Monday, October 1, 2018

Thursday, September 13, 2018

The Wind in the Willows

This was the summer of The Wind in the Willows.  Though it's a classic I confess I had never actually read it before, which is too bad because it's perfectly wonderful!  We had a second-hand hardback copy with less than interesting illustrations.  Though Grahame's writing is so lovely, we felt the pictures were lacking.  So I tracked down a version illustrated by David Petersen (we have a copy of one of his Mouse Guard comics).  When I saw the cover I knew this was the one for us!  (Rackham also did a version with delightful illustrations as well).  

Kenneth Grahame
illustrated by David Petersen 2016

How could you not love dreamy Ratty and timid Mole, the stern Badger and of course the irascible Toad.  The story meanders beautifully with Grahame's descriptions of the river and English countryside.  We found much of the dialog and hijinks of Toad are laugh out loud funny!    

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Summer Birds: The butterflies of Maria Merian

Margarita Engle 2010
pictures by Julie Paschkis

      When I was 11 I wanted to be an entomologist.  I still love bugs to this day!  I'm the go-to person in our family to identify insects (It's not unusual for Chris or the kids to text me a photo of a bug they've found prowling around the house when I wasn't there).

     So I was thrilled to discover this book about a woman naturalist and illustrator who was fascinated by insects too!  I had never heard of her before, so this book was a perfect jumping off point to learn more about Maria Merian.  Born in the 1600's, Maria studied insects in their natural habitat and became known for her scientific observations as well as her beautiful illustrations.

Julie Paschikis does a fair job of invoking a Hieronymus Bosch style of art to go with the fantastical ideas that certain creatures came from mud and were evil.  There's a nice biographical bit about Maria at the end.  She was a remarkable woman and though this picture book is a good introduction, it's definitely worth looking her up and reading more about her!

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The House that Grew Smaller

The House That Grew Smaller
Margery Williams Bianco 1931

Charlotte reminded me of this book the other night.  She remembered the sad little house and the children who came and took care of it.  The vintage illustrations are just perfect.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Tasha Tudor's A Child's Garden of Verses

Robert Louis Stevenson
illustrated by Tasha Tudor 

Robert Louis Stevenson and Tasha Tudor never get old.  Here they are paired together- Tasha Tudor's lovely illustrations for Stevenson's classic poems about childhood.  I couldn't imagine a more complimentary partnership!

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

The Complete Brambly Hedge

The Brambly Hedge stories are one of our happy places.  We were first introduced to Jill Barklem's cozy characters and illustrations by a little second hand copy of "A Spring Story".  Surprisingly we were able to pick up a couple more of the stand alone stories at various thrift stores and used bookshops.

Jill Barklem 

Finally one Christmas, Charlotte received the giant "Complete Brambly Hedge" and we were able to pass off our other books to friends who we knew would enjoy them as we do.  This collection includes several stories we had never seen before, and once again we simply poured over the illustrations.  Sometimes when I would read it to Charlotte in bed we'd have to stop for several minutes on a page just so I could enjoy all the picture's details.  (For this reason, I don't recommend this as a bedtime book.  You really want to sit in the daylight and take your time looking at the pictures!)

Brambly Hedge is populated by a community of mice with names like "Poppy" and "Dusty" and "Wilfred".  The stories are sweet and genial and full of all the gentle things that make you feel warm and fuzzy inside.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Bells and Grass

Poems by Walter de la Mare
illustrated by Dorothy Lanthrop

Oh lovely lovely Walter de la Mare!  I will never get tired of reading his poems and collecting his books.  

Even the introduction written by de la Mare himself is beautiful as he muses about writing and poetry, ageing, and dreams for children... 

How old, then, are the young?  And how young is it possible for the old in years to remain- without, that is, being merely immature, undergrown, or silly?  Is this in fact a question of age, of mere time?  I doubt if it is.  Even one's body seems in certain respects to be independent of the mechanical hands of a clock, and of an earth spining on in space, as we are told, through its four strange and lovely seasons, in its annual revolution round the sun.  We know very little what we mean by Time.  I have seen a baby apparently of only twenty-four hours' experience in this world that yet was not only the minute image of, but also looked even older than its grandmother.  I have seen grandmothers with eyes as guileless and youthful as a frank and happy seven-year-old's; and, clearly, with hearts to match.

The self within is still the self within, however much knowledge and experience, and whatever treasures of memory it may have acquired.  It is still the silkworm in its cocoon, whatever the quality of the silk may be.  As the years go by, we put away childish things.  We have to.  And yet what we love and delight in when we are young we may continue to love and delight in when we are old; and not much less ardently, perhaps.  So with all that is meant by heart, feelings, mind, the fancy, and the imagination.

I know too that in later life it is just (if only just) possible now and again to recover fleetingly the intese delight, the untellable joy and happiness and fear and grief and pain of our early years, of an all but forgotten childhood.

And he gives us this remarkable bit, an encouragement to writers everywhere:

To write anything solely to please someone else is rather dangerous; and particularly if it happens to be in rhyme.  To write for one's own delight and out of the sheer impulse and desire to do so is less dangerous, though one may of course keep such things to oneself!  To hope to please others with what has been so written is a wildish aspiration, but an aspiration which it should not be too difficult even to condone.

The poems are wonderful, as they always are.  I'm often including them in letters to friends or in Charlotte's lunch box.  The icing on the cake of course are the drawings by Dorothy Lanthrop included in this edition.