If I were to make a list of the books I've read more times than I can count, Arm in Arm by Remy Charlip would be near the top. This slim book of art aIf I were to make a list of the books I've read more times than I can count, Arm in Arm by Remy Charlip would be near the top. This slim book of art and poetry was one of those books I would try to check out from the library every time I went. I'm surprised I didn't end up being given a copy. In fact, I ended up buying the library's copy many years later when it had been read to the point of falling apart! I later released that copy via BookCrossing and replaced it with another one in better condition.
Happily Arm in Arm has come back in print although the cover art has changed to a different collage of drawings from the book. I suspect that a number of people in my generation wanted a copy to share with their children.
The subtitle for the book explains what makes it so charming: "A COLLECTION OF CONNECTIONS, ENDLESS TALES, REITERATIONS, AND OTHER ECHOLALIA." Each poem and drawing is like Ouroboros, wrapping in on itself and often times stopping where it started. Then there are the silly jokes both written and drawn that pepper the pages.
I really can't do justice to this book's charm and humor without scanning and publishing the entire thing online. So just go get yourself a copy to enjoy! ...more
One of the joys of being a parent is sharing old favorites with my children. Harriet and Sean are now discovering Dr. Seuss. We are reading through a One of the joys of being a parent is sharing old favorites with my children. Harriet and Sean are now discovering Dr. Seuss. We are reading through all of his books and have landed on my all time favorite: One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. From the time I was Harriet's age to being in second or third grade, I read this book on an almost daily basis. I really don't know how many times I've read it (either listening to it being read by one of my parents or reading it myself).
One Fish, Two Fish... begins with this little dedication: "From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere." This book revels in the silly. It starts off simply enough with fish of different color and fish of different ages. Then it spirals out of control with fish driving cars and even sillier things.
The book doesn't have a plot. It's a series of tongue twisters presented as short scenes, almost like vaudeville routines. Witnessing these different examples of silly are a boy and a girl (or a Sean and a Harriet as my children see things). They watch creatures run (just for fun), different animals with different feet (and numbers of legs), and they go on a ride with Mr. Gump's Wump. There is Ned and his bed with holes in the most annoying of places. I wonder if he'll ever get a descent night's sleep? There are animals for opening cans, and others for boxing, ones who have hair for brushing and so forth.
In all of this silliness are Dr. Seuss's illustrations. All of the creatures have Seuss's unique style, being somewhat shaggy (even the fish). I can remember sometimes just flipping through the book to enjoy the drawings. My favorites are the pink ink drinking yink, can opening zans, the sleep walking sheep and the hook cook book. ...more
Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crocket Johnson is eighteen years older than I am but I will always associate it (and the other books that followed) wHarold and the Purple Crayon by Crocket Johnson is eighteen years older than I am but I will always associate it (and the other books that followed) with my early childhood. When I was first setting up this website (way before the word blog had been coined) one of my first posts was a review of the Harold series. I've since taken down that page but you can probably find it cached on the Way Back Machine. Since then I've had two kids of my own and they have discovered the Harold books. So with renewed interest in my old favorite series, I am re-reviewing them.
Harold is an artist boy of undetermined age but probably preschool aged from the way he's drawn. He has a fondness for purple and his entire world is created in three colors only: white black (his outline and the text) and mostly purple (which Harold uses to create his world on his night time explorations).
In this first book, Harold's drawings move and radiate off a single line that defines the horizon. The moon is always there to show that it's night and to give a hint at Harold's location in his walk. Harold adventure is told like a video game sidescroller. It's implied that he's walking across the pages, creating the world as he drags the purple crayon along the paper. Harold may change size relative to the things he draws but he never changes size relative to the page. This fact is called out early in the book when he first draws a road made of lines converging on a varnishing point. Since he can't walk into the page the road is useless to him.
In attention and accidents alter Harold's world. A loosely held crayon results in bumpy lines which in turn become the waves of the sea. A line going up the page becomes a mountain and stopping the line creates a cliff to fall off. In all of this, Harold seems unaware at first that he holds the key to finding his way home, no matter how lost he may become. ...more
The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton earned the Caldecott Medal in 1943. It's the charming story of a little house that was built far from the cityThe Little House by Virginia Lee Burton earned the Caldecott Medal in 1943. It's the charming story of a little house that was built far from the city and the city grows up around it. The house is moved again to the countryside and the book ends with the sense that the city will someday meet up with the house again.
The book can be seen as an anti urban sprawl story but it's really more about the passage of time and the little reminders that are left, like the little country houses tucked between factories, strip malls and skyscrapers. Sometimes these houses get a second chance at the countryside, like the cabin my parents bought twenty years ago. It had been two little houses down in San Diego and moved up by truck to the mountains.
This book is on my very short list of favorite childhood books that has made a lasting impression with me. All through my life I have been keeping my eyes open for little houses nestled in between city buildings. My current home town has dozens of them. They are there in any city....more
Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories has three short stories, one against fascism, one against jealousy and one against bragging. The two my kids enjoyYertle the Turtle and Other Stories has three short stories, one against fascism, one against jealousy and one against bragging. The two my kids enjoy reading most are the first and third, "Yertle the Turtle" and "The Big Brag."
Back when Theodor Geisel was working as a political cartoonist, he drew an anti Hitler cartoon showing a stack of turtles in a V-shape. The caption said "You can't build a substantial V out of turtles!" You can see it reproduced in Dr. Seuss Goes to War by by Richard H. Minear.
Yertle, the despot king turtle, decides he wants to increase his kingdom. Turtle law says he's the king of all he can see. To increase his view and thus his kingdom, he stands on the backs of his turtle subjects. His own lust for power ends up being his literal downfall.
The second story, "Gertrude McFuzz" is about a bird who is jealous of another bird with a more beautiful tail. She goes to great lengths to increase the beauty of her tail but loses the ability to fly in the process. She has to learn to be happy with who she is the way she is.
The final story is "The Big Brag" which reminds me of Sean and his best friend. They love to brag to each other about all the great things they have or all the great things they can do. Their bragging will often times come in the way of actually playing until they are called on it. In this story the bragging pair are rabbit and a bear. ...more
The Muffin Muncher was the one book out of the Serendity series that I really liked as a kid. Most of them were too preachy for my tastes. But this onThe Muffin Muncher was the one book out of the Serendity series that I really liked as a kid. Most of them were too preachy for my tastes. But this one has some humor to it. A poor kingdom that lives hand to mouth by selling its wonderful muffins is over-run by a muffin munching dragon! What will they do to survive? What will the dragon do when the muffins run out?...more
I read this book first time when I borrowed it from my mother as a preteen. Spent years trying to remember which book I'd read so I could find a copyI read this book first time when I borrowed it from my mother as a preteen. Spent years trying to remember which book I'd read so I could find a copy and re-read it....more
My all time favorite Dr. Seuss book is One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish Blue Fish. My second favorite is The Cat in the Hat Comes Back. Recently my son diMy all time favorite Dr. Seuss book is One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish Blue Fish. My second favorite is The Cat in the Hat Comes Back. Recently my son discovered the book for himself at the library and thought it was so much fun that he had to read it to me. I love it when he reads to me.
In the Cat in the Hat Comes Back the children are left home to shovel the snow while the mother is out shopping. The Cat in the Hat makes a reappearance and proceeds to make a mess with the building absurdity similar to the Laura Numeroff If You Give a — a — books. But Dr. Seuss's mayhem isn't circular. It just gets worse and worse, requiring more and more man (or cat) power to fix.
Things get out of hand immediately when the Cat decides to take a bath while eating pink frosted cake in the tub. The frosting leaves a ring around the tub and thus begins the boy and girl's long exasperating day of trying to fix the problem and trying to stop the Cat before he makes things worse.
The ring around the tub and the magical spreading spot of pink frosting have stuck with me all these years. As a child I had to bath in a tub that invariably had a soap ring around it when the bath was done. Since I loved to play with soap crayons in the tub the ring was typically some weird color too. So I felt a connection between my life and the book.
Now all these years later I'm reconnecting with an old favorite as my son giggles over things going from bizarre to bad to worse to surreal as the Cat in the Hat keeps finding smaller and smaller versions of himself under each hat to help clean up the mess. ...more
Read it originally in 5th or 6th grade. We even wrote the author as a class and received a reply. I went on to read Peppermint Pig, the sequel and lefRead it originally in 5th or 6th grade. We even wrote the author as a class and received a reply. I went on to read Peppermint Pig, the sequel and left it in a hotel in Solvang. I had to use my allowance money to pay for shipping! (It was a library book)...more
Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now! by Dr. Seuss was published a year before I was born. I probably had it read to me but beyond the funny dog eaMarvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now! by Dr. Seuss was published a year before I was born. I probably had it read to me but beyond the funny dog eared Marvin and the pointing fingers on the cover, that's all I remember from those early years. I'm now reading it to my children.
Like Cat in the Hat, Marvin K. Mooney.. uses a limited vocabulary and a rhyming scheme to be easy but fun to read. The book is full of intense emotion and lots of shouting which lends itself to overly theatrical performances when read out loud. The escalating demands put on Marvin to leave reminds me of The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog by Mo Willems (or almost any of his his pigeon books).
Marvin K. Mooney... was written in the same year that the Watergate scandal broke. Although the book wasn't written about Nixon, it did lend itself perfectly to the situation. Heck, now it could be re-titled George W. Bush Will Please Go Now! just as easily. The Washington Post has the rewritten version on line and it's worth a read. ...more
Leo Lionni was a Dutch artist who grew up in Italy but fled to the United States at the outbreak of WWII. There he worked as a graphic artist and illuLeo Lionni was a Dutch artist who grew up in Italy but fled to the United States at the outbreak of WWII. There he worked as a graphic artist and illustrator for Fortune Magazine. He returned to Italy in the 1960s where he began a new career as the writer and illustrator of children's literature. On of his earliest books is Alexander and the Wind-Up Mouse.
Alexander and the Wind-Up Mouse is an old childhood favorite of mine. Alexander is a mouse who lives in the wall of a home that has a little girl. One of her favorite toys is a wind up mouse named Willy. Alexander and Willy strike up a friendship that is slowly tainted by Alexander's jealousy over Willy's popularity. In the end though Alexander comes to rescue of Willy.
For the choice of a wind-up mouse and for the theme of the transformational powers of love, I am reminded of Russell Hoban's novel The Mouse and His Child. Lionni's book is a nice introduction to the much longer children's novel.
Leo Lionni's illustrations are similar to Eric Carl's. My children also have A Color of His Own, a book I'm surprised I haven't reviewed on this blog. ...more