Once upon a time, there was a wizard who didn’t like organizing his spell bottles and a mouse who didn’t like being a mouse. When the mouse asks the wizard for a spell to make him “something else,” the wizard gives him an unlabeled bottle that (effectively, if not magically) ends up solving both of their problems.
Jack Kent’s distinctive drawings and strong sense of humor make this book very popular with the boys (and I like the message of self acceptance).
Author: Jack Kent
Illustrator: Jack Kent
“Don’t worry, Father. It’s only a dragon.”
“Only a dragon?” cried his father. “What do you mean, only
a dragon? And how do you know so much about it?”
“I just do,” replied the boy. “You know about sheep, and
weather, and things. I know about dragons. I always said that
that was a dragon cave. I always said it ought to have a dragon.
In fact, I would have been surprised if you told me it hadn’t
got a dragon. Now, please, just leave all this to me. I’ll stroll
up tomorrow evening and have a talk with him.”
Stories of dragons rarely fail us; although this story is quite long (albeit slightly edited in this version), it is very charming and my youngest frequently requests it.
Author: Kenneth Grahame
Illustrator: Inga Moore
. . . 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
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
Fuzzy Rabbit had been with the family for
as long as he could remember. His dungarees
were faded. He had a hole in the elbow of his
sweater, and his buttons were all odd ones of
different sizes. One of the stitches of his mouth
had come undone, and he couldn’t even smile.
Fuzzy has been feeling sad of late. His little girl, Ellen, used to take him to school with her, but recently she has started leaving him at home with the other toys. And, for the first time, she forgets to take him downstairs for her birthday party. Fuzzy is starting to wonder where he fits in. Luckily, by the end of the book he is reassured he is loved and regains his confidence (and his smile).
The pictures here are a big part of the attraction; I remember poring over them as a girl, wishing I could play in (or, better yet, have) Ellen’s room and toys. Now I enjoy noting that Fuzzy Rabbit (or “Alpaca,” as he is known in the U.K.) was made for Ellen by her mother and that Ellen has all the skills she needs to repair him. This is a favored book of my youngest, who is very interested in stuffed animals, birthdays, and school.
Author: Rosemary Billam
Illustrator: Vanessa Julian-Ottie
In this charming tale, a tiny goose with a gift for friendship and an overbearing rhinoceros with an interest in riddles slowly form an unexpected bond. This is a particular favorite of my youngest, who loves riddles and animals and is very interested in how friendships work.
Author: Sheila White Samton
Illustrator: Sheila White Samton
This variant on Jack and the Beanstalk is a pleasure to see and read. Although we found it after Jack and the Fire Dragon, it is the first tale in the series. My youngest loves it even more than Fire Dragon; my oldest loves them both “to infinity.”
Author: Gail E. Haley
Illustrator: Gail E. Haley
Old Fire Dragaman is about the wickedest
and biggest giant that ever roamed these hills. Some
people believe he dug right up from the center of the
earth bringing fire and brimstone with him. Nothin’
or nobody could stop him, and no one would live in
the places where he hung out. He was famous for
takin’ people’s money and daughters.
Now wouldn’t ye know Jack–that reckless
feller–would run across him?
This book is full of gorgeous pictures, magic, swords, and dragons. Unsurprisingly, it is a huge hit. (Don’t worry about the dialect. It rolls off the tongue quite well, regardless of whether you’ve spent much time in the American South.)
Author: Gail E. Haley
Illustrator: Gail E. Haley
This clever book doesn’t need much of an introduction. Like The Wild Swans (by the same author, translator, and illustrator), it is a great translation of a classic story with beautiful illustrations.
Author: Naomi Lewis/Hans Christian Andersen
Illustrator: Angela Barrett
Things are not looking good for the owner and employees of the aptly-named Sea-Breeze Hotel:
“It’s too windy to fish and swim,” moaned the children.
“It’s far too breezy for beachcombing,” the parents
“It’s even too blustery to sit on the balcony,” the
And they all packed their bags and went away.
But then an employee’s grandson makes a kite to cheer up the hotel owner. Once the other employees see what fun she is having with it, they make kites too. And once people begin to notice the kites circling and soaring overhead, they all want to visit the kite-flying hotel and “[n]ot one person complained about the wind.”
Author: Marcia Vaughan
Illustrator: Patricia Mullins