Reading Narnia

Aay is 4 3/4 years old. We have kept her fairly sheltered in terms of movie action. She hasn't watched Star Wars, Spider-man, or other live-action fare because if she is anything like me she will internalize whatever she sees and will be reliving it via vivid nightmares for weeks on end. Yet she is getting older and more eager to try these films, especially as many of her friends (nearly all the youngest in their families) have already watched these movies.

In April I bought a copy of "The Chronicles of Narnia: Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe" and added it to our movie shelf. Chris will be hosting a panel on the movie and the book later in the year and I figured the extra features might be useful for his preparation. Aay was immediately attracted to the packaging made to look like the beautifully carved Wardrobe from the movie. The picked it and looked at several times during the following few days and repeatedly asked me when we were going to open it and watch it. I explained to her that we would watch sometime soon, but not right away and that she might not get to watch for quite a while.

One night at bedtime she asked me about the movie again, and I told her that it was originally a book and that it was one of her Daddy's favorite books growing up. She asked if we had a copy, and we walked to Chris' office and I took one of the slip-cased volumes off the shelf for her to look at. She asked me to read some of it and I read about a page and half.  She was fascinated, even if she didn't quite follow most of it and as to keep the book so she could look at the illustrations as she fell asleep.

A few days later I packed the book away, planning on reading it to her while on vacation.  We never really got a chance to read it then, and I was just about to put it away this afternoon (I have just finished putting away the last of the odds and ends from my suitcases) when she saw it and asked me to read it.  We all climbed into my bed, propped up pillows and under my light comforter and I began to read.

I read a few paragraphs at a time and then we would stop and review. I asked her what she had understood. We talked about Lucy, Edmund, Peter and Susan. She quickly made connections to Lucy, since she is a girl not much older than her. She also thought they reminded her of her favorite comic book family, The Power Pack, a sibling group of superheros, named Alex, Julie, Jack and Katie Power. Jack like Edmund can be very annoying and obnoxious to his siblings, often teasing his younger sister Katie unmercifully. In this way we ended up reading about 5 Chapters this afternoon, eventually moving out the bed and out the deck to enjoy a snack in the sun while I read some more and the downstairs on the futon, where Zee played with cars while Aay curled up with me.

Noticing how much she liked the small illustrations I asked her if she wanted to some stills from the movie on-line. We ended up on the and from there where we looked at stills and then eventually clips from the movie. She was very excited by it all. "There's LUCY!, as a real girl" "Oooh, there the White Witch as a woman", "LOOK look ASLAN!".  She was very intrigued by shots of scenes she hasn't read about yet and by things she has read about like Tumnus, the Lamppost and the Wardrobe.

I think she would love to see the movie right now, and would probably be fine, but we agreed to finish reading the book together first, and then watch the movie. I hope that way the scariest parts, the Sacrifice on the Stone Temple and the Queen's castle might be tempered by the fact that she already will have encountered them in the story.

Next week we will test out how well pre-reading the story will prepare her for scary movie moments when we watch "The Wizard of Oz". We have a movie adaptation storybook of it her room. And we read all 45 pages of it last night, and she was mesmerized by the back-cover which had a still from movie, although she recognized right off that Judy Garland was way too old to ever play Dorothy, as her fist comment was, "Hey Mom, there a big girl, a woman really pretending to be Dorothy." I think she get the conceit, as she the noted how the Tin Man, the Scarecrow and Lion were all grown men too. I have put that in reserve at the library and we should be sampling it in the next few days. If it goes well, we will move on to Narnia after we finish the book, and from there eventually Star Wars which she is very eager to watch as soon as she turns 5. After watching Snow White and all others of the Disney Princess movies she should we well prepared for Darth Vader.

Going back to the library.

There are always books that I regret having to return to the library because I have liked them so much and it hurts to have to return them.

I still miss having the The Annotated Brother's Grimm that I borrowed last year. It was a lovely looking book, and while some of the stories are truly disturbing and not something any modern adult would consider reading material appropriate for children, I was sucked in by all the footnotes and historical material.

This week I am about to return a group of book back to the library, many are new acquisitions for the Brooks Library and we got to enjoy flipping thru the unblemished pages.

10 Little Rubber Ducks by Eric Carle quickly became a favorite at the house. The surprising squeak button at the last page of the book was giggle inducing. I doesn't surpass Eric Carle classics like the The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Brown, Bear Brown Bear What do you See? but it is very charming and based on real event.

Two Eggs, please. Is a slightly older book illustrated by Betsy Lewin who art on the Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type had enchanted Aay and Zee. It has like many kids book a moral point to make, and this ones message was one of acceptance and tolerance. In the story many different characters come in to dinner and order eggs, all in the different ways, and note that while they all appear different they are made of the same stuff. The girls like it fine, since while simple and not nearly as humorous as other Betsy Lewin works it was still amusing.

How many Kisses Do you want tonight? This bedtime counting book got a middling rating form Aay and Zee. They spent most of the book worried about the little duck on the cover and wondering if his mommy was going to give him a bath. Also a few of the illustrations failed to show any nuzzling or kissing that made Aay wonder if the puppies ever got their six kisses, however the closing sequences with the little girl that asks for a hundred kisses, elicited a happy response from Aay since she considers a hundred the best big number around.

There Was a Bold Lady Who Wanted a Star is very cute and catchy story reworking of the "There was an Old lady who swallowed a fly" song. Charise Mericle Harper's art is folksy, primitive and busy in a very good way. It reminded me of Denis Roche's work. I much prefer this version to the original song whose I always found rather morbid.

Can You See What I See? Dream Machine I took this book as trial, I wanted to see if it would appeal to Aay and Zee. Locating some of the items was more of challenge than Aay and Zee first expected, since even I had a hard time finding some of the listed items, and instead substituted my own list of this that I sought would be easier for the girls to spot. What really got them hooked on the book was figuring out that their was a main character whose rocket car appeared in every page, their desire to track him thru the dream-scape sucked them in to the story. The eventually were able to just sit and be fascinated by the amazing constructions. The series is probably more suited to older children with longer attention spans but it inventiveness and humor still appealed to the girls.

I Love You! A Bushel & A Peck Rosemary Wells scores again. I don't know of a single book illustrated by or written by Rosemary Wells has ever fallen flat in this house. Her Max and Ruby books are still the favorites but this song adaptation by Wells, had the girls singing along even though they had no idea what a bushel or peck are. I look forward to find other gems at the library this week.

Book of the Month Clubs

For the past 3 years I have be receiving books from Grolier Books (a branch of Scholastic Books Inc.). We started Aay on the Disney book club shortly after we moved to Brooks. We were new in town, I hadn’t yet joined the library and after raiding the Salvation Army thrift store and several garage sales, I was ripe for the picking when Grolier called invite us to join. The monthly packages gave Aay something to look forward to, and the faithful adaptations of Disney movies enchanted her. Eventually Chris and I became less and less impressed by some of the titles in the series, due to poor writing or inferior art (as in the case of the Pixar adaptations), but Aay and Zee love each of them. In the end however I decided to discontinue their subscription, preferring to order books through Amazon or pick them up off the Walmart book section.

For about 6 months we didn't order any books, and while the girls still had plenty of new books to read, they clearly were missing the excitement of monthly packages. So back in May, I decided to let Grolier send me a free trial of the Disney Princess Books Collection. These books were different from the Disney Book Club book in that the collection has a didactic imperative. Rather than just adapting Disney movies, the focus of these storybooks is teaching manners and other "character-building" values, like sharing, sincerity, promise-keeping, obedience, thru the Disney Princess characters. That is not normally a selling point in our house. I think books don’t have to teach a lesson to be good books, and reading in itself is a virtue, and entertaining books are don’t need to teach a lesson to be valuable. Some of our favorite books are purely entertaining, although some like Rosemary Wells, Max and Ruby books often have their characters learn lessons, but are filled with humor and grace. I overcame my hesitancy however because I knew the Disney Princess are proven commodity at our house, the girls are completely adore them, and if they were well done the books could provide some valuable reinforcement for Aay in problem areas like Sharing.

When I first signed up I though the books would be sent as before, one per month after our trial book was paid for, but instead they sent us the remaining twenty books in one large box, to review after the initial package of two. I was thankfully able to intercept the package before the girls saw it, for you can imagine if you have lived in a house with children, you know there is no way that those books get returned after being received, trial period or no trial period. While I was unhappy with this turn of events, since the idea was to receive the special book packages on a monthly basis, I found the books to be of good quality, so I paid for them. I have been handing them out in monthly intervals, as rewards for good behavior or to as special surprises.

The general themes and patterns in the books have not gone unnoticed by Aay. After the first four, Aay realized that each of her books had a page where the Princess contemplates the question "What would a Princess do?", and carefully inserted bookmarks at each of the pages so she could compare the expressions in each of the illustrations. I have noticed patterns in the way the editors have selected which characters to pair with each virtue. For instance all the Ariel’s stories are essentially lessons of obedience, Cinderella stories have so far dealt with questions of kindness (Sharing with her step-sisters, and most recently one about speaking the truth kindly, in a tale about sincerity.). With the exception of Ariel whose stories are all set pre-The Little Mermaid and the Belle stories that exclusively set in the midst of Beauty and the Beast movie (after her arrival to castle but before the Beast’s transformation), all the other stories take place before or after the Princess’s movie adventures. We get to see Snow White, Cinderella, Pocahantas and Mulan's in both before and after they find their Prince Charmings. I appreciate that Disney has ventured past the Happily Ever after status-quo to give their heroines challenges and lessons to learn after having snagged their prince. My impression of the collection thus far has been very positive and while none of the books are classics like, Eric Carle’s Brown Bear, Brown Bear or Rosemary Wells’ Dragon Shirt, they are funny, quality books.

Today, however we received a new trial packet for a series featuring the Nick Jr Characters from Grolier. The trial books featured Dora and Blue from Blue’s Clues , two very popular characters at our house. I immediately called to cancel our account as soon as I noticed that this collection like the Princess collection would be sent in bulk if we continued with it. Curiously in their letter they keep insisting that they send them all one time for my benefit "so that your child might enjoy the entire collection while you enjoy the convenience of our monthly billing." I think in reality this was done in response to the number of people who quit collections after a few books when they tire of the monthly payments, or would like to see a bit more variety for their money.

After getting a chance to review the books I didn’t regret my decision to cancel my account. The Dora book was fine, similar to those available a most bookstores in page count and content, although the more sturdy since it is a hardcover. It departed from the Dora formula a bit, but it made sense within the context of the lesson they were trying to teach. The Blue's Clues story however was very disappointing. Not only were Steve or Joe, the hosts of Blue Clues were entirely absent and the game of Blue's Clues not even mentioned, but it got key elements of the Blue’s Clues world wrong. The problem was that through the whole book, Blue talking. Now, Blue is little dog, and on her show her speech is a modified bark, bo-Bo-bo, and she makes herself understood thru her paw-print riddles and the intonation of her barks. In fact she is the one of the few characters in the show that is not gifted with language, as the rest of the regular cast, Mr..Salt, Mrs. Pepper, Paprika and Cinnamon ( The Seasoning shaker family, who live in the Kitchen), Tickety-Tock (an Alarm Clock), Slippery Soap (a bar of soap), Shovel and Pail (brother and sister residents of the Sandbox), Mailbox (spring mounted Mailbox) and Side-Table drawer (a Side table drawer) all speak. Her animal friends as rule don't speak either, Green Puppy, Magenta, Purple Kangaroo, and Orange Kitty all as mute as Blue, with the exception of Periwinkle, the cat next door. Blue does speak however in her imagination, a departure so dramatic that it is confined to a recently introduced segment of the show called Blue's Room, where Blue visits a magical playroom, whose special feature is the fact that it allows her to talk directly to the audience. To dramatize the difference this segment of the show is done with puppets instead of the usual animation.  Yet in this book all that continuity is jettisoned. Blue not only talks but is positively chatty. Aay and I decided after reading this that that whole book must have been a dream, since we both knew that Blue can't talk outside of her imaginary room.

It was a perfect pair of books to receive in order to evaluate the collection. It has been my experience that Blue’s formula is best suited to teach science (done very nicely by Advance Publishing in their Blue’s Clues Discovery Series, that we regularly borrow from the library) and Dora’s character is best suited for stories that teach social skills, like saying please and gracias in addition to teaching math and language skills. It showed to me that the editors of this collection did not do as a good a job in pairing concepts with characters as those of the Disney Princess series and if fact were quite willing to abandon key character points in order to tell their stories, which undermines the point of using familiar characters to teach the lessons in the first place.

Harry Potter and Christian Ideals

This is an article I stumbled on to this evening. It is a interview with Prof. at Baylor University. The Christian Post. I like what he had to say. It always drives me a little crazy when I hear people ignorantly repeat what another has told them without investigating the matter themselves. I am glad that there are people in the Christian community willing to put themselves on the line and educate even when they seem to be going against the popular opinion.

I particularly like Dr. Moore's attitude toward the role parents have in helping their children engage with the culture around them.

Christian Post: Considering not everyone, more so for children, can easily decipher the Christian symbols in the books, is there some danger in leaving the novels to children to explore on their own?

Dr. Moore:I don’t think children should be left alone with anything—television, video games, music, books, or whatever. Parents should be involved in the lives of their children and we must know what our children are reading, watching, and listening to. That being said, I do not believe that the Potter books pose a “risk” to children. They are classic tales of good versus evil and they affirm and teach great Christian virtues like forgiveness, hope, courage, generosity, and especially love.

However on the same site they had another not so good interview with Caryl Matrisciana, Harry Potter: Making Evil look innocent

They are being taught occult symbology and perversions wrapped up as "innocent" "just fantasy". The ideas in JK Rowlings' books are not fabrications or imaginary. Rather, they are age-old principle of Wicca and Paganism believed by thousands of witches today.

I personally know people who practice Wicca and they would be shocked to discover this. I remember talking to our Wiccan friend in Grand Rapids after the first books came out, he mentioned that he expected that a few people might seek out Wicca on the basis of the books, and that once they did they would be sadly disappointed, because the kind of magic they seek to work has very little to do with fantasy work of J.K. Rowling.  Their religion is quite a hodgepodge of all sorts of earth-centered worship, some borrowed from Native American, some re-invented ideas with that borrow heavily from Celtic Mythology, none of which are present in the books.

Ms.Matrisciana also condemns the books on the basis that their fantasy is not fantastical enough

The Christian classic fantasies are not generally confusingly set in the real world as many of Harry's

and that it is to be condemned because children want it to be true. I will guess that she hasn't read the Chronicles of Narnia either, and if she had she would condemn them also. Since the books were set in firmly in real world setting. Children sent as refugees out of the major Brit cities into the countryside. There they stumble upon a ordinary looking wardrobe that transports them into a magical land...I think countless generations of children have also wished to stumble upon magical wardrobes. I think she severely misunderstands the nature of imaginative work, and the need of the fantastical in the life of children.

She also has several misstatements as this one.

Even in Harry's books, those who don't believe as Harry and other witches do are derogatorily called "muggles".

Actually the term muggle has nothing to do with belief. Muggle simply means someone born without magical abilities.  Magical abilities in the Harry Potter have nothing to do with belief, are in fact more of a birthright. Children of wizards almost always wizards, and the few exceptions, those who aren't born with magical aptitude are called Squibs.

Hopefully those who read this article published today read Dr. Moore excellent interview first and might be able to use their critical thinking to evaluate the claims of Ms. Matrisciana


Actually I finished the book at around 8:30 pm last night. Oh what book? Harry Potter and Half-blood Prince. I didn't pre-order, just went out for milk and bread on Saturday morning and bought it for about $12 under cover price at the Pharmasave. I read about 450 some pages in the first day and finished it up on Sunday afternoon. When I first bought it I meant just to turn it over to Chris immediately since it his birthday tomorrow and HP and HBP is one of his presents. He encouraged me to read it first, supremely confident that I would have it done with plenty of time. I wasn't so sure, and I tried to make sure I did let myself get to engrossed and ignore the girls. The girls notice I was carrying the book around with me, but I think I did manage to do a fair job.

I like the book better than some of the last few. I found the book's plot was tighter, and Harry wasn't as insufferable as he was in HP and OoP. I will probably post something with a bit more spoilery stuff after Chris has read the book, but all in all I can give it a thumbs up.

In other news Zee's Certificate of Birth Abroad and her US Passport arrived today. It is now official that I am the only one is the household who is not a dual citizen.

Reading Lolita in Tehran : A Memoir in Books

Lolita Last Tuesday I got a chance to channel surf on the TV. I only tend to do this when I am alone, because I know it annoys Chris to no end, and if we are both home we either have the TV tuned to sports or to some show we are watching together. But on Tuesday after the girls had fallen asleep but before Chris came come home, I had custody of the TV. Even when I have found a show to watch I almost compulsively scan the guide listings with the remote, and that when I discovered that the Biography Channel was doing a show on Jane Austen. It was about a half hour in, but that was no deterrent. It the show had a very diverse cast of experts commenting on Austen's life, work and reputation. One of the commentators caught by attention. Her name was Azar Nafisi, whose book Reading Lolita in Tehran I can briefly heard mentioned in a magazine last year. She talked about reading Austen in Tehran with her students and how her works still had impact and significance there. Something about the way she expressed herself inspired me to drop my remote and walk over to the computer. I immediately checked my local library's on-line catalog to see if they had her book available. To my pleasure they not only had it in their system, it was checked in and available in Brooks. Without any hesitation I hit request hold button, and ordered it. I had to return the girls movies to the Library the next day and it was waiting for me a the front desk. 
I started reading it almost as soon as I got home and I been hard pressed to put it down. Even though I have only 2 more letters to read in David Sack's Letter Perfect, I can't tear myself away. The book is exactly as advertised "a Memoir in Books". The book is subdivided five sections plus an Epilogue. In each section she talks about a different book or author, and how teaching and reading those works in Iran affected her life. Her style is not linear instead we jump back and forth thru time from her days as a young student in Iran, to a graduate student in American during the Shah's final days, to her first year teaching in Iran during the most turbulent days of the revolution, to her days she spent cloistered with her mystery novels as the Iraqi bomb shattered Tehran around her.

034076618202lzzzzzzzI have loved reading and educating myself about Iran since Chris read me James Clavell's Whirlwind (one of his all-time favorite books), a sprawling novel set in the early days of the Iranian revolution. Two years ago it was Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis : The Story of a Childhood
that invited me into Iran, and now I feel that Reading Lolita in Tehran in some ways surpasses them both. In Reading Lolita Nafisi does more than just recount her thoughts as the Revolution tore her home and the memory of her life in Iran apart, she continues to teach passionately about the books that were her companions and shelters. It is incredibly moving defense of literature, the value of fiction against all those who seek infect everything with political agendas.  While she and her students take small pleasures in the few bits of culture they can salvage from the regime's repression they also inspire me to cherish the books I have read and can read freely.

Midway thru my reading I ditched my traditional bookmark for index card where I have been scribbling furiously all the books I either want to revisit or read after reading her comments. 2/3 into her book, I have new-found respect for Nabokov a writer I have often heard mentioned but never studied, and this might finally be the year that I do go ahead and read Lolita in Brooks.


155037892901lzzzzzzz My brother and I talked on the phone for little while this evening and while our conversation touched on many subjects, one of the things we talked about was the real tragedy and shame it is that Puerto Rico has no real community library system. There are few scattered lending libraries outside of the research academic libraries at the Universities, so children are growing up with a vastly reduced access to books than most children throughout the rest of the United States and Canada. For a fee of $12 years plus town taxes, my girls have access to wide assortment of books, CD and video for loan. We take advantage of that privilege nearly every week.

Often during our visit to the children's section I let the girls fill our library book sack with random assortment of book they find attractive or just pull off the stacks, complemented by book that attract me. I often take book from those the library staff features by placing on display on top of the short bookcases. These are often book just recently turned back in, or new arrivals. One of the books that I picked up the one whose cover you see on the left. It is called Me and My Sister by Ruth Ohi an artist-writer I was previously unfamiliar with. After only one reading it has completely charmed me. The book is beautifully illustrated and I have no problem believing the blurb on the back cover that mentions that Ruth Ohi based the illustrations on her two daughters. She has every mannerism right, she even captures the special qualities of toddler hair, with their fine, fly-away whispy hair. When I first read the short text next to each page, I must admit I was disappointed. I was expecting some sort of sentimental verse to go with the tone of the illustration but instead I found very short matter-of-fact statements, like Sister in the Kitchen, Sister in my room, Sister feeding my doll. Yet as I turned each page I realized that the text was absolutely right. It is constructed as to mirror the speech of 3 year old. It came to natural that Aay had it memorized after only one reading, and gave her daddy her own 'reading' of the book a short while later. Zee even seemed to recognize herself immediately as the little sister and took much joy in point at her as we turned each page. When I make my next purchase at I am ordering two copies of this book, so each girl can have their copy when they grow up, as a little snapshot of their toddler relationship and I am also buying a copy for my sister-in-law's little girls, who while twins have a slightly different relationship they will undoubtedly understand it.

Links to some of my Children's Lit reviews:

Language Visible or Letter Perfect

067697488001lzzzzzzz I just started reading this new book by David Sacks, known as Language Visible: Unraveling the mystery of the Alphabet or as it was retitled for the Paperback market, Letter Perfect: the a-to-Z History of Our Alphabet . It was reviewed in the book section of the revamped Banner's Tuned in section. There were actually several books reviewed there that piqued my interest but this was the only one that my library system actually owned. The book is based on a 26-part weekly series of columns David Sacks wrote for the Ottawa Citizen back in the first half of 2000. The book starts off with a very engrossing history of the origins of the Alphabet. I read the first 62 pages in one sitting, only stopping to tell Chris how much fun this book was. The initial chapter which focuses on the differences of an Alphabetical writing system from syllabary or logogramic systems. He is particularly interested in the process by which the Alphabet first jumped languages and how letters proved extremely adaptable. There are many inset boxes with historical digressions, useful charts and illustrations scattered thru the first chapter, which some might find overwhelming but that filled with me with joy, since I am unrepentant lover of footnotes and other tangents. Perhaps because this series was first published in newspapers, I found the language and depth of the book very accessible. Although I have a passing familiarity with lots of the concepts presented in the introductions due to my exposure to Linguistics at University, they were almost all explained clearly and plainly within the text. I just finished reading the first and last letter entries (A and Z), and I found that  he is decidedly less technical in the entries themselves, having already given a brief history of the development of letters, he then gives each letter, a brief history, then attempting to layout all the cultural notions that have been attached to said letters thru their history, such as the superiority of the letter A to the foreignness and raciness of the letter Z. I even left a stack of last weeks comics unread so I could give this book my full attention last night and I expect to have it by side for most of the coming week. If you enjoy language or history go ahead and give it a look.

Recent Kiddie Reads

Despite the fact that I haven't been blogging about it, the girls and are have been continuing our weekly trips to the library and in the last few months read a lot of good books. Reading time which was already a very popular part of our day, has grown to be a even bigger highlight as Zee has finally started to fully participate. She used to just wander in an out of the room as I read to Aay, but now she now makes her own selections. There have been minor skirmishes over who gets to flip pages and when, but things have settled down a bit, and they can share the bed for a half hour of reading on most days.

In the past 2 months, I have also bought a lot of books. We went to Puerto Rico which I always turn into an opportunity to shop for lots of bilingual or Spanish books. Most of those have been on display on the Library Books type-list since we got here.  We bought 7 books from the Chronicle Books Bilingual series, The Princess and the Pea, Cinderella, Goldilocks and The Three Bears, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, Sleeping Beauty and The Little Mermaid.  I was very excited about the books when I bought them because as they provided non-disneyfied versions of these classic stories, but after bringing them home and reading them with the girls several times I am less enthusiastic. It is still nice to have both Spanish and English text on each page. I still really like The Princess and the Pea, But overall the series have been disappointing, as I still end up improvising and improving on the text for the stories and re-editing The Little Mermaid because in the end I prefer the version where she gets to live, than one were she dies for love, instead of committing homicide

The best books I bought on my trip was Mama Goose: A Latino Nursery Treasury, although the art is mexicocentric, I recognize nearly all of the rhymes and lullabies, and it has a very useful index in the back of the book and the book itself is divided into sections: lullabies, finger games, lap games, sayings, nursery rhymes, jump-rope songs, proverbs, riddles, tall tales, a ballad, birthday songs, and Christmas carols, which makes the book even more useful. The girls have liked most of the songs I have sung from it, and really like several of the finger games I taught them from the book.

Since we came back home were able to receive and open a pair of book Grandma Marianne sent us for Easter.  Both book were Spring themed and featuring ducks. The first book and most popular so far was One Duck Stuck by Phyllis Root, Jane Chapman (ill). The books is filled with splishy-splashy sounds and the call and response format, has captivated Aay who has nearly memorized the whole book. She loves yelling out the Help! Help! Who can Help? chorus at the end of each page. Reviews on are very critical of the art and how the actions the various groups of animals tried to perform to rescue the duck aren't clear. This is a valid criticism but since the charm of the book is rhythm of the text, I don't think the art detracts too much, since it at least very bright and cheerful.  Shortly before receiving this book we had just read another Phyllis Root book, called Big Momma Makes the World  with illustrator Helen Oxenbury. At first I wasn't sure what to makes of this book. It retells the creation story, borrowing heavily from the biblical version for structure, while recasting the Creator as sassy chubby housewife with a baby at her hip, who longs for company, and had laundry to do. The illustrations were beautiful, calming and creative, I think sometimes giving a clearer visualization of creation story than many a bible storybook. Aay quiet liked the Mother-creator, and the cheerful little baby, delighting in pointing out how the baby interacted with each new created element, turning green as it sat in the new muddy and green earth, or how he dived up from newly made oceans. The story deviates markedly from the biblical creation story as Big Momma is much more hands-off, and there is not even a inkling of a Fall, leaving things at the "it is good" point. The reviews on Amazon rightly point out that some might be offended by the borrowed creation imagery, but the little note in the back of the dusk jacket went a long way with me. It noted that this book grew out of stories, Phyllis Root told her daughters while they made a trip thru the American Southwest, and at the time her daughters insisted in stories that God had a little baby. I was not offended at all, so on my scorecard Phyllis Root  is 2 for 2.

The second book, which we initially overlooked and nearly threw out with the envelope was Ruby in Her Own Time by Jonathan Emmett, Rebecca Harry (ill).  I really like the gentle story of little duck who just has her own timing and pace, and eventually grows into herself. Aay liked the resolution a lot, as seeing Ruby as a mommy duck at the end really satisfies her own ideas of what a happy ending is. 

The final set of books have really captivated Aay are Eugene's Story and Princess Bun Bun
by RICHARD SCRIMGER, GILLIAN JOHNSON (Illustrator) These two books are part of loose series about a family with three children, Winifred, Eugene and Baby Bun Bun, that includes a third book that we have yet to read, Bun Bun's BirthdayPrincess Bun Bun  is told from the point of view of the eldest sister as she and Bun Bun take as unexpected solo trip up the elevator of their Uncle's apartment bldg. Eugene's Story, follows Eugene the middle child, who makes only a brief appearance in Princess Bun BunIn this book Eugene is constantly harassed by older bossier Winifred as he tries to narrate his day in rather creative manner. Her continual attempts to bring him back to reality are eventually overcome and Eugene is able to fully block everything else out for his daydream. It is a very different kind of book than  Princess Bun Bun although both books touch on the subject of overactive imaginations and daydreams. In the first books Winifred, sees all those who she encounters on The elevator thru the lens of her Castle daydream: the barking dog is monster, the Older Cleaning woman with a broom is a witch, the young lady, a princess and her uncle, as a rescuing Knight. The art serves as contrast to her assertions, and Aay played along correctly identifying the people and animals that Winifred encountered. Aay didn't like Eugene's Story as there weren't any art clues to help her didn't distinguish fantasy from reality, and role was left to a rather shrewish Winifred, who Aay decided wasn't as nice in this book as in the first. There was little format clues for a reader though to distinguish Eugene's story from reality but the little typesetting changes and story box, just don't register with a Pre-reader like Aay. I hope to read the third book soon, and see if we like it as much as the first.

Book Reviews, Resumed.

It has been a while since I did What we are reading post. While I did fall in love with the library book list feature on the sidebar, that wasn't the only reason. I think we have been going thru a bit of dry spell, in terms of finding nice books. We have been going to the library on a weekly basis and I have been letting the girls pick out more books on their own. It turns our haul into a real mixed bag, as they tend to pull things at random from the stacks.  This week however I am rather pleased with the books we brought home. The top of the aisle selections (the books that the librarians place on display on top of the short bookshelves) was particularly nice and the one random book (a Disney Ducktales story) was nice enough. Also I used the hold feature on the library web-page to request a ton of books for myself along with 3 highly recommended kids books borrowed from other Shortgrass libraries.

Duck on a bike by Shannon, David,
Mrs. Moon : lullabies for bedtime by Beaton, Clare.
Giraffes can't dance by Andreae, Giles

These were the three books we got thru interlibrary loan. So far both Duck on a bike and Giraffes can' dance have been read 3 times and we only got them out this afternoon. Aay caught on to the humor and irony in the illustrations on Duck on a Bike very quickly. Probably my favorite so far.

How do dinosaurs get well soon? by Yolen, Jane
Olivia, written and illustrated by Ian Falconer.
The penguin and the pea retold and illustrated by Janet Perlman.

These three were the top of the book stack selections. All three are absolute winners. We have read two previous How do Dinosaur...? books by Jane Yolen. They are beautifully illustrated and Aay enjoy looking for the printed dinosaur names hidden in the picture. She is starting to recognize the dinosaurs and the subtle messages of good manners, and obedience is not lost on me. Mark Teague also wrote and illustrated a very comic book called Dear Mrs. LaRue: letters from obedience school. The book is a first-person account of misbehaving dog, and his escape from obedience school. It was a very good book that introduced Aay to the idea that what people say and what is the truth aren't always the same things. One page would illustrate the fantasy version of the obedience school as the little dog portrayed it to his owner, and the opposite page would should show the scene as it actually was, the Warden, was really a nice round doggie trainer...etc.

The Penguin and the Pea, is the sequel to Cinderella Penguin. I grew up being told the Princess and Pea story and have told it to Aay a few times. Like Cinderella Penguin this telling is very visually interesting and funny. I highly recommend it.

Olivia is one of those books that always seemed to be featured prominently at displays at bookstores, but I have always declined to pick it up. The color scheme always seemed so drab. Yet today I grabbed on impulse and found the story to very charming. The little girl piglet is cut from the same cloth as Aay, "very good at lot of things, she was very good a wearing people out..." Aay quiet likes her, and I will probably seek out the sequels soon.

The King's beard by Rabe, Tish; adapted from a script by Will Ryan
Little Scraggly Hair : a dog on Noah's ark by Cullen, Lynn,  illustrated by Jacqueline Rogers.
Mortimer's ABCs by Bryant-Mole, Karen.
Thomas gets tricked and other stories
Webby saves the day by Walt Disney Company

These last few haven't really made much of impression on their first reading. Little Scraggly Hair : a dog on Noah's Ark, while beautifully illustrated, it just too wordy. The writer intentionally chose to use a Appalachian dialect to narrate the story, and while it might be charming for a older child, it just fell flat with Aay and she lost interest about half-way thru the book.

Morality for beautiful girls by McCall Smith, Alexander Mortimer's
The bad beginning & The reptile room by Snicket, Lemony
The complete Peanuts by Schulz, Charles M.
Solve your child's sleep problems by Ferber, Richard

Dress your Family in Denim and Corduroy, by David Sedaris. I finished this collection of essays yesterday. I enjoyed the first half of the book immensely. So much so that I started a post about yesterday before our afternoon drastically went of the rails. I am not sure if the tone of the book changed or I was no longer in the mood for it, but I just didn't laugh nearly as much. The best story in the book is called Six_to_Eight_Black_men and it does and it gets a lot belly laugh from the differences between the American myth of Santa Claus and the Dutch version, Sinter Klaas.

Morality for the Beautiful girls is one book of the Ladies No.1 Detective Agency series. I have enjoyed the two other books in the series, and really like Mma.Ramotswe a very likable ladies detective in Botswana.

Since watching the theatrical adaptation of A Series of Unfortunate event by Lemony Snicket, in Dec I been meaning to read the three books the movie were based on. I started The Bad Beginning this evening while putting into effect Dr. Ferber's sleep solutions. It gave me something enjoyable to read while I waited thru the cry intervals. Zee is coping reasonably well and is currently sleeping in her crib. She took 1/2 hour to sleep the first two times, and hopefully this combined with Dr. Ferber's suggestions for night weaning, will mean that both Zee and I will better rested.

My impulse pick of the week for my personal reading was the Peanuts collection. I have been aware of this new endeavor by Fantagraphics for nearly a year (they are setting out to collect all entire Peanuts Series, a volume a year.) It is a hefty tome, and I am glad that our library decided to purchase it.

In my opinion this was very good week, one that only can get better when I stop in tomorrow to pick up 3 more holds: two additional Ladies No.1 Detective Agency series books and the third Lemony Snicket book.