Thursday: Betsy Tacy

Oh, how I loved these books as a child. Maud Hart Lovelace’s (don’t you just LOVE her name?) “Betsy Tacy” series was one of my all-time favorites. And, although first published in 1946, they are utterly timeless and wonderful. Unfortunately for me, my boys both put their noses high in the air when I even mentioned a series of books about two little girls, but that won’t stop me from re-reading them again and again.  Betsy and Tacy are two little girls who are such good friends that people in their small town just call them the collective “Betsy Tacy” since they’re always together. And these simple little books tell the tales of these two wonderful friends and for some reason, even though nothing really amazing ever happens, I could never manage to put them down even for a second. The perfect series for emerging readers…just not for my boys who are currently in a “girls are stinky” frame of mind.

Wednesday: George & Martha

It has recently come to my attention that not every child has James Marshall’s “George and Martha” sitting on their bookshelves. How is this possible? Well, it must be changed immediately, because you are one of those who do not have “George and Martha” readily at your disposal that you are missing out on one of the greatest pleasures in life. George and Martha were a staple of my childhood and continue to be two of the most witty, hilarious and charming hippos to ever speak, dance and wear clothes. Oh, and did I mention Martha makes a mean bowl of split pea soup?  (Which George, who hates split pea soup but is too worried about hurting Martha’s feelings to say so, promptly dumps into his shoe.) Each of the George and Martha books (and there are many, thank goodness!) offers a collection of tales about what it takes to be a good friend and the ups and downs of every friendship. You must read them today. Seriously. Go right now. I’ll be checking your bookshelves to make sure…

Friday: The Big Orange Splot

It was a day like any other. Mr. Plumbean was enjoying  a lovely morning when, out of the blue, a large seagull flies over and drops a can of orange paint right on his roof. Mr. Plumbean quite likes the shock of orange, but his neighbors, who all live in identical brown houses, are aghast and agog. Like a meeting of a Manhattan co-op board, his neighbors decide that Mr. Plumbean must re-paint his house this instant or incur the wrath of the community. And, oh, Mr. Plumbean paints. But he paints with large splotches of colors – blues and purples and reds and even adds a few pretty girls and elephants to the mix. He paints, as he says, a house that looks like “all my dreams” and encourages his neighbors to do the same. What results is a beautiful example of trying something new and sharing that spirit with those around you. D. Manus Pinkwater (what a fab name!) has given us a great tale of bucking the system and creating a space all your own.

Thursday: Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon

Meet Molly Lou Melon. She has buck teeth. She is short. She has a voice that sounds like “a frog being squeezed by a boa constrictor.” But what little Miss Melon lacks in beauty and grace, she more than makes up for in charisma  – lovingly nurtured and supported by her beloved grandmother who tells her to stand up tall and shine her light for the world. Molly Lou lives her grandmother’s words..that is until she moves to a new town and a new school and must encounter the penultimate bully, Ronald Durkin. But what Ronald Durkin doesn’t know is that little Molly Lou, with her bushy hair and her buck teeth and her enormous buggy eyes, is a force to be reckoned with and a voice that will, in the words of her grandmother, “sing out clear.” Patty Lovell and David Catrow have given us a gorgeous book and an important one for all of the Molly Lou Melons and Ronald Durkins of the world.

Wednesday: Joseph Had a Little Overcoat

In a world of disposable goods and overflowing trash barges, it’s nice once in a while to come across a beautiful, award-winning book that touts the merits of saving and re-using. Long before recycling was even cool, the titular Joseph understood that when things become old, you shouldn’t just throw them away. You can create something new and wonderful out of them!  In Simms Taback’s Caldecott Medal book, “Joseph Had a Little Overcoat”, based on a Yiddish song from Taback’s childhood, Joseph wears his overcoat until it gets so old and shabby he must make it into a jacket. When that jacket loses its luster, Joseph makes it into a vest. And so on and so forth until all that’s left is a button which has its own clever uses. Stunningly illustrated and easily singable, Taback’s book is a beautifully crafted fable that will hopefully raise new conversations with our children about the beauty of finding value in something old.

KT Blue Art Class: Museum Masters

Audrey Huettl

Sue and Joe Huettl

(925) 683-3964

(925) 451-3265

sjhuettl@comcast.net

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Monday: Henry Hikes to Fitchburg

First of all, oodles of thank yous to Victoria for recommending this book to me. It is indeed a treasure and one I am so excited to add to my list of favorite books…Meet Henry – a bear who embodies the spirit of Thoreau and who, in his big hat and red coat, decides to walk the long journey to Fitchburg. His friend, a rather sophisticated city-dweller, opts to take the train and from there we are lucky to witness their differing paths. Much like his namesake, Henry admires the beauty of the walk – the creatures, the flowers, the blue sky. While his locomotive-bound friend misses all the wonder of the adventure by just not stopping to see it. Never before has a children’s book author so effectively brought the true meaning of “Walden” to a young audience and D. B. Johnson’s book is the perfect introduction. Sit with your child, savor that moment of closeness and read this book with your eyes wide open. You’ll find the treasures within just as I did.

 

Thursday: Halibut Jackson

Certain people are just shy. Some people would rather just sit quietly in the perimeter. For Halibut Jackson, the reluctant titular hero of David Lucas’ book, shyness manifests in camouflage. He has crafted clothes to match any possible scenario – so he literally blends in with his surroundings…the sun, the grass, the flowers. And he’s quite content to exist in his chameleon-like world until he gets an unexpected invitation to a birthday party at the palace. Determined to disappear into the splendor of the palace walls, Halibut sews an outfit that is both ornate and bejeweled. But when Halibut Jackson arrives, the tables are quickly turned and a lesson in being unique is quickly learned. A wonderful story about overcoming the need to blend in…and the beauty of standing out.

Tuesday: Big Rabbit’s Bad Mood

Face it. We’re all in a bad mood sometime. Grumpy. Cranky. Oogie. And everyone has a different solution. Mine usually involves lots of See’s candy and reruns of Golden Girls. But for Big Rabbit, his bad mood is seemingly unstoppable. He tries eating chips (a tactic I’ve tried on occasion)…he tries making a salad (nope, that doesn’t help)…he tries watching television (apparently Golden Girls isn’t on)…he even tries doing something quite nasty with boogers. But to no avail. The bad mood just keeps coming and coming and there’s nothing that can be done about it. Even his friends can’t help – since they’re apparently all off doing wonderful things with each other. But when the doorbell rings, could Big Rabbit’s bad mood be a thing of the past? You’ll just had to read Ramona Badescu’s fabulous book and admire Delphine Durand’s utterly charming illustrations to find out.

Wednesday: Christina Katerina and the Box

Two things I adore about Patricia Lee Gauch’s book, “Christina Katerina and the Box”…1) Miss Christina Katerina has an endless imagination when it comes to old refrigerator boxes and 2) her friend’s name is Fats Watson. Seriously, anyone who has a friend named Fats Watson is alright in my book. You must remember those days when a new appliance arrived and you were so excited to get your hands on that big empty box and turn it into a fort or a castle or a race car? I do…I loved it when my mom would cut little holes for windows and I’d have a new little cottage all to myself. Christina Katerina is just the same – and despite the fact that Fats ends up ruining or collapsing or sitting atop each of her creations, she never stops until the box literally melts as Fats hoses it down. But fear not, Fats makes up for his ways by bringing over his mother’s old washer and dryer boxes. And it’s off to the high seas for Christina and Fats in their cardboard sailboats. A delightful and imaginative romp of a story.

Wednesday: Sneezenesia

Do your children like boogers? Mine do. They even like the word “booger.” If you ever see my children and want to make them laugh, just say “booger.” It’s a sure thing. So imagine my utter joy at finding Deb Lucke’s quirky and wonderful “Sneezenesia” in which a little boy at the supermarket sneezes so hard he forgets his name. And with each sneeze, he loses a little bit more knowledge. Math equations…names of Presidents…they all come out of his schnozzola with each “achoo.” I don’t think I could have scripted a more wonderful  book for my sons – knowledge as boogers. Tremendous. But how will he get the knowledge back? Sniff around and you may find out.