This collection of short stories and poems is one of my very favorite books. I loved it when I was a kid and now I love reading one or two of the stories to the boys each night before bed during the lead up to Christmas. The stories are absolutely charming and the pictures are beautiful and I wish this version (from 1969) wasn’t out of print (the version currently in print cut out a few of my favorite stories–I have no idea why). Don’t let the missing stories stop you from picking up a copy of the new edition, if you don’t have one already. This book is contains so much holiday joy; it really shouldn’t be missed.
Author: Kathryn Jackson
Illustrator: Richard Scarry
It was bedtime. Chris and his father sat side by side on
“Alexander was a pretty bad horse today,” Chris said.
His father lit his pipe. “Alexander, the red horse with
“What happened?” Chris’s father asked.
It seems Alexander has had a rough, rough day. But Chris’s father reassures him that “anybody can have a bad day once in a while” (even, it turns out, Chris), and still be able to look forward to being “wonderful” tomorrow.
This charming vintage book feels extremely contemporary (well, except for that pipe), and is the perfect reminder that tomorrow is another day.
Author: Harold Littledale
Illustrator: Tom Vroman
Far, far away, in the land where the swallows fly during our winter, there lived a king who had eleven sons and one daughter, Elisa. The eleven brothers–princes all of them–went to school, each wearing a star at his heart and a sword at his side. They wrote on leaves of gold with diamond pencils; whatever they read, they learnt at once. You could tell straight off that they were princes! Their sister Elisa sat on a little stool made of looking-glass, and had a picture book that had cost half a kingdom.
Oh, they lived royally, those children! But it did not last.
Hans Christian Andersen’s stories verge on being too dark and long for reading to younger children. But they are also beautiful, and the artwork and the translation here reflects that.
This book was a happy surprise, found the morning before a family wedding in a very unusual bookstore housed in an old bank (complete with a vault for the rarest volumes).
Author: Naomi Lewis/Hans Christian Andersen
Illustrator: Angela Barrett
When Louis’ Scottish uncle sends him a tadpole as a birthday present (fresh from Loch Ness), it does not turn into a frog. It does, however, turn into a wonderful (if utterly impracticable) pet.
Note: This version of the book is out of print. In 2004, a new version was issued with a revised text and all new illustrations. The changes were not an improvement. Look for the version of the book that has the “tadpole” gazing up at Louis in profile, rather than a straight-on view of them both.
Author: Steven Kellogg
Illustrator: Steven Kellogg
Kim had a cat named Geraldine and seven kittens.
One kitten was striped like a tiny tiger. One was round,
and soft, and white as a snowball. Two were black as a
midnight sky, and three had black and white polka-dots
Kim thought that having seven kittens was fun. Kim’s
mother and father did not agree.
So Kim is sent out to give away six of the kittens. And he succeeds. There is only one complication: everyone who takes a kitten thanks Kim by giving him a different pet in exchange. This is a great book to read with early readers and non-readers, due to the subtle humor and repeated rebuses (pictures that take the place of words).
Author: Adelaide Holl
Illustrator: Don Madden
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
Posted in Non-fiction, Picture Books
Tagged Animals, Christmas, farm, food, From Dawn till Dusk, immigration, Machines, Mary Azarian, Natalie Kinsey-Warnock, out of print, USA
It was the hottest season in a hot, dry land.
Anna was unwell. Her mother made a bed in the little garden room,
and her father laid her gently down.
“When the cool winds come they will find you here,” he promised.
But the cool winds didn’t come.
In a time before electricity, a little girl grows more and more feverish. As she grows sicker and sicker, her father tells her stories of cold and ice and those stories continue in her dreams. Finally, a cool breeze arrives, and she is cured. The story is unusual (if rather frightening for adults); the illustrations are absolutely beautiful.
Author: Angela McAllister
Illustrator: Angela Barrett
Long ago there were no colors in the world at all.
Almost everything was grey,
and what was not grey was black or white.
It was a time that was called The Great Greyness.
Every morning a Wizard who lived
during the time of The Great Greyness
would open his window to look out at the wide land.
“Something is very wrong with the world,” he would say.
“It is hard to tell when the rainy days stop
and the sunny days begin.”
When the dissatisfied Wizard eventually makes a color (blue), everyone is thrilled. They paint everything blue and The Great Blueness begins. But soon people begin to grow sad. So the Wizard tries again. And again. And again. Until, “[a]t last, the world was too beautiful ever to be changed again.”
This is a fun story with beautiful pictures. It subtly teaches about primary and secondary colors (like The Color Kittens). It also demonstrates the perils of too much of a good thing (like Bread and Jam for Frances).
Author: Arnold Lobel
Illustrator: Arnold Lobel
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
Famous sumo wrestler Forever-Mountain thinks very highly of himself. But when he plays a joke on a young woman she (literally) drags him home to her mother (who carries around their pet cow around to spare its delicate feet) and grandmother (who pulls oak trees out of the ground if she trips over their roots) and the three of them offer to make a truly strong man out of him. When he agrees:
Every day he was made to do the work of five men, and every
evening he wrestled with Grandmother. Maru-me and her mother agreed
that Grandmother, being old and feeble, was the least likely to
injure him accidentally. They hoped the exercise might be good for
We love this book. It is unexpected, funny, and satisfying from start to finish.
Author: Claus Stamm
Illustrator: Jean and Mou-sien Tseng