Archive for March, 2011

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A Sick Day for Amos McGee

March 24, 2011

Title: A Sick Day for Amos McGee
Author: Philip C. Stead
Illustrator: Erin Stead
Best for Age: 4-8
ISBN: 9781596434028
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press (2010)
List Price: Hardcover, $16.99

Buy on Amazon

If you are going to buy ONE picture book this year, one, single, solitary picture book, I would advise you to purchase A Sick Day for Amos McGee, by Philip & Erin Stead. This book is so amazing, so adorable, so entirely child-friendly and perfect, that I honestly don’t even know how to review it.

I suppose I should start by saying that I am not alone in praising this heartwarming and shy little story. The husband and wife team behind A Sick Day for Amos McGee actually took home the Caldecott Medal this year (the much-coveted honor awarded annually to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children).

Philip’s story, about a zoo-keeper’s relationships with his friends (the elephant, the owl, the penguin, the rhinoceros, and the tortoise), is paired perfectly with his wife’s award-winning illustrations. As you follow Amos’ daily routine at the zoo, visiting with each animal, it becomes quite apparent that this is a tale about true friendship:

He would play chess with the elephant (who thought and thought before making a move), run races with the tortoise (who never ever lost), sit quietly with the penguin (who was very shy), lend a handkerchief to the rhinoceros (who always had a runny nose), and, at sunset, read stories to the owl (who was afraid of the dark).

However, this is also a lesson about reciprocity, for readers see that when Amos has to stay home sick one afternoon, his friends come to visit him instead!

As all of the animals set out to find Amos, Stead purposefully leaves a few pages without words. Young readers have the opportunity to fill in the story themselves by examining Erin’s beautiful illustrations, which carry the plot as the animals leave the zoo, wait for the bus, and ride it across town.

As you can see, Erin’s illustrations are truly breathtaking. She creates her delicate scenes using woodblocking and pencil, and they are chock full of charm. Erin brings each animal to life, each with their own distinct personality (for example, how the penguin always wears a pair of bright red socks). Her attention to detail is amazing. Not only are the penciled facial features on Amos and the animals exceedingly lifelike, but the small additions she makes to each scene are fun to look for as well. With each page you will find something new to delight in, from the delicate flowers in the background, to the little mouse or bird that mimic whatever Amos or the animals do.

This is, hands down, my favorite book of this year. It is sweet, endearing, and ultimately timeless. And the best part is that it leaves readers feeling warm and cozy inside. Perfect for reading out loud, and great for bedtime, A Sick Day for Amos McGee is an absolute winner. Go check it out!

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Little Hoot

March 16, 2011

 

 

Title: Little Hoot
Author: Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Illustrator: Jen Corace
Best for Age: 4-8
ISBN: 9780811860239
Publisher: Chronicle Books (2007)
List Price: Hardcover, $14.99
Buy on Amazon

 

 

When most people think of children’s books, they actually think of bedtime books. We all remember those favorite stories our mom, dad, grandparent, or babysitter, would read to us before we went to sleep as a child. And on behalf of all of the children’s book scholars, fans, and followers out there, I would like to give a big thank you to bedtime; let’s face it, without that sacred half hour, and the books needed to fill it, we might not get to study and enjoy this fabulous genre.

Now, bedtime books are pretty easy to find,  Goodnight Moon, Pajama Time!, and Good Night, Gorilla are all top sellers. And while each of those titles hold a special place in my heart, I have to say that Little Hoot, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, trumps them all (I know, I know, I blaspheme to state that a book could be better than good old [cough cough boring old] Goodnight Moon).

But I believe there is a big difference between reading a bedtime book that lulls your child to sleep through sheer boredom, and a bedtime book that will actual make them want to go to sleep.

Little Hoot is en example of the later, due to the book’s adorable main character, a young night owl who just wants to go to sleep!

Little Hoot enjoys school and playing hide-and-seek; and like most little ones, he can’t stand bedtime! But young readers will be surprised to learn that Little Hoot’s frustration with bedtime is rather different from their own. Little Hoot does not like bedtime because his parents make him stay up late, late, late!

Little Hoot’s parents explain that if he is going to be a respectable and wise old owl he must stay up late. Little Hoot complains that all his other friends get to go to bed so much earlier than he does, but Mama and Papa Owl stand their ground.

“Stay up and play for one more hour and then you can go to sleep,” Mama Owl compromised.

“One whole hour?” he boo-whoo’d.

“One whole hour,” she cooed.

Your young readers will be thoroughly entertained by this little owl as he begrudgingly finds things to do to fill the long hour of playtime before bed, all while mumbling, “When I grow up, I’m going to let my kids go to bed as early as they want.” And they will surely laugh out loud when they hear Little Hoot’s parents chime “ten more minutes,” “what about a bedtime story?” and “don’t forget a glass of water!”

Little Hoot, which is perfect for all of the little night owls you may know, is a part of Rosenthal’s three-book series that turns common kid complains upside-down. For picky eaters, have them take a bite out of Little Pea, an equally silly and adorable story about a little legume who must clean his dinner plate of all five pieces of candy before he can delight in his tasty spinach. And for those messy little piglets in your life, check out Little Oink, about a pig who hates that he has to keep his room as messy as can be.

[Chronicle even has a boxed set with all three titles, in board-book format. How Convenient!]

Jen Corace’s fabulous ink and water-color illustrations are paired beautifully with Rosenthal’s  playful, sweet, and simple writing style. Little Hoot may turn bedtime on its head, but I think it is superb. And perhaps if you read it before you say “sweet dreams” to your little night owls you might find that they start emulating this fun character’s desire for dozing. Well… one can always hope, right?

 

Other books by Amy Krouse Rosenthal that I would recommend:
Duck! Rabbit!
Cookies: Bite-Size Life Lessons
Sugar Cookies: Sweet Little Lessons on Love
Yes Day!
It’s Not Fair!

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Mud Pies and Other Recipes

March 10, 2011


Title: Mud Pies and Other Recipes
Author: Marjorie Winslow
Illustrator: Erik Blegvad
Best for Age: 5-12
ISBN: 9781590173688
Publisher: New York Review Children’s Collection (2010)
List Price: Hardcover, $14.95
Buy on Amazon

 

Have you been in the market for a make-believe cookbook?

I thought so. Well, I am pleased to inform you that your search is over! You needn’t look any further than Marjorie Winslow’s Mud Pies and Other Recipes.

There are few other cookbooks out there that include such delicacies as Seesaw Salad, Mud Puddle Soup, Gravel en Casserole, or Pencil Sharpener Pudding.

As Winslow describes in the Forward of her text,

“This is a cookbook for dolls. It is written for kind climates and summertime. It is an outdoor cookbook, because dolls dote on mud, when properly prepared. They love the crunch of pine needles and the sweet feel of seaweed on the tongue […] Doll cookery is not a very exacting art. The time it takes to cook a casserole depends upon how long your dolls are able to sit at the table without falling over. And if a recipe calls for a cupful of something, you can use a measuring cup or a teacup or a buttercup. It doesn’t much matter. What does matter is that you select the best ingredients available, set a fine table, and serve with style.”

This may be a make-believe cookbook, but it doubles as a fantastically creative storybook. Read Winslow’s instructions out loud and you are sure to receive lots of giggles in return. Young readers will love her downright silly recipes, such as Fried Water, Dandelion Souffle, and Crabgrass Gumbo. And children are sure to enjoy Erik Blegvad’s timeless black and white illustrations.

This fabulously fictional cookbook was originally published in 1961, but it was brought back into print by the New York Review of Books.

According to the New York Review of Books website:

“The New York Review Children’s Collection began in 2003 in an attempt to reward readers who have long wished for the return of their favorite titles and to introduce those books to a new generation of readers […] Praised for their elegant design and sturdy bindings, these books set a new standard for the definition of a ‘classic.'”

After doing a bit more research I have to admit that I agree wholeheartedly with their claims. I love the idea of reviving a favorite old book from its “out-of-print” grave. Sure $14.95 may seem a bit steep for a make-believe cookbook, but I think the price is great for such a beautifully constructed version of a timeless classic.

And the best part is, you can submit your own out-of-print favorites for consideration! Simply go to the NYRB website and give them the author, title, and original publishing date of the book you want to see published as a part of the NYRB Classics series!

In the mean time, have your little ones curl up with a nice warm cup of Rainspout Tea, and a fresh slice of Pine Needle Upside-Down Cake, and they are sure to devour Marjorie Winslow’s delightful Mud Pies and Other Recipes.

My Out Of Print Favorites (DIBS on submitting them to NYRB):

1. Becky’s Birthday, by Tasha Tudor. First published in 1960, this is one of my absolute favorite books of all time. You know those books you used to read as a kid that you just wanted to jump inside of? Well, this book still elicits the same reaction out of me every time I pick it up. It is the most adorable story following a little girl’s special day, complete with fresh churned peach ice cream and a party in the woods with a cake that floats down the river. I remember I would always pick it as my bedtime book when I had a babysitter, because it is deceivingly long and I would try to stay up until my parents came home. But the instant comfort of Tudor’s sweet-as-homemade-peach-ice-cream story and breathtaking illustrations always lulled me into an easy sleep. I would love for this book to be reprinted, because as of now there are only 5 used copies available on Amazon, and they are priced at $56 each (however, I’ve seen new copies for as much as $250).

2. Miss Jaster’s Garden, by N.M. Bodecker. Although it was first published in 1972, my dad and my older sister and I found this gem at our public library’s annual used book sale years and years ago. I don’t know how old we were when we got it, but I do know that our very well-loved copy has some added original illustrations of our own (of the purple crayon variety). It follows the adventures of a little hedgehog by the name of Hedgie, and his loving, yet mostly blind, caretaker named Miss Jaster. One day Hedgie falls asleep in one of Miss Jaster’s empty flower beds, and she mistakenly sprinkles flower seeds on his back. A few weeks later Hedgie has a lovely bouquet growing out of his quills, and as he prances and dances around the grounds, showing off his beautiful garden to the world, Miss Jaster mistakes him for a flower thief and adorable chaos ensues. If you can get your hands on a copy I HIGHLY recommend it!