Monthly Archives: June 2012

Baby Talk, by Fred Hiatt, illustrated by Mark Graham

Baby Talk

Baby Talk, by Fred Hiatt, illustrated by Mark Graham
(1999, McElderry Books, ISBN 0-689-82146-8)

This was another random grab from the shelf by GirlChild. She’s not a particularly discerning reader, but this one was cute!

Joey’s new baby brother cries a lot, and all the members of his family tell him that the baby is just trying to tell them something–whether it’s that he’s hungry or tired or needing to be changed–and offer to let Joey help take care of him. Joey declines the offers until one day when his brother makes a different sound– “Agoo!” –and Joey’s grandmother says he’s speaking baby talk and that Joey spoke it not so long ago. Joey tries to understand, and his mother suggests that he start talking back. Soon Joey and his baby brother are having nonsense conversations all the time, and by the end, Joey is confident he knows what his brother is saying to him… “I love you.”

Although our experience is somewhat different (GirlChild has always been interested in helping with BoyChild), the storyline does ring true. The baby in the book appears to be about six months to nine months old, and Joey seems to be in the three to five year old range (except he doesn’t use a booster in the car, but that’s a pretty typical illustration mistake), and I can see a boy that age being wary of interacting with a newish baby. One thing GirlChild and Joey have in common, though, is the desire to understand what the baby is saying. GirlChild used to ask, “What’s he saying?” (possibly because we usually provide commentary on what both small children and animals are “saying”), but now she asks the question and immediately provides her own answer or just puts on her BoyChild voice (a rather insultingly squeaky one, actually) and speaks for him. (That boy says some seriously sassy things sometimes!)

The oil paint illustrations are soft and textured, and the rectangular scenes have rough edges that bleed into the background of the page (also oil-painted). I find the images of the children much better executed than those of the adults. The expressions on Joey and the baby are particularly life-like; I’ve seen those looks on my children’s faces many times. (The dad is dressed in a yellow polo shirt and yellow slacks and has white-blond hair…he seems a little bit dated. And his cheeks are abnormally rosy.) All in all, though, they’re sweet illustrations and go well with the topic of the book.

GirlChild’s Reaction: GirlChild liked this book because this is pretty much how she and BoyChild interact. Then again, BoyChild is almost 16 months old and is still mostly speaking in nonsense syllables, and I’m still waiting for her to be able to interpret… This book encouraged me to think a little harder about what BoyChild might be trying to say (I found myself trying to figure out if the author was using real sounds that a baby made for certain words, but I couldn’t match them up) and to pay more attention to how he responds when I repeat his sounds back to him.

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Themed Third Thursday: Cinderella Edition

GirlChild has recently gotten on a Cinderella kick because of a Disney-based toy she got for Christmas (and lost and found and then lost again immediately– and permanently this time), and she wants me to tell her the story every single time we drive anywhere. (Well, she alternates between that and asking me to tell knock-knock jokes…) Since she’s never actually read the story (nor has she seen the movie), I thought it would be a good idea to get some different versions from the library…and this post was born!

Cinderella, retold and illustrated by Barbara McClintock (2005): This picture book uses the Charles Perrault version as its source material. The illustrations are very detailed and reflect the French origins of this version; there are oodles and oodles (and oodles!) of ruffles, for instance, and Cinderella’s hair is piled high with flowers (so much so that you can’t see her actual hair at all). There are sizable blocks of text on a few pages, but the story still seems to move along relatively quickly, and GirlChild didn’t lose interest like I was afraid she might. The father in this version appears as part of the narration only as a horribly hen-pecked husband (not one obliviously off on a business trip like some versions) who happily gives Cinderella away at her wedding at the end. The stepmother and stepsisters are reformed because they are ashamed of themselves after Cinderella’s unflagging kindness and forgiveness.

Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story from China, retold by Ai-Ling Louie, illustrated by Ed Young (1982): I hesitate to include versions that purport to be from other cultures because I would hate to perpetuate an inaccurate representation just because I’m ignorant. This book, however, includes some background notes, often a sign that meticulous research and care have been taken with the original sources to preserve the dignity of the original, and images of two versions previously published in Chinese. Some elements that are different from the European version include the death of Yeh-Shen’s father, a large fish that the stepmother kills and eats out of anger because it has been a comfort to Yeh-Shen, golden slippers, and a much more round-about method of getting the attention of royalty (as the lost slipper itself is found, sold, and finally makes its way to a king).

Bubba, the Cowboy Prince: A Fractured Texas Tale, by Helen Ketteman, illustrated by James Warhola (1997): Bubba, a rancher’s stepson who loves what he does, is the hero of this Texanized (and much less serious) tale. Miz Lurlene, the “purtiest and richest gal in the county,” decides that, although she loves ranching, it can be lonesome work, so she throws a ball to meet someone who loves ranching as much as she does. Bubba’s step-family goes off to the ball without him, but Bubba’s fairy godcow arrives with a bolt of lightning, transforms a steer into a stallion and his rags into fancy dancing duds. Bubba’s dance with Miz Lurlene ends when midnight comes and he flees in embarrassment, dropping one of his raggedy boots. In the end, Miz Lurlene doesn’t care what Bubba smells like (cow); she wants to marry her cowboy prince and have him join her in working her ranch! GirlChild loved this version because her daddy reads it to her in his best Texas drawl!

Seriously, Cinderella Is SO Annoying!; The Story of Cinderella as Told by the Wicked Stepmother, by Trisha Speed Shaskan, illustrated by Gerald Guerlais (2012): As with most “other side of the story” books, this one features the villain (the wicked stepmother) as the narrator attempting to recast herself in a more sympathetic light. This version explains that Cinderella drives everyone nuts with her non-stop talking and that the stepmother simply gives her chores to do to keep her busy so they won’t have to listen, especially to the crazy, obviously fictional parts about the helpful animals and whatnot. The reason she can’t go to the ball? She loses her voice from talking so much! In the end, the stepmother feels sorry for the prince because he doesn’t know what he’s gotten himself into and says that the rest of them live happily ever after. This book would be great for discussing different points-of-view and comparing, for instance, what the newspaper reports about an event versus what the witnesses and people directly involved might say. At the end, you’ll find discussion starters for possible classroom group work. Best for elementary age readers who have a better chance to really get what’s going on.
Bigfoot Cinderrrrrella, by Tony Johnston, illustrated by James Warhola (1998): Recommended to me by a school librarian who reads it aloud to delighted second graders every year, this version features a Bigfoot prince who is “as odoriferous as his tree-home [is] coniferous” and the downtrodden Rrrrella–woolly, golden-furred, big-footed Rrrrella, the creature of the prince’s dreams. It also features a beary godfather, two not-so-ugly stepsisters, and a whole lot of love for nature. A glossary of potentially unfamiliar forest terms is located at the beginning of the book. This is definitely one of those versions that goes for the funny bone!Ponyella, by Laura Numeroff and Nate Evans, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger (2011): Ponyella is Cinderella retold for the horse-loving crowd. Her farm is sold (along with Ponyella herself), and the two new ponies treat her meanly and Ponyella is locked up in a smelly stall where she can’t run and jump like she loves to do. The ball is replaced by the Tippington 25th Annual Grand Royal Pony Championship, and the rescuing royalty is Princess Penelope. The sugary pink cover gives you a pretty good idea of this book, so if your child is into pink, ponies, and princesses…this version just might be the right one for you!

Chickerella, by Mary Jane and Herm Auch (2005): This book has perhaps the most disturbed, er, disturbing illustrations I have yet encountered in a Cinderella book. There are stuffed chicken mannequins wearing clay polymer shoes on their chickeny feet. Add to that the fact that Chickerella “drops” a glass egg during her exit from the ball, and you have a seriously weird version of the story. GirlChild, however, wasn’t bothered in the slightest. Notable deviations from the original (other than that the main characters are all fowl) include the laying of glass eggs instead of the wearing of glass slippers and that neither Chickerella nor the prince have any interest in getting married, so they start a fashion business with the Fairy Goosemother. Also, there are abundant poultry puns.

Cinder Edna, by Ellen Jackson, illustrated by Kevin O’Malley (1994): This modernized version focuses more on Cinderella’s practical neighbor Cinder Edna than on Cinderella herself and pokes gentle fun at Cinderella’s passive role in her own story. The parallel stories contrast the way the different women deal with the lemons life has thrown at them, and they do both end up meeting their soul-mates at the ball…Prince Randolph (the shallow) and Prince Rupert (the resourceful). Most modern readers have probably felt a little exasperated from time to time with Cinderella’s waiting around for things to happen; this book just admits it and gives an alternative.

Belinda and the Glass Slipper, by Amy Young (2006): This follow-up to Belinda Begins Ballet features the title character–a girl with extraordinarily large feet and a talent for ballet–as she auditions for the lead role in a Cinderella ballet against new dancer Lola Mudge. Life imitates art when the vindictive Lola tricks the kind-hearted Belinda and locks her in a closet so she can take over her role in the big production, but Belinda, with the help of the Fairy Godmother dancer, gets out just in time for the ball scene and manages to steal the show.

Ella Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine (1997): In this Newbery Honor-winning book for older children, Ella is gifted with the virtue of obedience…a “gift” with the potential to backfire. The story is told in first person, and Ella reveals herself to have a mind of her own despite the curse. She resists the effects of the curse, delaying her obedience, attempting to twist the words of commands or at least follow the orders in her own obstinate way. Since neither her mother nor Mandy (the family’s cook who has a secret of her own) wants to abuse the curse and her not-so-nice father is almost always away and doesn’t know anything about it, things go relatively peacefully for much of her young life until her mother dies when Ella is nearly fifteen. The book is very, very little like the movie of the same name (although I also enjoyed the movie, I must admit), so the only thing watching the movie might give away is that Ella has to break her own curse…which is what everyone’s wanted Cinderella to do all along anyway!

There are many, MANY more versions out there…you can likely find one (or more!) of every region of the United States, for many countries of the world…even most genres of literature! (Try the Grimm Brothers version if you want a little horror! “Look back! Look back! There’s blood on the track!”) Just look up “Cinderella” in your library catalog under keyword, and you should find a vast assortment! If you have a favorite (especially one I haven’t mentioned), tell us about it in the comments!

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