Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Book Review - PAUL BUNYAN

Paul Bunyan by Steven Kellogg
Ages: Pre-K - 2nd grade

Oh, how I love Steven Kellogg. Well, not him personally. I've never met the man. I'm sure he's lovely. But as an author an illustrator I just think he's the bees knees. When I was a child, this book was NEW. And I loved it. Imagine, how excited I was when the Little Lady Librarian picked it out at the library. Fate, I tell you. This book is more than 20 years old and even better than I remember it as a child!

The story is Kellogg's retelling of the classic tale of Paul Bunyan and Babe the blue ox. It details Bunyan's extraordinary strength as a child growing up in Maine and follows him throughout his life as he grows into a man, saves a baby ox from the blue snow, dug the Grate Lakes, carved the Grand Canyon and so on. We've all heard the story of this larger-than-life man, but none quite like Kellogg's retelling. It's whimsical and full of fun details, like Bunyan fashioning a giant griddle for making giant pancakes; so large, in fact, that normal-sized men strapped bacon to their shoes and skated across the pan just to grease it.

I really could go on and on, but I don't want to give away too much of this story. So much of what makes this version so great is the surprises and silliness on each page.

Kellogg illustrated this book as well, and in true Steven Kellogg fashion the pictures really make the story. You have to look closely at each page because there really is soooo much to see, and so much to make you and your little librarian giggle.

We actually got this book a few days ago and the LLL has asked both the Daddy Librarian and myself both to read it to her each day. She's taken it to bed with her each night and she flips through the pages several times a day.

Curious, I asked her what it was about this book that keeps it glued to her dainty little hands.

What do you think of the Paul Bunyan book?
LLL: I like it.

What do you like about it?
LLL: It's so cute and it has Babe the Blue Ox in it. And I like the picture where Paul bites into the watermelon. Those are my favorite parts.

If we owned Paul Bunyan, would we keep it on your bookshelf or your brother's?
LLL: Mine, because I like Paul Bunyan more than [him]. And, I'm older so I'll have to read it to him so it should be in my room for safekeeping.

The Little Librarian Dude sits through most readings for us and is definitely the best picture-spyer in our family! He seems to always point out the fun little details of each page long before any of us notice them.

Love this book. I really do. If nothing else, get it for yourself. Especially if you're a child of the 80's like me. It will bring back some great memories!!!

Library List 6/2/910

Alright, we've been to the library a few times since I last blogged. But alas, I am behind. I don't know where the days go. Does any mommy?

Because we were coming home from the library each trip with a mountain of books, I've had to limit the kiddos, especially since we go back atleast once a week. To be honest, I wouldn't  mind having so many books if I didn't have to tear my house apart looking for all of them 10 minutes before we're supposed to be leaving for the library. We have a "Library Books Stay in the Living Room" policy, which seems, it appears to be neglected. The Little Lady Librarian  maintains that she "forgets" the rule, whereas the Little Librarian Dude simply doesn't think it applies to him.

Anywho, here's our list this week.

Tiny Tortilla by Arlene Williams
Doll Face Has a Party by Pam Conrad
Edwina the Dinosaur Who Didn't Know She Was Extinct by Mo Willems
Carry Me! by Rosemary Wells
Paul Bunyan by Steven Kellogg
Harriet's Recital by Nancy Carlson
Olive's Pirate Party by Roberta Baker
Insect Detective by Steve Voake
How Much Is a Million? by David M. Schwartz

Thursday, June 17, 2010


 Skippyjon Jones in the Dog-House by Judith Schachner
Ages: Pre-K-3rd Grade

I swore I was going to review a book every day this week. I didn't. Fail. I have no excuse, except for an incessant need to craft this week.  But, I'm here now and I've got a doozy for ya.

If you've never read a Skippyjon Jones book, you must. Here's why: you'll either love it or hate it. There's no in-between. We've read three of the five Skippyjon Jones adventures. The little librarians and I happen to love them. The hubby, well, he's on the opposite end of the spectrum. Let me review the book, then I'll explain why.

In Skippyjon Jones in the Dog-House the little Siamese cat sets off on another one of his wacky adventures. Skippy, as stated, is a cat but would much prefer to be a Chihuahua. This time around, Skippy finds himself in his room for a time-out after drawing all over his walls. When his imagination runs wild and he ends up in front of a house, where his Chihuahua friends are hiding from a Bad Bobble-ito who has staked claim on their doghouse. The perritos are counting on Skippy to save the day... and, of course he does so in the unlikeliest of ways, which is in true Skippyjon Jones fashion.

All the Skippyjon Jones books are humorous, rhythmic and ultra-imaginative. When Skippy joins his Chihuahua friends he develops a Spanish accent, and often uses Spanish words. As a matter of fact, last Taco Tuesday (a weekly tradition in our house) the Little Lady Librarian asked me for frijoles as opposed to beans. She told me Skippy taught her that word. Not Mommy. Skippy. She was sure to point out that I don't know how to speak Spanish. Don't you just love it when your children are old enough to start pointing out your faults. Anywho, your kids will definitely pick up some Spanish vocab from this and all the SJJ books.

Here's what the hubster doesn't like about the books, while they're ultra-imaginative they're kinda all over the place. The plot is so unusual that some may consider it hard to follow. He also HATES the "made-up" Spanish words. Throughout the book, Skippy and his Chihuahua friends add "ito" to the end of many words, which drives my husband crazy. He honestly dreads when it's his turn to put the LLL to bed and she chooses a Skippyjon Jones book for her bedtime story.

Another thing to consider, if you're looking for a book with a good moral. Keep looking. Skippy's escapades tend to begin after he's gotten in trouble for something. He's pretty disobedient to his mother, and never actually shows any remorse for his actions. As a matter of fact, he tends to wiggle his way out of trouble completely. As I perused reviews online for this book, one reviewer stated she thought Skippy was a horrible example for children. Stating that rather than helping his mother clean up his wall "art" he was sent to his room where he essentially played. Then, in the end, he's let out of time-out without any additional consequences. To be honest, I think this is a little extreme. I don't expect all my childrens' books to teach them some big important lesson, that's not to say I'm not a sucker for the books that do, but sometimes we read a book just because it's entertaining. That's all. And that's what you'll find in this book. Entertainment. I guess, you could have a discussion about using your imagination, or even to teach your kids not to draw on the wall... I dunno.

Like I said, if you just want a fun, silly read with your kids then Skippyjon Jones in the Dog-House is a great read. And be sure to take the time to look over the illustrations on each page, they're colorful and fully of silly little details. The Little Lady Librarian especially loves the green chihuahua with pink flowers and the teeny-tiny pink doggie (I'll give you one guess as to her favorite color... starts with a p and ends with ink).

I just checked out the Skippyjon Jones website (so fun) and learned there's a brand new book out, Skippyjon Jones Lost in Spice. We'll be adding that to our library list this week!

Thursday, June 10, 2010


I'm a little behind on posts. And by little I mean WAAAAAY behind. I forgot how exhausting and time-consuming packing is. You'd think I'd have it all down, this being our fifth move in 7.5 years. But I don't. As a matter of fact, I think I'm worse. I blame it on my kids. Because let's face it, playing ON the boxes is so much more fun than unpacking them.

All Aboard the Dinotrain by Deb Lund
Ages: 2-8

Despite the craziness and clutteriness (not a word) of my house, I was able to find my laptop for Friday Fave. And this one's a doozie. All Aboard the Dinotrain, which is in no way affiliated with the PBS show "Dinosaur Train" (which, by the way is the only show my TV-deprived children are allowed to watch on a regular basis) is a fun one. We got it over a year ago at a Scholastic book fair, and despite it's serious use, the paperback cover has managed to stay intact. That's some good engineering right there.

When I went online to read more about this book I discovered it's the "sequel" to another titled "Dinosailors" which we'll have to dig up. A group of dinosaurs are ready to set off on an adveture aboard a "chugga choo choo train" (as the Little Librarian Dude calls them). However, not long into their trip they discover they're too heavy for the train they all get out an "dinopush" before abandonding all their freight. The story takes them through a tunnel, down a mountain and eventually onto an unfinished bridge before landing in a lake. Water, of course, was not in the travel plans so the weary crew returns home just as a dinoplane passes overhead, foreshadowing their next adventure.

I've mentioned before my kids are dino-obsessed. This obsession has been going strong for over a year now so this book is right up their alleys. It's playful and fun, full of bouncy rhyming text and "dinowords" like "dinofreight" and "dinoplane." It's so very imaginative, my kids love the idea of dinosaurs aboard a train, the LLL obviously recognizes this is impossible, yet still giggles at the idea. The LLD, on the other hand, often places his dino toys aboard his Thomas toys, because in his head, this is obviously what goes on on a train.

The illustrations by Howard Fine are colorful and full of life and detail. I was honestly awed by them the first time we read this story.

We really love this book. It's a cute one to have on your bookshelf and makes a GREAT gift for kids' friends. Really, with subjects like dinos and trains you can't go wrong. It would be like giving my husband a book about sports and math.

Monday, June 7, 2010


Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle
Ages: Newborn-6

My mom got this book for the Little Librarian Dude's 2nd birthday. She gave it to him early and we only read it a few times before packing it up to move across the country. That was over a month ago. This week, I unpacked it and he was soooo excited! "My blue truck book!" "Read it please, Mama!" How could I resist. Especially when the book is as cute as this one!

The little blue truck is a friendly little guy, greeting all the barnyard animals with a "Beep! Beep!" as he passes. But, then it begins to rain and a big, grumpy dump truck comes tearing down the road claiming he is too important to greet the animals. When the dump truck gets stuck in the mud, the animals refust to help him, but along comes Little Blue. When he can't get the dump truck out of the mud on his own, the animals come to his rescue and the dump truck learns "a lot depends on a helping hand from a few good friends."

I have so much to say about this adorable little book, but I'll try to contain my comments. The book is filled with a symphony of animal and truck sounds. The text is happy and bouncy (kind of like the truck) and rhyme-y (so not a word). And Jill McElmurry's illustrations, oh my heck, so cute. They look like something out of the 50's, painted, kinda folksy. Love them! Both the Little Librarian Dude and Little Lady Librarian commented on the cute animals (the LLD loves the frog, the LLL prefers the pig). What I love most, of course, is the message. It's simple enough that I can discuss it with the LLD -- why it's important to be nice. The LLL and I talked a little more about serving others and the way it makes us and those around us feel. Who knew a little board book could spark such deep discussion?! What's even better is that the message is delivered by animals, a truck and a dump truck -- only the LLD's favorite things!

Read this book! It's adorable. Go. Right now. Get it. It's a great one to add to your book collection when your little ones are wee little newborns because, I promise, it will still be on their bookshelves when they're toddlers and preschoolers. I love it when you find a book that you love and, more importantly, that your kids love so much they sleep with it. I only wish I had discovered it sooner!

Book Review - RAPUNZEL

Rapunzel adapted by Paul O. Zelinsky
Ages: K-5th grade

The Brothers Grimm tale has been told and retold throughout time. We've all heard at least a few versions and this one, isn't my favorite.

Zelinsky's telling of the story is the marriage of the Brothers Grimm's version and earlier folklore. It tells the story of parents who promise their daughter to a sorceress after the father is caught stealing rapunzel (a vegetable) from the sorceress's garden. The sorceress raises the girl, then at the age of 12, locks her in a tower. As the story goes, when the sorceress came to visit Rapunzel she would announce, "Rapunzel, Rapunzel let down your hair" after which the girl would send down her cascading locks and the witch would hoist herself up to the window (OUCH!). One day, a prince hears Rapunzel singing and falls in love, and he too prompts Rapunzel to send down her hair. They fall in love, secretly get married and Rapunzel becomes pregnant. When the sorceress discovers her adopted daughter is with child she banishes her to the wilderness. Eventually the prince finds her and they live happily ever after.

I can't quite put my finger on what specifically I don't love about this story. Maybe it's that I read it to my four year old, and I thought the story was a little suggestive and dark for a child. Sure, the ending is happy, but it's not that sparkly, magical "...and they lived happily ever after" type of happy. You got me? The Little Lady Librarian says she likes the book. But, she hasn't asked me to read it more than a handful of times since we borrowed it from the library. And that's saying something. If she really loves a library book, she takes full advantage of our borrowing period and will read and re-read a book until she has it close to memorized. Or until I hide it for a few days to give my brain a break (Fancy Nancy, anyone?).

Zelinsky does double-duty on this book and illustrates as well. The paintings are lovely, really lovely. As a matter of fact, they won Zelinsky a Caldecott Medal in 1998. The LLL really enjoyed looking at them. Me, eh, they're not my style for a children's book.

So, all in all. If you're looking for Rapunzel, I'd say look elsewhere. There are plenty of options out there that I'm sure are much more appropriate to read with your little librarian.

If you're reading this book with an older child (or, if they're reading it on their own) I did come across these lesson ideas from Zelinsky's wife, who happens to be a teacher.

Friday, June 4, 2010


Pickle-Chiffon Pie written and illustrated by Jolly Roger Bradfield
Ages: 3-8 (but I'd say even older kids will enjoy this)

The king of a faraway land loves pickle-chiffon pie which his wife, the queen, lovingly makes for him each day. But here's the problem, the king never gets to enjoy the entire pickle-chiffon pie because he always has guests a dinner -- dozens of princes all trying to woo his daughter, the lovely and kind princess. So, to solve his problem, the kind chooses three of the princes and sends them into the forest for three days with a mission -- find "the most unusual, the most marvelous, the MOST WONDERFUL THING' and bring it back to the king."  The prince who wins the test will marry the princess. The three very different princes take off on their quests into the forest, which is full of Gazoos, Dimdoozles, witches, ogres, mice who paint and other magical (and talented) creatures. But, the gift that ultimately wins the princess, may surprise you.

Oh how we love this book! A friend gave it to the Little Lady Librarian for her third birthday, I think we read it 50 times that week, and atleast once a week since. Even though she can practically recite the entire book by memory she still loves it, and it's one that I don't mind reading to her over... and over... and over. Now, the Little Librarian Dude is getting to the age where he too can enjoy this story. It's full of whimsical creatures and funny words (like Gazoo and Snozzle) and the illustrations are just fabulous! They're colorful and cartoonish -- everything you could ask for in a children's book. What's very best about this fairytale though is it's reach. Sure, it's about a princess and marriage, but it's not so lovey dovey, ooey gooey that a little boy won't enjoy it. There are princes and ogres, which are appealing to boys, yet there's no blood-shed or violence (which is appealing to mom). It's a story that stretches the imagination, while teaching a valuable lesson about kindness and love.

I can honestly say that this is absolutely on my list of TOP 5 FAVORITE CHILDRENS BOOKS. It may even be in the top three. I promise once you read this book to your little librarian they'll beg you to read it again, and again... and maybe even once more.

The LLL has asked on several occasions to make pickle-chiffon pie. To be honest, I'm not sure I'd be willing to try it. So, I found this one. It's a No Bake Lemon-Lime Chiffon Pie. No pickles, but it is green. Should do the trick. I think we'll make it this week after reading the book.