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
“Mom,” said David, “when will it snow?”
“I think soon,” said Mom. “Why don’t you help make
cookies while you wait.”
Everything that David does makes him think of snow. Is it coming yet? And when it does come, will it be Big Snow?
We wait and watch with David as his day progresses and the storm rolls in. We see the skyline of his overcast neighborhood slowly disappear into ever growing clouds and snow (the boys really like this part), we watch the roads get covered and uncovered. We watch the light outside disappearing and homes’ lights appear (including his neighbor’s menorah). We watch (the very capable, if somewhat distractible) David help his Mom with an impressive number of getting-ready-for-holiday-guests chores. When naptime comes, we watch David’s dream of Big Snow come a bit too true (I’m amused by how his mom keeps right cleaning throughout) and the book ends as he wakes up to play with outside with his family.
The further away from snow we get, the more popular this book becomes.
Author: Jonathan Bean
Illustrator: Jonathan Bean
There was once a good shoemaker
who became very poor.
At last he had only one piece of leather
to make one pair of shoes.
“Well,” said the shoemaker to his wife,
“I will cut the leather tonight
and make the shoes in the morning.”
The story that follows is full of craftsmanship, thoughtfulness, generosity, good fortune, and magic. I loved this book as a child (my mom bought it from someone going door-to-door pulling a wagon full of used books, if I remember correctly) and the boys really enjoy it now.
Author: Freya Littledale/The Grimm Brothers
Illustrator: Brinton Turkle
Countless artists have illustrated this poem, many of them beautifully. This may not be the most elegant version, but it is the one I grew up with and keep coming back to. Happily, the boys love it; we read it together just before they headed to bed tonight, knowing that cookies, carrots, celery, and milk are waiting on the hearth and Santa is on his way.
Happy Christmas to all,
and to all a good night.
Author: Clement C. Moore
Illustrator: Douglas Gorsline
When a couple of farmers eat one turnip too many, it kicks off a truly unexpected chain of events. Bartering, knitting, a cow, and Christmas all come together to create a wonderful surprise that the kids are happy to see unfold time and again.
Most of our Christmas books are only brought out between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. But we all have silently agreed that this one can stay out year round.
Author: Jack Kent
Illustrator: Jack Kent
The first Mr. Putter & Tabby book I picked up was Mr. Putter & Tabby Pick the Pears. I loved it. The relationships between Mr. Putter, his fine cat Tabby, their outgoing neighbor Ms. Teaberry, and her good dog Zeke are the heart of the series and the the soft, bittersweet tone and pictures grabbed me immediately. Much to my delight, my boys loved it too. So we’ve slowly been adding to our Mr. Putter & Tabby collection. Like any series, we’ve connected with some of the books more than others. But we’ve read most of the following over and over again (sometimes we’ll read the whole book at a go, other times we’ll read a chapter before bed for several nights running). We also have several others in the series on our wishlist for “someday.” Here is our current collection in the order the books were published:
- 1994 Mr. Putter & Tabby Pour the Tea (a great place to begin–the origin story of Mr. Putter and Tabby’s friendship)
- 1994 Mr. Putter & Tabby Walk the Dog (introduces Ms. Teaberry and her chaos-causing dog Zeke–the boys love Zeke)
- 1994 Mr. Putter & Tabby Bake the Cake (a nice Christmas story that we just take out for a short time each year)
- 1995 Mr. Putter & Tabby Pick the Pears (as mentioned above, my personal favorite)
- 1997 Mr. Putter & Tabby Fly the Plane (a particularly bittersweet entry)
- 1997 Mr. Putter & Tabby Row the Boat (great for a hot day)
- 2000 Mr. Putter & Tabby Paint the Porch (the illustrations here are priceless)
- 2001 Mr. Putter & Tabby Feed the Fish (Tabby’s “fish problem” is presented with both sympathy and humor)
- 2003 Mr. Putter & Tabby Stir the Soup (Zeke gets lots of giggles here)
- 2008 Mr. Putter & Tabby Run the Race (the boys are in complete agreement with Mr. Putter’s motivation for running the race–a second-place prize of a model train set)
Author: Cynthia Rylant
Illustrator: Arthur Howard
Posted in Early Readers
Tagged Animals, Arthur Howard, Christmas, Cynthia Rylant, food, garden, Machines, Mr. Putter & Tabby, series, Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Book, toys