Tuesday, January 4, 2022

The Shortest Day

Apparently I love books about the Winter Solstice, even thought we've passed the solstice and the days are slowly getting longer.  But what's not to love about Susan Cooper's poem paired with Carson Ellis' primal illustrations?  

Susan Cooper
illustrated by Carson Ellis 2019

Friday, December 24, 2021

When the Moon is Full

 Another seasonal book of the moons throughout the year.  This time illustrated quite movingly by Mary Azarian.

When the Moon is Full
A Lunar Year
Penny Pollock
illustrated by Mary Azarian

Sunday, December 19, 2021

The Changing Maze

The Changing Maze
Zilpha Keatley Snyder
illustrated by Charles Mikolaycak 1985

Life is always so serendipitous.  Just after finishing The Velvet Room, I stumbled across this picture book at the thrift store.  A short story by Zilpha Keatley Snyer and illustrated by none other than Charles Mikolaycak (a favorite!)

A magical tale told by an old Grandmother to her grandson has real life lessons to impart.  I love Mikolycak's artwork, my only (silly) complaint is that the pictures are drawn in a Victorian time period while I was imaging an older Medieval style.


Wednesday, December 15, 2021

The Velvet Room

 This is one of Madeleine's favorite writers.  She discovered the Egypt Game in middle school and recently introduced me to this one.  

The Velvet Room
Zilpha Keatly Snyder 1965

The heroine, Robin, is indeed a kindred spirit!  Set in the 1930's, Robin's family has to travel looking for temporary work and lodging.  When they end up at the McCurdy ranch and Robin finds an "abandoned" mansion to explore, the velvet room she discovers becomes her hideaway.  Snyder does an amazing job of weaving "magic" and mystery into a very relatable real story about an adolescent girl finding friends and navigating the hard things in life.  

After a while she gave up trying to go to sleep and pulled her cot over against the window.  Everything was strangely beautiful.  The dusty yard with its pile of auto parts looked different.  And the rest of the Village, too, seemed less ugly and makeshift.   It was as if the whole world had been slip-covered in the strange, soft fabric of moonlight.  Robin had never liked nighttime much.  She wasn't too brave about the dark, and then, too, things had a way of growing from bad to worse if you thought about them in the night.  But suddenly she saw things quite differently.  How wonderful it was that day ended- that there would always be hours that were soft and secret and dim to hide things for a while from the hard brightness of day.  She sat and watched until it was quite late; then a cool breeze began to blow in through the open window, and she went to sleep.

If you don't know this author, definitely track her down!

Friday, December 10, 2021

Fine As We Are

Fine As We Are
Algy Craig Hall 2008

This cute story popped out at me in the children's section at the thrift store this week.  I love the adorable illustrations!  

A little frog is content being with his mom.  But then he unexpectedly gets a bunch of little brothers and sisters who annoy him, are noisy, and generally disrupt the life he had with his mother.  He learns to love them and be a good big brother and recognize that his big family is just "fine as they are".  (According to the back flap, Hall was inspired by his own experience of being a big brother to quadruplets!)


Wednesday, December 8, 2021

The Egypt Game

Zilpha Keatley Snyder

This was our first introduction to the author Zilpha Keatley Snyder.  It's the story of a girl who comes to stay in her grandmother's apartment building.  While dealing with the neglect of her mother, she makes some new friends and they create a magical world based on their love of all things Egyptian.  In the fenced in backyard of the odd curiosity shop (owned by the creepy old shopkeeper who may or may not be a murderer), the kids use trash and remnants to make a temple and costumes and play out elaborate storylines.  Maybe because my kids and I were this type of child, I completely understood and loved how the characters threw themselves into their "game".  Reading everything they could about Egypt, drawing papyrus scrolls, excitedly telling each other about new ideas they had, reminded me so much of the way I used to play.  Even how school and regular life was secondary to the kids as they thought about and couldn't wait to get back to their Egypt game, felt particularly familiar to me.  Keatley Snyder completely captures the enthusiasm of imaginative kids and the magic they can create. 

On a side note, I also really liked that all the kids in the book were diverse.  It was written in a natural way- that was just the makeup of the neighborhood and apartment building.  Sometimes I feel like older books (from the 60-80's) get this right better that modern ones!  And if you have sensitive readers, part of the plot does involve a child murder (not described or detailed).

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

The Land of Giants

 Beautiful intricate drawings accompany this story about a determined Victorian adventurer who finds a land of Giants.  As he lives with the giants he learns so much more than he anticipated and a hard lesson on his return home to scientific fame and glory.

The Last Giants  
 Francois Place 1993