Archive for the ‘Classic Books’ category

My Dogs Are Barking

February 28, 2012

Ow! Ow! Ow! My feet hurt. Shoes are out! No Jimmy Choo shoes. No five-inch heels. Maybe some designer orthopedic shoes. Or how about some advice from Dr. Seuss and The Foot Book? How about some duck feet? Now there’s an idea.

It all began when I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew. On my way I saw a Fox in Socks, The Cat in the Hat, and The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins. And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street! Now you know why my feet hurt. I had to Hop on Pop to get home.


Dr. Seuss had a truckload of fantastical ideas. Oh, the Things You Can Think! and Oh, the Places You’ll Go when you read one of his books. And you’ll meet an array of zany characters – Brown Bar-ba-loots, Zizzy Zozzfozzel, Foo-Foo the Snoo, the Fuddnuddler Brothers, and the Nizzards – just to name a few.  

Friday, March second, is Dr. Seuss’s birthday and Read Across America Day! It’s a good day to visit Seussville for some reading fun.

Now it’s time to rest my tootsies and read Dr. Seuss’s Sleep Book. Ahhhhh…

Another Classic Book

January 20, 2012

There they go again. Whining. Complaining. “I can’t do it. I can’t.” Before you pop your top at your youngsters, grab a copy of “I Can’t” Said The Ant by Polly Cameron and share it. It’s a classic!

Poor Miss Teapot has fallen to the floor and can’t get up. With catchy one-line rhymes, the objects in the kitchen persuade an ant to help.

 “Push her up,” said the cup.

 “I can’t,” said the ant.

Never fear! With encouragement from the kitchen objects and cooperation from the ant and his friends, Miss Teapot is mended and lifted to safety.

Red is the color of choice for the illustrations, and the text is done in olive green. The color palette is a bit limited compared to today’s picture books, but the rhymes make the book sparkle. Read it once. Read it twice. Read it again. You and your listeners will be repeating the one-liners over and over!

Think of the fun you can have making up your own rhymes and drawing pictures to go with them. This classic book never loses its appeal!

The Woman Behind the Book

November 8, 2011

When I was nine, my mother handed me a book and said, “This was mine when I was young. I think you’ll like it.” The book was old and tattered. I looked at the title – Little Women. The book had 630 pages and the print was tiny. I knew it would take me forever to read.  

I had seen the movie on TV. I longed to be Jo March. She was adventuresome and a writer. I felt as if we were kindred spirits! I opened the book my mother had handed to me and began to read. It did take me a long time to finish because I savored the words Louisa May Alcott used to describe the March family’s adventures. I laughed and I cried throughout the book. By the end, I desperately wanted to be a member of the March family. I was ecstatic to learn Louisa May Alcott had written other books. As an author, she knew how to touch the hearts of her readers. Instead of being Jo March, I wanted to be Louisa May Alcott.

I’ve seen all of the movie versions of Little Women, but Louisa’s written words are by far the best. While living in Massachusetts, I took my mother to see Orchard House, home of the Alcott family. As soon as we entered the house, we stepped back in time. Little Women came alive for both of us. I longed to touch Louisa’s desk, hoping that magical spark she had for writing would somehow transfer into my writing.

Everyone should read Little Women or have it read to them. It’s a classic story with themes of family, friendship, humor, heartaches, and love. To get to know the woman behind Little Women, here are two biographies I’d like to recommend. One is for younger readers. The other is for older readers.

Louisa: The Life of Louisa May Alcott written by Yona Zeldis McDonough and illustrated by Bethanne Andersen is a wonderful picture book biography for younger readers. It tells of Louisa’s life in a simple, straightforward manner with colorful illustrations. The end of the book includes personal quotes, poems, thoughts, a favorite recipe, and a timeline of important dates in Louisa’s life.

Invincible Louisa by Cornelia Meigs is a Newbery Medal winner. It provides a detailed version of Louisa’s life with photographs and a history of the times. This book was first published in 1933. For some readers the pace of this book may be rather slow, but if you are interested in knowing all about Louisa, this is the book for you.

“Hearts don’t grow old.” — Louisa May Alcott


September 27, 2011

“Books won’t stay banned. They won’t burn. Ideas won’t go to jail. In the long run of history, the censor and the inquisitor have always lost. The only weapon against bad ideas is better ideas.”  ─Alfred Whitney Griswold, New York Times, 24 February 1959

From board books to YA books, I love children’s books. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to go to a library and find that one special book I’m dying to read – unless it’s been pulled from the shelf because someone has deemed it inappropriate. So when Banned Books Week comes along, I’m on the band wagon to stop that from happening!

According the American Library Association there are four reasons people challenge books:  Family Values, Religion, Political Views, and Minority Rights. We are all guaranteed the freedom to express ourselves by rights of the First Amendment. If someone doesn’t like a book for a certain reason, that’s fine, but, please, don’t push your views on others. Everyone has the right to make their own decisions.

An author puts heart and soul into a book. Words are chosen carefully. The author sees something special in the subject matter, and that’s why it’s written. There may be some people who see the subject matter and word choice as inappropriate, but that doesn’t make it wrong. Consider this. Books that are unsettling are ripe for teachable moments. If you don’t agree with the content, use these books to teach tolerance, to teach good choices, to teach acceptable behavior, and to inform children about different lifestyles. Never hide the truth.    

Here are just a few reasons some books have been banned – racial slurs, immoral behavior, profanity, sexuality, alcohol use, and witchcraft. For some people, these appear to be good reasons to challenge a book or ban a book, but the reasons listed below boggle my mind.

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen:  Descriptions of injuries are to vivid (Ah, to be able to do that as a writer.)

Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh:  Deceit and back talk (Don’t all kids do that at some time or another?)

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig:  Illustrations shows police as pigs (So?)

Just So Stories: “The Elephant’s Child:” Too violent (Smack me! This is a great read-aloud story. Kids love it!)

Little Red riding Hood retold and illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman:  Cover illustration shows wine in Red’s basket (I’ll take a sip!)

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak:  Bad behavior and nightmares (Isn’t that a part of growing up?)

Of course, there are many more books that have been challenged or banned for reasons I consider inane. This is Banned Books Week. Celebrate the freedom to read the books of your choice.  

“Every burned book or house enlightens the world; every suppressed or expunged word reverberates through the earth from side to side.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

Lilly’s Big Day in Curacao?

September 6, 2011

On our last evening in Curacao, an island in the Caribbean, the hotel we stayed at hosted a wedding expo. I’m not in the market for weddings, but it was interesting to see what they had to offer. Curacao is a beautiful place for a destination wedding, but I have to admit the wedding expo, which was staged outside, was not to my taste.

The one person I thought would absolutely marvel at the expo was Lilly from Kevin Henkes’ book Lilly’s Big Day.

In this book, Lilly’s teacher is getting married, and Lilly is convinced that she is going to be the flower girl. Lilly practices every day, and when she finds out her teacher has chosen his niece, Ginger, to be the flower girl, Lilly is devastated. Mr. Slinger, being a kind and understanding teacher, tells Lilly she can be Ginger’s assistant. Lilly hopes something will happen so Ginger won’t be able to be the flower girl. To Lilly’s dismay, Ginger is ready and willing until it comes time to walk down the aisle. With a smile on her face and her head held high, Lilly saves the day by carrying Ginger down the aisle.   

As I wandered around the expo, I could see Lilly slowly making her way down the aisle with the sound of the surf in the background.


I could see Lilly dancing around the colorful inflated shapes,

 and lounging on the pillows,

or finding the perfect diva style chair to let everyone know she is an amazing flower girl.  

Whatever the case may be, I think Lilly should take a trip to Curacao and show them how to do a wedding “Lilly style.”

Outdated Words and Phrases from Classic Books

July 15, 2011

My chums and I donned our coats and piled into the family roadster to post some letters. “Hypers,” you say. “What is this person talking about?” I’m talking about outdated words and phrases from The Dana Girls Mystery Stories and Nancy Drew Mystery Stories written by Carolyn Keene.   

Once again, I was in the basement perusing my wall of books, trying to decide how to condense them when I pulled out some old copies of Nancy Drew and The Dana Girls. These books had been passed along to my sisters and me when we were young. I considered these books classics and devoured them. I was convinced I wanted to be a detective when I grew up. I even carried around a pocket knife, matches, and little flashlight in my purse – always ready in case a mystery happened along.

I thought the author was the bee’s knees, until I found out, much to my dismay, that “Carolyn Keene” was a pen name for the many different authors who wrote both series.  

Through the years, many of these books have been updated, but I still love the originals. The outdated language is a hoot. I browsed through the books and chortled as I came across words and phrases that are not often heard in America today. The word chums has been replaced by friends and roadster by car. We no longer post a letter, we mail a letter. Instead of the word rouge, today’s woman calls this cosmetic blush. And what about these phrases – a delightful colored woman, a young Negro maid, a woman of foreign birth? Would we consider these phrases politically correct today?  

Sitting By the Light of the Study Lamp, I donned my glasses and had a swell time searching for outdated words and phrases. Do you have any you’d like to share?

Cooking Up A Mother’s Wisdom for Future Generations

April 29, 2011

Cooking was not my mother’s passion, but, among other things, collecting cookbooks was. She had a wall of bookshelves in her kitchen filled with cookbooks. I wondered why, with all these recipes available, we ate the same things over and over again. Two well-worn cookbooks I chose to keep may be the answer. The Settlement Cook Book and Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book show wear and tear from years of use.

The book on the right was a Christmas gift given to my mother from my great-aunt two years before my mom and dad got married. It must have been a subtle hint that my mom needed to find a “way to a man’s heart” by learning how to cook first.

The book on the left had a different story to tell. The first thing I noticed was the Sacred Heart prayer fastened to the binder. I’m guessing that each time my mom opened that cookbook, she prayed that everything would turn out alright. She must have done a decent job because my mom and dad make it through sixty-four years together, and the rest of us are still kicking around.

On the first page of the cookbook, my mom had added a leaflet from the Milwaukee Health Department entitled “Food for Children From 2 to 7.” After reading it, it occurred to me the information provided might be the answer to our childhood obesity problems of today.

The leaflet begins by saying a child must depend on his parents to provide proper foods. Do you hear that Moms and Dads? Then it tells what and how much of the basic foods children need daily – foods like milk, vegetables (raw and cooked), fruit, whole grain cereal and bread, fish, meat, eggs, and lots of water!

Foods not to indulge in, but to eat sparingly include (Surprise! Surprise!) doughnuts, coffee cakes, rich desserts, fried food, sweets, soft drinks, and potato chips.

It also suggests that parents make sure their children get enough fresh air, have regular sleeping and eating times, play outside in the sun, and  guide their children toward acceptable behavior. I’m all for that.

The backside of the leaflet has meal plans for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and reminds parents that “regular meals are a part of orderly living which leads to health and good behavior.” It concludes by saying “A child can build a sound body from day to day only if he gets the right food every day.”

I’ll admit some of the suggestions are amusing and out of date, but most are right on target. If today’s parents followed the advice on this leaflet, maybe our children would learn to make better eating choices as they grow, and we could begin to conquer the obesity epidemic that has consumed our society.  

Wisdom comes with age. This age-old leaflet is full of wisdom for families today.

Cooking may not have been my mother’s passion, but she knew what was best for us!

A Grammar Classic

February 1, 2011

“I never made a mistake in grammar but one in my life and as soon as I done it I seen it.” — Carl Sandburg

There are always books that need to be weeded in the library, but how can you weed a “Leaf?” I’m talking about the Munro Leaf book, Grammar Can be Fun. It was originally published in 1934, but we have the 1962 hardcover edition in the library. The price back then, which included library binding, was $3.93! What a bargain!

Weeding this book is out of the question. It’s a classic. What more can I say? Leaf’s approach to teaching good grammar is extremely witty, and he easily captivates readers with his comical drawings – much like Jeff Kinney’s Wimpy Kid drawings.

The grammar choices presented are simple and easy to understand. For example:  Lie, lay, laid, and lain are words that have always been tricky when it comes to correct usage. With Leaf’s clever explanations, there are no more worries.

When it comes to weeding, I’ve discovered some “weeds” are classic treasures and should be put in a place of honor to be shared with a new generation of readers.

A Christmas Classic

December 3, 2010

A Certain Small Shepherd written by Rebecca Caudill and illustrated by William Pène Du Bois is on my list of must-have Christmas books. Originally published in 1965, this story is timeless. The book is filled with lyrical language and is a holiday treat for the entire family. Themes of love, patience, and understanding flow through the story.

The setting takes place in a rural area from a time long past. A young boy, Jamie, who was born unable to speak, his father and two older sisters are the central characters. With his father’s encouragement, Jamie proves to be a quick learner, but others in the community have their doubts about his abilities as they listen to his incoherent grunts. Frustration, acted out in the form of tantrums, often overwhelms Jamie as he tries to communicate. When his teacher assigns him the part of a shepherd for the Christmas Eve play, she tells him and the other student actors to believe they are those characters; Jamie takes his role to heart. Unfortunately, a Christmas Eve snowstorm cancels the play and Jamie is inconsolable. Then two strangers show up at their door, and his father offers to help them find a place to stay.  As Jamie waits for his father to return home, he is overcome with the feeling that this night is not like any other. What happens next is a special Christmas miracle. Be prepared for some damp eyes as you finish the story.       

This book provides ample opportunities to discuss disabilities and acceptance of those who are different from us. A Certain Small Shepherd is certain to warm your heart in a big way!

Classic Stories: ROXABOXEN

October 15, 2010

“This world is but a canvas to our imaginations.” ─ Henry David Thoreau

Imagination abounds in Roxaboxen, a picture book written by Alice McLerran and illustrated by Barbara Cooney. It’s a perfect example of how children, with time for free play, can come together to create a magical world of their own.

From the opening pages, McLerran and Cooney take us back in time to an imaginary place conceived by a group of children. Simple objects take on a new purpose in the imaginary town of Roxaboxen. Pebbles become money. White rocks define streets and houses. Boxes become shelves and tables. A round object becomes the steering wheel for a car, and a long stick becomes a horse. There is a mayor, a policeman, a baker, and an ice cream maker. Everyone plays an integral part in the fantasy world they have created.

I admit one of the many reasons I like this book is because it reminds me of when I was growing up. Special moments spent when we are young are moments we may remember, but never recapture once we’ve grown. That’s why this book tugs on my heartstrings.

Roxaboxen is a great book to share with children to encourage them to use their imaginations and experience a sense of euphoria as they celebrate magical moments.

Some free play humor:

A preschooler, playing with a family of paper dolls, stuck a dress on the mom. He looked at it and said:  “Darling, I think another dress would look better on you.”

(For future reference, I suggest this preschooler not use those exact words when he becomes a husband.)

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