Recently Read

Guess what? I'm actually going to put together a "What We've Read Recently" post this week! It's been a while. I apologize, because I know a few of you out there seem to enjoy these things. They just take longer to assemble than I think they will, and while we've had our lazy moments this summer, we have been busy. Tonight, I start my second weekend of As You Like It for Wichita Shakespeare Company. [Hey, look, that's me in the local paper, bottom lefthand corner!] We've finally finished most of the major housework, although we still haven't invited any of the girls' friends over. Mr. B made my porch and front yard lovely for summer, but the backyard still needs to be done. [We will not have a new fairy house in time for International Fairy Day, so I'm making alternative plans.] I took the girls to Old Cowtown Museum for Steampunk Day two weeks ago. [I decided I admire the aesthetic, but the roleplaying aspect is something I just don't get.] Last Saturday, I attended the only part of my 20th high school reunion that didn't conflict with my play schedule: the tour of the building - slash - cook-out on the lawn. [The building with the falcon on it? That was my high school. It has changed a lot!] The whole family drove down to Mulvane last night to see Ballet Wichita's Ballet in the Park production of Snow White. Big Sis is becoming a wiz in the kitchen. I'm trying to convince her to blog about it. "Big Sis in the Kitchen," perhaps?

Anyway, ramble ramble ramble. I'm still saving a few books for their own posts, but here's a round-up of recently read things.

What We Read

The Worst Witch by Jill MurphyCandlewick Press, 2014. {Originally published by Allison & Busby, 1974.}

Several years ago, I wrote about the old television movie of this book, and in the process, learned about the series of books on which it was based. Little Sis found five of them on the shelf at the library, and it turns out they're thin chapter books, perfect for a very young independent reader. The Worst Witch was a fun read-aloud, familiar because of the movie. I wouldn't rate it as a favorite, but we're going to keep reading the series.

The Worst Witch Strikes Again by Jill Murphy. Candlewick Press, 2014. {Originally published by Allison & Busby, 1980.}

Indeed, we have read through Book 2, as you can see. In this story, a new witch arrives at the school, Enid Nightshade, and Mildred Hubble is assigned to look after her. Alas, Enid is naughtier than Mildred, and she just may get her expelled from Miss Cackle's Academy. To make matters worse, Mildred's best friend, Maud, is jealous of the time Mildred spends with Enid, and begins to hang out with Ethel, Mildred's old enemy. This one has some definite funny moments. The girls and I thought Maud's treatment of Mildred was a little weird and extreme. After all, she was right there when Mildred was assigned to look after Ethel, so she knows the scoop. As I said, the books are not destined to be favorites of mine, no matter what soft spot I have for the movie version.

Aqualicious by Victoria Kann. HarperCollins, 2015.

The latest Pinkalicious hardcover made it into the library bag this week. This one involves a trip to the beach and Pinkalicious's discovery of a miniature mermaid named Aqua. Pinkalicious and Peter have a grand old time playing with Aqua, but she needs them to take her home. The ending has a little surprise twist. Aqualicious might be the most fanciful of these books. I have a soft spot for them, as my daughters age out of their pink stage. They want to see Pinkalicious: The Musical at the children's theatre again this summer. Maybe next Friday...

Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise by Sean Taylor, illustrated by Jean Jullien. Candlewick Press, 2015.

I saw this one popping up on a few prominent blogs, and as none of us can resist an owl book, I knew I had to request it. This is a very funny book. Little Hoot Owl brags about being a master of disguise, swooping through the night to surprise his prey. Of course, things do not go to plan. This one gave us the giggles!

Hunters of the Great Forest by Dennis Nolan. Roaring Brook Press, 2014. 

Thank you, Whitney, for blogging about this one! We loved it! A wordless picture book, it's about a band of little gnome people, off on a great quest for food. The illustrations are fantastic and funny, and the object of their quest is a hoot. You can see more at Pen Pals & Picture Books or the Macmillan page for the book. No trailer - poo.

The Secret Life of Squirrels by Nancy Rose. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2014.

And thank you, Melissa, for reminding me of this book! I checked the library for it last year, when I first heard about it, but they didn't have it yet. I forgot all about it! The girls are in love with this book. The teensy-weency miniature squirrely items are so perfect. Oh, it's about a squirrel named Mr. Peanuts, who is lonely. So he mails a letter to his cousin squirrel, inviting him for a visit. The two squirrels are quite unusual, and prove to be good company for one another. I loved the author Q&A and photography tips at the back of the book. Do explore the book's official website for more awesome photos and info.

Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson, illustrated by Sydney Smith. Groundwood Books, 2015.

This is another wordless picture book, although note the separate author and illustrator credits. This book is simply gorgeous. A little girl walks home with her father. He spends most of the time on his cell phone, while the little girl stops to pick wildflowers wherever she finds them. As the book continues, the girl gives her flowers away, sweet gifts to strangers and family alike. It's so lovely.

Professor Whiskerton Presents Steampunk ABC by Lisa Falkenstern. Two Lions, 2014. 

Here you go - a steampunk book for the preschool set! The illustrations are sweet, the text is spare. The mice are assembling a steampunk machine, and each letter represents a part or a tool: A is for anvil, etc. It's cute and simple. We were curious about it, as we geared up to attend Steampunk Day at Cowtown, so we checked it out.

I'm reading three different books right now, but I won't finish them immediately. My lines for the play are solid, but I'm bad at reading during shows. My concentration is off. Big Sis is working on something of her own. Both girls have audio books checked out, although they don't listen often. We're definitely in summer mode now. It's supposed to be a rainy weekend. It may get my play canceled, but it would make for more reading time!

I don't have much more to share. Next week, I'll post about some nature books, and of course, it's nearly time for the Lindsborg Midsummer's Festival and International Fairy Day.

Merry Weekend! Happy Reading!

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The Juniper Tree and Other Tales From Grimm

Happy Birthday, Maurice Sendak, wherever you are! The great artist and author would have turned 87 today. The girls and I had a big discussion about some of our favorite Sendak books. (The photo above is just a tiny sample.)

However, it is June - my Everything Faerie month. I feel like some fairy tales are in order. Forgive the quality, pretty please. I need to clear room on my memory card, so I gave up and used my phone tonight. That's why I'm posting so late! 

The Juniper Tree and Other Tales from Grimm, translated by Lore Segal and Randall Jarrell,
illustrated by Maurice Sendak. First edition published in two volumes by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1973. Single-volume edition published in 2003.

I have posted about this book in the past. Little Sis and I read some of it last year. It was first published in 1973 in a slipcovered, two-volume set. My edition is a small single hardcover from 2003.

Would it really be a surprise if I told you this book contains some of the darker stories from Grimm? It is named after "The Juniper Tree," one of Grimms' creepiest and the final tale in the book.

And it's one of my daughters' favorite stories, too. Should this worry me?

"My mother she butchered me, 
My father he ate me,
My sister, little Ann Marie,
She gathered up the bones of me
And tied them in a silken cloth
To lay under the juniper.
Twee twee, what a pretty bird am I!"

Murder and cannibalism a haunting story do make.

Here are some of the lovely pictures Sendak rendered for the book. Each tale has one full-page work of art.

The full contents are as follows:

  • "The Three Feathers"
  • "Hans My Hedgehog"
  • "The Story of One Who Set Out to Study Fear"
  • "Brother and Sister"
  • "Spindle, Shuttle, and Needle"
  •  "The Twelve Huntsmen"
  • "Fitcher's Feathered Bird"
  • "The Devil and His Three Golden Hairs"
  • "The Fisherman and His Wife"
  • "The Master Thief"
  • "The Goblins"
  • "Hansel and Gretel"
  • "The Frog King, or Iron Henry"
  • "The Poor Miller's Boy and the Little Cat"
  • "Frederick and His Katelizabeth"
  • "The Golden Bird"
  • "Bearskin"
  • "Godfather Death"
  • "Many-Fur"
  • "Rapunzel"
  • "Snow-White and the Seven Dwarfs"
  • "Rabbit's Bride"
  • "The Two Journeymen"
  • "Ferdinand Faithful and Ferdinand Unfaithful"
  • "Mrs. Gertrude" 
  • "The Juniper Tree" 

I admit, I love sick twisted fairy tales. I'm a weirdo.

A few more goodies for Sendak's birthday:

And I always love revisiting his two-part appearance on The Colbert Report, here and here (see also here).

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Tammy (Little Sis Tuesday)

Today is Little Sis Tuesday! I'm turning over the blog to my 7-year-old every Tuesday this summer. All the words are by Little Sis, unless I tell you otherwise. She took the photos and edited them by herself. [I added the text.] I added links, and helped her with formatting, spelling, and punctuation, and added the YouTube videos at her request. - Danzel

This is Tammy. She's an old doll from the sixties. I like old dolls. My mom made me a playlist of old doll commercials. That's how I found out about Tammy. I thought she was pretty. My mom got her for us on eBay.

I like the commercials. When I grow up, I want lots of old dolls. I really want a Pepper doll. She's little, like me.

I took lots of pictures with my mommy's old Barbie horse, and I put Tammy on the horse to make it look like she was riding it. The horse's name is Dallas.

If you want to see my playlist, go here.

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Greyling (1991 edition)

Greyling by Jane Yolen, illustrated by David Ray.
Originally published by World Publishing, 1968, with illustrations by William Stobbs.
This edition by Philomel, 1991.

Greyling is different from the other selkie stories we've read or watched. First of all, the selkie in this story is a boy. Second, no one takes away his sealskin. He becomes a human baby out of the water, and once he returns to the sea, he becomes a seal again.

I love Jane Yolen. When I was pinning selkie pictures and media to reference later, I came across multiple selkie books under her name. This book was first published in 1968, with illustrations by the Kate Greenaway Medal-winning William Stobbs. I'm very disappointed that my library did not have this version. In fact, my library has very little by William Stobbs. Looking at Pinterest search results, I can tell I would love his style.

David Ray's paintings for the 1991 edition have their charm, though. And Yolen's text is beautiful.

There is a fisherman and his wife. They love each other, but long for a child. One day at sea, the fisherman finds an orphaned seal cub. He wraps it in his coat and brings it home.

When the wife unwraps the bundle, however, she finds a baby! A strange baby boy, with grey eyes and hair.

They raise their son and love him, but while the boy helps at home, he is not allowed to go near the sea. His parents fear what he might become if he ever went into the water.

Then one day, a terrible storm blows in. The wife runs into the town to find someone to help save her husband, who is on his boat. No one will volunteer. The young man rushes to the edge of the rocks and dives into the water.

The fisherman is saved, but their son has returned to the sea. He comes to see them, but he will not be their son on land again.

It's a very bittersweet tale, as you can see.

If I ever come across the original edition of the book, I will be sure to share it here. Neither version is in print any longer, so the library or used book store/website is the way to go.

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