Sunday, July 31, 2011

Children's Book Review: Where The Wild Things Are

Name of Book: Where The Wild Things Are
Author / Illustrator: Written and Illustrated by Maurice Sendak
What It's All About: Max is misbehaving in his monster costume and his mother sends him to bed without supper.  Slowly his room becomes a forest and Max sails away for a year and a day to the land where the wild things are.  He tames them with a look and becomes their king.  When he decides to leave they cry, "We'll eat you up we love you so!" but Max says, "No".  So off he sails for a year and a day back to his bedroom where his dinner is waiting on the table, still hot.  Just another evening in the imagination of a child.
My Favorite Bit: I think my favorite illustration in this story is the room becoming trees in the forest.  It's done beautifully and it feels a little like Peter Pan with all the lovely colors.  You can still see his window and door in this picture.
Suitable Age For Reading It To: I feel this one's not for your youngest as I've always worried about those monsters and their terrible teeth and terrible claws.  It isn't a comforting environment.  That being said, if your child loves it then read away.  It's a great story even if it has been gigantisized by a movie and a plethora of merchandise.
Go Get It: Where The Wild Things Are on Amazon US in hardback
A Little About The Author / Illustrator:
Maurice Sendak was born in 1928 in Brooklyn, New York to Polish Jewish immigrant parents.  He developed a love of books at an early age when he was confined to bed due to health problems.  One of his first jobs was to create window displays for F.A.O. Schwartz toy company.  He spent most of the 1950's illustrating other authors' works before beginning to write his own.  The monsters in his wildly popular Where The Wild Things Are were based on relatives who would come to weekly dinners.  Because of their broken English and odd mannerisms, they were the perfect basis for the monsters for Sendak.  Before writing Where The Wild Things Are, Sendak was best known for illustrating the Little Bear series.  Also see my earlier post to learn a little tiny bit about Mr. Sendak here.
 Maurice Sendak and a few friends

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Children's Book Review: Harry And The Lady Next Door

Name of Book: Harry And The Lady Next Door
Author / Illustrator: Written by Gene Zion and Illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham
What It's All About: Harry does not like the lady next door.  She sings and sings all day long.  Harry tries to find ways to make her stop singing: cows that sing low and smooth, frogs that croak loudly, the marching band from the parade, but nothing will stop the lady next door from singing.  But as it turns out it's a good thing nothing will make her stop singing.  Because she is brave and sings even with frogs jumping all around the stage (courtesy of Harry) she wins first prize: studying music in a faraway land.  Harry is happy to wish her bon voyage and even happier when her goodbye song from the boat is cut off by the loud horn of the ship as it sails away. 
My Favorite Bit: I love the illustrations in this story.  I love when Harry gets so mad at the singing he bites the leg of the piano instead of the lady next door.  I love the way the people in the town are drawn, and we come back to this world again and again to read all about Harry the dog.  There are several other Harry books that I'll review here eventually as we love them all. 

Suitable Age For Reading It To: This book is divided into mini chapters that are great for beginning readers. The print is large and the pictures are so engaging. My four year old loves to hear this and my nine year old loves to read it.  Any age in between would be happy to have it.  Harry is for everyone.
Go Get It: Harry And The Lady Next Door on Amazon US in paperback
A Little About The Author / Illustrator: Eugene Zion was born in 1913 in New York city.  He worked for CBS and as a freelance writer and designer.  He married Margaret Bloy Graham in 1948 and collaborated with her on many books including all the Harry books.  They divorced in 1968, he stopped writing children's books and died in 1975. 
Margaret Bloy Graham was born in Toronto, Canada and spent summers as a child in England and the US.  In the 1940's she moved to New York City to be a commercial artist where she met Gene Zion.  Their first book together was All Falling Down for which they received a Caldecott honor.  Margaret wrote and illustrated books on her own as well including Be Nice To Spiders and the Benjy series.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Children's Book Review: The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Name of Book: The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Author / Illustrator: By Eric Carle
What It's All About: In the light of the moon a little caterpillar comes out of an egg and begins to eat his way through different foods.  Each day he eats a different food and on Saturday he eats through lots of foods.  He feels so sick that Sunday he eats through one green leaf.  Then he isn't sick anymore and he isn't a little caterpillar anymore.  He spins himself up into a cocoon and becomes a beautiful butterfly. This story is charming, brightly illustrated, and informative in a general way about the life cycle of caterpillars, the days of the week, and what foods look the most delicious to a caterpillar. 
My Favorite Bit: I have two favorite pages.  I love the words to the first page.  It makes me drop my voice low and smooth and say, "In the light of the moon a little egg lay on a leaf."  My other favorite page is everyone's favorite page: the page for Saturday where the caterpillar eats through many different foods.  We pick our favorite food every time we get to that page.  Today it's the piece of pie.
Go Get It: The Very Hungry Caterpillar on Amazon US in hardcover
Suitable Age For Reading It To: This is a book for small children.  The words are big and short, the pictures are large and vivid, and the tale is easy to understand.  This is one of my four year old's favorite stories. 
A Little About the Author / Illustrator: Eric Carle was born in New York in 1929 and moved with his parents to Germany when he was six years old.  He returned to New York in 1952 and became a graphic designer at The New York Times.  Carle's technique is collage using hand-painted papers, which he cuts and layers to form the images for the stories.   Bill Martin Jr. contacted Carle to illustrate a story he had written after he saw a lobster that Carle had created for an ad.  The book was Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? Here is the lobster that 'launched' Carle into the illustration world.
Carle says: “With many of my books I attempt to bridge the gap between the home and school. To me home represents, or should represent; warmth, security, toys, holding hands, being held. School is a strange and new place for a child. Will it be a happy place? There are new people, a teacher, classmates—will they be friendly?
I believe the passage from home to school is the second biggest trauma of childhood; the first is, of course, being born. Indeed, in both cases we leave a place of warmth and protection for one that is unknown. The unknown often brings fear with it. In my books I try to counteract this fear, to replace it with a positive message. I believe that children are naturally creative and eager to learn. I want to show them that learning is really both fascinating and fun.”
Check out more about Mr. Carle on his website.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Vignette: Lynn Lupetti

Vignette: Lynn Lupetti paintings

     Half an hour away from where I live is a place called Carmel.  Carmel is not only a beautiful and affluent town, it boasts a famous (now retired) mayor, Clint Eastwood.  Down near the sea with the white sandy beaches that scrunch under your feet with an unnatural squeak, amid the million dollar homes that are nothing more than ranch houses who have suddenly found themselves in a happening part of the world, there are little expensive boutiques. Here you can buy a necklace for the cost of a car or baby clothes I'd be terrified to put anything but a doll in for fear they'd be destroyed along with the college fund it took to buy them, a vintage suitcase that cost more than my wedding dress, or a pair of heels that would make me begrudge the pavement its dirty surface.  But something else used to be in that town that I always enjoyed wandering through.  Carmel is full of quaint art galleries.  You can spend a day wandering in and out of them, looking with quiet awe or civil distaste at the various pieces and styles on display: a sculptor gone mad twisting the human form into something unrecognizable, a gaudy garish canvas filled with layers of gouache where the artist had no knowledge of how to use the material, a crude picture of a nude model supposedly art because the artist has drawn all the imperfections in the person he can think of, a set of pots clevery welded together to allow water to dribble through in a pleasing way that urges you towards a bathroom at your earliest convenience.  But then there are the quiet galleries filled with real gems: portraits of people you wish were right there because the paint seems to leap off the canvas and tell you a story, delicate landscapes with whispy clouds and sparkling water, beautiful still life pictures where the silver gleams as if its real and the fruit and flowers look like gems.  
     And lastly, and probably most unadmired by the more strident art community, are the fantasy pieces.  Here is where you wander through looking at pictures of wild colors, mythical creatures, and fantasy-scapes so surreal I resist the urge to look at them upside down to see if they were hung up correctly.  And off one street of the main Carmel thoroughfare I wandered into a gallery and was pleased to find subject matter that I could relate to.  Lining the walls were the picture you see below, pictures of fantasy and make-believe and children.  Not all of Lupetti's work I love, but I love that there is a place in the world for such art, that people can be happy or inspired by these little stories told with paint on a canvas.  I've been back to that gallery several times and for a little while my sister and I collected puzzles of the paintings so that we could enjoy them at home.  Lupetti's Carmel webpage is down and I can find no information about this artist and why she paints what she does, but I have a sneaking suspicion she was/is a portrait artist who grew tired of the background of people's houses for portraits and began creating what children wished were around them.  I hope you enjoy these as I have.  Feel free to comment about which is your favorite.


Song of the Sea

Mirror of Dreams

A Higher Purpose

Innocent Architect

Voyage of light

The Dragon Tamer

Enchanted Knight

My Tea Bear

 Breath of Life

Bedtime Story

Kiss of the Faerie

Toymaker's Son


The Blessing

The Secret Rendezvous

The Wish

Lords Of The Moon

The Source

Friday, July 22, 2011

Children's Book Review: The Rainbow Goblins

Name of Book: The Rainbow Goblins
Author / Illustrator: Ul De Rico
What It's All About: Goblins who feast on the colors of the rainbow come to the valley where rainbows are born to steal the rainbows away and eat them.  The valley knows of the goblins arrival and make a plan to thwart the wicked creatures.  Led by the devious Yellow, the goblins take their rainbow-catching nets and move stealthily through the grass to where a rainbow is forming.  Just as they throw their nets into the air, the rainbow disappears.  The nets, empty of their prey, fall back on the goblins and ensnare them.  When the goblins are well and truly caught, the flowers release the colors of the rainbow that they have hidden from the goblin.  The colors pour out and drown the goblins and the rainbow, to thank the flowers who have saved it, turn them into beautiful rainbow birds who fly across the valley in freedom. 
My Favorite Bit: My favorite bit is the sunset and moonscape on two of the pages.  They are really fantasy perfect.  As a child I also loved the page where the flowers became birds.

Suitable Age For Reading It To: This story is a dark fairytale and I would suggest waiting until your child is at least five or six (if they are used to fairytales) and seven if they aren't.  The very nature of the pictures and the bright almost nightmarish grins of the goblins keep this story in the older kids section.  The demise of the goblins is just but they are shown drowned in the rainbow colors with one's bottom afloat and one's mouth open and all their eyes rolled back.  It's not a pretty sight.  But, this remains a great and beautiful story. 
Go Get It: The Rainbow Goblins hardback at Amazon US
A Little About The Author / Illustrator: Ul de Rico (full name Ulderico Gropplero di Troppenburg) was born in 1944 in Udine, Italy.  He wrote a sequel to the story above called The White Goblin and was also a major contributore to the film The NeverEnding Story.  The style he used in both books was oil-on-oak panels, giving them a grainy yet vivid look.  (Found this info in his wikipedia article.)  Find more of his works at his site:

Ul de Rico

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Children's Book Review: I Will Surprise My Friend

Name of Book: I Will Surprise My Friend
Author / Illustrator: Written and Illustrated by Mo Willems
What It's All About: Gerald and Piggie watch a squirrel surprise its friend.  Elephant and Piggie want to surprise each other.  They creep up behind a big rock and wait for the other to jump out and surprise them but each one waits for the other to surprise them.  What's taking so long?
My Favorite Bit: This book came as all books should--as a surprise in the mail from some dear friends Abel and his mother Bethany.  Thank you both so very much! We love everything about this book.  Perhaps my favorite page is when Gerald says, "I must save her!" and Piggie, thinking Gerald has gone home to lunch says, "I will get lunch!" I simply love their expressions.  This book has us giggling every time.

Go Get It: I Will Surprise My Friend at Amazon US in hardcover (seriously. go get it.)
Suitable Age For Reading It To: Get this for your Grandpa, your niece, your child, your spouse.  It's perfect for everyone!
A Little About The Author / Illustrator: For my little blip about Mo Willems, check out my earlier post here.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Children's Book Review: A Fly Went By

Name of Book: A Fly Went By
Author / Illustrator: Written by Mike McClintock and Illustrated by Fritz Siebel
What It's All About: A boy sat by the lake and watched the sky and as he watched a fly went by.  The fly is trying to get away from the frog, who is trying to get away from the cat, who is trying to get away from the dog, who is trying to get away from that--that pig! The boy must get to the bottom of why all the animals are running away from each other but what will the boy find at the end of the chase?
My Favorite Bit: I really like these illustrations.  The characters are large and round and the coloring is really nice.  It makes you comfortable in this world despite the long line of animals fleeing from each other. The words are also in large print and easy to read, which makes the whole family come back time and again for another read.
Suitable Age For Reading It To: This story is easy to read and the rhyming nature of it keeps you turning the pages.  My four year old asks to read this at least once a day but older my son sneaks in to listen to the familiar tale.
Go Get It: A Fly Went By hardcover from Amazon US.
A Little About The Author / Illustrator: 
Okay, so I can't find anything on either one of these guys.  Too many people have the name Mike McClintock and it doesn't seem to be out there.  Fritz Siebel is another unknown--I only know that he was the first to draw Amelia Bedelia (review of this in the works).  Let me know if you know anything about them.  Cheers!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Children's Book Review: Charlie Meadows

Name of Book: Charlie Meadows
Author / Illustrator: Written by Russell Hoban and illustrated by Martin Baynton
What It's All About: A little mouse delivers the news and weather at night.  He carries a sign made from a torn off piece of paper that says "bleak outlo".  One night he begins to dance on the snow just to watch his shadow move across the white drifts.  Ephraim Owl is also watching Charlie's shadow dance.  Will this be Charlie's last night of news and weather?
My Favorite Bit:  There is something so ageless about the way these little stories are written.  Hoban is a master of writing what children want to read without sugar coating the language nor the storylines.  My favorite bit in this book must surely be the page with Ephraim looming over Charlie.  Baynton's illustrations are delicate and beautiful.  I wish I could find one here for you but alas my Hoban set is still packed away from our great move and I can't scan it in.  Just trust me.  They're amazing.
Suitable Age For Reading It To: These stories are a little more sophisticated and I'd start around four and work your way up.  I still love them in my thirties so that's a plus.
Go Get It: Charlie Meadows at Amazon US. This one's out of print so it will take a little hunting but it's well worth it.
A Little About The Author / Illustrator: 

Russell Conwell Hoban is an American, born in 1925 in Lansdale, Pennsylvania to Jewish Ukranian immigrents.  He married Lillian Hoban during WWII, with whom he collaborated on the Frances books as well as others.  They divorced and he lives with his second wife and their children in London.  The Mouse And His Child was Hoban's first full length novel though he has gone on to write more novels for adults.

Martin Baynton, born in 1953 in London, is a British Author, illustrator, actor, and tv producer.  Besides the book series he illustrated above he has also illustrated the book Jane and the Dragon which has been adapted for tv and produced by the now famous Weta Workshop.  

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Children's Book Review: The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, And The Big Hungry Bear

Name of Book: The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, And The Big Hungry Bear
Author / Illustrator: Written by Don and Audrey Wood and Illustrated by Don Wood
What It's All About: A little mouse finds a strawberry.  The narrator warns the little mouse that there's a big hungry bear out there who will fill find the strawberry no matter where the mouse hides it or how the mouse guards it.  The only way to be really sure about keeping a strawberry safe is to cut it in half and share it with me (the narrator).
My Favorite Bit: I think I like the simplicity of the wording in this story and the bright vibrant colors of the pictures.  They are large and colorful and really cute.  We love the page especially where the mouse tries to disguise the strawberry.
Go Get It: The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, And The Big Hungry Bear paperback at Amazon
Suitable Age For Reading It To: This is a nice bedtime story as it is simple, short, and the wording is easy.  My littlest loves this best though my son sneaks in for a listen, so I'd say it's for anyone but little ones will probably love it best.
A Little About The Author / Illustrator:
Audrey Wood started out life in Florida in the winter quarters of the Ringling Brothers' Circus where Audrey's father was making extra income by repainting circus murals.  Her family relocated to Mexico and she speaks Spanish.  Her family's love of books and art (she is a fourth generation illustrator) made it easy for her to decide to become a children's book writer and illustrator.

Don Wood was born and raised in the Central Valley of California on a farm.  By the time he was twelve he knew he wanted to be an artist though his father was worried about his choice.  He drew in the winters when farm duties were not so pressing.  He met Audrey at Berkeley while studying and married her six months later.  When she began to write children's books, Don began to illustrate them and they've been doing it ever since.

Find out more about these two at

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Children's Book Review: Harry And The Terrible Whatzit

Name of Book: Harry And The Terrible Whatzit
Author / Illustrator: By Dick Gackenbach
What It's All About: Harry tells his mother not to go down to the basement.  He knows there is something bad down there.  His mother doesn't listen and now she's missing.  Down in the basement Harry finds the Whatzit.  He discovers the Whatzit monster doesn't like people who stand up to it.  When you stand up to a Whatzit, it shrinks! Harry isn't so unkind as not to give the monster a hint where to go next (to a neighbor's house who's afraid of everything).  The only thing left for Harry to do is find his mother.  But where is she? Perhaps he should leave the cellar through it's back door to the back yard.

My Favorite Bit: I think I like that Harry sends the Whatzit to his neighbor's house best.  I also like the little details like Harry's mother leaving her glasses by the jars of pickles.  The illustrations in this story remind me of Tootise Roll pops for some reason.  It's a very seventies-looking story but it doesn't suffer for it.  The simple colors and great illustrations make this story a perfect one for your library.
Go Get It: Harry And The Terrible Whatzit
Suitable Age For Reading It To: This story can be a little spooky as there is not only something in the basement but it's a pretty creepy monster.  I'd save this for five and up based on the pictures (but I don't know your kids so you check it out :).
A Little About The Author / Illustrator: Mr. Gackenbach (1927-2001) was born in Allentown, Pennsylvannia and attended Jameson Franklin School of Art in New York as well as Abbott School of Art in D.C.  He worked for J.C. Penney from 1950-1972 as a paste-up artist* then creative director.  After that he became a free-lance author and illustrator in 1972 until his death.  He was also a consultant on art education for children with learning disabilities from 1988-2001.

* A paste-up artist (also called a layout, mechanical, production, or compositer artist) would cut the type into sections and arrange it carefully across multiple columns.  Basically, the paste-up artist would usually determine the final position of words on a page (back in the land before computers were alive).

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Children's Book Review: Professor Wormbog In Search For The Zipperump-a-zoo

Name of Book: Professor Wormbog In Search For The Zipperump-A-Zoo
Author / Illustrator: By Mercer Mayer
What It's All About: Professor Wormbog has all kinds of beasties but he doesn't have the elusive Zipperump-a-zoo.  He travels the world searching for the Zipperump-a-zoo aided by a few of his animals the cute and fuzzy Little Laugh and the not-so-cute Kerploppus.  After searching everywhere he decides to give up and goes home (whose home: your home, my home, Old Kentucky home) and takes a hot bath.  Sitting by the fire he falls asleep with only Little Laugh in attendance...or are they really alone?
My Favorite Bit: There are so many great bits about this book--it's positively in my top five favorite books of all time.  Favorite page: the page where the Professor goes to sea.  There is so much going on on the page and I wouldn't mind being there.  I also highly enjoy a few of the phrases such as:

"He went to the peak and looked and looked but when the peak looked back he knew it was time to go."  
"Leave," she said. "Begone. Depart." 

And last but not least, I love that all the beasties feel sorry for Professor Wormbog when he goes home tired and discouraged.  It shows they really do like him and so do we.  Below I've put the picture of some of the animals in his zoo.  Their names are hilarious and make my kids giggle (I stay completely stone-faced of course).

Go Get It: Professor Wormbog In Search For The Zipperump-A-Zoo hardcover at Amazon
Suitable Age For Reading It To: Everyone loves this book in our house--little to big.
A Little About The Author / Illustrator: Mercer Mayer is awesome.  Okay, you can read a little about him on my earlier post about Everyone Knows What A Dragon Looks Like here.  Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Vignette: A Loose Look on Seuss Books

Vignette: A Compilation of Seuss: Behind the Books
Theodore Geisel, Theo LeSieg, and Dr. Seuss are one and the same.  Mr. Geisel, Ted to those who knew him, wrote under the pseudonym Dr. Seuss (pronounced Soice--rhymes with Voice).  But who cares right? We call him Seuss (Soose--rhymes with moose) and since you can't stop a few hundred million people from doing it, it really becomes your name right?  I mean, people are always calling me Raquel for some reason and I've learned to live with any variation of spelling and name calling (including Roach, but that was in Junior High).

    I'm not doing a biography on Dr. Seuss on this page because I've already done a short bio on One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, which you can read here.  Besides, I like little tidbits of interesting information and after a while learning what year someone was born and where they went to school just becomes more facts.  So, here's a few things behind some of Seuss's most famous books.  Many of these brain tidbits are pretty easy to come by but if you are like me and don't seek this information out you can now find it here easily just by being someone who likes my blog and books.

The Lorax was an environmental plea from Dr. Seuss.  Loggers were, as you can guess, upset over the portrayal and even some groups sponsored a counter-book called The Truax, which comes from the logger's point of view.  You can read it here.  One funny thing I also found out about this book is that it used to contain a line that said, "I hear things are just as bad up in Lake Eerie", but after a number of years and the obvious success of the book, the Ohio Sea Grant Program wrote to Seuss, explaining the improving of conditions and imploring him to take the line out.  Seuss agreed and it hasn't been in any editions since.

If I Ran The Zoo has the first recorded instance of the word "nerd".  It was published in 1950.  Look on the sign in the picture below:
The Cat In The Hat was written because Seuss thought Dick and Jane primers were extremely boring.  He thought kids would enjoy the Cat more than the kids.  He was right.

Seuss's editor bet him he couldn't write a book using 50 words or less.  Seuss won the bet and wrote this book (can you guess before I tell you?).  Well, if you can't then here it is: Green Eggs And Ham.  It uses exactly 50 words.  Here they are: a, am, and, anywhere, are, be, boat, box, car, could, dark, do, eat, eggs, fox, goat, good, green, ham, here, house, I, if, in, let, like, may, me, mouse, not, on, or, rain, Sam, say, see, so, thank, that, the, them, there, they, train, tree, try, will, with, would, you.

It is rumored that Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now! was written about our dear President Nixon, but the book came out too quickly after Watergate for it to have been so.  Not to be outdone in the humor section, Seuss sent a copy of the book to a friend at the Washington Post and crossed out Mooney's name and put Nixon in it's place.  The friend, Art Buchwald, reprinted it with Nixon's name. Read it here.

Yertle The Turtle is about Hitler.  Yeah, it is.  Seuss even said so. If you need proof, just read the story again.  It's right there.  The funny thing about it all is the fact that the story is a parallel to Hitler wasn't the problem at Random House.   The problem is that Mack, the turtle at the bottom of the stack, burps.  Believe it or not, it was the first burp in a children's book.  It got more than a few raised eyebrows and was quite a push to get put in.   This is a funny reminder of that book because I remember even as a child thinking the burp was so gross.  It was a real burp. 

The Butter Battle Book, which I have read seems to have been taken out of circulation here and there for an interesting reason: it's about the Cold War and the arms race.  Yooks and Zooks do everything differently.  They feel that the other people are doing things wrong.  They build all sorts of Seuss weapons and the book ends with them ready to drop them on each other but we don't know what will happen.  Spooky, huh?

That is all, friends.  I just found a little on Seuss floating around the net that looked like it would be fun to share.  And that's the way it happened.