Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Nursery Rhymes

Madeleine is in desperate need of summer shorts so we went to the thrift store this morning for a little shopping. Instead of shorts we came home with 2 dresses for me, a chair for Charlotte, a shoulder bag for Madeleine, 5 pounds of buttons and of course some books. After Charlotte’s nap we decided to spend the rest of this amazingly beautiful afternoon outside. We brought out popcorn and pistachios and glasses of iced tea, read through our pile of books and started sorting buttons.

The book section of Impact is pretty overwhelming. There are shelves and shelves of children’s books and I hardly had time to flip through each one. But each time I got sick of looking and was about to walk away I would pull out a great book. It’s so hard to stop when you don’t know what’s waiting to be uncovered!

Here’s one that kept me going.

illustrated by Sandy Nightingale 1978

As if we need more nursery rhyme books! But I’m quite fond of the illustrations in this one. This is a new illustrator to me, but I’ll be on the lookout for more of her books.

The Incredible Book Eating Boy

Oliver Jeffers 2006

From Henry’s shelf, one of his favorites. The incredible book-eating boy is even named “Henry”. I love the collage illustrations. If you look closely you’ll see old book pages, library cards and old paper making up the pictures.

Henry literally devours books, growing smarter all the while. But after a bit it’s too much for his stomach to digest and he learns that he can “read” books and still become the “smartest person on earth”. There’s some wry humor thrown in and a disclaimer on the back cover: Please do NOT try to eat this book at home.

The Friendly Book

Margaret Wise Brown 1954
pictures by Garth Williams

I read this to Charlotte while settling her down for her nap yesterday afternoon. Our bedroom was warm with the sun glinting in the window, but we drew the shades and had the fan blowing across the bed. Propped up on pillows with Charlotte’s fluffy hair snuggling my cheek and the slow repetition of the words, it was all I could do to stay awake myself.

Monday, June 28, 2010


Peter Spier 1997

Peter Spier has illustrated some wonderful books. Rain relies on his detailed illustrations to tell the story and they never fall short. We follow a brother and sister as their mother hands them an umbrella and lets them out to explore in the rain. In typical child fashion they play under the rain spout, watch the water rush down the gutter, see ducks and geese in the pond and splash in puddles. Then it’s home for a steaming bath, some hot dinner and finally bedtime where outside their windows the rain is still coming down. I don’t know how he does it, but just by looking at the pictures you can almost hear and feel and smell all that the children experience.

Water Dance

We had a terrific downpour today as we left for Madeleine’s piano lesson. It was the kind of tumble down, pell mell rain that blurs the windows and muffles voices. We have been known to run to the tree-house during such storms, taking books and blankets and a lantern with us.

Thomas Locker 1997

Some people say that I am one thing.
Others say that I am many.
Ever since the world began
I have been moving in an endless circle.
Sometimes I fall from the sky.

Water Dance follows the cycle of water from rain, to river to sea to clouds. Soft paintings carry the reader along with simple, lyrical text. Scientific information at the end gives a more educational view of the water cycle.

At the foot of the mountains,
I leap from a stone cliff.
I am the waterfall.

Drawn upward
by warm sunlight,
in white-silver veils,
I rise into the air.
I disappear.
I am the mist.

I blind the sky with lightning.
The earth trembles with my thunder.
I rage.
I drench the mountainside.
I am the storm.

I am one thing.
I am many things.
I am water.
This is my dance through our world.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

My House Has Stars

Yes, I am a sucker for books with multi-cultural themes. This one is particularly poetic, opening with a quote from Dante.  “And so we came forth and once again beheld the stars.”  I’m not especially fond of the illustrations, but their soft watercolor style fits the lyrical text.

Megan McDonald 1996
paintings by Peter Catalonotto

A mother puts her daughter to bed telling her, “Night is falling somewhere. And now. And now again. Night is coming to this sky. To houses everywhere. This house.  And there are stars.”

Then around the world a child describes their house and their home and a bit of their life, all tied together by the stars they see in their sky.  From Alaska to Brazil, to Ghana, and Mongolia children look up to the sky and say, “My house has stars.”

I see snow high on the mountains and dream of summer in the tent.  Above the jagged mountaintops, I see a sky full of stars.  I wish on a star.  I wish that someday I will see a tree.

Upstairs in my house we grow silkworms.  They glow pale and silvery in the moonlight.  I tiptoe across the tatami to look out at the moon, the stars.  It gives me the feeling of quiet.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Sea Egg

I am missing my big kids terribly. They are with their grandparents at the seashore this week. They told me they spotted whale spouts far out in the ocean and saw a baby shark on the sand. (In all my years of going to the beach I’ve never had such luck!)

This book by LM Boston is about two brothers who have an adventure during their holiday by the sea. There are a few illustrations by the author’s son, but it is Boston’s beautiful prose that make this story something magical.

L.M. Boston 1967
illustrated by Peter Boston

Brothers Toby and Joe are staying in a cottage by the ocean with their parents.  They explore the beach and a natural tunnel that leads to a cove with a rock pool.

To enter the pool, you went out of a small enclosure like a porch, up stone steps, through a narrow vertical opening, and down further steps into a magical bath.  It was so well built that it was hard to believe it was accidental, and yet had it been made on purpose, it could never have taken your breath away with delight as it did.

When the boys find a sea egg, they leave it in the pool where it hatches into a mischievous triton, a mer-boy of the sea.

Somewhere in that paradise of sun and flashing water, of shining boulders with the ghosts of spent waves hurrying down their curves into the sea, in the tang and the glitter and the eternal singing silence, there might be- if he had not left them forever- a companion that the sea had given them.

One night Toby and Joe decide to sneak out of the cottage and go down to the shore.

Their window was wide open in the hope of air, but the earth was smothered in warmth and could not cool off. They lay in the big bed, too hot for any bedclothes, with the rising moon looking in through the window. Its light fell across their faces and could be felt, as sunlight can. This feel of the moonlight was not in the nature of hot or cold but something indescribable.

“It is supposed to do something to people and dogs,” said Toby.
“What sort of things?”
“It makes them wander and do things.”
“Do you feel like wandering?”
“I don’t know. It’s queer.”
“I feel all prickly. I’ll never go to sleep.”

Their mysterious triton friend leads them on a midnight swim to the island of seals.

Toby and Joe gasped as they looked out. The curving sky, so much bigger than it looks by day, was distant with faint stars that seemed to hang in their places, but the glorious moon was riding up. It dominated everything, even the vast sea that spread under it a creamy silver-blue floor bigger than anyone could think. Across this came now the white pathway of the moon, and the ripples broke in sparklets.

The familiar promontories and rocks looked strange, with bleached silver faces and deep black chasms. The solitary rocks jutting out of the sea and sand were like watchers or crouching animals, and there were more shadowy lurking places, if you found yourself imagining lurking things. Yet the whole impression was shockingly beautiful. Only the moon was real; all the rest was dream and faerie.

The plot is slow and thin, but the writing is lovely. L.M. Boston makes you savor each word.

Then all was quiet, except for that murmurous half telling, half withholding of tremendous secrets that the sea would keep up all night. Each little wave seemed to say, “I’ll tell you-” and then pull back with a smothered “Oh!” to be followed by another wave saying, “Then I will say- “ but whatever it was remained unsaid and unsayable.

And her descriptions of the sea are amazing.

It’s impossible to resist the invitation of the sea as it spreads a curtsy in a semicircle of blue silk toward you, frilled with babbling foam that nibbles at your feet in the sand. Impossible to forget the first taste of blown salt on your lips as a translucent hollow wave as wide as the cove rises up before you and, beginning at the far end, turns over its shrilling waterfall mane in one continuous movement all along the line till it breaks over your shoulders where you stand and completes its perfect curl beyond, and now behind you. Once you are in it, the sea will never stop its challenge, pummeling with surf, jostling with crossed waves, tackling with the full weight of its spring, blinding with its wet white hair, pulling your legs from under you. It is, thought Toby, standing up, breathless, to await the next wave, the very stuff tritons are made of and itself a measureless living thing.