Some of my fondest memories from holidays in my childhood are of watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade on television. The magic of the parade with its wonderful balloons signaled the beginning of one of my favorite times of year. But I never gave much thought to the history of the parade and its famous balloons. When I saw the book Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade, by Melissa Sweet, I couldn’t resist the chance to meet the man behind the magic.
So, we all know the fairy tale of the Princess and the Pea, right? She shows up at a castle late one night in the middle of a snowstorm. The prince falls in love with her beauty (evident even under the wet, bedraggled appearance), but the king and queen want to make sure she is a real princess. So, they put a single pea under a pile of 20 feather mattresses and wait to see if she notices. And, sure enough, the real princess emerges in the morning bruised and sore from the tiny pea. The prince and princess get married and live happily ever after. Except...well, did you ever think what it would be like to live with someone like that? Someone who couldn’t even stand a pea under her mattress? What about when she was hot? Disappointed? Challenged by some problem?
The Princess and the Packet of Frozen Peas, by Tony Wilson, takes the traditional Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale and stands it on its head. Prince Henrik doesn’t like the idea of marrying a princess who is sensitive. His brother is married to a very real, very high-maintenance princess who complains day and night about things that don’t suit her. Frankly, it’s a drag being around her, let alone married to her.
Leo Lionni was born into a family that appreciated art, and, from a very young age, he knew he wanted to be an artist. He loved nature and started keeping small creatures--minnows, birds, fish, and more--in his attic room in Amsterdam. He also created terrariums, and many of these natural details found their way into his later work. Like so many successful children’s authors, Leo Lionni was able to remember and tap into the things that were important to him when he was a child.
As his interest in drawing grew, he was mentored by his Uncle Piet, who was both an architect and an artist. Leo was very lucky to live just a few blocks from two wonderful museums. Further, as a child he had a special pass so he could go there to draw whenever he wished. He learned to draw details from great works--plaster casts of famous statues, and they made such an impression on him that many decades later he could still remember them perfectly, as he could with clarity recall so much about his tiny pets and naturescapes.
Once, luck was as free to be had in Ireland as sunlight, and just as plentiful. It filled the air, and anyone could grab a handful of it as the need arose. This was largely due to the leprechauns, for they made luck like cows made milk.
Just in time for Saint Patrick’s Day—and Irish-American Heritage Month—comes Fiona’s Luck, a delightful picture book that lyrically tells the story of how the extra luck came into Ireland with the leprechauns and was lost again from us “big folk” when the leprechaun king decided to hoard it all away in his castle.
Harry and Horsie have a serious problem in Cookiebot!: A Harry and Horsie Adventure, by Katie Van Camp and Lincoln Agnew. Horsie’s stomach is making funny gurrrrrgle sounds, and he really needs a snack. But not just any old snack, like apples or carrots. Harry and Horsie want cookies. Sadly, the cookie jar is way up high, on top of the refrigerator. What’s an enterprising boy and his stuffed horse to do? Why, build a cookiebot of course, who can retrieve the coveted sweets.
The Napping House, by Audrey Wood, is full of beautiful illustrations, and there is wonderful repetition in the wording of the book. The sequencing is great for children because it creates a sense of anticipation and allows them to participate in reading the book. The story is about a grandma who has everyone in the house gently pile on top of her while she is asleep.The pile includes her grandson, the dog, the cat, the mouse and the mouse's flea.The book is charming as well as being calming and would be a great bedtime story for a child who needs help settling down.
Picture book writer and illustrator Uri Shulevitz came into a world on the brink of a devastating war. The son of son of Abraham and Szandla (Hermanstat) Shulevitz, Uri (pronounced oo-ree), he was only four years old when German bombs falling on Warsaw drove his Jewish family out of the city and into an eight-year period of travel in exile throughout Europe before finally settling in Paris in 1947, when Uri was twelve years old.
All is well at the city zoo. The zookeeper lies back in his chair, grabbing a quick snooze. It is a perfect time…for escape.
Where’s Walrus, written and illustrated by Stephen Savage is a delightful romp through New York City with a flippered fugitive who always knows where he can blend in, outsmarting the zookeeper every step of the way. Our title character first hides in a fountain, pretending to be a mermaid, next we see him in a diner, then a store window. The zookeeper is close behind, but never quite sees through the disguises. Will you?
My booktalking buddy and I were walking past one of the big screens at the England Run branch, and it was playing a crystal-clear print of an old, old movie, made way back when moviemaking was young. It had excellent effects, too, for such an early film. "We have a picture book by the man who made this movie," said my colleague, "The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick."
What a big book, made of half pictures, half words! The reader is drawn into the world of Hugo Cabret, a boy who lives in the walls of a train station in Paris. He is not always alone, but he is trying to keep himself a secret. His uncle used to wind and fix the many clocks in the train station, but he disappeared. Now Hugo winds them, and works on a project of his own. He has a mechanical man, a legacy of his father, and a notebook of drawings of the works of the mechanical man. Hugo needs parts for his project, so he steals them from the grumpy old man's toy booth at the station. Hugo does not realize the grumpy old man has secrets too....
Most books about pet adoption are told from the child’s or family’s point of view. But Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku by Lee Wardlaw explores the delights of adopting a shelter cat from the cat’s perspective. During visiting hours, he pretends not to care but can’t resist taking a peek. On the car ride to his new home, he begs to be let out, only to insist on being let back in. In true cat fashion, he is sure of his own importance. He certainly deserves a name worthy of an oriental prince. “Won Ton? How can I / be soup? Some day, I’ll tell you / my real name. Maybe.”