Thursday, March 31, 2011

Over In The Meadow

"Over in the meadow in the sand and the sun lived an old mother turtle and her little turtle one..."

How many of us remember this rhyme or song from our childhood? I couldn't have been more excited to find that Ezra Jack Keats illustrated a book version several years ago.

All of the classic animals are there in vibrant paintings with soft ethereal surroundings counting and buzzing as rhythmically as ever before.

Even the ratties which were my personal favorite as a child.

Even though Keats is most commonly known for his classics, The Snowy Day and Whistle for Willie, I really think that he had a special talent for painting animals and nature. His illustrations for Over In The Meadow seem to be a more sophisticated style of painting than his earlier picture books, and his contrast of colors and clean lines make this book appealing and distinctive.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Where Do They Go When It Rains?

One of my favorite spring books to return to the seasonal book basket last week was Where Do They Go When It Rains? Aside from the crazy acquisition of the book and the endearing adventure we had last spring based on it's contents, this story is so charming and gentle that my littlest one heads for it again and again.

From the sweet illustrations Gerda Muller never fails to deliver, to the irresistible frolicking of the children throughout the farm, to the authentic glimpses into the animals, bugs and other farm happenings, you'll wish you had a grandmother with a farm to visit!

Finn's favorite, of course, are the pigs rolling in their mud. Now he's asking to visit a pig farm. :) Surely there must be one near us...we'll have to check into that!

At the end of an action-packed day full of farm fun and roaring thunderstorm, a beautiful rainbow appears in the clearing sky. An invitation to return to this sweet farm soon.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Sun Seed

I remember when I first stumbled across The Sun Seed. I had only been needlefelting for a brief period and the pictures, entirely needlefelted, were amazingly gorgeous and detailed. Such an inspiring glimpse into the possibilities of needlefelting!

The story is as beautiful as the pictures...the essence of spring. The wool is able to imitate roots in a wonderful wispy way, and the little shoots look so fragile and tender under the soil blanket.

I love how each page not only has the center story of the seed, but a trail of spring animals around the edges of each page.

The end of the story, when the bees are visiting the flower, is my favorite part. The soft ethereal quality of the felting makes you feel like you're looking through a sunny haze at the summery scene.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Pot O' Gold

In preparation for St. Patrick's Day, we've been reading some of our favorite Irish tales. A Pot O' Gold is one of our favorites and has been getting frequent use over the last week.

I stumbled across this volume at our local used bookstore, and it really has a great variety. The kids love the Finn McCool stories, and the various stories of saints, leprechauns, fairies, with limericks, poetry and Irish blarney thrown in for good measure, have all been well received.

They even included a recipe for Irish Soda Bread which I think we'll be making for St. Patty's day tomorrow.

David McPhail does a great job with the illustrations. They feel genuinely Irish and very authentic to the purpose of the book. His borders to various pages are intriguing and captivating as well.

Have a happy St. Patrick's Day and don't forget to read something green!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Two Cars

Did you think that the d'Aulaires only wrote books about Greek myths (or Norse myths and animals)? I did. That is until I saw The Two Cars. As it turns out, the d'Aulaires were quite prolific authors, but it wasn't until one of my frequent searches for new car books for Finn that I realized just how many books they authored.

The Two Cars, written in 1955, imitates many books of it's time by having a two-fold page of color followed by a spread of black and white pages. A cost saving measure of it's time, I love seeing the unique character brought by the contrasting images. This book in particular has adorable illustrations, just as cute in black and white as color. The cars have such personality in their gentle illustration.

One car is an old trusty engine. The other and new speedy model. They race around the town and back to the garage and find a few bumps along the road.

A vehicular version of the tortoise and the hare, no doubt, but I found it odd that this story ends by the older, law-abiding, steady car being pulled over by the police car in the end to be commended for his "safe and beautiful driving." Not quite the ending I was expecting, but I guess it's better to be recognized for a contribution to society than win a race against a loose-cannon young, hip car. I assume that's the moral they're going for anyway.

Either way it's a pretty cute book and one of Finn's go-to bedtime stories.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Thornton Burgess treasures

If you were to ask my mother what books stand out most from her childhood, I'm willing to bet that she would start regaling you with stories of Thornton Burgess' Old Mother West Wind and her many animal friends. Her father used to read the stories to her as a young child, many of them published when he was a young child, and they clearly held a special place in her childhood. I'm not sure how then it came to be that I remember no Thornton Burgess books from my own childhood. Nevertheless, the tales of my grandfather reading these stories and my mother loving them stuck with me and about the time my first child was born, I decided to scour ebay and find a few copies of Thornton Burgess books for my own library.

Of course, what I ended up with, since I found them on ebay, were books a little too old and fragile for a small child to handle, and since I read the books on my own, and loved them, I decided to find a more user-friendly copy for my children to handle. Lo and behold, now you can buy this little tidy set of Old Mother West Wind and 6 Other Stories for a song in a slim, reprinted set.

I began reading them to my older children several years ago, and of course they adored each story, each character, each insight into the animal world, each sly trick the animals would play on each other. What depth, charisma and sweetness Burgess gave to these adorable, intriguing characters with names like Johnny Chuck, Bobby Coon, and Red Fox.

Now that Finn has started enjoying just listening to books that don't always have pictures, I've started reading the books aloud to him at naptimes. He's always full of questions about why the animals act a certain way or how the Merry Little Breezes pull Johnny Chuck's whiskers. I'm so glad he enjoys them. Maybe one day he'll even tell his own children how much he enjoyed reading Thornton Burgess curled up next to his mama at naptime. That's a nice full circle to envision.