Monday, December 10, 2018

Happiness (Monday Poem)

by A. A. Milne

John had
Great Big
Boots on;
John had a
Great Big
John had a
Great Big
And that
(Said John)

from When We Were Very Young
by A. A. Milne
illustrated by Ernest Shepard
E . P. Dutton & Co., Inc., 1924

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Just Right Stories for the Season of Light (FAMILY magazine reviews)

            Closing the darkest part of the year with the brilliance of fine writing and painstaking paintings, to illustrate the season of Light, are this small collection of enticing picture books. Not just for the youngest, these titles bring the pleasure of a well-told tale to everyone gathered together. Celebrate!  

All-of-a-Kind Family 
Based on the classic books by Sydney Taylor 
by Emily Jenkins
illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky
            It’s snowing on the first night of Hanukkah in 1912 New York’s Lower East Side as two sisters walk home to their family. Gertie, the youngest of five (all girls is what “all-of-a-kind” describes), is excited about dinner preparations, especially the latkes, to be fried in schmaltz – “to remember the oil that burned for eight days and eight nights in Jerusalem.” Gertie wants to help peel or grate the potatoes, chop the onions, or fry the latkes in the hot schmaltz, but Mama will not allow. For Gertie, this is too much -- to miss out on the once-a-year treat preparation – her disappointment sparks an angry tantrum. Mama marches her to the bedroom with quiet, firm instructions to remain there until time for the blessings. It’s Papa’s arrival and wisdom about how to include Gertie that helps to bring the entire family and a visitor together for lighting the Hanukkah candles and sharing a delicious meal.
            Award winning illustrator Zelinsky’s digital artwork captures the texture and movement of the snowy city, the active preparations in the snugly cheerful kitchen, and the loving relationships narrated so skillfully in the text. Jenkins, who writes with authority and the support of the Sydney Taylor Foundation, has nailed the essence of these classic stories in this mindfully crafted tale for the twenty-first century. Included at the back are: glossary, author’s note, illustrator’s note, an online link for a latke recipe, and sources.

Penguin Random House, $17.99
Interest Level: Pre-School – Grade 2

The Smallest Gift of Christmas 
by Peter H. Reynolds
            In a clever whimsical recasting of an old folktale about more and bigger and better, Reynolds introduces Roland, who is unimpressed with his Christmas present - which is “the smallest gift he had ever seen.” When he wishes for a bigger gift and his wish comes true, Roland is still disappointed that it’s not “MUCH bigger.” He throws a tantrum, and stomps off after each wish still doesn’t get him what he thinks is “big enough.”
Determined, Roland sets off in a rocket ship “to search the universe.” Like the astronauts who viewed the thumb-sized earth from outer space, Roland realizes his home, his family are very far away. This time when he wishes, it’s for that “tiny speck – the smallest gift.”
Brilliant reds and greens make the digital illustrations pop off the page. And Reynolds’ characteristic hand lettering highlights the text as Roland, still wearing his polka dot PJ’s and back home on the sofa with his family, discovers that sometimes the best gifts are the ones you already have.

Candlewick, $14
Interest Level: Junior Kindergarten – Grade 5

Just Right for Christmas 
by Birdie Black
illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw
            At the market on Christmas Eve, the king buys a huge roll of beautiful bright-red cloth, ”so red and soft and Christmassy!” It’s perfect for his daughter. The sewing maids in the castle “snipped and sewed” until they completed a lovely long cloak for the Princess. Then, a kitchen maid sees the leftover fabric on the back doorstep, and turns it into a jacket for her mother. She leaves a bundle of scraps which catch the attention of Bertie Badger, whose small pile of scraps are discovered by Samuel Squirrel, and ultimately, the last tiny bit, by Milly Mouse. Each one uses the left behind pieces to create a gift for their own special someone.
            Colorful, textured, mixed-media illustrations are busily active and brightly snow-filled. This sprightly story is a charming holiday version of an older folktale, patterned with a rhythm of repetitive lines that builds to a happy holiday conclusion.

Candlewick, $15.99 (hardcover) 
$6.99 (board book)
Interest Level: Pre-School - Kindergarten


Monday, December 3, 2018

Our People (Monday Poem)

by Carole Boston Weatherford

We call ourselves Inuna-Ina, Our People.
We worship Be He Tie-ht, the Man Above,
And do the Sun Dance to hail summer.

The ancestors chanted the Ghost Dance
And followed buffalo across the plains,
Roaming present day Nebraska, Kansas,
Wyoming, Minnesota and Colorado.
They allied with the Cheyenne
Warred with the Ute, Pawnee and Shoshone
And made peace with the Sioux, Kiowa and Comanche.

Our people pitched tepees in a circle.
They fished, hunted elk and deer,
And ate jerky and wild berries
After the White Owl brought winter.
The Whirlwind Woman not only gave us breath;
She gave us quillwork, embroidery.
Our every stitch a prayer.

from World Make Way: New Poems Inspired by Art from The Metropolitan Museum 
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Abrams, 2018

Monday, November 26, 2018

Rain (Monday Poem)

by Anders Holmer

Beneath ashes are
seeds for a new forest that
might burn someday too.

from Rain
by Anders Holmer 
Eerdmans, 2018

Monday, November 19, 2018

Sargasso (Monday Poem)

by Nicola Davies

The Sargasso is a sea without a shore:
a giant whirl of water,
caught by swirling currents.
You'll know you are there
when floating weed surrounds you.
Yellow-gold and green, it tangles
in the waves and sunlight,
full of life!

from A First Book of the Sea
by Nicola Davies
Illustrated by Emily Sutton
Candlewick, 2018 

Monday, November 12, 2018

Happiness (Monday Poem)

by Nicola Davies

Sand in my shoes.
Salt in my hair.
A pebble in my pocket.
The horizon in my eyes.

from A First Book of the Sea
by Nicola Davies
Illustrated by Emily Sutton
Candlewick, 2018 

Monday, November 5, 2018

Shoal (Monday Poem)

by Nicola Davies

Swirl, swish.
Twirl, twist.
Flash, flick.
Gleam, glint.

All turn, all dive,
all eyes open wide.

Ten thousand bodies move in time.
a moving, swimming, living rhyme.

from A First Book of the Sea
by Nicola Davies
Illustrated by Emily Sutton
Candlewick, 2018