Sunday, June 4, 2017

Alphabet Books, Collected (ABC)

In an earlier post, I claimed that Alison Murray's Apple Pie ABC was the only alphabet book that told a story through words in alphabetical order. In that book, a mischievous dog is tempted by the apple pie cooling on the table.

Well, I have been proven wrong by the relatively recent Oops, Pounce, Quick, Run! by Mike Twohy which also tells the story of a dog, this time one whose beloved ball rolls into a mousehole.

And then I stumbled upon Old Black Fly by Jim Aylesworth, which uses a simlar format.  He tells the story of a black fly alighting on different objects or irritating various people which start with each letter of the alphabet in order.  Those letters are in a different color, literally highlighted on the page.  With stunning, splattery, and very funny art by Stephen Gammell, as well as a gory, satisfying ending, this one's a winner. My kindergarteners sat open-mouthed (really!) while they listened to it.

I'm also looking forward to the publication of The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABC's (the Hard Way) in September.  It looks like a nice addition to the genre.

Another serendipitous discovery, found among the animal books, is Jan Garten's The Alphabet Tale, this 1964 book is still fresh and appealing with delightful illustrations by Muriel Batherman. Each recto (right-hand page) shows an animal tail, with a clue in rhyming verse.  On the following page, the last word of the rhyme names the animal the tail belongs to and shows the animal in full.  Rhyming intelligent and elephant and bottomless and hippopotamus are, in my opinion, strokes of genius.

Tomorrow's Alphabet by George Shannon and illustrated by Donald Crews would be another perfect interactive guessing game if it weren't for the fact that the answer is given on the facing page, rather than after the page turn.  I resorted to covering that page with a piece of paper to remedy the problem.  Each page states that a letter is for something it is decidedly NOT, but something they can or will turn into in the future.  For example, B is for eggs, since they will hatch into birds.  My kindergarteners caught on quickly and were soon shouting out their guesses.

Normally I wouldn't pick up a book about feelings. Too gooey, too sappy, too obvious.  But I'm so glad I picked up Today I Feel... An Alphabet of Feelings.  The feelings go way beyond the usual sad, mad, glad, and the illustrations do too.

 What are your favorite alphabet books?

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

And the 2018 Newbery Goes To...

You heard it here first.  The 2018 Newbery is going to go to Anne Fleming's The Goat. Set in New York City, mostly in a single apartment building, it is funny yet deep, smart yet wacky and whimsical (without being annoying), surreal yet realistic, and utterly, completely original.

It is not a typical coming-of-age story.  There is no divorce, no friendship triangles, no crushes, no school drama.  In fact, there's no school.  There is no sibling rivarly (there are no siblings).  There is no conflict between a tween and her parents, no embarrassment as they all skip to Follow the Yellow Brick Road in public.  This all makes for a nice change from the usual middle-grade chapter book fare.

There *is* an orphan and death and 9/11, but ten years on, in a totally matter-of-fact, non-tear-jerker-ish way.

There is a musical about soccer (Americanized from hockey) moms.

There is a man who's had a stroke, a blind science-fiction-writing skateboarder, and an immigrant grandmother from an unnamed country.

There is an 11-year-old girl named Kid and her parents, Lisa and Bobby, and a dog named Cat.

And yes, there is a goat.

Or is there?

Monday, May 8, 2017

The Funny Formula

As we stepped out of the subway station near Lincoln Center, as we do every Thursday, my daughter started to laugh delightedly.  It took me a minute and then I saw it: a new piece of public art, a sculpture of a hippo wearing a tutu.

When I posted the picture to Facebook and asked my friends what fictional character they thought it reminded me of, I was surprised by the number of answers.  While I had thought of Martha of George and Martha, dancing hippos are apparently everywhere - in Fantasia, in Sandra Boynton's work, and in Karma Wilson's Hilda Must Be Dancing.

Martha doing the Dance of the Happy Butterfly

George in the studio

George performing the Mexican Hat Dance
Hilda disco-ing
Hilda doing the flamenco
Sandra Boynton's Dancing Hippos
Dancing hippos are just funny.  It makes sense.  Large and unwieldy + graceful activity = funny.

And for good measure, one more hippo, not dancing this time, but still wreaking havoc and making readers laugh.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Caveat Lector

As regular readers (all 3 of you!) know, I'm a purist.  I don't like it when books are "updated" or abridged or adapted.  And so I went through the school library and got rid of all the "classic starts" books, and anything that was "based on" the books of another author and so on and so forth.  But those publishers can be tricky.  Sometimes it's hard to spot a modified book and I was recently horrified to discover one on... my own bookshelf.  (dum dum DUM.)

A kindergarten class was doing an author study on Dr. Seuss and asked me to read a Dr. Seuss book of my choosing during their library period.  I happily picked There's A Wocket in My Pocket, which I used to sing to my own children, and proceeded to happily embarass myself by singing the book to the kindergarteners.  Except I was tripping over my words because, while they were similar, they were not identical to the version I'd always sung to my own kids.

Which was the original and which was the impostor?  It took some close reading to find out.  I'd been reading the board book all these years, which I'm pretty sure we'd acquired as a gift or a hand-me-down, not as an original purchase.  Turns out, the board book had been "adapted" from the original.

Board book version
But here's the thing: I like the board book version better.  (Horrors!) The rhymes work better and the ending is sweeter and less wordy.  Is it just a matter of what we're used to?  (Or maybe just what I'm used to?)  Who knows? But I'm bringing in my own board book version the next time I plan to sing this book to a class.