The Saggy Baggy Elephant

I was wandering around a street fair last weekend and a friend pointed out a book booth. Blame them for the money I spent on the 1.00 Little Golden Book bin. I pillaged it!

My favorite book so far is one I do not remember from my own childhood. That is ok. It is quickly becoming one of my favorite little treats of adulthood- think of it as a cupcake for your brain. My copy of The Saggy Baggy Elephant smells like musty garage even though the copy is in pristine condition.

TENGGRENS illustrations are what really make this book one worth “squeeing” over. The Saggy Baggy elephant is just about the saggiest, baggiest, cutest little fellow you have ever seen. (Along with pigs I have a soft spot for baby elephants).

K. and B. Jackson’s tale is about an elephant who calls himself Sooki. We meet him dancing his way through the jungle. Sookie thinks he is dancing beautifully until a parrot starts making fun of him for “shaking the jungle all to pieces…”  The Parrot asks Sooki what kind of animal he is- and we find that Sooki does not know. He only knows he calls himself Sooki:

“I don’t know what kind of animal I am. I live all alone by myself in the jungle. I dance and I kick- and I call myself Sooki. It’s a good sounding name. And it fits me, don’t you think?”

The parrot goes on to shatter the psyche of little Sookie better than any sixth grade girl could.

“Maybe’ answered the parrot, ‘but if it does it’s the only thing that does fit you. Your ears are to big for you, and your nose is way too big for you. And your skin is MUCH too big for you. And your skin is much, MUCH too big for you. It’s baggy and saggy. You should call yourself saggy baggy!”

Sooki takes the criticism as well as he can and tries to improve himself in various ways over the course of the book. Of course, nothing works and Sooki remains saggy and baggy. Towards the end of the book Sooki is so ashamed of how he looks he decides to hide in a cave. (I could just CRY…the illustrations of a sad baby elephant are almost too much to take. ).

Soon after taking refuge in the cave Sooki realizes too late that he is in home of a hungry lion.

The once happy Sooki is despondent:

“This is the end of me, sags, bags, wrinkles, and all…”

In his last moments Sooki decides to go out with a bang and gives out one last good trumpeting bellow…and who should appear but….SPOIER ALERT...a herd of ELEPHANTS! The hungry lion is terrified and runs away and little Sooki finds his ‘tribe’ at last!

“I wish I looked like you,” he said.“You do,” grinned the elephants. “You’re a perfectly dandy little elephant!”

Cue warm fuzzies!

I was impressed by the lessons found in a book for children so small. Who hasn’t experienced what Sooki did? Feeling out of place, unattractive, and awkward is a part of the human experience for all of us at one point or another. Finding the feelings narrated through animals makes the lessons accesible for all children. Let’s not forget the happy ending – a reminder that there is a group of friends for us all- the people who make us feel like we fit, and allow us to be ourselves.

A lovely book for just about anyone of any age.

Moominpappa at Sea

I came across this book at one of my favorite bookstores in Philadelphia, or anywhere for that matter, The Spiral Bookcase. I strongly encourage all of you to like them on Facebook and to take time to go vist them in person if you are ever in Philly.

My copy of this book smells of old, used, and damp vanilla air freshener. The pages are over dry and the binding is falling apart so I was careful while I read it.

I have been meaning to dig into the Moomin series for a while now and when I found this book in the dollar bin at The Spiral Bookcase I knew it was the perfect time. Moominpappa at Sea is one of the more philosophical books of the internationally best selling Tove Jansson (We have the same birthday!!!) series. I would compare it to reading The Little Prince byAntoine de Saint-Exupéry. You know you are technically reading children’s literature but the book is rife with deep emotional family issues and interesting characters who each seem to represent some part of the human psyche. There is more than a simple tale of a troll family struggling to build a new life on an odd and desolate island. 

In the beginning of the story Moominpappa decides to move his entire family to an island far out at sea so that he can take care of them and protect them. It seems Moominpappa is not feeling very useful and necessary so he creates this adventure for his family. One of the more striking quotes from the book comes from Moominmamma just as the family is about to set off and leave behind their cozy home. “It’s strange,’ Moominmamma thought. ‘Strange that people can be sad, and even angry because life is to easy. But that’s the way it is, I suppose. The only thing to do is to start life fresh.'” 

There are comic moments, a mystery, and a few surprisingly chilling turns in this story. A quick read and a journey I do not believe you will  regret taking. A little digging tells me that the rest of the Moomin series is not so philosophical- but you better believe I will be checking them out soon!

I would recommend this book for adults who want some reading that will inspire some deep thinking with lovely black and white illustrations of adorable trolls as a palette cleanser.

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.

My Father’s Dragon

My copy of the book smells like library. You know the smell- that old library scent is unmistakeable!

Published in 1948, My Father’s Dragon is the first in a series of three books written by Ruth Stiles Gannet about Elmer Elevator and his dragon pal.

The story begins when Elmer befriends and old stray cat. The friendship gets Elmer in a bit of trouble at home (his mother has no love for strays) but gives him the reward of a fantastic adventure. When Elmer expresses his wish that he could fly to his cat friend the cat tells him a magnificent tale about a baby dragon kept prisoner in a faraway place called Wild Island. The cat feels sure that if Elmer can make the perilous journey and free the baby dragon that the baby dragon would  surely repay him by allowing him to ride on his back as he flies. The adventure that follows is sweet and comical. The animal characters of Wild Island and their odd habits are slightly reminiscent of the cast of Wonderland. They take themselves a bit to seriously and are therefore all the more amusing.

This book is an ideal bed time read aloud- with a chapter or two  read each night. It would also be loved by children who are confident readers and  enjoy silly adventure tales. Adults who love the appeal of a simple, sweet tale will also want to add this to their bookshelves.

The illustrations by Ruth Chrisman Gannett (step mother of the author) are another huge asset to the appeal of the book. Gannett’s illustrations are whimsical, comical, and sweet. They perfectly capture the tone of the book and enhance it for the reader’s delight.

I am OBSESSED with the illustrations. Gannett’s illustrations make me feel young and safe. They make me want to go back to a simpler time when I wore footy  pajamas and someone else had to pack my lunch at night. Cheesey? Yes. True? Also yes.

The combination of text and illustrations are what has kept these books in continuos print since 1948.

Love! Adore!