Dear Book Lovers, Welcome! I am delighted that you have found The Through the Looking Glass blog. For over twenty years I reviewed children's literature titles for my online journal, which came out six times a year. Every book review written for that publication can be found on the Through the Looking Glass website (the link is below). I am now moving in a different direction, though the columns that I write are still book-centric. Instead of writing reviews, I'm offering you columns on topics that have been inspired by wonderful books that I have read. I tell you about the books in question, and describe how they have have impacted me. This may sound peculiar to some of you, but the books that I tend to choose are ones that resonate with me on some level. Therefore, when I read the last page and close the covers, I am not quite the same person that I was when first I started reading the book. The shift in my perspective might be miniscule, but it is still there. The books I am looking are both about adult and children's titles. Some of the children's titles will appeal to adults, while others will not. Some of the adult titles will appeal to younger readers, particularly those who are eager to expand their horizons.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

It Gets Better - Authors and Illustrators Unite

The TTLG 2011 Picture Book Celebration: Book one hundred and eighty-one

Children are used to being told that if they are bad, they will be punished in some way. In today's picture book, the main characters, a pair of young wolf cubs, are encouraged to be bad and they are told off when they are good . Children will love the fact that in this book at least, being bad is a good thing.

Ian Whybrow
Illustrated by Tony Ross
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Lerner, 2005, 978-1-57505-5-861-0
   In a far away place, a family of wolves lives in a smelly lair. Mom Wolf and Dad Wolf are very good at being “BIG and BAD” and they are determined that their children, Little Wolf and Smellybreff, should follow in their paw prints.
   To help their children to attain a proper degree of big and bad behavior, Mom and Dad Wolf teach their cubs nursery rhymes that encourage them to play with their food, to make rude noises, and to talk when their mouths were full. Smellybreff has no problem being bad, but his big brother sometimes does good things by accident.
   One day Mom and Dad Wolf decide to teach their children more “about Badness,” and they take them to town so that they can demonstrate how it should be done. Dad Wolf scares off a crew of workers who are fixing a bridge and makes a real nuisance of himself. Little Wolf does try to be bad, but his effort is rather lukewarm. His little brother Smellybreff does a stellar job; he manages to make a hole in the bridge!
   Next, the Wolf family goes to the cafĂ©, and they proceed to cause as much chaos as possible. The problem is that they go a little too far, and their efforts to teach their children how to be bad backfire in an unfortunate and rather painful way.
   Young children are sure to be amused by this picture book with its wolf characters who try so hard to be bad. The illustrations are funny, and the message is one that children are sure to find surprising. There really is a point when being bad actually ceases to be fun!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Be Book Smart! A Literacy Campaign to support

What is “Be Book Smart”?
RIF has partnered with Macy’s to create Be Book Smart (formerly known as Book A Brighter Future), a national partnership to raise awareness and support of children’s literacy. This effort will help RIF provide free books and literacy resources to children nationwide, while expanding RIF’s outreach to the children at greatest risk for developing reading difficulties. This campaign provides an opportunity for Macy’s customers to join the effort and have an impact on literacy in their community. From June 24–July 31, 2011, Macy’s customers can give $3 to provide a book for a child and receive a coupon for$10 off* a $50 in-store purchase at any Macy’s nationwide. Macy’s will give 100% of every $3 to RIF to help reach our goal of giving 1 million books to kids.

Why Support the Campaign
Reason #1: By supporting RIF at Macy’s, you are helping provide free books and literacy resources to children who need them most. All children need access to books and to be exposed to reading at an early age to prepare for success in school and life.
Reason #2: Macy’s will thank you with a $10 off coupon* valid on eligible purchases of $50 or more!

RIF’s Impact
With more than 17,000 program locations in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories, RIF is making a difference for millions of children. Visit our interactive map to see our impact by state and to view videos that tell the "Heart of the Story."
A recent analysis of reading research confirmed the impact of RIF's core mission—that simply improving access to books improves children’s reading performance, helps children learn the basics of reading, results in children reading more and for longer lengths of time, and improves children's attitudes toward reading and learning. Please review our summaries of the critical literacy issues and our quick reference guide of recent literacy statistics, both of which illustrate the challenges RIF faces in creating a literate America.

Who Can Participate
Anyone and everyone! Last year, over 1 million Macy’s customers participated to raise more than $3 million to support RIF programs and initiatives. This was the largest customer-supported campaign in RIF’s 44-year history! Anyone who visits a Macy’s store during this summer can ask to Be Book Smart and support RIF at any in-store Macy’s register.

The TTLG 2011 Picture Book Celebration: Book one hundred and eighty

The Cleo the Cat books are a wonderful collection of picture books that are perfect for young children. The stories are simple, the artwork is warmly childlike, and children will feel a connection with the little feline who has so much fun exploring her world.

Caroline Mockford
Picture Book
For ages 2 to 4
Barefoot Books, 2001, 1-84148-329-X
   It is morning, and Cleo the cat has just woken up. Cleo yaws and blinks, and then she hops out of the window so that she can play outside.
   First Cleo tries to climb up the slide, but it so slippery that she doesn’t make much progress. Next Cleo climbs a tree, and this time she has more luck. Cats like Cleo have no problem climbing trees.
   In the tree Cleo meets a bird, and then she gets into a little difficulty. The narrow branch Cleo is standing on wobbles and she falls to the ground. Luckily cats are as good at falling as they are at climbing, and Cleo is soon on her feet and chasing a butterfly through the flowers.
   In this charming Cleo title, Cleo the cat has a simple little adventure that young children will enjoy sharing. Children will be amused to see how Cleo explores her world, and they will enjoy looking at the appealing and brightly colored illustrations. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The TTLG 2011 Picture Book Celebration: Book one hundred and seventy-nine

Alexandra Day has created so many wonderful books over the years, and children all over the world  have enjoyed her Carl the dog stories. I have reviewed several of these mostly wordless books already, and today I am delighted to bring you another sun-dappled Carl tale that is touched with humor.

Alexandra Day
Wordless Picture Book
For ages 4 to 7
Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1991, 0-374-31109-9
   It is a warm sunny day, and Carl the dog’s owner is going to have tea with her friend. Carl is left in charge of the baby and the puppy. The baby climbs onto Carl’s back and they head off to explore the park. When they get to the carousel, Carl pretends that he is one of the carousel animals, and the baby and puppy ride on his back together.
   Once they have had enough of this entertainment, Carl and the puppy decide to have a little doggy fun, and they proceed to play in a flower border. Carl digs a nice big hole, the puppy chews the water hose, and the baby picks some of the flowers.
   The puppy chews on the hose so much that he ends up breaking it and he, Carl, and the baby have a wonderful time getting soaked and then rolling in the grass. One would think that all this excitement would be enough of an adventure for the three friends, but it would appear that this is just the beginning.
   Children who cannot read on their own yet are sure to enjoy this Carl title. They will laugh to see all the things Carl, the puppy, and the baby get up to, and the clever details that Alexandra Day incorporates into her art will charm older readers as well.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The TTLG 2011 Picture Book Celebration: Book one hundred and seventy-eight

I don't know about other people's dogs, but my three are always doing something. They are barking, chasing insects, sniffing, dreaming, snoring, washing the cats, playing, and no doubt doing a certain number of things that I don't want to know about. Today's picture book explores just a few of the things that dogs do.

Marilyn Singer
Illustrated by Kathleen Habbley
Picture Book
For ages 4 to 6
Simon and Schuster, 2011, 978-1-4169-7931-9
   There is something that many dog owners don’t really realize. Dogs may look as if they are not doing much, but in fact they are quite busy animals, even when we think that they are not doing anything. When they are fast asleep they are dreaming, and when they are eyeing food that is on the table, they are “scheming” to find a way to get to the food in question.
   There are some dogs who really work, like police dogs, guide dogs, sheep dogs, and circus performing dogs. Then there are everyday pets who might not have an occupation as such, but who still manage to be doing something much of the time. They get into trouble, play games, and accompany their people on walks and trips. They swim, run, bounce, sled, shed, and dance.
   With its simple rhyming text, and its expressive illustrations, this is a picture book that people who love dogs will enjoy. Many of the scenes in the book will be familiar to dog owners, and it is hard not to laugh at the dogs portrayed on the pages.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The TTLG 2011 Picture Book Celebration: Book one hundred and seventy-seven

Alphabet books used to be very utilitarian things, whose sole purpose was to teach children the alphabet. These days authors and illustrators are creating all kinds of alphabet books, and today I have one for you that is a real joy to look at and to explore. 

Marjorie Blain Parker
Illustrated by Joseph Kelly
Picture book
For ages 5 to 7
Kids Can Press, 2010, 978-1-55337-682-8
   Many of us fancy that we know a fair number of names for groups of animals. We know that a group of fish is called a school, and a group of sheep is called a flock. What about a group of ants or a group of bears? Do you know what these are called?
   In this amusing and very unique picture book, Marjorie Blain Parker looks at all kinds of group names using an alphabet book format. Many will not be familiar to readers, and all will be entertaining because the illustrator, Joseph Kelly, presents his animal groups in an unusual way.
   On the A page we have “An army of Ants,” and sure enough we do see plenty of ants in the artwork. We also see an anteater typing on a laptop computer. He has a cup of coffee and a pile of doughnuts next to him. Not surprisingly the ants are showing a great deal of interest in the sugary doughnuts.
   For the letter C we are introduced to “A bask of Crocodiles.” The crocodiles in the picture really are basking, lounging next to a pool wearing pool gear, sipping drinks with cocktail umbrellas in them, sporting sunglasses, and even applying lipstick!
   Later on in the book, we learn that a group of hippos is called a bloat. The artwork shows some very large hippos peddling furiously on some exercise bikes. We can only assume that these overweight animals are doing their best to shed a few pounds.
   Readers of all ages are sure to enjoy this very unusual alphabet book. The illustrator has created a fabulous animal-centric world full of creatures who are doing remarkable things. Readers will enjoy exploring the art, looking for characters from the other pages, and laughing at the ducks that appear in every illustration. 

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The TTLG 2011 Picture Book Celebration: Book one hundred and seventy-six

A few years ago I adopted two Siamese kittens who have now grown into gorgeous cats. They were rescues, and for a long time they were not interested in being friends with their humans. In fact, they were downright unfriendly. Over time they have come to realize that we did not want to hurt them. In fact we wanted to feed them, pet them, and give them cozy beds to sleep on.

In today's picture book you will meet a cat who desperately wants what my cats have.

Leigh Hodgkinson
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Tiger Tales, 2009, 978-1-58925-421-3
   Boris is a homeless cat, and most of the time he does not have a problem with this at all. There are times however when he wishes he had “a plumpish pillow to snuggle onto.” When he is in need of nap, a soft pillow would be most welcome.
   One day Boris is “tired, grouchy, and in desperate need of a long catnap,” and he finds a cardboard box that is full of packing material. Boris climbs into the box and nods off. Boris is happily dreaming of ear tickles and fish when he is woken up to discover that something is happening to his box. The lid has been closed and soon Boris in his box is carted off to who knows where.
   When it arrives at its destination, Lady Snootlethorpe opens the box, hoping that it contains the biggest teapot in the world. It doesn’t. It contains Boris. A disappointed Lady Snootlethorpe tapes up the box and sends it on its way.
   The next person to open the box is not a person at all. Instead, Mr. Marshmallow the North Pole bear opens the box expecting to find fish inside it. He is not at all pleased to find that the box is inhabited by a “silly cat.” Poor Boris is sent on his way once again. When will this tiresome journey be over, and will he ever find a soft pillow to nap on?
   In this charming picture book, readers meet a cat who has simple needs, needs that everyone can understand and appreciate. Children will quickly get caught up in Boris’ story, and they will find themselves hoping that the delightful feline eventually finds what he is looking for.
   With unique multimedia collage artwork and a loveable main character, this is a picture book that cat lovers of all ages will enjoy.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The TTLG 2011 Picture Book Celebration: Book one hundred and seventy-five

Most of us cannot imagine what it would be like to live in a time where having a proper bathtub is considered a luxury. For the children in today's picture book story, being able to buy a real bathtub, versus having to use a metal washtub, becomes a goal that they all work towards. Their story is uplifting, gently amusing, and meaningful. 

Frances Kennedy
Illustrations by Sheila Aldridge
Picture Book
Ages 6 to 8
Tricycle Press, 2004, 978-1582461120
   One Saturday in January, Donna Delle discovers that her legs are too long for the metal washtub that her family uses as a bathtub. Clearly, they need to get a new and longer bathtub, but Mama says that they need to spend their money “on more important things.” Being a persistent sort of girl, Donna gets her sisters and brother together in February to discuss the problem. They realize that they would all like a bathtub, but a careful review of the perfect bathtub in the Sears, Roebuck and Co. catalog reveals that a bathtub would cost a whole $10.75 with shipping.  Donna decides to begin raising money and she starts the process by contributing her Christmas dime to the bathtub fund.
   In March Donna sees a sign asking for “Cucumbers for Pickling. Free Seeds. She decides that growing cucumbers would be a great way to raise some money for the bathtub, and in April Donna gets seven cucumber seeds and she plants them. All summer Donna works hard taking care of her cucumber plants, sweating away under the hot sun, picking insects off the precious vines.
   Fall arrives, and though so many cucumbers were grown, and so much work was done, the children are still a dime short. How will they get the money so that they can buy the bathtub that Donna has set her heart on?
   Illustrated with wonderful, lively paintings,  and ‘decorated’ with clippings from newspapers, an order form from Sears, Roebuck  and Co., photographs, and other interesting items, this wonderful story gives us a very personal picture of what it was like to live in the Missouri countryside in 1925. A story about hardship and “making do,” Donna’s tale is inspiring, and it is all the more powerful because it is true. Donna Delle Phip was the author’s mother, and we get to find out more about her story in an Author’s Note” that can be found at the back of the book.

Poetry Friday - A review of His shoes were far too tight

When I was a child, one of my favorite poems was "The Owl and the Pussycat," a poem written by Edward Lear. Though I never studied it in school, I knew the poem by heart, and to this day I love to hear this charmingly peculiar love story about a cat and an owl who sail off together in a "pea green boat." For today's Poetry Friday title I have a collection of Edward Lear's poems that poetry fans of all ages will appreciate. And yes, the poem about the Owl and Pussycat is included. 

Edward Lear
Introduced by Daniel Pinkwater
Illustrated by Calif Brown
For ages 6 to 10
Chronicle Books, 2011, 978-0-8118-6792-4
   Edward Lear was a “goofy-looking guy with thick eyeglasses” who was shy, but who liked children and animals. His shyness and ill health meant that he tended to keep to himself, and he became a wonderful observer. It wasn’t long before he realized that “adults are a bit ridiculous,” and he began to write nonsense poems. The poems were first published in book form in 1846. Ever since then, children and adults who appreciate the ridiculousness of life have been enjoying his poems.
   For this collection of poems, Daniel Pinkwater has selected some of Edward Lear’s most beloved and amusing poems. Throughout the book, the poems are paired with Calif Brown’s bright and unique paintings. On these pages, you will hear the story of “The owl and pussycat” who “went to sea / In a beautiful pea green boat.” There is the “Nonsense Alphabet” poem that children are sure to enjoy. Instead of A being for apple, in this poem, “A was an ape, / Who stole some white tape.”
   Readers will also hear about Pobble, a fellow who lost his toes after he swam the Bristol Channel, and the Quangle Wangle who sat on “the top of the Crumpetty Tree.” The Quangle Wangle’s hat was so enormous, so bedecked with ribbons, bells, buttons, lace, and other ornaments that no one could see his face.
   Beautifully presented, this stellar collection of nonsense poems is a must for families, school rooms, and libraries.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

J.K.Rowling announces that a new Harry Potter website is going to be online

This is something that all Potter Fans are going to be able to enjoy in October.

The TTLG 2011 Picture Book Celebration: Book one hundred and seventy-four

Romeo and Juliet is one of my favorite plays, but it is not, for the most part, a play that lends itself to a young audience. Children are likely to shy away from the "mushy stuff" and to think that the death of the lovers makes no sense. In today's picture book, the tale of Romeo and Juliet is told in a new and creative way, using cats and rats as main characters. There is a villain who needs to be defeated, and the mushiness is not too overpowering. 

The WhispererNick Butterworth
Picture Book
Ages 4 and up
HarperCollins UK, 2004, 978-0007120185
   Meet the Whisperer, a rat who loves to cause mischief between two rival cat “gangs.” Of course he has a very good reason for wanting discord, for if the cats are fighting one another then they have no time to be interested in him or his kind. It is therefore with disgust that the rat overhears a conversation between Monty, one of the black and white cats, and Amber, one of the ginger cats. It would appear that these two felines, horror of horrors, are in love.
   The rat, being the rather nasty character that he is, decides to inform on the two lovers, and he does so by whispering so that no one will know where the information is coming from. Soon enough the leaders of the two gangs know about Monty and Amber and they deliver an ultimatum: the couple must either return to their families and give each other up or they can leave altogether, never to return. Amber and Monty, being true lovers, take the latter course, and after their departure, everything goes back to normal and the gangs start fighting again. The rat is most satisfied.
   Then Monty and Amber return and they bring a most disturbing piece of news with them, one which threatens to disrupt the rat’s happy life.
   This wonderfully funny cat version of the Romeo and Juliet story is not only highly amusing with vibrant characters, but it also has a most satisfactory ending in which true love triumphs over discord and strife. Best of all, the ‘baddie’ gets what he deserves.
   With deliciously evocative artwork set on a black background, this urban tale will provide plenty of entertainment for readers of all ages.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The TTLG 2011 Picture Book Celebration: Book one hundred and seventy-three

When I was growing up in a Lebanese village, my mother used to put a dish of milk out on the kitchen step every evening. Often, as the sun was setting, we would watch a family of hedgehogs come to the step to have a little pre-dinner snack. I loved to see the little animals waddle up to the house, looking this way and that and sniffing the breeze with their whiffly noses. I have had a great fondness for these charming little animals ever since.

Today I have a very special picture book for you that is told in the form of a pantomime and that features three little hedgehogs as the main characters.

Javier Saez Castan
Picture Book
Ages 3 and up
Groundwood, 2003, 0-88899-595-4
   It is a fall day, and three little hedgehogs are feeling hungry. So, in a neat little line, they set off in search of a meal, What they find is an apple orchard, and soon they are back in their little home, with bellies full of delicious apple. There is a problem however, because the farm woman is very annoyed to find that all her apples are gone. So angry is she that she gets a posse together to look for the thieves. Thankfully, the people in the posse are not a very good at searching for criminals and they soon quit the field as snow starts to fall.
   When spring arrives, the posse returns, determined to do their duty. They discover the three little hedgehogs, and are just about to do away with them when a most unlikely ally comes to their rescue.
   Arranged in the form of a pantomime in three acts, this unique and amusing book is beautifully crafted. Within the framework of the story, the author has imbedded sayings and remarks into the artwork. These examples of word play are written in Latin, Spanish, and French. There are even some Chinese characters hidden in the illustrations.
   Illustrated in the style of old wall murals, and filled with pictorial as well as verbal jokes, this book will appeal to both young and older readers. It is a treasure for collectors of children’s literature.
   The story includes a list of characters and a glossary.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A new animated musical video from Barefoot Books

Barefoot Books is one of my favorite small publishing houses. They not only publish books, but they also have wonderful CDs and recently they started making short animated musical videos for children. Here is one of their new creations. It is called Up, Up, Up!

Other movies like this include:

Over in the meadow
If you're happy and you know it
Portside Pirates
Driving my tractor
The Animal Boogie

You can buy these movies on the Barefoot Books website. They are sold as an enhanced CD and there is a paperback book to go with them.

The TTLG 2011 Picture Book Celebration: Book one hundred and seventy-two

When I was still very young my father read me the story of The Reluctant Dragon, and I have loved dragon stories every since. I even have a collection of stuffed dragons in my office.

Many of the dragon stories I have read involves humans finding ways to trick dragons into giving up their treasure, or humans finding ways to get rid of pesky dragons. Some stories, like the one in today's book, are about humans finding ways to convince dragons not to eat them. Thankfully, the boy in today's story is a very intelligent fellow who understand that the way to a dragon's heart is through its stomach.

Ute Krause
Picture book
For ages 5 to 7
NorthSouth, 2010, 978-0-7358-2306-8
One day the great dragon wakes up and he is very hungry. He has not eaten anything in a very long time and he wants to dine on a tasty princess. Unfortunately, there are no princesses available so the people in the village decide that one of the children will have to do, and unfortunately for Oscar, he is the child whose name is picked out of the hat.
   Oscar goes up to the dragon’s lair and he manages to convince the dragon that it is not worth eating him now. The dragon should fatten Oscar up first. Oscar writes out a long shopping list and he orders a fancy stove, and then he proceeds to cook up the most delicious meals. The ravenous dragon’s mouth waters when he smells the food, but he refuses to eat any of it. It is human food after all and “Dragons don’t eat stupid human food.”
   Day after day passes and the dragon gets hungrier and hungrier. Oscar’s cooking becomes better and better and the dragon is driven to distraction by the scrumptious smells. Finally, the dragon condescends to eat some “leftovers” and he is amazed to discover that Oscar’s food tastes better than a princess. A lot better. Is Oscar’s food going to convince the dragon to stop eating humans altogether?
   This delightful picture book will charm dragon fans of all ages. It combines humor, colorful characters, and an unusual food-centric story to give readers a memorable bookish experience. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

The TTLG 2011 Picture Book Celebration: Book one hundred and seventy-one

Camping season is here, and for today's picture book I have a story about five little ducks who go camping. Though it is true that they are camped in a backyard rather than in the wilderness, they still have a wonderful and memorable time. Little children are sure to feel an instant kinship with the sweet little characters in this story.

Lynne Berry
Illustrated by Hiroe Nakata
Picture Book
For ages 2 to 4
Henry Holt, 2009, 978-0-8050-8696-6
   It is a sunny day and five little ducks at pitching five duck tents in a backyard. Happily they store their camping gear in their tents and they head for the fishing hole. Off they go wearing straw hats and carrying brand new fishing poles, chairs, mats, snacks and books.
   At the fishing hole they bait their hooks and wait, and wait, and wait. Then, at last, one of the ducks gets a bite on his line. He yanks on his pole trying to land his catch, without much success. Soon he is joined by the others. “Five ducks heave and five ducks haul,” but in the end this is a battle the ducks cannot win, and the fish gets away, fishing pole and all. Are the ducks going to be discouraged by this setback?
   This is the third book about five ducks who have some wonderful adventures together. Little children will enjoy seeing how they deal with their problems, and how they manage to have a great camping experience despite the obstacles they experience.
   With charming watercolor and ink illustrations to compliment the rhyming text, this is a picture book that young readers are sure to enjoy.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The TTLG 2011 Picture Book Celebration: Book one hundred and seventy

Sometimes two people find it just about impossible to get along. They fight about everything and anything. It is almost as if they get into the habit of arguing, and they don't know how to relate to each other in any other way. In today's picture book you will meet a pair of teddy bears who have this problem, and whose owner is driven to distraction by their bickering. 

Brown Bear, White Bear (Young Reader)Svetlana Petrovic
Illustrated by Vincent Hardy
Picture Book
For ages 4 to 7
Eerdmans, 2005, 978-0-8028-5353-0
   One day Alice’s grandmothers each give her a gift. One grandmother gives her a white teddy bear, and the other gives her a brown teddy bear. The bears are identical except for their colors. It isn’t long before the two grandmothers begin to argue about the bears, each one insisting that Alice likes her bear the best. Alice loves both the bears, but unfortunately the two bears do not like each other at all, and soon they are arguing too, just like the two grandmothers.
   The two teddy bears fight when Alice is at school, and when she goes to sleep at night. They fight when Alice plays her games, and they even have a food fight when Alice takes them outside for a picnic. This is the last straw. Angrily Alice gives the two bears baths and then she splits them up. Brown Bear is put on a high shelf, and White Bear is put inside a closet and the door is closed. What Alice does not know is that White Bear is afraid of the dark and Brown Bear is afraid of heights. What are the bears going to do now?
   In this charming picture book, Svetlana Petrovic explores the tempestuous relationship between two teddy bears who cannot get along. Children will be delighted to see that the two furry toys are not all bad, and that the nicer side of their characters come to the fore by the end of the story.
   Vincent Hardy’s wonderful illustrations perfectly compliment the text in this memorable book.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The TTLG 2011 Picture Book Celebration: Book one hundred and sixty-nine

When my daughter was very little she decided that she wanted an elephant birthday paty. She was going to invite elephants to her party, and then all the children would ride on the elephants "all day long." Needless to say, this elephant party did not take place. There was a clown instead. This did not stop her from deciding the following year that she would have her party on a train.

In today's picture book you will meet a little girl who, like so many young children (including my own) have fabulous birthday party plans.

Jennifer LaRue Huget
Illustrate by LeUyen Pham
Picture Book
For ages 4 to 7
Random House, 2011, 978-0-375-84763-9
   In just five months, three weeks, two days, and eight hours a little girl will be celebrating her birthday, and she is very very keen to start planning her party. She is determined that “it is going to be the best birthday party ever.” She is going to make her own invitations and she is going to invite fifty-seven friends as well as sundry other people.
   On D minus four months, two weeks, five days, and seven hours, the little girl announces that she is going to have nine thousand pink balloons at her party, and everyone will have bowls of ice cream (seven scoops) and all the toppings that they could ever want.
   The closer her birthday gets, the more outrageous this little girl’s plans become. She wants a cake that is the tallest cake in the world. She wants to have two magicians and all the girl guests will get to wear “a real tiara.” The little girl decides that each child will get a hamster as a party favor. There will be a castle with a moat, camels and pony rides. She expects to gets congratulatory letters from the President of the United States and the Queen of England. There will be flybys, a parade, and fireworks. How is this little girl going to cope when she finds out that she is not going to get the grand party that she is concocting in her imagination?
   Little children who have GRAND plans for their birthday parties will really appreciate this amusing picture book. Grownups will laugh out loud as the little girl’s plans get more and more elaborate, and everyone is sure to be amused by the clever ending. 

Friday, June 17, 2011

Poetry Friday: A review of Oh How Sylvester can pester

Trying to convince children that manners actually have a point can be difficult. Most of the time they think that manners are just rules that adults have come up with so that they can torture children with them. For today's poetry title I have a book that shows, using humorous and clever poems, that manners really do have a point.

Robert Kinerk
Pictures by Drazen Kozjan
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 7 to 10
Simon and Schuster, 2011, 978-1-4169-3362-5
   Learning manners is a bore. Who wants to be “someone all proper and prim?” What is the point of it all? This is what Sylvester thinks, and he is not afraid to voice his opinion. His mother explains that manners really do have a point. “They’ll help you to treat me the way that I like,” she explains. She agrees to make a “concession” with her son. “You be nice to me; I’ll be nice to you.” Could it be that manners are more than anything about learning to get along with others?
   Sylvester is not the only one who struggles to remember his manners. His friends are in exactly the same situation that he is in. Here is a boy who talks while he chews, making everyone at the table (including the cat and dog) angry and even sick to their stomachs. Then there are those people who interrupt others when they are talking. Generally speaking, unless “lightening is flashing its blots from the sky,” it is not acceptable to interrupt a grown up.
   Claymore B. Tate is “the best in the state” when it comes to knowing about etiquette. He knows what to do with a napkin at table, how to eat soup politely, and what to do if you burp. One thing he does not know how to do is how not to lecture people. It never occurs to him that his lecturing is actually impolite because it makes people feel frustrated. He has no idea that manners are there to “help folks become easy with you.”
   In this amusing and cleverly written collection of poems, young readers will meet all kinds of children who are rude, ill-mannered, or simply ignorant. As they read the poems and the stories about Sylvester and his friends, readers will come to appreciate that manners really do have a point. They make it easier for people to get along with us, and they even make us more likeable.
   With humorous rhyming poems and funny illustrations, this is a book about manners that children will actually enjoy reading and looking at. 

The TTLG 2011 Picture Book Celebration: Book one hundred and sixty-eight

When I was growing up I was sure that I would choose a job and that I would then do that job for the rest of my life. That was what most of the people I knew did. Nowadays it is hard to find anyone who stays in one job of work long. People change their minds about what they want to do, businesses go under and employees have to adapt to the market.

In today's picture book you will meet a fairy who encounters technical problems with her wand, and as a result she has to consider changing her job. The story is funny, and it will resonate with anyone who has had to make a drastic life change.

Margie Palatini
Illustrated by Brian Ajhar
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Scholastic, 2009, 978-0-439-72768-6
One day Bernice Sparklestein, “once the best Fairy Godmother in the entire universe and beyond,” is having tea with her friend Edith. B. Cuspid - Tooth Fairy Second Class - when she tells Edith that she is in trouble. She has lost her ability to cast successful spells. There is no doubt about it either. Bernice is having a “bad wand day.” Edith is determined to do what she can to help her friend, and the two fairies go to Edith’s house because Edith has a large collection of fairy outfits. Maybe they can find something that will suit Bernice.
   Bernice tries on a Fairy Dusting outfit, but it soon becomes clear that she is allergic to fairy dust. She likes the look of the Snow Fairy costume but she finds the work too cold. The Sugarplum outfit doesn’t work either and poor Bernice is feeling very upset. “What does a Fairy Godmother do when her wand is really gone?”
   Children are sure to love this extremely funny story about a Fairy Godmother who needs a new line of work. With comical illustrations and delightful characters, this is a story even non-fairy fans will find enjoyable. 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The TTLG 2011 Picture Book Celebration: Book one hundred and sixty-seven

I have yet to meet a single person who is happy with their appearance. One friend feels her nose is too large, another says that her legs are too "chunky." We look in the mirror and find something that we don't like and that we wish we could change.

In today's book you will meet a dog who has no tail, and who feels very unhappy because he has no tail. He cannot enjoy his other assets and his good life because he is consumed by the fact that he, unlike all his friends, does not have an appendage that is wagable.

Kate Feiffer
Illustrated by Jules Feiffer
Picture Book
For ages 4 to 7
Simon and Schuster, 2007, 978-1-4169-1614-7
 Henry is a dog, and more than anything in the world he wishes he had a tail. His friends Grady, Pip, and Larry all have tails, and Henry can see that they are wonderful things. He doesn’t care what kind of tail he has. Any kind of tail would do. Henry gets so depressed about his tail-less condition that his owners tell him to go and find a tail. They want their poor dog to be happy.
   Straight away Henry goes to visit a tailor because everyone knows that “When a dog goes in search of a tail, he goes to the tailor’s.” The tailor doesn’t have any tails in stock, but he is willing to try to make a tail for Henry, which he does.
   At first Henry is delighted with his new tail, but then he trips over it (it is rather long) and Larry points out that the tail cannot wag. Everyone knows that a tail that does not wag simply isn’t a proper tail. So Henry goes off to find someone or something that will make his tail wag. He is determined that he will not go home until he has a tail that can wag. Henry never imagines that a wagging tail might not be all that it is cracked up to be.
   This amusing book explores the idea that you should be careful what you wish for. You might just discover that what you crave the most might not suit you in the long run.
   With expressive illustrations and a charming story that is downright hilarious in some parts, this is a picture book that dog lovers of all ages will enjoy.

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