Saturday, January 25, 2014

Baby It's Cold Outside... Some Wintry Picture Books

It's been a little breezy here in Minnesota.
It's so cold that we have had three days of school canceled due to low temps and dangerous wind chills. It's good time to snuggle down, sip some hot chocolate, wrap yourself in wool, and read.

Here's a few books for the youngsters that I recommend that continue with this COLD wintry theme!

Cold Snap
by Eileen Spinelli
An adorable story about the people in Toby Mills who experience a cold snap. How will they manage? Cute, and fun (but really nothing compared to the temps here).

The majority of  wintry books are really more about snow than simply cold. These are some classics.

The Snowy Day
by Ezra Jack Keats
Caldecott Medal, 1963
This is a classic. Who isn't familiar with this book? Again, this is another book that reminds me of Captain Kangaroo. He read this one quite a bit. Ezra Jack Keats used collage as his medium for the illustrations, which are vibrant and vivid. This was a first for the time. It was also one of the first books which had the main character be a boy of color, and also one who lived in an urban setting. Keats captures the amazement and wonder of the first snowfall, and the joys had while playing outside.

Peter, the main character, is in seven more of Keats' books. The reader is able to follow him as he grows up.

The Big Snow
The Big Snow
by Berta and Elmer Hader
Caldecott Medal, 1949
This story follows many animals of the forest and meadows, and how they prepare for winter and the cold. It contains a lot of information, and is really more information than story. But there is much to learn and see! Little animals foraging food, storing away, building soft, snuggling places to sleep. The big snow in the end comes and the humans that live near the forest put out food for the animals to eat. The pictures are really beautiful.

by Uri Shulevitz
Caldecot Honor Medal, 1999
A young boy hopes for snow, and as one, then two snowflakes fall, all the adults poo poo the snowfall. The snow continues and the city, which is at first gray and gloomy, becomes vibrant with the new snow.

Katy and the Big Snow
by Virginia Lee Burton
Another classic. Many readers may only be familiar with Burton's story of Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel. Katy is a big red tractor, fitted with a plow blade. After a big storm, everything is snowed under until Katy can come and plow them all out.

katy and the big snow illustration

White Snow Bright Snow
White Snow Bright Snow
by Alvin Tresselt and illustrated by Roger Duvoisin
Caldecott Medal, 1948
Another oldie but goody where one snowflake soon leads to an entire blanketing of snow.
The illustrator, Roger Duvoisin, is also well known for his books starring Petunia the goose.

One my absolute favorite winter books is that of the
The Tomten
and the Tomten and the Fox
both by Astrid Lindgren with AMAZING illustrations by Harald Wiberg.
You can read a post I did all about these books here:
Winters Come and Winters Go...the Tomten

To continue in the Nordic vein, another beautiful book of Winter is
Ollie's Ski Trip
by Elsa Beskow
If you aren't familiar with Elsa Beskow, run right out to your library and get a few of her books! Her illustrations are beautiful.
In Ollie's ski trip, a little boy gets his first pair of skis and heads out on an adventure. He meets King Winter, and Jack Frost, and visits Winters icy palace. Soon Mrs. Thaw makes an appearance (she's my hero).  A lovely story.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
by Robert Frost and illustrated by Susan Jeffers
Many are familiar with Frost's poem, and it is fabulously enhanced by the illustrations of Susan Jeffers.

Brave Irene
by William Steig
A little girl offers to take a dress her mother has made for the Duchess and deliver it because her mother is ill. Irene is brave, and all sorts of wintry calamities befall her. She is snowed on, falls in snow, tumbles through snowdrifts, slides down hills and loses the dress. But in the end her plucky spirit and bravery are rewarded. You will love Irene.

Waiting for Winter
by Sebastian Meschenmoser           
Young squirrel decides to stay awake, instead of hibernate (hmm...the squirrel's where I live don't hibernate?) in order to have the chance to see snow. He decides to exercise to keep himself awake, and ends up waking his neighbor. Once his neighbor decides to stay awake to see snow also, they sing songs to stay awake and end up waking's a cute, and silly read for young ones. Pretty delightful illustrations.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Busy Busy World of Richard Scarry

You know what books are great, and timeless? Richard Scarry books. The amazing thing about his books are observing how children can pore over them for hours, they really do provide a lot of bang for your buck. Each page has countless things to look at, different things happening, and all with the words labeled. They are fun because they are as enjoyable for the non-reader as they are for the reader.

Many of the characters appear in his books, and all of these characters live in Busytown. It is a wild and wonderful world where anything can happen.

I tend to enjoy the books that are "quiet" more than those that are chaotic and loud, but these would be one of my glaring exceptions. They are busy just as the town is Busytown. But they are fun, and funny and children adore them. The illustrations are also particularly delightful.

The Best Word Book Ever
by Richard Scarry

My favorite book is

Richard Scarry's Busy Busy World
by Richard Scarry
I love the Swiss Guard running alongside the bus!

My oldest nephew was a master at quickly finding Goldbug on each page of 
Richard Scarry's Cars and Trucks and Things That Go.

Richard Scarry also did some books on manners, thoughtfulness and caring for children.
(Ahhh...remember when children were taught manners?)
Richard Scarry's Please and Thank You Book
Richard Scarry's Please and Thank You Book

and the funny yet poignant

Pig Will and Pig Won't

Another book that is illustrated by Richard Scarry, that perfectly captures the "quietude" of books is

I Am a Bunny

It is such a lovely book, with beautiful illustrations and one I often like to give as a gift to a young child. There is a deep beauty in this book.

I Am A Bunny by Ole Risom
I Am A Bunny by Ole Risom
I Am A Bunny by Ole Risom

 An interesting article was written last year at the 50th Anniversary of the Best Word Book Ever
that showed pages from the original contrasting to the redone version of the newer. Most of them were social changes, such as omitting of Indian costumes and placing a male bunny and a female bunny in the kitchen (not just the female as in the original). It is an interesting read.
Playing Spot the Difference with Richard Scarrys Best Word Book Ever

6 Months in One Post and 2 Recommended WWII Reads

My oh my, will you look at that? It has been a long gap since I last blogged.
This is due to several things which I will give a little update on.

First of all, summer happened. Writing this mid-January it seems that warmth and sunshine are a distant memory, but it did happen. I admit that I read more, but I also tried to be outside and offline a bit more, so there was that.

Second, we had a family wedding. That was wonderful and beautiful but took up some of my time trying to do my hair while we lacked power. (The wedding hit on the weekend of a crazy storm with most of the city, including the church, not having power.)

Third, we traveled again to Europe. How blessed I am to have these trips. This trip was to Germany, cruising the Rhine, visiting the Romantic Road, and extensive time in France: Paris, Provence, and the French Riviera, and a short stop in Monaco. Bliss...

The last reason I have blogged less is that I will admit that I have felt burnt out. It's not a good feeling and that coupled with the fact that I have felt disheartened by much of the current children's literature and haven't read anything that has sparked a fire in me, has left me lacking and not motivated to blog. I usually focus my summer on reading new books, current published reads, new award winners, and books making all the "must read" lists. Mostly these books all left me flat and feeling rather sad. So many of them are issue based, such as the story of  a girl who has an eating disorder (the book is about the issue, not the character so her name doesn't even stay with you). The focus seems to be so strong on issues, people suffering, abused children, pregnant teens, drug addicted siblings and a family grieving. AUGH! I couldn't take it anymore....

There are still MANY fabulous books out there, but maybe I'm getting old and out of touch because I realize very few things are newly authored. I often read a middle-age book and think, "would I pass this along to one of my nieces?" and answer with a resounding "NO"!

I read a few books that I did enjoy.

Code Name Verity
by Elizabeth Wein
A great spy story. A British pilot and British passenger aboard a British spy plane crashes into Nazi-occupied France. The British spy, "Verity" is captured by the Gestapo and is interrogated with the choice to reveal her mission or face execution.

It was very good. It was historical fiction (my fav) and it was set in Europe (like that too). But there were still a few things that made me think (errr...maybe for an older reader).

I also read
Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World's Most Dangerous Weapon
Bomb: The Race to Build - and Steal - the World's Most Dangerous Weapon
by Steve Sheinkin
This is a great non-fiction account, which reads like fiction, like a wonderful mystery story in fact! This is the account of the race to build the Atomic bomb.
It does include a bit of scientific information, and would be challenging for a young reader, but it is really an excellent account, and so very well written.

Fast forward several months, and here I sit in the beginning of 2014. I have decided that I do miss blogging, but will allow myself the joy of reading the books that I expect to give me joy and spark my desire to blog.

So off I go, I just picked up a stack of books by Ingri d'Aulaire. I have been very obsessed with all things Nordic and am going to go and dive into these:


Children of the Northlights
Children of the Northlights
D'Aulaires' Book of Norse Myths
D'Aulaires' Book of Norse Myths

Enjoy and Happy Reading!