Friday Reads, Spring Break, & Some Link Love

Happy First Day of Spring! I confess, spring is not my favorite. Spring in Kansas is only pretty for a little while, because summer usually hits a little early. And allergies. I'm so allergic to this season. Waah, poor me, I know. The picture above was taken two days ago, when Little Sis set up a dolly tea party in the living room, using our piano bench. She and I had a rough week. Monday and Tuesday were hard, and it's given this spring break a heavy feeling for me. She's a sweet girl, but so headstrong and when she wants to go to battle, she fights hard. Luckily, Mr. B was off work Wednesday and Thursday, amends were made, and we had a fun family day trip yesterday. I'll share more about that next week, but you can see a tiny sneak peek on my Instagram. In the meantime, here are some books we've read recently, and some links.

What We Read

Mr. Flux by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Matte Stephens. Kids Can Press, 2013.

I'm not sure how I missed this one when it came out. I admire Kyo Maclear's picture books, which are a bit more challenging than most (see Julia, Child and Virginia Wolf), and I follow Matte Stephens on Facebook - check out his fabulous Etsy shop! - but I totally missed the fact they had a picture book together. Mr. Flux is about a kid named Martin who hates change. His neighbors hate change, too. So when Mr. Flux moves into the neighborhood and begins to change things up, Martin is flummoxed. After spending time with the eccentric new neighbor, however, Martin begins to see the personal and artistic value of change. To add another layer to the book, the story is loosely based on Fluxus, the 1960s art movement. Mr. B read this with the girls first, and all three seemed to enjoy it. The illustrations are great, too, and served to remind me that I need to pick some Matte Stephens art for my walls someday.

Sam & Dave Dig A Hole by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen. Candlewick, 2104.

Another Candlewick Honor! We loved this book. It's such a fun, cute concept. Same and Dave decide to dig a whole, looking for treasure. Every time we see they're close to something, they change direction. The dog notices, too. The ending was very funny, and as always, Klassen's illustrations are beautiful. Nothing deep or important here, just a very fun time to be had. Candlewick has some printables and activities on their website, if you're interested.

The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet. Eerdman's Books for Young Readers, 2014.

Another Caldecott Honor winner, as well as the winner of the Sibert Award for nonfiction, The Right Word is the story of Peter Mark Roget, and the way his thesaurus came to be. He started making lists of synonyms as a child, and continued the practice as an adult, until he was finally convinced to publish his unique thesaurus. It became a runaway bestseller, and as we know, remains in print to this day. It is the third (I think?) collaboration between Bryant and collage artist Sweet, and it's beautifully done. I don't know if it's one we'd want to read over and over again, but it was definitely worth checking out.

What We Started Reading Together, Until Big Sis Got Bored and Decided to Read the Book for Herself

Mr. and Mrs. Bunny - Detectives Extraorinaire! by Mrs. Bunny, translated from the Rabbit by Polly Horvath, illustrated by Sophie Blackall. Schwartz & Wade, 2012.

I read this book not long after it came out, and thought it was hilarious. Since then, I've encouraged Big Sis to check it out when she was ready. She finally grabbed it from the school library! We started reading it together, all three of us, at bedtime. Big Sis and I would alternate it some nights. We've been very busy lately, though, and Big Sis was tired of waiting for us to get back to it, so she took over. She's almost through with it, in fact, and wants to read the sequel next, as do I.

I don't have a book trailer to share with you, but check out this interview with Mrs. Bunny (the real author, you know).

What I Read

First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen. St. Martin's Press, 2015.

I was very excited to read the sequel to Allen's first book, Garden Spells, this January. I liked that book, but I've liked her subsequent books more, and I thought I might enjoy this one more than its predecessor. And I did. It was a light, airy read, a nice respite from the cold outside.

And I want a First Frost Garden Party. On Halloween. And I want to dress as an airy fairy for it, but I don't think I would pull it off.

Like, at all.

Wise Children by Angela Carter. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1992 [first American edition].

This book was a wild ride. First published in the U.K. in 1991, it was Angela Carter's final book before her death from lung cancer in early 1992. Its narrator is a 75-year-old former musical comedy star, Dora Chance, who lives with her twin sister, Nora, in the old former boarding house in which they were born. The book begins with the women receiving an invitation to their father's 100th birthday. Their father was the greatest Shakespearean actor of his time, but the catch is, their father has never recognized them as his own. Dora's voice is wickedly funny, and the story crashes into the craziest ending ever. Carter references Shakespeare throughout the book, and if one ponders some of the wackier plot points in his plays, perhaps Dora's tale seems less crazy. I don't know. It was worth reading, but I did find myself rolling my eyes a bit during the final chapter.

We are approaching the end of our spring break. In addition to these books, we also read some more for Women's History Month, and I read the latest Fairyland book, which I'll share with you next week. The girls and I saw Cinderella on Monday. I thought it was lovely. We agree we preferred most of the other gowns at the ball better than Cinderella's (I didn't like the shade of blue), but we liked the transformation scenes. I have repeated "Have courage and be kind" to the girls (er, ahem, Little Sis) more than once this week, but it hasn't really stuck.

Some Random Links

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Artists and Writers (Women's History Month)

Here are three more books the girls and I have read this Women's History Month!

Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales.
Roaring Brook Press, 2014.
  A Caldecott Honor winner this year, Viva Frida is one of the most beautiful picture books I've seen in a while. It's bilingual, but very light on text. The visuals are the important thing here. My suggestion, if your kiddo isn't familiar with Frida Kahlo, is to read the wonderfully personal author's note in the back of the book first, so that the symbolism in the illustrations make more sense. For another lovely picture book about Kahlo, I suggest picking up Jonah Winter's Frida. illustrated by Ana Juan.

Yuyi Morales's puppet figures are amazing. Here is a video she posted on YouTube, showing the making of the book.

Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude by Jonah Winter,
illustrated by Calef Brown. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2009.

Speaking of Jonah Winter, this has to be my favorite book of his we've read so far. Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude is a wonderfully playful look at Gertrude Stein. It is written in a way that pays homage to Stein's nonsensical, rhythmic writing style. My daughters read it when I was away one night, and told me the next day, "That was the weirdest book we ever read! We didn't understand it, but we loved it!" I told them a bit about Gertrude Stein, how she played with words, more concerned with the sounds than the sense they made. I explained how she and her partner, Alice B. Toklas, lived in Paris and entertained famous authors and writers, such as Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Ernest Hemingway. Then I told them they knew one of Stein's poems! Stein's "A Very Valentine" appears in animated form on Classical Baby (I'm  Grown Up Now) The Poetry Show. You can see the video at The Poetry Foundation website.

Wanda Gág: The Girl Who Lived to Draw by Deborah Kogan Ray.
Viking Books for Young Readers, 2008.

Can you name the oldest American picture book in print today? That would be Wanda Gág's Millions of Cats, published in 1928, one of the few picture books to receive a Newbery Honor. (The Caldecott Award did not come into being for another nine years.) This straightforward picture book biography tells the story of Gág's happy early childhood, spent drawing alongside her artist father, listening to fairy tales. When her beloved father dies, teenage Wanda has to help care for her younger siblings, never losing her love of art. She wins a scholarship to study art in New York City. At an art showing of Gág's, a children's book editor is inspired to ask her to try her hand at picture books. Millions of Cats would soon be born! This is a very pretty and informative book. I like that the author/illustrator's style is so different from Gág's. We're already familiar with her most famous book, so we checked out Gág's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

In researching Wanda Gág (rhymes with "log") a bit, I found the link to the Wanda Gág House in New Ulm, Minnesota. Wow. I want to go to there.

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Happy St. Patrick's Day

Happy St. Patrick's Day, dear readers and friends! I am wearing one of my favorite green skirts and a favorite green cardigan. The girls will tell you this is nothing special, as I was wearing a different green skirt and a green t-shirt yesterday. Green is my very favorite color in the whole world, you know.

I apologize for not posting much lately. I have stacks of books ready, but last week was very busy for us. It was the last week of school before spring break, and Little Sis had her first grade performance at school. It was a little show about Kansas, and she got to wear her Amelia Earhart costume one more time. Mr. B and I wound up helping, too. We were both stationed in the changing rooms, corralling first graders, then Mr. B ran the light board during the show.

The following day, Friday, was the beginning of spring break, and I took Little Sis to Girl Scout Night at Disney On Ice. I promise to post more about that this week, along with a bit about Cinderella, which the girls and I saw today. In the meantime, I thought I'd share our St. Patrick's Day plans!

We are babysitting Little Sis's best friend from preschool and her big brother (who is Big Sis's age) today. For lunch, we are making personal pizzas, which is Not. Irish. At. All. Yet this is almost perfect, because guess what we checked out from the library for St. Paddy's Day this year? Three books by Tomie dePaola, who is half-Irish-American, half-Italian-American, you know.

Little Sis loves Tomie dePaola, by the way. We all do, but she is an especially big fan. She always liked the Strega Nona books, but fell in love with his Christmas books over the holidays this year.

Jamie O'Rourke and the Big Potato: An Irish Folktale
by Tomie dePaola.
G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1990.

Jamie O'Rourke and the Big Potato was a repeat for the girls, if not for me. Little Sis's drama class at the children's theatre read it only two weeks ago! They were excited to read it again. It's the tale of Jamie O'Rourke, the laziest man in Ireland. One day he meets a leprechaun, and decides to steal his gold. The leprechaun pleads with him to take a magic seed instead. It's a pretty silly story, and lazy Jamie turns out quite the winner in the end. Which may be why I like the second Jamie O'Rourke book better.

Jamie O'Rourke and the Pooka by Tomie dePaola.
G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2000.

Jamie O'Rourke and the Pooka is my favorite. When Eileen, Jamie's wife, leaves to visit her sister, she makes Jamie promise to keep the house clean. As soon as she's gone, though, his cronies arrive to spend the evening with Jamie, leaving a huge mess. Jamie goes to bed. During the night, a donkey-looking creature arrives. The pooka has seen the mess through the window, and enters the house to clean up. In the end, Jamie learns a little lesson about pookas - and himself.

Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland by Tomie dePaola.
Holiday House, 1992.

I figured I might as well read a book about the real Patrick to the kids at some point. This one is a straightforward telling of Patrick's life, beginning with his enslavement in Ireland. Little Sis, my little artist, loves dePaola's religious books. The main book was fine, but I admit, we liked the little "legends of St. Patrick" part at the back of the book better. That's where the stories of snakes and shamrocks are to be found.

I won't be leaving the house until this evening, when the girls and I head to a read-through of Richard III. I have considered begging Mr. B to run and buy Song of the Sea on Blu-Ray, released today!

I do need a new selkie movie. The Secret of Roan Inish needs company!

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