In a 1989 interview with The New York Times, celebrated chef and author Edna Lewis said: “As a child in Virginia, I thought all food tasted delicious. After growing up, I didn’t think food tasted the same, so it has been my lifelong effort to try and recapture those good flavors of the past.” This book focuses on that childhood, those good flavors, and how the rhythms of growing and gathering food affected the day-to-day life of Ms. Lewis’ family.
The boys love this book; the pictures and lovingly-described foods keep them spellbound. I do have a few small caveats: the recipes included at the end of the book are inspired by Ms. Lewis, but are not her own; the speech of the characters is highly stylized (old poetry and rhymes about food make up much of the dialogue, which may take some getting used to); and we all agree the author of this book likely has never actually heard a whippoorwill (we have learned from camping that its call is anything but melodious–instead it is a dead ringer for an hours-long car alarm).
Author: Robbin Gourley
Illustrator: Robbin Gourley
In this book, a boy composes a rather plain-vanilla letter to his grandpa sharing what he’s been doing and learning over the summer (the toothsome illustrations reveal that it is all related to ice cream). Locating ice cream lurking in unexpected places is a large part of the fun–nearly all the pages are highly detailed and lend themselves to close examination.
Author: Peter Sis
Illustrator: Peter Sis
Genius squirrels follow wintering birds to a tropical paradise. Will their grumpy friend Old Man Fookwire be far behind?
Like the first book in this series, Those Darn Squirrels!, it is difficult to read this book once; as soon as it is done, the boys ask me to read it again. Since they are laughing their heads off for much of the book (no matter how many times we read it), I’m happy to comply.
Author: Adam Rubin
Illustrator: Daniel Salmieri
Posted in Picture Books
Tagged Adam Rubin, Animals, beach, Daniel Salmieri, food, knitting, Machines, Mexico, mystery reader books, series, Those Darn Squirrels Fly South, Those Darn Squirrels!, USA
It was early on market day when Sasifi and her mama
started down the path to the main road. The sky was still
gray. Mama carried a big basket of oranges on her head.
Sasifi carried a smaller one.
“Will we ride in the tap-tap today?” Sasifi asked.
“No,” said Mama. “We will walk to market, the same as
Sasifi has just turned eight and is very proud that she is now big enough to help Mama on market day. But she would love to try traveling in a tap-tap (a brightly painted share taxi) instead of walking. This engaging book deftly portrays a way of life very different than our own (the boys wondered why Sasifi’s family did not just buy a car, which lead to an interesting discussion) and is gently humorous. My youngest especially enjoys it.
Author: Karen Lynn Williams
Illustrator: Catherine Stock
. . . a shabby young
man came trudging up the road toward the
castle. He had patched knees and elbows, and
the feather in his worn hat was bedraggled,
but he had a merry grin, and he was whistling
a gay tune. When he saw the long line of people,
he asked a soldier, “What’s going on?”
“The king’s looking for a new royal cook,”
the soldier replied. “The cook with the most
unusual recipe will get the job and will live in
the palace off the best of the land!”
“Wouldn’t that be wonderful!”
“Well, I don’t know,” said the soldier.
“Cooks don’t get along with the king. He tells
’em what to do, puts things in their pots–he
all but does the cooking himself.”
“You don’t say?” said the young man, and
he got into line.
Much like The King of Pizza, this book begins with a monarch that loves food but is never satisfied with it. And once again, after some twists and turns, everyone ends up happy (including the kids it is read to). The illustrations, by Ms. Hyman, are very good and particularly interesting when you compare them to her later (much more detailed) illustrations for Saint George and the Dragon.
Author: Tom McGowen
Illustrator: Trina Schart Hyman
On Market Street, vendors of items from apples to zippers all wear (or are made of) their wares. I’ve loved this beautiful alphabet book from the first time I saw it as a child. The boys prefer The Racecar Alphabet, but this is the week when I share some of the books that I currently enjoy more than they do, in honor of Mother’s Day.
Author: Arnold Lobel
Illustrator: Anita Lobel
Posted in Picture Books
Tagged alphabet, Anita Lobel, Arnold Lobel, Caldecott Honor, Christmas, food, Frog and Toad, I read this as a kid, knitting, Machines, Mama's Choice, On Market Street, The Racecar Alphabet, toys
Morris looked at the candy.
He liked the gumdrops.
He said, “Give me some of those.”
The man said,
“They are one for a penny.
How much money do you have?”
Morris looked. He had six pennies.
“I have four pennies,” he said.
The man laughed. “You have six!
Can’t you count? Don’t you go to school?”
Morris asked, “What is school?”
The rest of the book answers this question, as Morris immediately heads off to school and learns lots of new things. Perhaps most importantly, by the end of the day he knows how to purchase the right amount of gumdrops.
Morris takes things very literally, and the resulting misunderstandings (like in the picture above) really tickle my youngest (who is getting ready to start school himself). This book also presents many opportunities for him to participate in the reading (for example, by counting Morris’ pennies).
Author: B. Wiseman
Illustrator: B. Wiseman
Babushka lived alone in a dacha, a
little house in the country, but she
was known far and wide for the fine eggs
that she lovingly painted. Her eggs were so
beautiful that she always won first prize at
the Easter Festival in Moskva.
One day, Babushka rescues a wounded goose and names her Rechenka. As Rechenka returns to health, she lays an egg each morning for Babushka’s breakfast. And eventually, after Babushka’s lovingly painted eggs are destroyed in a (goose-related) accident, Rechenka’s daily eggs become increasingly miraculous.
This is one of our very favorite Easter stories. The pictures are strikingly beautiful, as is Babushka’s quiet, constant appreciation of the miracles all around her (large and small).
Author: Patricia Polacco
Illustrator: Patricia Polacco
Elliot is a tiny, pastel-spotted, New-York-City-dwelling elephant. He generally works around his size limitations, but often goes unnoticed and is nearly overcome by loneliness (and cupcake cravings) until he finds “someone even littler than himself, who had an even bigger problem.” In helping this someone (an adorable white mouse), Elliot’s problems are solved. This deeply cute book manages to stop short of being saccharine and is very popular.
Author: Mike Curato
Illustrator: Mike Curato
The last time I wrote about Frog and Toad, this series didn’t interest the boys much. But recently they developed a strong interest in A Year with Frog and Toad, a musical based on the books (and a wonderful show, if you ever get a chance to see it in person), and now really enjoy the books.
Like Mo Willems’ Elephant and Piggy series, the two best friends in this series have very different personalities. The Frog and Toad series is less laugh-out-loud funny than Mr. Willems’, but is still humorous and often tender. Some of our favorite stories are “Shivers,” from Days with Frog and Toad; “Spring” and “A Lost Button,” from Frog and Toad are Friends; “Cookies,” from Frog and Toad Together; and “Down the Hill” and “Ice Cream,” from Frog and Toad All Year.
Author: Arnold Lobel
Illustrator: Arnold Lobel
Posted in Chapter Books, Early Readers
Tagged A Year with Frog and Toad (Original Cast Recording), Animals, Arnold Lobel, Caldecott Honor, Christmas, Days with Frog and Toad, Elephant & Piggie, food, Frog and Toad, Frog and Toad All Year, Frog and Toad are Friends, Frog and Toad Together, garden, I read this as a kid, Mo Willems, Newbery Honor Book, Robert and Willie Reale, series, songs