Sparkle and Spin

Goodness gracious, how I ADORE this book. Sparkle and Spin: A Book About Words could potentially be my new favorite book. Not new in the sense of just-published, since this treasure of a tome was first published in the late 1950’s, but new in that I just discovered it and am seriously kicking myself for not finding it earlier. Having grown up with Dutch author and illustrator Dick Bruna’s books, I’ve always been a complete sucker for strong graphic visuals in children’s books. How could I have missed Ann and Paul Rand? It’s like Dick Bruna and Lane Smith had a child and created this book. In it, the Rands create a world of words – a delicious cacophony of syllables and sentences. With phrases like “what are words? words are how what you think inside comes out, and how you remember what you might forget about,” this delightful book captures all that is wonderful about language and does it in a way that is amazingly approachable and entertaining for children of all ages. You should purchase this book, republished by Chronicle Books, not only for your children to read but as a keepsake…a treasure to pass down through the generations of readers and lovers of words. This is a children’s coffee table book and should be relished and read aloud until the words are faint on the page.


Grandpa Green…and a misty eye

Lane Smith is probably best known, by me at least, as the Caldecott-winning illustrator of The Stinky Cheese Man…not to mention the author and illustrator of one of my personal favorites, The Happy Hocky Family. In the past, Smith has dwelt in the sublimely cheeky – bringing his quirky sensibilities to a wide range of offbeat and utterly brilliant children’s books. And while all of his books have had a teensy whiff of sentimentality in them, I never in a million years expected the sheer gorgeousness of his latest book Grandpa Green. In this stunning new book, Smith earns his stripes as an honest-to-goodness storyteller of the highest caliber. Smith’s book tells the story of Grandpa Green, an avid gardener who tells his unforgettable life story in a series of topiaries carved into the shapes of his memories. A first kiss. A war. The cafe where he first met his wife. All are lovingly and painstakingly recreated in the lush foliage of his garden. And his great-grandson, who sees these tales come to life, is the lucky recipient of not only his Grandpa’s artistry but his rich, beautiful life story. Lane Smith has outdone himself in this quiet little book that speaks volumes to the joy of memory. This book goes beyond the normal parameters of children’s literature and into the realm of literary treasures.

Grandpa Green wasn’t always a gardener. He was a farmboy and a kid with chickenpox and a soldier and, most of all, an artist. In this captivating new picture book, readers follow Grandpa Green’s great-grandson into a garden he created, a fantastic world where memories are handed down in the fanciful shapes of topiary trees and imagination recreates things forgotten.