Forest Has a Song by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, illustrated by Robbin Gourley.
My name is Rilla. I am 6. Mommy read Forest Has a Song to me. I think that It Is really pretty poetry and i also think that deer are pretty too. I really love nature. And deer are one of my favorite animals and it said a lot about deer. In the picture of the fiddlehead ferns, I really like the pattern of the colors. And the fossil looks so realistic. When I grow up i want to be an illustrator like Robbin Gourley. And also, i love the Spider poem and the Dusk poem. I love the never-tangling dangling spinner part. And I love baby animals. They’re so cute and fluffy when they’re birds at least.
One of my favorites is “Farewell.” How it says “I am Forest.”
(Doggone spellcheck. She made me correct all her invented spellings—the red dots under her words tipped her off. Then again, “rhille priddy powatre” might have been hard for you to parse. Also, of course, recognizing that a word just looks wrong is a big step toward learning to spell.)
As for the book, I wholeheartedly agree with Rilla’s review. What a gorgeous, gorgeous volume. The poems sometimes wistful, sometimes whimsical, always lyrical. Beautiful for reading aloud, full of delicious internal rhyme and alliteration. And infectious: I predict a lot of original nature poetry in our future. This collection begs you to take a fresh look at the world around you and see the magic of the curled fern frond, the mushroom spore. Of course I’ve been a fan of Amy Ludwig VanDerwater’s work for years.
I can’t imagine a more perfect pairing for Amy’s poems than Robbin Gourley’s art. Lush watercolors, rich and soft. I kept coming across pages I’d like prints of. Actually, this is exactly the kind of book where you want a second copy for cutting up and framing. (If you can bear to. I always think I’d like to do that, but the one time I actually bought a spare copy for this purpose—Miss Rumphius—I couldn’t, in the end, bring myself to dismantle it.)
Beanie’s favorite poem was “Forest News”—
I stop to read
the Forest News
in mud or fallen snow.
Articles are printed
by critters on the go…
—which she loved for its intriguing animal-tracks descriptions, its sense of fun, and its kinship with her favorite Robert Frost poem, “A Patch of Old Snow.” (“It is speckled with grime as if / Small print overspread it, / The news of a day I’ve forgotten — / If I ever read it,” writes Frost, perusing a somewhat more somber edition of the woodsy chronicle.)
Wonderboy’s favorite was the puffball poem, and he later wrote (in his customary stream-of-consciousness style) this string of impressions the book made on him: “dead branch warning and woodpecker too dusk burrow in a burrow chickadee sit on my hand and come fly here”…
Truly beautiful work, Amy and Robbin.
Rose caught this rather wonderful shot yesterday, just down the street from our house. I missed it—I’d been out there gawping at the hawk (ID, anyone? its coloring is throwing me off—could it possibly be a white-tailed kite?)* and had snapped a few wobbly pix, using Beanie’s head as a tripod, but then I ran back to the house to take over stirring the marshmallows Jane was melting for Rice Krispie treats, so she could have a turn. The mobbing crow came along just after I left. Well done, Rose.
*UPDATE: yes, we think so!
The marshmallow treats were this year’s double-birthday feast, in lieu of a cake. My guys had a great day. At Scott’s request, we had a family reading of The Tempest (Act 1; we’ll continue on future Sundays). Rilla did us proud; she gave a splendid cold reading of the role of Ariel (with some vocab coaching from Rose, who prefers to stage manage). Scott was Prospero, Beanie read Miranda, and Jane and I split the other parts between us. I got to ham it up as the old boatswain, so I was happy.
Books read over the weekend:
Tippy-Tippy-Tippy Hide by Candace Ransom, illustrated by G. Brian Karas
Mr Pusskins: A Love Story by Sam Lloyd
Hist Whist by ee cummings (a Halloween book, yes, but a year-round Rilla favorite)
Cranford (happy sigh)
In the garden:
Roses in bloom, cosmos & poppy seedlings thriving, cape honeysuckle glorious, freesia and daffodil bulbs coming up. And the rain lilies, too, I think.
When the big ones were little, we got the Child’s Garden of Songs CD (like every other Charlotte Masonish homeschooler in the country), and oh how those small girls of mine adored it. For years it was their most frequently requested music, especially at bedtime–especially in summer. We got the beloved Tasha Tudor-illustrated picture-book-sized edition of Child’s Garden of Verses, too, of course: another CM requisite. My girls liked the book well enough, but it was the CD they cherished, and it’s the CD they still recall with affection, and hum around the house from time to time. Those lovely Celtic-flavored melodies got into my blood, too; that’s the kind of music I love best; it stirs my heart, gives me the shivers.
Now and then I’ll realize suddenly that there are these books and songs that meant the world to us ten, twelve years ago (Amazon informs me I purchased the Tasha Tudor book on April 14, 2000—six years to the day before Rilla was born; gosh, even before Beanie was born; and now I’m a little whelmed by the thought that in some respects, Amazon has a better record of my family history than I do)—important to us years ago, I was saying, but my younger trio don’t know them at all. It happened with Miss Rumphius (heresy!) and it happened with Child’s Garden of Songs.
I realized this a week or two ago and tracked down the CD, and we’ve listened to it every couple of days since. Rilla and Wonderboy are as enchanted by its melodies as their big sisters were. Huck remains somewhat indifferent, but then there aren’t any songs about trucks, are there?
The large book with the Tasha Tudor illustrations has failed to jump out from any of the shelves on which I’d expect it to be residing. All I found was the little Dover paperback edition, print only, no pictures; but Rilla doesn’t care. She sprawled on my bed today, frantically hunting each of the poems during the opening measures of its corresponding song on the CD—pause, Mommy, I can’t find it! oh here it is—and then calmly, almost serenely, singing along, kicking her feet, looking up to identify various instruments in the musical arrangement. Guitar, piano, violin, a fluty thing, those little round things you wear on your fingers, more violin, maracas. It was supposed to be my quiet reading time but I gave up on my book and watched her instead. It was a fancy dress day; she likes her sash tied in a fastidious bow, but she scorns anything that binds or tames her hair. The ragged locks fell over her face as she peered down at the book. Amazon says I purchased the Garden of Songs CD on July 19, 2002. Jane was seven that June. You know, last week.
The other book Rilla wanted today—wanted fiercely, rejecting my offer of the next Brambly Hedge story—was hist whist, the li
I’ve fallen behind with the reading logs again—it’s inevitable that I will, from time to time—but I can report that my Rilla-read-aloud time has taken a leap forward into snuggling in with long, text-heavy books of the sort she wasn’t terribly interested in a month or two ago. Brambly Hedge, crammed with all those detailed, pore-overable drawings, hooked her on tales of small, industrious, quaintly dressed animals with British accents (she was already a Potter fan); we’re now well into Tumtum and Nutmeg, and she hasn’t seemed to notice or mind that there are far fewer illustrations, and only black-and-white, at that. There are bustling, clever mice and I get to unleash my best Monty Python impressions on the dialogue. (Tumtum is Michael Palin, of course, and who else is Baron Toymouse but Cleese’s Black Night? My Nutmeg, on the other hand, seems to want to be the cook from the current Upstairs, Downstairs series.)
As for picture books, recent hits with my younger three include:
Rachel Fister has a blister, and everyone around her has a cure. Silly, satisfying rhyming text; Rilla in particular enjoys this kind of linguistic fun.
Good New, Bad News by Jeff Mack.
This one’s a great pick for the 3-6-year-old set, all ye aunties and uncles and godparents out there. A rabbit and a mouse and a picnic gone bad. No, good! No, bad! No, good…The kind of bright, bold, funny drawings my littles are especially drawn to, and unpredictable twists within a highly predictable (ergo comfortable and appealing to preschoolers) structure.
It’s a Tiger! by David LaRochelle, illustrated by the wonderful Jeremy Tankard.
You know how much we love Tankard’s work. Gorgeous coloring in this book and so much humor and excitement in the drawings. I love that heavy outline on the tiger; Jeremy was an inspired choice to illustrate this particular book. It’s a rollicking jungle adventure of the best kind, with a suitably ferocious tiger lurking in all sorts of unexpected places, and a kind of “We’re going on a bear hunt” vibe to the text. Huck loves it, and not just because you get to shout “IT’S A TIGER! RUN!” every few pages.
Tom Lichtenheld is one of my favorite illustrators. I discovered his work—how was I missing it??—in the wonderful Chris Barton picture book, Shark Vs. Train, that you’ve heard me rave about so many times before. Tom’s bold, energetic style crackles with humor and appeal. My kids are all drawn to his work; his illustrations are the kind you pore over, giggling at the details.
I went on a binge last week and ordered all the Lichtenheld our library system could muster. (The entire second row pictured in this link is sitting on my bed right this minute.) The resulting reading pile is a Rillabooks post-in-progress, but I could not resist interrupting myself to write about one particular book from that pile, the one that has completely enchanted my two-year-old son.
Huck’s a truck kid, through and through. Trucks, cars, and trains. Preferably half-buried in dirt. He has staked a claim on a corner of my veggie garden: it’s where the trucks grow. When I saw that Tom Lichtenheld is the illustrator of Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker, I knew I’d pretty much found Huck’s dream book.
I underestimated. He is CRAZY about this book, carries it everywhere, begs for it a dozen times a day or more. It’s his Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel (you Ramona fans know what I mean), but I’m not in a Beezus place yet because when I read it to him, he is SO. DARN. CUTE.
It’s a bedtime book set in a construction site. Are you thinking: that’s brilliant? Because the moment I saw it, I thought, that’s brilliant. Five big rough, tough construction vehicles finish their day’s work and get ready for bed, one by one. I wish I could show you every page of the art. If you click on the title above, you can view some images from the book. There’s a book trailer there, too, which HUCK MUST NOT SEE or I’ll never pry him away from the computer ever again.
Besides, I’m greedy for the cuddles this book gets me. My busy boy climbs into my lap and more or less acts out the book—raising an arm high when the crane truck lifts one last beam, whirling his hands when the cement mixer mixes a final load—and when the excavator snuggles into its dirt bed, Huck hugs me tight: “Now we ’nuggle, Mommy.” Ridiculously cute, right?
The best part is right in the middle when the dump truck appears. “Dat me!” he says every time.
“You’re the dump truck?”
Shh…goodnight, Dump Truck, goodnight.<
A Dog Is a Dog by Stephen Shaskan, published by Chronicle Books.
The cover of this delightful picture book grabbed my kids’ attention immediately with its bright orange and turquoise palette; the big grinning doggy face made them giggle.
Those giggles never stopped: this is art that goes straight to a little kid’s funny bone.
In whimsical rhymes and big, comical images, we learn that a dog is a dog no matter what it’s doing—”Whether it suns on the beach, or glides on the ice.” “A dog is a dog, if it’s skinny or fat. A dog is a dog, unless it’s a…CAT!”
Would you believe that grinning doggy unzips his dog suit, and there’s a plump ginger cat inside? This is the point when Rilla’s giggles turned to shrieks of laughter. But the surprises don’t stop there…It seems a cat is a cat unless it’s a…
Oh, no, I’m not telling. But we all howled. I did not see that coming. Nor the next twist, nor the next! One of the things I love about this book is that it manages the near-impossible feat of employing the sort of rhythmic pattern that young children delight in, while simultaneously making unpredictable turns. And this while delivering art that bubbles over with humor and energy. I’ve become a huge Stephen Shaskan fan in one fell swoop. You remember last year when I went nuts over Jeremy Tankard and Tom Lichtenheld? Yeah, Shaskan is on that list. I’m officially (and totally on the spur of the moment) dubbing it the Mo Willems List: storyteller-illustrators whose art has won my heart with its bold black outlines and lively antics and hilarious facial expressions (often on creatures you wouldn’t think would be terribly expressive, like a dump truck or a pigeon or a woolly mammoth or…the thing inside Shaskan’s cat suit). [I've recently encountered another artist who belongs on this list, but I'm not allowed to tell you his name yet. And that, my friends, is what you might call a hint.]
Anyway, my dears…A Dog Is a Dog gets high marks from Wonderboy, Rilla, and Huck (not to mention their daddy and some amused big sisters). Enjoy.
Review copy received from publisher, but you know I don’t write about them unless they’re a hit with my own personal focus group.
P.S. Did you know November is Picture Book Month?
My plan for today was to read and to sew, so naturally I did neither of those things and spent most of the day in the garden. The weather demanded it. Perfect sun, perfect breeze. Rose and I moved a number of nasturtium seedlings from the back yard to the front; I keep trying to fill in a rather stark flowerbed right in front of the house, and nothing works. This is entirely because I am an inconsistent waterer. But also an optimist. This time, as all the times before, I firmly and deeply believe I will follow through and nurture those bitty seedlings to lush abundance.
At least this time, my unmerited faith in myself didn’t cost a penny. I planted a $1.49 packet of seeds in the back garden four years ago and they have multiplied enthusiastically. I’ve tried them in the front before, but it’s a sunbaked flowerbed that really wants to house succulents and cacti. So: I’m both inconsistent and foolish. But hopeful! These nasturtiums are going to be spectacular, I am certain of it!
In the back yard, I pruned a butterfly bush and the big cape honeysuckle to make a sort of archway leading to a nook by the back fence. Rilla and I read Roxaboxen yesterday, and you know what that means. (Hannah’s post reminded me that, like Miss Rumphius a while back, here was another beloved book Rilla hadn’t met yet.) She spent the afternoon painting rocks for edging a little house under the arching branches. I yanked out a mess of bermuda grass. Lots left to do—I completely neglected the garden last summer—but we made good headway today. She’s collecting dishes and stones.
I have only cut out half the squares for our Valentine’s blanket, but I did find the cord for the sewing machine today. Progress!
I’ve been enjoying (and shuddering at) all your snake stories in the comments. I have another one of my own to tell, but it’s long, and I have to scan some pictures. It’s a place story, really, but it’s full of snakes—the story and the place.
Oh, and Rilla finished my game of Oregon Trail for me. I hear my wife died—of snakebite!
Rilla isn’t sure she liked the look of Virginia Lee Burton’s The Little House. “Hmm.” She eyes it skeptically. “It doesn’t really look Intresting.”
“I think you’ll like it,” I say. “It’s about a big city growing up around this little pink house.”
Pink is the key word in that sentence. She’ll give almost anything a chance, if there’s pink involved.
“Let’s give it a try,” I suggest. “We can read something else afterward.”
She has a laugh her sisters call the Evil Chipmunk. “Of course! It’s my favorite.”
Huck climbs half on top of me and begins to count the trees around the little pink house. He’s very into counting, these days.
I love quiet books like The Little House, the kind that tiptoe their way into a child’s heart. The house is built, the countryside blooms, the seasons change. The sun arcs across the page and this must be pored over, wait Mommy, don’t turn the page yet. And then the next spread, the calendar of moons. We must pause while Rilla touches each crescent and disk, naming the days. The road comes rolling out from the distant city; that’s Huck’s page to study. Steam shovel, big rocks, little rocks, tar, steamroller. He could stay there all day. But the city is encroaching, surrounding, swallowing the little pink house, and Rilla has picked up the urgency. We have to read quickly now; she needs to know. Trolley line, elevated train, subway, skyscrapers, you can hardly see the poor house.
It’s magical, you know, when the movers come to carry it away. A house on the back of a truck! Both children are astounded at this marvel. They’d have taken unicorns and dragons in stride, but a house riding along the road to a new hill in the countryside: clearly this is a wonder of the world.
Later, when Huck is napping, Rilla pounces on me, brandishing the book. The pink house winks from the cover.
“Yes. It’s my favorite.”
A Week of Raccoons by Gloria Whelan, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger.
Earlier this week Rilla was making a list of things that make her happy and she wrote this book down as number three. (To give you an idea of scale: #1) Daisies. #2) Daisy, presumably from Wow Wow Wubzy. #4) Grandma and Grandpa.) I concur; A Week of Raccoons makes me happy too.
A nice old farmer and his nice old wife keep discovering evidence of raccoon mischief: broken petunia pots, a toppled humming- bird feeder, trampled and devoured corn. Each night the farmer baits a trap and when, every morning, he finds a new raccoon licking peanut butter off its whiskers in the cage, he loads the cage into his truck and drives to the piney woods (past the tumbled-down log house, around the apple tree, across the stream, etc) to set the critter loose.
All week, the growing community of raccoons is trying to recall the route back to the farm. The Monday raccoon only remembers the last bit, but the Tuesday raccoon knows what came before that, and the Wednesday raccoon can retrace the route as far as the stream…by the end of the week, the critters are ready to depart the piney woods and make the backward journey. Luckily for the elderly couple, there are some tasty treats to lure the hungry raccoons off the path along the way.
Rilla loves the repetition, the whimsy, and the appearance of some very large grubs near the end of the story. She also greatly enjoys Lynn Munsinger’s art; these are some mighty cute and expressive raccoons. Matter of fact, somewhere around here I have a notebook full of my attempts to copy them, circa 1997.
I wish I could remember who gave us this book years ago! It was published by Henry Holt, so it can’t have been any of my Harper or Penguin buddies…However it came to us, it’s a book we treasure.
Mordant is a mole who lives on the lonely top of a green hill. One day he sees a cloud shaped like a turtle and wishes (on a dandelion) that the turtle were real so they could become friends. The dandelion wisps sail off on the wind and swirl past the eyes of a bicycle rider, making him think of snow, which puts him in the mood for a snow cone from the little handcart not far away. His snow cone drips out the bottom, forming a puddle shaped a bit like a hat that belongs to the aunt of a bird perched nearby, and off he flies to visit her. This domino chain of events continues in a funny, fresh, and deeply satisfying manner. Rilla was enchanted, just as her sisters were in years past.
Like A Week of Raccoons, Mordant’s Wish is (alas) out of print, but both are well worth tracking down in a library or used bookstore.
These are books Rilla has wanted to hear over and over this week. One of them was written by a beloved friend of mine, but honestly that’s a coincidence—Rilla (alas) has never actually met Ellen in person, and I don’t know that she remembers her Lola book was written by Mommy’s pal.
The Taming of Lola by Ellen Weiss, illustrated by Jerry Smath
You may recall that I wrote about Lola when I interviewed Ellen Weiss last year. Rilla rediscovered the book recently and is completely enchanted with this bratty little shrew. I mean:
“If Lola was given mayflies for breakfast when she wanted slugs, she had conniptions.”
Mayflies for breakfast? Conniptions? Prose like this, my friends, is how to win Rilla’s literary affections. She relishes the furious battles between Lola and her equally bratty cousin Lester (especially the name-calling); she is fascinated by the insect-dominant cuisine portrayed so charmingly by artist Jerry Smath; and she is downright crazy about the interjections of a certain crotchety grandmother shrew who is the narrator of this five-act tale about the summer Lola met her match.
(I don’t know what I was thinking, though, the day I launched into a spontaneous Barry Manilow parody out the outset of this book. I am now required to begin each reading with a performance of that timeless song, “Her name was Lola,/ she was a shrew-girl/ with stripey ribbons in her hair/ and a super-grumpy glare…”)
This is my favorite of the Carl books. I think it’s the only one Rilla’s read—it’s the only one we own, I guess. I need to remember to put the others on our library list. I love the conversations we have when we’re reading wordless stories like this.
This particular Carl story, in which Good Dog Carl is left in charge of a rambunctious baby, is especially sweet because of the impish puppy who has also been left in Carl’s care. Our favorite bit is where the dogs and baby find themselves surrounded by half a dozen earnest artists, and we can see on the easels all the different art styles with which the various painters are portraying our friends. (My older kids enjoy that part too.) Rilla is also fond of the part where they look through binoculars, one gazing up, one down at the ground, and one off to the side, and then on the facing page you see the three views and can figure out who is viewing what.
The park itself looks an awful lot like our own favorite stomping grounds, Balboa Park! Anyone know if that’s what Alexandra Day had in mind?
Big Bad Bunny by Franny Billingsley, art by G. Brian Karas
I wrote about this book in what I now realize must have been
If I really had it together, I’d have pulled some of these books out last week in anticipation of the Supermoon. Truth is, I didn’t even think of these in connection with Saturday’s moon until, well, just now. I did think, sometime Sunday afternoon, Ooh, we should read Owl Moon to Rilla and Wonderboy, but I forgot about thinking that until just now.
What did happen is I was hunting for a package of address labels I thought I’d stashed on a shelf in Wonderboy’s room (which doubles as Scott’s office), and although I didn’t find the labels, I found half a dozen picture books I really love and don’t remember reading in the past year. I gave up my label hunt, addressed the darn package by hand, and snagged Rilla for a readaloud.
That accounts for the first two books in this post. The third one is a quiet marvel of a book and we met it for the first time the weekend before last, when my perfectly scrumptious wee goddaughter came for a visit.
This, along with its companion, Alphonse, Where Are You?, has enchanted each one of my children in turn. I actually kind of squealed when I found it yesterday because I hadn’t seen it in a while and I knew Rilla wouldn’t remember it and it’s such a delight to share it for another first time. Alphonse the goose is the friend and protector of Little Bird. They gaze at the great round moon together, and Alphonse remarks that it’s made of swiss cheese, and Little Bird would like to eat it but alas, it’s glued to the sky. Except—they round a bend and there’s the big swiss-cheese moon floating in the pond. All the geese crowd around, commencing a frenzy of splashing and diving, and though their efforts don’t capture the moon, they do dredge up a swiss cheese sandwich—and if it weren’t for Alphonse, Little Bird would be left without so much as a nibble. I love the gentle interplay between the big goose and the little one, and I wish I had a record of Rilla’s deep chuckle the first time she heard the words “moon sandwich.”
When Moon Fell Down by Linda Smith, illustrated by Kathryn Brown.
It’s funny how you connect books with the people who introduced them to you. Just as I always think of my friend Joan when I read one of the Alphonse and Little Bird books—I think she was the editor of them, and I know they were, like Brave Georgie Goat, gifts from her—my original Little House editor, the great Alix Reid, comes to mind every time I pick up When Moon Fell Down. “You’re going to love this one, Lissa,” she told me. “It’s one of my favorite books I ever worked on.”
fell upon a farmer’s lawn,
rolled about in sheer delight
on fields he’d only shined upon.”
Before long he encounters—who else?—a cow, and the two of them take off for a stroll through town. Moon has never seen the world from this vantage point before; until now, he “didn’t know a horse had
Today: My Very First Mother Goose, the Iona Opie/Rosemary Wells collaboration. A gift from my sister when Jane was tiny, so thoroughly loved by all six children overlappingly and in succession that the binding is cracked and peeling. Huck carts this one (and its companion, the red one, called something like “More Mother Goose” or “My Very Second Mother Goose” and yes, I’m being lazy) all around the house, loving on it, talking to the bunnies and cats, naming the nice big initial letters. Today Rilla chose it for our “quiet reading time” (it is seldom very quiet) and she basically read/recited the whole darn book to me, bearing out Charlotte Mason’s theories about using nursery rhymes to teach reading without actually teaching.
Also: selected poems from Milne’s When We Were Very Young.
Yesterday: Dinosaur vs. Bedtime at least a dozen times. And then three or four more rounds with Huck. This was one of my favorites from the Cybils nominees two years ago, and it is enjoying renewed popularity now that Huck is prime dinosaur material.
I can’t remember if we read anything but Dino v. Bed yesterday, but then again it kind of dominated the whole day, didn’t it? ROAR! DINOSAUR WINS!
The day before that: Diary of a Fly, another repeat request, and I know everyone already loves Doreen Cronin’s hilarious insect diaries so I won’t say much beyond: Cronin’s a riot and Harry Bliss’s art is a delight. I especially love the way this book and its mates (Diary of a Worm, Diary of a Spider) suck my older kids in too and engender such animated discussion afterward. Same goes for Click Clack Moo, which, as someone pointed out on my Goodreads page recently, provides a most excellent jumping-off point for talking about collective bargaining rights.
And finally, two books I pretty much need to mark down for every day this past week: Grumpy Bird and Boo Hoo Bird, both by Jeremy Tankard of Me Hungry fame. I was so enchanted with Tankard’s art in Me Hungry that I absolutely had to track down more of his work. The two bird books do not disappoint. The crabby-face of Grumpy Bird—who wakes up one day too grumpy to fly—actually makes us laugh out loud. We’ve seen that face around here before. Great twist at
Over at the RIF blog, Carol Rasco reminds us that it’s cherry-blossom season, rather a bittersweet time this year with all Japan is suffering. There’s a new book out by Andrea Zimmerman I’m keen to read, about Eliza Scidmore, the woman responsible for bringing the cherry trees to Washington, DC: Eliza’s Cherry Trees: Japan’s Gift to America (illustrated by Ju-Hong Chen). I spent quite a bit of time in DC during my college years and I have marveled at those lovely pink avenues in spring.
Your comments on last week’s Rillabooks posts have greatly informed our library list this week: thanks to you, we’ve enjoyed Not a Stick, Mr. Bear Squash-You-All-Flat (a whimsical retro delight), and Cowboy & Octopus. About that latter: Rilla and I read it together curled up in my bed. When I got to the bit where Cowboy tells Octopus what he truly thinks of Octopus’s hat—his opinion is a wee bit scatological, you understand—I heard a peal of laughter from down the hall. Seems Rose and Beanie had been listening in all the way from their room. I think you know a book’s a success when it sucks in an audience from rooms away.
(Thank you to Joann, Cate, and Ellie for the suggestions!)
• My Naughty Little Sister, chapter 1 (thanks, Kathryn)
• Scott finished reading her My Father’s Dragon
• Grumpy Bird several more times
…she will want to go to Paris so she can tell the tiger, “Pooh-pooh!”
You will tweet about it and get an email from a friend, introducing you to a new friend who is exploring Paris with her own young daughter and blogging the whole thing in a most delicious manner.
Your little girl will ask for the same story the next day, and the day after, and on one of these days she will pore over the page where the “twelve little girls in two straight lines” frown at the bad thief, and she will furrow her brow and say, “But how can there be EVIL in PARIS??”
She will want to know all about appendectomies and scars and boarding school and more about appendectomies and the function or lack thereof of the appendix and other internal organs, and when you explain about liver and heart and lungs, she will want to know what lungs do, and when you explain about breathing, she will say, “OH GROSS!” and you will think she means lungs but it’ll turn out she means AIR goes in through your NOSE, that’s DISGUSTING!
You will demonstrate that breathing through her nose is something she does all the time, quite unconsciously, and then the two of you will lie on your bed snorting air in and out your noses, laughing hysterically along with your teenaged daughter who happened by in time for the demonstration.
You will come to the end of the book and your little girl will want to hear it again, and again, and again, every day for a week or more, and this will be just fine with you, because you learn something new every single time.
Who’s Hiding by Satoru Onishi. Published by Kane/Miller.
I’m filing this under Rillabooks but it could easily be tagged Huckbooks as well. They are equally attached to it—the five-year-old girl and the two-year-old boy, if you’ve lost track of their ages.
It’s an appealingly simple concept book: a page full of animals, illustrated in a clean and colorful style, as you can see from the cover. On the first spread, the animals are labeled: dog, tiger, hippopotamus, zebra. On the next spread, the animals are the same, but the background color has changed from white to blue. “Who’s hiding?” asks the text. The blue animal has disappeared against the background and the child has to figure out who is missing (helped along by the bunny’s eyes, ears, and nose showing up against the blue).
As the book progresses, more and more animals are hiding on each page. My littles absolutely love this game of hide and seek.
The “Who’s hiding?” spreads are interspersed with emotion and action spreads. Who’s angry? Who’s sleeping? Who’s crying? (My little goddaughter was distressed by the crying page, so watch out.)
Rilla seems to enjoy the hiding pages the most—the book turns into a game for her, a game involving my looking very intently at the book as I ask who’s hiding, so intently that I, ahem, don’t notice a certain someone has gone missing beside me. “Who’s hiding?” “I AM!” cries a triumphant voice from under the bed.
Huck likes the emotion pages best, or just plain naming the animals. I’m a big fan of Satoru Onishi’s art. I’d love a poster of these animals for the kids’ bedroom wall.
Thought I’d start tackling some of your open thread questions. Here’s one from sashwee:
Do you have chapter book recommendations for a 4yo girl who is very verbal, and has a good attention span for listening, (similar to your Rilla?) but still only 4 (well almost 5) and not ready for the full brunt of…life?…fiction?
Matter of fact, I do!
(Last night, at the weekly kidlitchat on Twitter, I realized that one of the things I enjoy most in the whole world is helping people find good books to read—being a book matchmaker. If there were such a thing as eHarmony for readers, I could totally work there.)
All right, suggestions for a four-year-old who is ready to listen to chapter books:
• My Father’s Dragon series by Ruth Stiles Gannett. Our family’s favorite choice for that first “book with chapters” read-aloud. Scott is working his way through the trilogy with Rilla right now.
• My Naughty Little Sister by Dorothy Edwards.
• Milly-Molly-Mandy by Joyce Lankester Brisley, and its sequel, More Milly-Molly-Mandy. Like Naughty Little Sister, these are episodic books; each chapter is its own little story. Milly-Molly-Mandy’s busy daily adventures—very much rooted in simple domestic village life, running errands for her family, staying alone for the first time, deciding what to spend her hard-earned pennies on—have enchanted all four of my girls around age four or five.
• Winnie-the-Pooh (does that go without saying?)
• the first two Betsy-Tacy books can be perfect for a five-year-old, but I have found my girls really clicked with Betsy at a slightly older age—perhaps seven or eight.
• Kipling’s Just-So Stories. I began reading these to Rilla at age four and she adores them—the belly laughs are irresistible. I rather suspect, however, that she believes “O Best Beloved” is referring to her specifically and is likely to be disgruntled when she realizes I read those words to her big sisters before her, in their day.
• Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary.
• The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner (the very first one, which has a special kind of sweetness and earnestness to it—this was a head-over-heels-in-love book for Jane at age 4).
• Old Mother West Wind and other Thornton Burgess animal stories—now, for us these were hit or miss. I had come kids adore them, and others who found them dull.
• Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard Atwater. In our house, this is a read-aloud reserved exclusively for the daddy.
• Pippi Longsto
I knew Rilla was enjoying The Bat-Poet, but I didn’t realize how much until this afternoon, as we neared the end of the book. She turned to me with furrowed brow and said, “When we finish, will we be able to read it again?”
“You mean right away?”
I told her sure we could, and she heaved a mighty sigh of relief.
I’ve noticed that the older girls can’t help but be drawn into the story if they pass through the room where Rilla and I are reading. It’s a soft and gentle tale, rather quiet, with velvety-rich language. Oh, I just love Randall Jarrell. His mockingbird and chipmunk have such personality, and the introspective, yearning bat is a kindred spirit—really. He composes poems. He longs to be able to pour forth a magical, uplifting song like the mockingbird’s, but he can’t sing. He finds himself fitting observations into words and phrases, lyrical and perceptive lines of poetry. But oh, how he doubts himself. The mockingbird’s cool, clinical analysis—“It was clever of you to have that last line two feet short”—leaves him bewildered and longing for an audience who is moved by his words. When, after hearing the bat’s poem about an owl, the chipmunk shivers and vows to go underground before dark from now on, the little bat is deeply gratified: he knows his words have had an impact.
His poems move and shiver me, too—
All day long the mockingbird has owned the yard.
As light first woke the world, the sparrows trooped
Onto the seedy lawn: the mockingbird
Chased them off shrieking. Hour by hour, fighting hard
To make the world his own, he swooped
On thrushes, thrashers, jays, and chickadees—
At noon he drove away a big black cat.
Now, in the moonlight, he sits here and sings.
A thrush is singing, then a thrasher, then a jay—
Then, all at once, a cat begins meowing.
A mockingbird can sound like anything.
He imitates the world he drove away
So well that for a minute, in the moonlight,
Which one’s the mockingbird? Which one’s the world?
I know that mockingbird.
I know that bat, too.
I know I haven’t done a Rillabooks post in a while. Mostly this is because she’s been requesting rereads of books I’ve already gabbed about here. I did start one draft a while back about a new-to-her book; dunno why I never finished!
“Stand Back,” Said the Elephant, “I’m Going to Sneeze!” by Patricia Thomas
Our copy of this book is a Weekly Reader edition that belonged to Scott when he was little. Delightful art, bursting with personality and humor. The rollicking rhyme works well for this silly tale of animals begging the elephant not to unleash his powerful and destructive sneeze. A frequent read-aloud request from my younger children. (I admit: when Huck’s the sole requester, I usually only read the first couple of lines on each page. The book is a bit text-heavy for a two-year-old, but it entrances the five-year-old.)
(The formatting is because I was experimenting with a GoodReads feature.)
I’ve been jotting lists of daily read-alouds on [social network I'm talking too much about] most nights. I’m going to fold those notes into a list here, for our family archive and in order to share them with you. But most, as you’ll see, are repeats.
Rocket to the Moon (A surprise present from my little goddaughter. Her mama, one of my best friends, sent me a video of the two of them enjoying this very book the other day, and I watched it about fifteen times in succession and melted every time. And then a copy arrived for us. Huck is ENCHANTED. Animals build a rocket! To the moon! This is pretty much perfection, as far as he is concerned.)
We squoze in time for a half chapter of Little House in the Big Woods (the panther story) and a rousing, NOT-sleep-inducing rendition of Dinosaur vs Bedtime.
The Poky Little Puppy
I Can Fly (the Little Golden Book by Ruth Kraus)
and Rilla read herself a Little Bear book, to her own surprise and delight. “I didn’t know I knew all those words!”
Hide and Seek in the Yellow House (jiminy crickets, do my younguns love that book)
Cars & Trucks & Things that Go
Little House in the Big Woods
~July 11th, rounding up a few days’ worth~
Hush Little Dragon
Stellaluna (We found it!)*
Harold & the Purple Crayon (twice)
The Ear Book (umpteen times)
Bake Sale (new graphic novel from First Second, read two chapters to a THRONG)
This morning I was presented with a stack by all three of my small fry:
Brave Georgie Goat (One of our family favorites, you know…)
Penny and the Punctuation Bee
Scaredy Squirrel at the Beach
Of course the day’s not over yet.
*I’m glad Stellaluna was lost at first because its elusiveness is what led us to The Bat-Poet instead, a book I am heart-glad to have added to Rilla’s world (and mine)
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Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox, illustrated by Julie Vivas.
This may just be my favorite picture book ever. I discovered it during grad school when I worked at a children’s bookstore, and it was love at first read. I don’t think I have ever once read it without tearing up. When I read it to the littles yesterday, Scott had to step in near the end when I was too choked up to speak. It’s a beautiful book, and true in the way that sometimes only fiction is.
Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge is a little boy who lives next to an old-age home. He is friends with all the residents and loves to visit them. When he hears his parents say how sad it is that his favorite resident, 93-year-old Miss Nancy, is losing her memory, Wilfrid Gordon quizzes all the other old folks about what a memory is exactly. “It’s something warm,” one tells him. “Something from long ago.” “Something that makes you cry.” “Something that makes you laugh.” And so on.
And so Wilfrid goes off and collects a box of treasures for Miss Nancy—a warm hen egg, a funny puppet, an old medal…
It’s what happens when Miss Nancy handles the gifts that always makes me cry. Perfectly lovely, and Julie Vivas’s tender colored pencil drawings are as lovely and moving as the story.