Unlike most of the books I feature here, this is not a book for reading aloud from cover to cover. Instead, this is a book for dipping in and out of, admiring the extensive illustrations and learning myriad new things. Chapters on land, barns, tools, planting, animals, food, and crafts provide an entry point for just about any range of interests and this book would make a wonderful present for just about anyone of any age.
Randomly opening the book to a section on poultry, in four pages we learned: the anatomy of an egg, how to identify (by their footprints) predators that could attack the flock, the average number of eggs one hen lays each year, two ways to tell how old an egg is, and the type of duck my mother had as a girl (a Call duck).
My oldest loves to read through this book on his own and is lobbying for us to try some of the recipes (especially the maple fudge).
Author: Julia Rothman
Illustrator: Julia Rothman
Posted in Non-fiction, Picture Books
Tagged Animals, farm, Farm Anatomy: The Curious Parts & Pieces of Country Life, food, garden, Julia Rothman, knitting, Machines, science, series
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
Once upon a time, a merchant asked his three daughters
what he should bring them from the city. The first asked
for pearls, the second for gold, but the youngest longed for
a singing lark. The merchant found a gold necklace and a
bracelet of gold, but there were no songbirds to be had for love
or money that winter.
He turned towards home, sorry to disappoint his youngest
daughter. The road took him past a fine castle, with a grand
garden full of spring flowers in spite of the winter snows. At the
top of a laurel tree, a lark sang.
While the boys show polite interest in The Magic Nesting Doll, by the same author and illustrator, they adore this book (which combines and reworks elements of The Singing, Springing Lark; Beauty and the Beast; and East of the Sun, West of the Moon). They each want a copy of their own and I can absolutely see why. (It is gorgeous. Plus, lions and dragons and griffins. Oh, my!) My oldest enjoys pointing out the plot follows the Frozen principle of getting to know someone before marrying them and my youngest repeatedly (forcefully) requests it as a bedtime story.
Author: Laurel Long and Jacqueline K. Ogburn/The Grimm Brothers
Illustrator: Laurel Long
Posted in Picture Books
Tagged Animals, Beauty and the Beast, bedtime, East of the Sun West of the Moon, fairy tale, frozen, garden, Grimm Brothers, Jacqueline K. Ogburn, Laurel Long, out of print, The Lady & the Lion, The Magic Nesting Doll, The Singing Springing Lark, translated
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
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
My youngest son is very found of birds. Ponds full of ducks make him very happy. If some of the ducks are on land, he heads straight over in hope of picking one up. Once they (inevitably) retreat to the water, he perches on the nearest rock and happily quacks at them (although he points out wistfully that, as yet, no ducks have quacked back to him).
My mother is also very found of ducks and she read me this book many, many times. The pictures are great and it is fun read-aloud, particularly once the ducklings (Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, and Quack) make their entrance. Speaking of grandparents, this is one of the only books on this blog that is older than all of my sons’ grandparents (The Little House and The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes are the others).
Author: Robert McCloskey
Illustrator: Robert McCloskey
She could have picked a chiming clock or a porcelain figurine,
but Miss Bridie chose a shovel back in 1856.
Miss Bridie chose the shovel from the peg in the barn, and
she took it to the dock, where she stepped aboard the ship.
She leaned on the shovel as she rocked in the cabin while
she lived on the ship on her way across the sea.
Miss Bridie flung the shovel with her pack on her shoulder
when she stepped off the ship in the harbor in New York.
This quiet, beautiful book covers most of a lifetime and is a pleasure from beginning to end.
Author: Leslie Connor
Illustrator: Mary Azarian
Posted in Picture Books
Tagged city, Diverse Books, farm, garden, immigration, Ireland, Leslie Connor, Machines, Mary Azarian, Miss Bridie Chose a Shovel, New York Times Notable Children's Book, out of print, USA
I wish we could do what they do in Katroo.
They sure know how to say “Happy Birthday to You!”
In Katroo, every year, on the day you were born
They start the day right in the bright early morn
When the Birthday Honk-Honker hikes high up Mt. Zorn
And lets loose a big blast on the big Birthday Horn.
And the voice of the horn calls out loud as it plays:
“Wake Up! For today is your Day of all Days!”
The perfect book for a birthday tradition.
Author: Dr. Seuss
Illustrator: Dr. Seuss
Spry Miss Maple (who is small enough to travel on the back of a bluebird) cares for seeds “lost during the spring planting.” She brings them to her cozy home (inside a tree), takes them on field trips (by water and by air), reads them bedtime stories (by firefly light), and (when the Spring comes round again) sends them “off to find roots of their own” with the reminder to:
“Take care, my little ones, for the
world is big and you are small. But never forget…
… even the grandest of trees once had to grow up
from the smallest of seeds.”
If you enjoy this book (or would like more of a sneak peek), check out the activity sheets and coloring pages on the author/illustrator’s website.
Author: Eliza Wheeler
Illustrator: Eliza Wheeler
Once again Paul O. Zelinsky draws from the best of the Grimm’s multiple versions, along with earlier Italian and French versions, to create a compelling and beautifully illustrated tale. My youngest will accept no substitutions; we must read this edition: “The one with the big tower.”
While this story violates the Frozen principle–“You can’t marry a man you just met”–in a big way and the prince seems to be either a cad or none too bright (otherwise why wouldn’t he just bring Rapunzel a rope ladder early on in their relationship?), it is a classic. (And Frozen has made discussing these kinds of issues much easier and faster at just the right time.)
Author: Paul O. Zelinsky/The Grimm Brothers
Illustrator: Paul O. Zelinsky