Archive for the ‘Picture Book Spotlight’ Category
It is Wednesday, isn’t it? I’m off kilter somehow.
Every now and then one of my littles will shout “ELIZABETH!”—I would say ‘for no apparent reason,’ because it’s always a non sequitur, but there is a reason and it’s very apparent: what they mean is “I want to read My Name Is Elizabeth!“ Elizabeth doesn’t like being called Lizzie, Liz, Beth, or Betsy, and although my two youngest children have short names that don’t lend themselves to nicknaming, they wholly sympathize with Elizabeth’s plight, and approve of her insistence on proper nomenclature.
(They also approve—heartily—of the exception she makes for her little brother.)
Whenever this book is rediscovered, I seem to be called upon to read it several times a day for a week or so. This has been one of those weeks. I’m not complaining.
Just finished e. lockhart’s We Were Liars. Utterly unsettling. I mean that in a good way. More on it later.
And a heads-up for you.
I got an email from FutureLearn about this upcoming course—Literature of the English Country House—and I honest-to-God squealed.
We’ll be using a wide range of texts spanning the history of literature from Thomas More’s ‘Utopia’ to Oscar Wilde’s ‘Canterville Ghost’. Along the way we will examine sections from a play by Shakespeare, poetry by Margaret Cavendish, and brief passages from novels by Jane Austen, and Charles Dickens. We will even look at fiction by a country house resident Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire.
Starts June 2. Thought you might like to know.
Here’s a little moment in time. Right after I read The Little Fur Family to Huck (for the first time!) the other day, he wanted to read it himself. This is one of my favorite picture books to read with very young kids, and I can’t imagine how it slipped past Huck until now—I found this copy of the book at the bottom of a box of toys earlier in the week. Of course the very best edition is the tiny one with the faux-fur cover. It’s around here somewhere, but I don’t recall seeing it in ages. It’s probably under a bed.
Anyway, when I grabbed my boy for the read-aloud, he was reluctant to listen, as he very often is right at the beginning. And then, as nearly always happens, before I finish the first page, he’s hooked. It went double this time around. He fell hard for the little fur child in the wild, wild wood, like so many before him.
I caught a good chunk of his reading on video. There’s background noise from his big sisters and brother, but you can hear him pretty well. I love watching the leaps kids make at this age—the substitutions where they think they see where the word is going and plug in one they know, like his “fun children” for “fur child” and “mom” for “mother.”
I don’t know if I caught this stage on video with any of the other kids. I have a pretty young Rilla reading an Ariel speech from The Tempest—you can’t hear much in the recording but it melts me to see the confidence with which she attacks some quite challenging text—but nothing, as far as I can recall, of the others at Huck’s stage. I’m glad I captured this much. Those sneezes!
I think I mentioned before that I’m trying to take a picture of all our readalouds—an easier way to record the books than writing them down.
These are a few of our recent lineups. All out of order, but the dates don’t matter, do they?
Rilla is so in love with the Post-Impressionists right now. I kept saying, We need to go to the library to get the Katie books, and then a bunch of things slid off a shelf and there was this one right on top. I’d forgotten we owned a copy!
The Grey Lady and the Strawberry Snatcher fills me with all kinds of warm, wistful feelings. One of my first-ever purchases from Chinaberry, I believe, way back in the day. How many hundreds of times have I pored over its pictures with a wonder-eyed little one?
Okay, this one—a stunner. At the Same Moment, Around the World. Just what it sounds like: one moment in time, chronicled time zone by time zone, country by country, in beautiful illustrations full of cheer and heart, and rich in visual detail. We’re in love. (It doesn’t come out until March; this is a review copy.)
Cat Says Meow is charming, too, a bit of typographical fun that tickled Rilla’s funnybone especially.
Linnea is another one that carries me back to earlier days—in this case, before I even had children. I bought my copy of Windowsill Garden with my employee discount at the children’s bookstore where I worked during grad school. I grew millions of houseplants in those days, and Linnea was a girl after my own heart.
And these two, oh how beloved. Rilla and I read a chapter of each, every day (or nearly so). She was skeptical about Milly-Molly-Mandy at first—the cover didn’t do much for her—but I started reading the first chapter and as I suspected, she was swept right up by the magic of MMM holding all those separate errands in her head. And then chapter two, when Milly-Molly-Mandy has to decide how to spend a penny? I’m not being the slightest bit ironic: this is seriously captivating stuff. Every day I’m so excited when it’s time to curl up for our double-header.
Gonna try, at least.
Failed utterly last year at keeping up my Rillabooks log. Of course, it’s really a Rilla-and-Huck-and-sometimes-Wonderboy log, which makes the keeping-up all the harder.
My strategy this year is to snap a picture each day after we’ve finished reading.
One thing I like about this method is that I can track frequently requested rereads alongside newer books. It’s been fun to see a book appearing two or three days in a row as it moves into the Favorites position and then is eventually superceded by a new charmer.
I’m posting the pics on Instagram, when I remember, tagged “today’s #readalouds.”
A few remarks:
Cookie the Walker. They love this book. If I’d thought of the photo idea sooner, it would have appeared in about ten in a row. I’ll be honest: I wouldn’t have expected it to spark such an obsession—but it’s on its way to Scoopy the Steam Shovel territory, if you know what I mean. Twice now I’ve taken it back to the library, but the librarians keep shelving all my returns on the display rack, so every other time we go, Huck grabs it again.
But oh you guys, if you haven’t checked out Sophie’s Squash yet, do. It was one of our Cybils finalists—the whole darn judging panel was crazy about it. It’s delightful. Sophie adopts a butternut squash as her baby and best friend, and, well, to say people in my house can relate to that notion is an understatement.
(Sophie’s a more devoted companion than my guy was.)
Well, since all previous methods of logging our picture book reads have proven unsuccessful over the long haul, I’m going to give this quick-and-easy method a try: I’ll try to snap a pic of each day’s pile and toss it up on Instagram. Then, if time permits, I can annotate the photo here. Here’s yesterday, a very good haul—mostly library books of the kids’ choosing.
Love Monster was sent to me for review and has a lot of charm. I think we’ve all had days where we’ve felt like the only monster in Cutesville.
Sing is the familiar Sesame Street/Karen Carpenter song, but illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld, which is always a good thing. I would pretty much like my whole life to be illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld.
Tap the Magic Tree was a Rilla pick, I believe, and delighted all three of my youngest, but Huck most of all. At least, until he dissolved in tears over the page that Rilla tapped first. Each tap, rub, wiggle, or air-kiss brings changes to the tree as we follow it through the seasons.
This Plus That is delightful, and of this bunch is the one I’d be most likely to buy. Little equations from daily life. Chalk + sitting = school. Chalk + jumping = hopscotch. Gave us loads to talk about. Amy Krouse Rosenthal always does.
This Is Our House is a sweet and simple story of three generations of family making a life in one beloved city house. The kids seemed to find it really satisfying, in a kind of calm and peaceful way. It has been requested several more times since that first read. They enjoy the comforting full-circle of the pattern: the little girl learning to walk on the same street her mother had toddled on years before; the same cherry tree blooming in the spring. Wonderful art in this one.
The Silver Moon is a poetry collection and we’ve only read a few pieces—lovely so far.
My Father’s Arms Are a Boat is a book I would hesitate to give as a gift but would recommend to certain friends, certain kids…it’s a very sad story; the mother has died, the father and son are mourning, but this is shown through poignant words and actions, not spelled out in a narrative manner. It’s one quiet night, one starry sky, one touching conversation. A hard book to describe. We were into it before I knew what I was reading, and the children were captivated, there was no turning back…and I wouldn’t want to, I’m glad we shared it together. But it’s a sad, haunting poem of a book, and I can see that it might be emotionally wrenching for some children. So don’t do what I did. Preview it first. It’s a good read for adults in its own right.
Okay, I can guarantee I won’t be annotating every one of these photos. But I can snap the pic, at least, and have the record.
(No photo for today because—gasp!—we didn’t read any books together!)
Mustache Baby by Bridget Heos, illustrated by Joy Ang.
Sometimes you just want a book that makes a kid belly laugh. From the moment Baby Billy makes his appearance, mustachioed from the get-go, Huck and Rilla were in stitches. As Billy grows, his mustache makes it easy for him to assume a variety of roles: cowboy, cop, painter, circus ringleader. But beware the toddler with a long, twirly, Snidely Whiplash mustache: you might have a wee villain on your hands. The surprise ending generated the biggest guffaw of all from my small fry. When Huck discovered the book had gone back to the library, he very nearly grew a bad-guy mustache on the spot. Don’t worry—just like Billy, he recovered his good-guy wits before any dastardly deeds were done. Mustache Baby will be making a repeat visit very soon.
“To be perfectly honest, Ticky,” said Professor John, “I do not care for grandfather clocks as a rule. They are so very tall that one can never look into their faces and see what they are thinking. But your grandfather must be a very special clock, and it is always a good thing to have an ancestor who lives in a castle.”
—The Very Fine Clock by Muriel Spark, illustrated by Edward Gorey (1968)