discovery, when the book finally arrived, to see that the first library date was from February, 1962.

A few of the pages feel a little fragile near the binding, but otherwise the book is in very good shape. It's also fascinating to me to hear the language describing Katy as a "good cow" or a "bad cow" when that kind of labeling is so foreign in modern children's picture books.

My favorite part of rediscovering this treasure from my childhood was the illustrations. I love the rough sketching and the bright swaths of color.

I love how expressive Katy's eyes are despite the rough sketching.

And I especially love seeing the eggs fall to the floor, Katy walking down the plank of wood, and Katy swimming in the hole, all parts of the story I vividly remember being captivated by as a child.

That's all. I'm not particularly recommending this book, although it's certainly worth the read if you ever stumble across it. This blog just wouldn't be a very good reflection of my opinion and taste in children's books without a mention of the book I spent so much of my childhood loving and so much of my adulthood searching for.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Little Blue Truck

Finn's most recent favorite, received for Christmas, is Little Blue Truck, about a sweet little farm truck named Blue. Blue has many little animal friends that help him along the way and an older big dump truck friend named Dump.

The lyrical verse and prevalence of onomatopoeias makes this book a fun read for the toddler and preschool set.

The illustrations are very sweet, with the right mixture of silliness and warmth. I especially like the splatter on the mud page, which looks so realistic, like most of the mud-splattered trucks in my own yard.

With a charming little moral message about friendship and kindness, the book is well-rounded and perfect tale for little ones.

You'll be cheering along with Blue and his little animal friends, especially the strong toad, when they ride away, covered in mud and hearts full of friendship.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Tomtes of Hilltop Wood

We received The Tomtes of Hilltop Wood as a gift several months ago, and it quickly became one of Finn's favorite books. We always enjoy looking for tomte and gnome houses in the woods and Finn was so delighted to see the tomtes appear from the Hilltop Wood.

The children in the story learn that the workmen plan to put a road through Hilltop Wood and rush to tell the tomtes right away.

The children and tomtes work long and hard to thwart the road-building. Finn loved seeing how they would run the creek a different way, making the bridge useless or how they moved the protected bats to a different barn which stood in the workmen's way.

When winter comes and the children leave milk out for the tomte, Finn gets excited that it's "just like The Tomten".

The beautiful illustrations really capture the woods and the changing seasons beautifully. My favorite illustration is the little lighted window in the snow which captures the perfect amount of magic and imagination in the chilly wintertime scene.

Monday, January 10, 2011

then...one snowflake

Much like our day, the beginning of Snow centers around one snowflake (and a little boy's faith in snow). I really love the simplicity of the text in this little jewel of a winter book and the gorgeous illustrations certainly enhance the magic and beauty of the story.

My kids really enjoy the descriptions of the characters, like man with hat, boy with dog and woman with umbrella. (They also get a little tripped out by the wandering Mother Goose characters, which is a little random, in my opinion.)

I love the soft watercolor and ink look of the illustrations and the exaggerated features of the characters. The dreary gray really accentuates the solitary flakes in a wonderful way considering the text of the story.

At the end when the sky is finally a brighter blue, emphasizing the white piles of snow coating the world, you really get the sense that the boy's magic and happiness has coated the world as well.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Mary Poppins

Elizabeth and I read Mary Poppins together a few months ago and I'm not sure why it's taken me so long to post it here. I hadn't read the book before although the movie was a childhood favorite. Elizabeth has also seen the movie many times so it was fun to discover the book together.

About 2 chapters in, Elizabeth told me that she didn't really want to read the book because "the book Mary Poppins is mean." I have to say that I kind of agreed with her. Not to mention she was a bit confused that the musical completely excluded the twin baby siblings of Jane and Michael. I think Disney (for all their failures..ahem..Little Mermaid) did a good thing by softening the personality of Mary Poppins for the musical. Mary Poppins, of the musical, was the adult caretaker of my childhood dreams, whereas the P.L. Travers-created character was coarse, gruff and not particularly nice, really. Ultimately, Elizabeth and I are both glad that we stuck through the book for a few reasons.

We were both fascinated to hear the specific stories that meant the most to us (the arrival of Mary Poppins for me, and the bird lady for Elizabeth) through the lens of the book, with Mary's true personality intact.

We also found a great many stories of Mary's time with the Banks' children, that were missing from the musical version, to be fun and engaging, like the late night visit to the zoo. Interestingly, despite the harsher character of Mary Poppins in the book, when I asked Elizabeth if she preferred the book to the movie, she chose the book because of the extra stories like the zoo and the laughing gas which were excluded from the movie.