Tulips, Fairies and Forts at Botanica

Well, I've covered most of the books we've read lately, and I don't have many links to share, so here are some pictures of our trip to Botanica! We attended Week 2 of the Tulips, Fairies & Forts event (formerly Tulips, Fairies & Friends) at our botanical gardens last weekend. It was an opportunity to play dress-up, smell the flowers, build a fort or two...

Our arrival at Botanica. A volunteer was stationed there to take pictures.

Fairy house contest entries. I love the peacock feather house! Next year, we may try our hand at this ourselves.

Botanica is the proud recipient of the old Allan Herschell Company-designed carousel from Wichita's defunct Joyland Amusement Park. As it's being restored, some of the freshly painted horses have been put on display in the main lobby.

The Bug Lady was on hand with lots of specimens. I liked the huge tarantulas. Big Sis pet a Mexican hissing cockroach.

I want a weeping crabapple.

There was a fairy garden scavenger hunt. We found most of the little fairies, hidden near trees.

The "fort" aspect of the event was especially cool.

Little Sis built her own fort out of wooden blocks. Big Sis played a game of Jenga.

In the Downing Children's Garden, the girls painted gnome doors made from popsicle sticks, and made fairy bells from sticks, yarn, beads, and jingle bells. We played there for a while, before resuming our scavenger hunt, and visiting the little Railroad Garden.

Tomorrow, Big Sis will go to her dance class and a birthday party. I'm taking Little Sis to Hutchinson, KS, to see The Last Unicorn. I still remember seeing it in a mall theater with my parents, when I was in kindergarten. Little Sis is actually older than I was when it came out! It's a stop on The Last Unicorn Tour. Peter S. Beagle will be signing posters and copies of the original book, and there will be merchandise, a Q&A, stuff like that. My nerdy little kid-like self is very excited.

I hope you have a pleasant weekend, and I hope to have more books and stuff to share next week!

Merry Weekend! Happy Reading!

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The Lost Princess of Oz

The Lost Princess of Oz by L. Frank Baum, illustrated by John R. Neill.
Originally published by Reilly & Britton, 1917.
Books Of Wonder edition published by HarperCollins, 1998.

Tonight, we are watching the skies here in south-central Kansas. We are under a tornado watch. The Weather Channel is here! Friends have spotted their truck around town, along with other popular tornado chase vehicles. I don't know if there will be anything, but the threat has been so strong that everything is canceled tonight. There were no after-school clubs, dance classes are canceled, even my rehearsal for Richard III was canceled. "Well, if there is a tornado and it hits us, I hope I go to Oz," said Little Sis.

It has been so long since I blogged about our reading adventures in Oz! Indeed, I blogged about Rinkitink in Oz way back in August. Well, last week saw us finishing ol' Rinkitink - finally. I can firmly state that my least favorite Baum Oz books are that one and Tik-Tok of Oz. Little Sis gave up on Rinkitink completely, and Big Sis and I would only read it if we felt like it. We were so excited as we neared the end, however, because now it is time for Big Sis's favorite Oz book, The Lost Princess of Oz.


I started reading the Oz books to Little Sis before her third birthday. It probably sounds ridiculous, reading big chapter books to a 2 1/2-year-old, but she loved for me to tell her stories at bedtime, and I was running out of stories. I had never read the Oz books, so I started to check the Books Of Wonder almost-facsimile editions out from the library. Because she was so little when we started, her memories of the earliest books were fuzzy to non-existent. She remembered bits of Road to Oz, and the Glass Cat and Scraps and the Woozy stood out from Patchwork Girl of Oz, but her favorite, the one that stayed with her all this time, is this one.

The dedication is so sweet. Ozma was the daughter of Baum's youngest son, Kenneth Gage Baum.

One day, Dorothy, Betsy Bobbin, and Trot discover that Ozma is missing. She is nowhere to be found, and Jellia Jamb, her maid, never saw her leave her chamber. What's more, Ozma's Magic Picture is missing, too! The Wizard rushes south to the Gillikin Country to see Glinda, but Glinda has a mystery of her own. Her Great Book of Records, in which every important thing that has ever happened in the world is magically written down, has disappeared. When the Wizard tells her about Ozma and the Picture, they go to the gather Glinda's magical instruments, only to find them gone, as well.

Meanwhile, in a tiny country at the top of a steep rock in the Winkie Country, Cayke the Cookie Cook is making a big racket over her missing gold diamond-studded dishpan. Her fellow Yips, as the people are known, take her to see the Frogman, a giant frog who walks on his hind legs and wears magnificent clothing. The Frogman is known as the wisest of the wise in Yip country, but he's really a humbug. He loves to think himself superior, but deep down, he knows he is less wise than the Yips think he is. When no one comes forward to admit to stealing the dishpan, Cayke and the Frogman descend the mountain, determined to find it in the outside world.

Back in the Emerald City, search parties are gathered, in order to find Ozma. What makes this book so fantastic is it's the first time many of our favorite characters appear together for a full book! Ojo, Unc Nunkie, Dr. Pipt, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, Tik-Tok, Jack Pumpkinhead, the Shaggy Man and his brother, the Wizard, Dorothy, Trot, Button Bright, Betsy Bobbin and Hank (her donkey), Scraps, the Woozy, the Sawhorse, Toto...  They all set off to look for the missing Ozma.

This is also the book where Toto really starts talking. He can be quite amusing, if a little exasperating.

We visit many odd places, and meet many more strange people. John R. Neill's illustrations are awesome, as usual. Baum gave him a lot to work with in this book.

The diamond-headed inhabitants of Thi.

Here is Button Bright, picking a peach. This is a very important plot point.

Oh, the bears! I can't wait until we get to Bear Center. And later, we'll meet Ugu the Shoemaker, who lives in a wickerwork castle. Sadly, there is no illustration of the castle.

I don't want to give the entire book away, but if you must, you can always read more about it here. I'm thrilled to say that both girls are very into this one. That includes Little Sis.

The kitties have been snuggling with us as we read, too, but I think that has more to do with wanting attention than it has to do with talking dogs and donkeys and the like.

Say cheese, Jenny!

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P. Zonka Lays an Egg *and* some Easter photos

P. Zonka Lays an Egg by Julie Paschkis. Peachtree Publishers, 2015.

The Easter Bunny was very excited about this one, friends. She  He knew there were some little girls who would be quite taken with the art. And fancy Ukrainian Easter eggs? Well, there's a worthy bonus!

P. Zonka (as in pysanka, a Ukrainian Easter egg) doesn't lay eggs. The other chickens on the farm lay eggs. Well, Gloria doesn't, but that's because Gloria turned out to be a rooster. (That page cracks me up.) The other hens are annoyed with her, and urge her to get to work. When she finally lays her first egg, however, it's truly spectacular.

The story may be slight, but it's told with humor. Honestly, it's Paschkis's illustrations that make this one worth owning. I look forward to reading it alongside The Egg Tree come future Easters.

Here are P. Zonka and The Bunny's Nutshell Library in their place of honor between the Easter baskets, Sunday morning.

Big Sis also got this book and Little Sis got a new Lottie doll outfit. Other than that, the Easter Bunny went a little candy crazy. Not her his preference, but she he was supposed to go shopping on Friday...

As you can see, our annual Easter egg tree went up as planned. Since the girls were out of school on Friday (Good Friday) because of storms, we hollowed out our eggs and dyed that day.

I had a play rehearsal that night, so the girls finished the tree with my grandmother's help. Little Sis used a Sharpie to turn several eggs into Adventure Time characters (with the exception of Flame Princess, made by Big Sis).

We had a little family egg hunt in my sister's backyard on Saturday, then dyed hardboiled eggs at home that night. Sunday morning, the girls participated in the hunt at our Episcopal church. Poor Mr. B had worked the night before, and is still recovering from illness. He managed to sleep through the morning's festivities, then had to go back to work that afternoon. Considering he handled all of Easter himself last year, we didn't complain. We sent him to work with a few egg salad sandwiches, made from the hardboiled eggs we dyed.

Hope everyone is having a lovely spring!

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The Bunny's Nutshell Library

The Bunny's Nutshell Library by Robert Kraus.
Harper & Row, 1965.

A belated Happy Easter to those who celebrated yesterday! I had planned to blog this on Friday, but surprise! School was canceled on Friday, due to a freak overnight thunderstorm. Very strong winds knocked power out all over the area - not at our house, thank goodness - and enough schools were affected that the district canceled class for everyone. I couldn't finish this post with the girls around, because the Easter Bunny might have been upset if they saw this gift before Easter!

Most children's book geeks know that Maurice Sendak's The Nutshell Library is not the only "Nutshell Library." It was the first (1962), and it's the only one currently in print, but Harper & Row published two more miniature book collections in slipcovers. A year after Sendak's came The Christmas Nutshell Library, an adorable set by Eloise illustrator Hilary Knight. Then in 1965, an Easter/Spring-themed set arrived, written and illustrated by Robert Kraus. Thanks to eBay, the Easter Bunny managed to get a hold of a complete set of The Bunny's Nutshell Library for a very decent price. Little Sis was thrilled. She doesn't know how rare the books are, but she does know that they are old and collectible, and her little antique store-loving self has promised to take care of her tiny little books.

The original Nutshell Library by Maurice Sendak has remained in print. [See Melissa's recent post on it, in fact.] The books were incorporated into the television special Really Rosie, and its four books are available separately, in paperback. Knight's Christmas Nutshell Library is rare and collectible, but two of the books were reprinted as regular-sized hardcover picture books, in 2003. [You can read about an incomplete set at Vintage Kids' Books My Kid Loves.] They are out of print again, but still pretty easy to find. Robert Kraus's Bunny's Nutshell Library is the one I was least familiar with. For one thing, Robert Kraus isn't as popular as Maurice Sendak or Hilary Knight. None of the books in the set have ever been available separately, either, as far as I can tell.

Happily, we love our little set. The slipcase is adorable, as you can see in the above photos. The books themselves are sweet spring stories. Juniper is about a little bunny who lives in a pretty Easter egg with a front window. He has toys and the grass inside the egg is always green, but he is lonely. The glass swan and sheep won't talk to him. So he scales a crystal mountain, slides down, and finds a little girl bunny named Jeannette. She has no toys, so he convinces her to accompany him back over the mountain. There, they play and enjoy each other's company, and Jeannette realizes she has no reason to return to her side over the mountain.

In The First Robin, a little robin rushes north to be the first robin of spring, but he's too early. He catches a cold, but the Kindly Groundhog finds him. Mrs. Robin comes looking for him, and nurses him back to health. In the end, he is the first robin of spring after all!

A thin colt is informed by Mr. Rabbit that he is "too wobbly" to join his fantastic parade, in Springfellow's Parade. Springfellow heads to a tree to sulk, where he meets a little chick ("too fuzzy") and Mr. Rabbit's own son ("too silly") who are sad, too. They decide to make their own parade, and the music they make is so wonderful that other animals join, including Mr. Rabbit. Mr. Rabbit enjoys their music so much that he asks them to play in his official parade.

And finally, The Silver Dandelion is about a little bunny named Roger, who just wants to pick a dandelion. Alas, every time he finds one, a larger animal tricks him, or pushes him out of the way. Roger is kind enough to let a much smaller animal pick one ahead of him, but shames himself when he tries to push a much larger badger aside. Embarrassed and sad, Roger creeps away to his secret place, a hollow tree. There, he finds a silver dandelion! He picks it, and rushes outside in time to encounter a masked weasel, who wants the dandelion for himself. Roger blows the seeds at the weasel, who runs away. The seeds fall to the ground and more silver dandelions pop up.

The stories are simple, but the illustrations are lovely, and of course, the miniature presentation makes them completely darling.

I'll have more late Easter stuff to share soon.

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