Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Story About Ping

The Story About Ping was first published in 1933 by Majorie Flack and Kurt Wiese and has become a classic to several generations.  Kurt Wiese drew from his six year experience living in China when he illustrated The Story About Ping (read a brief bio here). 

This tells the story of Ping, the "beautiful young duck" who "lived with his mother and his father and two sisters and three brothers and eleven aunts and seven uncles and forty-two cousins."  Ping's adventure unfolds when he chooses to camp onshore overnight in attempt to escape his master's swat for being late.  Take a trip down the Yangtze River with Ping as he seeks to reunite with his family.  As Ping soon discovers, separation proves a harsher fate than a consequent swat for tardiness.

I'd love to know how many of you recall this cleverly spun tale and wonderfully illustrated classic from your own childhood.  Recommended for ages 5-8, it's a staple for every child's book collection.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Happy President's Day!

Here are some brief recommendations before the close of the day.  A fun book for the younger ones, Anne and Lizzy Rockwell team up again to present this introduction to President's Day through the venue of a classroom play.

We really like David A. Adler's Picture Book Biography series!  Adler goes beyond the presidents with his biographies.  However, today I recommend his George Washington, John and Abigail Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Dolley and James Madison, and Abraham Lincoln.  These stories are best suited for children ages 4-8.  

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A New Coat for Anna

In A New Coat for Anna (c. 1986), Harriet Zierfert crafts a beautiful story revived from the ashes of war-torn Europe.   The story repeats: "Anna needs a new coat."  However, "no one had any money" and "the stores remained empty."  In our fast-paced, need-it-now world, here's a story that celebrates the joy of an endeavor realized after the long contribution of ingenuity and patience.  As you read this to your little one, follow the crafting of Anna's coat through the tasks of the shepherd, the spinner, the dyers, the weaver, and the tailor.  And appreciate the historical hardships depicted in Anita Lobel's illustrations.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Reading Mice

The kids have really enjoyed the blog http://mouseshouses.blogspot.com/.  It's pretty amazing to see what patience and creativity can accomplish.  I wish I could get my hands on Maggie Rudy's newly released book The House that Mouse Built; it looks rather fascinating.  For now we'll have to rest content with these, Rudy's various mouse readers (be sure to click on the link to see the original):



Personally, I can't resist the sweetness of cuddling up to read with a little one both in photo and in reality.  Although I'll have to say that I don't know how Rudy captures those expressions onto teeny, tiny mouse faces in "storytime."  The Mister prefers "reading" for it's intricacies.  Which one is your favorite?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Growing Story

So the pants that were supposed to last my children through winter are quickly crawling up into that "my momma hasn't noticed me in weeks" area.  Yep, I'm not quite sure how they're protecting the ankles from the cold at this point.  Thank goodness for knee-length socks and the warmer temps.  We've all been caught in this situation, right?  However, the kids don't mind.  In fact, they relish the disconcertion etched in my face as I watch them grow in leaps before my very eyes.

So reading them The Growing Story made them a little giddy in comparing the boy's story to their own.  As the publishers, Harper Collins, so aptly describe: "This Ruth Krauss classic enchanted young readers when it was first published in 1947.  Now it blooms again with lush illustrations by one of the world's best-loved illustrators: Helen Oxenbury."  As the boy watches his puppy and his chicks grow while the seasons change, he's discouraged that he doesn't see his own growth as evidently.  That is, until the clever ending.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

My Reading Friends:

Hi, Readers!  I just had to share with you some blog posts.

Okay, how precious is this?!  A picture is worth a thousand words, so I won't add any.   Check out Sarah's full post at http://jerelandsarahwarren.blogspot.com/2011/02/hopelessly-devoted.html

Also, check out this fun book wall at http://sara-mincy.blogspot.com/2011/02/book-wall.html.  What a bright idea.  By-the-way, I highly recommend each one of the books she has featured on her wall.  If you have trouble seeing the title or author, do drop Sara or me a line, and we'll be sure to get you the details for your next library trip.

Do you remember Laura from my Beatrix Potter post?  Don't miss the post on her trip to the Roald Dahl Museum at http://happyhomemakeruk.blogspot.com/2010/08/day-trip-roald-dahl-museum.html.  Lucky girl to get to tour both Beatrix Potter's and Roald Dahl's worlds!

Thanks, ladies, for your inspiration!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

Joan Walsh Anglund does Valentine's Day quite well, don't you think!  I took a photo of the February spread from her book A Child's Year (c. 1992), which has this inscribed on the title page: Published on the Occasion of the 50th Anniversary of Little Golden Books.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A Sick Day for Amos McGee

We ALL have just been delighted by a new discovery.  In fact, we can't keep it out of our hands.  Someone continues to pick it up and study it, whether kids or parents.  Even the Mister is bowled over by this one.  (Have I mentioned that he's an Art Director by day, a logo designer by night?)  I'm not quite sure what intrigues me most: the story or the illustrations.  I'm wowed about the simplicity of both.  And clearly it's struck a chord with the kids.  So what is the wonderful new book, you ask?  A Sick Day for Amos McGee written by Philip C. Stead and illustrated by his wife, Erin E. Stead. 

I picked up the new fascination thinking it was a vintage book that I had somehow overlooked.  Imagine my surprise at seeing its copyright in 2010!  So then I had to do a double, triple, quadruple take (not an exaggeration).  That's recommendation enough right there as far as I'm concerned: a timeless book just published in 2010, a rare jewel!  The description in the dust-jacket says it best:

Amos McGee, a friendly zookeeper, always made time to visit his good friends: the elephant, the tortoise, the penguin, the rhinoceros, and the owl.

But one day-- "Ah-choo!" he woke up with the sniffles and the sneezes.  Though he didn't make it into the zoo that day, he did receive some unexpected guests . . .

Philip Stead's gently humorous tale of friendship and dedication is illustrated by his wife Erin Stead's elegant drawings, embellished with subtle hints of color.

Erin Stead creates her illustrations through woodblock printing techniques before adding pencil enhancements.  The kids also enjoyed listening to the illustrator describe her process: here, only1 min. and 24 sec. long.  While researching, before concluding my post, I discovered that Erin Stead has just been awarded the 2011 Caldecott Medal for her illustrations (and this is the first book that she's illustrated)!  Need I say more?!

I know in our town, a whole lot of little ones, and their parents, are battling the flu this month.  This delightful story brings smiles in the midst of not-feeling-well sighs.  In fact, it's been said to be the best sick day ever.  Do check it out!  I'm thinking it will find a permanent residence in our home, sooner than later.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Little House

After the folks in your home thoroughly enjoy Katy, re-read Virginia Lee Burton's The Little House.  If there's one book that I never tire of reading and looking at the illustrations, it's one of the all-time best-loved children's books The Little House, 1942 winner of the Caldecott Medal.  It's also a story that resonates with the oldest of us.  Just glancing at the cover can bring sunshine into the rainiest of days.  The mere cadence of the story bewitches any listening audience, so imagine adding captivating storyline and illustrations. Here's how it all begins:

Once upon a time there was a Little House way out in the country.  She was a pretty Little House and she was strong and well built.  The man who built her so well said, "This Little House shall never be sold for gold or silver and she will live to see our great-great-granchildren's great-great-granchildren living in her."

While telling the little house's dramatic life story, Burton calls us to appreciate the rising and setting of the sun, the altering phases of the moon, the changing of the seasons, and those areas that allows us to view these things in their fullness.  By the time you reach then end of Burton's well woven story, you'll feel all warm inside like you just nursed a mug of hot cocoa, complete with marshmallows on top.  Even the end pages boast the extraordinary, setting up the storyline at the very first page turn.

The Little House remains one of those jewel of a books to be sure to introduce to your children.  I would love to hear your particular memories of reading Virginia Lee Burton's beloved story.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Katy and the Big Snow

If you haven't read Katy and the Big Snow (c. 1943), drop what you're doing, run out to your local library, and check this book out before the kids come home from school!  They'll be turning cartwheels!  Mine absolutely loved it.  We've read it several times, several days in a row, since the time we checked ours out.  I guess it goes without saying, both illustrations and story line prove fascinating.  I guarantee any of your young budding artists or map lovers will pour over it's pages.  Virginia Lee Burton's story opens:

                      Katy was a beautiful red crawler tractor.  
                      She was very big and very strong
                      and she could do a lot of things.

Aren't you just itching to see how it continues?!  Discover how heroic Katy saves the day, and bask in that lovely worded very last line by re-reading it several times over.

I'll feature some more Burton titles in later posts.  Essentially, you'll find that you can't go wrong with books illustrated and written by Virginia Lee Burton.  She has a clever way of juxtaposing progress against nostalgia.  She's not afraid to depict modern, industrial city scenes, while celebrating the values of hard work, friendship, and a simpler time.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Stone Soup

Reknown artist Jon J Muth takes children's book illustration to a whole new level.  His talent and experience exceed expectation, lending to museum quality masterpieces.  He received a Caldecott Honor in 2006 for his book Zen Shorts

Today, I'd like to share his deft retelling and beautiful watercolor edition of Stone Soup (2003).  You'll read this book several times just to digest its fullness; there's just so much to absorb.  Muth does a brilliant job of contrasting suspicion against sharing.  And we (the fam) have been struck spellbound with Muth's spin, incorporating three wise, Chinese monks to lead the storyline, while skillfully composing his tale using the Eastern beauty of metaphors and similes.  The Mister adds, "This is one of my all time favorites.  I love reading it (and re-reading it).  And I love looking at all the pictures, even the cat that appears on every page."  Check out Scholastic's brief bio of Jon J Muth here.

Read Marcia Brown's 1947 Caldecott Medal winner edition to contrast the traditionally humorous, European rooted tale against Muth's rendition.  You'll enjoy both spins.  In fact, I'd love to hear which one is your family's favorite!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Happy New Year! . . .

Welcome to the year of the Rabbit!  Yes, today is the Chinese New Year.  Well, actually, last night was the Chinese New Year since we in the western hemisphere are a day behind.  The kids around my house cheer in the Chinese New Year for their Uncle Steven who has been living in China these past 5 1/2 years.  To celebrate, we read Bringing in the New Year by Grace Lin and My First Chinese New Year by Karen Katz  (and Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel).  These two books cater to very young readers.  Both present very simple introductions to the basic Chinese customs and traditions for hailing in the new year (and authors' notes with further details).  So if you're interested in discovering more about the Chinese New Year, these two books provide a good starting point.