Tag Archives: elementary

Themed Third Throwback Thursday: 1960-1969

My list for the 1960s is long…too long. It seems like every iconic picture book, every novel or easy reader I ever picked up off the shelf or was assigned in class during the ’80s and ’90s was published in the 1960s! (That, I must admit, is hyperbole. Maybe half of them, not all. 😉 ) Instead of listing every one with a synopsis, I’m going to do this list in halves–half picture book/easy reader, half novels–and a basic summary. Then you can access the printable book list below for just a list!

[1960 to 1969 book list]

In the news and popular culture during this decade, as found on about.com, including many events from the American Civil Rights Movement:

1960–presidential debates first televised, lunch counter sit-in at Woolworth’s
1961–first man in space (Soviets)
1962–first Wal-Mart opens, first James Bond movie
1963–first Doctor Who episode airs, Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech
1964–GI Joe action figure first made, Civil Rights Act passes
1965–U.S. gets involved in Vietnam
1966–Kwanzaa first celebrated, Star Trek first airs
1967–first heart transplant, first Super Bowl, Thurgood Marshall becomes first African-American justice on the Supreme Court
1968–Martin Luther King Jr. assassinated
1969–Neil Armstrong is first man on the moon, Sesame Street airs

Newbery Medalists for the decade:

1960–Onion John, by Joseph Krumgold
1961–Island of the Blue Dolphins, by Scott O’Dell
1962–The Bronze Bow, by Elizabeth George Speare
1963–A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle
1964–It’s Like This, Cat, by Emily Neville
1965–Shadow of a Bull, by Maia Wojciechowska
1966–I, Juan de Pareja, by Elizabeth Borton de Trevino
1967–Up a Road Slowly, by Irene Hunt
1968–From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by E.L. Konigsburg
1969–The High King, by Lloyd Alexander

Caldecott Medals for the decade:

1960–Nine Days to Christmas, by Marie Hall Ets and Aurora Labastida
1961–Baboushka and the Three Kings, by Ruth Robbins, illustrated by Nicolas Sidjakov
1962–Once a Mouse, retold and illustrated by Marcia Brown
1963–The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats
1964–Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak
1965–May I Bring a Friend?, by Beatrice Schenk de Regniers, illustrated by Beni Montresor
1966–Always Room for One More, by Sorche Nic Leodhas, illustrated by Nonny Hogrogian
1967–Sam, Bangs & Moonshine, by Evaline Ness
1968–Drummer Hoff, adapted by Barbara Emberly, illustrated by Ed Emberly
1969–The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship, retold by Arthur Ransome, illustrated by Uri Shulevitz

Picture Books/Easy Readers:

Bedtime for FrancesBedtime for Frances, by Russell and Lillian Hoban (1960): This is first in the series about Frances the strong-willed, inventive badger child who, in this book, is not quite ready for bedtime.

Green Eggs and Ham, Green Eggs and Hamby Dr. Seuss (1960): Sam-I-Am persistently offers green eggs and ham to an abstainer who is finally convinced to try them because he is tired of being pestered. Turns out, he does like green eggs and ham! This is just one of many Dr. Seuss books published in this decade, my favorite of which is Dr. Seuss’s ABCs (1963).

The Fire CatThe Fire Cat, by Esther Averill (1960): Pickles the cat wants to do big things, but because he can’t find big things to do, he acts out. Mrs. Goodkind gets him hooked up with the local fire department, and he learns how to use his big paws for good.

Go, Dog, Go!, Go, Dog, Go!by P.D. Eastman (1961): Dogs are doing plenty of un-dogly things in order to showcase a variety of adjectives and opposites. The story culminates in a big dog party at the top of a tree and two dogs riding off together into the sunset.

The Snowy DayThe Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats (1962): Peter wakes one morning to find that it has snowed overnight! This Caldecott Medal winning book then follows Peter through his day in the snow, his disappointment that the snowball he tries to save melts, and his joy when he wakes again the next morning to find fresh snow has fallen once again.

Amelia Bedelia, Amelia Bedeliaby Peggy Parish (1963): Amelia Bedelia is a very literal woman who goes to work for the Rogers family as housekeeper. Her confusion over idioms and unclear phrases used by the family result in many funny misinterpretations, but her fabulous cooking skills save her job. (There is a new branch of this series being published about Amelia Bedelia as a little girl as well.)

Clifford the Big Red DogClifford the Big Red Dog, by Norman Bridwell (1963): Clifford is a friendly, red, and very oversized dog, and this book is the introductory book of the series. He and his owner, Emily Elizabeth, do many things together, and Clifford both gets in trouble because of his size and often saves the day.

Where the Wild Things Are, Where the Wild Things Areby Maurice Sendak (1963): The 1964 winner of the Caldecott Medal, this book tells the story of Max who is feeling rather beastly before dinner and is sent to his room where he imagines himself sailing to the land of the wild things. When he starts to feel lonely for a place where “someone loved him best of all,” he “sails” home and finds his dinner waiting for him in his room.

The Giving TreeThe Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein (1964): A tree loves a little boy and gives him all that he wants and needs all through his life, even to the point of giving up her own life. (Many people love this book. I am not one of them.)

Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile, Lyle, Lyle, Crocodileby Bernard Waber (1965): Lyle the crocodile lives in harmony with the Primms and everyone on their street except for Mr. Grumps and his cat. When Lyle causes a stir at the store where Mr. Grumps works, Mr. Grumps gets the city to put him into the zoo. When he is sprung from the zoo and is returning home, he coincidentally saves Mr. Grumps and his cat from a house fire and is welcomed back into the neighborhood.

CorduroyCorduroy, story and pictures by Don Freeman (1968): Corduroy is a stuffed bear in a department store who has a missing button and is overlooked because of it. After a night of adventure looking for a new button, Corduroy is purchased by a little girl who comes to be his friend.

Swimmy, Swimmyby Leo Lionni (1968): Swimmy is the one black fish in his school of red fish, and a big fish eats all his friends. Swimmy wanders the wonders of the sea until he finds another school of his kind of fish (still all red), and he helps them learn to swim together to discourage big fish from attacking (and he, with his distinctive color, plays the part of the eye). This book was a Caldecott Honor book.

Caps for SaleCaps for Sale, by Esphyr Slobodkina (1968): A peddler who has trouble selling his hats one day rests beneath a tree and has all his hats stolen by monkeys while he sleeps. In his angry attempts to get them to return his hats (which they mock by copying his every move), he throws down his own hat to the ground in fury, prompting all the monkeys to toss down the hats they have stolen as well. The peddler reclaims his hats and goes back to town to try again to sell them.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Very Hungry Caterpillarby Eric Carle (1969): A very hungry caterpillar eats and eats (creating holes in the pages of the book) until he feels a little sick and makes himself a cocoon. When he wakes, he’s a butterfly (with what appear to be upside-down wings)!

Novels:

Island of the Blue DolphinsIsland of the Blue Dolphins, by Scott O’Dell (1960): Karana is left alone on the Island of the Blue Dolphins when she leaves the evacuation ship to be with her brother who is accidentally left behind. He is soon killed by wild dogs, and Karana survives for many years with only the company of a wild dog she tames and the things she scavenges or creates until another ship comes, and she trusts them to take her away as well. This book won the Newbery Medal.

The Phantom Tollbooth, The Phantom Tollboothby Norton Juster (1961): Milo is a spoiled and bored boy who one day opens an unexpected delivery: a toy tollbooth. He wearily drives his toy car through the booth, and he is transported to a strange and ridiculous land where the rules don’t make sense and there is great division between the rulers about whether words or numbers are most important. Milo’s journeys and adventures teach him to find excitement in the world around him.

James and the Giant PeachJames and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl (1961): James lives miserably with his two awful aunts until one day when a giant peach grows as a result of a batch of magical crocodile tongues being spilled. (Really.) He finds a tunnel into the center of the peach, and he and the oversized crawling creatures he discovers inside take a trip across the ocean from Dover, England to New York City where they take up residence and live happily ever after.

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, The Wolves of Willoughby Chaseby Joan Aiken (1962): When Bonnie’s parents take a holiday for the health of her mother, they are unaware that the distant relative with whom they leave their daughter is a villain. She and an unscrupulous man plot to take over Willoughby Chase and oust Bonnie’s family. Bonnie, her cousin, and the helpful goose boy work together to foil their plot and return to Willoughby Chase, despite the wolves. (I have not read this book–it was a favorite of my sister’s–but it is supposed to be pretty funny!)

Product DetailsA Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle (1962): Meg’s father has been missing for years; her brother Charles Wallace does not even remember him. One “dark and stormy night,” however, three mysterious ladies arrive and start Meg, Charles Wallace, and friend Calvin on a wild, space-hopping, time-bending adventure to save the world (and other worlds!). This Newbery Medal book is the first of a series.

The Chronicles of Prydain, The Chronicles of Prydainby Lloyd Alexander (1964-1968): The second book in this fantasy series (The Black Cauldron) was a Newbery Honor book, the last book (The High King) won the Newbery Medal. Taran is the assistant pig-keeper in charge of Hen Wen, a pig who prophesies. The books follow him as he adventures and grows to adulthood while fighting for the freedom of Prydain from the Death Lord.

Harriet the SpyHarriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh (1964): Harriet is a curious and regimented child, raised by a nanny who is soon to leave her to get married, and her life seems to fall apart when the notebook she keeps about her spying is found by her classmates who don’t much care for the blunt musings about each of them they find there. Eventually, she accepts the advice and help of the adults in her life to find a solution and a better outlet for her keen observation skills.

The Mouse and the Motorcycle, The Mouse and the Motorcycleby Beverly Cleary (1965): Ralph is a mouse who lives with his family in an old hotel off the beaten path. A boy arrives and brings his toy motorcycle, and Ralph discovers he can actually drive it. He and the boy become friends during the family’s stay, and the boy leaves Ralph his motorcycle when his family continues their trip.

Baby IslandBaby Island, by Carol Ryrie Brink (1965): 12-year-old Mary and 10-year-old Jean are traveling by boat to meet with their father in Australia, and a storm causes them to have to abandon ship–with the four babies entrusted temporarily to their care–when their lifeboat is set loose abruptly when the boat’s sinking seems imminent. They land on what they believe to be a deserted island but later meet Mr. Peterkin who lives on the other side. When they least expect it, rescue arrives, and there are happy reunions all around. (This was a favorite book of mine as a child!)

The Egypt Game, Egypt Gameby Zilpha Keatley Snyder (1967): A group of children who live in the same apartment building sneak into an unused storage yard nearby to play an elaborate game meant to replicate ancient Egyptian rituals. When another child is murdered in their neighborhood, they are kept from their game for a long time because the assailant is unknown. When one of the children returns to their play area to retrieve something after they are allowed to play again, she is attacked and is saved when the owner of the storage yard (who has been watching all along, unknown to the children) calls for help, and the murderer is found. This book was a Newbery Honor book.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. FrankweilerFrom the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by E.L. Konigsburg (1967): Claudia feels unappreciated by her family, so she plans an elaborate scheme to run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (with her brother, because he has money) long enough for them to miss her. While they are there, they discover a mystery about a statue that is purportedly one of Michaelangelo’s, and Claudia is so intrigued that she leaves the museum to pursue further information about Angel at the home of its previous owner, Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, who keeps her records organized in a peculiar way–a way she won’t explain when she allows the children one hour to discover the answer they’re seeking.

Striped Ice Cream, Striped Ice Creamby Joan M. Lexau (1968): Becky’s birthday is approaching, and times are hard, so she knows her family isn’t even going to be able to afford her favorite striped ice cream to celebrate. She would be okay with that except her family, usually so loving, seems to be treating her particularly meanly for a girl whose birthday is coming up. She soon discovers the reason for their distance, however, in their loving birthday surprise.

And here are the lists for picture books and chapter books from the 1960s featured by the What Do We Do All Day blog. There are no duplicates on the picture book list, and only three from the chapter books this time!

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Themed Third Throwback Thursday: 1950-1959

I was doing so well, really, until the third Thursday of June fell during the week of BoyChild’s Things that Go camp at church and as I was getting us ready for a weekend getaway for Father’s Day! I totally thought I had another week to get it posted, so here it is, a week late, and I’m going to just go with it! (After all, Fun Fourth Frowback Friday just doesn’t work for me!) Here’s the Themed Third (plus one!) Throwback Thursday for the 1950s, the decade in which my parents started reading!

[1950 to 1959 book list]

Here’s our history news update from about.com:

1950–first organ transplant performed, first “Peanuts” comic strip published
1951–color tv introduced
1952–seat belts in cars introduced, Queen Elizabeth ascends to the throne
1953–DNA discovered
1954–segregation ruled illegal in the U.S.
1955–Disneyland opens, Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat
1956–Velcro introduced
1957–Dr. Seuss publishes The Cat in the Hat, Sputnik launched
1958–LEGO bricks introduced
1959–The Sound of Music opens on Broadway

The Newbery Medals awarded this decade are:

1950–The Door in the Wall, by Marguerite de Angeli
1951–Amos Fortune, Free Man, by Elizabeth Yates
1952–Ginger Pye, by Eleanor Estes
1953–Secret of the Andes, by Ann Nolan Clark
1954–…And Now Miguel, by Joseph Krumgold
1955–The Wheel on the School, by Meindert DeJong
1956–Carry On, Mr. Bowditch, by Jean Lee Latham
1957–Miracles on Maple Hill, by Virginia Sorensen
1958–Rifles for Watie, by Harold Keith
1959–The Witch of Blackbird Pond, by Elizabeth George Speare

Caldecotts for the decade include:

1950–Song of the Swallows, by Leo Politi
1951–The Egg Tree, by Katherine Milhous
1952–Finders Keepers, by Will and Nicolas
1953–The Biggest Bear, by Lynd Ward
1954–Madeline’s Rescue, by Ludwig Bemelmans
1955–Cinderella, or the Little Glass Slipper, translated and illustrated by Marcia Brown
1956–Frog Went A-Courtin’, retold by John Langstaff, illustrated by Feodor Rojankovsky
1957–A Tree Is Nice, by Janice Udry, illustrated by Marc Simont
1958–Time of Wonder, by Robert McCloskey
1959–Chanticleer and the Fox, by Barbara Cooney

PetuniaPetunia, by Roger Duvoisin (1950): Petunia is a silly goose, and she believes she has become wise because she is now in the possession of a book. She acts so wise and holds her head so high that the other animals begin to come to her for advice, and she doles it out (much of it completely ridiculous) confidently. When her advice leads to a dangerous and painful situation for her and all her friends, Petunia realizes that she is not actually wise. She then realizes that simply having a book does not make her wise but that reading it might, so she sets out to learn to read so she can be truly wise and help make her friends happy. BoyChild was able to see the humor in Petunia’s poor advice, and the reminder that wisdom can come from the knowledge found in books was the perfect ending for a picture book.

Pippi Longstocking, Pippi Longstockingby Astrid Lindgren (1950): Swedish author Lindgren’s Pippi is far from the typical orphan girl in so many of the other stories I’ve reviewed. She has Anne’s spunkiness and red hair, but she is by no means similar to her in other ways! Firstly, Pippi lives alone and insists that her father, a lost sea captain, is actually living as a cannibal king somewhere. She is almost Mad Hatter-esque in the way she goes about her days (or maybe Cat in the Hat-esque!), and she is abnormally physically strong and athletic as well as extremely independent. She is a source of constant excitement for Tommy and Annika, the well-behaved children who live next door with their parents. She is shockingly and innocently indecorous, and she has a horse who lives on her porch. What’s not to love? I dressed as Pippi for Halloween when I was in third grade, complete with stick-out red pigtails (thanks to a well-padded hanger bent around my head and red hair spray) and a patchy blue dress. GirlChild got a copy of the book for Christmas this year and loves it, too!

Charlotte’s Web,Charlotte's Web by E. B. White (1952): This children’s classic received a Newbery Honor in 1953. With both an animated and live-action screen version produced (and probably more of which I’m unaware), Charlotte and Wilbur are pretty well known. There are references in other books (I specifically remember the titular character in The Great Ideas of Lila Fenwick dressing as Charlotte for Halloween…which I then also did!) and media as well. (My children go around singing the “Smorgasbord” song that Templeton sings in the animated movie…) Definitely a lasting story!

Beezus and Ramona, Beezus and Ramonaby Beverly Cleary (1955): This isn’t the first book that Beverly Cleary published in the 1950s (that was Henry and Beezus in 1952), but I’d argue that it’s her most memorable! This is the book where we really get to know Ramona and her imagination, persistence, and roundabout logic. She is so very real, imperfections and all, that it’s easy to either see yourself or your child in her place as you read, and then you can really feel empathy for this little misunderstood person with her quirky ways and exasperated family. GirlChild first started reading these books in kindergarten (with the assistance that hearing them on audiobook

Little BearLittle Bear, by Else Holmelund Minarik, pictures by Maurice Sendak (1957): This book is tagged as an I Can Read! book, but I’m not sure which level–probably level 1, beginning reading. The short, simple sentences, familiar words, and repetition help make this the kind of book that might be a child’s first real reading conquest. (It would also be a fun book for a parent to use to cuddle up with their own Little Bear to read along.) Little Bear is a little silly and has a big imagination. His mother is both indulgent of his whims (she makes him a hat, coat, and snow pants one day, for Pete’s sake!) and the voice of reason in his daily imaginings. This is definitely a classic early reader!

Sammy the Seal, Sammy the Sealby Syd Hoff (1959): I picked this one up because there is still an old copy of it at my parents’ house for the grandchildren to read! Sammy is a seal at the zoo, but he wants to know what goes on outside. Because he has been a well-behaved seal, the zookeeper tells him he can go look. Sammy travels around the city and eventually ends up at school (where he learns to read and write…in one day). When the day is done, he heads back home to the zoo because “there’s no place like home.” This is an I Can Read! beginning reading (level 1) book, and there are a few short, simple sentences on each page of bright illustrations. The story isn’t exactly rich literature, but it was obviously well-loved at my house when I was a child since I remember it and it made the cut when my mom was culling down her book collection!

The Rescuers: a fantasyThe Rescuers: a fantasy, by Margery Sharp (1959): I didn’t get around to reading this one, but it is the basis for the popular The Rescuers movie by Disney, so I’m familiar with the characters. The illustrations are done by the prolific Garth Williams, and the characters seem a little more mouse-like in their appearance than in the movies. I’m going to give this one to GirlChild to try; it might be a little on the tough side for her, particularly since it’s an older book with older cultural references, but I think she’ll enjoy it!

My Side of the Mountain, My Side of the Mountainby Jean [Craighead] George (1959): I read this book a thousand years ago (more or less…probably less), so the details are kind of sketchy in my mind, but I clearly remember Frightful the falcon and the fact that this was voluntary survivalism, not forced (like in Hatchet, which also features a young teenage boy in the Canadian wilds), so it’s a little less intense. It is written in first-person, mostly as Sam, the young protagonist, is thinking back on his experiences while he is sheltering from a snowstorm, and I would recommend it for upper elementary students; it might be a little unwieldy for younger, less experienced readers, and it will be best understood by children who have some interest in or interaction with the outdoors. (Sam himself is inexperienced in self-sufficiency at first, and he learns from the locals and others who pass through the woods on his grandfather’s farm where he chooses to live.) It is a Newbery Honor Book as well.

I won’t summarize the Newbery winners that I believe to still have classic appeal, but The Witch of Blackbird Pond is definitely a book that continues to deserve new readership as the decades progress, and I personally loved Miracles on Maple Hill as a child. And here are the corresponding book lists from What We Do All Day, both chapter and picture books (so sad that I forgot about Half Magic)!

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Themed Third Throwback Thursday: 1940-1949

[1940 to 1949 book list]

The 1940s were clearly a tumultuous time in the world. Here are some highlights and trivia from about.com:

1940–Bugs Bunny character debuts
1941–First Captain America comic published, M&Ms created
1942–Anne Frank’s family goes into hiding
1944–D-Day
1945–Germans surrender, microwave oven invented
1946–UNICEF founded
1947–Dead Sea Scrolls found, Polaroid cameras invented
1949–Nineteen Eighty-Four published

Newbery winners for the decade are a better mix of male and female authors than before:

1940–Daniel Boone, by James Daugherty
1941–Call It Courage, by Armstrong Sperry
1942–The Matchlock Gun, by Walter Edmonds
1943–Adam of the Road, by Elizabeth Janet Gray
1944–Johnny Tremain, by Esther Forbes
1945–Rabbit Hill, by Robert Lawson
1946–Strawberry Girl, by Lois Lenski
1947–Miss Hickory, by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey
1948–The Twenty-One Balloons, by William Pene du Bois
1949–King of the World, by Marguerite Henry

Caldecott Medals awarded during the decade include the following:

1940–Abraham Lincoln, by Ingri and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire (with Madeline, by Ludwig Bemelmans, a perhaps better-known runner-up)
1941–They Were Strong and Good, by Robert Lawson
1942–Make Way for Ducklings, by Robert McCloskey
1943–The Little House, by Virginia Lee Burton
1944–Many Moons, illustrated by Louis Slobodkin, by James Thurber
1945–Prayer for a Child, illustrated by Elizabeth Orton Jones, by Rachel Field
1946–The Rooster Crows, by Maud & Miska Petersham
1947–The Little Island, illustrated by Leonard Weisgard, by Golden MacDonald (Margaret Wise Brown)
1948–White Snow, Bright Snow, illustrated by Roger Duvoisin, by Alvin Tresselt
1949–The Big Snow, by Berta & Elmer Hader

Betsy-TacyBetsy-Tacy, by Maud Hart Lovelace (1940): I had never read this book when I first heard of it in library school, but several classmates listed it as one of their all-time favorite childhood books. Then a good friend mentioned it as something that reminded her of our girls, so I grabbed a copy of it for GirlChild…and she has since read it twice! This first book in the (apparently very long) series starts when the two girls are not yet five years old and are just meeting for the first time. (Within the first chapter, a bit of antiquated terminology will throw an older reader for a loop, but my eight-year-old didn’t even register that her hat had a very peculiar name. That said, when you find it, DON’T GOOGLE IT.) The books takes place in Minnesota during the time period when little girls still wore winter underwear and petticoats under their dresses and people moved into houses with the aid of a dray (a low cart without sides used to haul heavy things) instead of a moving van. Betsy is friendly and eager and inventive, and Tacy (short for Anna Anastacia) is reserved but just as imaginative. (Neither one seems to be aware that a milk cow or a hen is always a she.) Betsy has an older sister, and Tacy is one of eleven children. There are small issues (first day of school, etc.) that the girls handle together, but the death of Tacy’s baby sister is a serious one that is dealt with gently. Mostly the author just describes the stories the girls tell and the different ways they play together (like going calling dressed in their mother’s old clothes and leaving cards where they’ve visited–I seriously want to bring back leaving calling cards!). The very last chapter introduces a new character, Tib (short for Thelma), a girl who is introduced to Betsy and Tacy because of one of the calling cards they leave at a home they pass on their way to school. (The shout-out to Milwaukee was a fun part, too, since that’s where we are, and GirlChild’s friend moved here from Minnesota.) I’d recommend this first book as a read-aloud for a young listener (kindergarten-ish) or independent reading for an older reader like GirlChild, but you might need to be prepared to explain some of the less-than-modern elements of the story to help them fully understand.

Make Way for Ducklings, Make Way for Ducklingsby Robert McCloskey (1941): This Caldecott-winning picture book tells the story of Mr. and Mrs. Mallard’s search for a place to raise their ducklings. Mrs. Mallard dismisses each idea as being too dangerous (foxes or turtles might be there!) until they arrive in Boston and find a little island in a pond in the Public Garden, and they almost decide to stay there until they discover the number of children on wheeled toys rushing by on the banks. They fly all over town looking for another place to nest, and they finally settle on an island in the Charles River since it seems peaceful but is close enough to the Public Garden to benefit from the peanuts people give them! When Mr. Mallard goes on to explore further down the river shortly after the ducklings hatch, Mrs. Mallard teaches the children all kinds of ducky things before they set off to meet Mr. Mallard at the Public Garden. Michael the policeman stops traffic for the little train of ducks, then he calls downtown to get support to stop traffic along the rest of their route as well. (Here’s where the book gets its name!) When they arrive at the Public Garden again, the ducklings love the island, so they decide to remain in the garden pond, eating peanuts and sleeping on the island.

The Hundred DressesThe Hundred Dresses, by Eleanor Estes, illustrated by Louis Slobodkin (1944): This Newbery Honor book is familiar to many of my era, and GirlChild really enjoyed it, too. (I reminded her of another book we’ve read with a similar theme, Jacqueline Woodson‘s Each Kindness.) In the book, a Polish immigrant girl is constantly taunted by a pretty, popular, and well-to-do girl named Peggy because she has dared to claim that she–Wanda Petronski, who lives in Boggins Heights and wears the same faded dress to school every day–has one hundred dresses lined up in her closet. Maggie, Peggy’s friend, is unsettled by the mockery because she worries that she may become a target, too, since she is also poor, but she says nothing. The day when the teacher announces that Wanda has won the drawing contest for her one hundred beautiful dress designs, she also receives and reads a note from Wanda’s father explaining her recent and now permanent absence in the light of the mockery over her name and speech. The girls, especially Maggie and Peggy, are riddled with guilt and write a letter to try to patch things up. Wanda replies back that they may all keep the drawings she made, and Peggy and Maggie realize the ones she designates for them were actually drawn with their faces before all this happened. Maggie realizes in the end that she will never really be able to make things right except to never allow that kind of cruel behavior to happen to another child again; she vows to always speak up.

The Carrot Seed,The Carrot Seed story by Ruth Krauss, pictures by Crockett Johnson (1945): This is by far the simplest book of the bunch. While I’m not entirely sure that this particular title is well-known, the illustrator certainly is! (His Harold and the Purple Crayon will show up in next month’s post.) I loved the story, too, actually, and BoyChild listened carefully, remarking on how “mean” everyone was to tell the little boy that his seed wouldn’t grow. (We had a bit of a connection to make, actually, since we just planted carrot seeds in our garden and are waiting for them to grow!) Each page has a single sentence and illustration as the little boy waits, pulls weeds, and waters the seed. Finally, “a carrot came up”–a vast understatement since the carrot top that springs forth is taller than the boy–“just as the little boy had known it would”–and he carts off a gigantic carrot. BoyChild was somewhat shocked and very pleased by the sudden and very large carrot crop, and I think this would be an excellent read aloud to share with a classroom of young children who might be studying plants!

My Father's DragonMy Father’s Dragon, by Ruth Stiles Gannett, illustrated by Ruth Chrisman Gannett (1948): While I acquired this book somehow in an inherited classroom library, I was not aware of its background at all. I happened to see it on a list of first read-alouds for kindergarten children when I was looking for a book for a friend, and then I realized that it was also a Newbery Honor book, so I decided to give it a try! After reading through its simple silliness, I do think I’ll read it to BoyChild to see what he thinks. It tells the story of a boy (referred to as “my father” in the book, thus the title) who is kind to an alley cat who then tells him about another creature who is in need of rescue: a baby dragon on Wild Island. The boy sets off to help the dragon. He tricks or distracts several different animals on the island so that he can access the dragon and set him free, and they fly away together. There are several opportunities for a little fun prediction and a little light suspense, so I agree with the age-level and read aloud suggestion for this one, but I’m pretty sure GirlChild would enjoy reading it as well!

Blueberries for Sal, Blueberries for Salby Robert McCloskey (1948): This book is the Caldecott Honor picture book that tells the story of a little girl who goes blueberry picking (eating?) with her mother and not the horrifying story about the child who is stung by bees while picking berries and dies of an allergic reaction like I first thought (and therefore avoided the book). It follows a human mother and her child, Little Sal, as they go berry picking, but it also follows a bear mother and her child, Little Bear, as they forage for berries, too. BoyChild and I each kind of expected a more frightened response when each child started following the wrong mother, but worry about the missing child seems to be the only fear shown; the human mother and child even continue picking berries on their way home after they’re reunited!

A few other iconic books that were published in this decade but that were too long for me to reread and review this time are The Black Stallion (1941), My Friend Flicka (1941), and Misty of Chicoteague (1947). Books about horses for more advanced juvenile readers were apparently pretty popular in the ’40s! Misty of Chincoteague (and all the Marguerite Henry books, actually) was my favorite, and my mom read all the Black Stallion books aloud to us at some point, too. What Do We Do All Day’s comparable review list doesn’t have any overlap, but it does mention a couple books that I chose to review since I’ve chosen to focus on lasting favorites while that blog tries to share hidden gems!

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Themed Third Throwback Thursday: 1930-1939

When the 1930s started, my grandmother was around the age GirlChild is now–and she’ll be turning 93 next month. It amazes me that some of the books she might have read as an elementary school student are books my little girl is reading now!

[1930 to 1939 book list]

While that helps put this decade in perspective for me, here is a selection of world events from about.com to help other readers orient themselves in time!

1930–Pluto is discovered

1932–Amelia Earhart is first female to complete solo flight across the Atlantic

1933–Prohibition ends in the U.S.

1934–Cheeseburger created

1935–Monopoly released by Parker Brothers; first paperback books published (Penguin books)

1936–Gone with the Wind published

1938–Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs released by Disney; Superman appears in comics

1939–World War II begins

 

All the Newbery Medals awarded during this decade were to women compared to all the medals in the 1920s going to men; I don’t know if there’s a reason for this, but it caught my eye! Of the ten winners, I’m familiar with five of the titles; my mom read Caddie Woodlawn and Roller Skates to us when I was young, and she owns Invincible Louisa (although I don’t remember ever reading it myself).

1930–Hitty, Her First Hundred Years, by Rachel Field

1931–The Cat Who Went to Heaven, by Elizabeth Coatsworth

1932–Waterless Mountain, by Laura Adams Armer

1933–Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze, by Elizabeth Lewis

1934–Invincible Louisa: The Story of the Author of Little Women, by Cornelia Meigs

1935–Dobry, by Monica Shannon

1936–Caddie Woodlawn, by Carol Ryrie Brink

1937–Roller Skates, by Ruth Sawyer

1938–The White Stag, by Kate Seredy

1939–Thimble Summer, by Elizabeth Enright

[UPDATE: I didn’t realize that Caldecott Medals began to be awarded during this decade! The first winner, in 1938, was Animals of the Bible: A Picture Book, illustrated by Dorothy Lathrop, and the 1939 winner was Mei Li, by Thomas Handforth.]

And now to our list!

The Cat Who Went to HeavenThe Cat Who Went to Heaven, by Elizabeth Coatsworth (1930): This book, the story of a cat who inspired a destitute Japanese artist and brought him good fortune in the form of a commission to paint the death of Buddha, was the 1931 Newbery Medal winner. It alternates between third-person prose describing events from the artist’s perspective and brief songs of the elderly housekeeper who first brought the short-tailed cat into their home. The unnamed artist first resists the appearance of the cat since he calls cats a devil and is upset because the housekeeper spent their little money on the cat instead of food, but he seems besotted by her as soon as he sees her. The housekeeper names the cat Good Fortune, and that is what she seems to bring them. The cat appears to pray to their image of Buddha, causing the artist to consider his recent lack of prayer due to his hardships and sadness. After the priest arrives to commission the painting, more and more good things come to the artist. He ponders the Buddha in order to do the painting justice, and he comes to a deeper understanding of the object of his faith and remembers also that cats were the only animals not to receive Buddha’s blessing because they were too proud. The cat’s attention to his painting as he adds animals significant to the story of Buddha so moves him that he disregards his fear that his painting will be rejected and includes a cat in the scene. Good Fortune, so happy to see the cat included, dies suddenly. The priest who receives the painting the next day is in awe of it until he sees the cat pictured and puts it aside for burning, but the artist feels as though he has done the right thing anyway. During the night, the image of the cat moves from the end of the parade of animals to a position under the now-outstretched hand of Buddha (as if in blessing), so the significance of the title refers to this cat who supernaturally (through the painting) received Buddha’s blessing and went to heaven.

Angus and the Cat, by Marjorie Flack (1931): Angus and the CatOne of several books based on the author’s own Scottish terrier dog, Angus and the Cat tells the story of how Angus–old enough and wise enough to deal with many of the things his little world throws at him–finds himself at a loss when a cat suddenly appears in his home and invades his space. Whenever Angus approaches, sometimes innocently, sometimes to defend his territory, the cat lashes out or retreats to a place where Angus can’t reach. When the cat seems to disappear one day (BoyChild loved finding her hiding on the roof next to the gable window where Angus couldn’t see her!), Angus searches all over for her and realizes he is lonely without her. The cat returns at lunchtime, and Angus and the cat seem to come to an understanding and enjoy each other’s company. This book is particularly applicable to us right now because we’re fostering a dog who is doesn’t trust our dog because of a bad experience with a similar animal and medication issues. We’re hoping things end up like this book, where our Angus and the cat (the other dog) learn to get along together!

 

The Story of Babar: The Little ElephantHistoire de Babar (The Story of Babar), by Jean de Brunhoff (1931): Babar is, perhaps, the best-known elephant on the planet. This first story, based on a story the author’s wife made up for their children, tells how Babar came to wear clothing and be the king of the elephants. The English version, translated (I think, but maybe retold in English instead) by A.A. Milne, was published in 1933.

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Dr. Daddy as Babar and GirlChild as Princess Flora.

GirlChild has always loved elephants, and the year she was four, she wanted to be both an elephant and a princess for Halloween, so I turned the whole family into the Babars and decorated our trunk (for trunk-or-treat) with copies of all the Babar books I could find. Dr. Daddy (he’s a vet) made the biggest splash as King Babar himself!

 


 

Little House in the Big WoodsLittle House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder (1932): The first of the Little House books, this tells the fictionalized story of four-year-old Laura and her family before they pack up to leave the big woods of Wisconsin. Set in the second half of the 1800s, it tells of the day-to-day life of a family living off the land and by their wits. My family loved hearing these stories when I was a kid; we loved the pioneer unit my mom used to teach at school (dress-up in bonnets and pinafores! knead bread! make butter! write on slates!); we loved to build log cabins and smokehouses with our Lincoln Logs like Pa did with the real thing. GirlChild has read this one, too, and we’ve listened to (most of) The Long Winter during a trip during our own long Midwest winter. This book tells the kind of things kids want to know about life long ago, and it helps remind me what a blessing modern conveniences are when I start to romanticize the “old days”!

The Story About Ping, The Story About Pingby Marjorie Flack and Kurt Weise (1933): Inspired by her research into ducks for another Angus story, the author delved even deeper into the world of Peking ducks, and this story is the result. Ping is one of a number of ducks who live on a houseboat (with eyes–creepy, creepy–um, I mean wise–eyes) on the Yangtze River. Every day, the ducks leave the boat to forage, and every evening, they are called back to the boat. The last duck gets a swat from a switch (probably to encourage the ducks to always return quickly), and Ping decides one day–a day when he misses the call and would be the last duck–to spend the night outside rather than risk the spank. As Ping explores the river the next morning while he searches for his home, we get peeks into life on the river for a variety of groups, from the diving birds fishing for their master to the family whose child is out bobbing in the river with a barrel tied to him for a life jacket. The boy’s family wants to eat Ping, but he releases Ping secretly, and Ping finally catches sight of his home, just in time to hear the call and be the last duck back. He decides to risk the spank so he can be back home with his family again.

Mary PoppinsMary Poppins, by P.L. Travers (1934): I remember picking up this book in my elementary school library (it had to be pre-fifth-grade because I remember which library it was, and I changed schools in fifth grade) and being a little shocked that Mary Poppins seemed kind of harsh! My experience with the character was, predictably, limited to the Disney version of her, and she kind of scared me in the book! I remember the magic seeming pretty different, too, and I was pretty confused by an episode with bread wrapped in paper (which reflects the fact that I was unaware that the book was already over 50 years old). With renewed interest in the story due to the movie Saving Mr. Banks in 2013, perhaps it’s a good time to break out the original stories again (it’s a whole series!) before my kids get too spoiled by the Julie Andrews version! (Interestingly, the author herself died twenty years ago this weekend!)

And to Think that I Saw it on Mulberry Street, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Streetby Dr. Seuss (1937): Dr. Seuss’s first children’s book is the rhyming tale of a boy who is instructed by his father to observe what he sees while he travels to school and report what he has seen. The boy thinks that what he has seen is too boring, so he embellishes and embellishes until the man driving a horse and cart becomes a brass band on a trailer being pulled by an elephant and two giraffes being escorted by motorcycle police and watched by the city officials and on and on and on…until he gets home, so excited to tell what he has seen that he can’t even speak, and he finally just reports what he actually saw: a plain horse and cart on Mulberry Street.

Mr. Popper's PenguinsMr. Popper’s Penguins, by Richard and Florence Atwater (1938): I recently read this one to my kids, too. It was one of the books introduced to me, along with Anne of Green Gables, by my second grade teacher who realized I needed more than what her grade-level classroom library had to offer. A Newbery Honor recipient in 1939, Mr. Popper is a painter who dreams of world travel. He loves to read about far-off places, and he greatly admires Admiral Drake and writes him a letter about the “funny penguins” at the South Pole. After telling him, via radio broadcast from the expedition, that he should expect a reply to his letter, Admiral Drake sends him a penguin by air express. They soon add another, a gift from an aquarium as they both try to help the ailing penguins recover, and those two soon start a family. Soon the Poppers have ten baby penguins to add to their collection. The house has been transformed into a funhouse for penguins; they train them to do a little show, and they are offered a good sum to travel with their performing penguins. Eventually, the penguins are sent with Admiral Drake on an expedition to establish a penguin population at the North Pole, and Mr. Popper gets to live his dream by joining them on their trip. While it might be a little difficult for young readers to understand all the cultural differences between this book’s setting and modern times, there really is nothing extra needed to imagine how fun and funny it might be to have penguins as pets, even for just a little while!

Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovelstory and pictures by Virginia Lee Burton (1939): Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel, Mary Anne, are becoming obsolete as new gas and electric steam shovels are developed. They try to prove themselves one more time by offering to dig the cellar for the new town hall in Popperville in just a day. Having an audience always makes them work harder, and a crowd soon gathers to watch their work and see if they really can do all that digging in just one day. Just at sunset, they finish their work to the applause of the townspeople who are all standing around watching. After all that hard, fast work, a little boy (who has been watching all day) notices that Mike and Mary Anne have forgotten to leave a way out. Then the little boy suggests that they simply stay where they are: let Mary Anne be the furnace for the new town hall, and Mike Mulligan can be the janitor. They all agree, and Mike and Mary Anne stay relevant by reinventing themselves and being useful.

Here’s the related list from What We Do All Day: remember that this blogger focuses on lesser-known works, so there’s little overlap this time because of how many well-known works were written during this decade!

 

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Themed Third Throwback Thursday: 1910-1919

Many of the authors that were publishing in the 1900-1909 range continued to publish through the next decade. A whole lot of series adventure books were published, from the Bobbsey Twins to the Boy Scouts and Outdoors Girls. (Tom Swift books, a science fiction/inventor series, were first published in this decade as well, but the only knowledge I have of that character is of the Tom Swift puns, Tom Swifties!)

[1910 to 1919 book list]

Here’s our “when-in-the-world” reference from about.com to understand what was going on in real life while these books were being published!

1910–Boy Scouts established in the U.S. (which might explain all the Boy Scouts books published!)

1911–the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire occurs (I can’t remember where I learned about this tragedy–a social studies text?–but here’s a graphic novel an upper elementary to middle school reader might benefit from reading!)

1912–the Titanic sinks (and Oreos are first introduced!)

1913–Henry Ford invents the moving assembly line

1914–World War I begins

1915–the first transcontinental phone call is made

1916–Jeanette Rankin is the first woman in the U.S. Congress (and Piggly Wiggly opens as the first self-service grocery store in the U.S.)

1917–the U.S. enters WWI

1918–Daylight Saving Time introduced

1919–end of World War I with the Treaty of Versailles

That’s a lot of heavy stuff going on, so it’s really no wonder that there were so many adventure and inventor series being written! The stories that I best remember, though, being a timid child growing up in small-town USA, are the stories of hope and perseverance, childish goodness and wisdom, and “safe” adventures in fantasy! Here’s a list of some of the stories from this era that were most memorable to me and have stood the test of time!

Peter and WendyPeter and Wendy, by J.M. Barrie (1911): While Peter Pan as a character is pretty pervasive in modern culture (peanut butter, Geico commercials, and the many iterations in movies and on stage, just to name a few examples), the actual book from which the character arises is perhaps not as well known (nor, perhaps, that he first appeared in a book for adults and that this book where he is featured is actually an expansion on a long-running play written by the author and is not the original source material). The different versions of Peter don’t all agree on his personality or characteristics (even among Barrie’s works there are some discrepancies), but he is generally portrayed as young, brave, and carefree. Tinker Bell, likewise, has different characteristics among versions, but she is almost always shown to be both fiercely jealous and loyal (although I’m pretty sure the jealousy aspect is either toned down or missing in the Disney Fairies version of her where she isn’t with Peter Pan). Much of the book has a decidedly silly tone to it, despite dealing with such serious ideas as lost babies and murderous pirates. The Darlings have a somewhat ridiculous discussion about their finances while Mrs Darling holds the newborn Wendy, but they finally decide that they will keep their baby and hope for the best cost-wise. They hire a Newfoundland dog as their nanny because they can’t afford a human version but still want to keep up appearances, and the dog bathes the children and walks them to school, but she also lies on the floor in the nanny waiting area and is chained outside when Mr Darling (in a sullen temper and with the guilty understanding that he is being unreasonable) is offended by her supposed disrespect. (She also has dialog, but it’s hard to tell if the author intends for her to be actually speaking or if it is assumed that what she “says” is what she would be thinking or conveying with her demeanor.) Peter’s heavy-handed and obviously manipulative flattery convince the otherwise responsible Wendy to trust and follow him. All in all, I can’t help but think of the avowed absurdity of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland being passed off as absolutely reasonable in this book. My mother read this aloud to us when we were young, and I remember being heartily confused by the nanny/dog bit, but it certainly helped to have a reader who could explain the archaic or confusing parts to us! For independent reading, I’d suggest at least upper elementary age, and there are a vast number of YA books inspired by the story and characters if your reader falls for Peter, too!

The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett (1911): The Secret GardenThis character begins her story as both similar to and wildly different from Burnett’s other classic female character, Sara Crewe. Where Sara, the only child of a doting British officer in India, is sweet-tempered and wise and generous, Mary, the only child of self-centered British parents living in India, is angry and selfish and demanding. Both are orphaned at a young age, and both end up living with a wealthy guardian (after Sara’s stretch at Miss Minchin’s, of course). Both sincerely befriend children who are their social inferiors (Betsy for Sara and Dickon (as well as the servants) for Mary). Where Sara uplifts her fellow students through her goodness, imagination, and inclusiveness, Mary brings her hidden cousin Colin out of his misery with bluntness, stories, and shared secrecy. One theme of the story that seems obvious to me would finding life where there seems to be only death: Mary’s survival when her household is struck down by cholera, the garden being coaxed back to bloom from its abandoned state, and Colin and his father being drawn out of their pain and misery into a more abundant life. I loved this book as a child, and we loved the 1987 Hallmark Hall of Fame movie version (although I know it to be full of inaccuracies, it was what we had, and we loved it!). It is, like the others from this list, an enduring classic, and it would be a good read-aloud for elementary aged children and independent reading from upper elementary on.

PollyannaPollyanna, by Eleanor H. Porter (1913): All that I really recall from reading this book a million-ish years ago (or, you know, maybe 25 or so) is that Pollyanna is cheerful (which may also have something to do with her lasting literary legacy and not my actual memories of the book) and some sort of accident near the end of the book. It actually came to my attention when my daughter mentioned that a friend from her class (a bit of a Pollyanna herself!) was reading it. While the exact plot of the book may not have gone down in history (the basics of the storyline are pretty familiar and common to many books from this era: an orphaned child or child in otherwise desperate straits is sent to live with with better off relatives (usually spinsters or a childless couple) or friends of the parents and brightens their lives considerably), the character of the main character has created a lasting impression, a shorthand way of saying that someone is almost foolishly optimistic (and can, therefore, be used as a bit of an insult). The characterization comes about because of how Pollyanna approaches life, as taught to her by her father, in that she always looks for the bright side of things (which she calls playing “The Glad Game”) and teaches others to do so as well. Pollyanna is so very guileless (she reminds me of GirlChild in this way!) that there are frequent misunderstandings between herself and the people from her mother’s hometown that have secrets they’ve been keeping and feelings they’ve been hiding. When she is gravely injured in an accident and can’t manage to summon up a reason to be glad, all the people in the town visit or send messages to her about how she has changed their lives so that she can have something to be glad about. This is actually a somewhat easier read than many juvenile books from the era, and although some of the inferences might be missed by a young modern reader, I think a middle to upper elementary child could manage the contents decently, even better if read with an adult.

Tarzan of the Apes, by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1914): Tarzan of the ApesI will freely admit that I have never actually read this book. Does that, however, mean it isn’t a book with staying power? Of course not! There are many readers who are not me, after all! Besides, the character of Tarzan has been immortalized in film, and I would imagine that most adults in the English-speaking world could at least identify some characteristics of Tarzan (if not reproduce his yell). Not having a good acquaintance with the book character, I have little to no idea how far the Disney version strays from the original (although, from the fight with Kerchak that I happened to open the book to, I would guess the answer is “pretty darn far”). Still, the man who was raised by apes from infancy, discovered and brought to civilization by Professor Porter and his daughter, and has adventures, marries Jane Porter (although, apparently, not in this book), and has more adventures–his legend lives on. Judging from the bits of the book that I browsed and the hints gleaned from the introduction, I’d say it would be best for readers of at least middle school to high school age, and readers would need to be able to suspend disbelief on a semi-regular basis.

The Real Mother GooseThe Real Mother Goose, illustrated by Blanche Fisher Wright (1916): To me, at least, the cover of this book is the iconic Mother Goose image; it is what I think of when I think of Mother Goose despite all the different available compilations and adaptations of the rhymes contained within. In the interest of full disclosure, I do not remember a lot of the rhymes (“Three Wise Men of Gotham,” really? and “Needles and Pins” about the risks of marriage??), but the image has stuck. Nursery rhymes can be pretty brutal 😉 , but these weren’t composed during this time period, just illustrated. (I prefer Richard Scarry’s Best Mother Goose Ever in terms of contents, actually! Richard Scarry is kind of second only to Dr. Seuss in terms of my childhood reading memories, and Sandra Boynton joins them in my children’s collection of sure-to-be-classics!)

Raggedy Ann Stories, by Johnny Gruelle (1918): Raggedy Ann StoriesI don’t know that I ever read the stories themselves before, but I most definitely knew of Raggedy Ann and Andy! (My kids even have a metal jack-in-the-box that has Raggedy Ann in it!) The stories remind me very much of the Toys Go Out series by Emily Jenkins or the Toy Story movies. Raggedy Ann, despite being just a rag doll passed down to the little girl, Marcella, from her grandmother when she found the doll in her grandma’s attic, becomes the admired leader of the dolls in the nursery. She watches out for them and is the voice of wisdom and reason and love. There is a wealth of quotes in the stories that show what an upbeat and positive doll Raggedy Ann is, like: “So all the other dolls were happy, too, for happiness is very easy to catch when we love one another and are sweet all through.”

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A former Sunday school student with Raggedy Ann and Andy at the Raggedy Ann and Andy Festival in Arcola, IL.

It’s clear that the author also had some marketing in mind, however, when he wrote the story of the dollmaker taking Raggedy Ann in to use as a pattern for mass-production and having another doll say to Raggedy, “For wherever one of the new Raggedy Ann dolls goes there will go with it the love and happiness that you give to others.” The afterword, written by the author’s grandson, states that after the success of this first Raggedy Ann collection, the author wrote at least one new Raggedy Ann title per year until his death 20 years later. He also says, “His books contained nothing to cause fright, glorify mischief, excuse malice, or condone cruelty,” and that is probably why his characters for children endure today! While there used to be a museum and annual festival in the author’s hometown, they have recently suspended operations due to low turnout and volunteers.

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The blogger as an almost-3-year-old with a Raggedy Andy doll

I had a couple more books slated to be shared today, but I realized that they may have had a more limited audience than these other books have had, so they may have only been memorable to me (and other readers like me). Jean Webster’s Daddy-Long-Legs (1912) and Dear Enemy (1915) were books my mother read to us that were published during this decade. Understood Betsy (1916) I discovered on a similarly-inspired book list on the blog What We Do All Day, and I loved that book as a child as well! (You should definitely check there for more books-by-the-decade as the blogger there is trying to emphasize books that might have been forgotten! I promise that I’m avoiding looking at the corresponding lists before I compile my list so I’m not unfairly influenced and so I can compare what we’ve found.)

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Themed Third Thursday: Books Get Meta

meta- : Describing or showing an awareness of the activity that is taking place or being discussed; self-referential

Books getting meta. Books about books. Books that refer to themselves as books. Books where the characters are aware of being in a book. While my categories may stray from the generally accepted definition of “meta,” these self-aware books and books about books are sure to be page turners for your book-loving readers!

Product DetailsThe Monster at the End of this Book, by Jon Snow, illustrated by David Smollin (2003–most recent edition): In this Sesame Street classic book, Grover warns the reader not to continue on with the book because there is a monster at the end of it, and he is scared of monsters! In his distress, he tries everything to avoid getting to the end. Not to worry, however–Grover himself is the monster at the end of the book! I vaguely remember this book from my childhood, and the fact that it is still in print is telling. A great breaking-the-fourth-wall book for preschool and early elementary children, this book is best shared as a read-aloud.

Book! Book! Book!, Book! Book! Book!by Deborah Bruss, illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke (2001): When the children all go back to school after a summer of fun, the animals on the farm are bored. The hen decides to go looking for something to do, and the other animals follow. When they come upon a building where people with smiles on their faces are exiting, they decide this is the place for finding something to do! (The place is the public library.) The horse thinks the hen is too small to be the one to go in to ask, so he goes in, but all the librarian can hear is “neigh, neigh,” so he leaves sadly. Each of the other larger animals also try, but the librarian can only hear their animal noises. Then the hen, frustrated, determines to go in herself. When she arrives, she starts clucking, “Book! Book! BOOK!” It takes a few tries, but the librarian suddenly realizes that she’s asking for books! She gives her three, and the hen takes them back to the farm with the other animals to read together. Everyone is happy except the frog; he keeps claiming that he’s already “read it!” With a cute story and simple plot, a read-aloud (to emphasize the chicken-y sound of the word “book” in particular) to children as young as preschool would be a crowd-pleaser!

We Are in a Book!We Are in a Book! (An Elephant & Piggie book), by Mo Willems (2010): Gerald the Elephant and Piggie are sitting back to back on the ground when Gerald suddenly notices that someone is looking at them. When Piggie gets up to investigate, coming closer to the reader, they realize that they are being read by a reader! They are very excited and try to get the reader to say the word banana, then they laugh and laugh about it. Piggie offers to let Gerald try it before the book ends, and Gerald is shocked to realize it will end (on page 57, no less). He is distraught over the approaching end, but Piggie comes up with the idea to ask the reader to read the book again to prolong their fun. The book ends semi-abruptly with the two of them hoping their request works (because, after all, having a conclusion to a book where the characters want it to be read in a continuous loop would be counterproductive!). While this is a perfectlly acceptable book for an independent young reader, all the Elephant and Piggie books make amazingly fun read-alouds as well.

The Best Book in the World!, The Best Book in the World!by Rilla (2014): When I looked up this author’s website to see if I could figure out her name (her full name is Rilla Alexander, but the library copy I have has “Rilla, Alexander” like Rilla is the last name!), I discovered that she is primarily an illustrator and graphic designer (which, considering the appearance of the book, didn’t surprise me). I also discovered another of her books (also featuring the character she calls her “alterego, Sozi”) that I really must have–Her Idea! (I was just having a chat with a friend this morning about all the writing ideas I have that I never carry through to completion!) The relevant book to this theme, however, features Sozi as she gets started on a book. With book in hand and a superhero mask over her eyes, she moves through town as she progresses through her book, and then things start to focus in more on the story world she enters. The book states, “Page by page you’re carried away. So let yourself go!” Sozi (whose name isn’t mentioned in the book) travels deep into her book, picking up strange companions on her way. Just as things seem to be getting overwhelming, she takes a moment to “rest [her] eyes” and dozes off. All the characters who populated her book now populate her dreams, and they huddle around her book–The Best Book in the World–as she dreams because of the secret they share: “the story won’t stop…[i]f we go back to the beginning again!”

The Children Who Loved BooksThe Children Who Loved Books, by Peter Carnavas (2012): Angus and Lucy don’t have a lot in the way of personal possessions; in fact, they even live in a camper with their parents instead of a regular home or apartment. What they do have, however, is books. They have so many books, in fact, that they soon overwhelm their tiny living space, and their father hauls them off. In addition to the logistical problems they start having because books were a literal prop in their home, the abundance of space in their house allows a lot of space to form between the members of the family as well. When Lucy brings a book home from the library, they can’t help opening it up and starting to read aloud. They all crowd around the father as he reads, and they read together on the couch late into the night (where they also all fall asleep). Bonded together once again through a shared story, they take their bike out first thing in the morning and head to–you guessed it!–the library for more books. As the last page says, “Angus and Lucy didn’t have very much, but they had all they would ever need.”

What Happened to Marion’s Book?,What Happened to Marion's Book? by Brook Berg, illustrated by Nathan Alsburg (2003): Marion is a hedgehog who loves to read all kinds of books in all kinds of places. She’s looking forward to starting school because her nana said that she should become a librarian some day, and she knows school is the place to start! She is most excited about visiting the library and taking out two books at a time. One morning at breakfast, however, she drops some raspberry jam on her open library book and knows she can’t just leave it there. She tries all kinds of things to fix the red stain (from letting the dog lick it to washing it in the washing machine!), and she even considers donating one of her own books to replace the ruined one, but all of her books have been dirtied because she reads them everywhere. She worries that she doesn’t know how to treat books, will be banned from the library, and will never be able to become a librarian. She finally gets the courage to tell her mom, and her mom tells her that she’ll have to pay to replace the book. When she brings the ruined book back to the school library, the librarian is disappointed, of course, but she gives Marion a tour of the “book hospital” where books are repaired and gives her a bookmark to remind her how to care for books. And, of course, Marion pays for the ruined book and checks out two new ones! (This hit close to home since GirlChild’s milk Thermos leaked in her backpack and spoiled a library book recently!)

Wild About BooksWild about Books, by Judy Sierra, pictures by Marc Brown (2004): In this rhyming story, librarian Molly McGrew accidentally drives the bookmobile to the zoo. Instead of being perturbed by her mistake and their reluctance, Molly starts reading Dr. Seuss aloud to attract a crowd. Soon, all the animals come to check out books (in two senses of the phrase!). The crocodiles enjoy Peter Pan, an elephant reads Dumbo, the pandas request books in Chinese, and then the puns begin! The llamas read The Grass Menagerie, the scorpion leaves stinging reviews of the poems the insects are inspired to write, and the hippo wins a Zoolitzer Prize for her memoir, Mud in my Blood. Then Molly hires some of the construction-minded animals–the beavers in particular–to create a branch library to satisfy their literary needs right there at the zoo. Now that they have their very own zoobrary, it’s sometimes hard to see the animals because “[t]hey are snug in their niches, their nests, and their nooks, [g]oing wild, simply wild, about wonderful books.” This book is a great one not only for introducing the concepts of reading, getting inspired by reading to write, and finding the perfect kind of book for your interests, but it also appeals to little readers who simply like animals and learning new animal names!

Have I Got a Book for You!, Have I Got a Book for You!by Mélanie Watt (2009): Al Foxword is a creature (of some sort, I can’t really place him!) and a salesman. This book serves as an infomercial for itself as Al tries to convince the reader not only that he or she should buy a copy of the book but that he or she should buy multiple copies of the book. He tries every trick of the trade, wheedling and exaggerating, throwing in bonus gifts and deals for buying more than one. When all his efforts seem to have failed, he reminds us of the one big rule of merchandise: “You break it, you buy it!” And the last page is “torn.” Definitely meant to be read aloud by someone with few inhibitions. 😉 (Also, might be a great book to use when teaching information literacy and the tricks advertisers use!)

Wanted: Ralfy Rabbit, Book BurglarWanted! Ralfy Rabbit, Book Burglar, by Emily MacKenzie (2015): Ralfy Rabbits loves books so much that “one thing led to another,” and he starts actually burgling books from people to get his fix! Unfortunately for Ralfy, Arthur also loves books, and he notices when parts of his well-organized collection start to go missing. Arthur stakes out his bookshelves and sees Ralfy, but no one believes his story about a thieving rabbit, not even the police. That is, I mean, until Ralfy accidentally burgles the home of PC Puddle, the officer to whom Arthur had spoken when he called in his complaint. When Arthur is called in to view a line-up of bunnies wearing “I ❤ Books” shirts, he isn’t sure which rabbit is the robber until a conveyor belt of goodies is passed in front of them, and the only bunny who goes for books instead of the carrots and lettuce offered is Ralfy. Arthur feels sorry for Ralfy because he is only in trouble because he loves books, and he has a great idea of where Ralfy can borrow his fill of books without having to steal them: the library! And Arthur and Ralfy become “best ‘book buddies'” and visit the library together often. Good fun for elementary readers.

The Book that Eats People, The Book that Eats Peopleby John Perry, illustrations by Mark Fearing (2009): I read this aloud to BoyChild, and he was a little concerned about it. Once I realized it wasn’t just a play on words or something, I was a little concerned, too, that young BoyChild would be having nightmares about his books…but it was better to finish and remind him that it was just pretend than to leave him hanging with carnivorous books running through his dreams! Recommended for ages 3-7 on Amazon, I’m going to go ahead and suggest a slightly older crowd despite the relatively small amount of text per page. I’m thinking middle elementary is probably a safer bet what with the book actually eating people and phrases like “it coughed up his bones and they clattered across the floor like wooden blocks” and the like. Sure, it’s darkly hilarious, but that seems like more the sort of thing that children with a stronger grasp on the concept of reality versus fiction might enjoy. Featuring a ton of collage elements and a very cranky-looking book, the visuals are also geared toward the upper end of the suggested age range and beyond. Future fans of the Series of Unfortunate Events would like this book!

Incredible Book Eating BoyThe Incredible Book Eating Boy, by Oliver Jeffers (2006): Henry loves books, but not in the same way that most people do; he literally devours them. It starts by accident at first, when he mistakenly licks his book instead of his popsicle when he’s distracted. It quickly progresses, however, into tearing into pages and then into whole books and eventually several books at once! He eats all kinds of books–he’s not picky–and finds that he grows smarter and smarter with each one he ingests! Eventually, though, eating all those books so quickly without giving himself time to “digest” them leads to confusion and nausea. Henry stops eating books then, and it takes him a while to figure out what else he can do with his books…and he tries reading them. Just like before, he gets smarter with each book he reads, although this method is slower. Now he reads all the time, and he only occasionally slips back into bad habits (as evidenced by a large “bite” taken out of the last few pages and back cover). The irony and graphic design elements of this book make it better for slightly older picture book readers, middle to upper elementary.

Return of the Library Dragon, Return of the Library Dragonby Carmen Agra Deedy, illustrated by Michael P. White (2012): Miss Lotty (short for Lotta Scales, we discover), librarian at Sunrise Elementary School, is retiring. As she tries to reassure the students that the new librarian will be as much and more fun, one of the children asks if the new librarian will let them use computers, and her old dragon-ish ways rear their heads briefly as she declares, “Over my dead dragon body!” On her very last day of work, she is greeted in the morning by the unpleasant discovery that IT has arrived, taken all the books, and filled the library with electronics only! Miss Lotty is steaming mad (literally), and the students beg for their books back, listing all the reasons books are still relevant and enjoyable. They also discover, however, how enticing technology can be, and Mike Krochip (the IT guy) crows that soon the kids will forget all about books in a month! Miss Lotty loses her temper, and everyone flees, but they warn the young woman in the hallway that the “librarian’s a real dragon!” This young woman, it turns out, is the new librarian, and she is the same woman who, as a child twenty years prior, had convinced Miss Lotty to shed her draconic book-lending practices in the first place. (You have to read the short newspaper article in the front matter for this to make any sense, actually, so don’t skip it!) Molly reassures Miss Lotty that the books will be returned because she insisted that they remain as a condition of her employment, and completely replacing books with technology makes her feel a little dragon-ish as well. The last page shows an image of Miss Molly at her desk with children, books, and a sign proclaiming Technology Free Tuesday–striking a balance between printed and electronic resources. This is apparently the second book about the Library Dragon, so reading The Library Dragon first would be an alternative to making sure the newspaper article page gets read. Quotes on reading, books, librarians, and information technology fill the end papers. The controversy about technology and the proliferation of punny names and book titles probably wouldn’t register with younger readers, so I’d suggest a middle elementary to upper elementary audience for this book.

It's a BookIt’s a Book, by Lane Smith (2010): This book is more for big kids and adults than it is for the picture book crowd (particularly if you don’t want to read/have your kid read the word “jackass” for comedic effect–just giving you a heads-up here!). It features a mouse, a jackass, and a monkey. The monkey is reading a book (with the mouse under his hat, for some reason), and the jackass is using a laptop. The jackass keeps asking the monkey if his book can do some thing that the laptop does (scroll down, connect to wi-fi, play music, etc.), and the monkey keeps responding with, “No, it’s a book” (or some variation on that theme). Then the monkey hands his book over so the jackass can see for himself, and the jackass gets totally absorbed to the point of not wanting to give it back. When the monkey gives in and lets him keep it (he’s going to the library anyway), the jackass offers to charge it up for him when he’s done. That’s when the mouse says, “You don’t have to…it’s a book, jackass.” So, a book that might have been fun to read with small children of the digital generation kind of gets fouled up with a double entendre. If you don’t care and wish to share it with your children anyway, that’s fine; it’s a clever book! If that’s a little more mature than you like to go with your child’s vocabulary (or if you’re a school teacher and probably shouldn’t), you can try It’s a Little Book for the same kind of cleverness but in a board book without the words to make children giggle (and with contents suited for an even younger set).

Books for Older Kids that I Wish I’d Had a Chance to Actually Read and Review Properly But Didn’t:

Secrets of the Book, Secrets of the Bookby Erin Fry (2014, upper elementary): This book features a book called Pandora’s Book which is full of images of positively influential historical people that the guardian of the book can bring to life. That there is a shady man who has a book called Pandora’s Other Book suggests that infamous historical people are included in that book. The heroes of the story are sixth graders: a boy who is losing his sight, another with autism spectrum disorder, and the “resourceful” granddaughter of the previous keeper of the book (who goes missing right after passing the book on).

Archie Greene and the Magician's SecretArchie Greene and the Magician’s Secret, by D. D. Everest (2015, upper elementary): The first in a new series, this book tells the story of Archie Greene, a boy who receives a very old book on his twelfth birthday and learns that he is part of a gifted family given the job of protecting and preserving magical books. Archie himself has some hidden talents as well. The reviews I read suggest that there is a lot of content to process, so this is probably good for a dedicated reader who enjoys the concept of magic hidden in the real world. The summaries made me think strongly of The Librarians show and of Warehouse 13, if you happen to be the adult in charge of selecting books for your tween or early teen and know those series!

Inkheart trilogy, Inkheartby Cornelia Funke (2003, upper elementary to middle school): Meggie’s father, a man who repairs rare books, never reads aloud to her, and she discovers why when one of the characters he accidentally read out of a book (and Meggie’s mother into it) shows up outside their home late one night. This fantasy story starts with the idea that spoken words–particularly words spoken by someone with talent–are powerful, and the three books in the series continue in that vein, and with added elements of the power of skillful storytelling and writing added in, to create a world where a good reader can literally make a book come alive and a good writer can transport you into a book. (I have actually read all of these books, but it was long enough ago that I can’t give a very specific review!)

I know there are many, many more of these books available! Just search the subjects “Libraries–Fiction” and “Books–Fiction” to find a vast selection from which to choose!

 

 

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BoyChild Chooses: The 12 Reviews of Christmas, Day 7–Where Did They Hide My Presents?: Silly Dilly Christmas Songs

Where Did They Hide My Presents?

Where Did They Hide My Presents?, by Alan Katz and David Catrow (2005)

It took a little cajoling on GirlChild’s part for BoyChild to choose this book in the first place, but once they had a listen, they both loved it!

The whole book is full of silly songs meant to be sung to the tune of popular Christmas songs. They range from “The Sugarplum Fairy” (to the tune of “The Little Drummer Boy”), a song about a child with pre-performance jitters who really starts to enjoy the applause and looks forward to more performances, to the titular “Where Did They Hide My Presents?” (to the tune of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”) about a child who searches “high and low and low” for the gifts his parents have hidden and can’t find them anywhere.  The pictures help add to the fun of the songs; for instance, you can see several packages tucked into a hollow in a tree (with an owl sleeping next to them) on the pages where the child is seeking out his parents’ hiding places, and the dad is depicted with an open and empty battery compartment for the song “Batteries.” They are silly and over-the-top, and my kids got a good laugh out of them!

GirlChild’s favorite song was “Where Did They Hide My Presents?” and BoyChild liked the song “Batteries” “because footballs and bones don’t need batteries!” (He’s into the absurd right now…) I had to have my husband hum a few bars of the beginning of a couple of the songs because I couldn’t recall how they started, just the chorus, and there were one or two where I never quite got the rhythm quite right to fit with the new lyrics, but it was overall pretty easy to sing the new words to the old tunes! That might be because impromptu parody songs are all the rage in our house; I tend to belt out a rousing rendition of “Everything is Awful” when BoyChild is dramatically protesting something ridiculous, and GirlChild has gotten so good at making up her own that her daddy sometimes mistakes them for real songs! Be warned that the word “dumb” showed up in a couple of the songs, and there is a song about a baby brother who has dirtied his pants, but most of the songs are good, clean fun! Other song parody picture books by the authors include On Top of the Potty and Take Me Out of the Bathtub, but there are several more to share with your little goofballs!

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