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Your Storybook Suggestions
Monthly Archives: January 2016
Another of our favorites was in the envelope this evening – fitting, since we are celebrating the completion of the first full month in our inaugural 365 project! (insert confetti and party hats here).
“Tikki Tikki Tembo” by Arlene Mosel is particularly entertaining for read-aloud, as you get to say the name of the “first and honored son” over and over. Every time we read the full name – “Tikki Tikki Tembo-no sa rembo-chari bari ruchi-pip peri pembo” – our youngest giggled. Those giggles are worth more than gold.
Maj Lindman’s Flicka, Ricka, Dicka books are already on our Favorites page, and her Snipp, Snapp, Snurr books are in the very same vein: vintage illustrations and a vintage feel in the way that the children behave, how they choose to spend their time, and the lessons that they learn. “Snipp, Snapp, Snurr and the Yellow Sled”,
for example, has the three boys of the title working hard to help their mother around the house so that she and their father will be willing the buy the boys a glorious yellow sled they can use to slide through the snow together. They take on their mother’s chores as their own with no complaints (!?!), discovering along the way just how hard their mother works to keep the house in order. They are eventually rewarded with a trip to the store to buy their sled.
However, upon arriving at the store, they meet a little boy who is heartbroken that he will never be able to have a sled of his own; his family is too poor. Moved by the little boy’s tears, our three heroes ask their mother if they may work for another sled and give this one to the little boy. Naturally their mother, who has been enjoying her additional free time over the past week, accedes to their request and we end the book with all four boys sliding down a hill together. It’s a formula we have seen in other Lindman books – but a story that might otherwise seem sickly-sweet works in the context of the vintage look and feel she creates.
This evening we read a cautionary tale by Kate Bernheimer & Jake Parker: The Girl Who Wouldn’t Brush Her Hair. “The Girl” of the title, who remains nameless throughout, washes her beautiful hair regularly but prefers to let her hair fall down in a tangled heap rather than brushing it – “It’s just my way”, she rationalizes. Her lack of grooming, however, attracts a growing colony of mice in her matted locks. Slowly, these mice take over her life, leaving her hungry (she must feed them her lunch at school), sleepless (they stay up all night chattering and telling knock-knock jokes), and stinky (they won’t let her bathe because they can’t swim). As you might expect, after enough indignities she learns her lesson, sends the mice packing, and cleans up her act.
I think we originally acquired this book because this girl’s predicament sounded oddly familiar to us…and probably does to some of you as well. Unfortunately, I must say that while the illustrations are cute, I don’t love this book, and the “lesson” within its pages failed to resonate around our house. Well…at least we don’t have the mice.
“Take it slowly. This book is DANGEROUS!” So began our book tonight – one of my all-time favorites by Dr. Seuss: “Fox in Sox.” Not unlike “Green Eggs and Ham”, “Fox in Sox” centers on a persistent and meddlesome character (Fox) trying to convince another chap (“Mr. Knox”) to try something new. In this case, the “something” is a series of increasingly difficult tongue twisters which are tremendously fun to read aloud, as long as you keep your wits about you and don’t try to go too fast. The full disclaimer on the front of the book:
“This is a book you READ ALOUD to find out just how smart your tongue is. The first time you read it, don’t go fast! This Fox is a tricky fox. He’ll try to get your tongue in trouble.”
If you have older children, I expect at least one of them will want to have a go at read aloud after you – it’s hard to resist the challenge!
Before reading time tonight, we went on a family “outing” to the movies to watch a Fathom Event showing of “Florence and the Ufizzi Gallery”. It was suggested by our oldest’s history teacher, and we were not disappointed. After stocking up on popcorn, we were able to sit back in the movie theater and go on a tour of some of the greatest works of art in Florence, Italy – works by Botticelli, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Caravaggio, etc. Seeing these creations on the big screen was awe-inspiring. While the music was a bit too loud at times, it was well chosen and served to make the event feel even more monumental. There were a couple paintings toward the end that were especially gory and fascinating on that scale: the Medusa shield by Caravaggio, and Judith and Holofernes by Artemisia Gentileschi. Overall, a fully worthwhile experience, and our youngest actually made it all the way through (albeit with a little help from an iPad).
Inspired by our virtual tour of Florence, we made a last-minute substitution for tonight’s book to insert a favorite by Lawrence Anholt. Mr. Anholt has a series of picture books drawing on historical accounts to bring together great artists and children. “Leonardo and the Flying Boy” introduces us to Leonardo da Vinci and two of his young apprentices: Zoro (short for Zoroaste) and Salai. The book is mostly about Zoro, who is the “Flying Boy” of the book’s title. Alongside Zoro, the reader sees inside Leonardo’s workshop and notebooks, hears about his restless intellect and his countless inventions, and eventually experiences flying…if only briefly…when Zoro takes a nighttime joy ride with one of Leonardo’s many mechanical creations. Anholt’s books are very engaging, telling stories out of history and making famous artists accessible to children. I also highly recommend going on past the end of Anholt’s story to read about the history behind the book.
We were able to make some more headway this evening in Wuthering Heights as well, with some help from our trusty paints. By this time in our reading, we have lost the elder Catherine Linton (nee: Earnshaw), her sister-in-law (Isabella), and her older brother (Hindley). Heathcliff has already wrought significant emotional (and financial) damage on Linton and Earnshaw alike, has turned his nephew Hareton into an uneducated brute, and is well on his way to causing further devastation. It’s a bleak story, but the richness of the writing makes it too entertaining to look away.
It has been said that nothing in this world is certain but death and taxes. I would like to add to that list the fact that George is (a) a good little monkey, and (b) always very curious. Tonight we went with George on an adventure to the firehouse in “Curious George and the Firefighters.” Following a tried and true formula that should be familiar to all George readers, our book tonight found George curiously going where no monkey is supposed to go, at first getting in the way, but ultimately proving to be uniquely helpful. In this story, George jumps aboard the fire engine on the way to an actual fire, and after being reprimanded by the fire chief, he proceeds to distract and entertain all the frightened children with juggling and a massive game of catch. The version we read this evening is bilingual (Spanish and English).
I don’t think this particular story is one of the originals by Margaret & H.A. Rey; it is “illustrated in the style of” George’s creators, but I can’t find an author’s name anywhere in the book. Be that as it may – originals or not – we have always enjoyed reading these short and predictable but entertaining books.
We read another bilingual picture book tonight: “Let’s Eat! / ¡A Comer!” by Pat Mora. This storybook was particularly apt this evening, since we read it while sitting down to eat dinner together; as the note on the back cover says, “Sitting down and sharing – it’s the best part of the day”. After reading “Let’s Eat” in both Spanish and English, we shared what we liked best about the story. I personally liked the dog’s name: Tico. I shall save it for future use.
However, we all agreed that the real clincher – the “hook” if you will – was this: Tina looks at all the food on the table and says, “…We’re rich, aren’t we Dad?”…over the next several pages, Dad looks around the table at the food, at Mama and Grandma, at Tico, and at all three of his children and says, “Yes…We’re rich.” I think that sentiment fairly well sums up how all of us feel when we get a chance to sit down and enjoy reading together.
Bet you didn’t know that January 24 was Global Belly Laugh Day! Fortunately, we are here to alert you. In honor of this fabulous global holiday, we read three books carefully selected to evince belly laughs in our target audience…and they did not disappoint.
“There’s a Bird on Your Head” by Mo Willems came first, and our youngest really got a kick out of this one. It is an early reader book, so there aren’t a lot of words, but the story is very silly and the pictures are pretty funny. I expect, in fact I know, that we will have several more Mo Willems book in our 365 project this year.
“Make Way for Dumb Bunnies” was a case of judging a book by it’s cover (and title) at the library, and contrary to the old adage – this approach worked well for us in this case. It helped that we knew the author (Dav Pilkey) from his “Dog Breath” book. In that same vein, Dumb Bunnies is very silly and our oldest laughed out loud several times.
“The Book With No Pictures” by BJ Novak came last, and I think it resulted in the most belly laughs of the night, again from our oldest. Sticking with a common theme, it was absurd and very gratifying. The conceit of the book is that it has no pictures but is still entertaining because the person reading the book MUST say what is written on the pages…and it’s some pretty silly stuff.
Bottom line: out of these three books, if you are picking one for belly laughs, I would pick “There’s a Bird on Your Head” for children five and under, and “The Book With No Pictures” for children older than five.
Update: a couple evenings later, we got ahold of another book we had our eye on for Global Belly Laugh Day: “Dragons Love Tacos” by Adam Rubin. The book was recommended by the New York Public Library, and we found it entertaining and a worthy read aloud storybook, but not gut-busting as the NYPL entry suggested.
Another favorite tonight! “Annie and the Wild Animals” is a Jan Brett book – which means every page is full of beautiful illustrations. My favorite part of this particular story is how the author uses the illustrations in the margins of each page as foreshadowing. While reading tonight I paused on every page to ask our youngest to look at the margins to see if she could predict what was coming next – it did seem to keep her more engaged; she enjoys games where she and her mom or I are looking for things together…like the date and envelope for the book of the day.
We were able to get back to Wuthering Heights tonight as well – at least for a little while. We read long enough to get a good dose of the dysfunction in the Earnshaw household following the senior Mr. Earnshaw’s death. It’s a mess. Upon losing his wife shortly after childbirth, Hindley Earnshaw finds solace in the bottom of a bottle; his drinking and violent mood swings drive the rest of the family (including his son) away. Meanwhile, Catherine has grown to be a vain and headstrong young woman, abusive to the staff, and careful to wear different faces depending upon whether she is with Heathcliff or with Edgar Linton. Heathcliff has become even more brooding and resentful, and he doesn’t seem to have many redeeming characteristics himself, although I still find him the most sympathetic character in the house (with the possible exception of young Hareton).
I am looking forward to getting further into the book – I am already hooked, which surprises me because high school English class ruined the book for me the first time around…oh so many years ago.
We are divided in our opinion of tonight’s storybook: “Ten Little Puppies (Diez Perritos)” by Alma Flor Ada. It was a book with which we were already familiar before we pulled the name from the envelope, but even familiar books are fun to “re-discover” when they come up. Majority opinion appears to be that it is a charming little rhyming book, because…puppies? Also, the book is written in Spanish and English, which is nice if you can read Spanish (as our oldest can, and did this evening).
In my opinion, this is a story of neglect. A young girl who obviously has no business having her own pack of puppies, proceeds to steadily lose them one-by-one and page-by-page. One runs off in a snowstorm, another is abandoned at the baker’s, a little dalmatian leaps into the lake (maybe to get away from this little girl), and she leaves one little puppy at the vet’s office because of the flu (?!?). Eventually, she has only one dog, whom she loves dearly…and stuff. Good thing for that dog that the book ended, otherwise she’d have lost him at the park on the next page!
In truth, we all enjoy this book. The rhyme scheme is a bit cumbersome (and more repetitive than rhyme-y sometimes). However, it gets extra points for being bi-lingual, having cute illustrations and…well: puppies.