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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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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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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