The Little Prince & The Land of Yesterday

I recently read a book by K.A. Reynolds called The Land of Yesterday. It was a touching book about a family dealing with the accidental death of one of the children. The main character blames herself for her brother’s death and her mother sinks so far into sadness that she attempts to travel to the Land of Yesterday to find him. Cecelia sets out to save her mother and possibly her brother.

The story had many fanciful and symbolic elements. I don’t think the Land of Yesterday is so much a place as it is memories, good and bad.

Here are some quotes I felt resonated with that theme:

…knowing when to let go is one of the most important lessons we can learn in life.

…the Land of Yesterday has two sides. One is dark as death and means to trap you, but the other is bright as hope and wants to free you.

The author’s note reveals to us that the seeds of this story were planted when her mother died when Reynolds was only 7 years old.

Reynolds made references more than once in the story to The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. Cecelia meets the little prince and his sheep. She learns that the sheep ate the rose that the prince once loved, and she promises to pass along a message if she happens to meet the little prince’s friend (the adult narrator).

I had never read The Little Prince and was perplexed by some of the details like the rose he once loved and the sheep who ate her. So I borrowed the book from another school library and read it.

The story follows the little prince as he tends his tiny planet. He one day sees a rose bloom on his planet and quickly grows to love her. She is conceited and demanding but he loves her all the same. One day he decides that she does not need him and so he sets out to explore the galaxy. He visits many planets and meets many adults who worry about things like money and numbers before finding his way to Earth. While on Earth he meets the narrator, an airplane pilot who is stranded in the African desert. The two become friends — not without some hurdles — but eventually they must part.

It is in this sad parting that I see why K.A. Reynolds was so touched by this story. I think Saint-Exupery was talking about innocence in children but it resonates with people grieving for a lost loved one.

“You understand…it is too far. I cannot carry this body with me. It is too heavy.”

I said nothing.

“But it will be like an old abandoned shell. There is nothing sad about old shells.”

Having recently lost one of the most important people in my life, I can see how The Little Prince can help a young soul to mend.

I recommend both books. I don’t know if I would have grasped the full symbolism as a child or maybe, I don’t get it all because I’m an adult.

All grown-ups were once children—although few of them remember.

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Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein

200 years, an 18 year old girl created what was arguably the first true science fiction novel. Her work was also a masterpiece of the gothic genre. Her name was Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley.

You’ve heard me say it a hundred times…Frankenstein; or a Modern Prometheus is my all time favorite book.

I’m very excited because Linda Bailey has just published a picture book about how Mary came to write this iconic story.

The book is illustrated in gloomy but no scary illustrations by Júlia Sardà. The illustrations bring you the creepy cold feeling of that stormy night when Mary and her friends agreed to each write a ghost story.

Bailey also gives us a glimpse into Mary’s tragic life, though the book is more about the writing process than a biography. Mary’s mother died when Mary was only 11 days old and her unhappy (at times) childhood was spent in daydreams and imagination.

The authors note at the end tells that Mary’s life was tragic all along. Even after meeting and marrying Percy Bysshe Shelley, she lost three of her four children in childhood. Percy himself died in a sailing accident as a relatively young man, and many of her friends died tragically young.

I’m looking forward to sharing this book with 4th grade as our Halloween story this year. It’s spooky, but not scary, and hopefully it will inspire them to someday read the greatest book I’ve ever read.

Library “Cabinet” of Curiosities

My regular readers have probably noticed that I’ve been absent for awhile. I have recently lost my father and while I wanted to write, I just couldn’t find the right books or words to convey my emotions correctly. I often base my posts on what’s going on in my life, but I just couldn’t make it work.

So today I thought I’d just share some fun stuff I found at a flea market. These are items I saw and would have loved to buy for display pieces in my library, but I don’t have the budget for things like this. When I buy display items with my own money, it must be $5 or less, since there is always a chance of little hands picking pieces up and breaking them.

Fossils are always exciting for kids. This assortment would go so well with the pieces I already have.

These taxidermy alligator heads are so cool! I want!!!

I love this Phrenology Head. Even though it’s a disproven pseudoscience, archaic medical and scientific ideas wow the kids. They find the outlandish theories hilarious.

I love old bones, but getting cleaned and articulated specimens is beyond my financial means. I kind of want to name her. Skelita the cat?

So if you are new to my blog, you’ve probably figured out that I love books as well as anything that will get kids to ask questions that therefore lead to books (see how sneaky I am?)

The Sunday Funnies

I was brainstorming about a book to write about, and decided to write about something from childhood….but what? Well, one thing I looked forward to every week was reading the comics, or “funnies” in the Sunday newspaper. The daily paper’s comics were black and white but the Sunday paper’s comics were in color, so therefore were better. So, here’s a countdown of my top 10 vintage comic strips. I’ve included the Wikipedia link for each one.

10. The Family Circus

Bill Keane created the cartoon in the 1960s and his son Jeff continues to draw them. I loved the little invisible “not me” kids that always seemed to show up when the kids did something wrong. If I remember correctly, the boy in the comic above is Jeffie.

9. Hagar the Horrible

Hagar the Horrible was written by Dik Browne and has been continued by his son Chris. I liked that he always seemed to have a giant turkey leg in his hand unless he was out pillaging.

Fun Fact: Chris Browne wrote a children’s book about South Dakota!

8. Beetle Bailey

Beetle Bailey was created by Mort Walker, and he worked on the strip until he died at age 94! After Mort Walker’s death, his granddaughter Janie Walker-Yates and her husband Mike Yates began illustrating the strip.

7. Marmaduke

Marmaduke is another cartoon strip that has been kept in the family. Brad Anderson created the strip in 1954 and Paul Anderson took over in 2015.

6. Blondie

I always thought Blondie was more about Dagwood, her husband, and his appetite.

The strip was started in 1930 by Chic Young and has since been taken over by his son Dean Young and other collaborative artists.

Fun Fact: the town I live in has a sandwich shop called Dagwood’s and they live up to the name!

5. Dennis the Menace

Dennis the Menace was created by Hank Ketcham in 1951. I loved how Dennis’ well meaning (sometimes) antics drove Mr. Wilson crazy. The comic has been continued since Ketcham’s death by his former assistants and his son.

4. Peanuts

Peanuts, or to many kids, Charlie Brown and Snoopy, was created by Charles Schulz in 1950. It ran until 2000 and is now in “reruns” I love Sally!!

  • 3. Garfield
  • Garfield gets one of the top three slots because I adored this cat. He was so awful to Jon and Odie and still, I couldn’t get enough of him. I still have a tub of his books in the basement. Jim Davis started the strip the year I was born, 1978, and has been drawing it for 40 years!
  • 2. The Far Side
  • Gary Larson started drawing his amazingly awkward and fabulous cartoon in 1980. He retired in 1995. I was heart broken. I used to buy my Dad a Far Side dailey calendar every year and he’d bring the pages home for me after he tore them off.
  • 1. Calvin and Hobbes
  • Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes is a big piece of my childhood. I adored how audacious Calvin was. I envied his ability to lose himself in his imagination. I so wanted my own tiger! Watterson stopped drawing the comic in 1995, after only 10 years. He never allowed the comic to be used to make cartoons or movies, instead choosing to leaving it as he meant it, one of the greatest comic strips of all time.
  • I’ve learned a few things from this blog entry. I’m surprised that so many of my old favorites are still around. I don’t read the paper anymore, we don’t even get one at our house. I’m excited to see so many of the original artists have been succeeded by family and/or equally talented artists to keep the strips alive. But I wonder, do kids still read the funnies? My own girls aren’t even interested in the Garfield, The Far Side and Calvin and Hobbes books that I saved from childhood. I hope somewhere there are kids enjoying the funnies. Any reading is good reading, so I really, really hope those kids are out there.
  • Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires! 🐻 🔥 🌲

    My family is currently on a much anticipated vacation to Yellowstone National Park. We were driving through the mountains in Wyoming today when I saw a sign similar to this.

    I noticed the sign because of Smokey, an iconic piece of pop culture that almost every person living in America is familiar with. I recently watched an episode of Travel Channel’s Mysteries at the Museum (season 11) about the real bear cub who survived a forest fire and went on to become the living embodiment of the well known ambassador.

    I figured there had to be more than a few books about Smokey and I was right!

    I haven’t read any of these books, but I’d love to get my hands on a narrative nonfiction picture book of his life. A search on Google turned up a song as well as animated videos and comics about Smokey.

    I wonder what other pop culture characters have books?

    Who did I miss? Maybe the Tootsie Pop Owl,

    or that weird hunk-a-cheese guy

    but I doubt either has a book.

    If you’re interested to learn more about Smokey, both the real cub and the ad figure, check out the Wikipedia page to start.

    Frog and Toad Are Friends

    I was mowing the lawn today and I made some new friends. Frog and Toad live by the wall that separates our yard from our neighbors. Truthfully, they are both toads, but don’t tell Frog…he’d be heartbroken if he knew.

    Yeah, the heat has driven me a bit crazy. But seeing the two little guys — who I carefully nudged to safety — made me think of one of the best friendship stories I’ve ever read. I’m willing to bet you’ve read them too.

    Frog and Toad Are Friends was one of the first books I read aloud to my oldest daughter. My mother-in-law had given me the set of Frog and Toad books that belonged to my husband when he was a little boy. My daughters read them again in 2nd grade as they honed their reading skills. And I will read some of them to my first graders from time to time, as an idea of the great chapter books that await them.

    The kids always get a kick out of Toad wanting to sleep in for just one more month. Frog is wonderfully clever and changes the calendar. The two are foolish and sweet and naive, exactly what little kids should be reading about.

    Arnold Lobel was a great writer. He wrote other great stories like Owl At Home, Mouse Tails, and Mouse Soup. I have picture books, chapter books and collections of poetry and fables by Lobel in my library. You can even watch Frog and Toad on YouTube. The claymation stories were made in 1985. I’m pretty excited about these videos. I like to let the kids earn rewards, and I try to keep it book themed. They will really like this!

    Now that I have frogs and toads on my mind, I’m reminded of other great stories:

    • The Wind In the Willows (Kenneth Graham)
    • The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher (Beatrix Potter)
    • Grandfather Frog (Thornton Burgess)

    A confession.

    Have you noticed I haven’t posting a lot this summer? I haven’t been reading a lot this summer. Shocking, I know. The sad truth is that I’m struggling to read because of my eyes.

    I’ve been preparing for the two classes on Children’s Lit that I’ll be teaching in August, but in order to bring the newest books to the presentation, I need to read digital advance copies. Ever heard of digital eye strain? I imagine that the human eye is going to have to evolve soon to compensate for the digital world we are living in.

    For me, eye strain causes headaches and I’ve been a migraine sufferer for almost 25 years. I can’t spend a whole summer reading when it makes my head want to explode. Even switching to print can be difficult. It’s too much.

    I don’t want to disappoint the people taking my classes so I’ve pushed myself to get in a lot of picture books and nonfiction. They are shorter and faster to get through than a novel.

    I’d say “it’s ironic,” but I read somewhere once that that’s an often misused word, and I’d probably be the one to do just that. It does remind me of a fabulous old Twilight Zone episode starring Burgess Meredith. It’s called Time Enough At Last. If you aren’t familiar with the plot, the sole survivor of an apocalypse is a lover of books and is overjoyed to finally have time to read in peace. Until he breaks his glasses, that is.

    The link above will take you to the Wikipedia entry on the episode. I am sure you can watch the full episode on YouTube as well.