Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Boy Who Tried to Cheat Death

 The Boy Who Tried to Cheat Death
Charles Mikolaycak 1971

I'm a fan of the illustrator Charles Mikolaycak so imagine my delight when I found this recently at the thrift store.  
It's a Norwegian folk tale in which a young man is given a barrel of beer for his wages.  When he shares a drink with an old man who is Death he strikes a curious deal.  Death will give his beer the power to heal sick people and save them from dying.  But if the young man sees Death at the head of their bed then nothing will save them and Death will have his way.

When the King's daughter becomes seriously ill, and Death is at the head of her bed, the young man finds a way to trick him and save the young woman.  In the end though, the young man finds that  Death can't be cheated forever.

Other books illustrated by Charles Mikolaycak:

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Abandoned Houses

 I love to poke around old abandoned properties.  We've climbed in through windows or basement doors, inched across rotting floors, crept quietly around dusty, empty rooms.  Abandoned houses all smell like mold, damp earth, and animals.  Sometimes a houses' past lives are left behind.  Books, photographs, birthday cards, furniture, letters, dishes in the sink- it can feel like stepping back in time.  I love the remnants and the buildings themselves- some as old as the 18th century- but also the nature that surrounds them.

One house (Madeleine called it the "shoe house" because we kept finding old shoes around the back yard) was surrounded by stinging nettles and a large Plane tree leaned on the porch.  Ivy crept through windows and moss grew below the fallen roof.  There's something so beautiful about such dilapidation.

This book describes perfectly what happens to a "ruined house", left on its own and how nature claims it.

Mick Manning 1994

 The first page says, "This is my favorite house.  I like it because it has gone to rack and ruin."  Yes!
It goes on to describe how you get to the house (you climb a fence into what used to be the garden) and the wild plants that have taken over.

And how the house slowly became what it did... First the rain dripped down the chimney.  Everything turned damp.  Fungus spread over the woodwork and all the rooms began to smell of mould.  Insects moved in, and ferns sprouted from cracks in the stone.  The weather broke through the windows.  The plaster and the floorboards rotted away, and slowly the house began a new life.

This is what I do- wonder about who lived in these houses, collect the leftover bits, piece together stories.

Peeking in.
I brought home a raccoon skull found in the basement of this old house.  The building is demolished now.

An empty attic

Ted Kooser
illustrated by Jon Klassen 2012

And then there is this book.  So beautiful and lyrical in its story of the life of a house.  Once built and lived in and loved.  But time and life march on and roofs fall in.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Night of the Gargoyles

Eve Bunting
illustrated by David Wiesner 1999

There's something slightly creepy about the idea of gargoyles coming to life at night.  Although Eve Bunting's gargoyles are not malicious or evil, they do tend to cause some mischief.  Bunting's lyrical words and Wiesner's illustrations are a perfect pair.  It makes for a just spooky enough October bedtime read.  

Sunday, October 5, 2014

When the Dark Comes Dancing

compiled by Nancy Larrick
illustrated by John Wallner 1983

I loved the title of this book.  It's a frequent bedtime companion, with all the poems and rhymes and lullabies chosen especially for little ones settling into bed.  Sleepy and lyrical, read in a gentle voice, these poems will surely put sweet dreams into your child's head.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Ping and Pong

adapted and illustrated by David McPhail 1994

This is a wondrously funny rendition of a short poem by Dennis Lee called "Peter Ping and Patrick Pong".  We've actually come across it before in a collection of poems, but David McPhail's interpretation brings it to hilarious life.  

It's a case of switched at birth between a boy and a bear.  The joke is that no one seems to notice and as Peter and Patrick grow up they become enemies and then the best of friends.  Dennis Lee's original poem is at the end as well as his thoughts on McPhail's creative treatment of it.  A really fun book to read.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sky Tree

Thomas Locker 2001

Science and Art are a beautiful combination.  This book goes through the seasons experienced through a tree.  Thomas Locker's painting are used to ask the reader questions about nature and art.    

Other books by Thomas Locker: