The good ol’ days…

When I was a kid, I looked forward to reading the comics in the paper each day (in color on Sundays). I developed a love for a few strips that Im sure you’ll recognize.

Charles Schulz’s Peanuts were some of the best comics around. They weren’t risqué and the kids didn’t rely on video games for fun. I loved going to the buy/sell/trade book store and finding a new Snoopy book. I also loved their holiday specials on TV.

Another favorite was Jim Davis’ Garfield comics. Who wouldn’t love a lazy cat who hates Mondays and picks on the dog in the house? Garfield was kind of a jerk, but in the 80s and 90s, that was still okay for kids to see. I’m not an early morning person, but I was up every Saturday to watch Garfield and Friends with my dad. Part of the Garfield universe was US Acres. I loved Orson the pig and Wade the duck.

Anyone who grew up in the 80s and 90s knew who Gary Larson was. His comic, The Far Side warped the senses of humor of an entire generation. Thank you, Mr. Larson!!

My other great love was Calvin and Hobbes.

Sometimes you just gotta love a kid who’s too smart for his own good, and the mischief he and his imaginary tiger get up to.

I’m a grown up now, with kids of my own, and I certainly see where the inspiration for Calvin must have come from!

I still own all of my old Garfield books and at least one Far Side collection. I’m pretty sure I have a Calvin and Hobbes collection too. I showed them to my girls, they just weren’t excited like I wanted them to be. Oh well, I’ll save them to re-read myself and then with my grandchildren.

Round Robin

Today’s book is vintage, but within my lifetime. The copyright is 1982 and the author is Jack Kent.

Round Robin starts out as a typical robin chick, a big head and not much else. But he’s hungry so he eats and eats and eats until he looks more like a ball than a robin.

This plucky little bird doesn’t seem to mind his size until the other robins fly south for winter. Round Robin doesn’t mind walking and bumping along until it starts to snow. Then he tries to travel on the packed roads but it’s too dangerous! Round Robin realizes he has to walk off the roads but food is getting hard to find and he meets a new danger–

Thankfully, the snow has done two things for Round Robin: cut down on his eating and made him exercise, so now he can fly!

I liked this book. I could only think of one other picture book where a character’s weight is talked about:

Silly old bear! He just loves his honey a little too much.

Weight is something that we are very careful about because it is a big problem in the western world, especially in our children. No one wants to tell a story that will make kids feel bad. I personally enjoyed the story because I’m like Round Robin, I like food and I’m a little round. I’d like to think I wouldn’t make the same mistake as Round Robin does after he loses his weight heading south; he ate so much on vacation that he became a round Robin again.

Spaceheadz

That’s right, you can help save the world! Become a Spaceheadz to keep Earth from being cancelled. Michael K. doesn’t want to save the world though. He just wants to get through the first day at a new school without drawing attention that might get him labeled as weird.

Too bad for Michael K. though, since he’s gotten stuck with two other new kids. The boy likes fire hydrants and my little pony. The girl wears a tutu, a football helmet and talks like a professional wrestler!

Guess what? They’re aliens! And weirder still, the class hamster is the aliens’ commander! The aliens watch Earth’s TV signals and base everything they know about Earthlings on those old television shows.

Jon Scieszka is the author of these fun books for middle grades. Michael K. wants to be normal but he’s “chosen” to be special, to help save the world. Readers can help save the world as well, by going to the Spaceheadz website and taking the oath to help The Spaceheadz. Registering even gets you a Spaceheadz name; mine is Natural Handsoap.

So in the words of a great hamster commander:

Eeeek eek eek eeeek eeek!

1000 Black Girl Books

Most people enjoy reading books about characters like themselves, children especially. An eleven year old caucasian boy is more likely to want a book with a boy like himself as the main character than a book about a girl of a different ethnicity from the other side of the world. I’m not saying that it’s wrong for the boy to have that preference, quite the opposite. And since it is a perfectly acceptable desire, we should have books that cover the entire spectrum of people on the Earth.

Marley Dias has started a grassroots movement to gather books that have African American girls as the main characters. She astutely identified a need that was not being met, and decided to do something about it. You can visit the website to learn more about Marley’s cause.

I thought I’d share a few books that I love with African American girls as the main character:

I’ve written about the Gaither sisters before. I love these girls and their family!

Sharon Draper is a favorite author of mine, though Stella By Starlight is very different from Out of My Mind.

I started The Jumbies as an audio book and didn’t get it done. I liked the Caribbean folklore so I really do plan to finish it.

My daughter’s favorite American Girl is Addy, who is a runaway slave during the American Civil War.

One other book that I loved, even though it’s not a kids book, is Beloved by Toni Morrison.

If you enjoy historical fiction and a good ghost story, this could be a good book for you. But, and that’s a big but, it is graphic in describing the lives and deaths of slaves. It is not a book to take lightly.

Ramona Quimby

I received a Facebook comment yesterday (vintage books) about the book Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel. My response was that that was Ramona Quimby’s favorite book. So now I have everyone’s favorite little sister on my mind.

One of my elementary teachers read Beverly Cleary’s classic Ramona the Pest to my class when I was little. Ramona is the quintessential annoying little sister (and a great role model for little sisters the world over.). Chances are that you have read or been read one of Cleary’s books. I know we read one or two Ramona books and probably The Mouse On the Motorcycle.

There are so many great books about Ramona, her sister Beezus and Beezus’ friend Henry. I like the way familiar characters weave in and out of each book. You can imagine Ramona’s little town where everyone knows everyone else and interact on a daily basis.

Ramona has changed her look over the years. I like the first illustrations by Louis Darling best, but I know the Alan Tiegreen’s Ramona was in books I read in the late 80s.

Beezus and Ramona was written in 1955 and the second book, Ramona the Pest came out in 1968. Ramona has changed her look over the years. I like the first illustrations by Louis Darling best, but I know the Alan Tiegreen’s Ramona was in books I read in the late 80s. The original books were illustrated by Darling but then later editions by Alan Tiegreen and Tracey Dockray.

Ramona has been turned into a television show in 1988 and Beezus and Ramona was made into a movie in 2010. Personally, I’ll stick with the books.

I love Ramona’s awful dolls, the unfortunate accident with laundry blueing (not sure if that’s what it’s called), and of course, the apples.

If you don’t know about these misadventures then go get these books! Read them to your kids or just re-read them because you loved them once upon a time.

Quiet On Account of Dinosaur!

I can hear you now, “Mrs. O, we already know how much you love vintage books…” Well, too bad, dear readers, I’m going to keep sharing them with you. (You love them too.). Today’s vintage picture book is by Jane Thayer.

The illustrations were done by Seymour Fleishman, and the copyright is 1965.

Little Mary Ann loves dinosaurs and one day sets out to find one. She is a very lucky amateur paleontologist because she finds one who has been taking an extra long nap.

Dandy the Dinosaur is a sensation but she finds life in 1965 to be too loud to bear. The story has a happy ending though, since Mary Ann goes on to become an expert paleontologist.

I love that she becomes Dr. Mary Ann, no formalities fir this young scientist!

Actually Mary Ann would have been surprised at how much our knowledge has changed in the last 50 years. Dinosaurs were seen as cold-blooded, sluggish and not very intelligent in the 60s.

We now know that they were probably warm-blooded, brightly colored, probably had some feathers and were more like modern birds than modern reptiles.

Dr. Mary Ann would have been one of those pioneering paleontologists who changed the image of dinosaurs. She and her colleagues would be the heroes to every aspiring paleontologist in our generation.

Not bad for an old book with great illustrations.

🐾National Black Cat Appreciation Day! 🐾

Today is National Black Cat Appreciation Day. I wanted to get in some recommendations for your reading pleasure (I hope you can sit with a cat on your lap and enjoy them at your leisure.)

Max the Brave by Ed Vere is a simple yet fun book about a kitten named Max. He is brave and fearless and he loves to chase mice…except he doesn’t know what a mouse looks like.

There are two other books about Max out,

Another favorite of mine is David Wiesner’s Mr. Wuffles.

Mr. Wuffles has found a fun new toy! Too bad it’s the spaceship of some very tiny aliens. This is a wordless book, in the sense that we don’t read alien writing. I agree with my librarian-heroine, Judy Freedman, in that there seems to be some sense to the alien printing. Wiesner may well have created an alien language just for this book!

Now for a wishlist of books I’d love to get my paws on:

I do hope you enjoy black cats and forget about the superstitious traditions that haunt them. Did you know black cats are the least likely to be adopted and the most likely to be euthanized? Sad but true.

I’ve known a couple of great black cats in my life: Mya the three legged cat who lived at the vet clinic I worked at, Shadow and Spook were my sister’s cats, Spook is the brother to my cat Jack and of course, my favorite black cat:

Stitch, he’s well named.

Punk Farm!

How are rock’n’roll parents supposed to share music with their toddlers?? Well, there are actually a lot of artists that meet that need, but I’d like to focus on a fun book duo that really rocks!

Jarrett J. Krosoczka is an author who knows how to jam! His rocker farm animals really make it fun to sing old favorites like Old MacDonald Had a Farm and The Wheels On the Bus. The book has a sequel, Punk Farm On Tour.

I loved both and so did my kids. You can even download the songs–and others–from Krososczka’s site.

My Favorite Chicken

There are so many good picture books about chickens, so to pick a favorite isn’t an easy thing to do. But, I do love this chicken a lot…probably more than any other literary chicken I know.

Minerva Louise is a very simple chicken who could also be called naive. Where we see a fireplace, she sees a nest. Where we see a playpen, she sees a rabbit hutch. Where we see cubbies in a classroom, she sees a nesting box.

Minerva Louise has a lot of books and I’ve found them perfect for the kindergarten level.

These books can span the whole school year. It’s kind of fun to pull one out and let the kids visit an old friend. There are also some Minerva Louise board books:

Today while I was looking for the covers on Google, I discovered a second chicken series by Janet Morgan Stoeke:

I really want them!! I bet I can find them on ThriftBooks.

Crocs!

To quote a great song,

Never smile at a crocodile

No, you can't get friendly with a crocodile

Don't be taken in by his welcome grin

He's imagining how well you'd fit within his skin

Never smile at a crocodile

I have one last David T. Greenberg book to share with you:

The boy from our stories (Skunks, Bugs) has given up on city life and moved to a tropical island. Little does he know though, that he is surrounded by crocodiles! The dog disappears and the boy tries to secure himself inside the house, but they get in… and hug and kiss him.

The boy is declared king of the crocs and his dog even comes home. It's a perfect addition to the series.

Sadly, I could not get my hands on a copy of Snakes!.

Id love to read it, and though I'm not a snake person, I bet I'd enjoy it. He has one other book that might be like these,

But it is illustrated by a different artist. It has the rhyming text though, so maybe it goes with the set after all. If I ever find a copy, I'll let you know.