Welcome!

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

Friday, April 20, 2018

Poetry Friday with a review of Swing Around the Sun

Many people covet the idea of going to live in the tropics. They dream of the warm temperatures, tropical flowers, and blues seas. One of my favorite places on the planet is Hawaii, but I know that I would not like to live there year round because I love experiencing summer, fall, winter, and spring. I look forward to the gifts of the coming seasons. Right now summer peaches are on my mind, and I am eager to spend time sitting by the lake, watching the eagles soaring on the thermals.

In this delightful poetry book we take a journey through the year, experiencing the wonderful things that the seasons bring us as the Earth travels around the sun.

Swing Around the SunSwing Around the Sun
Barbara Juster Esbensen
Illustrated by Stephen Gammell  , Janice Lee Porter , Cheng-Khee Chee , and Mary GrandPre
Poetry
For ages 4 to 8
Carolrhoda Books, 2002, 978-0876141434
We are going to take a journey through a year, exploring the natural wonders of the seasons and the ways in which these ancient rhythms affect the human world. We are going to look at a beach in the spring when "a gull hangs like an icy flake" between the sea and the sky. We are going to listen to a summer storm as "thunder snaps/With a splitting crack!" In the fall we can imagine "Goblins prowl the streets" on Halloween. And, in the winter we can feel the cold as we skate across the pond leaving a "frosty trail" behind us.
   Using both rhyming and non-rhyming poetry, the author of this poetry collection paints a stunning portrait of a year in words, a portrait that is rich in imagery. Readers will find that all their senses are engaged as they go from season to season and from poem to poem.
   The visual impact of this book is especially noticeable because a different illustrator has created the art for each of the seasons. Thus each season has a distinct feel and appearance. Each piece of artwork provides the perfect backdrop for the poem that accompanies it.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Picture Book Monday with a review of Make the Earth your companion

On April 22 we Americans celebrate Earth Day Back when I was working in the environmental movement in Washington, D.C. it was a day full of festivals, conferences, speeches, and other events. These days I don't get involved in a lot of hoopla, but instead I tend to go out into nature to remind myself what the hoopla is all in aid of. All year round I do as much as I can to tend to our precious planet, and on Earth Day, I celebrate the marvelous place that it is.

Today I bring you a picture book that ties into this sense of celebration. The words in this book will remind readers that our planet is beautiful place, and it is also a great teacher.

J. Patrick Lewis
Illustrated by Anna and Elena Balbusso
Picture Book
For ages 5 and up
Creative Editions, 2017, 978-1-56846-269-1
For the most part we humans do not have a healthy relationship with the Earth. We like to dominate it. We use and abuse it. We do not listen and learn from it, even though we should. The Earth has much to teach us and if we make it our “companion,” and if we “we walk lightly on it, as other creatures do,” it has so much wisdom to share with us.
   One of the things we will learn, if we try, is that the sky will always be there above watching over us, and the sea will teach us how to face adversity with courage. A river will show us that nothing stays the same, and that hard times will drift away in time. A lake will teach us how to be still and quiet, and a mountain will show us what true “grandeur” is. A woodland will offer us peace, and a rainforest will be our “canopy of hope.”
   In this book J. Patrick Lewis’ words, and the art created by Balbusso sisters, show us to great effect what a remarkable teacher the Earth is. The message this book’s creators share with us is a rich and powerful one, and it will resonate with readers of all ages. This is a book to treasure, savor, and share.



Friday, March 30, 2018

Poetry Friday with a review of Songs and Verse by Roald Dahl.

There is no doubt that Roald Dahl is one of the master craftsmen in the children's book world. He wrote wonderful stories like Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and The BFG, and he also wrote dozens and dozens of wonderful poems. Today I bring you a poetry title that contains poems from his story books and also poems from his poetry collections. Beautifully illustrated throughout, this is a wonderful book to share with children.

Songs and VerseSongs and Verse 
Roald Dahl
Illustrated by Quentin Blake and other illustrators
Poetry
For ages 6 to 8
Puffin UK, 2016, 978-0141369235
Roald Dahl has been delighting children with his unique stories since his first books came out in the early sixties. Many of his tales include hilarious songs and sections of poetry that appeal to young readers enormously because of their outrageous content and clever use of language. Dahl also wrote three poetry collections in the 1980’s: Revolting Rhymes, Dirty Beasts, and Rhyme Stew.
   In this superb collection many of the wonderful songs and snatches of verse from the story books, as well as excerpts from the poetry books, have been brought together. Better still, renowned illustrators from all over the world have illustrated the poems and songs. Readers will get to see the art of Chris Wormell, Chris Riddell, Joel Stewart, Babette Cole, Axel Scheffler, Lauren Child, Alexis Deacon, and others. Quentin Blake, who illustrated so many of Roald Dahl’s books, has created some charming drawings for this book as well.
   Divided into sections by subject matter - “Unlikely Creatures,” “Poisonous Possibilities,” and so on – this is a collection that Roald Dahl fans will love to dip into. Within its pages they will find the songs of the Oompa-Loompas, and the Centipede’s song from James and the Giant Peach. At the other end of the spectrum they will find the terrifying words from “Down With Children” from the book The Witches.
   All in all this is a marvelous book, which truly celebrates Roald Dahl’s gift for creating poetry that children enjoy and want to read.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Poetry Friday with a review of Spring Blossoms

We are experiencing the contrary kind of weather that is the norm around here in spring. Snow showers on the mountains, cool temperatures in the valley, then warm temperatures, then heavy rain, then cool temperatures again. Throughout all this meteorological chaos the trees flower. The blossoms of showy cherries, demur pears, and delicate almonds all delight the eye. Today I bring you a book that celebrates these trees and more.

Spring Blossoms
Carole Gerber
Illustrator:  Leslie Evans
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Charlesbridge, 2013, 978-1580894128
Spring is here and the trees are “dressed up for their yearly show.” Blossoms cover branches that not long ago were bare. Here is the dogwood wearing its “frosty crown” of white blossoms. The crab apple has white blossoms that are white too, but they are smaller and smell sweet. Magnolia trees produce flowers that are large and tulip shaped, which are quite different from those that you find on cherry trees that  are small and “grow in bundles” so that they look like “small bouquets.”
   Some trees are less showy and yet they too are beautiful in their own understated way. These include the white oak with its green male flowers and its small red female flowers. White pines have small yellow male flowers. Later in the year the female flowers, “tinged with red, like slender lips” appear.
   Throughout this special book, beautiful illustrations are paired with rhyming verse to take young readers into a spring day that is full of beautiful blossoming trees. They will ‘meet’ ten different tree species, and at the back of the book there is further information about spring and the changes that come about in this lovely season.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Happy Spring

Happy Spring!


There are lots of book reviews of books about spring on the TTLG Spring Feature Page.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Picture Book Monday with a review of It's Springtime, Mr. Squirrel

Here in southern Oregon signs of spring are everywhere, even though there is still a chilly nip in the air in the mornings and evenings. The official first day of spring is tomorrow, and so I bring you this review of a book that is sweet and deliciously funny!

It’s Springtime, Mr. Squirrel
Sebastian Meschenmoser
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
North South, 2018, 978-0-7358-4310-3
One morning Mr. Squirrel wakes up to see that the world outside his home has been transformed. He has no idea what has happened. Where did all the bright green grass and colorful flowers come from? Bear explains that spring has arrived that it is time to “lie in the sun, stroll through the meadows, and fill our tummies with fine food!”
   Happily Mr. Squirrel scampers this way and that. He finds delicious things to eat, gorges himself, and then naps in the sun. However, Hedgehog has no appetite for food or frolics. He has been to the pond where he espied a lovely lady hedgehog. Unfortunately, he was so terrified of the gorgeous creature that he fled.
   Luckily Mr. Squirrel is there to help Hedgehog. He tells Hedgehog that he needs to “gain fame and glory” to earn the lady hedgehog’s esteem, and the best way to do that is to show off how brave and strong he is and to win lots of fights. The thing is that to win fights you have to look suitably dangerous and intimidating.
   Mr. Squirrel quickly gets to work. He measures Hedgehog and then runs off to gather supplies. He is going to make his friend look tough and masterful. It takes a while to come up with the right costume but in the end he succeeds. Not only that, but he too dons a similar costume so that he can help Hedghog win a “dangerous fight.” Now all they have to do is find an opponent who will make them look good.
   Children are going to laugh out loud as the follow the adventures of Mr. Squirrel and his friends. Who knew that winning the heart of a lady hedgehog could be so hard? Who knew that spring could be so full of surprises?
   With its delightful animal characters and its surprising ending, this is a wonderful book to share with children. Adults will find it hard not to fall for Mr. Squirrel, who is such a good friend.

Friday, March 2, 2018

The March and April issue of Through the Looking Glass.


Happy Friday everyone. The new issue of Through the Looking Glass is now online. In this issue the special feature focuses on books that are about saving the environment. Some of the titles that I have reviewed are informative, some are how-to books, and others celebrate the people who have worked tirelessly to save wild spaces and wildlife. Then there are the stories that show us how important it is to save the environment. There is also an Arbor Day feature that looks at stories about trees. Who doesn't love trees!

March is Women's History Month here in the U.S. so I have added new books to the Women's History Month feature that I hope you will enjoy.

Do visit the new issue to see what is new.

Happy weekend,




Poetry Friday with a review of Won Ton: A Cat tale told in Haiku

I am lucky enough to share my home with three wonderful felines. Legolas is a big, fluffy, ginger tabby who is easy-going and easy to please. Sumalee and Sarafee are two very opinionated Siamese cats who are fussy, difficult, and demanding. They remind me a lot of the cat whose story is told in today's Poetry title. Won Ton is also a demanding fellow and he is determined to keep the humans in his life on their toes.

Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in HaikuWon Ton: A Cat tale told in Haiku
Lee Wardlaw
Illustrated by Eugene Yelchin
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Henry Holt, 2011, 978-0-8050-8995-0
In a shelter there is a cat. He is an elegant beast with beautiful blue eyes. In his cage the cat has a bed, a bowl, and a blanket, and he tells himself that what he has is “just like home.” Or least that is what he has been told.
   During visitor hours the cat feigns a complete lack of interest in what is going on, though he cannot resist a little peek. One person pinches him, and another pulls his tail, but then a boy comes along and he knows how to rub the cat’s chin just right. The cat tries to seem unconcerned. He grooms himself assiduously and does his best to appear as if there is “No rush.” In actual fact the cat is thinking, and hoping “Please, Boy, pick me.”
   Sure enough Boy does choose him and the cat is taken out of his cage. He is thrilled to be free, but at the same time afraid of what awaits him out there in the world. Briefly he “clings to what is known.”
   After a trip in a car, the cat arrives in his new home, and the process of naming him begins. He believes that he deserves a name fitting for an “Oriental Prince.” He ends up being called Won Ton, and he is not impressed.
   This wonderful tale, which is told using a series of haiku poems, is funny, sweet, and sometimes touched with just a little uncertainty and anxiety. It is a story about new beginnings that readers of all ages will be able to connect with.


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

A Valentine's Day Card!

Wishing you all a wonderful Valentine's Day. 

Image result for happy valentines day vintage card

Monday, February 12, 2018

Picture Book Monday with a review of This is NOT a Valentine

I happen to really like Valentine's Day, but I know a lot of people don't. There are some people who find the whole idea of giving someone a Valentine just too mushy for words. What will people think if they find out that they succumbed to the lovey-doveyness of Valentine's Day?

In this deliciously funny picture book we meet a boy who refuses to have anything to do with Valentine's Day nonsense; and yet this does not mean that he does not have feelings for a certain little girl who has curly black hair and a sweet smile.

This Is Not a ValentineThis is NOT a Valentine 
Carter Higgins
Illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Chronicle, 2017, 978-1-4521-5374-2
It is Valentine’s Day and while they are waiting for their school bus to arrive, a girl gives a boy a Valentine’s Day card. The boy is shocked. He is not in favor of Valentine’s cards, gifts, and all the mushy stuff that goes with these things.
   However, he does give the girl a little bouquet of dandelions, though he tells her that it is not a Valentine because the bouquet is not fancy. Furthermore most of the wishes have been blown off the fluffy, white dandelion heads.
   Then he gives her a toy ring that he got out of a machine at a grocery store. It isn’t a Valentine either because “jewels and gems belong in treasure chests or museums or on ladies who sing at the opera.”
   Then the boy gives the girl his cape, which is not a Valentine because it is red and red is not the girl’s favorite color. Mind you, red is a good color for a superhero and the girl is the boy’s favorite superhero.
   Could it be that maybe, just maybe, the boy is finding unique ways to make the girl’s Valentine’s Day special?
   Children are going to thoroughly enjoy this not-a-Valentine story that is actually a pretty good Valentine. We see, as the story unfolds, that the boy understands what the girl likes and dislikes. It would appear that he knows her quite well and likes her quite a lot. Though of course he is still NOT giving her a Valentine.

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