Big News from Maurice Sendak

Another Wild Rumpus is coming? The news on the literary street is that my beloved Maurice Sendak will be coming out with a new book this Fall! Bumble-Ardy, the tale of a pig who has his first birthday a little later than most, will hit bookstores later this year and I couldn’t be more excited. Apparently, the first glimmerings of this book appeared in 1971 on Sesame Street as an animated clip with Bumble-Ardy as a little boy instead of a pig, and now, more than 30 years later, we’ll see this tale come to fruition. Will the pigs still be guzzling wine or will our 21st century opinions turn that wine into water? Here’s the clip…and a sneak peek at the wonder that will inevitably delight us all.

Pocketful of Posies

Occasionally, I am drawn to a children’s book purely because of the illustrations. Now, usually, I’m a huge sucker for simple, clean, pen and ink drawings a la Quentin Blake and tend to gravitate towards books that have that unfussy air about them. But, then I saw Salley Mavor’s Pocketful of Posies and almost fell out of my chair. This collection of nursery rhymes doesn’t necessarily offer anything new in terms of prose, since all of the verses inside are our old favorites. But what is new…remarkable..amazing…is Mavor’s contribution of art. Mavor’s detailed scenes of such classics as “One Two Buckle My Shoe” and “Baa Baa Black Sheep” are absolutely extraordinary. Her hand-sewn scenes of people, animals, houses and gardens are a menagerie of beauty – with each scene taking her almost a month to finish. Educated at the Rhode Island School of Design, Mavor has created something new and magical and whimsical, the likes of which I haven’t seen before. This book is a little piece of art and one that should be read over and over again.

The Deaf Musicians

Happy Deaf History Month! This month, as we are celebrating the milestones and historical successes among the deaf community, I wanted to find an appropriate book out there that makes hearing impairment accessible to children. Leave it to singer/songwriter/activist extraordinaire Pete Seeger to rise to the occasion. Pete Seeger and Paul Dubois Jacobs have teamed up with the amazing illustrator Gregory Christie for The Deaf Musicians – the tale of what happens to a jazz musician when he loses his hearing. When Lee suddenly is unable to hear his fellow musicians’ notes and riffs, he is asked to leave the band. But despite this moment of despair, Lee manages to find another way of fulfilling his musical passion at a school for the deaf. There, he comes to find a new community, a new kind of music and a new lease on life. The be-bop, lyrical text of this wonderful book perfectly matches Christie’s almost retro-feeling illustrations – and together they weave a tale of hope and love and, ultimately, the spirit of music in its many forms. This is a fantastic book to approach the subject of hearing loss with children in a sensitive and uplifting way – and is a great read to celebrate this important month.

When Martha’s Away

For anyone who has ever wondered what their cat does while they’re not at home, meet Lionel. This seemingly stereotypical cat turns the myth of the cat nap on its ear by living a double-life.  Once his owner, Martha, leaves the house, Lionel becomes quite another kitty. An avid weightlifter, gourmet cook and avid follower of current events, Lional is quite the renaissance man, er, cat and manages to squeeze all of his hobbies (including a call to his cousin in Atlantic City) into the tiny window of opportunity left to him while his owner is otherwise occupied. Bruce Ingman’s words and pictures are bold and bright and cheery and lend a fun and festive air to this delightful book.  Children will delight in this ever-so-sneaky and sophisticated cat and might just think twice before assuming their cat lies around all day in a pile of furry repose.

Where’s Walrus?

Only the most brilliant illustrators can pull off a completely wordless book, and Stephen Savage has such talent in spades. In his adorable book, Where’s Walrus?, not a word is needed as the titular walrus escapes from the local zoo and quickly disguises himself among a whimsical bevy of scenarios. Hidden among men in fedoras at the counter of a diner? Check.  Hidden among Rockette-like dancers in a kick-line? Check. Young children will delight in the exercise of finding the walrus is a delightful array of places and older children and adults will love the retro look and feel of Savage’s colorful illustrations. It’s as if Mad Men met Where’s Waldo at the zoo one day and decided to write a book. This is Savage at his best.

One Big Rain: Poems for Rainy Days

As the rain comes down in sheets outside the window today, I pulled out one of my favorite collections of poems and was reminded how wonderful it is. Writer Rita Gray and Illustrator Ryan O’Rourke have teamed up to create a lovely little book, One Big Rain: Poems for Rainy Days. This simple little book is the perfect thing to snuggle up with, tucked in a big blanket and sipping a cup of hot chocolate.  And with various styles of poems, from haiku to free verse to rhyming meters, it’s a great introduction to the wonder of poetry itself. The poems themselves are organized by season, so you’ll find poems that capture the warmth of a summer rain, the harsh coldness of a winter rain and the refreshing and flower-filled rains of spring all in one book. (And imagine my joy at finding one of my favorite poems, Robert Frost’s To the Thawing Wind!)   The illustrations are some of my favorites of all time – O-Rourke has outdone himself…So, go ahead and tuck yourself in today…start that pot to boil and cuddle up with this wonderful book.

One Big Rain: Poems for Rainy Days [Hardcover]

Rita Gray (Author), Ryan O’Rourke (Illustrator)

O’Sullivan Stew

You’ve got to love a heroine named Kate O’Sullivan. And with her daydreaming tendencies, fiery spirit and equally fiery red hair, it’s hard to resist her in Hudson Talbott’s book O’Sullivan Stew. When Kate witnesses an old hag’s horse being stolen by royal tax collectors, she tries to rally her fellow villagers who ignore her pleas. But when the hag starts causing all sorts of disaster to happen, Kate hatches a plot with her dad and brothers to steal the horse from the castle. The O’Sullivans are quickly caught and Kate must, once again, devise way out of this particular pickle. And in true Irish folklore style, Kate’s wits, determination (and stew) save the day. Talbott’s text is lively and energetic and his illustrations are vivid and lovely. This is a fun little romp through Irish folklore and a sure-fire winner in the hearts of children.

All the Way to America

Oh my goodness, how I adore Dan Yaccarino. From the days of yore when my children watched Oswald (his adorable animated tale of a blue octopus and his friends – made even better by the fact that the Penguin was voiced by Squiggy from Laverne and Shirley) to his unbelievably fabulous collection of children’s books (Every Friday, Unlovable, and Lawn to Lawn being some of my favorites) Yaccarino never fails to impress, inspire and delight. And now, he’s topped them all with his biographical tale of his family’s journey from Italy to Ellis Island. All the Way to America: The Story of a Big Italian Family and a Little Shovel is an example of the best that children’s books can offer. It is the heartwarming true story of Yaccarino’s immigrant ancestors and their amazing journey to the United States. Filled with unforgettable memories and inspiring strength, this little book spans four generations of an Italian American family. As a child whose great-great-grandfather came from Italy through Ellis Island as well, this book holds remarkable significance for me and is one of the best books on the market today. For an inspiring, humorous, wonderful book, look no further than this tale of an amazing family and a silver shovel

Monday: Adventures in Cartooning

For any budding cartoonists out there, have I got the book for you! Written by the top dudes at the Center for Cartoon Studies, Adventures in Cartooning is a fun, unique approach to teaching kids the basics of comic strip development. What’s refreshing about this l cartooning how-to is that it focuses less on “how to draw” (remember those books that would have you start with a circle, draw two triangles and three lines on each side and voila you have a cat?) and spends more time on the fundamentals of cartoons: speech bubbles, speed lines, motion indicators, etc. And the format is fabulous – the book actually tells the story of a knight, a horse and an elf – and teaches these comic lessons as the story unfolds. This is a great book for interested artists and a super-duper birthday gift for future cartoonists. All in all, a gem of a  book!

Friday: The Art Lesson

Now, i’ll admit…i’m a sucker for Tomie dePaola.  Strega Nona. Amazing. Big Anthony. Hilarious. But the artist in me must say that his little book, The Art Lesson is my all-time favorite.  It is the wonderfully autobiographical tale of Tomie’s own experience as a child artist and the differences between two art teachers. One who limits his creativity and the other who’s a little more bohemian, a little more willing to let him use all the colors in the 64 crayon set.  And as an art teacher now, I can truly appreciate the difference between Miss Landers and Miss Bowers. I think we’ve all had a Miss Landers and a Miss Bowers in our lives. And I hope, sincerely, that I am one who allows her students to express themselves independently and creatively – and, therefore, brings out the artist in each of them. So, here’s to Tomie…here’s to art…And here’s to using all 64 crayons