My current project at work is to scam each picture book and check the cataloging. There was a time when the books were not entered correctly, making it hard to do searches. I did not expect to find any books that were not in the system at all, but I found one and it’s a gem!

Birdsong by Gail E. Haley, has a copyright from 1984. I had to catalog it by from scratch, and when I opened it, the illustrations had me hooked.

Jorinella is an old woman who sells birds in the marketplace, but she is not doing well. One day she discovers a nameless orphan girl who can charm the birds with her pipe playing. She adopts the girl and names her Birdsong. She gives Birdsong a magic feather that allows her to understand the songs of the birds, but then tricks Birdsong into helping her capture them. Birdsong is kind, though, and finds a way to free the birds. In return the birds take her to a secret kingdom where birds can safely go to sing and be heard.

I just loved this story! It has all the trappings of s great fairytale while still being very unique. I’m so glad I found it.

One old book!

On April 25, 1719–198 years and 1 day ago–Daniel Defoe published Robinson Crusoe.

I’m guilty of skipping this classic until now. Yesterday, when I saw the day’s “This Day In History” calendar, I decided it was time to read the book. Since my library is only K-4, I don’t have the original version. I do, however, have the Great Illustrated Classics version. I was able to read it in a couple of hours.

Maybe it was because of the condensed version, but I felt like the story skipped ahead very quickly and I’m confused why he waited so long to do some major things, like exploring the island?!?

I was also disappointed in the way that Friday came into the story. I love that Robinson rescued him but the idea that Friday would immediately swear himself to life-long slavery just grates against my nerves. Why didn’t he tell Robinson his given name? And what kind of egomaniac longs for a companion, finds one, and then teaches him to call him “Master”?

I get that Defoe was a product of a very different time but I struggle with the storyline. I’ve read other Great Illustrated Classics and they were some of the best books I’ve ever read. As a kid I read Swiss Family Robinson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide, The Time Machine, The War of the Worlds Sherlock Holmes and Journey To the Center of the Earth. I’ve read the complete version of many of these as an adult and as no complaint with how the condensing was done. That makes me think that my complaint is with Defoe, not Great Illustrated Classics.

Before you write me off as a the worst book nerd ever, I want you to know I’ve read Defoe before. I really enjoyed Moll Flanders. That poor girl was a hot mess. She’s got a great story though. So for my money, I’d recommend Moll over Robinson any day.

Boxes For Katje

I brought home a random stack of picture books today; it’s getting to be my favorite hobby. In the stack I found Boxes For Katje by Candace Fleming.

Boxes For Katje is about the war relief efforts after World War II left Europe bombed, starving, and freezing. Katje is a Danish girl who receives a box from America. Inside are soap, wool socks and chocolate. Katje is so thankful for this gift that she writes back to her new American friend, Rosie.

Rosie continues to gather food and supplies with the help of friends and neighbors. Their gifts help Katie’s town make it through the winter. As a thank you, Katie’s village send tulip bulbs to Rosie’s town. 

It’s a wonderful story, and what makes it even better is the author’s mother was Rosie, and she really did send boxes to Katje.

Every time I learn about this little piece of history, I’m astounded by the outpouring of kindness that Americans showed to Europeans. It’s a bright spot in our history and it’s woven into the fabric of who we are. Sometimes I wish we were a smidge more welcoming and tolerant today, but you can’t have it all.

I would just like to point out the similarities to the story Mercedes and the Chocolate Pilot. 

I think I’ve shared about this story before. It’s another great story about the power of kindness.


My local readers will see the humor in my choice of books today:

Today at about 8:40 am the power went out all over town. We didn’t get power back until 10:15 or so. John Rocco’s Caldecott Honor book, Blackout was just begging to be read and shared. In the story the boy is bummed because everyone is too busy to play a board game with him. But when the power goes out, the family rediscovers the joys of being together and with their neighbors.

The only other book on my shelves on this topic is Megan McDonald’s The Big, Bad Blackout.

I haven’t read it, but Judy and Stink are always fabulous!

I am proud to say that we survived the blackout by sharing our brightest space — the library. We had multiple reading groups and physical therapy with room to spare.

Crazy Cat Lady

I am, by my own admission, a Crazy Cat Lady. I love my cats (I even consider them my kids) and I love other people’s cats. So it really isn’t much of a stretch to say I love books about cats. One of my favorites is My Cat, the Silliest Cat In the World by Gilles Bachelet.

Okay, I can see you are confused.  Bachelet is French, and cats look different in France, obviously. They act just like the cats at my house though.

There is a second book about Bachelet’s cat, but I have yet to get my hands on it.

I am thinking of just ordering them for myself from I think Bachelet must be a syndicated cartoonist in France because his cat is all over the Internet, sometimes hanging out with Elmer the Elephant. It’s nice to see interspecies friendships.

As for the babies at my house, you knew I was going to show them off to you, didn’t you?

Bloo, 10 years old in September of this year.

Jack, 7 years old in June of this year.

Stitch, will be 1 year old this week.

I hope you have a wonderful fur-baby in your life, even if it isn’t a cat. We are so blessed by the unconditional love of our pets.

A house is not a home without books or cats.

🦍 !Gorilla! 🦍 

I like gorillas. If there is any creature more amazing that actually exists (sadly I have yet to meet a real unicorn…) then I haven’t seen it.

I’ve read some great gorilla books in the past few years:

Koko’s story is sweet and sad. She had been taught American Sign Language and told her caretakers that she wanted a baby of her own. Her kitten filled that need perfectly.

While Newberry Award winning The One and Only Ivan is based on a real gotilla, Katherine Applegate fictionalized his story and added other great characters like Ruby. I’m so glad we know now that Ivan didn’t belong alone in a shopping mall. This is a great book for kids who need to try thicker books but are reluctant. It’s not a high reading level, and because Ivan is telling the story the pages don’t tend to be full. They get hooked quickly and are pleasantly surprised when they realize they’ve finished this ‘big’ book.

I like to recommend this as a companion to the novel. Ivan: the remarkable true story of the shopping mall gorilla tells us Ivan’s story in a nonfiction format. The kids find it terribly sad and are outraged, but it gives me hope for how our future generations will care for wild animals.

Little Gorilla is a cute story about how all the animals love Little Gorilla even when he’s not little anymore. This one has cute pictures.

Someone in the zoo is a bit naughty. Gorilla follows the night guard around the zoo and lets all the animals out. The animals follow the guard home and climb into bed with he and his wife. Imagine her surprise!

Anthony Browne’s Gorilla is about a little girl who loves gorillas and her daddy. Daddy is always too busy to spend time with her, but gives hera toy gorilla for her birthday. At first she is disappointed, but the gorilla is magical and takes her to the zoo. This book had the best illustrations! 

Just Plain Fancy–Patricia Polacco part 7

I haven’t shared about Patricia Polacco’s books in awhile–not because I’ve given up on them, but because I just haven’t brought any home for awhile. I had my big book bag ready to go for the long Easter weekend and forgot all about it! Today I brought it home and I found four of her fabulous books.

Mr. Wayne’s Masterpiece is a story from Patricia’s own childhood. It’s the story of how she overcame her fear of public speaking, saved a school play and became a masterpiece.

Just Plain Fancy was a sweet story about an Amish girl, Naomi, who wishes for just one fancy thing in her life. Providence smiles on her and a strange egg appears in their farmyard. The chick who hatches is just plain fancy. Naomi finds out though that the Amish people do not like fancy things and she is scared of losing her new pet–it’s her fault he’s fancy. Thankfully, the elders don’t see it that way and are enchanted by Fancy.

Naomi and her sister never learn where Fancy came from but observative readers will know.

I liked this story a lot. It made me think of the family down the street from my childhood home who raised peafowl, guinea chickens and other exotics. They were always fun to go see but sooo noisy!

The Lemonade Club is based on a story from Polacco’s daughter’s childhood. Friendship and love helped Polacco’s daughter’s best friend get through chemotherapy for leukemia. Little did the girls know they were also helping their teacher who had breast cancer.

Something About Hensley’s is a story about a fabulous store down the street from Polacco’s current home. It’s the kind of store that always has exactly what you need. Old John, the owner seems to be magical the way he can give you just what you need. He’s also very kind and saves a struggling single parent family.

So there you have it, a few more titles ticked off the list, I’m inspired to read everything by other authors now:

  • Jan Brett
  • Eve Bunting
  • Kevin Henkes (complete)
  • Trudy Ludwig (complete)
  • Deborah Hopkinson
  • Patricia McKissack
  • William Steig (complete)

This is just the start of a list. I’m sure there are many many more.

Author-Illustrator Dianna Hutts Aston

My library subscribes to a service that sends me amazing books in catagories I’ve selected every month. I’m so thankful to this service because they have sent me amazing books that I would have never found on my own. One of my catagories is Elementary Nonfiction, and through this collection I have received three books by the fabulous Author-Illustrator Dianna Hutts Aston.

Aston’s books are nonfiction but the artwork is mesmerizing and the books read like picture books. 

The beetle shells in this book look truly iridescent. Aston’s command of the watercolor medium is breathtaking.

Artist-wannabes like me can fawn over the artwork while our kids enjoy learning from the stories and pictures. All of the illustrations are neatly labeled as well. 

I am missing three of her nonfiction titles:

Here are the endpapers from A Butterfly Is Patient:

I will have to wait for my budget to renew in July before I can see these books; none of the other schools have them and the public library doesn’t either. How frustrating, but the reward will be even sweeter when I have them for my own (technically the library’s.)

Ginger Pye

I started Ginger Pye yesterday, and I am finding it cute, but odd.

The kids, Jerry and Rachel Pye, have their hearts set on a puppy and it works out perfectly that they are offered a job earning the exact amount they need on the very last day the puppy is available.

Buying the puppy, who is later named Ginger Pye, triggers a mystery in the kids’ life. Someone is following them, a man with a yellow hat who they have nicknamed Unsavory Character. Here’s my theory:

Mama halfway believes the kids about the man, but lets them go off alone. I know it was written in another, safer time (1951) about an even simpler, safer time (1900s?), but that gives me pause. I just have to overlook it and go on.

All joking aside, this is a cute story and I’m having fun with it. I was confused when Rachel got a bee-bite that swelled her lip up. I did some searching and found an amusing discussion on this here.

I am also vaguely reminded of Natalie Babitt’s Tuck Everlasting-the mysterious stranger who is also fond of yellow? I’m only halfway in the book but I will finish it and I will read the follow-up Pinky Pye. I’ll keep you posted about how it turns out.

A Giraffe and a Half

One of my favorite read-aloud stories is A Giraffe and a Half by Shel Silverstein.

If you have never read it, be prepared to do a lot of rhyming and repeating. The story builds as you go and by the halfway point you need to stop for a deep breath because

You would have a giraffe and a half, with a rat in a hat, looking cute in a suit, with a rose on his nose, with a bee on his knee, with a chair in his hair, playing toot on a flute, with a snake eating cake, and a skunk in a trunk, and a dragon in a wagon on a bike with a spike and a whale on his tail in a hole with a mole.

The whole book is illustrated in Silverstein’s signature style. There are so many things in each picture that I see something new each time.

I love this book and it’s a classic that could easily last another 50 years.