Friday, October 19, 2012
STREGA NONA (meaning "Grandma Witch") written and illustrated by Tomie dePaola is about an old lady who helps her fellow villagers out with their troubles, most notably by curing headaches, helping single women find husbands, and ridding people of warts. She hired a dimwitted young man named Big Anthony to help her keep he little house and garden. He was given various chores but "The one thing you must never do," said Strega Nona, "is touch the pasta pot." She told him it was very expensive but he soon discovered that what it really was, was magic! When Strega Nona was away, Big Anthony could not resist the temptation to use the magic pasta pot. He became an instant hero as the pot made enough pasta to feed the entire town's population. If the story ended there all might have been well but it did not. Big Anthony had learned enough to of the magic song to get the pasta started but not enough to make it stop! By the time Strega Nona came home, the village was nearly flooded with pasta. She became the town's heroine as she stemmed the tide of pasta as she sang the magic song and blew three kisses. But then they turned on poor Big Anthony. "String him up," the men of the town shouted. But, Strega Nona determined that "the punishment must fit the crime." She handed poor Big Anthony a fork. Happy ending.
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THE JOLLY POSTMAN: OR OTHER PEOPLE'S LETTERS by Janet and Allan Ahlberg - Is it a book or is it a toy? With every other page being an envelope containing a letter or card it is fun! Once you are familiar with the famous fairy-tales, you will enjoy this "sequel". What could be more fun than reading letters written to the Big Bad Wolf from Miss Riding-Hood's attorney, a copy of a soon to be published book about a fairy-tale princess sent to Her Royal Highness Cinderella for approval from Peter Piper Press, or a letter of apology sent to the Three Bears form Goldilocks. In a day of writing letters being a lost art, it is quite refreshing and educational.
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THE POLAR EXPRESS by Chris Van Allsburg is a magical tale anyone young or just young at heart will enjoy as long as they "believe". Who wouldn't want to take a ride on a train to the North pole on Christmas Eve with other happy children to witness such a gathering of elves, reindeer and yes, Santa Claus and his sleigh and reindeer and be back before the excitement and magic that Christmas morning brings. Who could resist reading this charming little Christmas book? It’s short, easy to read and filled with enough familiarity to let you reminisce how Christmases are supposed to feel!
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MY PLACE by Nadia Wheatley and Donna Rawlins is a text rich, picture bookwritten as a celebration of Australia’s bicentennial with two page spreads, including wonderful maps and stories narrated by children who lived in the exact same place in Australia but during a different decade.
So, with every turn of a page, we were taken back ten years and in the end we read 20 children’s stories. In each story there are important elements: the fig tree, the map, featuring the creek/canal, and the land/house, revealing how the land was inhabited and used by different communities and families while paying homage to the first Australians and their connection to the land on which the house is eventually built. The illustrations support the narrative which is in the child’s voice: "My name’s…………and this is my place" followed by the their own description of their different circumstances, their similarities and how the place dramatically changes over time.
At times the children’s stories are very poignant including many hardships and deaths, and at times the accounts are very amusing. I especially liked the account in Sofia's 1968 story as she lies on her bed admiring her posters with her parakeet, Maroula..." This is me and Paul McCartney. Maroula reckons John Lennon's the best, but I like Paul." And, Myra's favorite was in Victoria's 1888 story ... "We've even got running water. Mother says its like a Dream Come True, but sometimes Father looks worried." The detailed illustrations of the kids and their surrounding, including the many animals and especially all the maps were worth the hours we spent pouring over them. It was all fascinating.
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ANIMALIA by Graeme Base with each page completely covered with illustrations and verbiage representing a different letter of the alphabet, is an ABC book extraordinaire!
Within the pages of this book,
You may discover, if you look, beyond the spell of written words,
A hidden land of beasts and birds.
For many things are "of a kind",
And those with keenest eyes will find
A thousand things, or maybe more --
It's up to you to keep the score.
A final word before you go;
There's one more thing you ought to know:
In Animalia, you see,
It's possible you might find me,
The fabulously detailed, brightly colored artwork which was 3 years in the making and the uncommon vocabulary of this book make it great for kids who are already somewhat familiar with the ABC's and fun for the adults who are lucky enough to have the opportunity to peruse it. Each page is a hunt to see how many things you can find that start with that letter and for the self portrait the author has hidden there. Loved it!!
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