Friday, January 29, 2016

Last stop on Market Street by Matt De La Peña and Christian Robinson

Last week, it was announced that this book won the 2016 Newbery Medal. It is exceedingly rare for a picture book to win the Newbery, so clearly this must be an exceptional book. 

This book was also a Caldecott Honor book for the artwork, and won several other prestigious prizes as well. It's a pretty big deal. 

 A little boy, CJ, takes a Sunday bus ride to a coup kitchen with his grandmother. As he rides along, he questions life. Why don't we have a car? Why does it have to rain on us? Why can't I have an iPod? Why do we have to get off in the dirty part of town? 

CJ's grandmother has an optimistic view of life and wastes no time in setting CJ straight. Even in the dirty part of town there is a rainbow and hope. What does CJ want with an iPod when there is a man with a guitar sitting across from them? 

My favorite line--

"Boy, what do we need a car for? We got a bus that breathes fire..."

That line has been popping into my head since I read it last week. 

The endpaper is colored a delightful yellow. I like it when illustrators make the endpaper beautiful. 

The pictures are straightforward primary colors. Or a lot of primary colors. I love bright colors. 

One of my favorite illustrations. I can't help it. I like trees and grass. 

Pretty much, I am a country person. I have never been able to see the charm in city life. I know in my head that there must be charm to be had in a city, but it is very difficult for me to see. Charm and joy and life are in the trees, the grass, and the open sky. I apologize to all you city dwellers. 

Clearly CJ's grandmother needs to give me a talking to about the beauty of city life.  

The bus that breathes fire.

Love the knitting and the babushka next to Mr. Tattoo. 

Love that line--"Sometimes when you're surrounded by dirt, CJ, you're a better witness for what's beautiful."

At the soup kitchen, they help serve lunch, seeing all the familiar faces and catching up on all the news. 

To me, this book is about the basic unfairness of life.We can let that unfairness get us down, or we can find the delight and joy to be had in our particular circumstances and revel in that. With the recent social unrest and the ever widening gap between the rich and the poor, this book seems to be particularly apt at the moment. It isn't that CJ and his grandmother aren't trying to make the world a better place, maybe try to even up the unfairness a bit, but they are enjoying themselves while they do it. Life is unfair--there will always be people that have more of something we want than we have. And yet, there are still rainbows everyone can see. Still decent people for us to interact with. Still beauty sitting there all around us, free for the taking. 

But that beauty and those rainbows and those people aren't going to force themselves on us. We have to be looking, we have to want to see the beauty, want to see the decency in those around us. 

And that is what CJ's grandmother is teaching him to do. 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Mama's New Job By Stan and Jan Berenstain

Rather unexpectedly, I have a job. After 11 years of being a stay at home wife and mother. I saw this book in the kids's doctor's waiting room on Monday, right after accepting the position, so it seemed like the right book to do on my first day of work.

As a child of the 80's, Berenstain Bears were a large part of my life. They are somewhat formulaic and idealized and poor Papa never catches a break, but I still like them.  

I particularly liked this book when I was little. Papa doing his woodwork and Mama doing her thing. It was pretty much what I wanted my life to be like. As luck would have it, I married a woodworker (and leather worker, and construction guy, and cowboy, and... He has a lot of interests.) So I am just as good as the Berenstain Bears. Except I have never managed to grow cobalt blue tulips. 

And I lack Mama Bear's knack with needle and thread. 

Oh, I loved this page. I could (and can) think up so many lovely quilts. Or at least, they are lovely in my head. Once I try to make the designs come out my fingers in fabric form, they suddenly look quite different and I quickly move on to another beautifully designed imaginary quilt.

Mama just happened to hang her quilts out when Papa was having a furniture sale, and lo and behold! A business was born.  

Mama is very autocratic here. She doesn't seem to discuss going into business with Papa at all. A strong, modern woman is great, but I think a polite, "By the way..." before telling the cubs is only fair. Although Papa is infantilized so often in these books that she might just consider him to be one of the cubs at this point.

Papa quickly forgave her though and brought her feet hot water at the end of a long day.

Her quilt shop did a booming business. 

I love Mama's big bold quilts. If I were to make quilts, I would probably have to do big and bold. It looks like a lot fewer blocks to sew together. That is my kind of quilting. 

And now that Mama is a "business-bear wife and mama" they now eat at the Burger Bear. 

Apparently fast food and working mothers are closely linked. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Ollie's Ski Trip by Elsa Beskow

Elsa Beskow is a fabulous author/illustrator. Her pictures are often touted in Waldorf and all natural circles. Not entirely sure why, but they are sweet. I have never bought any because they are pretty expensive, even used, and I thought they were way too wordy. After buying the Elsa Beskow calander this year, I decided I should try one of her books. (I love our library's inter library loan.)

Lo and behold, it is cute and the little kids loved it. There are definitely a lot of words per page, so this isn't necessarily a toddler book, but for a slightly older child, these are a sweet and magical introduction to fantasy. That is old Jack Frost up there on the cover. And as they go to see King Winter, they encounter Mrs. Thaw who must be banished until the proper time. 

It actually sounds cloyingly sweet, but it doesn't seem cloying when you read it. 

(I love these little wooden ski people.)
Ollie, gets a new pair of skis for his sixth birthday and is anxious for snow to finally fall so he can use them. That is him celebrating, one morning when he wakes up to a snow covered world. He did three somersaults in a row on his bed. And then went off to try his skis.  

Poor dreary Mrs. Thaw who always has a cold. Jack Frost scares her off. 

King Winter's palace.

Little old men and women working at King Winter's palace. King Winter appears to be a bit of a Santa Claus, with all these people scurrying around making things for Christmas.

The place sleds, skates, and skis are made. 
And lest you pity these poor kids working in slave like conditions, they get recess. 

Recess means skating, snowmen, snowballs, and sledding. 

Then Jack Frost toes Ollie and his skis back home behind a reindeer. 

Ollie got some skates from Jack Frost on Christmas morning. 
Here, he and his brother are yelling at Mrs. Thaw and telling her to stay away. Poor Mrs. Thaw. No one seems to like her.

Mrs. Thaw is winter's cleaning woman, so she tidies the world for spring. Spring prances in in a carriage towed by white butterflies. 

Mrs. Thaw has the short end of that deal. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Bright Island by Mabel L Robinson illustrations by Lynd Ward

I forget how I found the description for this book, but I really wanted it. Private island off the coast of Maine, strong willed girl, and boarding school? Yes, please! Then one evening, looking through my parents book filled basement, I saw this old copy. I am not sure if there is any better feeling than suddenly finding that you already have something that you really wanted. Maybe normal people don't know this feeling, since normal people know what books they have. But it is a good feeling. 

(Note the posessive there, as though the book were mine. I pretty much consider my parents books to be my books, just in a different bookcase. In a different house.)

The basic storyline is the coming of age of Thankful Curtis; a girl who has grown up on her family's island off the coast of Maine, totally content in her marvelous world, never wanting to live anywhere else. However, her parents and siblings betray her completely by insisting she go to the mainland for her last year of schooling. She had been her grandfather's favorite, so she is certain they would never do this if Gramps were still alive. But he isn't and she has to go. She ends up at a private boarding school where she is forced into unfamiliar clothes and a shallower seeming world of society and kids her own age, most wealthier than she. She longs for her sailboat, her parents, her island, and even her lazy pet seagull.

It is a somewhat familiar story line, but it is deftly written in an understated tone that earned it the Newbery Medal in 1938.  Thankful is a girl you will admire. She has such absolute certainty about the things she does. She makes mistakes and has a lot of learning to do, but she doesn't sacrifice her self worth to fit in with those who looked down on her. She makes a firm friend, has a few tentative relationships, a marriage proposal, and is left a better person for her year off the island. 

Lynd Ward's woodcut illustrations are marvelous. They are striking and full of movement. 

Except for this becalmed one. 

There are a lot of nautical terms, which I adore. 

A snowstorm. I love this picture!

When I was a teenager, I always thought an island of the coast of Maine was the epitome of everything wonderful. This may have had something to do with having a crush on a Mainer. But I loved Maine books and the whole idea of living on the coast or an island seemed marvelous. The part of me that is still 15 was thrilled with this book. 

And it is a good enough book that the part of me that is grown up was thrilled with it too.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Snow by Cynthia Rylant illustrated by Lauren Stringer

 Just in case anyone didn't hear enough about snow and snowstorms this past weekend, let's talk some more about it. 

Although in Cynthia Rylant's little world, snow is much nicer than something that knocks out your power and gives you an hour or so of back breaking work. 

Cynthia Rylant is a big deal in children's literature. She has written oodles of books. Books that have won oodles of awards. (Several anyway.) With over 100 books published, she might be the most prolific children's author at the moment. 

She has a very poetical writing style. Seriously, my heart hurts ever so gently at these words. There is a recognition; yes! That is exactly what it feels like. 

Although, the picture illustrating those words looks like a little freezing cold ghost child is waiting for you to wake up. But that is the first and last time I will say anything against the illustrator. 


"Home is where you need to be and this snow will take you there."  

Look at all those sweet, excited faces!

Oh the excitement! the joy! of going home early. 

I know, I know. I went a little overboard with the pictures. But, so cozy!

Rylant spent several years living with her grandparents when she was a little girl, and the illustrations seem to reflect that granddaughter grandmother relationship. 

I love these girls!

The pink glow of sunset. 
And again, these words and the picture are heartbreakingly beautiful.

Things that are green are sleeping and waiting. It is the snow's turn now. 

This book is so utterly marvelous.
 I requested this copy from the library, but it is a must buy.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Can't You Sleep, Little Bear? by Barbara Firth

This is a darling book. My younger sisters had this when they were little, and I remember my teenage self thinking it was such a lovely little book. 

Big Bear is trying to get Little Bear asleep. He tucks him into bed and goes to read his book. Just a few chapters before the good part, Little Bear hollers. He is afraid of the dark and needs some reassurance in the form of a little lamp. This keeps happening, as they move up sizes of lanterns. 

Eventually, with the very biggest lantern of all, Little Bear still says he is "scared of the dark." (Note the somersaults.) Big Bear asks him what dark he is afraid of, since the big lantern lights up their cave like noonday. Little Bear points outside. 

So Big Bear takes Little Bear out to see the dark and the very biggest night time lantern of all in the form of a full moon.

I remember thinking this picture was pretty much perfection. And I still love it. Their is a quietness in snowy woods full of moonshine that this picture conveys so perfectly. I love the bears standing there together, just watching the moon. The security Little Bear has in Big Bear making even the biggest dark suddenly friendly and full of wonder. 

After moongazing for awhile. the bears go back inside. Big Bear tucks Little Bear in the crook of his arm instead of making him go back to bed. Little Bear falls asleep in a cocoon of safety and Big Bear gets to read his book right through the good part to the end. 

I love this book.