Tag Archives: girls

Top 10 Little Books

Beatrix Potter knew what she was doing as she created the world of Peter Rabbit. When she turned down initial publisher’s offers (due to their requests to modify her books in length and size), she went ahead and self-published The Tale of Peter Rabbit on her own at first, because she had a very specific vision for her work. Namely, she wanted her books to be small enough to fit in a small child’s hands… and her illustrations were designed to fill the page of one small book.

To this day, while there are many compilations and anthologies of the Peter Rabbit series, nothing… NOTHING compares to the magic of the small, hardback set of single, independent, tiny volumes. If your home library of picture books consists of nothing other than this set, you’ll be leagues ahead of 90% of your parenting peers in the sheer quality of what you’re offering.

Anyway, it got me thinking about the awesomeness of tiny books in general. What child doesn’t love miniature things designed just for their size? Especially when the miniatures are real, be it functional tea cups, utensils, brooms, aprons etc. So it is with books. There is something special about volumes published under 7 inches tall. And the only thing I love more than reading tiny books to my children, is seeing my young ones sprawled out in the grass on their own with a little book of their own fitting so nicely in their little hands.

Little books pack into diaper bags well, fit into stockings, Easter baskets and everyday baskets, and make fantastic little bonus gifts to accompany other items.  Here is my pick of the 10 best little books on the market today:

 The Peter Rabbit books. Of course. Just go ahead and throw all 23 titles into one listing here. Each is excellent.

 The Story of Little Black Sambo. Okay, so all the modern parents prefer The Story of Little Babaji (also on the small side) because it is more PC, but I love the original myself. I have both books and my children like both equally but I have a nostalgic spot for the old one because my mother read it to me so many times…

 The Nutshell Library by Maurice Sendak. Alligators All Around is the standout book in this 4-volume set but they are so well priced as a collection, I’d go ahead and purchase the others with that title.

 Pelle’s New Suit (mini edition). I normally prefer my full-sized Elsa Beskow books, but this one in particular works as a mini because it doesn’t have as much text as most of her other titles.  For that, and the fact that it is the perfect springtime book, it’s on the list.

 A Hole Is to Dig is perhaps my very favorite “nonsensically profound” books (I made that category up; nice eh?). From the silly to the thought provoking, Ruth Krauss found magic in pairing with Sendak on this title.  The hardback is out of print, but worth finding…

 A Boy, a Dog, and a Frog is the first in the series and my favorite Mercer Mayer books by far. They are wordless but tell a lovely story… don’t forget the equally excellent sequels Frog Goes to Dinner,  Frog, Where Are You? and others.

 The Brave Cowboy. My three year old fell in love with the Brave Cowboy when he first met him and it’s still one of his favorite books to call his own and to be found curled up with in a corner somewhere. That’s enough to merit a spot on this list.

 Alphabet of Boats. Linocuts. Boats. Education. Beauty. Simplicity. All under 5 square inches.  I can’t help that so many of the books I love are out of print— sorry!  Just keep your eyes peeled for this little gem.  (Which reminds me… I’ve seen enough good stuff now to warrant “Volume 3” version of Top Ten Alphabet books… hmm, will attend to that soon hopefully.)

 Let’s Be Enemies. Sendak illustrating again!  He excelled at the tiny books. Janice May Undry created a lovely little tale of making and breaking friendships. It’s very fun to read with a 5 year old…

 The Little Train… or really, any Lois Lenski books. All are small. My favorite ones are his seasonal books which are a bit spendy OOP, but any of his occupational books like this one or Policeman Small or The Little Airplane, etc are vintage winners as well.

*********
And now, some qualifying remarks:


I would’ve included the gorgeous Flower Fairies Alphabet, but I’m mad that they skipped the letter X. You can cheat a little or work around it… but don’t skip the letter altogether!


Also, these are slightly larger than ‘tiny’, but of immense importance in the picture book collector’s world: The Year in Brambly Hedge Set and Adventures in Brambly Hedge Set. Unfortunately these books are long out of print but they are really wonderful to own and cherish… in the same botanical goodness vein as one would find the Beatrix Potter books.


And lastly, I’ve requested an inter-library loan to get my eyes on The Treehorn Trilogy. It looks fabulous. Edward Gorey is not everyone’s cup of pictorial tea but I like him and am eager to see these books!

Like? Share:
Share

The Best Treasuries, Sets and Collections

This is the time of year to be thinking about meaningful gifts. Perhaps even heirloom gifts!  Each Christmas, one of the gifts our kids receive are books… often picked up throughout the year at a thrift store and saved, but sometimes a special title I’ve been eyeing a while and know a particular child would love. Sometimes, we gift a set or deluxe collection of something to a child and these have become treasured components of their personal growing libraries.  You have to be a little bit careful when buying “sets” of books because a couple mistakes are often made:  1- the set is incomplete of what you consider to be essential favorites.  2- The set includes abridged versions of stories. Or the biggest grievance I have: the set includes illustrations that have been truncated, altered or deleted to the point of ruining a good story. (Don’t mess with McCloskey!) But sometimes, despite some of these mistakes, the collection can still be an wonderful investment and treasured gift. Here are a few of what I think are the best of the best offered right now.

BOARD BOOK SETS

 

Gyo Fujikawa’s Little Library. What a deal!  Happy art. Simple text. Tiny books. Perfect for a two year old maybe…

Jan Brett’s Little Library. Contains three of her must have board books: The Mitten, The Hat, and The Gingerbread Baby.

Brown Bear & Friends Board Book Gift Set. All three of the infectious rhyme books that get read over and over again in our home…

Margaret Wise Brown’s: Baby’s First Library A perfect gift for new babies!

The Little Red Box of Bright and Early Board Books. I love P. D. Eastman and my three year old does too.  I don’t mind that these are abridged versions of the classic books (in fact I welcome the shortening since I am currently asked to read Go, Dog Go twice a day, every day.)

 

PICTURE BOOK SETS or ANTHOLOGIES

 

Mad about Madeline. Doesn’t every girl between 5-8 need this collection (and not the later, added on versions…)?!

Frederick and His Friends: Four Favorite Fables. There is another one by the same author but I prefer the titles in the first set if I had to choose just one.

The Complete Adventures of Curious George. Again… the original tales are so beloved! No need to scramble after the dozens of after-tales by other authors. They aren’t “bad”… just not quite as charming as the original.

Once There Was a Boy… Boxed Set. Delighted to find this new this year!!!  I have a son who loves Oliver Jeffers and this just may go under our tree next month!

Eloise Wilkin Stories: Little Golden Book Treasury. For nostalgic mothers who love Wilkin’s work and want to pass the beauty onto their daughters…

Mike Mulligan and More: Four Classic Stories by Virginia Lee Burton. Unabridged and complete illustrations!

Lois Ehlert’s Growing Garden Gift Set. A lovely collection for budding gardeners.

Jan Brett’s Snowy Treasury. Four of her best, snowy books!

Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile Storybook Treasury. Lyle is an odd one. Some children don’t really fall in love with him. Others engage and won’t let go. To those children, this is a wonderful collection.

Richard Scarry’s Best Little Golden Books Ever!  A collection of just plain, old fashioned good stories illustrated by the incomparable Scarry.

Maurice Sendak’s Nutshell Library. My favorite… everybody needs Alligators All Around!

Dr. Seuss’s Beginner Book Collection. Pares down the vast Dr. Seuss collection to just the must-have classics.

Babar’s Anniversary Album: 6 Favorite Books. Originals only!

Joy to the World: Tomie’s Christmas Stories. Worth the collection for the Three Kings book alone in it…

The Paddington Treasury: Six Classic Bedtime Stories. Good old Paddington, delighting British children for ages now.  Let’s reignite love for him on this side of the water!

The World of Peter Rabbit: Books 1-23, Presentation Box. Of course, this list wouldn’t be complete without this:  the pièce de résistance‘!

CHAPTER BOOK SETS

Pooh’s Library. Individually bound.  Or in one volume if you prefer.

Mercy Watson Boxed Set: Adventures of a Porcine Wonder.  Let’s be honest. These are barely chapter books.  Indeed, I give them to my eager 8 year old who still stumbles to read independently.  But he feels such a mastery at reading these “official big kid” books… Mercy Watson is a great bridge to real chapter book reading.

Little House Nine-Book Box Set. C’mon. Every home needs this.

Favorite Thornton Burgess Animal Stories Boxed Set . Lots of bang for your buck with the Dover produced classics here!

Old Mother West Wind and 6 Other Stories. Same great bargain, but different titles as above.

Anne of Green Gables, Complete 8-Book Box Set. Because I have a ginger-haired girl who will love this someday.  Well, she acts more cayenne than ginger!

The Chronicles of Narnia. Please, please be certain to buy a version of these books WITHOUT the movie tie-in photographs on the covers!!!  Let imaginations come alive before putting real actor images in their minds!

The Chronicles of Narnia Complete 7 Volume CD Box Set (Unabridged). Audio book to own and play in the car!!! I’ve had my finger hovering over “Buy Now” on this for a couple years now!

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings: Deluxe Pocket Boxed Set. This set is leather bound. Are you kidding me?!  I might buy it for MYSELF since it lends itself so well to re-reading.  And these books do need to be reread many times through one’s life.

Like? Share:
Share

7 Princess Stories Not To Miss

This was going to be an official “Top Ten” list but without going too deeply into the abundant fairy tale realm (Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty etc…) I found myself stretching to fill out the last three titles.  Furthermore, some of these titles are simply worth mentioning for reasons other than the fact that they are the “best in their class.” So I’m calling it simply “stories not to miss”. You can read about some more of the fairy tale princesses however, in my Top Ten Disney Alternatives post.

In the meantime though, our testosterone heavy home is still drinking at the oasis of Newborn-Baby-Girl and all the delights that brings.  There are a gazillion crummy princess books out there. (Generally a good indicator of crumminess is if there is a trademark symbol somewhere on the cover.)  There are plenty of okay, non-commercialized princess stories too—some traditional and some a bit more contemporary/unconventional.  But in the search for perfectly satisfying, girly books, here are some not to miss!

 The Paper Princess by Elisa Kleven.  There is no better, dreamy, whimsical artist for little girls than Elisa Kleven.  I have a post coming up soon on some of her newer titles… but this is one of her classics.  It’s a very sweet story of a girl’s creation coming to life, getting lost and found again.  Be sure to check out The Paper Princess Finds Her Way and The Paper Princess Flies Again: With Her Dog! also.

 Many Moons by James Thurber.  The classic story of a sick little girl who simply wants the moon in the sky and outwits all the experts to figure out how to get it. Many reviewers comment on the weird, watery illustrations… and I agree that they are perfect for this tale.

 The Princess in the Forest by Sibylle Von Olfers.  My very favorite princess book for the five and under crowd. This one doesn’t take us through extravagant legends or rich plots.  It is very simply a day in the life of a princess. Gorgeous, botanically rich drawings… very simple text… yet high on the whimsy factor.  A must have.

 Princess Aasta by Stina Langlo Ordal.  This book is part of the reason I can’t make this an official Top Ten post. See, this isn’t one of the best princess stories ever written.  Not at all.  But there is something satisfyingly quirky and strange about this tale.  A girl advertises for a bear to be her friend.  The chosen bear and she go on adventures to the North Pole.  It’s quite strange and the art is different.  But I find these novelties rather refreshing in a genre where the traditions and proper roles are usually quite predictable.

 Princess and Fairy by Anna Pignataro.  Another book here that will never be a hall-of-fame candidate.  But this book probably has the highest satisfaction factor for little girls out of all of them which is why I included it on this list.  It is bright, colorful, bubbly and it rhymes.  Most of all… there is a page with sparkles!  My daughter adores poring over this book finding items on the very detailed pages.  It is absolutely the girliest of girly books.

 The Apple-Pip Princess by Jane Ray.  I am happy to have a Jane Ray title in this list; she is an extraordinary artist.  And here is a lovely tale of a sweet princess who restores the beauty and grandeur of her kingdom.

 The Twelve Dancing Princesses by Marianna Mayer and K.Y. Craft.  This Grimm fairy tale has always been my very favorite… always.  And this gorgeously illustrated version is  does it justice. The pictures and tale are lavishly done. There is another beautiful one by Ruth Sanderson with its own flavor and style all its own.  You can’t go wrong with either one.

Like? Share:
Share

From Russia with Love

I’m savoring these precious days with our new baby girl… spending all my hours nursing, changing and holding the baby while wondering how to make the laundry do itself.

And I’m watching the Olympics! We love the Olympics in this house! I won’t spend hours telling you about all the great picture books about Russia; there are plenty of lists online.  But I will spotlight my three very favorite (excluding Christmas themes, that is) stories based in Russia from our collection:

  I am especially fond of The Littlest Matryoshka by Corinne Bliss right now because my daughter finally has a sister!  And this story captures that special relationship between sisters just beautifully.  The tiniest little sister gets lost and goes through a series of adventures before finding her way back to her home with the other matryoshka sisters.  Lovely gentle art throughout…

 No one captures pastoral Ukraine or Russia like Patricia Polacco and Rechenka’s Eggs is one of our very favorite books to bring out toward the end of Lent and close to the Easter season.  It’s a great kickstart to any kind of pysanky projects one might want to delve into.  Another variation of this folktale can be found in the lovely book: The Birds’ Gift: A Ukrainian Easter Story by Eric Kimmel.

 Lastly is A Symphony of Whales by Steve Schuch.  A couple years ago, I based an entire unit study on this book.  I am so in love with everything about it:  it’s  based on a true story of villagers saving some beluga whales from ice entrapment, it’s richly illustrated in oil paintings, and the story is based in a unique geographical area that doesn’t usually get much attention: the Chukchi Peninsula.  It is truly a living book if ever there was one.  In fact, I need to replace my paperback copy to get it hardbound.


“Little by little, one travels far…”
-Tolkien
Like? Share:
Share

Oh Mercy!

I’m not sure where I was when the Mercy Watson books hit the shelves in 2009 or so, but they have somehow missed my radar completely until very recently. At our local library, the children’s librarian and I often chat book talk and she and I compare notes and ogle over illustrations together; I’ve even been able to pass on tips to her.  Anyway, she is the one who pulled out Mercy Watson to the Rescue and suggested my kids would like it.  I only checked the book out to be polite, without giving it much glance at the time.

But she was right.  My children—ages 2 thru 11—all love Mercy Watson! Who knew?!  They were written by the same talented Kate DiCamillo who gives us The Tale of Despereaux and illustrated by one of my children’s favorites Chris Van Dusen… whose art is the closest thing to animation in a picture book you’re ever going to see. (We love his A Camping Spree, Learning to Ski, and Down to the Sea with Mr. Magee).

Anyway, Mercy Watson, much like Stuart Little is an animal with human parents.  She is pleasant and plump and curious.  And, just like me, she has an affinity for toast “with a great deal of butter” which is brought up in every book. She is great fun and even funner are the old lady neighbors next door…

These books are FANTASTIC first chapter books.  They are short, highly illustrated, easily digestible, large font chapters. Yet, at a total of 75 pages or so, it could still be read in one sitting to a child out loud in about 15-20 minutes. What more could one want?! Children feel so awesome when they read such “mature” books and this is an excellent segue from picture books into that world. I’m so happy we found them.  After reading four out of the six in the series, I’m confident that I want to buy them all to have on hand for that perfect window of time when a child is ready for a bit more of a challenge than easy readers.  And being a sucker for “boxed sets,” there happens to be an attractive gift option for a certain someone’s upcoming Christmas gift: Mercy Watson Boxed Set: Adventures of a Porcine Wonder.  Superb.

Like? Share:
Share

Top Ten Classic Golden Book/Gift Combos

The best thing about Golden Books is that they are cheap!  The other excellent thing about Golden Books is that many of their classics are still in print. You have to look past much of the commercial titles at a store to find them, but they are readily available online. Books make excellent gifts for Christmas or birthdays… and children like them even better if they are accompanied by an actual toy. (For what it’s worth, I feel just the same about toys as I do about books—looking for ones that inspire play, not ones that play for them—sturdy, excellent materials that’ll last—quality over quantity). Having affordable, hardback books like the Golden ones, makes this a doable goal and here are some obvious and fun pairings I really like:

   with      
                                              The best first bath-time toy ever!

   with    
                                                  A real metal dump truck!

    with   
                                                   A high quality baby doll!

    with   
                                               Three bears wooden dress up!

   with    
                                               The plush Poky Little Puppy!

   with    
                                              Three pigs and a wolf finger puppets!

   with     
                                                 A lovely wooden animal train!

    with    
                                              Tawny Scrawny Lion cube puzzle!

    with   
                                                  A real, working stethoscope!

and the ultimate for firefighters everywhere:

   with    and
                                                     Fire chief dress up!                   The coolest ride-on toy ever!

Like? Share:
Share

Katie Morag

Do you know Katie Morag? We were just introduced last year when a dear godmother sent my son Katie Morag Delivers the Mail.  It was followed up this year with Katie Morag and the Big Boy Cousins. My (carrot-topped) son is now six years old and he pretends to be offended to receive books starring a female protagonist. But he’s still the first one to curl up next to me when I pull them out! As it is, the series of books are very popular in the U.K. and don’t seem to be as widely known here. Pity though, because they are lots of fun. Right away I was drawn to three things:

*It’s about islanders. Ever since living on Whidbey Island, I’ve developed a deep appreciation for island stories. There’s something about being an islander that is very different than living on the mainland and I like to catch parts of that in stories like Katie Morag or such…
*It stars a red-head. Call it the Pippi Longstocking syndrome, but since I have two redheads of my own now, I’m always drawn to gingers… who tend to be spitfires.
*It’s based in Scotland! Who doesn’t love a good Scottish brogue? You can almost hear it in the characters in these stories…
And of course there are the illustrations. They are reminiscent of Barbara Cooney in some ways, just perfect for this setting of a feisty, little girl who lives on an island off of Scotland. Mairi Hedderwick is a talented author/illustrator and I love how easily she depicts the simple island life. The stories are simple fun, they aren’t action packed adventures with high adrenaline or anything… just plain, easy going goodness. Hedderwick makes sure that she doesn’t romanticize the pastoral, island life too much though and she includes stories of different changes and things that happen. There are some adults who want to call these stories very socially PC nowadays: some non stereotypical roles fit into the stories: Granny Island always wears overalls and she’s very handy too. The father can be seen doing the dishes in an apron at one point. And apparently there was a Grandpa Island at one point but they are not married and I’ve yet to find anything objectionable with that rarely-mentioned situation. The books even include some adult humor, not anything objectionable but little things that the children won’t catch. There is one interesting thing to note about these stories:
Hedderwick has unwittingly become part of a censorship struggle as she commonly depicts Katie’s mother breastfeeding the baby. I personally love this (“Train ’em young!”) when it’s done tastefully but there is one image in Katie Morag and the Tiresome Ted in which the entire breast is exposed because the baby is looking back at his sister. (Here is the picture with the image blurred.) Some libraries have refused to stock the book because of this and Hedderwick’s editors were really skittish to want to leave it unedited. She has since said that she makes sure mother’s breast is now covered completely just to avoid the struggle with editors. I haven’t seen all the books so I’ll just take her word for it.
Still, if you are looking for something a little bit different and a little bit fun… Katie Morag might be just the ticket.
Like? Share:
Share

Top Ten Best Disney Alternatives

Well everybody has an opinion on Disney, I may as well chime in with my two cents. In a nutshell: I love classic Disney movies. I also appreciate the occasional recent movie from the company as well.  What I don’t love is the current huge, bloated, over-commericalized Disney industry. I have other complaints from an artistic and ethical standpoint also, but I’ve not the energy to lay all that out there.  Generally speaking, I am disheartened by the commercialization of children. I want my daughter to love princesses sure. But do they have to always come with a trademark symbol after their name?!

So, here we have it then. My top ten alternatives to the Disney Empire. Keep in mind that many of the original fairy tales were actually written for adults, so the themes can get very dark, graphic or mature.  The books I have here are much more faithful to the original fairy tale (or myth or history) than the movies Walt and his contemporaries have made and may have some of those darker elements. Even if you are a Disney lover, reading these books would be an interesting lesson in “compare and contrast” for children of multiple ages.

1. Snow White illustrated by Charles Santore. Rich, traditional illustrations make this a great choice, and my boys especially love what they call “the big head dwarves.” But I do confess to having a soft spot also for the version by Paul Heins because Trina Schart Hyman adds the detail of a Marian image on one wall… plus the princess seems to age a little more congruently in her story.

2. Cinderella by K.Y. Craft definitely takes the cake here. Craft’s vibrant and ornate style is especially suited to this fairy tale. Barbara McClintock’s version of the story gets an honorable mention for a fun story and a young George Washington looking prince!






3. Aladdin And The Enchanted Lamp will substitute nicely for the letdown of Disney’s version; if you aren’t familiar with the story, you will be surprised at the liberties taken and unnecessary changes the movie made. Aladdin and the Magic Lamp by James Kunstler also looks promising (not having read it myself) as well as this version adapted by Eric Kimmel (of whom I am generally a great fan).

4. Hercules by Robert Burleigh is my favorite picture book alternative to the Disney movie.  Though this story only details the final of the twelve labors, it’s just the right size for younger children. While James Riordan’s book The Twelve Labors of Hercules is extremely well done and faithful to original story, it is fairly long and pretty graphic. There is the question of whether or not some of those images need picture representation at all. However, if we want to leave the book category altogether, I don’t think you’ll find a better retelling of the Hercules tale than that done by Jim Weiss.

5. Rapunzel by Alix Berenzy is my favorite adaptation of the Brothers Grimm tale. This one is far more popular but I think the author got a little sloppy with how Rapunzel got pregnant. In the original tale, and in Berenzy’s work, the symbol of her laying her hand in the prince’s seems to be what suffices for marriage vows. Then the story tastefully goes on with the prince finding Rapunzel at long last with their twins. At least with this there is no question of Rapunzel’s virtue being held intact.  The version of Rapunzel done by Barbara Rogasky (illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman) is also a winner and deals with the marriage situation artfully through omission. Rogasky actually states when the twins come in that Rapunzel and the prince were married by then and it’s done in a way that children won’t be asking “Wait, when did that happen?!”

6. Beauty and the Beast by Max Eilenberg is my favorite. The illustrations by Angela Barrett are just right: full, captivating, moody, and evocative. This particular version isn’t 100% accurate to the tale, but it is still full and rich and  the very minor embellishments just add to the beauty in my opinion. There are two other good options out there as well: the one by Jan Brett is clean, fairly simple and of course features the always lovely Brett artwork. And then the book by Marianna Mayer is pretty neat too. My only aversion to this one is that the illustrations of the beast (done by Mercer Mayer) are truly frightening. His eyes pop out in a very sort of disturbing way… but maybe it’s just me.

7. Pocahontas by the D’Aulaires is the only really solid alternative to the mediocre Disney movie. The movie itself was fairly informative but it of course avoided some of the uglier sides of the story (e.g. how the English treated her tribe). Reportedly, Disney turned down the offer of Native Americans who wanted to help the company produce a more accurate movie, but that’s just hearsay. But at least we have one great biography by the excellent Ingri and Edgar D’Aulaire. Their fun and appealing art is always a treat for children. I have seen a couple other books on Pocahontas but none stick out in my mind as pushing past mediocrity.  I think it’s time for someone to produce a beautiful and lavish book on this fascinating princess!

8. The Little Mermaid is the reason I wanted to write this post. Like any other little girl, I loved the Disney version of Little Mermaid. When I grew up and finally read the original tale, I was shocked at how dumbed down the cartoon version was… and how the ultimate ending of sacrifice and references to the eternal life were entirely omitted. But hey, Disney is in it for happy endings and I get that. The original tale is kind of an ambivalent ending: mermaid doesn’t get her prince, but she will get the chance to earn her afterlife. The versions available are tricky… I wanted to find something that still guarded the modesty of the mermaids without it being obvious or kitschy (e.g. clam shell bras). That unfortunately ruled out some beautiful versions of the story, most notably that done by Charles Santore (there is a new version available for pre-order on this one). I also was looking for something that preserved as much of the original language of the story as possible since it is just so extraordinary. This combination, tasteful illustrations and excellent text, was hard to come by. Robert Sabuda has a pop-up book (and I’m certain that ‘hardcover’ price will change in time) coming out later this year that could be excellent. Initial pictures of the pop-outs are incredible but I don’t know how the text will be yet. So I eventually settled on the the version the adaptation by Anthea Bell and illustrated by Chihiro Iwasaki. The story is simplified somewhat so the text isn’t as wonderful as Santore’s, and I was a little disappointed that the sea witch didn’t seem very evil but I really appreciate the watery, ethereal illustrations by Iwasaki. Even if they aren’t traditionally rich and bold, the simple sketch and watercolor technique is very fitting for this particular tale.

9. FA Mulan: The Story of a Woman Warrior by Robert San Souci is a very well done story about the Chinese folk hero, Mulan. This book is the actual one Disney used for the basis of their movies. And I have to admit, the movie version of this tale isn’t too far out there or ridiculous at all! For a later-released Disney flick, it was surprisingly well done all said and done.  Anyway, as usual though, the book is better!  And the illustrations here by Jean & Mou-Sien Tseng are, like Iwasaki’s Little Mermaid, the perfect fit for this story. They are bright, ornate and faithful. China’s Bravest Girl is another title you can look up in your library if this one is missing…

10. The Sleeping Beauty by Trina Schart Hyman is a narrow winner for this story. I also really love this version illustrated by K.Y. Craft.  But in the luxurious pictures in Craft’s book, the good fairy’s good body is fairly suggestively shown once (hey I’ve got four boys who don’t need that titillation!) and the witch in the tale is incredibly scary looking. In Hyman’s book, she gets major points for having the most handsome prince of all the fairy tale books I’ve ever seen. I admit this is just personal preference, but I really have no use for effeminate looking men in tights who’ve never needed a razor.  Craft’s Prince Charming comes with facial hair and looks manly and rugged and like someone who could definitely defend a princess from a dragon!

Like? Share:
Share

Stella!!!

“Do you think there are sharks in the sea?” asked Sam. “Have you ever seen one?”
“Just a little one,” said Stella, “with an eyepatch.”


If you know not Stella, it’s time to introduce yourself.  She’s a lovely little ginger spitfire who treks all around with her wee brother Sam at her heels. The stories don’t have much of a plot; they exist to give a peek into the world of young children. Sam asks lots of questions about life. Stella allows you to listen in on her answers.  Their dialogue is fantastic.

“Look,” said Sam, “some clouds just landed in that field.”

“Those aren’t clouds, Sam. They’re sheep.”
“Aren’t sheep dangerous?” asked Sam. 
“About as dangerous as woolly blankets,” said Stella.

  I’ve read every Stella book so far and having a little carrot-top daughter myself (who comes complete with her own toddling brother!) I was compelled to purchase the treasury of Marie-Louise Gay’s works on her as an upcoming gift for the little lass.

Stella!: A Treasury is one of those great compilations that does NOT sacrifice the individual stories either through abridgment or picture size/quality. Stella, Queen of the SnowStella, Fairy of the ForestStella, Princess of the Sky and When Stella Was Very, Very Small are all there. And this is a good thing since a couple of those titles in hardback are already out of print. What an insult! Skip the hunt for individual titles and get this anthology! There is apparently a Stella and Sam cartoon on Canada’s Disney channel and it looks like the animation is spot on… (It’s really neat to read about the author detailing how this came to be here.) and there are some downloads coming soon on the author’s website that look like they could be a lot of fun.  In addition to Stella, Gay has a few titles with Sam as the hero now as well as some other items. Any way you have her, Stella is good for the child in any of us.

Like? Share:
Share

More Wintry Titles

Aside from the titles, on my Top Ten Winter Book list, we’ve gone on another library binge of snowy titles in a desperate attempt to will some snow to come before spring!  So here I’m just throwing out some collected seasonal picks as we round out our wintertime.

Snow by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Lauren Stringer. A completely evocative book, slow and deliberate, with a delicious, stunning spread of a pink sunset reflecting on the snow. I’ve never seen THAT moment captured in an illustration before this… lovely all around.

Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner and Christopher Silas. An easy, living book if there ever was one. Contemporary, clean illustrations.

Over the snow, the fire crackles, and parks shoot up to the stars.  I lick sticky marshmallow from my lips and lean back with heavy eyes. Shadows dance in the flames.  Under the snow, a queen bumblebee drowses away December, all alone.  She’ll rule a new colony in spring.


Learning to Ski with Mr. Magee by Chris Van Dusen. I’ve been thinking on Van Dusen for some time… just how I want to pinpoint him as an author/illustrator and decided he deserves his own post quite soon.  So look for that. Until then, suffice it to say, we are big fans of Mr. Magee in this house!

The Snow Globe Family. A novel little story that will make you wish you had your own living snow globe family.

Snowmen at Night by Carolyn and Mark Buehner. Rhyme time!  Best enjoyed by the younger crew and recommended as a board book!

Snipp, Snapp, Snurr and the Yellow Sled by the one and only Maj Lindman.  As a child, I couldn’t get enough of these Swedish triplet boys and their female counterparts Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka. I know the 1940s innocence of these stories are a bit contrived but I can’t help loving them nonetheless. Such sweet morals and goodness in these series.

Winter Shoes for Shadow Horse by Linda Oatman High and Ted Lewin.  I was surprised that this book had no written reviews on Amazon, so I had to make one. It isn’t really snow focused. It’s just a lovely, well written book about a young boy learning to do a man’s work under the watchful eye of his father.

I pry, and salve, and whisper, and tap and nip and rasp and clinch, Papa’s hand on my shoulder. Shadow Horses’s back ripples and I flinch, scared. “Go on,” Papa whispers, his hand heavy and strong.

Cold Snap by Eileen Spinelli and Marjorie Priceman. New in 2012, this book is bright and vividly illustrated; the ultimate snow storm picture book emphasizing community! Includes simple and yummy recipe at the end. Now all we need is some snow to make it happen!

Like? Share:
Share