Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Lyle Lyle Crocodile

Today is my father-in-law's birthday. His name is Lyle and when I saw this book I knew Madeleine and Henry had to have it. This was in heavy reading rotation when they were toddlers. It's a cute and quite silly story.

Bernard Waber 1965

Lyle is a nice pet to the Primm family. But he is always scaring cranky Mr. Grumps and his cat, Loretta. Lyle is sent to the zoo where he is very unhappy. But when he saves Mr. Grumps and Loretta from a house fire his reputation and his place back home with the Primms is restored.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Everone Knows What a Dragon Looks Like

Jay Williams
illustrated by Mercer Mayer 1976

One of my favorite Mercer Mayer books. The city of Wu has been warned of a coming attack by the wild horseman of the north. The Mandarin lord decides to pray for help from the Great Cloud Dragon. But when the Cloud Dragon appears as a fat old man no one believes that he could be a dragon except for the small gatekeeper boy, Han. Because of him, the city is saved and he is rewarded. And best of all, now everyone knows what a Dragon looks like.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Fourth Question

Charlotte's nursery class has been talking about Chinese New Year.  They made dragons with glue and glitter and Friday she came home with a lucky penny folded in a red envelope.

Rosalind C. Wang
illustrated by Ju-Hong Chen 1991 

Here's a fun Chinese tale about a young man named Yee-Lee who works hard to support himself and his mother but they are always poor. He decides to visit the Wise Man of Kun-lun mountain and get his advice. On his journey to the mountain he meets others who have questions of their own for the wise man. A mother wants to know why her beautiful daughter is mute, an old man wants to know why his orange tree doesn't bear fruit, and a dragon wants to know why he can't rise to heaven.

When Yee-Lee meets the wise man he is told he can only ask three questions. Sacrificing his own question, he gets the answers for the others. And in the end, a reward and happy ending for himself.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

A Book of Dragons

Perhaps not the best bedtime book choice with pictures and tales of the ferocious creatures of myth and legend. But Charlotte picked it out and so the other night we were all in bed reading about the Hydra, Tiamat, Grendel and Fafnir. I'm surprised none of us had nightmares!

Leonard and Hosie Baskin 1985

Each page describes a mythological dragon creature. Tolkien's Smaug is there, the Leviathan, coiled with his tail perpetually in his mouth, the Chinese Lung who makes his appearance at New Year's parades. And my favorite, the Manuscript Dragon.

Leviathan, a serpent-dragon so colossal that its coils encircle the earth, keeps its tail firmly trapped in its mouth, thus preventing the world from falling apart.

Banished from the castle, the Laidly Worm made its way to the Heugh of Spindleton, a nearby crag.  And there she lived, wreaking havoc in the countryside and devouring everything she came across.

Friday, January 27, 2012


Since it's the Year of the Dragon....

Candlewick Press 2003

We have most of the "ology" books and they're pretty fun. Dragonology was our first one and was a favorite with Madeleine for quite a while. It's all fiction, of course, but presented like a lost journal of discovery. There's even an alphabet of Dragonology that Madeleine memorized and used to write letters to her friends (or secret notes to herself that she didn't want anyone else to read). 

We even ended up buying the Dragonology board game. It's fun to play because there are tiny Dragon hunter figures and you have to collect the dragons by traveling all over the map. The winner gets to record their name and date in the provided antique looking record. This ups the competitive nature of the game because everyone wants to have their name written down for posterity! (Plus it's been really fun to get the game out and see when we last played it).

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Children Make Terrible Pets

Peter Brown 2010

This was a Barnes and Noble buy last year. I loved the story and knew the kids would too- Henry especially since he particularly likes funny books. It's such a cute idea, a bear finds a boy in the forest and takes him home to be her pet. All he says is "squeak" and he turns out to be more trouble than she imagined. I love what the author, Peter Brown, puts on the back flap:

When I was a child, I once found a frog in the woods and brought it home to be my pet. My mom was not happy. "Would you like it if a wild animal made YOU its pet?" she asked. To which I replied, "Absolutely!"

I love the colors and the wood grain illustration on each page.

Here's a cute interview with Peter Brown that shows his next Lucy the Bear book.  He's also the author/illustrator of The Curious Garden.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Hansel and Gretel

Cynthia Rylant
pictures by Jen Corace 2008

Yesterday we had a magical morning of misty rain and fog and the last bits of white snow.  The view out our kitchen window was ghosty trees and soft patches of brown earth.  The tree house and shed seemed to shrink further into the woods and I half expected to see story book children come walking out.  Today there was sun and lighter, less mysterious air.  All the same, I was in the mood for fairy tale reading and this book Hansel and Gretel by Cynthia Rylant (with Henry Darger-esk pictures by Jen Corace) did the trick. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Tomten

The Tomten
Astrid Lindgren

From the folklore of Scandinavia comes this winter tale about the Tomten, a little troll like creature who walks the snowy north.  Astrid Lindgren wrote this story about a sleepy farm and the Tomten who visits the animals in the quiet cold of the night.  No one has ever seen the Tomten, thought they sometimes find his little footprints in the snow.  He talks to the animals on the farm in "tomten language, a silent little language they can understand."

We've been having our own quiet cold evenings and this is just the sort of book to read in bed.

The farm is deep in the middle of the forest.  Once upon a time someone came here, cut down trees, built a homestead and farmed the land.  No one knows who.  The stars are shining in the sky tonight, the snow lies white all around, the frost is cruel.  On such a night people creep into their small houses, wrap themselves up and bank the fire on the hearth.

The tomten is awake.  He lives in a corner of the hayloft and comes out at night when human beings are asleep.  He is an old, old tomten who has seen the snow of many hundreds of winters.  No one knows when he came to the farm.  No one has ever seen him, but they know he is there.   Sometimes when they wake up they see the prints of his feet in the snow.  But on one has seen the Tomten.

"Winters come and winters go,
Summers come and summers go,
Soon you will be in your clover field."

The house where the people live is silent.  They are sleeping through the winter night without knowing that the Tomten is there.

But the snow still lies in deep drifts around the old farm in the forest.  The stars shine in the sky, it is biting cold.  On such a night people creep into their small houses and bank the fire on the hearth.
Here is a lonely old farm, where everyone is fast asleep.  All but one...