Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz, illustrated by Robert Byrd (Candlewick, 2007).
We attended "An Elizabethan Festival" given by the Washington Revels ("Celebrating tradition through music, dance and drama") this morning. If you like this sort of thing, you'll love the Revels. Leo and Milly were enraptured. Their favorite part was the mummers' play of Saint George and the Dragon; so we read this classic edition, retold by Margaret Hodges and illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman (Little, Brown; 1984), when we got home. Hodges's text, adapted from Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queene, is lovely but a little wordy (can you blame her?). Hyman's illustrations, however, are magnificent. This book won the Caldecott in 1985.
I'm still looking for a picture book about Saint George and the Dragon that captures the comic feel of the mummers' play, though. Any suggestions?
[Updated to add: Many thanks to Debbie of the Washington Revels, who commented with a link (scroll down) to Saint George and the Dragon: A Mummer's Play by Revels founder John Langstaff with woodcuts by David Gentleman (Atheneum, 1973; OOP but available at the Revels Store). It includes the script with music, instructions for performing the sword dance (look out, Milly!), stage directions and costume suggestions. In short, exactly what I was looking for. Thanks again!]
Let's pretend that three-year-old Milly were guest-blogging here at bookstogether. She would definitely want to write up Little Neighbors on Sunnyside Street by Jessica Spanyol (Candlewick, 2007). With good reason: it's the perfect book for preschoolers. They get to meet some of the little neighbors who live at numbers 4, 5, 6, and 7 Sunnyside Street and drop in on them doing their everyday activities. Philip the cow lives at number 7; he likes making things. Kelly the pig likes messy play. The Bugs like driving. And Ian the dog likes to do lots of things (music, painting, cooking) with his little sister Baby Jade. Everybody likes reading, of course. At the end of the day, they all have a party at Ian's house (yeehaw!); then they go to bed. Night-night, little neighbors!
What we like best about Little Neighbors on Sunnyside Street (besides Spanyol's flat, candy-colored pen and gouache illustrations) are "all the different stories." Sunnyside Street itself is a little like the residential area of Richard Scarry's Busy Town. And from a preschooler (and her mom), there is probably no higher praise than that.
The 34 concise poems in this collection, Bronzeville Boys and Girls by Gwendolyn Brooks, illustrated by Faith Ringgold (Amistad, 2007) were first published in 1956. They are just as fresh and appealing today; maybe even more so in this newly illustrated edition by Ringgold, whose paintings of the neighborhood houses and children are a perfect match for Brooks's poems [compare the cover of the original edition below]. I love that each poem has a name (Keziah, Nora, Tommy): the name of the child it speaks for or about. Ringgold, in "About Bronzeville Boys and Girls," says "[Brooks] reminded us that whether we live in the Bronzeville section of Chicago or any other neighborhood, childhood is universal in its richness of emotions and new experiences. We are all Bronzeville boys and girls." I think she's right: at least I recognized myself (child and adult) in more than one of these poems.
From "Eunice in the evening:"
What is so nice in the dining room
Daddy on the long settee--
A child in every chair--
Mama pouring cocoa in
The little cups of blue.
(And each of us has leave to take
A ginger cookie, too.)
[The original cover art by Ronni Solbert.]
Jen Robinson of the eponymous Book Page is this month's expert (on children's literature, of course) over at PBS Parents. She's written a short introductory essay on "The Power and Wonder of Children's Books" and is moderating a great discussion over there, all about books and encouraging reading. Bring your questions and your comments! Jen is incredibly knowledgeable and generous; and (as she's pointed out elsewhere) it's a good opportunity to show the folks at PBS how interested we are in book-related content. Congratulations and thanks, Jen!
Leo and I went to the Kennedy Center on Sunday to see (and hear) an NSO Ensemble program for families called Connections: MORE Math and Music (reviewed in the Washington Post today, 1/8/08). The program was a good fit (maybe a little advanced) for Leo, who likes math and is just starting his second year of violin.
We also re-read two of our favorite picture books about music with Milly, who stayed home with her dad. Surprise! Both of them are also in some way about math, although I wouldn't have thought of either of them if asked to recommend a math-related picture book.
Caldecott Honor winner Zin! Zin! Zin! a Violin by Lloyd Moss, illustrated by Marjorie Priceman (Simon and Schuster, 1995) is also counting book: it starts with a trombone playing alone (solo) and adds orchestral instruments one by one (duo, trio, etc.) until it has "a chamber group of ten." Moss's well-written rhyming verses are perfectly attuned to the isntruments they introduce. And Priceman's illustrations, done in gouache, contribute an energetic and colorful cast of musicians.
And in The Philharmonic Gets Dressed by Karla Kuskin, with illustrations by Marc Simont (HarperCollins, 1982), 105 members of the Philharmonic Orchestra (92 men and 13 women) get dressed for work. Kuskin's quiet, precise text tells us how many take showers or baths (or bubblebaths); how many of the men stand up or sit down to get into their pants; etc. I think Simont's spot illustrations of the various members of the orchestra are delightful, too.
Oh, and another thing these two books have in common: great last lines. But I can't quote them here, because you have to read the book first!
More Cybils! Finalists in the remaining four categories were posted on the Cybils blog this morning. My plan is to read and review at least one new (to me) book from each category before the winners are announced on February 14. Unfortunately, some of the books I picked last week aren't available at the public library yet (I know! I've placed a purchase suggestion), so I may have to make some last-minute substitutions.
Here's the rest of my Cybils reading list:
Nonfiction Picture Books. We read all the egg books. Last year's winner in this category, An Egg is Quiet by Dianna Aston, illustrated by Sylvia Long (Chronicle, 2006) is a family favorite. This year I'm going with Guess What Is Growing Inside This Egg by Mia Posada (Millbrook, 2007).
Middle Grade/Young Adult Nonfiction. I love this category of book and am already familiar with a few of the short-listed titles. I really want to see Smart-opedia by Eve Drobot (Maple Tree, 2007); I think Leo's going to like that one, too.
Now, if only the library held any of these (they do have Part-Time Indian), I would be all set! Thanks again to the panelists who had the enviable job of reading all of the nominated titles, and the difficult one of narrowing them down to these short lists. I'm looking forward to reading my way through them.
Today (January 6) is Three Kings Day. In keeping with Spanish and Latin American tradition, we always celebrate this day with a visit from los reyes magos. The kids leave their shoes by their beds (along with a small box of sweet grass or hay for the camels), and the three kings leave them a small and special gift. Which is as it should be: after all, it's the kings who bring the gifts in the Christmas story, too.
There are not many picture books that tell about this tradition. One very beautiful one that does is Federico and the Magi's Gift, a Latin American Christmas story by Argentine author and illustrator Beatriz Vidal (Knopf, 2004). The story itself is sweetly simple: Federico is worried that the three kings won't leave him any gifts. Vidal's exquisite watercolor and gouache illustrations (painted using a magnifying glass and very, very small brushes) are anything but. They're magical. I also love the tropical setting: a nice contrast to all those wintry Christmas books. And not to worry, the Magi leave the coveted toy horse for Federico.
Perhaps they've left something for you? Feliz Dia de los Reyes!
2008 is not even a week old and already I've lost track of what I've read this year. Not quite, maybe, but that's where I'm headed. Now is the time to set up some sort of system, but what? I could try:
How do you do it? Please advise.
[Oh, and what about picture books? I read hundreds (upon hundreds, probably) of picture books. I don't think it makes sense to keep track of all of them: maybe just new releases and books we love?]
We spent last Saturday morning at the Gargoyle's Den, a workshop for families held every week from 10-2 in the crypt classroom of the Washington National Cathedral. Lots of projects: Leo and Milly loved it. The classroom has a nice collection of cathedral-themed picture books, too. This poem is from A Gargoyle on the Roof by children's poet laureate Jack Prelutsky; pictures by Peter Sis , whose distinguished work as an author and illustrator I admire (Greenwillow, 1999).
Mother Gargoyle's Lullaby
The moon and stars have vanished,
The long dark night is through,
Another day is dawning,
The sky is clear and blue.
The morning sun is rising,
It's climbing overhead.
My precious baby gargoyles
Should snuggle into bed. [continues]
Other picture books about gargoyles: