Monday, July 21, 2014

Girls' Weekend Getaway

Happy Monday, dear readers!  The little girls and I are chilling out at home on this very hot day - seriously, why can't the weather be nice and cool when I'm well??? - after a weekend out of town.  Friday morning, we drove up to the Kansas City area for a little weekend trip.  We had to do away with our family vacation plans, because of financial reasons and some family stuff coming up, which caused Mr. B to have to move his vacation time.  He insisted the girls and I take an abbreviated version of our trip, mainly so that Little Sis could still attend a day of the Amelia Earhart Festival up in Atchison.  I'll share some photos from that later this week.

The lead photo?  Little Sis took that from the backseat of the car.  None of us had ever seen the "Community Bookshelf," located on the facade of parking garage of the Central branch of the Kansas City Public Library  in person, although I see images of it floating around Pinterest all the time.  You can see the full building here.

Our first stop was Reading Reptile in Kansas City, MO's Brookside neighborhood.  Somehow, I had never paid a visit to this amazing children's bookstore.

I have probably told you that my dream is to someday own my own children's bookstore.  Walking into Reading Reptile was like walking into my dream.

The girls were quick to point out this chalkboard in the entryway.  "Look, it's The Three Robbers!"  Big Sis squealed.  Inside were amazing paper mache sculptures of a wide variety of children's book characters:  my beloved Olivia, the peddler and tree from Caps for Sale, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and many others. There were posters on the ceiling!  There was a stuffed Rosie doll from The Sign on Rosie's Door!  And of course, there were books, books, and more books.  You can see more photos of the bookstore at their website.  Reading Reptile makes me want to move to Kansas City.  And if I couldn't work there, well, you know we'd be regular customers.

We did leave with a few items.  I couldn't just walk in and gawk.  Little Sis chose the first book in the Captain Underpants series.  Big Sis chose Henry & Beezus.  I found a Dover paperback of Sky Island by L. Frank Baum!  And The Three Robbers chalkboard must have put me in a Tomi Ungerer mood, because for all of us, I bought the beautiful Phaidon reprint of Moon Man, originally published in 1966.

We also visited The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, one of my favorite art museums anywhere.  Little Sis was getting hungry, which makes her sulky and angry ("hangry"), so we didn't spend as much time there as we could have, but we saw some favorites.

We headed back to the Kansas side of things,  for a quick meal and a trip to the American Girl Store.  I recently acquired a very damaged original Kirsten doll.  We got her cleaned, and both she and Molly got their hair styled.

Besides the Amelia Earhart Festival, we also had an outing to the most amazing children's farm.  I'll share that with you later this week, I promise.

Both girls have declared they want to move closer to Kansas City, by the way.

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Friday, July 18, 2014

The Scarecrow of Oz

The Scarecrow of Oz by L. Frank Baum,
illustrated by John R. Neill.
Reilly & Britton, 1915.
Books of Wonder edition, William Morrow and Company, 1997.

No big reading round-up for you today, although I'm happy to report that Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times was as fun to read as the cover would have you believe.  The girls and I are off for a weekend adventure, but coming with us is our bedtime reading, The Scarecrow of Oz.

{I have not written an Oz post since MARCH.  Can you believe it?!}

It may have taken us half the year to read Tik-Tok of Oz, but we're moving pretty quickly through this one, the ninth in the series.  The Scarecrow of Oz was published a year after the Oz Film Manufacturing Company's movie His Majesty, the Scarecrow of Oz.  Other notable facts about Scarecrow:

  • It is the book that brings Trot and Cap'n Bill, the main characters from his two favorite non-Oz titles, The Sea Fairies and Sky Island, to the land of Oz.  [I have yet to read either book.]
  • It was Baum's favorite Oz book.
  • Trot is the last child from the mortal world to come to Oz.  

While the Scarecrow is the title character and hero of the story, it takes an incredibly long time for him to make his appearance.  We meet Trot and Cap'n Bill on the first page, and immediately, the action begins.  A whirlpool carries them off, but thanks to the protection of invisible mermaids, they survive the ordeal.  They find a cavern and soon, make the acquaintance of an Ork, a strange flying creature with no feathers, but with a propeller tail and four strange disc-like wings.

This book has so much plot, I am exhausted attempting to summarize it!  The trio find an island inhabited by a cranky man named Pessim, a mountain in the Land of Mo where it rains lemonade and snows popcorn, and on the mountain, they find little Button Bright, who traveled with Dorothy, the Shaggy Man, and Polychrome on The Road to Oz.  

Eventually, the three humans hitch a ride with three overgrown birds (thanks, magic berries), dangling from swings(!) between the birds' legs, with the Ork leading the way.  They wind up in a secluded country in the land of Oz called Jinxland, dealing with corrupt kings, separated lovers, and a witch named Blinkie, who turns Cap'n Bill into a grasshopper.

And in Glinda's palace in the Quadling Country, reading all about these events in Glinda's magic book, is the beloved Scarecrow, who sets off to save the day.

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It's been nearly five years since I read this one to Big Sis the first time, and we're only as far as the flight into Oz, so I'm rattling off what details I can remember.  If memory serves me, there are a lot of twists and turns in Jinxland, and I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the book again.

And here is the film that came before it.  As far as prints go, this one is decent and the music that accompanies it is very nice.  Amazing to think it was made 100 years ago!

The next book in the series is also the last one I own, as of right now:  Rinkitink in Oz.  The girls are getting antsy for book 11, The Lost Princess of Oz.  It's the first Oz book Big Sis truly remembers from the first time we read the books, and it's a fun one.  So many favorite characters, some entertaining new ones, and some of my favorite John R. Neill illustrations...  Must finish this one, then must plow through Rinkitink.  Must get Lost Princess.  Thank goodness I have a birthday coming soon...

Merry Weekend!  Happy Reading!

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Have You Seen My Dragon?

One of our favorite books we read this year is Zephyr Takes Flight by Steve Light [see here], not too surprising considering my littlest daughter's fascination with all things airplane-related.  As we browsed the new release picture book shelf at the library last week, Big Sis saw this book and asked if we could check it out.  I had read about it somewhere - the cover was familiar - and said, sure.  It wasn't until we read the book that I realized that the author-illustrator was none other than the man behind Zephyr.

Have You Seen My Dragon? by Steve Light.
Candlewick Press, 2014.  

The book is relatively simple.  The little boy asks someone if they've seen his dragon.  He thinks of a new place the dragon might be, and heads there to look.  It's also a counting book.  The illustrations are in detailed black and white, with the object(s) being counted in color.

My daughters may be too old for a counting book, but they will never outgrow fabulous illustrations.  And who can outgrow a travelogue?  Because before you know it, Light has taken you on a tour of New York City!  Every place where the boy looks for his dragon is a location in New York.  The endpapers outline each place the boy visits.

Can you guess where the boy finally finds his dragon?  Note the style of dragon...

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014


My girls are getting older, and while we love to read our "big kid books," either together or separately, we still have a healthy appreciation for beautiful picture books.  

We have about ten checked out from the library at any given time.  As far as recent releases go, this one is especially wonderful.

Gaston by Kelly DiPucchio,
illustrated by Christian Robinson.
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2014.
First of all, look at that cover.  I think it's perfectly safe to do away with that "Don't judge a book by its cover" cliche.  I would frame a print of this cover and hang it on my wall, wouldn't you?  

(Don't judge the book by my photographs.  I had trouble with lighting yesterday.)

 Mama Poodle has four puppies.  One of the puppies, Gaston, doesn't look or act like the others.  He is sloppy and clumsy and loud.

But Mrs. Poodle loves all of her pups, and being different only makes Gaston work harder at being graceful and quiet.

Then one day, on a trip to the park, the poodles meet a bulldog family.  A bulldog family with a familiar "problem."

Mrs. Poodle and Mrs. Bulldog agree that there seems to have been a mix-up, and decide to try switching their odd pups.  Despite their outward appearances, though:

They continue the switch at home, but things do not go well.  Antoinette may have been a gentle poodle on the outside, but she was much more of a bulldog than Gaston.

And Gaston was raised to be gentle and quiet, and clearly did not fit in with the other bulldogs.

Their mothers missed their own misfit pups, as well.  The next day, they race to the park, agreeing they had made a mistake.

The book has an adorable surprise ending that I won't spoil here.

The text is breezy and fun.  We enjoyed the story very much.

Now let's talk illustrations.

I'm in love with these pictures.  I love the colors, the brushstrokes.  I'm about to check out the most recent picture book about Josephine Baker, also illustrated by Christian Robinson.  I think he is poised to become one of my favorites.  Check out his website, which includes a page full of animations.

Big Sis wants "a Gaston puppy."  Both girls love bulldogs, although really, Little Sis is afraid of dogs.  She did, however, actually pet a bulldog at the KC Renaissance Festival last fall, because it shared her first name! Unfortunately, I've been told that bulldogs may not be the best choice for families.  They tend to be "one person dogs."  Anyone out there care to chime in?  We won't be getting a dog for a while yet, and it will definitely have to be a smaller dog that will spend most of its time indoors.  I'm trying to get the girls to understand that it will probably be a mixed-breed from a shelter, and that they shouldn't become too set on specific breed.

Anyhoo, we're heading back to the library today.  More holds have arrived, I have stuff to return, and I need out of the house!  I have strep throat again.  I've been on antibiotics for 2 days now, so I'm no longer contagious.  My doc wants me to see an ENT specialist.  She thinks I might need to have my tonsils out. Um, yay?

I'll have another cool recently-released picture book to share with you tomorrow!

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Saturday, July 12, 2014

Happy Weekend

My Friday reading roundup is a bit late - this one will go out early Saturday morning!  How has your week been?  Mine hasn't been perfect.  My transmission went kaput the night of the Sarah McLachlan concert in Kansas City last week.  While I am grateful Big Sis and I made it home safely, unfortunately, the financial headache associated with the car has put a damper on things.  Plans are changing, and I've been battling my own personal issues, so I apologize if my little blog has been quiet.  We have read a few books, and I thought I'd share some now.  There are a few I want to feature next week, though, so it's nice to actually have bloggy plans again!

Today (Saturday), we head to the roller skating rink for Little Sis's best friend's birthday.  That's the two of them picking out treats from the ice cream truck.  Most of the time, we hear "La Cucaracha" or "The Entertainer" or "Turkey in the Straw."  This truck was playing Beethoven's "Fur Elise."  We had to flag him down!

And now for books!

What I Read 

Fairest by Gail Carson Levine.  HarperCollins, 2006.

While I'm midway through an actual adult book, I took a timeout when my hold for this one came through at the library.  Set in the same fantasy world as Ella Enchanted, with a crossover appearance by that novel's foolish fairy, Lucinda, Fairest is an interesting retelling of "Snow White."  The main difference is that Aza, the main character, is not fair at all.  She is considered worse than plain:  too tall, too pale, too large.  In fact, she is used to rude stares and comments.  She takes comfort in music.  Singing is regarded as very important in her country, and Aza has one of the best voices anywhere, and can even throw her voice, like a ventriloquist. (She is a mimic as well.) Aza is the adopted daughter of innkeepers, and when one of the guests, a duchess, needs a companion to attend the king's wedding, Aza is invited to go along.  The new queen is beautiful and vain, but decides she wants the awkward, unattractive Aza to be her lady-in-waiting.  The story really takes off from there.  It's an interesting take on the old fairy tale.  It's nice to have an honest-to-goodness physically unattractive heroine, who discovers there is much more to herself than her looks.  It isn't as fun to read as Ella Enchanted, but I'll pass it along to the girls when they're older.

Under The Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald.  Dial, 2014.

Oh good grief, I loved this book!  I told Mr. B the entire story the night I finished it, and as soon as each daughter is old enough, I will point them in the direction of Under the Egg.  Fiction can teach so much, and there are some big topics here:  poverty, WWII / the Holocaust, art history.  Even the deux ex machina ending worked for me.  It's about a very poor but self-sufficient girl in New York, and the mystery that unravels when she accidentally spills rubbing alcohol on her grandfather's painting.  With the help of a girl she meets that very day - the daughter of movie stars, no less - she uncovers the secrets of her grandfather's past.

What I'm Reading

Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times by Emma Trevayne.  Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2014.

Okay, really, I just started this one today, and I haven't had a chance to get very far.  But here is what you need to know:  it's a steampunk novel for kids!!!  And look at that cover!  Yes, I totally checked it out based on the cover art.  I'm very excited to delve into it.

Oh, and I'm also still reading The Devil in the White City.

What Big Sis and I Listened to On the Way to Kansas City

A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book the Fifth: The Austere Academy by Lemony Snicket.  Performed by Lemony Snicket, with original music by The Gothic Archies.  HarperCollins, 2003.  (Hardcover edition, 2000.)

Big Sis and I listened to the first two audiobooks in the series, narrated by Tim Curry, but we took turns reading the third and fourth books aloud.  We did check the third book out from the library, but the first CD skipped badly, and to be frank, we missed Tim Curry.  Daniel Handler, aka Lemony Snicket, is a very funny guy and he does a great job, but he just isn't Tim Curry.  I love Tim Curry, have I ever mentioned that?  He is one of my favorites.  We needed an audiobook for our KC trip, though, and we were ready for this one.  We loved it.  This series is so macabre and funny and we laughed so many times together.  If we do head out of town next weekend, I'll try to grab the next couple of audiobooks.  Tim Curry takes over from Book the Sixth on!

What The Girls and I Read

The Day the Cow Sneezed by Jim Flora.  Originally published by Harcourt Brace, 1957.  New edition by Enchanted Lion Books, 2010.

I've read about Jim Flora on several other blogs in the past, but I  finally got around to checking his stuff out last week.  Flora was a fabulous mid-century graphic designer and artist.  He is especially well-known for his wonderful album covers.  Our library system had a few of his books, and we checked out three of them, as well as an art book about his work.  This one was Little Sis's favorite.  She is especially taken with his art.  Ward Jenkins did a very popular post on it, pre-reprint, on his blog, The Ward-O-Matic.

The Fabulous Firework Family by Jim Flora.  Originally published by Harcourt, 1955.  Most recent edition by Margaret K. McElderry, 1994.

Big Sis and I preferred this one.  It's the story of Pepito and his family in Mexico.  They are preparing the annual fireworks display for a village festival.  Throughout the book are Spanish vocabulary words.  It's a fascinating little book.  And look, in 1959, there was a Terrytoon short made of the book!

And yes, we did check out one other book by Jim Flora, but I plan to recheck that one in time for Halloween!  

Hank Finds an Egg by Rebecca Dudley.  Peter Pauper Press, 2013.

I know, I know, I'm a little late getting to this one.  What a darling, charming book!  Dudley's dioramas are simply amazing.  So much detail, I can't even describe.  The girls ooh-ed and aah-ed and oh!-ed at each wordless page.  The story is simple.  Little Hank finds an egg in the woods.  He spies the nest in a tree.  He tries standing on a stump, and even makes a ladder, but he just can't reach the nest.  So he builds a little campfire (so cute!) and goes to sleep.  The next day, the mother hummingbird finds Hank and her fallen egg.  Hank makes a little package for the egg, which the bird is able to carry in her beak.  Soon, the eggs hatch, and the book ends with three little hummingbirds, flying over Hank's head.  A sequel comes out this fall!

The Boy and the Airplane by Mark Pett.  Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2013.

Another wordless picture book!  A little boy receives a toy plane.  He loves the plane, as we see him playing with it.  Alas, the plane lands on the roof.  He tries various methods of reaching the plane, to no avail.  [We read this right after Hank Finds an Egg.  At this point, the girls thought I'd picked a weird theme on purpose!]  Finally, the boy plants a seed.  A tree begins to grow.  As the tree grows, so does the boy.  The tree is finally large enough for the boy to climb and reach the roof, but the boy is no longer a boy.  He is an old man.  The ending was humorously sweet.  

The girls and I are visiting Oz again!  After finishing our Pippi books, we decided to tackle the rest of Tik-Tok of Oz.  It's only taken, oh, you know...  seven months!  Now that we're finally through with it, we've moved on to The Scarecrow of Oz, so look for another "Oz & Ends" post next week! 

Beyond books, the girls and I started watching a little cult TV, mostly Doctor Who (the first season of the reboot) and Once Upon a Time, which I started watching once upon a time, but never got through the first season.  The Disney aspect - you know, the Disney character names and plot points - was too much for me. However, enough time has passed and Big Sis wanted to watch it, so we started the series again.  Little Sis is into Adventure Time, Big Sis still  loves Dennis the Menace, both girls love Ruby Gloom and Phineas and Ferb.  Don't worry, we don't spend all our time indoors.  We have the inflatable pool and sprinkler, the fairy house, the swing set, fireflies to chase, mosquitoes to swat...

Yeah, anyway...

By the way, if you want a little eye candy today, I suggest you check out the Mad Tea Party over at A Fanciful Twist.  Vanessa Valencia hosts this amazing blog link-up party every year, and as a big Alice fan, I love to gawk at the amazing Wonderlands people create!

Merry Weekend!  Happy Reading!

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