Tag Archives: Machines

The Iron Giant

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The Iron Giant came to the top of the cliff.
How far had he walked? Nobody knows. Where had he come
from? Nobody knows. How was he made? Nobody knows.
Taller than a house, the Iron Giant stood at the top of the
cliff, on the very brink, in the darkness.
The wind sang through his iron fingers. His great iron head,
shaped like a dustbin but as big as a bedroom, slowly turned
to the right, slowly turned to the left. His iron ears turned, this
way, that way. He was hearing the sea.

His eyes, like headlamps, glowed white, then red, then
infra-red, searching the sea. Never before had the Iron Giant
seen the sea.
He swayed in the strong wind that pressed against his back.

He swayed forward, on the brink of the high cliff.
And his right foot, his enormous iron right foot, lifted – up,
out, into space, and the Iron Giant stepped forward, off the
cliff, into nothingness.

CRRRAAAASSSSSSH!

Down the cliff
the Iron Giant
came toppling,
head over heels.

CRASH!
CRASH!
CRASH!

I’m not sure how I missed this book for so long. It came out over forty years ago, but I had never heard of it before the (quite good, very different from the book) movie came out in 1999 and never read it until this week. This is one of the first times I’ve read a book with my oldest that I was really reading along with him–a book that I had never read before. Luckily, we’re in complete agreement–it is great–especially for reading aloud.

Perhaps it is a good thing I waited so long; the 2010 design and illustrations by Laura Carlin are captivating. I’m not particularly found of her illustrations of people, but they are completely overshadowed (in a good way) by her thoughtful spacing of the text, her portrayal of the Iron Giant, and her introduction of the space-bat-angel-dragon.

This book has been called both a tall tale and a fairy tale. Although neither label is wrong, they are a bit surprising; I would call The Iron Giant an excellent introduction to science fiction.

Author: Ted Hughes
Illustrator: Laura Carlin

 

How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World

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Making an apple pie is really very easy.
First, get all the ingredients at the market.
Mix them well, bake, and serve.

Unless, of course,
the market is closed.

In that case, go home and pack a suitcase.

The pie-craving protagonist travels to Italy (for wheat), Frances (for a chicken that lays “elegant eggs”), Sri Lanka (for kurundu bark), England (for a cow to provide milk), Jamaica (for seawater and sugar cane), and Vermont (for apples). Once the traveling is through, all she will have to do is:

mill the wheat into flour,
grind the kurundu
bark into cinnamon,
evaporate the seawater
from the salt,
boil the sugar cane,
persuade the chicken
to lay an egg…

Well, you get the idea. This book is thoughtful, colorful, and quietly funny. Perhaps it was inspired by the famous Carl Sagan quote: “If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.” (My youngest swears by the apple pie recipe on the last page.)

Author: Marjorie Priceman
Illustrator: Marjorie Priceman

Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type

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Farmer Brown has some problems.

It was bad enough the cows had
found the old typewriter in the
barn, now they wanted electric
blankets! “No way,” said Farmer
Brown. “No electric blankets.”

So the cows went on strike.
They left a note on the barn door.

Sorry.
We’re closed.
No milk
today.

Soon the hens join the work stoppage. And what are those seemingly-neutral ducks up to?

If workers’ rights are civil rights, as the slogan goes, we have a mini theme going this week. (When the boys stage a sit-in protest of my menu choices, I’ll have only myself to blame.) This book is very funny and I can’t read it aloud without hearing (and slightly mimicking) the Scholastic video version narrated by Randy Travis.

Author: Doreen Cronin
Illustrator: Betsy Lewin

The Giant Jam Sandwich

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This rhyming book reminds me a bit of The Snatchabook. But just a bit. Instead of one cute little (albeit book snatching) critter flying into a town called Burrow Down, here four million (not at all little or cute) wasps swarm a town called Itching Down. And instead of concluding with understanding and acceptance, this tall tale ends with a mighty squashing. The residents lure the wasps into the giant sandwich of the title and then:

What became of the sandwich? Well,
In Itching Down they like to tell
How the birds flew off with it in their beaks
And had a feast for a hundred weeks.

Author: Janet Burroway
Illustrator: John Vernon Lord

A Sick Day for Amos McGee

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Amos McGee works at the City Zoo. Every day, he gets up early and rides the bus to work. Although he has “a lot to do at the zoo,” he always makes time “to visit his good friends” (an elephant, tortoise, penguin, rhinoceros, and owl). But one day, he awakes “with the sniffles, and the sneezes, and the chills.” He can’t go to work. So his good friends come to him.

This gentle book is the reading equivalent of lemon tea with honey. Warm, comforting, and sweet, it is good for what ails you. (And I like to think its red balloon is a homage to another of our favorites, Good Night, Gorilla.)

Author: Philip C. Stead
Illustrator: Erin E. Stead

Make Way for Ducklings

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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

The Racecar Alphabet

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My youngest is at the right age for alphabet books, and we’ve gathered a wide variety. This one is so good that my oldest tried to appropriate it.

Author: Brian Floca
Illustrator: Brian Floca

 

Lightship

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Here is a ship
that holds her place.

Brian Floca is fast becoming one of our very favorite authors/illustrators. This book, like Moonshot, is spellbinder. Although the story takes place much closer to home, it is just as poetic, fact-filled, and beautiful (although it is shorter and therefore quicker to read aloud).

The illustrations were based on a retired lightship that is now part of the South Street Seaport Museum in New York City–I’d love to visit it with the boys someday.

Author: Brian Floca
Illustrator: Brian Floca

 

Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11

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High above
there is the Moon,
cold and quiet,
no air, no life,
but glowing in the sky.

Here below
there are three men
who close themselves
in special clothes,
who–
click–lock hands
in heavy gloves,
who–
click–lock heads
in large, round helmets.

It is summer here in Florida,
hot, and near the sea.
But now these men are dressed for colder, stranger places.
The walk with stiff and awkward steps
in suits not made for Earth.

This outstanding book tells an amazing story, reads like poetry, is full of interesting facts, and is beautifully presented. It is not a short book, but reading it aloud is a pleasure.

Author: Brian Floca
Illustrator: Brian Floca

 

From Dawn Till Dusk

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My brothers and sister and I grew up on a farm of steep, wooded hills and fields with rocks as big as your head. There was work enough on that farm to keep us busy all year long from dawn till dusk.
On winter nights, as the wind whistled ’round the house and snow piled up against the windows, our mother told us stories of how our Scottish ancestors left their rocky farms to journey to America for a better life.
We thought of the rocks here, of Vermont’s long, bitter winters, and of the hundreds of trees that had to be cut down to make a farm, and my brothers would say, “Why’d they ever move
here?
Then they’d argue about where they wanted to move to when they grew up.

“Think of all the things you’d miss,” I told them.
“Miss?” they said. “What would we miss?”

For the rest of the book, the author and her brothers provide points and counterpoints of the difficulties and joys of farm life. It sounds incredibly difficult and wonderful and very exotic to us suburbanites. The author ends by noting:

A few cousins moved away, to New York and Michigan and even one to Africa, but my sister, brothers, and I, and most of my cousins, are still here, sugaring and haying and cutting wood. We also cross-country ski and canoe and gather together to eat, laugh, and tell stories. And no one talks about leaving.

Author: Natalie Kinsey-Warnock
Illustrator: Mary Azarian