Friday, July 29, 2016

My Family by Marchette Chute & Cindy Szekeres

Part of my family is grown-up and tall. 
Part of my family is little and small.
I'm in the middle and pleased with all.

                                                          ---Marchette Chute

Cyndy Szekeres is a so good at adorable animal illustrations. I love this poem too--a little kid delighted with his people. 

Cyndy Szekeres

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Uproar on Hollercat Hill by Jean Marzollo & Illus by Steve Kellogg

  In contrast to yesterday's picture perfect family life, I give you Uproar on Hollercat Hill. This was a book that was worn to pieces by us kids growing up. Mom and Dad's copy is in tatters. 

A family that fights and hollers and loves each other fiercely is very realistic to all of us.  

Jean Marzollo is the author of the I Spy books. This is one of her earlier books. And Steven Kellogg...well, I love Steven Kellogg.

My aunt just sent me my great grandmother's china. Isn't it lovely?

Happy kittens playing together nicely. It won't last.

Things are hoppin' in the Cat house.

I love Poppa happily drumming away while Momma appears to be plowing up their front lawn.

Things fall apart.

This right here, is the one of the best lines in children's literature. Right up there with about 945 other best lines. 

They take all their sadness, sorrow, and grievances to Momma. Who gets so distracted....

The tractor goes trundling down the hill to the neighbors. By itself.

So then the neighbors are part of the melee.

Poppa finally thinks of tea.

Tea solves everything. Including neighborhood riots. But note, it is the cookies that bring a smile to their faces. 

Cookies are so important.

Sometimes folks 
Just got to fight,
When it's over, 
Kiss good night.

I love this. It is such a healthy view of arguments. With the seeming demise of polite discourse and discussion in today's culture, it is good to be reminded that you can argue with someone and still love them.  

Strawberry shortcake, huckleberry pie,
We love you and that's no lie.  

Even if you fight and holler and cause mayhem. We still love you. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Happy Family by Nicole & Illus by Corinne Malvern

This book is so incredibly retro. It is a Golden book. (zing!) It is illustrated by Corinne Malvern (zing!) It is about a father, mother, son, daughter family. (zing!) It is idyllic and only vaugely associated with real life. (zing! zing! zing!) 

(Not sure why zing is indicative of retroness, but there it is.)

I love retro things. Which is why I bought this book. Look at them, with their cat and dog gamboling about as they walk past rose covered fences! Why aren't there rose covered fences in my life?

Everything is awesome! Everything is cool when you're part of the team! Everything is awesome!-- when you're living the dream.
                                                        --the Lego Movie Song

Despite this picture being completely posed and unrealistic, there is a part of me that uses 1950's illustrations (This book was reissued with new illustrations in the '50's.)  as the basis for how life should be. I want to look out the window to see my daughter carrying in a basket of flowers while my husband mows the lawn in fancy clothes and my son gambols about. 

Clearly gambol is the word today. And, if things continue on their trajectory paths, I fear for Tony's feet. Because his dad is paying no attention to which way the mower is going while he is smugly thinking he has got it all together.  

Oh kitty! 

This picture is in All I ever needed to know I learned in a Little Golden Book and it intrigued me enough to buy the book. I mean, who washes the dishes as a family and smiles all the while? 

Sigh. Not us. 

Daddy reads four fairy tales while mother is knitting before the magic hour of eight--bedtime prep. 

Matching beds, matching blankets, tender, patient Mummy saying goodnight a bajillion times. 

Morning routines.

Mother, working away at housework.

As they walk along, Mother thinks: "Now let's see, what do I have to buy today?"

Poor mother. Never a thought outside her duties and family. 

This is pretty much what I try to live up to. No mess, no evident fuss, delighted children and friends, and a pergola covered in flowers.

And then they ride their new bikes (for Peggy's birthday) to the beach. While Peggy attempts to run down passer-bys. 

Life was much easier in a 1940's Little Golden Book. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Little Fur Family by Margaret Wise Brown & illus by Garth Williams

This is such a cozy sort of book. And this is a terrible picture.*

Margaret Wise Brown and Garth Williams are a dream team for children's books. When I was younger-ish I thought a lot of Margret Wise Brown's books were... I am not sure if I had a coherent thought about them, I just didn't like them. But as an adult and cozy aficionado, I am revisiting or visiting them for the first time. And they are super. I find that I need to read them a few times before loving them. Don't ask me why. Just one of those facts of life. 

*Sometimes I feel like I might be better off just doing one or two blog posts a week and make them really good. But knowing me, I would then think they had to be so great that I would feel too pressured and my blog would languish and die. So I make myself take pictures and post (almost) every day. In theory I like to think that this will make me a better photographer and writer. And then some day every day will be perfect. 

In reality, it just results in some bad pictures. 

Do you see his furry little tummy to rub? Apparently there was an edition of this book that involved a real rabbit fur cover. As in an animal died for your cover. This was back in a time when fur was still acceptable. It wouldn't fly today.

See? the furry cover. And when you are done with it, you slid it in the nifty little book box and the fur pokes out his wee tummy. It must have been so delightfully soft. You can buy your very own one for... between $500-$1000. 

That is a lot to pay for softness.

The little fur boy is contemplating the squirrels. 

Those are not fur animals. Why is someone attempting to pass them off as a fur family? 

The Fur family.

Part of the reason I didn't like MWB books when I was little is because they are sometimes jarring. If there are two rhyming lines, I expect more rhyming. And there isn't. Maybe that is why it takes me a few reads to really get the rhythm and enjoy the book. 

Fur Daddy.

His mummy washes him up and sends him out to play.

Look at the wildflowers and teensy door!!

He goes to see his grandfather, who sneezes. 

Then he checks out the fishies. 

I love this little fur child sitting there watching them for a long time. So contemplative of him!

Up close and personal.

Then he sees a little tiny fur animal, which is a smaller version of himself.

Then he caught a little tiny tiny fur animal, 
the little fur animal in the world.
It had a warm silky fur and even a little fur nose.
So he kissed it right on its little fur nose
and put it genly back in the grass
and the little tiny tiny fur animal 
ran down a hole into the ground. 

Any book with tiny, tiny delights Elsie. And me. 

As the sun sinks lower, the little fur child heads for home. 

Where his tummy is filled with warm food.

And his Daddy piggy backs him up to bed.

Where his mummy and daddy sing a little song to him. See that last line? This is a song. That is another jarring thing. It seems slightly random and pointless. 

But Elsie, my four year old loves this book, so one line clearly doesn't make or break it. Or maybe it is a brilliant line and I just don't get it. Entirely possible. 

Friday, July 22, 2016

A World in a Grain of Sand by William Blake and Tasha Tudor

To see a world in a grain of sand
And heaven in a wildflower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.

                                     --William Blake

There is a Garrison Keillor Lake Wobegone story I was listening to a few weeks ago about a boy who was bored, bored, bored in the summer. Eventually he went out and flopped on the grass where he noticed the ants. He lay there, wondering and constructing an entire world for them in his mind until a friend came along and asked him what in the world he was doing ("Nothing!") and would he like to go swimming?

To see a world in a grain of sand or a world for ants, there is a certain level of boredom necessary. At least for most people. Geologists might get a kick out of it, but the rest of us poor saps aren't having it. But when I am bored.... I'll look at anything. Boredom is so underrated. It seems like I have read so many articles about boredom being good for kids this year. In honor of these articles, we decided to give the kids a screen free summer. Well mostly screen free. When there are 12 cousins running around at Grandma and Grandpa's and fights descend in the late afternoon, letting them play some computer games does save other people's sanity. But for the most part, it has gone pretty well. It helps that we have been living in our new place a lot of the summer. I have this idea that habits are largely dependent on surroundings. I spend a good bit of time on the computer at home, but when I am at my sister's house for a week, I feel no urgency to get on her computer to see what is happening in the world. So maybe a different house has helped. 

I am not sure that boredom definitely translates into the embodiment of this quote, but I do hope my kids find a little bit of wonder and absorption in their wanders and rambles this summer.  

Just maybe they will find a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wildflower

Happy weekend!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Michael Sails the Mud Hen by Peggy and Gordon Aymar & Illus by Robert Smith

This is a neat little book about sailing. It is called a "story-guide" on the title page. It is the story of Michael and his little brother Tim as they learn to sail. Gordon Aymar was an accomplished sailor with a few sailing books under his belt, when he and his wife teamed up for this book. This is actually based on an old abandoned boat Peggy and Gordon Jr. found when Jr was seven. 

Here sit Michael and Tim. And if that isn't a picture of summer boredom, I don't know what is. 

Meeting Captain Harry

When they are poking around the marshes, they find the Mud Hen. The man who owns the property says it isn't his boat, it just drifted up there, so they are welcome to her.

Captain Harry takes Michael and Tim on, to teach them to sail. 

First, they start with rowing. 

I love these nautical diagrams. 

Every good sailor needs to know a few knots.

Michael on his maiden rowing journey.

Bailing out the Mud Hen after a storm.

Another storm.

They graduate to sailing!


I also love this. So 1960's vacationing housewife.

Michael gets to try out the rudder.

After some close observation and practice with Captain Harry, he lets them go up the inlet by themselves for practice.

Finally, Michael is approved for open bay sailing. The sheet breaks, but Michael handles it quite well.

And sails into harbor safe and sound.

This is a pretty good learning book. Some books are so heavy on the learning, they forget the plot, making them very heavy handed and clumsy. This one is quite a pleasant mix of plot and pointers.