Monday, September 15, 2014

Uni the Unicorn

Uni the Unicorn by Amy Krouse Rosenthal,
illustrated by Bridgette Barrager.  Random House, 2014.

Saturday, Mr. B took the girls to a rainbow unicorn-themed birthday party.  The little girl turned five, and her fabulous baker mommy made her a rainbow cake with ruffly rainbow frosting. I was so jealous I couldn't attend.  But I knew exactly what birthday present to get.  I sent Mr. B to Watermark to get this darling picture book, by one of our favorite picture book authors, Amy Krouse Rosenthal.  

Let's talk about Amy Krouse Rosenthal for a moment.  These days, when we discuss picture book creators, we tend to give most of the props to the illustrators, especially author-illustrators.  In the past, we had some stand-alone authors to celebrate, like Margaret Wise Brown, Charlotte Zolotow, or Ruth Krauss, writers who worked with some of the best artists in the business, but whose creativity also stood alone.  I think Amy Krouse Rosenthal is a throwback to those times.  She works with some of the best modern illustrators - Jen Corace, Peter H. Reynolds, Tom Lichtenheld, Jane Dyer, and LeUyen Pham, among others - who bring her playful texts to life, but those texts are so marvelous on their own.  Her picture books are fun and inventive, and Mr. B and I love them as much as our daughters do.  Just go browse a list of her books.  So much happy!

Uni the Unicorn, subtitled "a story about believing," is about a beautiful unicorn who is just like all the other unicorns.

Well, her mane may be "extra magnificent" and her sparkling purple eyes may be "extra sparkling."

But Uni is unique in one very important way:  she believes in little girls.  Uni believes they really exist.

Her friends laugh at her, her parents humor her, but Uni dreams of the day she will meet a real, live little girl.

And maybe, just maybe, there's a little girl out there, dreaming about meeting a real, live unicorn...

As you can see, the illustrations are exquisite.  Brigette Barrager is new to me, but I love her retro-style art.  I just noticed she illustrated an edition of The Twelve Dancing Princesses for Chronicle Books.  I must check it out!

So yes, if you believe in unicorns, children, or lovely books, check this one out!

And now, you must follow this link and see what happens when a real, live little girl meets a real, live unicorn.  So precious.

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Friday, September 12, 2014

My Friday in Bed

Surgery went swimmingly yesterday.  Looking forward to being able to blow my nose.  It's the small things, folks.  In the meantime, Mr. B and my kitties are taking good care of me.  The girls will be home from school soon. My brothers-in-law in DC sent me a balloon bouquet with a box of Russell Stovers attached.  Last night, Little Sis gave one of her daddy's Brett Favre dolls a fabulous cheerleading section.  Tomorrow, Mr. B takes the girls to not one, but TWO birthday parties, and Sunday, he will run Big Sis to her first Nutcracker rehearsal!  Have I mentioned she will be playing a mouse?  Just like Tallulah in Tallulah's Nutcracker.

Oh, and when Mr. B went to Watermark Books for those birthday presents, he snagged a little something for me, too.

Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Little Golden Book
by Diane Muldrow. Random House, 2013.

Hope to resume normal blogginess next week.

Merry Weekend!  Happy Reading!

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Rusalochka (1976)

So yesterday, I was playing around on the Roku and found a selection of Russian & Soviet films. [It's on a channel we pay for that has a lot of adult content, so I feel weird linking to it here.]  One of the items that caught my eye was a live-action Russian-Bulgarian version of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Mermaid."  I decided to hit play, out of curiosity more than anything.

This was a lovely movie, not perfect by any means, but it had a definite haunting quality that stayed with me the rest of the day.  It opened with Hans Christian Andersen and his party riding in a coach.  From there, he tells the story of "The Little Mermaid."  There were mermaids swimming in the ocean, a ship filled with singing sailors and a handsome prince.  The version I watched was dubbed, but still had English subtitles, which was amusing at times, because they did not match up.  The dubbing was actually done well, with voices appropriate to the characters and mostly matched to their lips.  

The story was somewhat faithful to the original by Andersen, with quite a few changes here and there. The mood and atmosphere, however, was sad and strange, much like the original fairy tale. No Disney ending.  There are some musical moments (which were not dubbed).  I don't know.  I guess the film wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea, but it was an unexpected and enjoyable way to pass some time yesterday morning.

I found a playlist on YouTube.  This one isn't dubbed, but does include subtitles.  The DVD is also available through third-party sellers on Amazon.  If you're interested in fairy tales, Hans Christian Andersen, world cinema, or obscure "children's" movies, check it out.

Someday I need to watch a subtitled version of the gorgeous Soyuzmultfilm animated version from 1968.  There is a low-quality subtitled version floating around in playlist form, but if you're familiar enough with the original tale, you should give it a try as posted below.  It's of a higher quality than the playlist, even though it isn't subtitled.  Gorgeous animation!

I know "The Little Mermaid" is a problematic story.  The mermaid is so masochistic and so willing to change herself for the prince.  But in the original story, this does not work.  There is no happily ever after for the mermaid.  Things do not work out the way she hoped.  That's more realistic than Ariel marrying Eric, I think.  Oh, Disney...

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Monday, September 8, 2014

Nine Years Old

Howdy, readers!  I apologize for the quiet around here.  I had things to blog, and I kept intending to bank a few entries besides, but time was not on my side.  The girls started dance, I spent two afternoons in Big Sis's classroom - one reading and helping with a project, the other bringing birthday treats! - and Saturday we hosted Big Sis's birthday party!  She turned nine years old on Saturday.  She was quite excited that her actual birthday fell on a Saturday, too.

We decided to have a tie-dying party in the backyard, this year.  I hung a banner and a couple of tissue paper fans across the shed, and I did buy a plastic tablecloth for the table outside, but that was all the decor we needed.  We had beautiful weather on our side - mid-seventies, no wind.  It was just a huge gaggle of girls, rubber-banding then squirting white t-shirts with dye!  When they were not taking their turn, they were playing.  Just playing.  Between the swing set and the fairy house and the red wagon and bubbles and the ball toss, we had no reason to organize games or anything.  My favorite part was watching kids who had just met - family friends meeting girls from school, for example - play together like they've always known each other.  It was so much fun!

For the tie-dying, I used the Tulip One-Step Tie-Dye Kit.  (I got it at Michael's using a coupon.)  I hadn't tie-dyed shirts since I was in Brownies!  Big Sis attended a tie-dye party when she was five, and remembered how much fun she had.  Plus, she has developed an affinity for peace signs and tie-dye, my hippie child.  This seemed simpler than using the old-fashioned RIT dye dipping method. We banded our Fruit-of-the-Loom boys' t-shirts in the design of our choosing, then squirted them with the bottles.  After that, I wrapped shirts in plastic wrap and stick them in old grocery bags with their names on them.  Unfortunately, when I'd turn away to wrap a shirt, I'd lose track of the actual dyeing.  Some of them may have gone a little overboard with the dye.  I gave parents the option of leaving the shirts with me to finish - they had to soak in the dye for 6 to 8 hours - but only one took me up on the offer.  I've seen two of the shirts that went home, and they turned out well!  Crossing fingers on the rest.

Big Sis wanted an ice cream cake, so we got a yummy, rich one from Freddy's Frozen Custard.

After the cake was consumed, she opened her presents in front of the fairy house.

I finished rinsing and washing and drying shirts the next day.  I think they turned out well!  The one on the left belongs to a friend, the one in the middle is Big Sis's, and the one on the right is Little Sis's, which is not tie-dyed at all:  she just wanted to go to town with the squirt bottles!

I plan on getting some posts prepped and scheduled this week.  Nose surgery on Thursday - wish me luck!

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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Captain Kangaroo (Little Golden Book)

CBS Television's Captain Kangaroo (A Little Golden Book) by Kathleen N. Daly,
illustrated by Art Seiden.  Simon & Schuster, 1956.

Before Mr. Rogers, before Sesame Street, there was Captain Kangaroo.  Bob Keeshan's Captain Kangaroo premiered on CBS in 1955 - a year before my mother was born! - and ran for nearly 30 years, before being cancelled in 1984.  I have fuzzy little memories of getting up very early in the morning to watch the Captain.  Sadly, those memories are so vague that although I can picture Keeshan in his red suit and some of the other characters (Mr. Green Jeans), I can't recall much else.  It was on so early in the morning by then.

Of course, before he wore red, Captain Kangaroo wore navy blue.  And in 1956, the blue-suited Captain appeared in his first Little Golden Book, illustrated by the great Art Seiden. [My first Seiden book on the blog!  Wow...] I've photographed the entire book for you.  Forgive me for not scanning it, but as you can see, my copy is very brittle (and therefore, very inexpensive!), and I doubt it would survive the scanner.

I shouldn't end this post without providing you with a little something to watch!  Here is a show opening from the early days of Captain Kangaroo:

And here is an episode someone uploaded to YouTube, labeled 3/4/1961:

From the color days.  My memories of the show date from the end of the '70s to the early '80s.

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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Weekend Reading

Experimenting with my camera in Wichita's Old Town district.

Happy Sunday, dear readers!  How are you?  If your kids are back in school, how is your health?  I have caught a head cold.  This makes me a whiny baby.  School has been back in session for a couple of weeks now, and lots of my friends seem to have caught stuff.  I am determined to get over this ASAP.  Saturday is Big Sis's birthday, and we are having a tie-dye t-shirt party in our backyard on her actual birthday.  (This is a big deal to her.)  And the Thursday after that is when I'm supposed to have nasal surgery.  My recurrent strep is due to my deviated septum.  My tonsils are fine.  I have strep nose!  Another reason this cold has me feeling antsy.

Enough grossness!  How about some books?  These are a few of the things we read this week.

What We Read

Bonjour Camille by Felipe Cano, illustrated by Laia Aguilar.  Chronicle Books, 2014.

This is a very stylish picture book. It is the size of a middle-grade hardcover, but it is actually a beautiful picture book about a girl named Camille and the very quirky, imaginative ways she spends her Sunday.  It was first published in Spain.  I do not know much about the author, although the illustrator is co-founder of the Spanish clothing company Bobo Choses.  We decided that if you changed "Camille" to another C name, this book could be about Little Sis.  There is even a page about drawing faces on balloons, which is one of Little Sis's favorite pastimes.  To see more from this book, along with a cute fortune teller craft, see Danielle's awesome post over at This Picture Book Life.

Journey by Aaron Becker.  Candlewick Press, 2013.

We're a bit late to the party.  Journey was a Caldecott Honor Book this year, and I saw photos and posts about it all over the blogosphere.  We finally checked it out for ourselves.  Wooooowwww...  It is a wordless picture book, but no words are needed.  Becker's illustrations tell the story perfectly.  It owes a debt to Harold and the Purple Crayon, but the visual style is so completely different.  It's the first of a trilogy, and the second book, Quest, was just released this month!

This is Hong Kong by M. Sasek.  Originally published by Macmillan, 1965.  Reissued by Universe, 2007.

M. Sasek's travel picture books are so beautiful to look at.  This one was no exception.  What strikes me while reading them is how much of the information is no longer true.  You're reading about what that place was like 40 or 50 years ago.  Big Sis and I read the book together, marveling at the pictures, while I interrupted occasionally to explain the things I knew had changed.  We made mental notes of things we wanted to research further.  

Here is a short modern travel guide from Expedia.  The books are gorgeous to look at, and serve as wonderful time capsules.  They do serve as a nice starting point to discuss change, and how cities evolve, in terms of landscape, politics, economy, etc.

Dinosaur Vs. School by Bob Shea.  Disney / Hyperion, 2014.

Somehow I missed this one! I would have included it in my Back to School Picture Books post.  We love Bob Shea, and his Dinosaur Vs. series is so cute.  And small children love them.  One of my favorite storytimes at the bookstore was when I read a couple of Bob Shea Dinosaur books, along with New Socks.  I had TWICE my usual turnout.  Kids were excited!  Anyway, in this one, Dinosaur starts preschool!  "Dinosaur vs...."  "New friends!" "Dressing up!" "Glitter, glue and googly eyes!"  A very cute book for a little A

The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires.  Kids Can Press, 2014.

This little book is so simple, but so great.  A little girl has an idea to make The Most Magnificent Thing.  We don't know what this magnificent thing is.  We watch her try and fail numerous times, along with her doggy best friend and various bystanders.  It's a book about failure and the idea that if you keep trying, you just might see your idea come to life.  The girls clapped at the end and declared they want a Most Magnificent Thing just like hers.

Hilda and the Black Hound by Luke Pearson.  Flying Eye Books, 2014.

More Hildafolk!  Now, we are all caught up on the adventures of Hilda.  In this installment, Hilda has joined the Sparrow Scouts, and wants to earn lots of patches, like her mom did at her age.  Unfortunately, everything Hilda attempts fails, as she is distracted by homeless Nisse, little house spirits who are being kicked out of homes all over Trolberg.  In addition to the Nisse, there is a very large black dog loose around the town.  The girls and I love how Scandinavian-style mythology floats in and around our favorite blue-haired heroine.  We are huge Hilda fans now.

What I'm Reading

The Elevator Ghost by Glen Huser.  Groundwood Books, 2014.

I just started this one.

Yes, I knew I had to read it because of the awesome cover.

I'm going to save it for my October Halloween Fest, though.  You'll hear more about it from me then.

Happy Labor Day tomorrow to everyone in the U.S.  The girls have an in-service day on Tuesday, so they're out of school until Wednesday!  Big Sis is at a birthday party this morning.  We were supposed to go to a cook-out this afternoon, but I'm still deciding how I feel.  Don't want to get a bunch of theatre people sick.

Merry Three-Day Weekend to some of you, Merry Sunday to the rest!  Happy Reading!

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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy

Summer in Kansas.  It isn't my favorite time of year, not by a long shot.  I become a lethargic, whiny baby in sticky hot weather.  This summer, much like last year's, hasn't been so bad.  July was one of the mildest on record.  However, it is now late August, and I am over it.  One of my favorite lines from one of my favorite Maria McKee songs is "She don't sweat, she sours and melts like ice cream in the sun."  That's me.  I am rancid, runny ice cream.

So I park myself next to a fan and I read.  And if I can read about cold weather in some faraway place, well...  that's even better, right?

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy
by Karen Foxlee.
Knopf Books for Young Readers,

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy is a lovely book, with illustrations by Yoko Tanaka.  A girl named Ophelia goes with her older sister, Alice, and their father to stay in a very snowy town over Christmas break.  The girls' mother died three months ago, and the three are grieving in their own ways.  The father is an expert on swords, and is hired by a stately museum to help prepare a grand exhibit for Christmas Eve.  Alice, who promised her mother to help look after Ophelia, is depressed and lethargic, uninterested in everything around her.

Endpaper love.

One day, Ophelia comes across a painting, "The Marvelous Boy."  A door is next to the artwork.  Not quite knowing why she does it, Ophelia peers through the keyhole.  An eye is looking back at her.  The owner of the eye claims to be the boy in the painting, and boy without a name, who needs Ophelia's help to locate a sword and "The Other One," the person who can wield the sword to help the boy defeat the evil Snow Queen.

Ophelia is a practical, scientifically-minded girl, who does not believe in magic or in things that cannot be proven.  Her mother, however, was a famous horror writer, who loved stories about ghosts and castles and vampires. Ophelia finds herself on a quest, the voice of her mother whispering in her ear, helping her along.

Ophelia is sent on various errands, running into obstacles she cannot explain.  Her father is preoccupied with his work, and the director of the museum, the icy Miss Kaminski, frightens her, even as she takes a special interest in the grief-stricken Alice.

I could have waited until October and my month-long Halloween celebration to share this book. Mysterious, ominous clocks, ghost girls, frightening animals, mysteriously changing rooms...   It has just the right amount of thrills for a kids' book.

And as the Wintertide Clock counts down to Christmas Eve, I suppose I could have waited until December.

But this book is too good.  I needed to share it now.  I've told the girls about it, and they have placed it on our read-aloud list, but it may take us a bit to get to it.

For more, you can read the review from the New York Times Sunday Book Review.  I think her assessment gels with mine.  The book seems familiar at times, using common fairy tale and kid-lit devices, and it isn't perfect, but the whole product makes it a very worthy read.  Random House Kids has set up a nice subsite, with excerpts from the book.  I think I may have to check out more books by Karen Foxlee soon.

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