Monday, May 30, 2011

Children's Book Review: The Golden Egg

Name of Book: The Golden Egg
Author / Illustrator: Written By A.J. Wood and Illustrated by Maggie Kneen
What's It All About: A little duckling and a chick try to find a golden egg but keep uncovering other colored eggs.  Each page has a fold out with the egg hidden behind it covered in different color foils--really beautiful! The last page both sides fold out and my kids can't get enough of it.
My Favorite Bit: I love the page with the swan.  It's wearing a crown and has the egg on it's back.  Simply enchanting.
Go Get It: The Golden Egg
Suitable Age For Reading It To: Everyone likes finding these beautiful sparkly eggs and I like displaying this book and having it on our bookshelf courtesy of Mema and Baba Nigh.
A Little About The Author/Illustrator: I cannot find out anything about A.J. Wood so if you know something, please tell me!
Maggie Kneen is an author and illustrator from Crosby, England.  She studied illustration at Liverpool Art College and went on to get an MA in graphic design and an M.Phil in Medieval Art and Archaeology.  She has designed things for Martha Stewart, Wedgwood, and even British Airways.  At the Children's Book fair in Bologna Italy she met her future agent and has been doing children's books ever since.

Maggie in Plockton, West Coast of Scotland

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Children's Book Review: David And Dog or Dogger

Name of Book: American Title: David and Dog  Uk Title: Dogger
Author/Illustrator: By Shirley Hughes
What's It All About: A little boy named David (called Dave in the UK), has an old stuffed toy named Dog (Dogger in the UK).  He takes it with him everywhere.  One day he loses it and is distraught.  But lo and behold he discovers Dog at the local rummage sale and runs to tell his older sister Bella so she can buy it for him.  They return but the dog has gone.  A little girl has bought Dog and will not return it to David.  Thanks to some quick thinking and generosity on Bella's part, everyone winds up happy and Dog returns home with David. 
My Favorite Bit: I didn't mention it above but David's older sister Bella has a teddy bear collection and the pictures where she tries to sleep on her bed with all of them is priceless. 
Go Get It: Dogger at Amazon UK.  This is the paperback version.
Suggested Age For Reading It To: Our whole family loves this story and everyone can read it.  I wish I could find you the American version as I really enjoy the title 'David And Dog' but it is out of print. 
A Little About The Author/Illustrator: Shirley Hughes, burn in West Kirby, England in 1927, has written and illustrated over 50 books.  Hughes trained at the Liverpool School of Art and Ruskin School of Drawing in Oxford.   Her first book, 'Lucy & Tom's Day' she made "because there weren't many books for young children about real life - what it feels like getting up in the morning, going to shops, having lunch, and so on".  The book was so successful that it became a series.  'Dogger' was another successful every-day story about children and Hughes' series about 'Alfie' has also been very successful.
Quote: "I want the children looking at my books to feel that they want to see round the corner; I want them to feel they are in the picture they are looking at."

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Original Tale: Heaven Bound

If I steal away on horseback when the day has just begun
I can ride into heaven on the rays of the sun
Only hoofbeats and eagles dare to make any sound
I can race across the plains because today I'm heaven bound

The ground is red and purple and the dew like diamond strands
The vastness all around me calls my heart across the land
Here is where I know that heav'n and earth must surely meet
Where the sky and ground are blended well beneath my horse's feet

Written and Illustrated by R. Nigh

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Children's Book Review: Frog And Toad Together

 Name of book: Frog And Toad Together
Author  / Illustrator: Written and Illustrated by Arnold Lobel
What's It All About: Frog and Toad books are collections of short stories from Arnold Lobel's lovely brain.

This book contains five stories about the two friends:
A List
The Garden
Dragons and Giants
The Dream 

Each story is only a few pages long and the words are typed out nice and large for beginning readers. The reason these are so amazing is that the stories can be read and enjoyed by grown-ups as well--no sugary stories with terrible writing here! Lobel manages to capture this world of Frog and Toad with a few colors, great illustrations, and charming words.  These are a must for any library!
My Favorite Bit: My family still quotes from all these Frog and Toad stories but in this collection my favorite would have to be the story 'A List'.  While each story, particularly 'Cookies', is memorable, 'A List' resonates with me.  I love lists and Toad cannot do anything he wants to because his list has blown away.  Frog helps him make a new list and once he is done he crosses the last thing off it and can go to sleep.  Toad has the best lines though he is more dramatic than the sensible Frog.  Also the phrase from 'Dragons and Giants' "We are not afraid! screamed Toad" is great.  Read these please. 
Suitable Age For Reading It To: From two to ninety, I'll be reading these for the rest of my life (even without kids or grandkids on my knee). 
Be wary of books that put this whole book collection into one volume.  It's best separated and easy to pull out and enjoy.  So just look for Frog And Toad Together to start with.
A little about the Author and/or Illustrator: Arnold Lobel was born on my birthday May 22 in 1933 and passed away in December of 1987.  He was born in Los Angeles but grew up in Schenectady New York where he lived with his grandparents.  After art school he married Anita Kempler who also became an accomplished author.  They had two children.  Lobel got many of his ideas for his own books from watching cartoons with his children.  When he was young he used to tell stories and illustrate them to entertain his schoolmates and said that borrowing books from the library was one of his favorite things to do.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Children's Book Review: Llama Llama Red Pajama

Name of Book: Llama Llama Red Pajama
Author / Illustrator: Anna Dewdney
What's It All About: A charming rhyming story about little Llama who goes to bed and Mama gives Llama kisses and hugs and then leaves.  Llama misses Mama and fusses until Mama thinks something is really wrong and runs upstairs only to find that Llama just wanted Mama.  This is so 'Every Mom' that it's almost hard to read without feeling that dragging sensation that a little voice from a bedroom creates even after your child is supposed to be asleep.  We've kissed you, we've hugged you, we've read stories, we've kissed stuffed toys, we've gotten you a drink, and still you call for something else.  Sigh.
My Favorite Bit: I love the facial expressions of Llama.  I didn't know llamas could be so expressive (well, maybe I did because I've seen Emperor's New Groove) but these are still hilarious.
Go Get It: Llama Llama Red Pajama from in hardback format
Suggested Age For Reading It To: This is a great story for little 'uns who love the rhyming tongue-twisteryness of it all.
A Little About The Author/Illustrator: Anna Dewdney quote:
"I am one of those weird, annoying people who, when they pass cows in a field, go, “MOO!”  And as I had two little kids, and I live in a state with lots of cows and sheep, I often said, “MOO” and “BAAAAH!” But whenever we passed a field that had llamas, I didn’t know what llamas “said”, so I said, “Llama llama!”, and that’s how it started.  Now I know that llamas don’t “say” anything, actually.  Unless they are in my books!"
For a little bio on Ms. Dewdney, please consider visiting her website at: Anna or her sister's cute shop: Dragonfly Dry Goods
Other Llama Llama Books:

Friday, May 20, 2011

Original Tale: Cherry Red And Lemon Yellow

Cherry Red and Lemon Yellow
Sat upon a tree so mellow
Said from one unto the other
"Shall we sit here long, my brother?"
Cherry Red was built for snow
Loved the ice and Christmas glow
Lemon Yellow was built for Spring
Loving blossoms new life brings
Neither one could be content
When leaves were falling or sun is spent
Days when blossoms fell on snow
Seemed best to both and on they go

Written and Illustrated by R. Nigh

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Beatrix Potter: The End Of The Reviews, The Best Ones, And A Little About Miss Potter Herself

So to recap I thought I'd list what I think are (WARNING: STRONG OPINIONS EXPRESSED HERE) the top five Beatrix Potter stories to start with if you are buying them on the installment plan.  Also, this is just a good way to start reading them if you've bought the set and now feel like you should start with book one and go through them all.  You shouldn't.  You really shouldn't.  See? I told you I had an opinion.

#1The Tale Of Peter Rabbit 
(seems obvious but it is a good one)

#2 The Tale of Benjamin Bunny  
(Helps later on when you meet the Flopsies)

#3 The Tale of Gloucester 
 (My actual favorite Potter story)

#4 The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies  
(Probably the cutest story illustrated)

#5 The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher 
 (Quite possibly the characters I'd like to meet the most)

And Now For Something Completely The Same: 
A Little Bio On Beatrix Potter 
In Case You Hadn't Had Enough 
Of My Extensive Reviews

Helen Beatrix Potter, born July 28, 1866 and died December 1943, was an English author, illustrator, mycologist (the branch of biology that deals with fungi) and conservationist.  Potter and her brother Walter both grew up among numerous animals and spent many holidays in the Lake District and Scotland.  It was through these holidays that she grew to love plant and animal life and studying and painting the things around her with great detail.  In her twenties Beatrix studied and painted fungi mycology and became known for her excellent scientific illustrations.  Between 1902 and 1918 she published over twenty children's books.  With the proceeds from her books and a legacy from an aunt, Beatrix purchased several farms in the Lake District to preserve them.
  Beatrix Potter's first story was actually in a letter sent to the five year old son of her last governess while he was ill.  Her former governess recognized the story as a work of literary accomplishment and encouraged Potter to publish it and the rest, as they say, is history.

 When she died in 1943, Potter left almost all of her property to the National Trust--4,000 acres of land, cottages, and 15 farms.  The legacy has helped ensure that the Lake District and the practice of fell farming remain unspoiled.  Her properties now lie within the Lake District National Park.

This long series of reviews has now come to an end.  If you have discovered a Potter book that can live in your library contentedly, I am satisfied.  I hope you have found B.P.'s illustrations as enchanting as I have.  Happy reading and on to the next!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Beatrix Potter Review of Book Twenty-Three: Cecily Parsley's Nursery Rhymes

Name of Book: Cecily Parsley's Nursery Rhymes
Author/Illustrator: By Beatrix Potter
What It's All About: Again this is another set of little rhymes, which seem pointless to explain since if you've read Potter you know her writing style, and it's hard to describe short poems without just writing them out and as these are classic poems you are really here for the illustrations.  Needless to say this is a charming easy set of little poems and you must go through them with your children.
My Favorite Bit: Oh, this book is full of wonderful things but I cannot resist these little guinea pigs going out to their garden!

Suitable Age For Reading It To: Everyone.

Beatrix Potter Review of Book Twenty-Two: Appley Dapply's Nursery Rhymes

Name of Book: Appley Dapply's Nursery Rhymes
Author/Illustrator: By Beatrix Potter
What It's All About: I shall not cover each individual rhyme in this beautiful little book but it is a collection of short poems with some of the loveliest illustrations Potter has done.  There are some old characters and some new ones (including a guinea pig!)
My Favorite Bit: I love this little Guinea pig brushing his hair! "All girls who like to brush and comb, should have a pet like this at home." -- Okay, that was One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish but it's so apt.

Suitable Age For Reading It To:
This one is for everyone (including me...excuse me while I go read it again). 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Beatrix Potter Review of Book Twenty-One: The Story Of Miss Moppet

Name of Book: The Story of Miss Moppet
Author/Illustrator: By Beatrix Potter
What It's All About: Miss Moppet has seen a mouse! She tries to catch the cheeky little man but he is too quick for her.  She ties her head up in her handkerchief and looks very ill so that the mouse comes to investigate.  He should have been looking at her eye through the hole of the handkerchief.  It's gleaming a little too much.  He is caught! Miss Moppet decides to play with him in the handkerchief but she forgets that there is a hole in it.  When she opens the handkerchief, the mouse is gone. Shall we feel sad for Miss Moppet? Not if the little mouse she is trying to catch is wearing a waistcoat.
My Favorite Bit: I love the little mouse peeking out from the handkerchief as Miss Moppet ties it up.

Suitable Age For Reading It To: Another fun little story that can be read to everyone (and done quickly and to to the delight of all since it is very short).

Monday, May 16, 2011

Beatrix Potter Review of Book Twenty: The Story Of A Fierce Bad Rabbit

Name of Book: The Story of A Fierce Bad Rabbit
Author/Illustrator: By Beatrix Potter
What It's All About: This is an admirably short story and a refreshingly easy one to understand after our long tale of Robinson pig.  The good rabbit enjoys a carrot.  The bad rabbit wants the carrot, takes the carrot, and hurts the good rabbit.  A hunter comes along and shoots at the bad rabbit.  The good rabbit sees the bad rabbit running past without carrot, tail, or whiskers. 
My Favorite Bit: I do think the idea of a rabbit pushing another rabbit is funny and the illustration is hilarious.  I suppose Ms. Potter must have come upon some rabbits that were not well behaved at all and decided to write a story about them. 

Suitable Age For Reading It To:
Everyone can read this and understand it.  It is very short, so if you are looking for a quick bedtime story because it is way past your child's bedtime and they still require a story, this is a good one. 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Beatrix Potter Review of Book Nineteen: The Tale Of Pig Robinson

Name of Book: The Tale of Pig Robinson
Author/Illustrator: By Beatrix Potter
What It's All About:  Old Betsy sends her cat Susan down to wait for the fishing boats to come in at the end of a day in a little fishing village.  Susan gets fish from old Sam, Betsy's old husband.  We travel away from the characters in the town to the farms on the hillside of Devonshire where Little Pig Robinson lives on Piggery Porcombe Farm with his two aunts, Miss Dorcas and Miss Porcas. They send 'Little' Robinson to Stymouth for their shopping because they are too big to fit through the stiles themselves.  Robinson sells his wares and purchases the things he must bring back to his Aunts, and Old Betsy (you'll remember her) helps Robinson gets the darning wool he needs.  But oh, when he goes to get a bit of celery seed he finds himself in dire trouble, for the sailor who promises him help is a ship's cook who lures him onto a ship! On board, Robinson is fed well and cannot figure out why the yellow tabby cat keeps hinting that perhaps he should not eat so much.  It is a dark day when Robinson overhears what he is being fed for, but he is saved by the tabby cat who helps him escape in a little rowboat.  Robinson lands on an island of Bong trees and there he lives happily ever after.  We are told to read Robinson Crusoe or speak to the Owl and the Pussycat who honeymooned on the island for a longer description of that lovely place.  Friends from Stymouth came and visited Robinson and found him quite content.
My Favorite Bit: I confess that this book is also not one of my favorites.  The story makes a great deal more sense now that I am reading it as an adult but it holds little more to recommend it.  I really enjoy when the pig is on board the ship because I feel that the story now has a point and flow that goes well, but prior to that it tends to meander and seems more like an idea than a story with an arc.  My favorite bit must be the cat helping Robinson escape.  He thoughtfully fills the boat with things the pig will need (including an armchair), and makes a point to put holes in all the other rowboats so that the sailors cannot come after the pig. 
Suitable Age For Reading It To: Let your older children read this by themselves and keep to the charming short stories for the younger ones.  Robinson shall be understood better by a seven year old than a three or four year old.

Beatrix Potter Review of Book Eighteen: The Tale Of Ginger And Pickles

Name of Book: The Tale of Ginger and Pickles
Author/Illustrator: By Beatrix Potter
What It's All About: Okay, so this little story has perhaps the simplest plot of all Potter's stories, excepting the Fierce Bad Rabbit I suppose.  I do not know that there is much to tell about the plot except to say that Ginger and Pickles, a yellow tom-cat and a terrier respectfully, run a little general store and give unlimited credit, which means they cannot keep the shop for long.  What is so very lovely about this story is that everyone is in it.  All the other characters shop in the store (except Mrs. Tabitha Twitchit who owns the competing general store and does not give credit). 
My Favorite Bit: Please review each page very closely and discover with delight each character coming to shop amongst the barrels and shelves and boxes.  I especially love the very last page after all the writing has finished and there are mice on a scale and Jeremy Fisher, Sir Isaac Newton, and Ptolemy Turtle playing on a scale like a swing.  I love all the details of this story. 

Suitable Age For Reading It To: This story is for everyone.  It does not matter whether you understand the concept of credit (as most adults do not even do that).  It only matters that you love to see all these characters congregating in the most charming way.  Find this one, dear friend.  It must be added to the collection.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Beatrix Potter Review of Book Seventeen: The Tale of the Pie And The Patty Pan

Name of Book: The Tale of the Pie And The Patty Pan
Author/Illustrator: By Beatrix Potter
What It's All About: A cat named Ribby invites a little black dog named Duchess to come for tea to have an excellent pie.  Duchess, not wanting to be rude, accepts the invitation but is sure that the pie will be made of mouse, which she detests.  Brilliantly she decides to swap the pie in Ribby's oven for a pie she has just made herself.  Little does she know that the oven has two doors and therefore there is a good chance that Ribby can have her pie in as well as Duchess' pie and never know the other was there. 
My Favorite Bit: I really love the illustrations of the little dog Duchess.  I also enjoy page twelve where Duchess is reading Ribby's invitation.  Her little paw is delicately on the paper and she is standing on her hind legs in a very sophisticated manner. 

Suitable Age For Reading It To: This could be read to young and old but the young may not understand it fully beyond the idea of switching the pies.  There is a patty pan in Duchess's pie, which you should look up the meaning of for your children will certainly ask you what it is (if you do not cook much).  Or, I will mention it right here: I cannot find exactly what it is but I believe it to be a ring of tin that is shaped like the edge of a pie crust and therefore keeps the pie upright and beautiful.  It seems to be a separate piece from the pan itself.  That, at least, is my vague understanding of a patty pan.  At any rate, this story hinges heavily upon the patty pan and I think children may mostly love it for the illustrations of the animals having tea.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Beatrix Potter Review of Book Sixteen: The Tale of Samuel Whiskers or The Roly-Poly Pudding

Name of Book: The Tale of Samuel Whiskers or The Roly Poly Pudding
Author/Illustrator: By Beatrix Potter
What It's All About: Tom Kitten has explored up the chimney and found rats! Mr. Samuel Whiskers and his wife Anna-Maria decide to make a roly poly pudding of him.  They steal some dough, a rolling pin, and a pat of butter.  Will Tom be saved by his distraught mother and her friend or will the rats be having a fine supper?
My Favorite Bit: Cats in a house that have rats is a little spooky because the cats are afraid of the large rats.  I do like the picture of Tom falling in through a hole and landing in Samuel Whisker's home but I cannot say I enjoy this story greatly as it is quite worrying both to Mrs. Tabitha Twitchit and to us as readers when her kitten goes missing. 
Suitable Age For Reading It To: I would say that this one you may skip for the very young and wait until they are at least five before revealing that rats can be quite large and very dangerous, even to animals that should be able to face them.  I suppose this book just feels too real and therefore, in the traditional fairytale sense, feels dark and dangerous for most of it's pages.  The rats, however, are quite cleverly painted and I do enjoy seeing them scurrying around (when it isn't my kitten they're thinking of eating). 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Beatrix Potter Review of Book Fifteen: The Tale of Pigling Bland

Name of Book: The Tale Of Pigling Bland
Author/Illustrator: By Beatrix Potter
What It's All About: Pigling Bland is sent away with the rest of the piglets for his mother, Aunt Pettitoes, cannot keep them out of mischief.  His siblings are ridiculously named and so I will not write any of them down but Alexander, for he traveled with Pigling Bland.  To make a longish story shorter, I will just say that Pigling is on his way to market to be sold and winds up finding a little girl pig named Pig-Wig instead.  They do not go to market and dance away on the hills.  The reason I will not tell this whole tale is that it does not have a very fine story arch.  It does, however, contain Potter herself and she has drawn herself into one of the first few pages.  The story is the longest of all the set and one of the least interesting (though now that I read it as an adult I can at least understand it more). 
My Favorite Bit: My favorite illustration is that of Pigling Bland and his brother Alexander sitting by the hillside eating their lunch and peppermints.  

Suitable Age For Reading It To: Once again this book is not for young children.  It would be better left to a Potter enthusiast who can read it themselves when they are a little older.  The story has not much to recommend itself other than some very dapperly dressed pigs. 

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Beatrix Potter Review of Book Fourteen: The Tale of Mr. Tod

Name of Book: The Tale of Mr. Tod
Author/Illustrator: By Beatrix Potter
What It's All About: Okay, so this one's a bit of a dark horse.  It's a different format in that it has more black and white ink illustrations and only a few painted color pictures.  It is very long and I would almost declassify it as a Potter-short-story.  Once again I feel that the main character is certainly not Mr. Tod and yet who shall it be titled after? The main idea is thus: Mr. Tod, a fox, owns many homes that he does not live in most of the time.  Tommy Brock, a badger, likes to use Mr. Tod's houses while Mr. Tod is not there.  Brock steals Benjamin Bunny's baby rabbits while his father Mr. Bouncer is watching them.  Benjamin asks Peter Rabbit to help him get them back.  They find one of Mr. Tod's houses occupied by Brock and begin to burrow beneath the den to get the baby bunnies back.  Mr. Tod comes to his house to find Tommy Brock snoring in his bed.  They fight and destroy the house and Benjamin and Peter rescue the bunnies and escape. 
My Favorite Bit: I do not have a favorite part in this book except for perhaps the fact that Peter forcefully makes Benjamin enter the house and get the bunnies--what a good and brave Uncle!  I do not like this story.  It is very dark and frantic feeling as you are hoping the baby bunnies will make it.  The story is long and fairly nightmarish in comparison with most of Potter's other tales. 
Suitable Age For Reading It To: I would skip this one entirely for children under nine or ten and let them read it for themselves when they are older.  I believe you can safely own this set and only read this book once before putting it back on the shelf, there to sit for quite some time.  I do not mean to be uncharitable but There It Is.