Thursday, August 21, 2014

Past Eight O'Clock

Since they share a room often Madeleine will listen to the books I read to Charlotte.  And the other way around.  Last night Madeleine read to us a very funny Edgar Allan Poe story she found called "Loss of Breath".  I had no idea Poe wrote humorous stories and this one was pretty outrageous!  (I don't think Charlotte got much out of it though.)

I'm quite partial to Joan Aiken and I thought this was a perfect bedtime book (it's even called Goodnight Stories).  Starting while we were on vacation in Illinois, we read one every night.  Madeleine listened for a few nights and thought that some were better stories than others.  ("Oh, Can Ye Sew Cushions?" was in my opinion the very best one.)   But each of them has that mixture of magic and  feel of Dickens that is particular to Aiken (Leon Garfield and Roald Dahl as well).  

Joan Aiken
pictures by Jan Pienkowski

The fantastic silhouettes of Jan Pienkowski are scattered throughout the book.  Each story is based on a lullaby and includes some rhyming verses. 

There was one thing about their house that they didn't know.  Every year, on a special day in winter, when the sun shone upon one particular spot on the floor in one particular room- if somebody- just at that moment- happened to be singing a special note of a special song- then, something might happen. 

More books by Joan Aiken:

Other books illustrated by Jan Pienkowski:

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Two of Everything

Lily Toy Hong 1993

This was a cute Chinese fable.  (The illustrations started to grow on me).  A poor farmer and his wife discover a large copper pot that multiplies anything that is put into it.  There's the potential for disaster, but comedy ensues and it all ends up all right.  

We Help Mommy

Another sweet Eloise Wilkin book about how a little boy and his sister help their mother throughout the day.

Jean Cushman 1959
illustrated by Eloise Wilkin

Charlotte saw this little clothes tree and wanted it so badly!  I think my mom played with a little clothesline set when she was a girl.

(Charlotte loves how she illustrates the bedrooms.)

Other books illustrated by Eloise Wilkin:

Tuesday, August 19, 2014



Here is a neat book with graphic appeal.  The story is odd and hard to explain (and there's something about it that reminds me a little of  13 Clocks by Thurber.)

This sort is about a child who goes home from school along the same road every day and how his small world suddenly becomes enormous.  It's a story as old as the world- a story that begins all over again each day.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Two Roman Mice

In May Madeleine was off to the Latin Convention held at Penn State.  She always comes home with fun stories.  We are fortunate that her school has such a robust Latin program and a couple dedicated teachers.  She's been taking Latin since 7th grade and will be teaching it in the elementary schools this year.  I picked up this book with her in mind.

retold and illustrated by Marilynne K. Roach 1975

I had no idea that the original Country Mouse/City Mouse was a fable told by Horace at the end of his poem Satire II (the original Latin is in the back of this book).  Even the illustrations add to the translation- the decorative borders are based off of Roman frescos, the folding doors in one picture are similar to ones in Herculaneum, the watchdogs are Molossian hounds.  And I liked the mouse names of 'Rusticus' and 'Urbanus'.

Little Brown Bear

Elizabeth Upham 1942
illustrated by Marjorie Hartwell

This was a popular bedtime read for Charlotte.  It's an old book, but she got such a kick out of the stories, especially the "Little Brown Bear's April Fool's Day" one.  When Little Brown Bear plays his trick on Father Bear Charlotte just laughed and laughed.  The next day she even tried to play it on me!  (I knew what she was up to but I went along with it).

Sometimes these simple vintage books really are the best.  I'm always drawn to them because of the artwork and the colors, but many times we enjoy the writing just as much.

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Snow Queen

I haven't seen the movie Frozen yet.  Charlotte has and loved it- she's 5, so of course!  I know Disney always changes the fairy tales and this one doesn't even remotely resemble Andersen's classic.  Which is too bad since Madeleine and I have always said that the story of a young girl, "Gerda" facing danger and meeting all sorts of magical adventures to save her friend, "Kai" would make a good children's movie, and a nice departure from the "princess" stories.

We have the original story by Anderson which was mailed to Madeleine by her friend Hayley years ago.  How fun to have a book sent to you this way!

 The Snow Queen and Other Tales
Hans Christian Andersen
A Greeting Card Book 1969

Gerda and Kai are children, and the best of friends.  But one day Kai hitches his sled to the back of the Snow Queen's sleigh and in no time he is wisked away from his home, forgetting all about Gerda.  Gerda then goes in search of her playmate.  She gets help from the river and flowers and animals, she meets an old woman who tries to keep her as her own and a young prince and princess who aid her in her search.  At one point a band of robbers captures her and she is saved and befriended by a little robber-maid.  Off on a reindeer she heads to the most northern place to find the Snow Queen's palace.  When she finally finds Kai, he is like ice and only Gerda's love and kisses melt his heart and bring him back. 

 The Snow Queen
Hans Christian Andersen
translated by Marlee Alex
Illustrated by Uwe Hantsch 1988
We also have an illustrated version that uses the story as a basis for teaching biblical values.  There is a "study key" in the back that applies scripture verses to the themes of the story.  And the introduction writes:  "From his early childhood in the town of Odense, Denmark, until his death in Copenhagen, Hans Christian Andersen had a valid Christian faith that manifested itself in many of the approximately 150 stores and tales he wrote.  In one of them, he said:  'In every human life, whether poor or great, there is an invisible thread that shows we belong to God.'  The thread in Andersen's stories is one of optimism which has given hope and inspiration to people all over the world."

I just think the pictures in this edition are pretty wild!

Eileen Kernaghan 2000

In the Young Adult genre is Eileen Kernaghan's retelling of the Snow Queen.  She does a wonderful job of really developing Gerda's character and building a story with the robber-girl that she befriends (Kernaghan names her "Rivka").   And the story becomes about the angst of growing up and finding out who you are, what you are capable of.  It's a bit different in spirit from the original, but still retains the magic and fantasy of the story.  I really loved it and have been trying to get Madeleine to read it because I think she would too.