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

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Friday: A Chair for My Mother

Occasionally, a children’s book makes me cry. It happened when I first read Tomie dePaola’s “Now One Foot, Now the Other” (I’ll review that soon…tears galore) and it happened again with Jan Karon’s “Miss Fannie’s Hat”…For those of you who have had the good fortune of reading either of those, you’ll see the pattern. Children’s books that have grandmother’s in them seem to pull my heartstrings a little tighter than others. And for those of you who knew my grandma Deedles, you’ll know why. The latest addition to this esteemed (and rather soggy list) is Vera B. Williams’ “A Chair for My Mother” – a gorgeous, heartwarming tale of a little girl, her mother and grandmother who are saving money for a comfortable chair. All of their possessions were burned in a fire and, although neighbors have graciously given them all sorts of hodgepodge furnishings, what they really would love is one soft chair to sit in.

When all of her mother’s tips from the restaurant, and all of the little girl’s spare change have finally filled the little jar, they are able to buy a wonderful, comfy, warm armchair – perfect for what they were really saving up for: a soft place to rest and cuddle. The illustrations are beautiful, the sentiment is lovely – an all-around gorgeous read for anyone.

Saturday: The Vanishing Pumpkin

Where else can you find a 700-year old woman, an 800-year old man, a rapscallion, a ghoul and a varmint? Not to mention characters who say things like “Great snakes!” (which, let’s face it, everyone should say now and then…). Look no further than the delightful book, “The Vanishing Pumpkin” by Tony Johnston, illustrated by, none other than, Tomie DePaola. My sons wait all year long to check this book out of the library each October and now my older son loves to read it to his little brother with all the silly voices he can possibly muster. What starts with a missing pumpkin and a hearty desire for pumpkin pie quickly becomes a veritable parade of Halloween misfits and a seriously old wizard.  Don’t miss this wonderful Halloween book. (Or I might just have to say “Great snakes!”)