Frog and Toad

I was going to  leave out my two favorite friends because I thought, “Frog and Toad are so popular, who doesn’t know and love these guys?” Then I realized I would be doing Arnold Lobel and Frog and Toad a diservice by not mentioning them here. 

My copies of these books smell like an old school. There are hints of crayon and a light bouquet of pencil shavings.

Arold Lobel created hilarious and touching stories about Frog and Toad using sight words (words that children would have difficulty sounding out so they have to know them by ‘sight’) that children who are just starting to read on their own need  practice with to become more confident and fluent readers. The books are an invaluable addition to any home or classroom library because they entertain while they teach.

Each of the Frog and Toad books has several stories in it. One of the most beloved ( by me) Frog and Toad tales come from the book Frog and Toad Together. In this story Toad makes himself a list of things to do during his day. Toad is quite proud of his organizational skills until a large gust of wind blows his list out of his hand. As Frog tries to help his friend recapture the list Toad frantically tells Frog he cannot because “running after my list is not one of the things that I wrote on my list of things to do.” Frog and Toad end up sitting down and doing nothing until Frog figures out he can write a new list in the dirt with a stick.

I don’t know one person  who hasn’t had a day like that. You start fully proud of what an awesome and organized adult you are  and end up paralyzed by your inability to complete your list. That is why I loved Frog and Toad when I was little and why I still love them now. Lobel seems to poke fun at his characters the most when they take every day life to seriously. Frog and Toad give readers an avenue to laugh at themselves while still feeling superior to the beloved cartoon amphibians.

Also, Lobel’s illustrations come standard with smiles. Even on a dark day Frog and Toad on a bicycle built for two fills me with warm, fuzzy memories. Trust me, even the cynics in your life can’t resist a frog in a blazer on a fixed gear bike.


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Phone Booth Chic

I was recently in New York and had my picture taken inside a phone booth because I realized a time may be coming soon when phone booths are gone from the streets and  seen only in museums. Although phone booths may be on the way out regarding their original purpose some of them may find new life as ‘guerilla libraries.’ Check out this link about how one man is turning the phone booths of New York into more than just would be museum pieces. 

Cover Art

Although it is often unwise to judge a book by it’s cover, sometimes the covers are too cute not to comment on! Check out these sweet and simple book covers for classic fairytales. A darling library edition to any library!

Book Artist!

Mind blowing! Atlanta based artist Brian Dettmer is creating amazing and unique art pieces by carving old books using surgical implements. Check out this link to learn more and to see more pictures! I am currently eyeing my old and long ignored textbooks with a renewed respect for their hidden potential.

I Want My Hat Back

Jon Klassen has written one of my favorite books of the year so far! I Want My Hat  Back has already won the Best Illustrated Children’s Book Awards through the New York Times Book Review and I feel confident that more awards are on the way.

The story centers on Bear, who has lost his hat. Readers of the book will know where the hat is pretty early on in the book thanks to the illustrations and some creative highlighting in the colors of the text. However, they will delight in following Bear on his search as he questions all the animals in the forrest, and shout in excitement as his moment of discovery arrives and Bear realizes who the culprit who has taken his hat is! No one can predict how Bear takes his revenge on the hat thief, but don’t feel guilty if you  laugh….because I did!

This book is sure to be a hit as a read aloud as the text and illustrations allow children to know more than the characters do. It makes children feel invested in the story and they are sure to want to shout out advice to the characters.

 I fell in love with this book the moment I read it. I  was shouting in excitement in the children’s section of the bookstore. I was hitting my friend’s arm saying, “Oh my God, ….Oh My God this is so funny…No way!”, and generally making a scene.  

The book smells sort of odd, new, and almost acidic. You can see a trailer for the book here! Enjoy!

 

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr.Morris Lessmore

Wow! Although this is a blog about books and how we love to smell them I can’t not share this short movie. The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr.Morris Lessmore was written by William Joyce. Joyce also co-directed the film with Brandon Oldenburg.

It warms my heart that this film has been nominated for an Oscar. The short film highlights the transformative and affirming power of books through the love Mr.Lessmore has of the books he cares for, and the love they have for him. Mr.Lessmore’s city is destroyed in a disaster. Afterwards, his books give his life purpose and meaning. In a time when so many things seems bleak it is a gentle reminder that books are a sweet escape from the trials of everyday life.

The film reminds me that in an age of electronic readers there is still nothing quite like the smell and heft of a ‘real’ book in your hand.

Check the film out for free here. Enjoy! This film is appropriate for children of all ages!

The Old Woman Who Named Things

If relationships with dogs often lead you to get a bit weepy grab some kleenex and enjoy this heart tugging gem by Cynthia Rylant. My copy smells like school library, an impossible combination of fresh and musty.

The Old Woman Who Named Things is the story of an elderly woman who is alone because she has outlived all of her friends. To avoid the pain of more loss the old woman decides to only care about things that she can’t outlive. To avoid being lonely she gives  her favorite inanimate objects charming names. For example her car is “Betsy” and her house is “Franklin.”

The old woman is happy until the day a small brown puppy appears at her gate wagging it’s tail and ‘looking a little hungry.”The old woman feeds the dog every day but always tell shim to go home after she feeds him. She does not want to risk losing anymore friends. 

The dog always returns each day …until the day he doesn’t. After several days the old woman realizes how much she has come to care about the dog.  The old woman goes in search of her shaggy companion. In the end the old woman has to decide if she will name her friend and claim the love she feels for him. 

The book  illustrates the lesson that trying to skip and avoid friendships can cause more pain than a friendship coming to an end. Cynthia Rylant has done a masterful job of sharing this profound truth in a way that younger audiences can appreciate. Kathryn Brown’s colorful illustrations serve to give the book a joyful and hopeful tone.

A Sick Day for Amos McGee

I first  saw this Caldecott Medal winner in the floor display at my school’s library. My first reaction was: ADORABLE ELEPHANT! ME WANT!

Upon closer inspection I saw that the adorable cover illustration was one of many things to love about this book. A Sick Day for Amos McGee written by Philip Stead, is the story of the responsible,prompt, and caring zoo keeper Amos McGee. We follow him on his work day from beginning to end where we  see how valuable Amos is to his various animal charges.  From a shy penguin to an owl who is afraid of the dark Amos finds ways to make all of the animals feel valued and appreciated. 

Amos is more than a zoo keeper, he is a wonderful friend.  When Amos wakes up too sick to go into work the animals decide to go and see him. All the care that Amos has lavished on them is returned as the animals spend the day nursing Amos back to health.


Phillip and Erin Stead have combined their talents to create a new classic tale that perfectly illustrates the values of ‘friendship’ for young children and any adults who may need some reminders. The heart of this story is the value of friends who understand us and our quirks.  Prepare to be enchanted.

THE DINOSAURS OF WATERHOUSE HAWKINS

Want to look at brilliantly colorful illustrations? Sure! Want to impress people at dinner parties with how much you know about the history of modeling dinosaur bodies from skeletal remnants? You bet!  

This Caldecott Honor Book was written by Barbara Kerley and illustrated by our favorite, Brian Selznick. The book is the true story of Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins.

Hawkins was a model maker in the latter 1800’s whose passion was collaborating with the leading scientists of the day to create models of dinosaurs. Hawkins wanted  the general public to get a glimpse of the spectacular creatures. Hawkin’s story  takes the reader from England to North America and back. It includes a meeting with the king and queen, an important dinner party held inside a model of dinosaur, and a run in with a teamster whose name is still well known today.

The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins   is such a vividly illustrated and quick paced story that I did not realize it was a true one until I was half way through the book. Note to self: real life is often more interesting than fiction.

The book ends with informative illustrations that show how Hawkin’s models have been improved upon in the time since his work laid the foundation for dinosaur skeletal remodeling.

I recommend the story to anyone who enjoys a good story and  specifically to dinosaur and history buffs. Though I suppose dinosaur buffs are inherently history buffs (Ba-dum-ba!).

       

The Man in The Moon

The Man in the Moon by William Joyce is the debut book in his series: The Guardians of Childhood. Joyce has several other children’s books (Santa Calls and George Shrinks) in print. He also worked on the Toy Story films.

I was so thrilled when I saw the scholastic box arrive in the office this afternoon I think I scared the UPS man. It took all I had not to tear the box from his hands. I have been eagerly awaiting Joyce’s book for a week and half- the smell and the story did not disappoint.

My copy of the book smells like a chain bookstore-clean, freshly inked pages.

The Man in the Moon is a thrilling story that tells the tale of the, you guessed it, Man in the Moon. MiM (Man in Moon), as he is nicknamed by his childhood guardian Nightlight, is a happy baby when the story begins. He sails through galaxies with his parents on a ship called the Moon Clipper. The Moon Clipper is designed to transform into a moon each evening and Joyce’s illustrations of the transformation are a delight.

Nightlight never sleeps and watches over MiM each evening. Nightlight sprinkles Dreamsand over MiM so he never has  nightmares. When Pitch, the King of Nightmares, hears about this he sets out on a planet and star destroying mission to find MiM,capture him, and make him a prince of nightmares. MiM’s family flees for a small green and blue planet (sound familiar?) in a far galaxy. The planet has no moon and so it seems like the perfect place for the Moon Clipper to transform and hide.

When Pitch and his ship, The Nightmare Galleon, catches up with MiM’s family an epic battle ensues. Children and adults alike will be swept up in the valiant efforts made by the good characters aboard the Moon Clipper.

When the dust settles MiM is alone except for a few surviving Moonbots, Moonmice,and Glowworms. Though his parents and Nightlight are gone his childhood on the moon is a fantasy brought to life by Joyce’s sweet,quick prose and decadent illustrations. ( You will fall in LOVE with his Glowworms and Lunar Moths)

When MiM grows into a man he finds way to help the children of earth. He assembles a familiar cast of beloved characters from the far corners of earth to become the guardians of childhood. I won’t give away more but I will say that the end of the book is lovely and simply magical.

I am EAGERLY awaiting more books from the series. A wonderful gift for a friend with a child who is young enough to still believe in magic all around.

          

The DJANGO

My copy of this book smells so delicious, akin to thick wrapping paper.

So no one just sets down to write and illustrate a book for the first time and creates a perfect gem, right? Wrong! Levi Pinfold has done just that with his first picture book, DJANGO.

This picture book is a delightful trickster tale inspired by the life of jazz legend Jean “Django” Reinhardt. The story features a young gypsy boy named Jean. One day Jean comes across the DJANGO in his family’s caravan. In the book the DJANGO is described thusly:

“It’s like a thing. A sort of it. A kind of cozzler that always seems to find trouble.”

The Django is a charmingly illustrated creature who looks something like a little boy, and insect, and a pile of laundry crossed together and come to life. The Django loves playing tricks and pranks but poor Jean is the one who gets in trouble.

The Django starts by breaking Jean’s father’s precious banjo, an instrument Jean has longed to play for himself for as long as he can remember.  Jean’s papa is furious and things only get worse as the Django follows Jean around for the week causing him trouble at every turn. Finally Jean has had enough and casts the Django out in a fit of temper. The Django stays away and Jean is surprised to find he actually misses him. Jean’s papa has a perfect and surprising solution for Jean’s case of the blues.

Children will delight in the tricks the Django plays. Beware of little ones blaming the Django for the bad behavior after reading this one! People of all ages will appreciate the vivid and colorful illustrations.

Also be sure to read and share  the final page that gives information about the life of the real Jean “Django” Reinhardt. His life story is an inspiring and exciting one for anyone who appreciates music and the art of creating it.

    

Wonder Struck

Written and Illustrated by Brian Selznick. (GENIUS) Brian Selznick is a renowned illustrator and author. His book The Invention of Hugo Cabret,  won the Caldecott honor medal and  was turned into a film that was released in November 2011.

My copy of the  book smells of new, heavy, high quality paper. The ink smell is strong  because most of the pages of the book are detailed black and white illustrations.

I am not saying anything revolutionary by giving my opinion that Selznick has created another magical literary work in his newest work Wonderstruck.The story is brilliantly and movingly illustrated.

The illustrations tell a separate story than the words for the first part of the book. The illustrations detail a past series of events involving a character named Rose. The words tell the present tense  story of the life of a boy named Ben. Ben and Rose have one thing in common. They are both searching for a place where they belong.The two narratives are separated by 50 years but the lives of Ben and Rose meld together surprisingly and flawlessly throughout the course of the story. The melding of those two lives will astound you.

The story is full of surprises, and, as the title alludes to, wonder.  I feel strongly that it is an asset to any school or home library. The story will best be appreciated by people over the age of ten. The  beauty of the complications of love and loss might be missed by anyone younger. Still, the illustrations and overall design of the book fill the reader with the sense that they are holding something magical in their hands and this  can be appreciated by younger children. That feeling is one that builds life long readers.

Selznick is a rare talent with a gift for telling stories with settings of  great breadth  and scope that  do not overshadow the detailed and complicated lives of the characters living within them. The settings themselves act as characters in the story, illuminating the lives of the living characters that move around, in, and between them.

I read this book in one sitting and finished it moments ago. I was so desperate to read it this weekend that I ‘bought’ it off of a student who had checked it out of the school library before I could. I bribed him with our school’s good behavior currency- Tiger Paws. You read that correctly. I bribed a child so I could take their book. Judge me if you will, but this story was well worth it. I hope you find your own copy by less illicit means. Also note- I read the entire novel with a throbbing sinus headache that would usually have had me laying in the dark with my eyes closed. I found the story  that moving and enthralling.

In this tale Selznick gives  me the feeling that all of us are caught up in our own magnificent narrative.

      

The Country Bunny and The Little Gold Shoes

My copy of the book smells like old library.

In this little Vintage Easter tale we get a taste of women’s liberation bunny style, made more interesting by the fact that the book was published in 1939.  Du Bose Heyward created a valiant and lovable heroine, whose strength of character is timeless.

The book casts aside the myth that one Easter bunny delivers all the lovely Easter eggs. There are five bunnies to do the work. The five live and work with wise old Grandfather bunny. When an Easter bunny becomes too slow and old they retire and another candidate takes his place.

The book begins with The Country Bunny, a.k.a Cottontail, as a young brown bunny dreaming dreams of being one of the five Easter bunnies. She grows up, marries, and suddenly has 21 little bunnies to take care of, with no husband in evidence on any of the pages.

As Cottontail’s children grow she teachers each of them how to be a good productive bunny citizen. Each bunny has a job to do to keep the house running smoothly. Now,one day word spreads through the forrest that one of the Easter Bunnies is retiring. Momma Cottontail gathers her whole brood and heads off to the grand Palace of the Easter Eggs. Cottontail’s confidence is low at first, compared to the other competitors she feels like a ‘old mother bunny.’ However,  Cottontail is chosen as the fifth Easter Bunny, and the first LADY Easter Bunny in history.

Right off Cottontail is given a special job: To deliver the most beautiful and delicate of all the eggs to a boy who has “been ill for an entire year, but has never once cried or complained.” Of course the boy also lives in a dangerous and remote location. Our girl Cottontail takes her mission and heads off into the night.

She hops, and hops, and hops, and hops. Then she reaches the mountains and hops some more. She attempts to make the final ascent to a small, snow covered cabin.Just as she is about to reach the top Cottontail slips and tumbles to the bottom of the mountain. She sits at the base of a tree, dejected, hurt,almost out of time, and feeling heartbroken at the idea that she has failed a small and ailing child.

***It is at this point you realize you are starting to tear up over a fictional Easter Bunny, but you won’t care. ***

Grandfather Bunny appears and acknowledges how BRAVE Cottontail is. He tells Cottontail he is making her his very own Gold Shoe Easter Bunny, and he kneels and puts a pair of fine gold shoes on Cottontail’s feet.

I won’t spoil anymore of the ending of book for but I will say that the gold shoes provide MEGA HOPS and you will not be disappointed with the ending!

I recommend this book for any little girl or boy who is doubtful about their ability to make their dreams come true and for any mom who feels like she is ‘just an old mother bunny.” Give the gift of inspiration with this gem of a book!

Fall in LOVE with the illustrations of Majorie Hack!!! SQUEE! She makes the pain and disappointment on the bunny faces real enough to make you empathize and cute enough to make you want to squeeze each cartoon bunny you see.