Monday, December 28, 2009

Review #54: The Lion and the Mouse

Dad:  This book is called...
(Silence as everyone looks at the amazing cover)
Gracie (age 9):  It's called "A giant lion face."
Lily (age 6):  It's called "The Lion and the Mouse"!
Gracie:  There's no title!
Isaac (age 11):  Check the first page inside.
Dad:  Tell me about "The Lion and the Mouse."
Gracie:  It was simple.
Isaac:  It's not simple!  It has really good details.
Gracie:  Well, the story is simple.  The pictures are really, really detailed, but the story is simple.
Isaac:  Right.
Gracie:  The story is about a mousie and a lion.  The mousie said to the lion... well, actually it didn't say anything because mice don't talk.
Lily: (singing)  The Lion and the Mouse
  is about a mouse
    who got caught by a lion
      and the lion let him go
  And then....
    The mouse saved the lion
      from a trap
        by chewing the trap open
          La la la - doo doo!
Gracie:  That is so going in our Audio Snippets.
Dad:  Now, how is this version different than other versions of "The Lion and the Mouse"?
Lily:  It has no words.
Dad:  Do you like that or not?
Lily:  I like it.  Because then we get to make up the words.
Gracie:  There were no words in it except for a few.  I think the only words were "roar," "squeak," "whoo-whoo," and "scritch."
Dad:  So, I just read the story a minute ago... but if you had read it, would it have been completely different?  One person might read it in a funny way with lots of jokes.  Another person could make it really suspenseful and exciting.  Or someone could even do a musical version -- like Lily.
Lily:  Yeah!
Gracie:  Ha ha hahh HA ha!
Lily: (Singing)  "Whoooo, whooo... An owl's going to eat me..."  I'm singing it!
Dad:  Gracie, you tell me about the story.
Gracie:  Well a mousie disturbs a lion.  The lion decides to let him go and is like, "Rawr."
Dad:  Do you think the mouse knew what the lion was saying?
Gracie:  Hee hee...  No.
Dad:  What did the mouse say in return?
Gracie:  "Squeak."  Which means, "If you let me go, I'll do a favor for you."
  Then the lion says, "Roar."  Which means, "Okay, but what can a puny, little, squishy mousie do?"
  Then the mouse is like, "Squeak."  Which means, "Well, you never know..."
  Then the lion gets stuck in a trap, and the mouse is like, "Squeak."  Which means, "What happened?"
  Then the lion is like, "Rar."  Which means, "I got stuck in a trap!  Oh no, oh no!  Now I'm gonna die!  I can't get out!  Not even my sharp, sharp claws can cut through the rope!  Oh no!"
  Then the mouse is like, "Squeak."  Which means, "I'm on it!"
  Then the lion is like, "Rawr, rawr, rawr, rawr, rar, rawwwr, rawr, rawr, rawr!"  Which means, "Thanks."
  Then the mouse chews the rope though and says, "Squeak squeak."  Which means "No problem."  The end!
Dad:  Wow.  That was quite an epic telling.
Gracie:  Ha ha ha!
Dad:  I think we just proved that each person who reads this book will read it in a completely different way.
Gracie:  Yeah!
Dad:  This book is made by Jerry Pinkney.  Tell us what his pictures look like.
Lily:  The pictures are very detailed.  I can tell he was trying to make them really realistic.
Isaac:  Is it made with watercolor?  It looks like watercolor.
Dad:  Yep!
Gracie:  I can not paint like that.
Dad:  That would take a lot of practice, huh?
Lily:  Wait.  He did this with watercolor?  How did he do that?
Dad:  Ha ha!  It's amazing, isn't it!
Lily:  He is a good watercolor painter.
Dad:  He's been painting for many, many years.
Gracie:  He is definitely one of the greats.
Dad:  What did we notice about the few times that words do appear in the book?
Gracie:  They are not even typed!  He draws them!
Lily:  Actually he paints them.
Dad:  I love hand lettering in books.  And he even designed different fonts for each of the characters.
Gracie:  Big bold letters for a big bold lion.  And teeny cute letters for a teeny cute mousie.
Dad:  How does he make the lion itself look really big?
Lily:  He made the lion cover up the whole page.
Dad:  And how did he make the mouse look small?
Isaac:  He put him right next to the lion
Dad:  So by contrast... by comparing the two.  What about the times he draws the mouse up close?  How can we still tell he's actually small?
Gracie:  There's usually giant blades of grass.
Lily:  He makes the blades of grass go all the way off the page.
Gracie:  And there's a giant lion tail.
Dad:  So there's still a comparison of scale, even when the lion's not covering up the page.
Isaac:  He uses panels.  Mostly for the mouse.  When it's just the mouse on the page, he puts him in all these little panels.
Dad:  Is it always just for the mouse?  That's a good observation, Isaac.
Isaac:  He used it once for the lion -- when you could only see his feet.
Dad:  Maybe panels are another artistic device to make the mouse look small.
Gracie:  The mice are so cute!
Dad:  What does Mr. Pinkney bring to the story by giving families to the mouse and lion?
Gracie:  It makes you care for them more.  Don't eat him, Mr. Lion!  He's got a family to care for!
Dad:  Now we won't know for a couple weeks yet, but I'm guessing this book will win the big Caldecott medal this year.
Gracie:  It deserves it.
Isaac:  It's so detailed.  It's so cool.
Dad:  Wouldn't it be fun to pick a book for a "Bookie Woogie Award"?  Each year our family could pick our favorite book of the year.
Gracie:  But that might make people jealous, because I would give it to "The Hiccupotamus" 3 years in a row.
Dad:  No... I would definitely be disqualified from winning.
Gracie:  Gasp!  That's like cheating.
Dad:  It's not cheating to take yourself out of the running for your own award.
Gracie:  But dad, do you think libraries would let us put shiny stickers on the books?
Dad:  No no no... we wouldn't do that.  We could just say congratulations and maybe draw the winner a picture or something.
Gracie:  Could we put a shiny sticker on the drawing?
Dad:  Oh, sure.
Gracie:  Woo hoo!
Dad:  The allure of shiny things...
Gracie:  Wait.  Where would we get shiny stickers?
Dad:  This book would definitely be in the running for a 2009 Bookie Woogie Award.  Alright, as we wrap up, is there anything else you want to say?
Kids:  Read the book!  Read the book!
Dad:  How do you read it?
Gracie:  Uh...  I mean...  Look at the book!  Look at the book!

mouse and lion, by Lily

lion, by Gracie

mouse, by Isaac

Author/Illustrator: Jerry Pinkney
Published, 2009: Little, Brown & Co
Like it?  Find it

Monday, December 21, 2009

Review #53: This is the Stable

Lily (age 6):  This book is called "This is the Stable."  It's about Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus.  We are reading it because it's almost Christmas, so that is special.
Dad:  I love the pictures in this book.
Lily:  You do?
Dad:  That's why I wanted to do this one.
Lily:  It is?
Dad:  Yep.
Lily:  Or maybe you wanted to do it because it's Christmas.
Dad:  Well, both.  Out of all our Christmas books, this year I wanted to highlight this one.
Lily:  Okay.
Dad:  Cynthia Cotten wrote it.  And it is illustrated by Delana Bettoli.
Gracie (age 9):  I have a rhyme...  Delana Bettoli eats ravioli.
Lily:  Does she really eat ravioli?
Isaac (age 11):  Everyone eats ravioli.
Dad:  What did you think about the writing?
Lily:  It always rhymes things.
Isaac:  I bet this could be a song.  I really think this could be a song.  I bet it was a song.
Lily:  This is kind of like a Bible story.  But the author made up her own words.
Gracie:  It tells a good story and makes it fun to read.  Some people think reading the Bible is boring.
Dad:  Like who.
Gracie:  I don't know.  Katie just said she knows some people.  My friend Katie knows a lot of people.
Isaac:  Each part of the story starts out like, "This is the stable," "These are the shepherds," or "These are the wise men."  Then after every few pages it ends with "in the stable dusty and brown."
Lily:  They always say "...the stable dusty and brown," "...the stable dusty and brown."
Dad:  That's called "repetition."
Gracie:  The pictures are so pretty.
Dad:  For a book that keeps saying "dusty and brown" over and over again, did the pictures look dusty and brown?
Lily:  NO!  They are colorful and happy.
Gracie:  They are the opposite of dusty and brown.
Dad:  So there's some contrast going on.
Lily:  This is colorful.  This book is a rainbow.
Gracie:  Colorful and detailed.
Isaac:  It's really cool how the illustrator dabs color.  Like, the ground is a dark color, and then there are all these little splotches on top of it.  Every picture looks like it has layers.
Gracie:  In almost every single last picture there are angel wings.
Isaac:  Every page has hidden wings.
Gracie:  Where are the wings on this page?  Oh, I see the wings.
Lily:  There's the wings.  There's the wings again.
Gracie:  It also has cool borders on every page.  Such neat borders.
Isaac:  On this page, the border around the picture is all these twigs entwined together.  And then at the bottom there are flowers.
Gracie:  There are lots of details.  The illustrator must really like patterns.  Because there are so many patterns.  Every single thing has at least one type of pattern.
Dad:  The borders, the clothing... everything is very decorated.
Gracie:  My favorite picture has four angels, and they've all got such colorful clothes.  The dresses have such pretty patterns.  One has snowflakes and flowers, one has... actually all of them have flowers.
Dad:  Usually when you see pictures of angels they are just dressed in white.
Lily:  This is colorful!
Dad:  These are the most colorful angels I've ever seen.
Gracie:  This Christmas book is better than all the rest because it's prettier.
Dad:  Well, do you guys have any Christmas greetings for our readers?
Isaac:  Merry Christmas everybody!
Lily:  Have a good Christmas - ho ho ho.
Gracie:  Merry Christmas from Bookie Woogie!
Lily:  Ho ho ho!
Isaac:  We should ask what people's favorite Christmas story is.
Gracie:  If you tell us your favorite Christmas story, you could win...  um...
Dad:  Maybe they could win your drawings?
Isaac:  Yeah!  I'll give mine away.
Gracie:  I'll do it.  Contest!
Dad:  Really?  Do you want to?  I've given away books before...  Do you want to give away your pictures this week?
Gracie:  Yes!
Dad:  So what are the rules?
Gracie:  Leave us a comment and tell us your favorite Christmas book.  You can win our actual drawings.  Not just copies.  The actual drawings.
Dad:  So one person wins all three, or what?
Gracie:  First prize gets the best picture we drew, second place gets the second best...
Dad:  HA!  Well, who decides which one is best?
Gracie:  You!
Dad:  I can't do that.  How about this...  how about we give the winner their choice.
Gracie:  First place gets to pick first.  Second place gets to pick second.  And last place gets the left over.
Dad:  Hah - the "left over"?
Lily:  But Daddy!  What if they pick mine for last!?
Dad:  I'm sure all your pictures will be wonderful!  And maybe they'll pick yours first...
Lily:  But what if no one likes mine?
Dad:  Okay, we won't do that.  We always want this to be fun.  Maybe we'll assign the pictures randomly.  We don't want anyone to feel bad.
Lily:  Mm-hm.
Gracie:  Now let's go do our drawing party!  We can use the brightest colors we've got!
Dad:  Great!  And give us your rules one more time...
Gracie:  Leave a comment and tell us your favorite Christmas book.
Dad:  At the end of the week, we'll randomly pick three winners to receive orginal Z-kids art!  The pictures are below, and we'll match them to the winners randomly as well.  Good luck!  Spread the word!

wise man, by Isaac
baby Jesus, by Lily

angels, by Gracie
Author: Cynthia Cotten
Illustrator: Delana Bettoli
Published, 2006: Henry Holt
Like it? Find it

Monday, December 14, 2009

Review #52: The Happy Hocky Family

Dad:  Today we're looking at "The Happy Hocky Family."
Lily (age 6):  Lane Smith wrote this book!  Lane Smith.  Yeah.
Dad:  Do you know who that is?
Lily:  No.
Dad:  Lane Smith also illustrated--
Isaac:  "Stinky Cheese Man"?
Dad:  You're right!
Lily:  I love that one!
Gracie (age 9):  This book is even funnier than Stinky Cheese Man.
Dad:  Do you know any of the other books Lane Smith worked on, Isaac?
Isaac (age 11):  The other Happy Hocky book.  The sequel.
Dad:  Ha ha.  Yes he did.  What would you say about "The Happy Hocky Family" to people who have never had the pleasure of seeing it before?
Gracie:  It's your loss.
Dad:  What if they go read it now?
Gracie:  Your not-loss.
Dad:  How would you describe the art style in this book?
Gracie:  Average.
Dad:  Average?  What do you mean by that?
Gracie:  Not too complicated.
Dad:  You mean "simple" maybe?  Not average.  "Simplified."
Lily:  Simplified.  I like that.
Isaac:  The pictures are stampy looking.
Gracie:  Pretty much it's just red, yellow, black and white.
Isaac:  The book is a whole bunch of little, tiny stories.
Dad:  Does the style of the writing match the style of the pictures?
Isaac:  They are both simple.
Dad:  Give me an example of what the stories might sound like.
Isaac:  "I like cookies.  Do you like cookies?  I like cookies.  I like my cat.  He is a brown cat.  He fell in an apple pie."
Dad:  Who are the characters?
Gracie:  Mr. Hocky, Mrs. Hocky, Henry Hocky, Holly Hocky, Baby Hocky, and Newton.  Newton is their dog.
Dad:  Tell me about the kids in the family...
Gracie:  Henry and Holly are the brother and the sister.  And I want a "tomato ketchup" shirt!  Henry's got a shirt that says tomato ketchup on it!  The Hocky family is so lucky.
Isaac:  Henry and Holly are trying to get back at each other over and over again.  They are archenemies.
Dad:  I wouldn't say they are enemies.  Remember - they play together nice with their toys.  Are they just like brothers and sisters that tease each other?
Lily:  Yes.  Just like what Gracie does to me.
Dad:  What does Gracie do to you?
Lily:  She teases me.  She calls me a "Lumpy Monkey."
Gracie:  Hee hee HA heehee heeee...
Lily:  Tah, hah Ha ha ha...
Gracie:  But she is though!
Lily:  YOU are a Lumpy Monkey!
Gracie:  No you are.
Dad:  Alright, what about Newton?
Isaac:  Newton is a dog.  And that dog has eye problems.  His eyes are totally opposite sizes.  One is little and one is huge.
Gracie:  They are the exact same size - look.
Isaac:  No they are not...
Gracie:  That's his spot.
Isaac:  That's a spot?
Gracie:  Yes!
Dad:  He has a ring around his eye.
Isaac:  I thought it was an eyeball!
Gracie:  Ha ha hah hah ha...
Dad:  That would have been a huge eye.  What else can you say about Newton?
Isaac:  Well, his mouth is like a duck-mouth.
Dad:  Newton didn't have too many stories in this book, did he?
Isaac:  He got eaten.
Gracie:  By a crocodile.  There's a crocodile's mouth, and Newton's leash is leading into it.  But then he got thrown up.
Dad:  Well, we don't know if he got thrown up...  But he does reappear at the end of the book.  Now, which is your favorite story in the book?
Gracie:  I like the Baby Hocky stories.
Dad:  Baby Hocky is definitely the best, huh?
Gracie:  Baby Hocky rocks!  Peace out dude!  Peace out Baby Hocky!
Dad:  What does that even mean?
Gracie:  I have no idea.
Isaac:  I like Baby Hocky.  He's cool.  Or she.
Gracie:  Me too.  Awesome.  And I have a question for Mr. and Mrs. Hocky.  Why do you call him Baby Hocky?  Doesn't he have a real name?
Dad:  Tell me about Baby Hocky.
Gracie:  He's always looking at the best of things.
Isaac:  He's an optimist.
Dad:  Oo!  Big word, Isaac.
Isaac:  Most of his stuff gets half-destroyed.  Half-ruined or destroyed.
Gracie:  Every time he's proud of something -- then it gets ruined -- then he says "Look at what I've got."  Like, once his balloon popped, and then he says "Look, now I've got a string!"
Isaac:  I want a string!  I'm going to pop my balloon so I can get a string too.
Lily:  And his white coat gets splashed with oil, but now he has a white hat!  It is awesomeness.
Dad:  Does Baby Hocky get upset when the candy apple yanks his tooth out?
Lily:  No.  Because he's got a tooth for the tooth fairy!
Isaac:  I wonder if I've had a candy apple?
Lily:  I'm always glad when I get a tooth out.  I had a tooth for the tooth fairy last night!
Dad:  Lily has a tooth for the tooth fairy practically every night!
Isaac:  I want a candy apple!  I've never had a candy apple.
Dad:  Maybe that's what we need to do, Lily, when you have your teeth hanging there for so long...  we'll just give you a candy apple.
Lily:  Yeah!
Gracie:  Baby Hocky has a huge belly button.
Lily:  And he only wears diapers.
Gracie:  Baby Hocky doesn't have a nose.
Lily:  And the only one without a neck is Baby Hocky!
Isaac:  That's true.
Lily:  Everyone else has stick-necks.  And the baby doesn't have any neck.
Gracie:  They are stick figures.
Lily:  And everyone has red ears.
Dad:  They do.  I never noticed that.
Gracie:  They have bloody ears.
Dad:  Ew.
Gracie:  Probably because Holly's red ants bit all their ears.
Dad:  Wonderful.
Gracie:  They should make Baby Hocky plush toys.  They would be awesome.
Dad:  Maybe his tooth would be detachable.
Isaac:  There could be a red string stuck to it.
Dad:  Ew.  That's what Lily's teeth look like when they won't come out, hanging from tooth guts.
Gracie:  I love you Baby Hocky!

Baby Hocky likes seals and Newton likes crocodiles, by Lily

crocodile x-ray, by Isaac

and a new Baby Hocky story by Gracie:"I have 2 pets!  Do you have 2 pets?  I have 2 pets!"

(the elephant is spooked by the mouse)

(the elephant bolts...)
"I have 1 pet!  Do you have 1 pet?  I have 1 pet!"


"I have 2 collars!  Do you have 2 collars?  I have 2 collars!"

Author/Illustrator: Lane Smith
Published, 1993: Viking
Like it?  Find it

Monday, December 7, 2009

Audio Snippets II

Howdy all!  Times have been crazy here lately for the Z-Fam.  Isaac has had a horrible sore throat, Dad has been on the road doing school visits and book signings, and our digital recorder's memory has reached full capacity.  So in lieu of a new review this week, let's take a listen to a few choice audio snippets pulled from the last few months before I wipe the recorder clean again.  I hope you enjoy them!  (I've also included links below to the original reviews if anyone wants to revisit them.  And if anyone has trouble with the audio loading in this post, this alternate version may work better for you.)

After pulling these favorite clips from the past 18 recordings, I noticed a couple of reoccurring qualities.  First, there is a very musical bent to this batch.  And second, we get a lovely glimpse into the goofy terrain that is Lily's brain.

I submit Exhibit A:  Lily's thoughts on "The Arrival."  (And you will need a translator: she says, "It is a nicely, strangely, weirdish, story..." and after that everything descends into chaos.)

Gracie struggles to find the right word to describe the protagonist from "The Arrival."

Lily sings us the title of our next book: "Down the Back of the Chair."

We like Polly Dunbar's name:

The Lunch Lady books are about a couple of cafeteria workers who secretly fight crime in their spare time.  We homeschool so, for us, Mom is teacher, principal, librarian, and lunch lady all rolled into one.  I asked Lily if she thought her lunch lady fought crime...

Lily shares an evil librarian's laugh:

Upon opening the Lunch Lady books, Gracie immediately improvised an accompanying soundtrack.  She became "Theme Song Girl" and carried on for all 25 minutes of our review.  Here are a few highlights:

Gracie shares her favorite picture from "The Hiccupotamus"...  and then I make her cry:

Lily is once again incoherent... Doodle-loodle-loodle...

I have no idea what Lily says here, but it sure is funny:

When we reviewed "Where the Wild Things Are" Isaac was in a bizarre mood.  Way bizarre.  I had to turn off the recorder and tell him to stop saying such crazy stuff.
"I'm not saying crazy stuff," he claimed.
"You just did," I retorted. "When we were talking about the pictures breaking out of the borders."
"I did not," he insisted.
"You said 'the trees are poofing out of the chickens,'" I countered.
"What!?" he exclaimed incredulously. "I said the trees are coming out of the borders."
"No, you said 'chickens'."
"I did not!"
"You did!"
Then Dad realized - hey - we've got a tape recorder to settle this...

Ah, sweet victory...

You know you've got a wonderful kid if his most serious vice consists of randomly saying the word "chickens."

Lily breaks into song while reviewing "Jeremy Draws a Monster."

Gracie invents Tubecats:

Gracie has words for Peter McCarty:

Isaac and Gracie try to pronounce Dieter Wiesmuller's name:

Gracie bestows a name upon the kid in "Nugget on the Flight Deck."

While reviewing "Who Needs Donuts" we discovered that Lily once accidentally loved ducks more than people:

If you haven't guessed, reviewing with kids can be a very chaotic experience.  Here's a bit of the behind the scenes drama that you all fortunately get to miss:

And for our final clip, sweet Lily offers herself to "The Book That Eats People."

Hope you had fun listening in!  If you liked these and want to hear more, you can check out our first batch of Audio Snippets: here