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Dear Book Lovers, Welcome! I am delighted that you have found The Through the Looking Glass blog. For over twenty years I have reviewed children's literature titles for my online journal, which came out six times a year. Every book I reviewed for that publication can be found on the Through the Looking Glass website (the link is below). I am now focusing on writing reviews and articles, and finding interesting book related news, for this blog. Many of the titles that I will be sharing with you will appeal to adults as well as children. I firmly believe that some of the best writing in the world can be found on the pages of books that were written for young people. I invite you adults to explore these books for yourselves; they will, I am sure, delight and surprise you. I hope what you will find here will make your journey into the world of children's literature more enjoyable. Please visit the Through the Looking Glass Facebook page as well for even more bookish posts

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Rediscovering treasured books

 

Dear Bookish Friends,

Oh how I have missed you all. It has been a very a very trying few weeks health wise, and I am daring to hope that I might be on the upslope at long last. I had to spend quite a few days in bed and the only things that made it bearable were audiobooks, books, my three dogs, and my honorary dog (who is a cat). I had a nerve block procedure done to see if that would help with my Long Covid symptoms, but alas it has not worked and I am back to square one. To say that this is tedious is an understatement.
   One of the few enjoyable things I have been able to do a few times is to unbox some book boxes. From 1998 until 2007 we lived on a farm in the countryside near Richmond, Virginia. The house was quite large and it had very tall ceilings. My dear husband built floor to ceiling bookshelves in every single room except the bathrooms, including the top hallway landing. Both of us love books and somehow we never seem to be able to go anywhere without buying books, so we have a lot of them; and I do mean lot. The nonfiction titles lived in the library and sitting room, fiction novels were in our bedroom,  classics were in the dining room, and cookbooks were in the kitchen. All the shelves in the guestroom, halls, and my office were full of children's books that I had either purchased or had been sent to review. 
   Long before I became a full-time reviewer I started collecting children's books, some of which I had had as a child and wanted to own again, and some of which were new. Obviously, I cannot keep all the books I review and most have been donated to public or school libraries along the way. So, the collection I had in the house were the books that I particularly treasured. When we left Virginia to come to Oregon these books were put into one hundred and seventy-five or so file boxes, and we drove them across the country in a big truck. 
 
 Up until now we have not had a place to put these books, and so they have lived in the garage, and of course more books have been added to their number; now there are two hundred and fifty boxes! On the days when I could get up for a little while my husband brought some boxes into the house for me to open up. I cannot tell you how wonderful it has been to see my old friends again. I don't know what is in the boxes and so every time I lift a lid it feels like a big unveiling moment. All that is needed is a musical fanfare of some kind. I will not be keeping them all (as I cannot afford to build a second house) and so the local school library system is going to get a lot of them. 
   As I go through the boxes I'm going to introduce you to some of my treasures. Today I bring you Adele and Simon, a book written and illustrated by my friend Barbara McClintock. Though I really like the sweet story, what I particularly love about this book is the artwork. Barbara's illustrations are always, always magnificent. She uses a color pallet that has an old-world feel to it, and they are gorgeously detailed. It is hard to convey how remarkable her artwork is. I happily spend many minutes looking at all the details in her illustrations, finding little stories in the artwork that tease my imagination. To create her artwork Barbara "did all the artwork by hand, using a dip pen with a flexible steel nib and waterproof ink, and watercolor. It took at least three weeks to a month to complete each full color double page spread (not counting the time spent with all the research and creating the sketch)." I'm thinking that I might like to get a few prints of the artwork to put in my office. 

Adele and Simon
Barbara McClintock
For ages 4 to 8
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006, 978-0374380441
Today, as is usual on every school day, Adele is picking up her little brother Simon from his school. One of the first things Adele does is to ask her brother to "please try not to lose anything today." From her words it sounds as if Simon is in the habit of losing things. Unfortunately, today is no exception. The children are not far from the school when Simon realizes that he has lost the cat drawing that he did in class that day. The children are in the middle of a street market and they look and look everywhere for the picture but they cannot find it. On they walk through the Jardin de Plantes. Here Simon climbs a tree, much to Adele's annoyance. Somehow he manages to lose his books.
   The children go from place to place through the colorful and vibrant city of Paris. They visit Pont-Neuf, the Louvre art museum, a patisserie where they have a snack, and many other places, and in each one Simon loses something. Why, by the time they get home Simon has lost his coat, hat, gloves, scarf, sweater, knapsack, books, and crayons. Luckily the items he has lost find their way back to him.
   Children will love this simple and amusing story, sympathizing with Simon, and understanding how hard it is not to lose things every so often. Better still, young readers will have a wonderful time trying to find Simon's lost possessions in the detailed, meticulously executed drawings that fill the double page spreads. The soft colors in the beautiful artwork give the pictures a delicious vintage feel.
   At the back of the book the author includes information about each of the places that the two children visit, and inside the covers readers will find a map of Paris which shows them where each of the places are.
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