Thursday, February 26, 2015

Alice, Dorothy, and Lisbeth Zwerger

Even if you are brand new to my little blog, you may have gathered that I am big fan of Lewis Carroll's Alice books and L. Frank Baum's Oz series. Especially if you were familiar with the fact that the magical shoes in the first Oz book were silver, not ruby. Anyway, today I am combining my love for both subjects, as I share with you some beautiful illustrations by Lisbeth Zwerger.

Lisbeth Zwerger is an amazing illustrator from Austria. We have several of her fairy tale books on loan from the library right now. North South, who publishes her books in the United States, recently released a beautiful anthology of her work called Wonderment: The Lisbeth Zwerger Collection. You can read more about it at Design of the Picture Book. Brain Pickings has featured her work, as well.

I doubt I have to provide much commentary here. The stories are the originals by Baum and Carroll. The illustrations are very special, and definitely worth owning if you are a fan of either book. Unfortunately, these editions are out of print, but used copies can be found for a decent price. There isn't much left for me to say, but ENJOY!

The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum,
illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger.
North-South Books, 1996.

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll,
illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger.
North-South Books, 1999. 

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Year I Didn't Go To School

The Year I Didn't Go to School by Giselle Potter.
Atheneum / Anne Schwartz Books, 2002.

This spring, my daughters and I will be in a local production of Shakespeare's Richard III. I'm playing Catesby and understudying Queen Margaret and the Duchess, and the girls will be extras in some crowd scenes. I never did use my theatre performance degree to make a living, but it's hard to give up the stage. It's so much fun having kiddos who enjoy performing, too.

We checked out this book a few years ago, as Giselle Potter is a favorite illustrator of mine. She hasn't written many books of her own, though, and I was excited by the description of this one. It's the true story of how her parents took Giselle and her little sister to Italy for a year, to perform with their family troupe, The Mystic Paper Beasts. They packed their steamer trunks and bid farewell to their grandparents.

My own girls love trying to talk me into taking them out of school. This book is so fantastic, but it's even better because it's true. I think they think that maybe, just maybe, Mom and Dad will pull them out of school to travel around, performing. (Haha. Not happening.)

Seven-year-old Giselle kept journals of her time in Italy. She recorded the tastes and smells and sounds. There was the time a police officer stopped their performance, because they didn't have a permit, and that time their truck got stuck between some buildings. People gawked at their truck, but the only ones who came to their aid were the nearby nuns.

She tells about their performances, the dance and mime and masks. In Spoleto, they shared a house with some circus performers!

She writes about the time she found a shiny red purse. They track down the owner, who invites them to a party at her pizza garden.

Oh, and there was that scary time when her little sister fell asleep and missed her entrance. Her parents through a mask on Giselle and shoved her in front of the audience. The mask was upside down, and it was raining.

 Most of the performance bits seem happy and wonderful, though. Indeed, they look like a lot of fun!

In the end, she is sad to leave Italy behind - how could school live up to all this? - but excited to see her grandparents again.

The endpapers are wonderful. They are excerpts from Giselle Potter's journals from Italy, when she was the same age as my youngest daughter! Little Sis is my artist, as my regular readers know. When she saw the endpapers, she became doubly convinced that she shall grow up to make a living as an artist, too.

For more Giselle Potter goodies, you might check out her website, Etsy shop, or this Pinterest board of mine. I'm very excited to see that she has a new book coming in April, and it's another one she both wrote and illustrated.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Little Red Riding Hood (Jerry Pinkney)

Little Red Riding Hood by Jerry Pinkney.
Little, Brown and Company, 2007.

Today, there is snow on the ground. It should melt soon, but while it's still cold, I thought I'd share one of my favorite library finds, Jerry Pinkney's beautiful retelling of Little Red Riding Hood.

Pinkney is such a brilliant illustrator. He sets his version of the tale in winter, and the red cape in the snowy forest is so lovely.

Grandmama is sick, so Mother makes her chicken soup and raisin muffins. She gives her daughter the usual warning, and sends her off with the basket of goodies. She sets off through the snowy woods, populated with deer, rabbits, squirrels, birds, and you-know-who. The story unfolds in the usual manner. The Wolf throws her off the path, beats her to Grandmama's house, eats lunch, and tricks Little Red. A nearby woodcutter hears the loud snores of the sleeping wolf. Wanting to check on the kindly woman who lives there, he enters the cottage and spies the wolf, his belly moving. He kills the wolf with his axe, then uses Grandmama's sewing shears to cut her and her granddaughter free. After sharing her chicken soup and muffins, Grandmama sends Little Red on her way. "Now, little miss, you be certain to go straight home."

Isn't it a beautiful fairy tale book for the cold winter months? All that snow, but it still seems warm and cozy. Pinkney did a marvelous job with the text, as well. It's folksy and familiar, and flows very well as a read-aloud.

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Friday, February 20, 2015

Friday Reads and Stuff

Happy Friday, wonderful people! Conferences are over, the Book Fair has closed, and we're heading to a birthday party at a trampoline park this evening. The pictures above were taken by the girls! Little Sis decided to play dress-up on Tuesday. Her sister helped her become a ballerina kitty! Then Big Sis turned her hair into mouse ears and dressed up as a little white mouse. I handed her the camera, showed her how to use the self-timer, and let her borrow my tripod. Ta-da! They took these pictures all by themselves. Yes, I totally doctored them up, but aren't they a hoot? Do you see the spoon and fork in Little Kitty's hands?

I've already shared a few things we've read this week, and there are other books I'm holding on to for future posts, but here's my list for today.

Picture Books We Read

The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade by Justin Roberts, illustrated by Christian Robinson. G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers, 2014.

This one caught Little Sis's eye at the book store, so I reserved it from the library. No wonder it caught her eye: I told you Christian Robinson is becoming one of my favorite illustrators! Justin Roberts is a kids' music icon that we listened to a great deal when the girls were smaller. The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade is about the tiny girl no one notices, but who notices everything around her, including bullying. The message of the book is that even the smallest person can make a difference if she makes her voice heard. The girls really liked this one.

Here's a little bookish-related Justin Roberts for you.

Telephone by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jen Corace. Chronicle Books, 2014.

Another one of my favorite illustrators is Jen Corace. This adorable collaboration with Mac Barnett is about an accidental game of "telephone." A mother bird tells another bird to tell her son, Peter, that it's time for dinner. The message is passed from bird to bird, becoming sillier and sillier each time. You can see more of Jen Corace's illustrations at her website.

Winnie: The True Story of the Bear Who Inspired Winnie-The-Pooh by Sally M. Walker, illustrated by Jonathan D. Voss. Holt Books for Young Readers, 2015.

For someone who has loved Winnie-The-Pooh all her life, I was not familiar with this story at all. The girls and I adored this picture book, and we highly recommend it. It is the true story of Harry Colebourn, a veterinarian solder-in-training, who buys an orphaned bear cub at a train station. Stationed out of Winnipeg, he names the cub for the town, calling her Winnie, for short. Winnie becomes the unit's mascot, and when they ship out for England, it's accepted that she will come, too. When the time comes for Colebourn to leave for the battlefields of France, he knows he cannot bring his beloved bear. He secures a place for her at the London Zoo, where she quickly becomes the star attraction. After the war, it's clear to Colebourn that Winnie loves her new home, and he must say goodbye. Winnie was so gentle that she even gave children rides on her back! When little Christopher Robin Milne visited the zoo, he was so taken with Winnie that he renamed Edward, his toy bear, which of course inspired the books and poems by his father, A.A. Milne.

Here is a video about Winnie by the London Zoological Society.

What Little Sis is Reading

Owl Diaries, Book One: Eva's Treetop Festival by Rebecca Elliott. Scholastic, 2015.

During the fall Scholastic Book Fair, I bought Little Sis another Scholastic "Branches" book, the first title in the Princess Pink and the Land of Fake-Believe series. Little Sis loves being read to, but she doesn't always like reading on her own. She's actually a good reader. Her teacher says she has no trouble at school. The problem, I've discovered, is that when she is at home, she always has to be doing something with her hands! And yes, that usually means drawing. When I read to her, she usually draws away. I think she gets fidgety reading on her own at home. These "Branches" books are great! They are heavily illustrated, with fewer words per page than most early chapter books. She turns pages more often, which keeps her hands busy, and she loves the pictures. We bought this adorable book yesterday, and she zipped through the first five chapters! She read it aloud to me for fun, running to show me pictures that were especially cute. It was such a hit, we went back to the book fair to buy a second copy to give as a birthday present tonight!

What Big Sis is Reading

The Sisters Grimm, Book One: The Fairy Tale Detectives by Michael Buckley, illustrated by Peter Ferguson. Amulet Books, 2005.

Big Sis knew about these books, when she asked me about them at our favorite indie book store, one day. I was going to request it from the library, but I managed to earn a ten dollar coupon with my loyalty card, so I got it for her! She keeps it in her desk at school, for silent reading time. She wants you to know that she really, really likes it! It's about two sisters, "and their ancestors are the Brothers Grimm! And they're fairy tale detectives!" (The exclamation marks and words are all hers, folks.)

Big Sis is now reading Book Three of Spiderwick Chronicles, here at home. She's loving the series, and when we watched the movie last week, she enjoyed it, too.

What I Read

This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Originally published by Scribner, 1920. (One of my favorite book covers.) My copy is a cheap Dover Thrift Edition, purchased around 1996.

This completed my "five books from five different decades" entry in the library's Adult Winter Reading Program. Oh, Fitzgerald. I love me some Gatsby and many of his short stories, but this one was a chore for me. (So was Tender is the Night, which I read a decade ago.) I wanted to like it much more than I did, especially as someone who loves the time period. Amory Blaine is an irritating protagonist, some of the book is written as a play, and there are quite a few secondary characters, but you never quite get to know any of them very well.

I'm now reading First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen, which is a lot more fun.

What We've Been Watching

The girls discovered Good Luck, Charlie on Netflix, which marks the first non-animated or non-preschool Disney Channel show Mr. B and I like! It makes us laugh, and the actors, especially Bridgit Mendler ("Teddy"), are much more realistic than what we're used to from Disney.

Little Sis started it. Big Sis joined in. We are now a family of Adventure Time fans. The girls watched the first two seasons on Netflix, over and over again (no cable!), then we borrowed season 3 and season 4 on DVD from the library. Mr. B got an Amazon gift card for his birthday, and treated us to season 5 on Amazon Instant, because he loves us soooo much. Marceline and the Ice King (Marcy and Simon!) are my favorite characters. I realize I'm 37 years old, but I really would love a pair of Adventure Time Dr. Martens. I would settle for a cool t-shirt, but Cartoon Network seems to think "Women's" only means "Juniors," with a few (very few) fitted adult t-shirts thrown in. I'm way too big for a junior shirt, but I like my shirts to have a flattering cut. Thanks for giving a crap for your grown women fans, Cartoon Network. I guess I don't really need to wear cartoon character apparel, though.

Mr. B and I drifted away from Downton Abbey again, but Grantchester is another story. We loooove Grantchester! I'm so bummed that this Sunday's episode is the finale, although there will another season. We've decided that we'll start the second (and last, sigh) season of The Paradise on Netflix next week. We loved the first season, but life was too busy to catch the second season on PBS.

The only movie we've seen in the theater is Paddington. What a perfectly charming movie! I adored it, and can't wait for Mr. B to see it, too. Here is the trailer.

I'll leave you with my favorite Justin Roberts music video. When the girls were tiny, and this song would come up on a "Move to the Music" segment on Noggin, I would crank it up and sing along. It just makes me happy.

Merry Weekend! Happy Reading!

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