Monday, May 25, 2009

Review #29: Kidogo

Dad:  "Kidogo" by Anik McGrory...  I'm in love with it.  What do you guys think?
Gracie (age 8):  This book has really good descriptions: "Endless fields of rippling gold," and "Nights that were deeper than his dreams."
Lily (age 6):  This book has a little elephant.  Kidogo is the littlest elephant in the world.
Gracie:  He’s so cute!  The teeniest, tiniest elephant in the universe.
Lily:  Kidogo has no horns yet.
Dad:  I don't think any elephants have horns.
Lily:  Yuh-huh.
Gracie:  Tusks, Lily.  Horns are things monsters have on top of their heads.
Lily:  Kidogo is a little elephant that doesn't like being little.  Elephants are supposed to be humungo'.
Isaac (age 10):  So Kidogo goes off to find someone smaller than him.  When he was hunting for animals, he came across a hippopotamus, a lion, and a giraffe.  Each time, he thinks he has found a little animal.
Gracie:  Like with the lion -- at first he just saw the lion's tail, so it looked like a little guy.  But when the lion stood up, Kidogo freaked out and ran away.
Isaac:  He finds those big animals.  But there's always little animals behind him that he doesn't see because he never looks backwards.  He always looks forward for some reason.
Lily:  But finally he does find something even littler than him - ants!  And ants think Kidogo is a giant.  And Kidogo learns that he is just the right size.
Gracie:  What if the ants feel bad now?
Isaac:  If a baby ant thought he was the teeniest thing in the world, he really would have a problem finding something smaller than himself.
Gracie:  But what if there is another little guy, smaller than an ant, and he's just too small for us to see?
Dad:  Well, there are creatures we can't see.
Isaac:  There are?
Dad:  If we got a microscope, and took a little drip from the pond across the street, you would be amazed at the gazillions of itty bitty creatures in the soupy-zoo, swimming around in that one drop of water.
Isaac:  Let's do it!
Dad:  There's even tiny little creatures that live in your eyelashes.  They live there your whole life, and you never even know it.
Gracie:  Actually, I don't think those were ants in the book, Dad.  I think those are termites.  Because they are going up into that big termite hill.
Dad:  I agree.
Isaac:  Lookit - there's another little animal behind Kidogo in this picture.
Dad:  I didn't even notice it.  Kidogo doesn't see him either, does he?
Lily:  And I also didn't notice those little guys.
Dad:  Oh wow - me either!  Not until you just pointed them out.  This picture is full of little guys.  So this is kind of like a "look-and-find" book too.
Lily:  A frog!  And a bird!
Gracie:  And there's an animal!
Lily:  There's one!
Dad:  I don't know how many times I've read this, and I've never seen any of these little guys...
Isaac:  Look there's some animals right here.
Gracie:  Kidogo's not looking behind him.
Isaac:  They're always behind him.
Lily:  He doesn't see the little guys.
Isaac:  Kidogo, you've got to look behind you!
Dad:  So guys, tell me about the art...
Isaac:  The paintings are so cool!  It looks like she just splashed the different colors onto the drawings.
Lily:  It looks like little globs of goo.
Isaac:  It looks so beautiful.  I want to learn to do that.
Dad:  Now, sometimes a picture fills a whole page.  But do you know what a little picture like this is called?
Lily:  White space!
Dad:  Well, there is white space around it.  When there's white space around it, the picture is called "spot art."
Isaac: (singing)  Spotty art, spotty art, spotty-spotty-spotty art!
Dad:  Anything else you want to say about the drawings?
Gracie:  Just by the shape of his face, you can tell how Kidogo is feeling.
Isaac:  I'll show you: I won't read the words, but I can tell he's a little worried right here.  And here, he's -- okay I have no idea what that one is.  And in this one right here, he looks like he is stubborn... or something.
Lily:  He looks like he is drowsy.
Dad:  Drowsy!  That's a good word, Lily.
Gracie:  Mom taught her that word...  because Lily was being drowsy.
Isaac:  Kidogo is surprised right here.  And not so happy.
Dad:  The story doesn't even have to tell you his emotion.  You just look at his ears and you can totally tell how he's feeling.
Gracie:  Kidogo has emotional ears.  Very dramatic ears.
Isaac:  I don't think he talks at all in the whole story.
Dad:  No, he's an elephant.  Elephants don't talk.
Isaac:  Yeah, they go: Vvvvrooooooooooo-rooooooo.
Dad:  But there's no English-speaking animals.  So then, is this a realistic kind of story?  Or not realistic?
Isaac:  Realistic...  or... realistic-ish...  or... not-ish.
Dad:  No, it is.  It's set realistically.  I mean... it's not like the animals are wearing pants.
Gracie:  Dad, I think Kidogo must be a girl.  She has eyelashes.
Dad:  I have eyelashes.
Isaac:  I have eyelashes.
Gracie:  Yeah but in books, only girls have eyelashes.

Kidogo meets a rhinoceros, by Gracie

with a butterfly and bird at the termite mound, by Lily

Kidogo chasing a kingfisher, by Isaac

(Note: you can always click a picture for a closer view...)

Author/Illustrator: Anik McGrory
Published, 2005: Bloomsbury
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Monday, May 18, 2009

Review #28: Belinda Begins Ballet

Lily (age 6):  This is "Belinda Begins Ballet."
Dad:  The Belinda the Ballerina books are by Amy Young.  Do you guys remember Amy Young?
Isaac (age 10):  Yeah!
Gracie (age 8):  She signed a book for us at that library thing!
Dad:  What is special about Belinda?
Gracie:  Her feet are big, and she dances.
Isaac:  Belinda has huge feet.
Lily:  If there were mean guys, she could kick them easily!
Dad:  And if they ran away, her feet could still reach them, couldn't they?
Lily:  But with feet that big, you would trip a lot.  And stumble.  You would knock everybody down.
Dad:  How is "Belinda Begins Ballet" different from the other three Belinda books?
Lily:  She's bigger in the other books.  This is the only one where she is small.  She is a little girl.
Dad:  It's the newest book, but it's a prequel to the others.
Lily:  It's cool.  It shows Belinda when she was a baby.  And it shows her shoes from when she was one and two and three and when she was four.
Isaac:  When Belinda was one year old, she was wearing grownup shoes.  And when she got older, she needed triple-triple-extra-large shoes.  Belinda sneaks cookies out of the cookie jar on tiptoe because she has such big feet.  And she can go skiing right on her feet without skis.
Lily:  Then Belinda begins to dance.
Dad:  How did she get started?
Isaac:  There is a talent show.  I don't know if she was planning on entering or not.  But she became a clown because the teacher Mrs. Rhino told her she had to become a clown.  Mrs. Rhino has a big nose, and she only cares about what she wants.
Gracie:  I've got to find out what grade Belinda is in so I can skip that grade.
Dad:  Well, you're lucky you homeschool, so you don't have to run into Mrs. Rhino.
Gracie:  Oh yeah....
Isaac:  Belinda wants to get out of the clown routine.
Lily:  Then she runs into a ballet person.
Isaac:  She sees a girl named Camille practicing ballet.  And she really liked it.  So Belinda practiced and practiced and practiced on her own.
Gracie:  She read ballet books, watched Camille, and practiced.
Lily:  Her room gets full of ballerina stuff.
Gracie:  At first Belinda's room was just walls, a bed, and a koala bear sitting on the shelf.  But after she likes dancing, she has dancing everything!  Dancing posters, dancing jewelry box, dancing toys.  She has books on the floor that say "Ballerina," "The Legend of Dancing," and "How to Dance."  She even put dancing clothes on her koala.
Lily:  And her room is pink like a tutu.
Gracie:  I LOVE her room.
Lily:  Me too.
Gracie:  What if all of a sudden the cat walked in and even he was wearing a tutu?
Dad:  So what happens at the talent show?
Lily:  She starts out as a clown.
Isaac:  But she changes her mind half way through.
Gracie:  Then she does a ballerina dance.
Dad:  You used to take ballet lessons when you were little, Gracie.  Do you remember that at all?  You were only three or four...
Gracie:  Yes.  I had a really nice and pretty teacher.  When we went to the big show we were dancing to a song about sunshine.  And we wore poofy purple outfits with feathers.
Dad:  What do you think - will there be a fifth Belinda book?  Do you guys have any new story ideas for Belinda's feet?
Lily:  "Belinda and the Puppies."
Dad:  What would that have to do with feet?
Gracie:  Maybe she could keep stepping on the puppies.
Isaac:  Maybe there could be a book where she meets someone with feet as big as hers.
Dad:  Didn't you write a story once, Gracie?  "Belinda Falls in Love"?
Gracie:  Yeah! Belinda met a guy with big feet and fell in love, and then this other girl was also in love with him too...
Dad:  You were going to give that to Mrs. Amy, but we never did.
Gracie: ...then I got too carried away from how normal Belinda stories go, and I made the other girl snatch Belinda up in a cage and almost feed her to a dragon.
Dad:  Ha ha ha!
Gracie:  So the guy dumps the other girl when he sees that.
Dad:  Alright, before we go, I have a true story for everyone.  I have to tell you my Belinda story!  When Gracie was little...
Gracie:  No.  No.
Dad:  Ha ha hey!  I am going to tell the story!
Gracie:  Nooo.
Dad:  When Gracie was maybe two years old...
Gracie:  Nooooo.
Dad: ...we saw Mrs. Amy and she gave us a Belinda doll... with bendy arms and legs...
Gracie:  Nooooooo!
Dad: ...bendy like Gumby.  We still have it.
Gracie:  I know.
Dad:  But what part is missing from that Belinda doll?
Gracie:  I chewed her hair off...
Dad: ...the little bun on top of the head.  You bit it off, which was bad enough.  But then what did you do with it?
Lily:  You ate it?!
Isaac:  No - she stuck it up her nose!
Gracie:  Hee hee ha ha ha hee hee....
Dad:  She stuck the little bun up her nose!  And it got stuck in there.  We couldn't get it out!
Lily:  Is it still there?
Dad:  We eventually did get it out.  We thought it was a really funny story, so we told Mrs. Amy.  But she looked mortified!  Before she was a children's book writer she had been a lawyer.  She knew we weren't upset, but I imagine the lawyer side of her mind must have been spinning, horrified.
Gracie:  I am embarrassed.
Isaac:  Hey, do we have all the Belinda books?
Dad:  No... we don't have "Belinda and the Glass Slipper" yet.
Isaac:  Isn't it the one with that mean girl.
Gracie:  Yeah - in that book they are doing a Cinderella show, and Belinda gets picked instead of another dancer who is mean and very young.  So she locks Belinda in the closet!
Dad:  I got to read that story when it was still just a draft... before it became a book.
Gracie:  That's my favorite one.
Lily:  That's my favorite one.
Dad:  Me too!  And it's the only one we don't have!  We'll have to go out and buy it and have Mrs. Amy sign it.
Gracie:  You know that bookstore we go to sometimes?  The Bookman?  I read it every time we go in there.
Dad:  We could either buy it and own it, or just keep visiting The Bookman over and over again.
Gracie:  Just buy it.
Dad:  That would probably make The Bookman happier, eh?
Gracie:  Besides, someone else might buy it before us if we just keep looking at it over and over.

Camille and Belinda, by Gracie

Belinda leaping over Lily, by Lily

Belinda meets Bigfoot, by Isaac

Author/Illustrator: Amy Young
Published, 2008: Viking
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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Review #27: Mommy Poems

Dad:  Happy Mother's Day!  And for today's pick...
Lily (age 6):  We are reading "Mommy Poems."
Dad:  Compiled by John Micklos -- compiled means he gathered them up.  And it's illustrated by Lori McElrath-Eslick.
Gracie (age 8):  Another Lori?
Dad:  And we know her.
Isaac (age 10):  We do?
Dad:  I don't know if you'll remember.  Actually, I think you guys have only met Mrs Lori once briefly.  She's very nice.  Now looking at the book, how do you think she makes her illustrations?
Lily:  Paint.
Dad:  Does she paint tightly with lots of detail?
Gracie:  No.  You can barely see the faces.  It makes it the coolest of awesome.
Dad:  Are the colors realistic?
Lily:  One boy has a green arm.
Dad:  But it works!  You don't even notice unless you look for these things.
Gracie:  It just seems normal.
Dad:  I love these loose sketchy paintings because they are so different from the way I draw, which is tight and controlled.  I like seeing people who are really good at the stuff I can't do.
Gracie:  Why do you draw tight?  Why can't you just draw looser?
Dad:  I don't know.  It freaks me out.  It makes me nervous.  I don't feel comfortable being out of control.
Gracie:  Well, Mrs Lori is beautiful out of control.
Dad:  She's very confident in painting loosely.
Isaac:  If I tried to do that, it would make it look too strange.
Dad:  She must have had to practice a lot.
Gracie:  What if she didn't?  What if she gets everything perfect on her very first try.
Dad:  I bet she'd tell you she doesn't get things perfect every time.  I bet she makes lots of mistakes.
Gracie:  But she has to be able to make perfect pictures.  Because these ones are perfect.
Dad:  But do you think she had to train in order to get that way?
Gracie:  I think she was always perfect at making pictures.
Isaac:  No, no, no, no, no, no.  Train.  She trained.
Dad:  This book is full of poems about moms.  Did anyone have a favorite one?
Gracie:  Chocolate!
Dad:  That one was called "Flavors" by Arnold Adoff.
Lily:  Read it again, please...
Dad:  "Mama is chocolate: you must be swirls of dark fudge, and ripples through your cocoa curls; chips and flips of sprinkles on your summer face."
Gracie:  Read it ten more times.
Dad:  Why is that one your favorite?  Out of all these poems, this one is the most abstract.
Gracie:  Because it's about chocolate.  See, my mouth is watering.
Lily:  I'm hungry.
Dad:  What if it didn't mention food.  What if it would have compared the mom to something else equally pleasant... like a butterfly.  Would you have liked it still?
Gracie:  I would have still liked it.  I don't know why I like it.  It just sounds nice.
Dad:  So what does it mean "Mama is Chocolate"?
Isaac:  It's comparing the mom to something the kid also really likes.  Or... maybe the mom is a chocolate maker so she is gooey and sticky.
Dad:  Do any of these poems remind you of your Mom?
Lily:  She tucks me in at night.  And takes care of me when I'm sick.
Dad:  Why does she do such things?
Lily:  Because she loooves me.
Gracie:  One poem reminds me of me.  It's the one where that girl is like, "We're having WHAT for dinner?"
Dad:  "Dinner and Dessert" by John Micklos.
Lily:  That girl looks like Gracie.  I think Mrs Lori copied you.  It is you.
Gracie:  Because I'm picky.  Picky-wicky.
Dad:  Does Mom make you eat anyway?
Gracie:  Yes.  Because she looooooves me.
Lily:  She wants you to be healthy.  And have strong bones.  So she makes you drink milk because she looooooves you...
Gracie:  I love Mom, even though I don't eat dinner.
Lily:  Once I ate dinner without complaining.
Dad:  How about the poem with the mom who saves things?  What does your Mom do with the special things you make for her?
Lily:  She keeps them in her room.  Forever!
Isaac:  800 pictures.
Lily:  She saves them because she looooooves me.
Gracie:  I know why in one poem the mother takes her daughter out for a drive...
Dad:  Why.
All the kids:  Because she looooves her...
Dad:  Why does Mom do everything she does?
Kids:  ...because she looooooves us.
Gracie:  Motherhood is love.
Dad:  Is that nice to have a book all about mothers?
Isaac:  Mothers deserve to have their own book.  Because they do so much for us.
Gracie:  I'm going to write a whole book about our Mom.
Lily:  She is nice.  She is pretty.
Gracie:  She's a hottie.  That's what Dad says.
Isaac:  She makes dinner.
Gracie:  And she cleans the house for us.
Lily:  She takes care of us when we are sick, and she tucks us in at night, and she reads us books sometimes, and she helps us do school, and once when we were cold she gave us hot cocoa.
Gracie:  I know why she did it.  Because she looooooves us...
Lily:  She's glad she had a "Lily" because she likes me.
Gracie:  She keeps us home for homeschool, and we don't have to be away from her.  I am glad about that.
Lily:  And sometimes she lets me put on my sparkle lipstick which is pink, blue, and purple.  She loves us!  Woohoo!
Isaac:  Thanks for being our mom!
Gracie:  Thank-you for giving birth to me.
Dad:  Yep - I was there.  She did it.
Lily:  I love you Mama!  And I have something else... you are a hottie, Mama!  And I love you double around the world one hundred and fifty-two hundred times.

"Mommy Poems" compiled by: John Micklos Jr
Illustrator: Lori McElrath-Eslick
Published, 2001: Boyds Mills Press
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Here are poems and pictures for the Mom in our house!
Crunches and munches
of good things to eat
Mommy puts them on my plate
sometimes with a treat

- by Lily

When I look at her face
I see chocolate brown eyes
And pretty pink lips smiling down at me

When I'm around Mom
I feel as nice as a bubble
And as colorful as a rainbow

- by Gracie

Wishes for Mom

I wish you had chocolate towers
I wish you had a thousand flowers

I wish you had never ending coffee
And could swim with dolphins in the sea

I wish you had a room full of ice cream
I wish you had the mansion of your dreams

I wish you had self cleaning dishes
I wish you had 1000 more wishes

But all I can give you is a hug and a kiss
I hope that is what you want for your wish

- by Isaac

Monday, May 4, 2009

Review #26: A Wrinkle in Time

Dad:  So guys, we are going to review "A Wrinkle in Time."  We finished reading this three weeks ago but, because of our vacation, we haven't had a chance to review it until now.  Do you think you can remember enough about it?
Isaac (age 10):  Maybe.
Gracie (age 8):  That was only three weeks ago?  It seems like forever.
Dad:  Tell me about the characters.
Lily (age 6):  Charles Wallace is a very, very smarty guy.  He's a little five year old.  He has an older sister Meg who I think is like 10 or 11, and sometimes she doesn't even know what Charles Wallace is talking about.  I have no idea how he got so smart.  He can make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Gracie:  He could read minds.
Dad:  He could tell Meg was going to come down to the kitchen in the middle of the night, and he had a sandwich all ready for her.
Gracie:  And then Meg was like, "I can't finish all this," and Charles says, "Yes, but I think Mother would like some too," and just then the mom comes in and says, "You think I would like what?"
Isaac:  Charles Wallace is a five-year-old genius.
Gracie:  He uses giant words.
Isaac:  Charles Wallace never talks to anyone else besides the people in his family.  So everyone else thinks he's a little brainless kid, when he's probably the smartest five year old in the world.
Gracie:  He's probably even smarter than that two-year-old on the news who can count in Spanish.
Dad:  Tell me more about Meg.
Isaac:  She's not one thing or the other.  That's what Charles Wallace said.  But I don't know what that means.
Dad:  She doesn't fit in anywhere.
Gracie:  It's because she makes a whole bunch of mistakes, and she doesn't think her life is ever right, and she talks bad to the principal.
Dad:  Tell me about Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which.
Gracie:  Mrs. Whatsit was funny because she wears long underwear and like five scarves and a big bundled up coat and a hat and boots, and right after she tried taking her boots off she sprains her 'dignity' which is her buns, and then she says "You have to put ointment on my dignity," and then after they finally get her boots off she puts them right back on!
Lily:  They are really creatures.
Dad:  Disguised as humans.
Isaac:  One of them is a star.  And one is a, well, imagine a centaur with wings.  Imagine it shining, and it's the most beautiful creature, or horse, or whatever-it-is you ever saw.
Gracie:  Mrs. Whatsit was the centaur with wings.  And Mrs. Who has giant glasses.  And she always quotes things in different languages.
Dad:  They weren't very good at pretending to be people, were they?
Gracie:  Mrs. Which thinks it's very tiring to show her whole self, so she's just faded and you can only see a little of her shimmering.
Lily:  Mrs. Which talks in this scary voice.
Dad:  Ha ha ha...  At least the way Dad reads it, huh?  Tell me about how everyone traveled from planet to planet.
Isaac:  They tessered.
Lily:  You can go all the way from one place to another and it takes a really short time.  If you are going to a place that's really far away, you just tesser and you get right there in a second.
Gracie:  "Wrinkle in Time."  That describes a tesseract.  If there was a big string and an ant was walking across the string, it would take him forever to get from one end to the other.  But if you bring the two ends together the ant could just hop over.  That would be like tessering.  But for an ant.
Dad:  But instead of traveling on a string, a tesseract is a way to jump through time and space.
Gracie:  It would be awesome to tesser!  I'm going to try it!
Isaac:  Like to Florida.
Dad:  Wouldn't that have been nice if we could have tessered to Florida on our vacation instead of driving for three days?
Isaac:  I liked driving for three days.  Because then we could stop at hotels and go swimming.
Dad:  That's the sad thing about when Meg tessered though the universe...  She couldn't stop and go swimming on different planets.
Kids:  Ha ha ha...
Dad:  Where was one place they tessered by accident?
Isaac:  The 2-D planet.
Gracie:  It hurt!  It felt like you were getting squished by a cement truck.
  The three Mrs's forgot the kids couldn't go to a two dimensional planet.  Why were they doing all this tessering anyway?
Lily:  The kids had to find their father and fight the evil thingie and save their father.
Dad:  And they found their father on the planet Camazotz.
Isaac:  Bad place.
Lily:  On Camazotz everyone did the same things.  It's freaky - when one person went inside, everyone had to go inside.  Scary!
Isaac:  Everything was like the same, like the same, like the same.  They do everything at the exact same time, exact same time, exact same time.  Like if someone was jumping rope and someone was playing ball, the rope would hit the ground, hit the ground, when the ball hit the ground, hit the ground.  Everything was in rhythm and everything was the same, was the same, was the same.
Gracie:  At the exact same time all the doors opened, all the mothers came out, all the kids put their stuff away, and all came inside at the exact same time.
Dad:  What's so bad about that?  I'd love it if I could make you put your toys away...
Isaac:  But nobody's happy, nobody's sad...
Gracie:  You can't even breathe in your own rhythm.  They were all controlled by "IT."
Lily:  And "IT" is gross.
Gracie:  "IT" is a giant, squishy brain.
Dad:  Did they find their father?
Gracie:  Yes.  Meg thought that once they found her father, he would save the day.
Dad:  Is that what happened?
Gracie:  No.
Lily:  He killed the day.
Gracie:  WHAT?  Ha ha ha hah...
Isaac:  Charles Wallace 's brain got captured by IT.  And if he went away with the others, he would explode because he wouldn't be able to bear being ripped away from IT so suddenly.
Dad:  Meg wanted everyone else to solve her problems.  But in the end, who had to save the day?
Gracie:  Meg.
Dad:  Even though she wasn't as smart as Charles Wallace, or as powerful as Mrs. Whatsit...
Gracie:  But she had love.  "I love you, Charles Wallace!  I love you!  I love you!!!"
Dad:  We didn't talk about Aunt Beast yet, and that's one of my favorite characters from any book I've ever read.
Lily:  She is a creature too.
Isaac:  A kind of creature with no eyeballs.  They just have dents where the eyes would be.
Gracie:  They are tall and have four arms.  And they are dull gray.  Everything on that planet is dull and gray.
Dad:  Because they don't need colors... no eyes.
Gracie:  But they have the best, amazing, yummiest food in the world.  And they have tentacles.  A lot of them.  And that's how they speak.  Through their tentacles.  And smell.
Dad:  The beasts couldn't understand when Meg was trying to describe what "sight" is like.  Wouldn't it be weird to have someone describe a sense that we weren't built for?
Isaac:  Like, a shark has a sense that we don't have, I think.
Dad:  We don't even know what senses we don't have.  If someone was trying to describe one, we wouldn't know what they were taking about -- we'd have nothing to compare it to, no frame of reference.
Gracie:  The beasties have a sense we don't have.  They can read thoughts.  You think of something, and they can see what you are thinking.  You better not think of something bad about them!
Dad:  So was it a good book?
Gracie:  Awesome book!  People should read it!
Dad:  Did you know there are more in the series?
Gracie:  What.
Dad:  "A Wind in the Door" is next...  it has strange creatures too.  A cherubim.
Gracie:  What is a cherubim?
Dad:  Oh, ho ho... I'm going to have to show you a picture.  I have two copies of it, each with a different cherubim painting on the cover.
Isaac:  Aren't those the things with zillions of eyes and wings?
Gracie:  Then let's get it!  Right now!  In this very room!

Aunt Beast, by Lily

front row: Charles Wallace, Meg, Mrs. Who, Mrs. Whatsit;  back row: Aunt Beast, Mr. Murry, Mrs. Which, Mrs. Murry - by Gracie

Mrs. Whatsit transformed, by Isaac

Author: Madeleine L'Engle
Published, 1962: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
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