Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Twelve Days of Christmas

Laurel Long leaves her readers with a new, Medieval interpretation of the traditional carol in The Twelve Days of Christmas (c. 2011).  Each majestic spread becomes a beautiful re-envisioning of the traditional carol.  At first glance, this beautiful, Renaissance inspired fairy tale world appears serene.  Yet look for all the movement while finding the hidden images that recapture each verse's previous stanzas.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Is Here!

I'm looking forward to seeing more from this brilliant new artist, Lauren Castillo.  Check out her webpage: http://www.laurencastillo.com/  and blog: http://www.laurencastillo.blogspot.com/  

My new favorite Christmas book, Christmas is Here! by Lauren Castillo shadows a family taking a winter walk through the falling snow.  Quickly they encounter a Nativity tableau.  Castillo slows the business of the season into a halting encounter of peace.  Feast on her silently striking ink and watercolor illustrations.  Meditate on Luke 2 and the Wonder of this Christmas season.

Merry Christmas, dear readers!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Peter Spier's Christmas!

I've found Peter Spier's books difficult to obtain.  However, if you can get your hands on a copy of Peter Spier's Christmas! (c. 1983) -- it's well worth the hassle!

Everyone in my family is riveted by Spier's illustrations that chronicle the cycle of the Christmas season, beginning with empty tree farms and ending with a weather-beaten tree lot.

We forget that this is a wordless book because Spier's illustrations take on a life of their own, telling their story so well.  It's fun to hear the different dialogues the kids come up with as they peruse the book.  The painstaking detail in each illustration begs to be reviewed again and again.

I'm amused by these next few grocery shopping illustrations.  Spier uncannily captures the experience quite accurately.

This book takes on a whole new meaning when you open it as a parent.  I especially love the Christmas Eve sequence and the mound of dirty dishes preceding the satisfaction of a clean kitchen.

The elements on each page are so recognizable; perhaps my strong attachment comes from the personal feeling that Spier depicts my childhood Christmas story.

So as you prepare and decorate during this Christmas season, feast your eyes on Spier's fascinating illustrations.  And have a very Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas Cookies

Thank you Aunt Bonnie for giving us this delicious book with sumptuous lessons that we can really sink our teeth into!
In Christmas Cookies: Bite-Size Holiday Lessons, author Amy Krouse Rosenthal presents an unique way of introducing children to life values by building her vocabulary words around the tradition of baking and decorating holiday cookies.  The illustrations make this book, and we love illustrator Jane Dyer who has collaborated with Amy Krouse Rosenthal in illustrating the vocabulary lessons: anticipation, tradition, disappointed, celebrate, appreciative, prosperity, charitable, responsible, moderation, reciprocate, frustrated, perseverance, selfish, thoughtful, lonely, sharing, gratitude, family gracious, believe, joy, peace, and hope.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Polar Express

I just love how Chris Van Allsburg captures the magic of Christmastime with a blast of a train whistle and the tinkling of a sleigh-bell.

Many of you are familiar with The Polar Express because of the animated movie released in 2004.  However, check out this book (c. 1985) to discover why author / illustrator Chris Van Allsburg was awarded the Caldecott Medal in 1986 for his breathtaking illustrations.  View his acceptance speech here.

 Here's my cousin's son looking at his favorite Christmas book The Polar Express:

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree

If you read no other book recommendation from my blog this year, be sure to check out The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree (c. 1988), by Gloria Houston and illustrated by Barbara Cooney, to read to the kids!  It's a timeless story that sings the spirit of Christmas.

Barbara Cooney is not only one of our family's favorite illustrators, she's America's beloved illustrator, illustrator of over one hundred childrens' books and recipient of two Cladecott Medals.  So glance over the illustrations, and you'll find that they speak for themselves.

In addition, acclaimed author Gloria Houston retells this heartwarming Appalachian story as it was passed down from her grandmother and mother.

So what's this perfect tale about?  Let's read what the publishers have to say: "The Armistice has been declared, but still there is no sign of Ruthie's father in their little Appalachian town. So, in accordance with the traditions of Pine Grove, it falls to Ruthie and her mother to bring home the perfect Christmas tree to donate to the town. Ruthie had accompanied her father to the rocky cliff where he marked a tree in the spring, so she and her mother set out to find it again, and haul it home. Their trip becomes the basis overnight of a new town legend; [meanwhile] Ruthie [is] chosen for the role of the heavenly angel in the the church Christmas play . . ."

However, while Ruthie's father is away at war, many of the income earning responsibilities cannot be accomplished by Ruthie or her mother.  So they scrimp where they can, leaving the question of an angel's costume and a Christmas gift for Ruthie an unattainable wish.  Find out what happens to all these dilemmas in the story's joy filled ending.  Just be sure have a tissue ready to wipe those tears.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree

I know you'll be tickled to read this charming Christmas story, a true classic with the original copyright in 1963 and thankfully reprints up to 2000.  Fall in love with Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree by Robert Barry.

Let's hear the review from Random House:
Mr. Willowby's Christmas tree is so tall, it can't stand up straight in his parlor.  Mr. Willowby asks his butler to chop off the top of the tree.  What happens to the treetop?  Where will it be for Christmas?  Snuggle up with this story and follow along through a forest full of friendly creatures who get to share Mr. Willowby's Christmas joy.  Robery Barry's enchanting classic holiday tale, here for the first time in glorious full color, will fill readers' hearts with cheer long after New Year's.

Here's an alternate book cover:

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Mountain Brook

"Mountain Brook"
by Elizabeth Coatsworth

Because of the steepness,
the streamlet runs white,
narrow and broken
as lightning by night.

Because of the rocks,
it leaps this way and that,
fresh as a flower,
quick as a cat.

from Snow Toward Evening: A Year in a River Valley / Nature Poems Selected by Josette Frank with Paintings by Thomas Locker.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Christmas Tree Farm

So have you answered all the "whys" yet?  You know . . . "where did our Christmas tree come from?" . . . "Why did it?" . . . "Why did they?" . . . "What about next year?"

David Budbill writes a simple step-by-step account of a Christmas Tree Farm (c.1974) in his book by that title.  Donald Carrick's pencil and wash drawing compliment the simplicity of Budbill's story.  If your child begs to know where his live Christmas Tree comes from, try checking out this out-of-print book from your local library.  But be forewarned, you may start receiving requests to trek to the nearest Christmas Tree farm in order to purchase that next tree.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Make Way for Ducklings

I realized that while I've been featuring some forgotten Robert McCloskey titles, I have neglected to recommend his beloved book Make Way for Ducklings (c. 1969).  Oh this story with Caldecott winning illustrations remains a favorite for many!  And it's another on the MUST list (books you must read to your children to enrich their childhood).  And so our story begins: 

    Mr. and Mrs. Mallard were looking for a place to live.  But every time Mr. Mallard saw what looked like a nice place, Mrs. Mallard said it was no good.  There were sure to be foxes in the woods or turtles in the water, and she was not going to raise a family where there might be foxes or turtles.  So they flew on and on.

    Take a lovely, and historical, tour of Boston with the Mallard family in McCloskey's unforgettable children's classic Make Way for Ducklings.

    And look!  Boston Public Gardens even has the bronze sculpture by Nancy Schön commemorating McCloskey's book: http://www.boston-discovery-guide.com/make-way-for-ducklings.html#axzz1d4yVoFBL   And check out the ducklings in their holiday finest: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dippy_duck/2173283522/  In fact, just Google "Make Way for Ducklings" and view all the images of the bronze brood throughout the seasons in Boston Public Gardens.

    While I think that's recommendation enough, I must share a true story . . . that really . . . did . . . happen.  This past summer when we vacationed with the Mister's family, we ate at a Brixx Pizza located near a small pond.  While enjoying our pizza over laughter and conversation, all five cousins spotted a mother duck marching her ducklings past the glassed windows of the restaurant, 100 feet or so toward the pond.  We ALL delighted in the sight, adults and children alike.  Now I ask you, doesn't that spark your curiosity as to the inspiration behind McCloskey's story?  It does mine!

    Monday, November 21, 2011

    The First Thanksgiving

    I've introduced the magnificent paintings of Thomas Locker to you.  Here's his take on The First Thanksgiving written by Jean Craighead George (c. 1993).

    Sunday, November 20, 2011

    a Pumpkin Moonshine update:

    Even though Halloween has passed.  I just have to share this sweet little book by Tasha Tudor with you once again.  You know, we all need our memories refreshed from time to time.  And this little book remains an old friend.  Just as good friends don't neglect each other, the dust jacket of Pumpkin Moonshine (c. 1938, renewed 1966) evidences love worn as its story becomes a familiar one.  I don't think of it so much as a Halloween story as a late fall, November story. AND it's still in print!

    So begins Tudor's charm: 

    Sylvie Ann was visiting her Grandmummy in Connecticut.  It was Hallowe'en and Sylvie wanted to make a Pumpkin Moonshine, so she put on her bonnet and started out for the cornfield to find the very finest and largest pumpkin.

    When they reached the field, Sylvie looked among the shocks of corn for the very fattest pumpkin.  Way across the field she found such a fine one!
    Be sure to check out this delightful tale to discover what happens between the previous illustration and the following illustration.  Of course, you'll want to read the ending too!

    But worst of all it bumped right into Mr. Hemmelskamp who was carrying a pail full of whitewash!

    Tuesday, November 15, 2011

    Burt Dow Deep-Water Man

    Oh, goody!  We discovered another book by Robert McCloskey: Burt Dow Deep-Water Man: A Tale of the Sea in the Classic Tradition (c. 1963).  I hardly thought it could be possible!

    Burt Dow Deep-Water Man reveals a master story-teller at work.  First, McCloskey uses onomatopoeia (words that mean what they sound like) to relate this tall tale.  Listen to these lines to hear the onomatopoeia:
    • When Burt Dow puts out to sea in the Tidely-Idley, everybody in town knows it.  They hear him pump out all the water that has leaked in overnight, slish-cashlosh, slish-cashlosh! . . .   Then they hear him start the make-and-break engine, clackety bang! clackety bang! . . . 

    • . . . The giggling gull was teetering to and fro on the tip of the tiller and tittering "Tee-he-he-hee!" now and then, in a nervous sort of way.
    Then McCloskey evokes perfect rhythm while weaving his spellbinding tale.  We all know McCloskey as a brilliant illustrator.  However, I challenge you to close your eyes and listen to Burt Dow read aloud . . . you'll discover that the text can stand on its own.  Yes, it's a rare jewel that displays the craft of oral storytelling at its best

    So how did Burt Dow get from here:

    to here:

    Well, you'll have to read this little treasure of an adventure to find out!

    By-the-way, here's another title that the fellas would enjoy.

    Monday, November 14, 2011

    Wind Has Shaken Autumn Down

    Wind has shaken autumn down
    left it sprawling on the ground,
    shawling all in gold below,
    waiting for the hush of snow.
    ~  Tony Johnston

    from Snow Toward Evening: A Year in a River Valley / Nature Poems Selected by Josette Frank with Paintings by Thomas Locker.

    Sunday, November 13, 2011

    Beatrix Potter's Autumn

    Beatrix Potter teaches her young audience a few important (and humorous) lessons with her Autumn tales.

    First she issues a warning through the example of Squirrel Nutkin (c. 1903).

    While the squirrel clan harvests nuts into their storehouses, 

    Squirrel Nutkin teases and mocks Old Mr. Brown, the owl, with foolish riddles.  We soon find that Nutkin can disrespect his elder only so much before Mr. Brown bites off his tail.

    Then we come to Timmy Tiptoes (c. 1911). 

    Here Timmy Tiptoes' wife Goody Tiptoes (I'm especially fond of this squirrel illustration) prepares her home for the winter.

    Timmy and Goody work hard and fast to store nuts for their hibernation.  Unfortunately, some other squirrels jump to conclusions, suspecting Timmy of stealing nuts.

    And they punish Timmy by dropping him into a hollowed tree, unknowingly onto his own storehouse.  While Goody searches for Timmy, Timmy gorges himself on nuts, so much so that he cannot escape through the hole once Goody finds him.  Eventually circumstances right themselves, and Timmy and Goody reunite.

    Last, but certainly not least, we have The Tale of Ginger and Pickles (c. 1909).

     This story may be enjoyed by the parents more than the children, for it holds a timely commentary on our present economic atmosphere.  For you see:
                    Ginger and Pickles gave unlimited credit.  Now the meaning of "credit" is this -- 
                    when a customer buys a bar of soap, instead of the customer pulling out a purse and 
                    paying for it -- she says she will pay another time.  (19)

    Yes, friends, this synopisis' irony will be lost on the little ones.  We know the outcome of the story because we're living it.  But to hear it so succinctly expressed by the prophetess Beatrix Potter deserves a second glance.  If we had but heeded her warning!  Perhaps reading this little volume to the ones under our care will help prevent similar outcomes in their future.