Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Miss Bianca

The bookshelves in my childhood home are filled with memories. And they're absolutely filled with books illustrated by Garth Williams: Miss Bianca, Bedtime for Frances, Charlotte's Web, The Little House on the Prarie books, Stuart Little, Over and Over, The Rescuers, Little Fur Family, Home for a Bunny, Golden Books Treasury of Elves and Fairies, The Cricket in Times Square among others.

A quick google search brought up limited edition prints by Mr. Williams like this one from Miss Bianca. Look at that proud mamma mouse in the forefront and those expressive little creatures. No doubt the books he illustrated are classics, Stuart Little in 1945 and Charlotte's Web in 1952.

Many contemporary illustrators have been influenced by his work. Have you visited Emily Gravett's site, author of Cyblis nominee Orange Pear Apple Bear? Take a look at Rosie's Roses illustrated by Henry Cole. And you can't tell me Maurice Sendak hasn't been influenced by Garth Williams.

As I'm writing this post, I've given my kids modeling clay, pastels (washable) and glitter glue to keep them busy- I know you're imagining the mess. OK back to my quickie attempt at drawing parallels and linking illustration references. Here is a resource: KidSpace@InternetPublicLibrary. Many children's authors are also illustrators, you can find links to their websites and browse both the new and nostalgic.

Christmas afternoon we left the girls with their grandparents and went to see Atonement. Ha! a new movie to add to my list of good cry movies/novels. On par with The English Patient or Titanic the screenplay and cinematography are top rate. I really do have to get to the movie theater more than once a year.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Lauren's Pippi

OK Christmas shopping is a litt.... lot nuts with a toddler in tow. However, I made it to Moon News Books and I'll rattle off the selections I made in record time before meltdown city. Firstly, I do have to say I got some awesome gift suggestions from the December Carnival of Children's Literature hosted at Big A little a. If you haven't been over there reading and clicking you still have four more shopping days! One of the 63 ways I gifted was, Poetry Speaks to Children (Book and CD) with the hot chocolate and coupon for reading it together. Thanks MotherReader!

Crossing off Santa's book list so far:
For Dad: Little Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm in the Great Depression by Mildred Armstrong Kalish- This book is likely to bring back fond memories of his early childhood and a good dose of new family stories.

For Mom: After This by Alice McDermott- Reading it should alleviate some of the guilt about her own children's wayward days.

For Brother: Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer- My brother's an adventurer, although not quite that extreme. I heard Sean Penn waited nearly ten years to get the rights to this story from the family and it's now a movie.

For My four-year-old: Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity by Mo Willems- Love it, love it love it.

For My two-year-old: Someday by Alison McGhee, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds- There are 69 customer reviews of this book over at Amazon to tell you how wonderful it is- tears me up every time.

And you can't escape a little holiday shopping without picking up something for yourself right? For some women it's earrings for me it's Pippi! Lauren Child illustrated a collection of Pippi Longstocking stories by Astrid Lindgren. I adore both Astrid Lindgren and Lauren Child and this hardcover book is perfect for chapter reading. It's a nice size to hold on my lap and has large print for enthusiastic read-alouds.

Those smart shop owners at Moon News have a little basket of toys and rumpled books to keep my toddler busy while I buy. I have to go back because I skipped over the cool Karma Checks at the register counter. Meltdown avoided.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

For Love of Barbapapa

In Summer 2006 we travelled to Iceland and while wandering around downtown Reykjavik, I discovered Barbapapa!

Written in the '70s by Annette Tison and Talus Taylor, the Barbapapa characters were created as a book series and made into a TV program. Where were you Barbapapa in my childhood? These loving, shape changing blobs, Barbapapa and Barbamama, have seven children. Each amorphous child has a distinct persona, Meet the Barbapapas.

The Barbapapa flagship series books are available in French. I found Barbapapa Babysitter at a Belgian, children's book store, Tropismes, located next to chocolate shops- I was in heaven. You can order internationally and they speak English. Many wonderful children's books are never translated, so I always enjoy the diversity of foreign language books.

I don't believe Barbapapa had widespread distribution in the US market. I found some English copies on ebay and Amazon, but I think they came by way of Canada. Nevertheless, the pictures open up unlimited stories about emotions, ecology, family, space, music and manners. And on the official Barbapapa site you will find well designed games for young children. We also like Peepandthebigwideworld for educational games.
Here is a little entertainment for a rainy day- like today in San Francisco.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Wrap 'em Up

I always give books as gifts because besides loving beautiful books, they're easy to wrap- or done for you. And, if you've ever struggled with odd shaped packages in a hurry you'll get this.

Following the theme for the December Carnival, I made a list of a few terrific books.
Ten in the Bed by Jane Cabrera was given to my two-year-old from a teacher friend, and we've read it at least twice a week for the past year. This is one of the best takes on the well known sing-song rhyme I've seen. The hardcover edition is the perfect bedtime book and definitely worth giving.

For that special, cynical, world traveler in your life,
Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik is a treat. I'll give you a taste, Gopnik is describing the real reason he and his wife moved from New York to Paris when his first child was born, Barney. "We had seen one after another of our friends' children- charming children of parents who parse Greek texts or write long metafictions set in the eighteenth century- sunk dumbly in front of a television set watching a man in a cheap purple dinosaur suit sing doggerel in an adenoidal voice with a chorus of overregimented eight-year-old ham actors." I gave this book to a friend who just returned from Paris and told me stories of Euro-Disney princess adventures with a four-year-old, a good match I think.

And for those dog lovers celebrating baby's first holiday season of joy and good cheer, here is an old favorite.
Good Dog Carl by Alexandra Day is a picture book showing what happens when the family pet is entrusted to watch the baby. I plan to give this in the hardcover edition with the board book, Carl's Christmas to my sleep-deprived, dog-barks-too-much neighbors. BTW Carl has a website at Good Dog Carl.
Happy Wrapping.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Toolkit for New Authors/Illustrators

Let's be frank, the children's book market is a tough nut to crack, however even the most seasoned editor can not always predict the ever changing tastes of her reading public. We've all seen brilliant books, and a lot of mediocre books in print. I have read well over a thousand picture books. I love to write, but the true beauty of creating books for children is our limitless imagination and joy of reading with and to children.

Consider the following websites a mini toolkit.







If you're looking for a memorable gift, Reading is Fundamental is celebrating its 4oth anniversary with the book, The Art of Reading. "It's a book about the ability of children's literature to change lives and open hearts."- RIF

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

'Tis the Season

As the stresses and joys of the season start to mount, I find a good cathartic cry quite necessary. That said, here's my top 5 list of movies that will make any parent weep. Notice that all of these movies were novels first- and very well adapted I might add. If you have a favorite good cry movie or favorites be sure to post them in the comments.

Tis the time to snuggle on the sofa with hot chocolate or a bottle of wine and get lost in the movies for a couple of hours. BTW I believe these movies are rated R so make sure the kids are sleeping. Can you tell I haven't been to the movie theater in a while? Well, some of them are old enough, you may not have seen one or two. And, if you prefer to snuggle in and read, a real luxury for me, try paperbackswap.com. I joined this book club about six months ago and it's been great to trade my old novels for books I intend to read. The library only lets me renew them twice as you know.

1. Sophie's Choice (Meryl Streep)

2. Cold Mountain (Nicole Kidman and Jude Law)

3. A River Runs Through It (Brad Pitt)

4. The World According to Garp (Robin Williams)

5. The Ice Storm (Sigorney Weaver)

And switching the subject from movies back to books and blogs-
the blog, Uncommon Grace, is so beautiful I'm in awe. Grace includes lists and links to favorite picture books and parenting books. It's full of lovely photographs of flowers, family, art crafts, poetry.... Really, you must check it out from one picture book lover to another.

I got the Sundance catalogue in the mail last week (I really need to get off those catalog lists. I recycle but the waste and byproduct... discussion for another time.) and I saw they're selling one of my favorite Christmastime books, Snowmen at Night. "Snuggle in, wee one and grown up alike, for a spirited read." Proof again that picture books are not just for kids! I also love Snowmen at Christmas by Caralyn Buehner and Mark Buehner. There are just some books I can't wait to read over and over at bedtime.

Saturday, December 1, 2007


One for each night,

they will shed a sweet light,

to remind us of days long ago.
_Chanukah, Oh Chanukah

Today I called my sister in California to ask her if I could contribute a blog on Chanukah. It's funny, because as children we were both raised Catholic but now we are both moms and our husbands come from very different cultural backgrounds, so our children are growing up with different traditions. My husband's grandfather was Jewish and came to Ellis Island from Russia. Although my father in-law is Jewish, my husband was not raised in the traditions and did not attend Temple.

Last year we decided to learn and teach our 3 year old son, Donovan about the meaning of Chanukah. We have an heirloom menorah which came from my father in-law's family. It is very beautiful and special. Since I did not have a clue about what to cook and how the menorah should be lit each night, I went to the library in search of a book that could help me.

There are many books about Chanukah at the library (even in the South!) but I came across one that is perfect for parents who would like to teach their children. It is a book for families to share, filled with wonderful stories and amazing recipes, called "One For Each Night" Chanukah Tales and Recipes, by Marilyn Kallet, with beautiful translucent color illustrations by Heather Seratt.
This book came to be when the author, Marilyn Kallet wanted to celebrate the 8 nights of Chanukah with her daughter and husband, but had no money to buy gifts. So, using her talents as an English major, she decided to create homemade presents and write a new story for each night. The stories were about food and she would cook up tasty dishes to accompany the tales. This wonderful book is made of 8 of her original tales and the recipes were passed down from her mother in-law. You can find this book online at http://www.celticcatpublishing.com/
Chanukah is only a few days away.........December 5th at sundown. This year we have a new baby daughter to celebrate with us. I can't wait!