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.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Picture Book Monday with a review of Puddle Pug

Everyday I read articles online about people who refuse to share what they have, or who refuse to accept someone (or a group of people) who are different. These stories sadden me deeply. Thankfully, there are occasions when these exclusionary situations end and doors are opened. Today's picture book tells the story of a pug who loves mud puddles, and a pig who does not like to share her mud puddle.

Puddle PugPuddle Pug
Kim Norman
Illustrated by Keika Yamaguchi
Picture Book
For ages 4 to 6
Sterling, 2014, 978-1-4549-0436-6
Percy was a pug who loved puddles of all kinds. Any kind of puddle would do, and he loved the puddles he frequented so much that he even went so far as to put them on a map so that he would always be able to find them. Though Percy enjoyed the puddles he visited and though they were nearly perfect, none of them had all the qualities he was looking for. For some reason “something was always missing.”
   Then one day Percy saw a puddle that really was perfect. It was big and brown and deliciously muddy, and when he jumped in he was in pug heaven. Percy had found his “puddle paradise,” but there was a problem. A very large mama pig and her piglets were using the puddle, and the mama pig made it clear that Percy was not welcome. Nothing Percy did made the large pig willing to let the pug join her family in the muddy wallow.
   In this charming picture book children will meet a pug who finds the perfect puddle, only to discover that it is taken by a very unfriendly pig who will not share. Readers will find Percy and his love of puddles hard to resist, and they will be delighted to see what happens as the story unfolds.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Poetry Friday with a review of A pond full of ink

There are quite a few story poems out there that are delightful, though they tend to be rather long. Not that this is a bad thing, but young children often have relatively short attention spans. In today's poetry title readers will find some story poems that a quite short, many of which are deliciously funny.

A Pond Full of InkA pond full of ink
Annie M. G. Schmidt
Illustrated by Sieb Posthuma
Translated by David Colmer
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Eerdmans, 2014, 978-0-8028-5433-9
Many poems capture a ‘snapshot’ of a moment in time, or describe a place, an emotion, or a person or thing. Then there are poems that tell a story. Annie M. G. Schmidt is the kind of poet who excels at telling stories through poetry, and this collection will introduce readers to a few of her delightful creations.
   The first story poem we encounter is about a writer who writes stories from the moment when the “roosters crow” to the time when the “dinner bell rings.” He is such a prolific writer that he has a pond of ink at the bottom of his garden. A little inkwell simply won’t do for a man who has “made up ten thousand stories already.”
   Then there is the poem called Three Elderly Otters. These venerable gentlemanly creatures have always wanted to go boating, but, alas, they discover that all the boat rental places have signs in their boats that say “FORBIDDEN FOR OTTERS.” Perhaps a train ride would be pleasant, but the same sign is stuck to every window in the train. The otters, not surprisingly, are very discouraged, but there is one form of active entertainment that might work for them.
   Another amusing poem is about some furniture. A table and chair decide to go out for a walk, and since they have legs, this is something that they can do. A sideboard and a bookcase, in spite of all the things they have on their shelves and in drawers, decide to go along with them. However there are some pieces of furniture that cannot make the journey into the great outdoors.
   Throughout this charming volume delightful poems that are threaded through with fun are paired with charmingly original illustrations.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Picture Book Monday with a review of Pig and Small

On very rare occasions we make friends with a person who is just like us. Most of the time our friends have different interests, and different approaches to life, and we have to adapt or compromise if we want the friendship to flourish.

In today's picture book you will meet two animals who are very different and who have unique challenges to overcome.

Pig and SmallPig and Small
Alex Latimer
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Random House UK, 2013, 978-0-552-56543-1
One morning Pig notices that his nose is squeaking. His nose has never squeaked before and though it appears to be working properly, it never stops squeaking. Pig doesn’t find any information about Squeaky Nose Syndrome so he takes a good look at his snout and there, on the end of it, is a bug, and the bug is squeaking. In fact the bug is “waving and squeaking like mad,” which Pig realizes is Bug’s way of asking if Pig will be his friend.
   Pig gets out his tandem bike and the two new friends head for the park. Of course bug’s legs are too short to reach the pedals so Pig ends up doing all the work. When they get to the park Bug decides to thank Pig for the bike ride by giving Pig a cake that he made. Unfortunately, the cake is so small that Pig doesn’t notice or comment on the lovely decorations that Bug put on the cake. Pig just eats it whole in one gulp.
   Pig and Bug try to play chess, but the pieces are too heavy for Bug to move. Bug knits a pair of sweaters, one for himself and one for Pig, but Pig’s sweater is too small for him. Sadly, Pig and Bug realize that they just cannot be friends. They are just too different.
   Sometimes we make friends with people who are a lot like us and our friends almost become an extension of ourselves.  At other times we befriend people with whom we have some things in common, but who are also different from us in big ways.
   This often funny and very sweet picture book explores how two very different animals try to find common ground so that they can be friends. It is not easy, but it can be done.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Poetry Friday with a review of Everything is a poem: The best of J. Patrick Lewis

J. Patrick Lewis is one of my favorite poets. Somehow he is able to create a wide variety of voices in his poems so that each one has a unique tone and flavor. How he is able to do this to such great effect confounds me. Today's review title contains a diverse selection of his poems, and I think anyone who likes poetry will enjoy exploring this book.

Everything is a Poem: The Best of J. Patrick LewisEverything is a poem: The best of J. Patrick Lewis
J. Patrick Lewis
Illustrated by Maria Christina Pritelli
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 7 and up
Creative Editions, 2014, 978-1-56846-240-0
J. Patrick Lewis discovered what he calls “word magic” relatively late. He had been teaching college economics for thirty years before he realized that he was in the wrong line of work and he made a radical change, trading in figures for words. After years of struggle, J. Patrick Lewis finally got an acceptance and since then he has written eighty-five picture books and hundreds of poems.
   J. Patrick Lewis wanted to “write poems in a hundred voices” and to “explore everything under and over the sun in as many different ways as it’s possible to write poetry.” He has done both of these things many times over, and this collection of his poetry will give readers a feeling for his skill and his passion for poetry. The collection certainly demonstrates that he has the ability to “help unlock imaginations,” which is another of his goals.
   The poems are divided up into eight categories. These include poems about animals, people, reading, Mother Nature, and places. They come in many forms and do indeed have many different voice and tones. Some will make the reader laugh out loud, while others are more contemplative and will give the reader food for thought. Some tell fictional stories, while others serve as a tribute to a real person who contributed to the world in some way.
   For example in Baby Contralto we read about Marian Anderson who “brushed / Her voice / Across the air / In colors / Not seen / Anywhere.”  We can also read about Miles Davies, Roger Bannister (who broke the four-minute mile), Jesse Owens, and Rosa Parks.
   In the Mother Nature section we can read about a redwood that is six thousand years old. It “waved its arms about the sky / And sang a sea breeze lullaby,” until in 1977, the great tree “bid farewell,” and fell to the forest floor. We also meet a “her-i-cane” called Lorelie, who “twisted around the ocean” but who “never grew / into a proper her-i-cane.”
   Though these poems were written for children, readers of all ages will enjoy dipping into this collection. There is something on these pages for everyone. It would make a perfect gift for anyone who loves the magic that lies in words.   

Monday, June 16, 2014

Picture Book Monday with a review of the Mischievians

Most of the time my household runs smoothly. Occasionally a cat knocks something over, or a dog gets mud all over everything, but generally all is well. There are, however, a few annoying things that happen on a regular basis. Socks keep disappearing in the washing machine. I have no idea why this happens, but I have at least a dozen sock orphans in my closet that are waiting to be reunited with their twin. Then there is the fur problem. There is no way my pets shed that much fur. Every week I vacuum up enough fur to cover at least twenty large animals. Where does the extra fur come from?

If you have problems like these in your home, then you MUST read the book reviewed below.

The MischieviansThe Mischievians
William Joyce
Picture Book
For ages 7 to 9
Simon and Schuster, 2013, 978-1-4424-7347-8
Two children are standing in their yard preparing to send a balloon, one with a message tied to it, up into the air. The message is a plea for help. The children need help because the scissors, car keys, TV remote, one sock, and their completed homework have all gone missing and their parents think that they are to blame.
   The balloon is just drifting up into the sky when the ground literally opens up beneath the two children’s feet. They are sucked down a tube and find themselves in a laboratory. A man there says that he is Dr. Zooper, and he tells the children that the problems that they have been experiencing are due to the “pesky creatures called Mischievians.” He points to a book and tells them that all the questions that they have are answered in the volume. The book was written by Dr. Zooper and it is an “encyclopedia of things that make mischief, make mayhem, make noise, and make you CRAZY!”
   The children begin by asking why their homework, their completed homework, so often disappears either at home or at school. It turns out that a little creature called a Homework Eater is responsible for these puzzling disappearances. Apparently, Homework Eaters are not eating homework to be mean. They are doing so because when they do eat homework they get smarter and they “love knowledge.” They love knowledge so much that they have even learned how to steal homework from computers.
   The children then go on to learn that Mischievians are also responsible for belly lint, blisters, sticky fingers, bad smells, itches in unreachable places, funny bone injuries, missing socks, yawns, and so many other things that are annoying and frustrating. Intriguing questions are answered and the children are not only enlightened by their visit to the doctor’s lab, they are also invited to help Dr. Zooper with his research.
   In this amusing picture book William Joyce’s wonderful illustrations are accompanied by a text that will appeal to anyone who has experienced one or more of the many things that Mischievians are responsible for. Problems that have, for so long, been a mystery will finally be explained, and readers might even be tempted to identify some new Mischievian species.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Poetry Friday with a review of S is for Sea Glass

I love living in my valley with its beautiful mountains and snow-fed streams, but I do miss spending days at the beach. If you go to the coast here in Oregon you better wear warm clothing because it is cold there for much of the year. Only crazy people swim and surf in the frigid Pacific waters on our coastline. I may be somewhat crazy, but I am not that crazy.

Today's poetry title takes us to sunny sands where we build sandcastles, eat ice cream, and throw sticks for dogs to retrieve. Now if only I could find a way to jump into the pages.

S is for Sea Glass: A Beach AlphabetS is for Sea Glass: A Beach Alphabet
Richard Michelson
Illustrated by Doris Ettlinger
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 6 to 9
Sleeping Bear Press, 2014, 978-1-58536-862-4
For people who don’t live near the sea or ocean, going to the beach in the summer is often a delightful treat. There are so many things to do and to see. There are so many adventures waiting to be found. For some, creating a sand angel is the perfect way to start a seaside visit. All one has to do is to lie down on the sand and then open and close ones arms and legs as if one is “opening and closing a fairy-tale gate.”
   Of course a sojourn at the seaside would not be complete if one did not build a sandcastle. The more elaborate it is “with turrets and towers,” and perhaps with “parapets, arrow slits, keeps, and a moat,” the better. Kite flying is also a popular thing to do. At least with a kite you can be sure to have a “bite,” which cannot be said for fishing.  
   Humans are not the only ones who enjoy a vacation at the beach. Dogs also love to roll in the sand, “Dive into the surf,” sniff at everything and anything, fetch sticks, and run here, there, and everywhere.
   For every letter of the alphabet this book’s author gives his readers a poem that focuses on something that is associated with being at the beach. Each poem has its own flavor and voice, so readers find something new and different on every page. Some of the poems are amusing, while others are more contemplative. In the book there is blank verse, rhyming verse, haiku, and many other poetry forms to explore. Throughout the book the poems are paired with wonderful illustrations, all of which complement the poetry beautifully.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Picture Book Monday with a review of Going Places

I know a lot of people who find it very hard to 'jump' into the unknown, to do something unconventional. It is scary to do, of course it is, but the rewards can be priceless. Today's picture book is about a boy who discovers that thinking out of the box and taking a risk can be truly wonderful.

Going PlacesGoing Places
Peter and Paul Reynolds
Illustrated by Peter Reynolds
Picture Book
For ages 5 and up
Simon and Schuster, 2014, 978-1-4424-6608-1
Rafael has been waiting all year to have the opportunity to participate in the Going Places go-cart competition. He raises his hand so fast in class that his teacher gives him the first go-kart kit. The kit includes precise instructions, which Rafael really appreciates because he is good at following directions.
   With care, and following the directions exactly, Rafael builds his go-cart, and when it is complete it looks exactly like the one shown in the directions. Feeling pleased with himself and his go-cart, Rafael decides to see what Maya is doing. She hasn’t even started working on her go-cart because she is so busy drawing a picture of a bird.
   The next morning Rafael goes to visit Maya again to see how her go-cart construction is progressing, and he sees that she has built a flying machine. Of sorts. Rafael tells his friend that her creation is “cool,” but it isn’t really a go-cart. Maya challenges Rafael by saying, “Who said it HAD to be a go-cart?” At first Rafael isn’t quite sure how to respond to these words, but after some thought he realizes that Maya is right. No said that one had to use the kit to create a go-cart.
   There is nothing wrong with following directions. Nothing at all. However, when you dare to venture away from the instructions and to think outside the, box interesting things can happen. This is what happens to Rafael and Maya, who, by working together, discover that the sky is the limit when it comes to coming up with fresh, creative, and innovative ideas.
   This wonderful book will help young children to discover (and older readers to remember) that thinking outside the box can lead to grand shared adventures in creativity. 

Friday, June 6, 2014

Poetry Friday with a review of World Rat Day: Poems About Real Holidays You’ve Never Heard Of

Thanks to Facebook I have learned that there is a World Penguin Day and a World Pig Day. It is fun to find ways to 'celebrate' these mostly unknown holidays, and I like reviewing books that are suitable for such days. In today's poetry title you will find poems that look at some very unusual holidays.

World Rat Day: Poems About Real Holidays You've Never Heard OfWorld Rat Day: Poems About Real Holidays You’ve Never Heard Of
J. Patrick Lewis
Illustrated by Anna Raff
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Candlewick Press, 2013, 978-0-7636-5402-3
Many people have heard of Christmas, Easter, Mother’s Day, and Halloween, even if they do not celebrate these holidays, but what about World Rat Day or Dragon Appreciation Day? These holidays, though they are not well known, really do exist and wouldn’t it be fun to add them to our calendar of holidays.
   In this title J. Patrick Lewis give us a collection of poems that celebrate twenty-two lesser known holidays. He takes us through a year, beginning with Cats Day, which is on January second. This is the one day in the year when a cat should be able to be the boss who does whatever he or she wishes. A cat should be able to “Spin a yarn,’ and dine on “Mice Crispies” while sipping eggnog. This of all days should be the day with a cat should be allowed to “hog the bed before the dog.”
   January also offers us Dragon Appreciation Day, a day when dragons should be honored and given their due. For this day J. Patrick Lewis offers dragons a little reminder of how they should behave at mealtimes with his poem Eight Table Manners for Dragons. He tells them not to blow on their soup as this “only makes it hotter,” and they should always “Play with your food, but don’t let it run around screaming.” After all, to do so would be rather uncouth.

   Young readers are going to love the often funny poems that J. Patrick Lewis has created for this collection. They come in many forms and will titillate reader’s ears when they are read out loud and shared with others. Wonderfully expressive paintings accompany the poems, and children will soon notice that a quartet of rats appear on many of pages. One never quite knows what these four rascals will be doing next.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Picture Book Monday with a review of Oliver's Tree

Recently my music teacher and I were talking about how many people give up when they are confronted with a hard piece of music. They don't want to have to work hard to figure out how to play it. In today's picture book you will meet a pair of young animals who are not intimidated when they are faced with a very large problem.

Kit Chase
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Penguin, 2014, 978-0-399-25700-1
Lulu the bird, Oliver and elephant, and Charlie the rabbit are the best of friends. One day they are playing hide and seek in the forest and Oliver is the seeker. Not surprisingly, Lulu hides in a tree and try as he might Oliver cannot jump high enough to reach her. He thinks it is unfair of Lulu to hide in trees and says that trees “are out of bounds.” Lulu is not happy about this, so Charlie suggests that they find a tree that will suit Oliver, one that he can “play in too.”
   Lulu, Charlie and Oliver discover that finding a tree that an elephant can sit in, even a small elephant, is not easy. Some are too small, some are too tall, and when they find one that seems just right, it turns out that the tree just isn’t strong enough. Poor Oliver. It would appear that “Elephants just don’t belong in trees.”
   Sometimes we find ourselves facing a particularly sticky problem, a problem that does not seem to have a solution. Some people give up, but others work very hard to find a solution. In this charming picture book readers will meet two young animals who want to help their dearest friend and who don’t give up when they are confronted by a big, elephant-sized, dilemma.  Delightfully sweet illustrations provide the perfect backdrop for a story that celebrates true friendship.
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