Posts Tagged ‘Rillabooks’

Picture Book Spotlight: Sophie’s Squash

October 15, 2014 @ 7:30 pm | Filed under: Books, Picture Book Spotlight, Read-Alouds

Here’s a book I thought I’d blogged about before, but it seems I only mentioned it briefly.

sophie's squashSophie’s Squash

by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf.

We first read this absolute gem of a picture book last year during the CYBILs. Fell so utterly in love with it—the lot of us—that a library copy wouldn’t do; we had to have our own. Huck and Rilla were overjoyed when I pulled it out this morning. Sophie’s instant bond with a butternut squash is utterly believable, and not just because Huck formed a similar attachment once upon a time. “Bernice” becomes Sophie’s best friend and closest confidant, all through a bright and beautiful autumn. But as winter approaches, Bernice begins to get a bit squishy about the edges. Sophie’s parents make gentle attempts to convince Sophie it’s time to let her friend go, but since their suggestions involve treating the squash like, you know, a squash, Sophie’s having none of it. Her own solution is sweet and heartwarming, and it makes my kids sigh that contented sigh that means everything has come out exactly right.

 

Leaving the Garden

June 30, 2014 @ 9:49 am | Filed under: Books

 

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I read The Secret Garden to Rilla recently. She loved it beyond reckoning, same as I did at her age—same as I do now. During fraught passages, she couldn’t keep still: had to roll around on the bed, wave her legs in the air, hug herself, squeal, stand up and jump. All that emotion had to manifest in movement. It was fascinating to witness the way the book literally moved her. It brought a whole new dimension to my understanding of that expression.

***

Often, after I’ve read a book aloud to my kids, they take it away and immediately reread it. I thought Rilla might want to do that with Secret Garden but she looked almost shocked by the suggestion.

“No!” she exclaimed. “After you read me a book, I kinda treat it as an artifact too fragile to be touched.”

Well. I’m going to have to think about that. She probably won’t feel that way forever, and I imagine there will come a day when she does curl up with this tome for a delicious, private reread. Maybe around age ten or eleven—she’s only eight, after all. It’s interesting to contemplate, though. Was the experience of this book so fully engaging, such a complete kinesthetic, aural, visual, imaginative absorption that it feels enough? Have you ever experienced a book that way—a first encounter so complete that you never wanted to go back again?

It’s our first rainy Friday in the longest time

February 28, 2014 @ 3:50 pm | Filed under: Books

tomkittenSo this morning the littles and I stayed in and read. Mice, more mice, is what Rilla wants these days. Kittens and hedgehogs are an acceptable substitute. Any small creature that wears clothing, really.

So first it was The Story of Miss Moppet—four times! I ask you. They kept begging and begging.

Then The Tale of Tom Kitten, which is crammed with delicious language. All Beatrix Potter is, but this one especially tickles me.

“While they were in difficulties, there was a pit pat, paddle pat! and the three Puddle-ducks came along the hard high road…”

and

“‘My friends will arrive in a minute, and you are not fit to be seen; I am affronted,’ said Mrs. Tabitha Twitchit.”

That petulant “I am affronted” cracks me up every time. Mrs. Tabitha is the Mrs. Bennet of B. Potter characters.

And then finally we got to the necessary mice. Well, mouse, singular. We read about half of The Mouse of Amherst (speaking of delicious language). She didn’t remember it from three years ago, which made it all the more fun. Seven is the perfect age for this loveliest of little books.

I slept too late to get any Howards End in, but did grab a few minutes for …on the Landing. Now that I’ve determined I’m going to buy a copy, I may save the rest for later and turn to one of the other interlibrary loans I have piled up, as time is ticking and they can’t always be renewed. I have The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop and a couple of Gladys Taber’s Stillmeadow books, which were recommended to me in the memoir thread the other week. I also got hold of Helene Hanff’s Elizabeth I biography for children—she admired Elizabeth so, and it seemed a fun choice for a sampling of her children’s nonfiction.

Recently Read

February 5, 2014 @ 5:47 pm | Filed under: Books, Picture Book Spotlight

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.

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These are a few of our recent lineups. All out of order, but the dates don’t matter, do they?

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

How I’m logging our readalouds this year

January 16, 2014 @ 8:58 pm | Filed under: Books, Picture Book Spotlight

Gonna try, at least.

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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.

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My strategy this year is to snap a picture each day after we’ve finished reading.

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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.

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I’m posting the pics on Instagram, when I remember, tagged “today’s #readalouds.”

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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.

Into the Thicklebit (Sophie’s a more devoted companion than my guy was.) ;)

Picture book log: 29 Dec

December 30, 2013 @ 9:25 pm | Filed under: Books, Picture Book Spotlight

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.

a pile of picture books

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!)

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Picture Book Spotlight: Mustache Baby

November 23, 2013 @ 7:54 pm | Filed under: Books, Picture Book Spotlight

Mustache BabyMustache 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.

Rilla Goes to Oz

August 28, 2013 @ 7:34 pm | Filed under: Books

ozma

Illustration by John R. Neill

I loved the Oz books as a kid. Loooooved them. Collected the whole series, the Baum-authored ones plus a couple of the Ruth Plumly Thompson sequels, and enlisted my father’s help to track down the Very Best Editions, the white-bordered oversized trade paperbacks with John R. Neill illustrations.

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I reread the entire series regularly all through high school and even on college vacations. Dorothy, Ozma, Tik-Tok, Scraps, the Hungry Tiger, the Glass Cat, Betsy Bobbin, Billina, Polychrome, General Jinjur, the Shaggy Man, Button-Bright: this astonishing array of lively characters peopled my imagination and taught me a great deal about diversity, varying points of view, and fun. They were an outspoken bunch, these Oz folks. They had strong opinions; their perspectives clashed; they worked through conflicts and celebrated one another’s quirks. I adored them. Still do.

Strangely, the Oz books never seemed to take off for my kids as read-alouds. Baum’s prose is, I confess, a bit arch, sometimes saccharine. His genius was for character and plot, not lyricism. My older three girls went through waves of reading the series on their own, but they didn’t seem to catch Oz fever with the intensity I had.

Enter Rilla. Well, first enter Eric Shanower and Skottie Young, who are bringing the Oz books to a new generation of readers via truly gorgeous graphic novel adaptations published by Marvel. Oz, overflowing as it is with colorful, outlandish characters, was made for graphic depictions. Eric Shanower (who has become a friend of mine through Comic-Con and SCBWI) is a true Ozian—why, his own press is called Hungry Tiger, and his contributions to Oz literature and fandom are staggering. His adaptations are faithful, deft, and affectionate. And Skottie Young’s art, while a departure from the John R. Neill images burned into my brain as canon, is wholly delightful. It’s clear he is having tremendous fun bringing these creatures to life.

I’ve mentioned before that Rilla, as a reader, is drawn to books with a heavy illustration-to-text ratio. She prefers Brambly Hedge to Little House, for example; those gorgeous, intricately detailed drawing of tree-stump pantries and attics can occupy her for a full afternoon. She’ll spend an hour talking to me about Eric Carle’s techniques. For her, art is the magic; an accompanying plotline is simply a nice bonus.

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We brought Eric and Skottie’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz home from SDCC last month, and Rilla—well, you’d have thought we gave her an actual trip to the Land of Oz, she was so excited. It’s the longest, hardest book she has read on her own. Oh yes, it’s a graphic novel, but the text is quite sophisticated: there’s some nice meaty vocabulary in the dialogue. Baum didn’t talk down to his young readers, and neither does Eric Shanower. (And of course I’ve written volumes before about the excellent reading skills imparted by comics: there’s a lot of complex decoding going on as a young reader navigates those panels.)

“Bad news,” she told me mournfully one day. “I finished the best book in the world.”

“Guess what,” I whispered. “There are more.”

Her gasp, her shining eyes: no Princess of Oz was more radiant.

The next week’s worth of bedtimes saw her poring over The Marvelous Land of Oz, one of my favorite books in the series (both the original and the graphic adaptation). Every morning, she narrated the previous night’s events to me, dancing with suspense as the story unfolded, and belly-laughing over the ending.

marvelouslandoz

Then came Ozma of Oz, a book for which my deep affection renders me nearly incoherent. Even that sentence is on shaky grammatical territory. Imagine a lot of squealing noises and some Rilla-esque bouncing around. I mean, I mean, Tik-Tok and the Wheelers! The lunch-pail trees! The loathsome, fabulous Princess Langwidere and her collection of interchangeable heads. SHE WANTS DOROTHY’S HEAD FOR THE COLLECTION, YOU GUYS. Come on. And then the Nome King and his high-stakes guessing game (shades of Heckedy Peg), and Billina the Hen’s surprising trump card. Oh, oh, oh.

Don’t tell Rilla, but I’d already given a copy of Ozma to my goddaughter, Vivi, whose mother is, if anything, an even bigger Oz fanatic than I am. She even looks like Ozma. (Krissy, why why why didn’t we ever go as Ozma and Polychrome for Halloween?)

polychrome meets ozma

Polychrome, the Rainbow’s Daughter, meets Princess Ozma. Illustration by John R. Neill.

Rilla hasn’t met Polychrome yet. She will swoon, mark my words. The Rainbow’s Daughter? Polly of the swirling robes and floaty hair? Rilla’s a goner. Like Ozma, she’ll make Polly’s acquaintance in The Road to Oz. I can’t wait to see what Skottie Young does with Polychrome and the Shaggy Man. Both characters are bubbling over with the whimsy he captures so well.

roadtooz

But first comes Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz. Even for Baum, this is a bizarre tale. Dorothy gets caught in a San Francisco earthquake and falls all the way to the center of the earth, where weird vegetable people (as in, they grow on vines) called the Mangaboos are on the verge of executing her when, whew!, who should float down in his balloon but Dorothy’s old acquaintance, the Wizard?

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After that comes The Emerald City of Oz. Rilla and I may not be able to wait for the collected edition; we might have to start picking up the floppies from our local comic shop.

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Treasures

August 26, 2013 @ 7:39 pm | Filed under: Books

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She’ll perch on a stool and play with the wooden dolls on my shelves by the hour. This is how Sunday afternoon unfolds: her soft doll-chatter murmuring beside me while I’m reading, studying, or (as was the case this weekend) cleaning out closets.

I see Joanna Trollope’s Other People’s Children peeking out from one of the stacks; I read it on (I think it was) Lesley’s recommendation and found it wholly absorbing, thoughtful, vivid, a bit sad. I liked it very much. Those shelves are a jumble of things I’m eager to read but haven’t had a chance yet (Green Dolphin Street, borrowed from my friend Carmen; The Light Between Oceans, a gift from my publisher last Christmas; Brideshead Revisited, because I still—still! still!!1!!—haven’t, among others) and books I love so much I need to keep them close. (A Far Cry From Kensington; One Man’s Meat; Dear Genius; etc. etc. etc.)

Notable picture-book reads of late: The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse—a top-ten favorite of Rilla’s, and she’ll talk your ear off about the highlight colors in the paintings, if you like; Miss Suzy, back in frequent rotation; Open This Little Book, of which Huck cannot get enough; and to Huck for the very first time—oh! this particular milestone has been one of the most delightful I’ve experienced with each of the kids, one by one—Make Way for Ducklings. You can tell he’s the sixth child, not getting his full measure of McCloskey until the ancient age of four and a half. Scandal!