The End

the%20end.jpgWe love this clever book:  The End by David La Rochelle; illustrated by Richard Egielski (Arthur A. Levine, 2007).  And we're not the only ones:  it received four starred reviews.  The droll and deadpan text (hand-lettered by Georgia Deaver) begins with "And they all lived happily ever after" and proceeds backwards until it arrives at "Once upon a time...", encountering knights, princesses, dragons, bunny rabbits, giants, and enormous tomatoes along the way.  Egielski's illustrations, done in sepia ink and watercolor, are brilliant, matching the offbeat fairy tale feel of the text, enriching and extending the story (look for the elf on the flying blue pig).  The book design by Elizabeth B. Parisi is also exceptional:  even the copyright information and title page are relocated to the back of the book.  We've read this thing forward and backward multiple times, and it still feels fresh.  The perfect read for the the end of one year--or is it the beginning of the next?  Happy new year!

[See David LaRochelle's website for a terrific teaching guide, too.]

Poetry Friday: Good King Wenceslas

good%20king%20wenceslas.jpgGood King Wenceslas; original carol by John M. Neale; illustrated by Tim Ladwig (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2005).

"Good King Wenceslas look'd out

on the feast of Stephen,

when the snow lay round about,

deep and crisp and even."

Ladwig, working in watercolor, liquid acrylic, and oil on paper, beautifully illustrates Neale's carol about the tenth-century Bohemian king who goes out with his page to give alms to a peasant on St. Stephen's Day (the second day of Christmas, December 26).  I like Ladwig's framing device, a little boy looking at the statue of Wenceslas in Prague and "imagin[ing] a long time ago..."; the same little boy (and his dog) appears in the story as Wenceslas's page.  A "Historical Note" at the back of the book tells us that Neale wrote the carol in 1853 to inspire children to be generous on St. Stephen's Day: it's not too late!

See this article in Wikipedia for the full text of the carol and notes on its form (it was set to the melody of a thirteenth century Swedish spring song).  There is also another picture book about Wenceslas by Geraldine McCaughrean (whose work I very much like); illustrated by Christian Birmingham (Transworld, 2007); this one appears to be a prose retelling of the Wenceslas legend.

[Leo is finally interested in knights, kings, and castles, much to the delight of his medievalist mother (me); he especially liked Ladwig's warm illustrations of the castle interiors.]


For the record.  Thank you, Santa and our generous relatives.

olivia%20helps%20with%20christmas.jpgOlivia Helps with Christmas by Ian Falconer (Atheneum, 2007).  Another one for the Christmas book basket.  Olivia is not always my favorite, but even I can't resist her when she gets tangled up in the lights.

First the Egg by Laura Seeger (Roaring Brook, 2007).  We loved Lemons Are Not Red (I think it was the first book Milly could "read" all by herself; with lots of expression).  This one is good, too.  You can page through both of them at (with this caveat).

Hug Time by Patrick McDonnell (Little, Brown; 2007).  Very, very sweet.  Maybe even a little too sweet for me, but Milly likes it.

Mary and the Mouse, the Mouse and Mary by Beverly D'Onofrio; illustrated by Barbara McClintock (Schwartz and Wade, 2007).  Santa must have read this post.

Scholastic Children's Encyclopedia (2004).  We have a freecycled 1951 World Book Encyclopedia that sees a surprising amount of use from me and my second-grader.  I would love to upgrade to a new(er) set, but in the meantime Leo can learn to use this single-volume encyclopedia on his own.  So far: no entry for Armor, but some relevant information under Knight.

Eats, Shoots and Leaves:  Why, Commas Really Do Make a Difference! by Lynne Truss; illustrated by Bonnie Timmons (Putnam Juvenile, 2006).  Insert clever sentence with comma variations here.

The Boy Who Drew Birds by Jacqueline Davies; illustrated by Melissa Sweet (Houghton Mifflin, 2004).  Look for an upcoming post about this lovely book, a story from the life of John James Audubon.

The Toothpaste Millionaire by Jean Merrill.  Instead of The Lemonade Wars (also by Jacqueline Davies; see above), which will have to wait until Leo is a little older.  He and his dad read 11 chapters of Toothpaste Millionaire last night; they really like it.

narnia%20sabuda.jpg The Chronicles of Narnia with pop-ups by Robert Sabuda (HarperCollins, 2007) and Winter's Tale.  With many thanks to my mother-in-law (who must have read this post).

I didn't receive any gift books this year (I'm not complaining; I got a great new camera), but a big stack of books to review did arrive in the mail for me on Christmas Eve....

New (to me) Christmas books for the basket

We have a big Christmas book basket (not to be confused with the seasonal book basket for winter) and check out lots more from the library.  Every year I like to add one or two Christmas books to the basket, the ones I'm already looking forward to reading next year.  These were my favorite "new" books this year:

christmas%20like%20helen's.jpg A Christmas Like Helen's by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock; illustrated by Mary Azarian (Houghton-Mifflin, 2004).  "To have a Christmas like Helen's, you'll need to be born on a Vermont hill farm, before cars, or telephones, or electricity, and be the youngest of seven children."  This gorgeous book is the next best thing.  Be sure to read the author's note (she's one of Helen's 32 grandchildren).

A Clever Beatrice Christmas by Margaret Willey; illustrated by Heather M. Solomon (Atheneum, 2006).  We love Clever Beatrice.  This time Beatrice promises her friends that she will show them a bell from Pere Noel's sleigh, a button from his cape, and a curl from his beard on Christmas morning.  Perhaps Pere Noel will leave some of those things behind at our house this year, too?  We'll leave him a big piece of the buche de noel just like Beatrice and her mother did.

Santa's Littlest Helper by Anu Stohner; illustrated by Henrike Wilson (Bloomsbury USA, 2004).  For my littlest helper, who loves forest animals.  I love that Santa's helpers look...just like Santa!  Makes sense to us.  And I just noticed that there is a sequel:  Santa's Littlest Helper Travels the World (Bloomsbury USA, 2007).  All of these author-and-illustrator teams have other books I haven't yet seen yet.  It's like a Christmas present!

Are any of you adding a Christmas book to your basket this year?