Thursday, July 29, 2010

July is Classic Books Month on TTLG - Day Thirteen

My memories of my early childhood are fragmentary, but there is one that is incredibly clear. I am sitting in my father's lap and he is reading The story of Ferdinand to me. I can almost hear his lovely reading voice. The memory makes me miss my father, but it also warms me and makes me feel very grateful that I had such a wonderful person in my life.   

Munro Leaf
Drawings by Robert Lawson
Picture Book
Ages 4 to 6
Penguin, 1977, 0-14-050234-3
   There once was a little bull who liked to sit “quietly and smell the flowers.” He had no interest in running or jumping or butting heads with the other little bulls. Ferdinand liked the quiet life. Even when he became a big bull with strong muscles and pointy horns, Ferdinand had no interest in changing his simple lifestyle. The other bulls were all eager to fight in the bull ring, but Ferdinand was happy to sit “quietly under the cork tree and smell the flowers.”
   Then one day, five men wearing “funny hats” came to pick the bull that would fight in the bull fights in Madrid. The other bulls in the field did their best to look fierce so that they would be picked. Ferdinand, not surprisingly, walked over to his favorite cork tree to sit in the shade. Which is when something dreadful happened, something that would dramatically change Ferdinand’s life.
   This timeless picture book has charmed several generations of children since it came out in 1936. With its beautiful illustrations, its simple text, and its meaningful story, this book is a must for young children. 

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

July is classic books month on TTLG - Day twelve

When I was about eight or so, my American grandmother sent me a boxed set of the Little House books. As soon as I began to read Little House in the Big Woods I became a devotee of Laura Ingalls Wilder's books, and I have read everything she wrote - I think. 

Little House in the Big Woods
Laura Ingalls Wilder
Illustrator:   Garth Williams 
For ages 8 and up
HarperCollins, 1971   ISBN: 978-0064400015
   Laura is a little girl who lives in a log cabin in the woods of Wisconsin with her Ma, Pa, her sisters Mary and Carrie, and the brindled bulldog Jack. The family is so isolated that Laura has never seen a town, and she rarely gets to play with other children, but she loves her life and enjoys all the new activities that come with the changing seasons.
   With Laura we are going to see what it would have been like to live in the north woods in the late 1800’s. We are going to share the special events that mark the year; Christmas, Laura’s birthday, cheese making time, maple sugar time, harvest time and more. We are going to laugh at Pa’s wonderful stories, and sympathize with Laura when she is punished for being a naughty girl on a Sunday. We are going to discover what it must have felt like to see a town for the first time when Laura and her family go to the lake town of Pepin, and we are going to feel a sense of loss when Pa decides that it is time to leave the Big Woods.
   This first title in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s famous autobiographical books, will get readers of all ages well and truly hooked on the Little House series. Readers will long to know what happens next to this hardworking and loving family. Children will be amazed to read about how people like the Ingalls family had to manage with what they were able to grow, make, or hunt. They will be fascinated to read about how people in Laura’s world made their own cheese, got their “everyday” sugar from maple trees, and how children were not allowed to play or shout on Sundays.
   Garth Williams has created some wonderful black and white illustrations for this book, which capture the essence of Laura’s north woods life, and which give the reader a real sense of what it might have been like to live in a tiny cabin in an enormous forest.

Monday, July 26, 2010

July is Classic Books Month on TTLG - Day 11

Whenever I am feeling down or in need of a little comfort I almost always turn to one book: The wind in the willows. Recently Candlewick Press released a delightful new version of this timeless book. Inga Moore's abridgment and her glorious illustrations make this a title that will delight readers who have a fondness for Toad, Mole, Ratty, and Badger.
Kenneth Grahame
Illustrator:  Inga Moore
For ages 8 and up
Candlewick Press, 2009   ISBN: 0763642118
The Mole is fed up with spring cleaning. In fact he is so fed up that he throws down his white-washing brush and he digs his way through the earth until he reaches the spring meadow above, the warm sun, and the soft breezes. Elated by the beauty of the day, Mole goes off for a walk. His ramblings lead him to the astonishing and delightful River, a place he has never seen before. It also brings him to the doorstep of the Water Rat. “Ratty,” being a terribly friendly and easy-going sort of animal, invites Mole to go for a picnic with him. The two new friends set out in Ratty’s little row boat, and they have a truly “enchanted afternoon” together.
That very evening Ratty invites Mole to live with him. He offers to teach the Mole how to row and swim,  and all in all, how to appreciate the River and all its mysteries and beauties. Mole accepts this wonderful invitation, and he is soon part of the river community.
One glorious day, some time after their initial meeting, the Mole and the Rat decide to go and visit Toad at his very grand home, Toad Hall. Before they quite know what has hit them, the ebullient and excitable Toad has convinced them to go on an expedition with him in his “canary coloured cart.” The cart is Toad’s latest fad - his newest hobby - and the two friends agree to go along. Unfortunately, the adventure ends badly, and Toad is infected with a new interest. Carts are a thing of the past, they are “common” and not worthy of his attention. No indeed, now Toad is obsessed with motor cars, and as we soon find out, they are the cause of his downfall, and what a fall it is too.
The various adventures of Toad, Mole, Rat and their other friends are both gripping and delightful. Toad’s misadventures are sure to amuse readers of all ages.  This is a superb abridgement of Kenneth Grahame’s marvellous, timeless, and often magical prose; it is filled with the beauty of nature, the mystic powers that lie beneath the surface of every river and behind every tree. Just as Mole is “spellbound” by his first sighting of the river, so too is the reader of this book spellbound by its magical language.
Inga Moore has created artwork that is a tribute to Kenneth Graham’s world and to the power that his words have had over generations of children. With her soft colours and highly detailed panoramas, Moore has perfectly created the atmosphere set in Graham’s words. Her art leaves one in no doubt that the world is full of beautiful places and that adventures can and do lie just around the nearest corner if you know how to look for them.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

July is Classic books month on TTLG - Day ten

A little princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett was one of my favorite books. It made me sad every time I read it, and yet I always felt uplifted when I came to the end. Though some good films have been made of the book, none really capture the magic of this memorable story. 

Frances Hodgson Burnett
Illustrator:Tasha Tudor
For ages 9 to 12
HarperCollins, 1991   ISBN: 978-0064401876
Sara Crewe is the kind of little girl who catches your attention when you see her. With her bright green eyes and thick black hair,  she is not pretty in the traditional sense, but there is something about her that is special. She is the daughter of a very rich young man, and now the time has come for her to go to school in England. She is not very keen on attending Miss Minchin's School for Girls, but this is what her Papa wishes and Sara will do anything her Papa asks of her.
   So Sara begins her schooling, and her poor Papa returns to India heart-sore and lonely without his precious little girl to be his "little missus." Sara quickly makes friends in her new home, taking the littlest child, the slowest child, and a servant girl called Becky under her warm and loving wing. The others flock to her to hear Sara's wonderful stories, for Sara loves to tell stories about magic, far of places, and princesses.  Sara always tries to behave like a princess, showing dignity, respect for others, and kindness.
Then the unthinkable happens - Sara's father dies of fever and she is left penniless. Miss Minchin, who never liked Sara, turns the little orphan into a skivvy, and she also uses Sara to teach the smaller children. Sara discovers what it is like to be servant, and now she and her friend Becky are just the same. And yet, as Becky and some of the other children see, Sara is still a little princess and she is still as giving and generous, even though she has so little of her own. Often cold, tired and hungry, Sara struggles on, being the princess and doing her best not to give in to her grief and despair. Often her stories help her and Becky when things are particularly bad. The girls imagine warm clothes, hot food, soft beds, and a crackling fire as they snuggle up together up in the freezing attic rooms in Miss Minchin's school.
   Then something truly remarkable happens and Sara begins to wonder if it is possible for stories and dreams to come true after all.
   First published in 1905, this incredibly moving story has not lost any its power over the years. Sara and her adventures are still as real and as fascinating as they were at the turn of the century. Readers will be shocked to see how servants were treated back then, and will be grateful that some things have changed for the better. The wonderful, seemingly magical, good fortune that finds Sara is thrilling, and will have younger readers begging to hear the story all over again.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

July is Classic Book Month on TTLG - Day Nine

This picture book was a huge favorite with my husband when he was a little boy. We still have his tattered and battered copy. This is the board book version of this wonderful story. It is also available as a picture book

Virginia Lee Burton
Board Book
Ages 4 to 6
Houghton Mifflin, 1967, 0-618-840192
   Mike Mulligan has a red steam shovel whose name is Mary Anne. Mary Anne and Mike have been working together for years, and they have worked on all kinds of projects including canals, highways, and cellars for skyscrapers. However, nowadays new electric and diesel motor shovels are being used for construction work, and no one wants to use steam shovels any more. Poor Mary Anne and Mike are very sad, and they are worried about their future What on earth are they going to do?
   Then Mike reads that the town of Popperville is going to build a new town hall. He knows that the hall will need a basement, and he decides that he will offer his and Mary Anne’s services to do the digging.
  The two friends go to Popperville, and when they get there Mike says that he and Mary Anne will dig the basement for the town hall in just one day. Can Mike and Mary Anne keep this promise?
   This picture book was first published in 1967, and it has lost none of its charm. It still has the ability to make children cheer for the red steam shovel who has a big heart, and for her driver who loves her far too much to let her get broken up for scrap. Wonderful drawings, and the perfect solution to a sticky problem perfectly compliment a delightful story. Best of all children discover that even when people – and steam shovels – are past their prime, they still have a great deal to offer us all.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

July is Classic Book Month on TTLG - Day Eight

Winnie the Pooh is one of those children's book characters that both children and adults identify with. His sweet and unaffected ways, his honesty, and his dedication to his friends makes him the kind of character that many of us are happy to reconnect with when we can. Reading the Pooh stories has always given we the warm and comforting feeling that I get when I am in the company of a good friend.

A. A. Milne
Illustrator:  Ernest H. Shepard
For ages 5 and up
Penguin, 2005   ISBN: 978-0142404676
   Lets us hear a story. Christopher Robin has decided that the story he would like to hear should be one about his bear, "Winnie-ther-Pooh." Christopher thinks that Winnie would very much like to hear a story about himself, and so off we go, to the forest, where Winnie-the-Pooh lives.
   In the first story we are told, Pooh, who is very partial to food in general, and honey in particular, decides that he wants to climb a tree because there is a large bee hive at the top. Of course where there are bees there is honey and where there is honey there are Poohs. Pooh first tries climbing up the tree in the old fashioned way, but that turns out to be a painful exercise so he heads off to find Christopher Robin whom he hopes might have a solution to the problem. Sure enough, before long, Pooh is floating up next to the honey bee tree hanging from a large blue balloon. There still is a problem however, and this is that the bees, which are not unintelligent creatures, are beginning to get "suspicious."
   Poor Pooh. This is only the first of several rather uncomfortable adventures, for in the next tale we are told, the bear, who as I have said enjoys food, gets himself stuck in Rabbit's doorway. Pooh blames the size of the doorway, and Rabbit blames the size of Pooh. There is nothing to be done however, for Pooh is stuck tight. All he can do is listen to a "Sustaining Book such as would help and comfort a Wedged Bear in Great Tightness" and wait to get thinner.
What unfortunate bee trees encounter, getting stuck in doorways, chasing Woozles, catching Heffelumps and so much more, Pooh and the reader are kept thoroughly busy right up to the moment when Pooh and Christopher Robin have to go to bed.
   Deliciously funny and with a wonderful use of language and format, A. A. Milne's stories about this loveable bear will never lose their charm. Pooh and his friends speak a language all children will understand, and they make the kinds of mistakes they would understand too. At the same time, there can be do doubt that Pooh delights adults as well with his "hums" and songs, his talk of needing "a little something," and his obvious love and concern for his friends.
   Ernest Shepard's delightful illustrations perfectly capture the personalities of Pooh, Piglet, and their friends.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

July is Classic Book Month on TTLG - Day Seven

So far I have looked at picture books and works of fiction in this roundup. Now I would like to give you a review of a board book. I read this book to my daughter every night for what, at the time, felt like forever. Anyone who has raised a small child has a book that said child wants to hear over and over and over again. This was her favorite.

Audrey Wood
Illustrated by Don Wood
Board Book
Ages 3 to 5
Harcourt, 2000, 0152026320
      The whole house is asleep on this rainy night. Granny is in her bed, the dog is on the rug, the child is in the chair, the cat is in the basket, and the mouse is asleep on top of the mirror frame. Then, one by one the child and the animals, still half asleep, climb into bed with the granny. All is still quiet and sleepy until a wide awake flea decides to sit on the mouse. Then the peace is abruptly shattered, and chaos, in a series of wild awakenings, ensues.
   Blue toned illustrations capture the somnolent mood of sleep and calm as this story begins. Then bursts of bright colour flash across the page as the peace is broken as one occupant of the house after another wakes up. The wild confusion of the waking is sure to delight children, who will find the rhythmic “The house that jack built” form of the text comforting and familiar. This book will make a perfect bedtime tale.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

July is Classic Book Month on TTLG - Day Six

Summers on the island of Cyprus where I grew up are very long and hot, and when I wasn't at the pool or at the beach, I spent a lot of my time reading. One of the books I discovered one summer was The Secret Garden. My father kept telling me it was a wonderful book and so I kept refusing to read it! Then a friend told me that she loved the book, and not long after I read the book and I was hooked. This edition of this classic story is not only a joy to read, but it is also a joy to look at.

Frances Hodgson Burnett
Illustrated by Inga Moore
For ages 8 to 12
Candlewick Press, 2007, 0763631612
Little Mary Lennox is probably the most sour, unattractive, and disagreeable child that you are ever likely to meet. This is not entirely her fault because her parents never gave her much attention and certainly none of their love. Instead, Mary was raised by an Indian nurse, an ayah, who gave Mary everything she wanted and who let the little girl be as bossy and rude as she wanted to be.
   Now Mary's parents are both dead and she is going to live with her hitherto unseen uncle who lives in a gloomy old manor house on the edge of the Yorkshire moors. How different this place is from India and how different the people are too. Here no one salaams to her, and they even expect her to  dress herself every morning. Bit by bit, Mary starts to learn more and more about her new home. She learns that there is a secret garden somewhere on the grounds, a garden that has been closed off from the world for years.
Mary cannot help wanting to find the secret garden, and with the help of a friendly little robin bird, she manages to find both the hidden door and the key that will open it. Little does she know that there is something about the garden that is indeed magical. The longer Mary stays and works in the garden, the nicer, prettier, and healthier she becomes. Mary begins to make friends for the first time in her life.
   Then Misselthwaite gives up another of its secrets, and Mary finds herself facing a real challenge, one which may end up spoiling the secret of the garden forever.
This beautiful story is certainly one of the best children's books that has ever been written. Readers will see how good sense, kindness, love, and being out in nature can help someone whose heart and mind have dried up and become hard and bitter. They will see how bringing a garden to life can be healing to those whose bodies and spirits are weak and sad. First published in 1911, this is a tale that will surely continue to charm readers of all ages for years to come.
   Inga Moore's gorgeous illustrations perfectly capture the underlying magical element in this special story. Soft colors and intimate details give the full page pictures an added richness. In addition, there are numerous little illustrations and smaller panels throughout the book, which add a very special something to the tale. 

Monday, July 12, 2010

July is Classics Book Month on TTLG - Day Five

Roald Dahl is one of those writers whose books have truly stood the test of time. James and the Giant Peach was first published in 1961. Today readers of all ages are still falling in love with this delcisouly odd story, and the memorable characters that Dahl created. 
James and the Giant Peach
Roald Dahl
Illustrations by Quentin Blake
Ages 5 to 8
Penguin, 2001, 0141304677
There can be no doubt that James Trotter had every reason to be miserable. Not only had his beloved parents died in an unfortunate accident involving a rhino, but he also had had to leave his wonderful home by the sea to go and live with his frightful aunts, Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker. These two women did everything they could to make James’s life as unhappy as possible; they did not give him enough to eat, they made him work very hard, and all in all they were a thoroughly despicable pair.
   Then one day James was given an odd gift by and even odder little man. It was a bag of strange little green crystals that moved and wriggled. The old man told James that if he put the crystals in water and then drank up the drink he, James, would have all sorts of wonderful and good things happen to him. Unfortunately James dropped the bag and every one of those little crystals wriggled away and were gone before James was able to retrieve them.
   The magic of the crystals was not altogether gone however. Ssoon the dreadful aunts and James saw that a peach was growing on their sad little peach tree. It grew and grew and grew until it was as big as a house. Of course the aunts were eager to profit from having such an extraordinary peach on their property, and soon crowds of people came to gaze at the enormous fruit. One night James went to look at the peach and saw a tunnel leading into the heart of the peach. James went into the tunnel and crawled up it until he found himself inside the peach stone and in the company of an extraordinary collection of creatures.
   The creatures seemed to know just what to do, and soon the peach, with its passengers, was bumping and rolling down the hill. James and his new friends were off on a grand adventure; one which would require all of them to use their skills and talents for the good of the whole group.
   This wonderful story, which has become a classic, is touching, funny and a joy to read. Roald Dahl perfectly balances adventure with wonderful characters and a gripping story, and Quentin Blake’s signature illustrations beautifully compliment the text.

Friday, July 9, 2010

July is Classic Books Month on TTLG - Day Four

Madeline is another one of those books from my childhood that I was later able to share with my daughter. I always greatly admired the little girl who was not afraid of the tiger in the zoo, and wished very much that I could be as brave as she was.

Ludwig Bemelmans
Picture Book
Ages 3 to 7
Penguin, 1996, 014055761X
   Madeline lives in an "old house in Paris that was covered with vines" with eleven other little girls. Miss Clavel takes care of them, accompanying them as they go for walks through the streets of Paris, as they takes their meals, and as they get ready for bed. Now, though Madeline is the smallest of the girls, she is also the bravest, the most audacious, and the one who causes poor Miss Clavel the most headaches and worry.
One day Madeline really gives Miss Clavel an even bigger than normal fright. In the middle of the night, Madeline starts to cry and Miss Clavel quickly calls the doctor who determines that this is a very serious business indeed; Madeline is very ill and must go to the hospital at once.
   For many days the eleven remaining girls who live in the house all covered with vines must wait and wonder, until at last they are allowed to go and visit Madeline - and what a surprise they get when they walk into her hospital room.
   This classic tale has lost none of its appeal and simple charm. For little girls today, as for those who first read this book when it was published in 1939, Madeline who says "Pooh-pooh" to a tiger in the zoo and who is not afraid of mice in the kitchens, is an instant friend and playmate. Wonderful full page illustrations - which are  instantly recognized by women all over the world - are rich with color and movement, and they beautifully reflect the mood of the text.
This book was one of the 1940 Caldecott Honor winning titles.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

July is Classics Book Month - Day Three

Anne of Green Gables was one of those books that I somehow missed out on when I was younger. I have no idea how this happened but it did. Thankfully I 'discovered' the book when I was an adult and I loved it. 

Anne of Green Gables
Lucy Maud Montgomery
Ages 9 and up
Random House, 1982, 055321313X
   To the amazement of the good people of Avonlea, Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert have decided that they are going to adopt an orphan boy; Matthew is no longer as young as he used to be and he could do with a little help around the farm. The thing of it is, when Matthew goes to get the boy from the train station he discovers that some kind of mix-up has taken place, and there is a girl waiting for him at the station and not a boy. She's not just any girl either. This girl has flaming red hair, she never seems to stop talking, and what she says can be very peculiar and very funny.
Though Anne Shirley has had very little education, she has somehow picked up a lot of ideas, and she is a bottomless well of questions. At first Marilla is convinced that Anne should be returned to the orphan asylum as soon as is possible, but Anne, in just a few days, grows on her. Matthew is convinced that Anne should stay, and before Marilla quite knows what is what, Anne is settled into one of the gable bedrooms in the Cuthbert house.
Marilla with her sharp tongue and old-fashioned ideas, and Matthew with his gentle, quiet and generous ways, soon find themselves severely tried by the “scrapes” that Anne gets into. No matter how hard she tries, Anne still manages to ‘find’ trouble.
There is the time when Anne gets her best friend Diana quite drunk by accident. On another occasion Anne puts some very unexpected flavouring in a cake. She mistakes a bottle of iodine for a bottle of vanilla. The result is too dreadful to eat. One day Anne finds herself playing the part of a poetry heroine only to discover that the boat in which she is sitting is sinking.
When she is not getting into trouble, Anne is coming up with all sorts of ideas, the more “romantic” they are the better. Anne’s biggest asset, perhaps, is that she has an “imagination.” Of course this gift gets her into scrapes sometimes but it also makes her life endlessly amusing and interesting, and others find themselves gravitating towards her, wanting to hear her funny sayings, her stories, and her imaginings.
In what seems like no time at all, Anne is a very much loved member of the Avonlea community. There is no doubt that Marilla thinks the world of her, though she would never admit as much. Anne is a little bundle of sunny energy who gets many of the people around her thinking and doing things that are quite out of the ordinary.
Though this book was originally written at the turn of the century, and though the writing style and some of the ideas and sentiments expressed in the book are somewhat old-fashioned, there is no doubt that the irrepressible little redhead who decries “woe” and similar dramatic phrases is timeless in her appeal. Anne Shirley is funny, loveable, and at times she sets her world on its head with her antics. What she also does is she gives her love and affection freely, and she is generous and well-meaning. The little girl who never had a real family and who was starved for love finally has a home of her own, and we delight in her good fortune. We also enjoy sharing her various adventures,  seeing in her triumphs, and laughing out loud at some of her more outrageous mistakes. With grace and obvious affection, L.M. Montgomery shares her Prince Edward Island world with us, and shows us that good things can still happen to good people.

Monday, July 5, 2010

July is Classic Books Month on TTLG - Day Two

Another book that I had when I was little was The Story of Babar. I started with French copy, and then later was given one in English. It was a wonderful to share this book with my daughter when she was little. Funnily enough, when I went to university I wrote my dissertation about elephants.

Jean de Brunhoff
Picture Book
Ages 4 to 6
Random House, 1961, 0-394-80575-5
   One day Babar the little elephant is riding on his mother’s back when a wicked hunter shoots at the two elephants. Poor little Babar’s mother is killed, and when the hunter chases him, Babar runs away, running and running until he reaches a town. In the town Babar sees some very well dressed people walking in the streets and he begins to wish that he too could look like them.
   Luckily for Babar he meets a wealthy and kind Old Lady who takes him under her wing. She has Babar fitted for some very elegant clothes, and she invites him to live with her. Soon Babar is taking lessons, is driving a car, and is becoming a real town elephant. However Babar cannot forget his former life in the forest. He misses his friends and family, and when his two cousins Celeste and Arthur arrive in the town one day he is overjoyed to see them. When the cousins go back home Babar decides to go with them, and a thus begins a new and exciting chapter in his life.
   Though this book was first published in 1937, it still has a great deal of appeal for today’s young readers. Jean de Brunhoff’s artwork is unique with its simple lines and delicate colorization, and his story of how a little elephant finds his place in the world is full of understanding and hope. 

Friday, July 2, 2010

July is Classic Books Month on TTLG - Day one

For the month of July I am going to post reviews of some of my favorite books. Some will be picture books or board books, and some will be titles for older readers.

When I was a little girl, my mother had a book that she grew up with that she shared with me. It was called Eloise, and I loved it. Many years later, Simon and Schuster sent me a copy of this same book and I was thrilled to see that Eloise is still going strong. Not long after reviewing this new edition of the the first Eloise title, I went to New York City for a SCBWI conference with my husband. Rather than staying in the hotel where the conference was being held, we stayed in the Plaza Hotel and I was able to have tea in the Palm Court in the hotel, and to whisper a friendly "hello" to the portrait of Eloise every time I went by it. Just a few months ago I took my daughter to the Plaza Hotel, and she paid her respects to portrait of the little girl, just as I had done.

Kay Thompson
Drawings by Hilary Knight
Scrapbook written by Marie Brenner
Picture Book
Ages 5 and up
Simon and Schuster, 1993, 0-689-82703-2
   If you go to the Plaza Hotel in New York City you may be lucky (or unlucky) enough to meet Eloise. Eloise is six and she lives at the Plaza - on the top floor - with her Nanny, her dog Weenie, and her pet turtle Skipperdee. You will soon find that Eloise loves to "talk talk talk," that she has the most vivid imagination, and that she can, at times, be a real pest. For the people who work and stay at the Plaza, Eloise is mostly a pest.
For example, Eloise invites herself to the parties and weddings that are hosted at the hotel. Then there are the times when she rides the elevators up and down, and the times when she goes to "help the Switchboard Operators" by pulling out all the wires on the switchboards. Even Nanny and Eloise's tutor Philip are tried almost beyond the point of endurance at times. Poor Philip is "always glad to go home."
There can be no doubt that Eloise is one of the most fascinating, entertaining, and delightful picture book characters ever created, and this first book about her is a classic. Hilary Knight has created the most wonderful illustrations that perfectly compliment the text. Kay Thompson wrote her story from the point of view of Eloise, which means that the story is full of very long sentences, odd descriptive words, and verbatim accounts of conversations she has had with the people in her life. Nanny likes to use words like "rawther" and "mawning," and Eloise often says "for Lord's sake" which she has clearly picked up from Nanny.
At the back of this special edition there is a "Scrapbook" in which readers will find the story of Kay Thompson, Hilary Knight, and how Eloise came to be created. Naturally, Eloise herself makes comments in some of the captions to the photographs. After all, "me Eloise" is the hero of this tale and deserves centre stage. Readers will be delighted to learn that there is a large portrait of Eloise in the Plaza Hotel in New York City, and that the Plaza is one of the places listed in the "Literary Landmarks Register" - all on account of the precocious six-year-old who loves to drive grown-ups to distraction.

To find out more about Eloise, take a look at her website

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The new issue of Through the Looking Glass is now online

Dear Book Lovers:
The July and August 2010 issue of Through the Looking Glass Children’s Book Reviews is now online. I have put together a wonderful collection of reviews for you for this issue, and I hope you enjoy reading the reviews as much as I enjoyed writing them.
   For this issue I have chosen to focus on books about Zoos. Most children love visiting the zoo, and these days zoos are not just places where one can look at animals from around the world. They are also places where we can learn about animals and their habitats. In addition,  many zoos have programs to help visitors better understand why so many animals around the world are in danger of disappearing, and what we can do to try to reverse this trend. This feature has a delightful collection of books of various kinds for zoo lovers of all ages.
   In July and August most schools are closed for the summer vacation and children all over the world get ready to enjoy family holidays, days at camp, and many other summer activities. When I was growing up, we would escape the heat of town by going into the mountains for a few weeks, or we would camp at the seaside. These camping trips were wonderful, and I still remember the hours I spent snorkeling, looking for pretty stones on the beach, and watching the fishing boats chug past. You will find a large collection of books about going to the beach on the Days at the beach page.
   For this month’s Editor’s Choice title, I selected Keeping the Moon written by Sarah Dessen. This young adult novel beautifully captures a young woman’s uncertainty about who she is.
Don’t forget to look at the Bookish Calendar page for reviews about Henry David Thoreau, volcanoes, the moon landing, Amelia Earhart, and much more. This calendar is a great tool to use at home and in the classroom to help children incorporate books more fully into their lives.
   At the beginning of this year, I launched the new website, and all the new content for every issue is on this new website. However, a large part of the old content is still on the old site. You can still get to this content, but it is not integrated into the new site. Moving the 4,000 reviews over is going to take some time, and I appreciate your patience while I work on this. 
   I hope you enjoy this new issue, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Lunch Lady and the Summer Camp Shakedown - A Blog Book Tour

Today I have a treat for you. A review of Lunch Lady and the Summer Camp Shakedown and a letter and some art from Jarret. K. Krosoczka. Here is the letter.

Hi Marya,

Thank you so much for having me on the Looking Glass blog! In the fourth installment of the Lunch Lady series, Lunch Lady and the Summer Camp Shakedown, we find the gang at a summer camp that may or may not be haunted by a swamp monster. As in all the Lunch Lady books, Hector, Terrence and Dee find themselves in the middle of the action. I decided to analyze, for your readers, what decisions go behind designing the panels for a graphic-novel. I took two spreads from my newest Lunch Lady book and created a diagram that explains just exactly what I was thinking when I laid out this scene.



Here are the diagrams that Jarret created for us:

I know that the text looks small here. Just click on the pictures and you can view it full size!

Here is my review:

Lunch Lady and the Summer Camp Shakedown
Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Graphic Novel
Ages 7 to 10
Random House, 2010, 978-0-375-86095-9
   Summer is here and the Breakfast Club – Dee, Hector and Terrence – are off to camp for two weeks. None of the three are thrilled to find out that Milmoe the bully and his sidekick are going to camp as well. Two weeks in the middle of nowhere without electronics and with Milmoe for company; things are not looking good. Then there is the swamp monster. Apparently - according to Milmoe (who is not the most reliable of sources) - there is a swamp monster that hangs around Camp Fun Times. Dee scoffs when she hears the story, but when the monster appears on the first night around the campfire, everyone is profoundly shocked.
   The Breakfast Club are surprised to find out that Lunch Lady and her techno wiz assistant, Betty, are at the camp. Not surprisingly, Lunch Lady sets about trying to find out what the swamp monster is. Is it a real monster or is there a something shady going on at Camp Fun Times.
   This fourth book in the Lunch Lady graphic novel series is sure to give readers a laugh. With her deliciously outrageous gadgets and her trusty (and somewhat sarcastic) assistant by her side, Lunch Lady is as entertaining as ever.

The next stop on the blog book tour is Enjoy!