Friday, August 22, 2014


Is this really only my second post this week?  I'll try to cook something up for next week.  In the meantime, here are a few Instagram shots:  a fun window at one of our favorite used book stores; a Bingo card from the cool Bingo game from my grandma; Little Sis's Labyrinth t-shirt, worn today; my old Barbie Dream House Colorforms Play Set from the early '80s, found at Grandma's; Jenny looking pretty on my mother-in-law's old quilt; Mabel snuggled on the couch cushion by my shoulder; and the little rabbit who just moved into the drama room at the girls' school.

So...  on to books!

What We Read

Hilda and the Bird Parade by Luke Pearson.  Nobrow / Flying Eye Books, 2013.

We love the Hildafolk books!  It's taken us way too long to get to this, the third Hilda book.  Poor Hilda and her mother have left the beautiful countryside of the earlier books, and moved to a nameless big city.  Her mother is afraid to let Hilda go outside and play unsupervised.  When a group of kids from school ask Hilda to come out and play, her mother grudgingly agrees, asking her to be home before dark so they can go to the Bird Parade together.  Hilda doesn't have much in common with the city kids.  She doesn't understand "ding dong ditch," and winds up having a pleasant conversation with an old lady.  She has never played Kick the Can.  And she certainly would never purposely harm a bird.  Separated from the other children, Hilda cares for the bird, who can talk, but has forgotten who he is and how to fly.  Hilda doesn't know her way home, so the two set off together.  The bird, it turns out, is not your average bird, and the ending was very cool.  We have the latest book checked out as well, and we will read it this weekend!

Fancy Nancy's Fabulous Fall Storybook Collection by Jane O'Connor, with pictures based on the art by Robin Preiss Glasser.  HarperCollins, 2014.

My girls are not as into Fancy Nancy these days, but they still like to read the books, for nostalgia's sake, if nothing else. They no longer play dress-up or like to wear twirly dresses. This book, a new release, comprises six previously released titles, two 8x8 paperbacks and four paperbacks from the I Can Read beginning readers series: Fancy Nancy: Halloween . . .Or Bust!; Fancy Nancy: Fancy Day in Room 1-A; Fancy Nancy: Splendid Speller; Fancy Nancy: Apples Galore!; Fancy Nancy: The 100th Day of School; and Fancy Nancy: Our Thanksgiving Banquet. We own at least a couple of those books, and we've read all the others.  There is something special about holding a pretty hardcover with an autumn-themed cover, though, especially in late August, when the heat and mosquitoes and sweat are bashing you over the head.  I'm so ready for fall, you guys.

What Big Sis Is Reading

Henry And Beezus by Beverly Cleary.  Originally published by Morrow, 1952.  Most recent paperback edition by HarperCollins, 2014.

Big Sis picked this out at The Reading Reptile in Kansas City, and has picked it up a few times since she got it.  Now that school is back in session, she keeps it in her desk to read during silent reading.

A Time for Courage: The Suffragette Diary of Kathleen Bowen, Washington, D.C., 1917 (Dear America) by Kathryn Lasky.  Scholastic, 2001.  

The Dear America books were popular in my earliest bookselling days, along with their various spin-off series:  My Name is America, My America, The Royal Diaries...  They're fictionalized journals about a certain time in American history, written from the point of view of a girl or young woman during that time.  I used to admire the books when I shelved them.  They were so nicely packaged, pretty little hardcovers with ribbon markers.  Anyway, Big Sis started this one last night.  It's a bit advanced for her, but she discovered that the My America books were too easy.  She can breeze through one in an hour or less.  After watching a few episodes of the PBS television series based on the books (thank you, Netflix), she was eager to read more.

What Little Sis Checked Out From the Library

The Never Girls #1: In a Blink by Kiki Thorpe, illustrated by Jana Christy.  Random House / Disney, 2013.

I still think she's overreaching, but Little Sis will only check out chapter books now, and oooh, look, Disney Fairies!  We might alternate pages on this one.  While her teacher says she is ahead of her first grade class in reading and spelling, I still think this is a bit too much for her.  Sigh.  She just wants to be big!

What I Read

The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell.  Atria Books, 2014.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Lisa Jewell is a British writer I've liked for some time.  Her books were different from the other female writers to emerge in the wake of Bridget Jones' Diary in that they usually gave the men in the stories equal time.  She seemed as at home on the shelf with Nick Hornby than Helen Fielding.  Many of her books have that breezy, comical feel to them, but this is one of her weightier ones.  In fact, I think this is the heaviest book she's ever written.  It's about the Bird family, and they are as dysfunctional as you can get.  There's hoarding, suicide, infidelity, arrests, drugs, unplanned pregnancies, weird neighbors.  The book is nonlinear in plotline.  We first meet Lorelei, mother and pathological hoarder, via an email she is sending to a gentleman friend.  Then we jump ahead a bit to April 2011, where her eldest daughter, Megan, and her daughter are arriving to clean and pack up the house following Lorelai's death.  We travel back and forth through time, to a perfect family Easter in the early 1980s, to various Easters that follow, from child to grown child, from partner to spouse.  It was compelling enough to keep me reading until two in the morning, and I admit to feeling real sadness at times, especially for Megan, but there was something about the book that kept me from loving it.  Perhaps it was too much dysfunction, that Jerry Springer-y soapiness that made it seem too unreal sometimes.  Occasionally, I felt like I was reading the script for a movie, some indie film with an unconventional narrative structure.  It felt a little clunky.  I'm still a Lisa Jewell fan, though, and like I stated above, I did care what happened to her characters, as bizarre as their lives were.

This weekend will be full of auditions:  I'm auditioning for a play tomorrow - along with half the actresses in town - and Big Sis is auditioning for The Nutcracker this Sunday!  Little Sis is watching the same two seasons of Adventure Time on Netflix - oh, how I wish they'd add another season or two! - and Mr. B is working on the railroad, all the livelong day.  

And school is going well, from what I can tell!  I'm going crazy with the quiet...

Merry Weekend!  Happy Reading!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Mouse and the Lion

The Mouse and the Lion (A Parents' Magazine Press "Reading Readiness" Book)
by Eve Titus, illustrated by Leonard Weisgard.
Parents' Magazine Press, 1962.

Today, as I was updating our "Books, Authors & Artists We Love" page, it occurred to me that my little blog is sorely lacking in Leonard Weisgard love.  Lucky for me, this darling book has been patiently waiting its turn to be showcased.

Written by Eve Titus of Anatole and Basil of Baker Street  fame, The Mouse and the Lion is not a retelling of the famous fable by Aesop.   Instead, it is the tale of a little mouse and a mighty lion, who set off separately to find a city, in order to see people.

A kind fairy sees the mouse, and knows where he is going and why.  She is certain the mouse will be struck with fear when he sees how big people are, so she tearfully waves her wand and casts a spell:  in the eyes of human beings, the mouse will appear as large as a lion.  Next she spies the lion, and can see he is off to the city, too.  This time, she fears for the people of the city and weeps.  Another spell is cast:  in the eyes of human beings, the lion will appear as small as a mouse.
Then her eyes twinkled.  "There'll be many a mixup today!"
And away the fairy flew - right out of this book! 

The mouse finds himself in front of a small country school, where he frightens two little boys.  "Mouse Monster!" they cry.  The mouse is confused.  The boys were so big!  How could they be afraid of little him?

The mouse scurries away.  The teacher fails to see the "giant" mouse, and the boys must write, "A mouse is not a monster," on the blackboard five hundred times.

When the children go outside for recess...

they spy the lion!  The lion is confused.  The children, especially the little girls, think he is the cutest thing they have ever seen!  They argue about who should take him home.  One girl tries to grab him, but he runs away.

Eventually, the mouse finds himself in the Museum of Natural History.  He is mistaken for part of an exhibit, until he sneezes.  The people run from the exhibit, screaming about the "mouse monster."

Then the lion enters the now-empty museum.  He finds the big cat exhibit, and the stuffed tiger terrifies him.  The museum guard enters, and before the lion can hide, the guard approaches him.  He wants to put the "tiny" lion in a cage for the lion specialist.  The lion manages to get away.

Finally, the lion and the mouse bump into each other.  The lion apologizes, in case he hurt the little mouse. Lions are good to mice, ever since the mouse in the fable saved the life of one of their own.  They tell each other a bit about their crazy day, then the lion gives the mouse a lift home.

The mouse was met by friends who clapped and cheered to see him sliding down the lion's tail!
He lived happily thereafter, and of one thing you may be sure - never again did he visit the world of people. 

The lion runs home to the forest, where the other creatures welcome him in a way fitting for the King of Beasts.

He lived happily thereafter, and of another thing you may be sure - never again did he visit the world of people.

The lion and the mouse did leave a lot for the people of the city to remember and talk about for years to come!

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Friday, August 15, 2014

Happy Friday!

Seriously!  Happy Friday!  It's our first Friday of the new school year, and the girls were already looking forward to the weekend.  Little Sis has a sleepover tonight, and Big Sis's plans include the two of us consuming large quantities of popcorn and season 3 of Once Upon A Time.  The photo above illustrates our week well.  We came home from Joplin with a pickup full of stuff from my late mother-in-law's storage unit. This called for some major cleaning, organizing, and rearranging.  The little rocking chair, rainbow afghan, and stuffed clown (Bobo) were from her place.  (She made Bobo for my husband when he was a baby.) We also did some major work on the kitchen, which included reorganizing the baker's rack so it almost looks nice!  And Tuesday, the girls started first and third grades.  I love their teachers, and I have very high hopes for this year.  So, let's begin my usual Friday round-up.

What We Read

Julia, Child by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Julie Morstad.
Tundra Books, 2014.

This book probably deserves its own post.  It's just so wonderful. It is not a picture book about Julia Child.  Rather, it's a book about a child named Julia and her best friend, Simca.  Julia and Simca love to cook together.  They shop at the market and collect recipes, especially French recipes.  "When they dreamt of the future, they always pictured themselves cooking happily together: the oldest children in the world."  You see, they believe grown-ups are too busy, too hurried, incapable of the kind of fun Julia and Simca have together.  They invent new recipes to bring out the child in the adults around them.  At first, the adults become so childlike that they become greedy and argumentative.  However, all it takes is one last recipe to make the adults see the wonder around them.  Morstad's illustrations are stunners.  The adults are rendered in black and white, like the colorless entities the children think they are.  Other clever touches include the name of the girls' recipe book:  "Mastering the Art of Childhood."  You can see more of the book at its page at Tundra Books.  It is also featured on their blog today, because today is Julia Child's birthday!  She would have turned 102 today.  Be sure to check out the printable recipe cards. They're adorable!

No book trailer. Let's celebrate Julia Child instead!

Matilda's Cat by Emily Gravett.  Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2014.  

Emily Gravett makes such wonderful picture books.  If you have ever had a cat and a young child - at the same time - you will understand this book.  Little Matilda, in her cat costume, tries throughout the book to engage her cat in her favorite activities:  playing with yarn and boxes, riding her trike, having a tea party, wearing hats, drawing, climbing, reading...  Each page claims "Matilda's cat likes ____," only the illustration always proves otherwise.  The cat is either uninterested or scared.  Finally, the book admits that "Matilda's cat does not like" the entire list of activities.  The last page shows little Matilda and her kitty curled up, asleep.  "Matilda's cat likes Matilda."  It is as adorable as it sounds.

Noah's Ark by Jerry Pinkney.  Chronicle Books, 2002.

Every time we pick up a book illustrated by the amazing Jerry Pinkney, the girls ooh and ahh, then start planning his next book.  "He should do this next!" or "I wish he'd do a version of this."  A Pinkney book is a special book.  The paintings in this one are breathtaking, as usual.  Otherwise, it's just a simple retelling of the Noah story.  Little Sis chose this one.  She liked the giraffes on the cover.

Here is a nice little Q&A session with Jerry Pinkney via Scholastic.

Amelia Earhart: Female Pioneer in Flight by Lori Mortenson, illustrated by Robert McGuire. Picture Window Books, 2008.

True, we seldom learn anything new by reading every picture book under the sun about Little Sis's hero.  We've read it all before.  This is a great intro to Amelia, though, covering her life from her birth in Atchison, Kansas, to her famous disappearance.  The illustrations have an interesting moody quality.  

Obviously, Little Sis has dominated our picture book choices this week, because here is one more...

Night Flight: Amelia Earhart Crosses the Atlantic by Robert Burleigh, illustrated by Wendell Minor.  Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, 2011.

Back in March, as we read books for Women's History Month, we read two picture books about Harriet Quimby, the first woman to cross the English Channel.  One book was a straightforward biography.  The second was a tense, compact account of that historic flight.  I felt a bit of 
déjà vu as we read these Amelia Earhart books.  While the one above was a straightforward biography, Night Flight is a tense, compact account of one historic flight:  her solo flight over the Atlantic Ocean in 1932.  Amelia Earhart was not only the first woman to cross the Atlantic in a plane, but she was only the second person to do it solo.  (The first was Charles Lindbergh, of course.)  It was a harrowing flight.  There was a storm, her altimeter stopped working, and she almost landed in the ocean, but she finally managed to land in a farmer's field in Ireland.  The art is gorgeous, and the book gives you a real sense of the danger and excitement of air travel back then.

We are also working on Rinkitink in Oz.  Not too far yet, but I hope we can read more this weekend.

What I Read

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.  Dutton Children's Books, 2012.

No, I haven't seen the movie, and I probably won't until it's out on DVD.  I just don't get to the movie theater often.  But with all the attention the movie got, and after listening to stories on public radio like this one, I wanted to check it out.  I knew it's a wildly popular book about two teenagers with cancer who fall in love.  I knew it was a tearjerker.  My thoughts?  Well, my somewhat pretentious, know-it-all, alternative music-listening 16-year-old self would have loved it.  Hazel and Augustus are not sentimental, drippy characters.  And they talk a lot.  A. Lot.  In big metaphors.  My adult self did tear up, but I wasn't exactly a mess.  It just didn't speak to the adult me.  Some of the dialogue and Hazel's narration made my eyes roll, to be honest.  Remembering what I was a like as a teen, though, I can see why so many teens love it.  That's my kind assessment.  It just isn't for me.

Just for fun, though, here is the music video for "Boom Clap" by Charli XCX, featuring clips from the movie.
Big Sis goes around singing it all the time, and both of my tiny nieces like to dance to it.

Beyond Books

I spent yesterday afternoon watching Mork & Mindy episodes on Hulu.  I hadn't seen it in years, but it still made me laugh.  I cried when I heard that Robin Williams committed suicide this week. He was so much a part of my childhood.  Besides watching Mork & Mindy, I actually remember seeing Popeye in the theater with my parents.  I was about 3 1/2.  It was one of the first movies my parents bought for our SelectaVision CED video disc player.  I didn't care for the cartoons as a child, but I still love Robert Altman's weird film version.  Between Harry Nilsson's music and the pitch-perfect cast, it's one of my favorite movies from the '80s.

Popeye is currently streaming on Netflix, as well as Amazon Instant Video.  (It's free if you have Amazon Prime.)  The girls watched Hook again the other night.  Little Sis thinks she might be ready to try Jumanji again.  (Both movies are on Netflix:  see here and here.)  

Robin Williams also starred in the first episode of Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre on Showtime.  This is one of the best episodes from that series.  My family and I were just quoting it at my birthday get-together last Saturday, in fact.

I was also sad about the passing of Lauren Bacall.  I was in middle school before I ever saw one of her movies (How To Marry A Millionaire), but she was a mythic figure in my early childhood.  My mother was reading her autobiography when she was pregnant with my little sister.  I was named after an older friend of my mother's.  My sister was named after Lauren Bacall.  By the way, I have my mother's copy of that book, and I did read it in high school, around the time that Humphrey Bogart became my favorite old movie star. Now Bogie has his Baby again.  

And...  that's my Friday post.  Or to borrow a phrase from yesterday's post:

"That's all there is.  There isn't any more."

Merry Weekend!  Happy Reading!

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Madeline (Little Golden Book)

Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans.  First published by Simon & Schuster, 1939.
Pictured here are the current hardcover by Viking Penguin, 1958,
and the Little Golden Book edition by Simon & Schuster, 1954.

 As a collector of Little Golden Books, one I was especially happy to find was Ludwig Bemelmans's classic Madeline.  The original book was first published in 1939 by Simon & Schuster, after being rejected by Viking.  (Viking took over as publisher of the Madeline books in the late 1950s.)  Simon & Schuster was also the original publisher of Little Golden Books, and in 1954, a Little Golden Book edition of Madeline appeared.

I loved this book as a child.  I think I was familiar with the 1952 UPA cartoon first.  It frequently aired on Nickelodeon's Pinwheel.  My first Madeline book was Madeline and the Bad Hat.  My grandmother found a used copy at a garage sale.  It lives on my daugters' shelves now.  We have a treasury of all five original Bemelmans's books, as well as the hardcover reprint of the first book by Viking Penguin.  The Little Golden Book is so interesting, though, because of the COLORS!

Surely, you know this book.  "In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines / lived twelve little girls in two straight lines."  Madeline is the smallest and bravest of the girls, but one night, she wakes up crying and screaming.  The doctor comes and diagnoses appendicitis.  She is raced to the hospital.  One day, the other girls visit and are amazed by the toys and candy gifts Madeline has received.  She also shows off her scar.  That night, Miss Clavel is awakened by more crying.  She rushes to the room.  "We want our appendix out, too!" the girls wail.  By the way, the final line ("And that's all there is. There isn't any more.") was a tribute to stage actress Ethel Barrymore, who famously uttered those words during curtain call one night.  (See more facts via Mental Floss.)

The text is the same, but there are fewer illustrations.  As you can see, in the original hardcover, there are individual illustrations for "the smallest one was Madeline" and "She was not afraid of mice" and "She loved winter, snow, and ice."  In the Little Golden Book version, all of that text appears on one page.

To make the book more visually appealing in its smaller format, color was added!  Have a look at the original two-color version of this page, compared to the full-color page in the Little Golden Book.

Here is another example.  

In addition to the Madeline minisite run by Penguin, there is an official Madeline website at

More fun links:

An NPR story about the character's 75th birthday, last year.
A New York Times article about the character, and a recent art exhibit at the New York Historical Society.
And while younger kids enjoyed multiple Madeline adventures on television and film, I grew up with this:

There was also a Shirley Temple's Storybook episode devoted to Madeline.  If you're in the U.S., it's available to watch on Hulu.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Simon Sisters Sing for Children

I bought this for myself.  True, the title suggests it's for children, but I totally bought it for ME, not the girls.  I found it at the Vintage Stock store on South Main Street in Joplin.

My little brother was born when I was 10 1/2.  My mother had a cassette tape of lullabies she would play. Side One was with (beautiful) vocals, Side Two was instrumental versions of the same songs.  Perhaps the loveliest song was a lovely version of  Eugene Field's poem "Wynken, Blynken and Nod," one of my favorites.  I always remembered that the music was credited to folksinger Buffy Sainte-Marie.  When I would read the poem to the girls, I always sang it to the melody on the tape.

Years later, I finally saw a clip of Buffy Sainte-Marie singing her version of "Wynken, Blynken and Nod."  It's pretty, but it wasn't the melody on the tape.

Then as I was playing around on the internet, I found a clip of The Simon Sisters singing their version of the poem.  This is the melody I knew.  The music was written by Lucy Simon, older sister of the more famous Carly.

The Simon Sisters had a short recording career.  This album was a re-recording of a 1969 album called The Simon Sisters Sing The Lobster Quadrille and Other Songs for Children.  It was released in 1973.  You can check out the Wikipedia entry to read more. As you can see from the track listing, the album consists of lovely musical renditions of famous poems, including "The Owl and the Pussycat," another favorite of mine.

(Click image to enlarge.)

While Lucy didn't have the pop music success that Carly enjoyed, she did become a successful composer on Broadway.  In 1991, along with playwright Marsha Norman, she was nominated for a Tony for Best Original Score for the musical The Secret Garden.  Her musical heart does seem to lie with literature.  Fitting that she is the daughter of one of the founders of Simon & Schuster.

Carly Simon has a page for this album on her website.  You can find a used CD on Amazon, stream the album on Spotify, or purchase it to download on iTunes.

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Monday, August 11, 2014

Rinkitink in Oz

Rinkitink in Oz by L. Frank Baum, illustrated by John R. Neill.
Originally published by Reilly & Britton, 1916.
Books Of Wonder edition, HarperCollins, 1998.
And now we come to the tenth book in the Oz series!  Rinkitink was the first book in the series I bought to own.  The library had every book except this one.  I just received the eleventh book for my birthday, so we're good to go for a little while. 

I could not remember much of the plot when we began reading last week.  Baum did not intend for this to be an Oz book.  In fact, none of the famous inhabitants of Oz appear until near the end of the book, and it doesn't even take place in Oz!

The book begins on the Island of Pingaree, where we meet the young Prince Inga.  Inga's father has just told him the secret of the three magic pearls that help protect the kingdom, a gift from the mermaids many years before, when a small ship arrives, bearing jolly King Rinkitink of Rinkitink, and his talking goat.  Rinkitink has sneaked away from his own kingdom in order to pay his respects to his neighbors.  

One day, invaders from the islands of Regos and Corregos storm the island.  The king has no chance to grab the magic pearls from their hiding place.  All but Inga, Rinkitink, and the goat are taken to be slaves, and all the buildings on Pingaree are torn down.  Inga retrieves the pearls and with the jovial Rinkitink and his surly goat, he sets sail to save his parents and kingdom.

From there, I'm afraid, I will need to read the book!  So much happens!  Please read the synopsis on Wikipedia if you're desperate to know what happens next.

I do remember that the Nome King figures into it.  Baum started this book in 1905, when the Nome King was the evil Roquat (later Ruggedo), and before he was deposed in favor of the much nicer Kaliko.  Kaliko becomes a much more complicated character in this one.

Eventually, Dorothy shows up with a basket of eggs to lend a hand.

I have no cool film or television adaptations to link to today, but I do have an extra special treat to show you!  One last birthday present, in fact.  I received a beautiful card and package from the lovely Jane Chérie this weekend!  She is one of the sweetest people in Blogland, I do believe.  Inside the box were four Lalaloopsy mini figures, which was exciting enough.  But I gasped when I realized which mini dolls she had sent me.

Oz Lalaloopsies!!!!

There is Dorothy Gale Winds, Baley Sticks N Straws, Kitty B. Brave, and Tinny Ticker.  Yesterday, the girls and I started plotting a little playhouse for them.  Today, we made another shoe box dollhouse, complete with a yellow brick road, an Emerald City rendered by Little Sis, button flowers, and rocks and button stacks to help prop up the dolls.

Thank you so much, Jane Chérie, for your friendship and for the gifts! xoxoxoxo

Tomorrow is the first day of school!  I can't believe I'm saying this, but the summer was much too short this year!

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