Saturday, December 31, 2011

Vignette: Small Things, Calvin, and Hobbes

     I met a little cockatiel the other day.  I suppose if I lived in Rio that wouldn't sound so strange but here in California where the birds come in the screeching blue varieties and the small brown varieties, we don't get many cockatiels.  This one fluttered into my mother's garden.  My mother, kind heart that she has, immediately ran the cats out of the garden and called for my help.  I captured it carefully under a towel and we put it in two plastic baskets taped together.  Animal services had a lovely droning message machine that listed all the terrible ways you could find an animal in trouble and somewhere in the labryinth of depressing information I found that there were two conveniently located centers in our county and one of them was open.  Shock.
     It was closed.  It was open half an hour before but their staff all take lunch at the same time and had deigned that tidbit of information not worthy enough for their phone extravaganza.  Luckily we were near the small airport where one of my sisters works and we could leave the bird with her, which she promised to take to the center once it had reopened. 
     I thought just for a moment as we were driving home that I should have let the center know that I wanted the cockatiel back if no one came to claim it.  I didn't have any firm ideas about Animal Services and their euthanizing standards for birds and would have felt terrible if I had caught this little flying creature only to have someone kill it.  But, as it turns out, I live in the real world where you don't even have to have animal services do the dirty work.  I phoned the center up after the holiday weekend only to find the bird had died.  The lady on the phone was very specific about her lack of knowledge in the bird department.  Their vet hazarded it may have eaten something it shouldn't have.  So that's it for freedom.  I don't know where we get our tame birds from, but I know now that a cockatiel trying to fly for freedom and stopping on the way to eat a few poisonous plants doesn't have much of a chance. 
     What does this have to do with Calvin and Hobbes you may ask? Well, I was thinking about that little cockatiel this morning and it reminded me of a very sweet set of Calvin and Hobbes strips that I've listed below.  Sometimes Calvin and Hobbes hits just a little too close to home.  I hope you enjoy these and my upcoming vignette about some great (and un-cheesy) comics for kids (and adults who still act like kids).



Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Children's Book Review: Sounds of Laughter

Name Of Book: Sounds Of Laughter
Author / Illustrator: By Bill Martin, Jr.
What It's All About: This book was from a set of California State Series books by Bill Martin, Jr. that my parents had in their library and I loved them.  Each book was a set of stories.  Sounds of Laughter possibly has the most stories I loved but the other books (Sounds Around The Clock, Sounds Of Numbers) have great vignettes too.
My Favorite Bit: In this book it has to be Old Lucy Lindy And The Pies.  My family still says the now familiar phrase, "She put the initials IM on the pies that had mince in them for Is Mince, and she put IM on the pies that didn't have mince for Isn't Mince." 
Suitable Age For Reading It To: This has a little something for every age but smack dab in the middle of elementary school is probably what it was intended for. 
Go Get It: I recommend these as a nice addition to your library.  Get a used copy HERE.
Titles In Sounds Of Laughter:
Listen, Listen, a poem
The Funny old man and the Funny Old Woman
Here's a picture for storytelling
Good Night, a poem
The Old Woman and her Pig
Susie Moriar, a poem
The Three Billy-Goats Gruff
Shadow Dance, a poem
This is Halloween, a poem
A Maker of Boxes
Here's a picture for storytelling
Old Lucy Lindy and the Pies
Choosing Shoes, a poem
Joey Kangaroo
Little Red-Cap
Out in the Rain
Here's a picture for storytelling
Growing up, Growing Older
Nine Little Goblins
The River, a poem
Knots on a Counting Rope
Here's a picture for storytelling
The Tiger, The Brahman and the Jackal
Keep a poem in you Pocket, a poem

All in all a fun book for all ages. I would recommend the series even though they're reaching from 50 years ago.  In Sounds Of Numbers my favorite story is Ten Pennies For Andy.  Check them all out!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Children's Book Review: Angelina's Christmas

Name of Book: Angelina's Christmas
Author / Illustrator: Written by Katharine Hollabird and Illustrated by Helen Craig
What It's All About: At Christmas time Angelina discovers an old lonely mouse in town and enlists him to dress as Santa as he used to do when he was the village postman.
My Favorite Bit:  As with all the Angelina stories, my favorite bits are the illustrations.  Craig is a wonderfully detailed artist who takes pride in the little touches in each picture and if you're like me, you love just looking at the pages to see everything she's stuck in.  This talent is at the top of the list for me when I buy books as well as anything I illustrate myself.  Adults and children alike love to hunt for things and notice details in pictures.  It says something about the artist.  They haven't thrown away a page.  They implore you to stay awhile and look a little longer. Craig lands in good company here with artists like Mercer Mayer and Richard Scarry. In this particular Angelina book, my favorite page is when Angelina, Henry, and Mr. Mouseling take presents and a tree to Mr. Bell as a Christmas surprise.

Suitable Age For Reading It To: The Angelina books are perfect for around age 4-6.  They can be read to younger/older children but I think they are perfect for 4-6 year olds.  The writing is such that younger children may perhaps get tired of the length and older children may wish to move on to a quicker paced story.  The writing is average, not fantastic (my opinion) but coupled with the simply lovely illustrations, these books  have become my daughter's favorites and can become yours too.
Go Get It: Angelina's Christmas in paperback at Amazon US
A Little About the Author / Illustrator: Check out my little blurb about the author and illustrator in an earlier book review HERE.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Ten Animated Disney Movies You Should See

Well okay, this is a hard one.  There are lots of Disney movies to choose from.  And before all of you independent forward thinkers start groaning about Disney and their steamroller approach to marketing, let me explain.  Some people like to talk about the old classic fairytales and how Disney has run over them, made them all have gigantic eyes and tiny waists, and lost the essence of the stories completely.  Not so.  Come now, fellow readers.  The movies below have been done masterfully, if not improving the stories of some, at least bringing pictures to fairytales that need to be known throughout the world.  I know, I've read most of these stories in their original forms.
So here we go:

The Little Mermaid (1989)This movie caught me at that impressionable age of ten.  It's hard not to love it when the heroine survives and marries the prince versus the old Hans Christian Anderson tale where she dies and becomes bubbles.

Sleeping Beauty (1959)
The tale of Sleeping Beauty is made all the more interesting by Eyvind Earle's beautiful and fantastic scenery painting.  This particulary version is also close to my heart as it has (in my opinion) the most interesting Disney prince.  He is hero willing to fight and we love to cheer Prince Phillip on. 

The Many Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh (1977)
Now, I do love A. A. Milne and have read his works so let's get one thing straight.  This is not A. A. Milne.  These characters are not very similar to the stories that Milne conjured up but they are charming.  This little set of stories is quite fun and both myself, my husband, and our children have enjoyed the series.  Check out The New Adventures of Winnie The Pooh (1988-1991) if you want more stories about this group. 

Tarzan (1999)
Possibly my favorite Disney film.  Beautifully retold.  Lovely score.  Really just a Disney masterpiece in my opinion.

Mulan (1998)
This tale is beautifully told and even though Eddie Murphy has been cast as the talking sidekick, Mushu is a cutie pie.  Ming-na does a great job of voicing Mulan and the story is lovely.

Beauty In The Beast (1991)
Beauty and the Beast is up there for me too.  When you think about the actual story, you realize how much Disney has put into this film.  The opening credits of the stained glass story over the Saint-Saen type score is simply stunning.  I love the characters, the songs are good, and the color is rich and lustrous.  This is definitely one of Disney's best.

Fantasia (1940)
Fantasia is a little off the beaten path as not many people are drawn to a collection of cartoons illustrating musical pieces.  I do find a little of the orchestra preparing to be on the slow side but some of the actual pieces in this film are beyond reproach.  If I had to pick favorites I'd say that these three top my list: First has to be the Dance of the Hours with the alligator, hippos, ostriches, and elephants.  Amazing.  Secondly, I love Beethoven's pastoral symphony with the creation of the world and all mythical creatures.  When I was little I wanted to brush the Kentaurides hair and play in the rainbow water with the little pegasus babies.  Thirdly, I love the Tchaikovsky pieces from the Nutcracker and the little fairies changing the seasons.  I can't remember if those two go together but I do enjoy them both.  

Aladdin (1992)
I don't know.  The original to this story was a bare bones sort of tale and Disney has added quite a bit to it.  I loved this movie when it came out.  I still think it's towards the top of Disney's lists.  Just some good old fashioned fairytale fun.

Lilo And Stitch (2002)
This movie will hold a special place in my heart as it came out the same year my son was born and he has always loved it.  You have to love Stitch, Pleakley, Jumba, and little Lilo.  I love when Disney does originals well and this is one of those.

Emperor's New Groove (2000)
If a movie is going to be sarcastic, it might as well go all the way.  The combination of the voices of David Spade and Patrick Warburton are pretty much unbeatable.  It's almost like they animated those two guys and wrote a story for them.  Warburton is one of my all-time favorites.  Watch this film with your kids.  You'll snicker and haw all the way through.

Well, that's it.  Here are ten movies you can add to your watching repertoire or you can purchase them for Christmas.  If you haven't seen one of these I encourage you to give it a chance.  They're all worth an hour or two of your time.