Monday, December 29, 2008

New Year Circles in the Sand

Here we are. Two more days left of 2008 and on to 2009. This perhaps has been the fastest year of my life so far. It seems we were just celebrating the good fortune of 2008 with friends and family and now we'll be back to celebrate another round of seasons. I've posted this image of Jim Denevan's, sand art, Surfers in Circles to remind me that time is a construct. Denevan brings an appreciation for nature and the ephemeral passage of time to his art. This was made not far from my home where he often draws in the sand with a stick at low tide in Santa Cruz. He uses a rake to make the designs but it's really all about perspective, whether you view the design from the cliff top or on the shoreline. Is one perspective more awesome than the other? "People always ask how it feels to have them wash away," says Denevan, "but who wouldn't want it to wash away."

When I think about all the little things throughout the year that I get stressy about, I think I'm just going to let them wash away because when 2010 comes around all the edges will have softened.

But what about the bigger stresses in life? There's a picture book titled, Little Mouse's Big Book of Fears by Emily Gravett that I've been thinking of lately. Besides being a little treasure of a book for it's innovative design (fold-out maps included), it lightly describes phobias on every page starting with arachnophobia. Little mouse has all these phobias, and he is certainly afraid of cats with good reason. But this clever book ends with musophobia, the fear of mice. Yes little mouse, there are people afraid of you! I will keep this book in mind when I feel timid or procrastinate in work due to fear of big cats.

As I'm not inclined to keep a lot of New Year's Resolutions, I don't make them. But I do believe in writing down everything I would like to do in 2009. It's always fun at the end of the year to see how many of them have happened. And keep in mind, "How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives." -Annie Dillard

Happy New Year!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Creche and Blog Award

Viewing the creche has always been a magical Christmas event for children... the baby Jesus lying in a manger, Mary and Joseph attend to him followed by angels, shepherds, animals and then the wise kings bearing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. All are bathed in golden light.
This picture is from and old Tasha Tudor Christmas card and shows the way children experience the creche, with awe, wonder and serenity. Another way children may experience the nativity is at a Christmas play. I know we all see this every year... but the scene from Charlie Brown Christmas where Linus tells Charlie Brown what Christmas is really all about gets me smiling every time. Happy Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy Holidays Everyone!!!

And in the spirit of the season which we hope will last all year, we thank you Holly and Cari at BookScoops for this lovely Butterfly Blog Award award that recognizes some of the coolest blogs I know. We get to pass it on to some really cool blogs (which of course there are soooo many cool blogs, but here are some goodies.) *because not only does she post and sell cool vintage picture books but she also gives them away for free! *always has great picture book reviews and other fun ideas for kids.... and they sell books too. *has the most amazing and unusual book finds, not too many kids picture books but more art, illustration and design which I love. *What Do We Do All Day is funny and I always need new ideas for entertaining little ones with books- great links on this blog too. *wonderful and interesting book choices and resources from a librarian who writes this delightful journal * organized blog with ideas for things to do with your kids ...* good books, links, resources and good opinions!

Congratulations and here's how it works.

1. Put the logo on your blog.
2. Add a link to the person who awarded you.
3. Award up to 10 other blogs.
4. Add links to those blogs on yours.
5. Leave a message for your awardees on their blogs.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Hanukkah!

Hanukkah begins today at sundown. I'm planning a nice quiet evening with my family. We will light the menorrah, eat yummy potato latkes for dinner, play dreidel and open the first gift.

There were quite a few different Hanukkah books to choose from at our library. I chose A Picture Book of Hanukkah by David A. Adler because of the wonderful illustrations.

Most of this book is like a history lesson. It tells a very accurate story behind the holiday, about the thousands of people who were killed before and after the Maccabeen war. It celebrates the small band of Jewish soldiers who fought and won the right to worship freely. Because of the war, death and detail, I think it's best read to the 5 and over age group. The last three pages tell more about the holiday traditions; the lighting of the candles, potato latkes, gelt and dreidel games.

When I first saw these illustrations by Linda Heller, I immediately thought this was a vintage 60's era book, mostly because of the sepia tones, but it was actually published in 1982 by Holiday House. Linda's illustrations fill more than half of the book and her beautiful shapes and fine pointilist ink detail have me wondering if she is also a printmaker. I wish I could find a website for her so I could gaze at more of her work. Click on the library book image for a closer look.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Honda for Christmas

As much as Icould use a new Honda for Christmas the Honda I'm talking about is Honda The Boy Who Dreamed of Cars by Mark Weston, illustrated by Katie Yamasaki. So although I won't be getting a new car, my nephew will love this little mini accompanied by Mark Weston's picture book biography published by Lee & Low Books this year. (BTW is having a big sale this month 25% off their titles with free shipping!) There's still time...

Weston says that the idea for his book about Soichiro Honda grew out of the research he did for his adult book Giants of Japan: The lives of Japan's Greatest Men and Women. The story describes how young Mr. Honda worked in a mechanic shop sweeping and cleaning the tools. He was a dedicated worker and quickly trained as a mechanic and opened his own garage in 1928. By 1936 he designed, built and drove the fastest race car in Japan. He was an inspirational inventor and businessman. Katie Yamaski's paintings are beautifully matched to the text, making this hardcover an asset to a child's library and a book they will not outgrow too soon.

Honda the Boy Who Dreamed of Cars, chronicles Mr. Honda's successes and includes quotes such as, "I have always had a stronger interest in the work than money." And you will learn Japanese phrases such as, "Domo arigato gozaimasu." If you're looking for a meaningful gift for a child between seven to twelve years old, this book with a model car would be a lot of fun- and educational too. I've also seen models of Honda cars that can be assembled and glued together for older children.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


In our family, comic books rule. Steve has his childhood collection of Tin Tin, I have my Tank Girl posters and D loves his Lego Bionicle comics. But when Toon Books sent me a copy of Stinky, D quickly set aside his Lego comics and snatched it up.

Husband and wife team, Francoise Mouly (New Yorker art editor) and Art Spiegelman (creator of 1980's RAW comics) have started making comic books for kids again! It seems for a long time that comics were geared more for teens and adult collectors, so I'm very happy that these two had the genius idea to bring back the comic book as a way to teach little ones to read.

RAW JUNIOR books are a sturdier hardcover variety of comic. Out of their first three books, Mo and Jo and Jack and the Box, Stinky is my favorite. It is an easy reader (K-2) with a charming story about a super stinky swamp monster who ends up making friends with the same little boy he had been trying to scare away. The dialog is fun and colorful:

"Kids don't like mucky mud, slimy slugs or smelly monsters like me!" "They eat cake and apples." "Yuck!"

Eleanor Davis is the very talented artist and author of this comic and she's only 25 years old! She keeps a fun art blog and will be featured in the Giant Robot Post It group show in LA from December 13th- January 14th. More than 95 artists will have their sticky note illustrations stuck on the wall. I wish I could be there to see and purchase some of my favorite artists works.

I love Eleanor's style and soft color palette choice for this book and I'm really hoping to catch her for an interview soon.

This is one of my favorite illustrations I scanned from page 6. Look at the lower right hand corner and you'll see a little hedgehog greeting Stinky with a clothes pin clamped to his nose!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker, The Day Before Christmas

Years ago I met an aged musician who played with the San Francisco Symphony. He dreaded the holiday season because he had to play The Nutcracker endlessly over. How could you ever tire of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker?!!!! I've been waiting until the girls are old enough to truly enjoy the performance. In Eve Bunting's precious story, The Day Before Christmas, the best age for the first Nutcracker is seven. This is a delicate, old-fashioned sort of picture book and not necessarily one very young children will like. (One alternate is The Nutcracker by Susan Jeffers) But, older children and adults will find this relatively sad story comforting at Christmastime.

Beth Peck's oil paintings remind me of my grandmother who was also a painter. I remember her working with a wooden palette and little tubes of rich colors, all of which were mixed with white at some point either on the palette or on the canvas. And I remember the smell- that strong turpentine-like smell.

Getting back to the story... Eve Bunting is a writer who can tell a sad tale to warm your heart. In, The Day Before Christmas, seven-year-old Allie has a special day alone with her grandfather. They take the train to the city to see The Nutcracker. Allie's mother died when she was three and she is aware that her grandfather may feel sad on this day because he used to take her mother to see the Nutcracker when she was a girl. This excerpt is one of my favorites. I find the sparse dialog profound in its simplicity. Who was the mother she never knew?

"Grandpa?" I ask. "Can you tell me about the special day you had with Mom?" Grandpa closes his eyes. "It was Christmas Eve, all those years ago. Your mom was seven, same as you. She loved The Nutcracker too." "What was her favorite part?" "The snow fairies."

Somehow we're with this little girl and her grandfather on the train in this moment. This is a book I treasure whether my kids like it or not. In fact, this is a book I savor for myself. And how can anyone tire of The Nutcracker?!!!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


I just received the newly released Love, Splat by Rob Scotton in the mail from Harper Collins Children's Books. It's a sequel to the popular Splat the Cat. Diane Chen, had a wonderful review of Splat at School Library Journal which had me looking forward to receiving Love, Splat. Thanks Elyse and Diane!

When I first pulled the book out of the padded yellow mailer, I immediately noticed the feel of the raised lettering on the book jacket and its 10x10 size. The print quality is wonderful. You can see all the super fine cat hair.

Rob Scotton of Russel the Sheep fame is both the author and artist. I always admire those who are talented and able to do both and Rob does it well. This is my favorite illustration of some of the funny cat characters in Splat's classroom. Braces and coke bottle glasses on a cat?!!!

The story is as sweet as can be and it's actually a Valentines Day love story. It's an easy read for ages 3-7. My five year old son has read it 3 times today. I asked him what his favoite part about the book is and he said it's the ending. So I'll just leave the ending as a surprise for you to read and find out what happens with Splat and Kitty.
Another fun element about Love, Splat is that there are rubber ducks hidden throughout the book. We played a game of counting the hidden ducks before bed and even the baby joined in. We love rubber ducks too Rob!

Below is a little animation from Splat the Cat.