Don't Judge Me

I love books.  I love reading books to kids.  I love love love reading books to my girls.  And we have an awesome home library, full of classics and soon-to-be classics, award-winners and shoulda-been award-winners.  So I don't think there's anything wrong with owning a few candy-coated junky books.  A little marshmallow fluff.  When we hit the Scholastic book fairs this year, I bought Big Sis some National Geographic Kids non-fiction, a Judy Moody book, a little biography on Gabby Douglas, the latest Fancy Nancy chapter book.  And um, this:

My Little Pony: Twilight Sparkle and the Crystal Heart Spell
by G.M. Berrow.  Little, Brown & Company, 2013.

Why yes, that would be a My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic chapter book.  And just to break up our bedtime routine a bit, I promised to read it to both girls at bedtime, since Little Sis is such a little pony freak these days.

Don't judge me, but...

I liked it.

I'm not recommending it to you.  I am not suggesting that you go out and buy it yourself.  But I have to admit, we had fun with it this week.  I don't really watch the series myself, but I've listened in as it's on, so I attempted to do the voices and everything.  (While my voice is naturally a bit high, I will say my throat hurt from speaking in such a high register!)  Compared to some of the other silly chapter book series I've looked at, though, this wasn't that bad.  I even asked to watch the show with the girls last night.

Don't judge me, but I had no idea my girls have seen the first 2 episodes of the show so much.  They said every single line along with the ponies, the way I can say every line along with Heathers or Poltergeist or something.  (Don't worry, they haven't seen Heathers or Poltergeist.)  It really isn't a bad show.  The animation is pretty awesome and there were some very funny bits.  It's much better than the show I grew up with.  It makes me want a Build-A-Bear Pinkie Pie of my very own.  (Have you seen the Build-A-Bear Ponies?  We checked them out on a mall trip a couple of weeks ago.  It happened to be across the "street" from The Children's Place.  They're squishy cuddly!)

And there are activities at the back of the book.

I'm bracing myself for June, when I will probably head to the book store for this:

So yeah, all these mommy and book bloggers around the 'net are preparing for Screen Free Week, but here I am confessing to liking a mass-media tie-in chapter book based on a TV show.


But we have an awesome stack of stuff checked out from the library right now!

And we're back to reading the Clementine books at bedtime.  Big Sis is devouring every Magic Tree House book, as well as the second Nancy Clancy.  I'm still reading An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin. (It's okay.  Not my favorite book of his, not by a long shot.  By the way, go listen to this.  It's on Spotify, too.)  And to go along with yesterday's post, I have this little grown-up gem by Sophie Blackall checked out, too:

Missed Connections: Love, Lost & Found by Sophie Blackall.
Workman Publishing, 2011.

So don't judge me.  I just like books.  Books, books, and more books.

Merry Weekend, one and all!  Happy Reading!

Spinster Goose: Twisted Rhymes for Naughty Children

by Lisa Wheeler, illustrated by Sophie Blackall.
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2011.

So here is what you get when you cross the sickly funny humor of Shel Silverstein with traditional nursery rhymes, and throw in the lovely illustration style of Sophie Blackall (Ivy & Bean).  This is a funny little picture book.  There isn't much more I can say about it.  Funny, funny, funny.

Spinster Goose: Twisted Rhymes for Naughty Children
by Lisa Wheeler, illustrated by Sophie Blackall.
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2011.

The Steadfast Tin Soldier (Rylant/Corace)

The Steadfast Tin Soldier by Hans Christian Andersen, retold by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Jen Corace.NY: Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2013.

I love Hans Christian Andersen.  He has been a favorite of mine since I was very young.  I grew up with the original sad version of "The Little Mermaid," I love "The Little Match Girl" and "Thumbelina," the cleverness of "The Emperor's New Clothes," and his original version of "The Snow Queen" is amazing. "The Wild Swans" is my all-time favorite fairy tale, and I prefer his version over the Grimm version ("The Six Swans").

Then I discovered that many fairy tale lovers dislike Andersen.  They find him moralizing and sadistic. The poor mermaid sacrifices so much, just to become a spirit of the air.  The poor little match girl freezes to death.  And what about "The Steadfast Tin Soldier"?  The soldier goes through so much, only to melt in the fire.  And while it seems the little paper ballerina was faithful, when she is swept into the fire after him, she becomes nothing but ash.  To quote the Jean Hersholt translation (see link above):
"Then the door blew open. A puff of wind struck the dancer. She flew like a sylph, straight into the fire with the soldier, blazed up in a flash, and was gone. The tin soldier melted, all in a lump. The next day, when a servant took up the ashes she found him in the shape of a little tin heart. But of the pretty dancer nothing was left except her spangle, and it was burned as black as a coal."

What does that mean?  Is there some sort of commentary being made?  It seems rather harsh.  

A lot of parents shy away from the original Andersen, although I'm not one of them.  Disney, of course, has done much to make "The Little Mermaid" a much happier romp, and if you've ever seen Fantasia 2000, you know that they've revised the tin soldier and dancer's fates, as well.

But that kills the melancholy flavor of the story.  Is there a middle-ground?  A way to re-tell the story to make the ending more palatable, but without a trite "happily ever after?"

Cynthia Rylant (such a wonderful writer!) and Jen Corace (one of my favorites) have collaborated on fairy tales before.  Their Hansel and Gretel is beautiful.  I was jumping for joy when I found out they had collaborated on a re-telling of The Steadfast Tin Soldier.  Rylant's text is as poetic as ever, and Jen Corace's illustrations are stunning.  And for parents who worry about the ending, this one does find a middle ground.  Instead of the separate demises of the soldier and dancer (who is never said to be made of paper), the soldier is flung out of the fire, landing on the dancer. The lovers become fused together forevermore. 

I want to live in the nursery in this book.

(Look!  They even play with matryoshka dolls in this nursery.  Of course I love it.)

I think my favorite image in the story is always the little tin soldier in his paper boat.  Corace captured
it beautifully.

So yeah, I want to add this one to our permanent collection.  The illustrations alone make it worth owning.  I can't begin to capture their appeal.  (For more Jen Corace in picture book form, I must recommend all of her collaborations with Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Sweet Dreams by Rose A. Lewis, and The Humblebee Hunter by Deborah Hopkinson.)

We Went to the Renaissance Festival

It was a beautiful sunny day when we ventured to the Great Plains Renaissance Festival.  We watched belly dancers, ate chocolate-covered strawberries (and nachos. and steamed veggies. and candied pecans.), got our faces painted, bought magic wands and head wreaths, played ring toss, listened to bagpipers, people watched...

So no, it isn't the most authentic fair in the world, but it was fun.  Especially for a fair set up temporarily in a park for two days.

I got a sunburn.  

Yesterday, the skies turned to this:

Today is very cold and very wet.

But it looks like the snow has missed us.

Back to books tomorrow!

Oh, and by the way, if you follow us on Instagram, I have set up a new account just for this blog.  I don't have very many real-life friends reading this thing, and now that I have the capabilities for separate accounts, it makes sense to go that route.   The old account is private now.  (If you already follow me there, I haven't blocked you or anything.)  ;o)

Wise Owl Tales: Happy Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day!  I lucked into today's post.  Some friends of a friend have written a new series of books called Wise Owl Tales, and my friend asked me if I wanted to review a set!  I leaped at the chance, and I'm glad I did.  

I love Earth Day, I really do, but I need some new books.  I love the ones we've read in the past, but they tend to be a bit redundant.  This series, which is on sale at Amazon today, is different.  Each book tells a different story about an animal, or in the case of Footprints, a place.  Some of the stories are rather cheerful.  Footprints is about the different creatures leaving prints at the beach.  Frank The Tank is a happy, gassy mixed-breed dog, adopted from an animal shelter.  Armando is an armadillo who wanders into a family's yard.  Other books are more somber.  Nanuk is a polar bear, watching her habitat melt due to global warming.  Mali is an Asian elephant, rescued from years of forced labor.  Daphina is a captured dolphin dreaming of freedom.  Gamba the baby gorilla is rescued by veterinarians after his parents were killed by hunters.  Chitraka the cheetah searches for food for her cubs, as her habitat shrinks and poachers hunt nearby.  With the exception of Frank the Tank, the stories are fiction, but the lessons they teach are all too real.

The rhyming text makes the books especially accessible to a young audience.  While I wasn't sure what to think about the mixed-media illustrations at first, my fellow reviewer (Big Sis) thought they were "awesome."  She liked that they were different from other books she has read.  At the back of each book is a map showing the region where the animal may be found, a helpful glossary, and a list of questions for further discussion, and if you want more, activity pages can be downloaded and printed from the website.

Footprints: A Beach Tale

Frank the Tank: An Adopted Dog Tale 

Armando: An Adventurous Nine-Banded Armadillo Tale

Daphina: A Freed Bottlenose Dolphin Tale

Gamba: An Optimistic Gorilla Tale

Nanuk: A Hopeful Polar Bear Tale

Glossary and facts from Chitraka: A Challenged Cheetah Tale

Discussion questions from Mali: A Rescued Asian Elephant Tale

Mali: A Rescued Asian Elephant Tale

Big Sis gave the books an enthusiastic thumbs-up, and we had some very good discussions about habitat destruction, climate change, and captivity versus the wild.  The books are glossy paperback picture books, and appropriate for young elementary school-age children.

*Disclaimer:  The copies I reviewed were loaned to me for review purposes.  I do not know the authors, nor did I receive anything for my review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

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