It’s Read Aloud Week here at Hope Is the Word, and today I thought I’d share one of our favorite read alouds of all time. Esphyr Slobodkina‘s Caps for Sale is one of those books that will always hold fond, fond memories for me. It is one of the first real story books that I read to Lulu when she really still a baby. We owned it in board book format, and I can remember reading it to her while sitting in the rocking chair by the window in her nursery. We still enjoy this story of the clever peddlar who outsmarts some crafty monkeys. I think my favorite part is acting out the monkey’s lines, especially saying “Tsz, tsz, tsz!” (How does one pronounce that, by the way? I usually make a slight buzzing sound.) This is one of those books that has so much potential–colors, counting, patterns, thinking skills–they’re all here. Or, you could just enjoy the experience of reading this folktale first copyrighted in 1940.
I’m not sure how old a book really needs to be to qualify as a vintage find, but since I can barely remember reading this one as a child and most days I feel pretty old, I think this one must qualify. I happened upon the Easter display at the library yesterday, and to be honest, I was not expecting to find much. However, when I saw this book, that happy feeling of fond remembrance of a well-loved book washed over me, and I knew I wanted to take it home to read to my girls.
I really should say that this post might be considered an addendum to yesterday’s Read Aloud Thursday post. However, yesterday my post was all about books that portray the real Easter story, and I really prefer to keep the real meaning of the holiday (any holiday, for that matter) separate from the fluff that surrounds them. Do I tell my children about the Easter bunny, Santa Claus, etc.? Yes, but in a very low-key way, the same way that I tell or read any imaginative story–not as truth, but as a story to be enjoyed. I know that this is a controversial and sometimes sensitive topic, but this is how we handle things at the House of Hope.
Adrienne Adams’ The Easter Egg Artists is pure fun. It is the story of Orson Abbott and his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Abbott, who are rabbits. (Don’t you love Adams’ choice of names here?) Mr. and Mrs. Abbott make the designs on Easter eggs, and they have decided that it’s time for their son to join the family business. Is Orson responsible enough to see the job through? The Abbotts go on an extended vacation before egg-painting season begins, and while on vacation, they learn that Orson is indeed up to the job.
Really, more than the story, it is Adrienne Adams’ lovely illustrations that make this book so special. The anthropomorphized rabbits are very life-like and the Easter egg art (and every other kind of art–the book is full of it!) is beautiful. This book is a real visual delight!
If you’re looking for a fun spring time read, this is it!
A few weeks ago we were at the library and we had just returned Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, so we were in need of a new chapter book read aloud. Lulu and Louise are in that in-between stage when it comes to chapter books, I think. Of course, neither of them can read, but they both have rather long attention spans when it comes to listening to stories. However, I think I have tried their patience in the past with the likes of The Wind in the Willows, with its British and much-more-formal-than-we-speak-here-in-the-House-of-Hope-English and long, long chapters. For some reason, I’ve wanted to save such childhood classics as the Ramona books for when they can read them aloud to me, so I was fresh out of ideas for read-alouds. I approached our favorite children’s librarian and asked her for a recommendation. She paused for a moment and said, “How about Miss Hickory?” I had never read it, but I was game. She assured me that it had a few “slightly scary” parts (I would call them more intense than scary, but with small children, one never knows), but that it is a fun story. After finishing it today, I must concur with her appraisal.
Published in 1946, Miss Hickory is the Newbery Award winning story of a small twig doll named Miss Hickory because her head is made of a hickory nut. Miss Hickory lives in the New Hampshire countryside. In the book’s beginning, she lives in a small corncob house under a lilac bush on the windowsill of the Old Place. However, once her owners vacate the Old Place, she moves into an abandoned nest in the apple orchard. She gets to know many of her neighbors and has quite a few adventures. She even loses her head to a hungry squirrel near the end of the story! This part is actually a little weird to me, but it didn’t seem to bother my girls. (They did have an extreme and perhaps morbid interest in the illustration that accompanies this chapter, however.) The best part of this story, though, is the description of the countryside, nature, and animal life. There is a hidden gem in the middle of the story, too, in a short little Christmas sketch which recounts the legend of the appearance of a small, baby-sized hollow that appears in the grain that is in the manger of the old barn, which all the forest and farm creatures witness. I’m sure that this is a well-known legend, or at least the combination of a few legends (I’m thinking here of The Tailor of Gloucester by Beatrix Potter, in which the animals can talk on Christmas Eve), but it was new to me and completely charming. There is a lovely, two-page spread illustration in the middle of this Christmas chapter which shows all manner of four legged beasts (including elephants, lions, and giraffes) streaming into the barn, the Christmas star shining brightly overhead.
The story ends rather oddly, I thought, and I know that it had an impression on my girls because Lulu has brought it up again. Miss Hickory, after losing her head, returns to the apple tree and grafts herself into it. She is referred to as a scion at this point in the story, so in addition to being entertained and charmed (and yes, even weirded-out at times) by this story, I also added a new word to my vocabulary. When I read the word scion, I immediately thought of a strange-looking little car (no offense to the Scion drivers or fans among my readership), but come to find out, it does indeed mean “a shoot or twig, especially one cut for grafting or planting.” Reading these vintage finds is enlightening in so many ways!
Miss Hickory was written by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey and was illustrated by Ruth Gannet, who illustrated the Elmer Elevator books.
Reading this post over at 5 Minutes for Books took me back to my youthful Trixie Belden obsession. (I say youthful, but really, I don’t think my Trixie-loving days are completely behind me. I can still see the possibility of pulling a familiar title and enjoying it on some distant lazy afternoon.) I always loved Trixie way more than I loved Nancy Drew, but that’s another post. I have older cousins who passed their outgrown books on to me, and I believe that’s how I was first introduced to Trixie. Thinking about Trixie has led me to reminisce about other books I inherited from my older girl cousins. I have three such cousins on my mother’s side, and they are from nine to twelve years older than me, which makes them all sixties babies while I am a child of the seventies. Thus, I became acquainted with book characters that I would not have likely ever met otherwise, such as Annette Funicello. Yes, Annette Funicello she was the star of her own book series, in addition to television and cinematic fame. However, Annette Funicello did not make a huge literary impression on me. Actually, neither did the Donna Parker books, but I remember them with enough fondness to make me want to read one of them again to see just what it was about Donna Parker that I liked.
Well, it took me less than a hundred pages to figure out Donna’s appeal and to realize that my reading time is much better spent on other things. What I liked then about Donna is that reading about her life was like taking a very non-threatening trip into adolescence for the late-blooming pre-teen that I was (actually, I’m still a late-bloomer, but I did finally reach adulthood). In Donna Parker at Cherrydale, Donna and her friend Ricky are junior counselors at a summer camp for wealthy children. While there, they have some interaction with a boy from their school who is working at a nearby boys’ camp. The girls experiment with lipstick and think about clothes. They also get involved in a mystery, which is the real point of the book. All of these things happen in a very innocent, albeit boring-by-today’s-standards, way. Donna Parker at Cherrydale was published in 1957, and it reads much like an television show from that era. Although Donna and Ricky are rising ninth graders the summer their adventure at Cherrydale takes place, I agree with this writer who says that they talk like they’re older, and the illustrations actually make them look older, too. I find it somewhat ironic that their ages are given as thirteen or fourteen, but they seem more mature in some ways, much like most girls do today. Despite this fact, these books are innocent in a way that is almost nonexistent in the genre today and so they provided me with a nice little introduction to young adult literature, a genre that is often fraught with controversy. They are not fine literature, which is why I went back to reading Les Miserables after only about thirty minutes’ worth of reading, but still. It was nice to reminisce.
Now, for the contest. 5 Minutes for Books is hosting a giveaway in honor of Read Across America Day, and the giveaway is sponsored by Cameesa. For the contest, you must answer this question (which I did above):
In the spirit of Read Across America (and Dr. Seuss’ birthday) talk about the books or series you loved to read as a child. Describe how you got the books, and tell us how reading them made you feel.
Go here to read all the details! If you participate and win, you could get one of these really neat shirts:
I ask you, what self-respecting book lover wouldn’t love a shirt like this or this?