Thursday, September 23, 2010

Abel's Island

William Steig 1976

The other night we started reading about Abelard Hassam di Chirico Flint. He and his wife were out picnicking when a storm struck. They sought refuge in a cave but when his wife’s scarf blew off her neck Abel rashly ran after it and was swept away and marooned on an island. This “Edwardian dandy” of a mouse, fond of wearing a purple cravat, was forced to live by his wits and natural instinct. Alone on the island for a year, he makes profound observations about himself and the remarkable nature around him. We finished it last night, all four of us tucked up in my bed (it was thunder storming and Chris wasn’t home yet).

Rain caused one to reflect on the shadowed, more poignant parts of life- the inescapable sorrows, the speechless longings, the disappointments, the regrets, the cold miseries. It also allowed one the leisure to ponder questions unasked in the bustle of brighter days; and if one were snug under a sound roof, as Abel was, one felt somehow mothered, though mothers were nowhere around, and absolved of responsibilities. Abel had to cherish his dry log.

Steig managed to write such a beautiful, witty, sentimental, romantic, and clever story, made all the better with his scattered illustrations.

Friday, September 17, 2010

All about Seasons

I love being home with my little girl, Charlotte. Today we spent all afternoon outside, the weather was beautiful! She brought me a leaf and wanted to know why it fell from the tree. So I told her about autumn and the seasons. There are lots of books about the changes throughout the year, but I particularly like these two.

Alice and Marin Provensen 1976

The Provensen’s book describes in just a few sentences and some simple happy pictures what happens during the four seasons.

Once there was a little girl who didn’t understand about time. She was so little that she didn’t know about Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday , Sunday. She certainly didn’t know about January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December. She was so little she didn’t even know summer, winter, autumn, spring.

Charlotte Zolotow 1957
pictures by Garth Williams

In this tender story a curious little girl is told by her mother about the holidays of each season. The little girl and her mother are never given names, but I love the sweetness of their conversations. Garth Williams is one of the best vintage illustrators. My favorite picture is where the girl is peering down into the lighted jack-o-lantern. She reminds me of my friend Lauren’s daughter, Nora.

The Man-in-the-Moon in Love

Jeff Brumbeau 1992
illustrated by Greg Couch

Part folk tale, part love story, with pictures reminiscent of the art deco era. A tale of the Man in the Moon and his wife and the mean Man-in-the-Sun who tried to keep them apart.

There was a woman who lived in a little blue house, deep in a forest glade.  Not a  town or city was near.  She spent all of her days tending her garden and baking the sweet potato pies she made so well.

But they soon found that each had forgotten something very important.  Because the woman could not fly up to live on the moon, the Man-in-the-Moon would have to come down to earth.  First, however, he had to ask permission of the Man-in-the-Sun, who was in charge of all the plantets, stars, and moons.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Flicka, Ricka, Dicka

Maj Lindman 1994

Another Maj Lindman treasure with three sisters this time. Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka’s mother sews them new red and white polka dotted dresses. The helpful girls do chores for an old woman and dirty their new frocks. Mother isn’t mad though, because she taught her girls to always be kind and helpful.

Snipp, Snapp, Snurr

Maj Lindman 1973

A vintage goodie (circa 1936) by Swedish author-artist Maj Lindman. Three brothers named Snipp, Snapp, and Snurr all work hard to buy a pair of red shoes for their mother’s birthday. The pictures are “gay, simple and childlike” and there’s just something about the color of vintage illustrations.

Elsie Times Eight

I didn’t realize that Natalie Babbitt (of Tuck Everlasting and Eyes of the Amaryllis fame) wrote picture books. But here is one she also illustrated. I’m fond of the name “Elsie” and that’s how I first spotted this.

Natalie Babbitt 2001

In a case of miscommunication, Elsie’s parents end up with 8 of her. They’re noisy and rowdy and causing quite a pain so they have to track down her silly fairy godmother (who caused the problem in the first place) to set things right.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Last Resort

In honor of my beautiful Madeleine’s birthday, here is her favorite picture book since she was 7 years old. (And one of my favorites as well).

J. Patrick Lewis 2002
Illustrated by Roberto Innocenti

The characters are fantastic, the pictures amazing. An artist who has lost his inspiration goes for a stay at “The Last Resort”- a quaint seaside inn. While he’s there he meets an assortment of literary characters, from Calvino’s Baron in the trees to Emily Dickinson, to Antoine de Saint-Exupery, even Peter Lorre, and has his imagination jump-started.