Monday, January 31, 2011

Interview #9: Nancy Shaw

During our hiatus this summer, the kids and I had the chance to meet and interview two more children's book authors.  They were lightning quick interviews -- less than 5 minutes each.  But we had fun and are so thankful these ladies took the time to visit with us!  We will post one interview today and one tomorrow -- so for all our loyal Monday visitors, be sure to check back in tomorrow for more :)

Up first is our interview with Nancy Shaw (whose portrait here was drawn by Gracie).  Nancy Shaw is probably best known for her many wonderful "Sheep" books: "Sheep in a Jeep," "Sheep Out to Eat," "Sheep in a Shop," "Sheep on a Ship," etc, etc. (illustrated by Margot Apple).  Before we share the interview, we'd like to take a moment to highlight another of her books.  This one is called "Raccoon Tune" and is illustrated by Howard Fine...

Dad:  Who can tell us what happens in "Raccoon Tune"?
Lily (age 7):  The book is about these raccoons looking for food.  And they check in trashcans.  But their trashcan rolls down the hill and goes in the lake.  They lose their trash, but they catch lots of fish in the can instead.
Gracie (age 10):  Pretty funny book.
Dad:  What are some ways that this book is similar to the Sheep books?
Lily:  They both rhyme.
Gracie:  She writes in swift short sentences.
Lily:  Short and sweet and cute.
Dad:  What are some ways Raccoon Tune is different from her other books?  Besides the lack of sheep.
Isaac (age 12):  "Raccoon Tune" sounds like a song.  It sounds very musical.  And in "Sheep in a Jeep" there is one main rhyming sound.
Dad:  "Eep."
Isaac:  Yeah.  But in Raccoon Tune, the rhymes are always changing.
Gracie:  -ite, -ite, -ite... -eep, -eep, -eep... -orage, -orage, -orage.
Isaac:  It goes on and on.
Gracie:  And Dad, look at this: "Deep in BINS we always forage / cracking TINS we find in storage / apple SKINS and maple porridge."  It's got rhymes within the rhymes within the rhymes.
Dad:  Yep.  Both internal rhymes and end rhymes.  Thanks guys!  And now we'll travel back in time, to the day of our interview:

Lily:  I have a question.  What is your favorite book that you wrote?
Nancy Shaw:  My opinion changes from time to time.  But it rotates among three of them.  One is "Sheep in a Jeep" which is the most popular and the simplest.
Dad:  That was your first one right?
Nancy Shaw:  Yes.  Another one I like is "Sheep Out to Eat."  I just really enjoy the plot there.
Gracie:  Yeah, that one is funny.
Nancy Shaw:  And I love "Raccoon Tune."  Partly that's because of the wonderful things the artist Howard Fine did to it.  Of course, the artist for the sheep books, Margot Apple, is wonderful too.
Isaac:  After making all these sheep books, was it kind of hard to make a raccoon book instead of a sheep one?
Nancy Shaw:  The raccoons came from a different place than the sheep.  The sheep books have always come from the sounds.  The first one started when I was bored on the highway.  I was in the back of the car with my two little kids.  We had been reading a whole bunch of library books, and one of them was filled with rhymes.  So I had a contest with myself to see if I could come up with some rhymes in the same form.  And then I thought, "This could be a story."  It often takes me quite a long time to work out how the story is going to fit with the rhymes I've come up with.  It takes me many, many tries.
Dad:  We wondered if the rhymes came first.
Nancy Shaw:  Yes, for the sheep books.  But the raccoon book started with the story.  It came from having our garbage cans knocked over.  I wasn't very happy with the raccoons, but I had to admire their work ethic.  They kept at it, and they were very clever.  So I was wondering how they would feel about all this, and I thought they might want to brag.
Gracie:  Once my mom was taking out the trash, and she almost put the trash bag right on top of a raccoon.
Dad:  He was right inside the can!
Nancy Shaw:  I think I would have backed off then.
Gracie:  The book is called "Raccoon Tune."  But why does it say "tune" if the story is about raccoons trying to get some food?
Nancy Shaw:  I think because when I started writing it, a tune was going through my head.  It wanted to be a rhythmic book.
Dad:  It sounds a lot like music doesn't it?
Gracie:  Yeah, it does.
Nancy Shaw:  The amazing thing that happened with that book is that an actual tune was later written for it.  You can go on my website and hear a sound clip from it.  There was an orchestra concert with the Ann Arbor symphony.
Gracie:  Awesome!
Nancy Shaw:  We had an absolutely wonderful singer, actor, dancer.  He acted the Raccoon.  And the drummers actually played garbage can lids and wore raccoon masks.
Gracie:  That would have been awesome!
Nancy Shaw:  It was awesome.  There was an instrument I had never heard of.  It makes a burping noise when you squish on it.  The composer thought that after the raccoons ate that much fish, they would want to burp.
Gracie:  There were a lot of trout in the book!
Isaac:  Usually you don't get that many trout when you go fishing, so that was a really, really good catch!
Dad:  One last question, anyone?
Isaac:  After getting used to the same artist for all the sheep books, was it strange for you to have someone completely different do the raccoon book?
Nancy Shaw:  I wouldn't say it was strange.  Margot Apple is wonderful.  Howard Fine is wonderful in a different way.
Dad:  Thanks so much!
Gracie:  I have one more...
Dad:  Only if it's short.
Gracie:  It's a short one.
Dad:  Okay then.
Gracie:  Don't you think Margot Apple has the most awesome last name ever?
Nancy Shaw:  Apple?  It's a good last name.
Gracie:  It's the awesomest ever!
Dad:  Ha, ha, alright then.  Thanks for chatting with us, Ms. Shaw!
Gracie:  Yeah!
Isaac:  Thanks!

raccoon at night, by Isaac

trying to blast the lid off, by Gracie

raccoons and fish, by Lily

Author: Nancy Shaw
Illustrator: Howard Fine
Published, 2003: Henry Holt
Like it?  Here it is

Monday, January 24, 2011

Review #84: Chalk

Dad:  Today we bring you "Chalk" by Bill Thomson.
Gracie (age 10):  The book is called "Chalk" because it is about chalk.
Lily (age 7):  Magic chalk.
Gracie:  It's about these three kids -- two girls and one naughty boy.
Elijah (age 5):  No, he's a good boy.
Gracie:  The three kids go to the park on a rainy day.  Their names should be... Ninka, Dinka, and Stinka.  Stinka is the naughty boy.
Elijah:  No!  Good boy!  Good boy!
Isaac (age 12):  At the park they see this dinosaur toy...
Lily:  It is a bouncy one.  A bouncy ride-on dinosaur.
Gracie:  Oh yeah, I love bouncies!  Those toys are the coolest things ever.  Even though we are way too old for them.
Lily:  On the bouncy dinosaur they find a chalk bag.
Isaac:  They think "Ooo - some chalk.  Let's draw some pictures."  The first girl draws a sun, and it turned real in the sky.  And they thought "Awesome!"
Gracie:  The drawing pops up and goes up into the sky and makes a sunny day.
Dad:  So what does that mean?  Are there two suns in the world now?  I suppose it's not supposed to be logical... just fun.
Gracie:  Dad!!!  We are talking about magic chalk!  And you are looking for logical things?
Dad:  Ha ha ha...
Isaac:  Then the second girl picks up some chalk and draws a million butterflies.
Gracie:  Hundreds and millions of butterflies.
Lily:  And the butterflies go up into the sky.  Then the boy - he is sneaky and bad - he is a naughty, naughty boy - he draws a dinosaur.
Gracie:  It comes to life.  And the kids all run away screaming.
Dad:  Do you think the boy knew it would turn dangerous?  Maybe he was just excited to see a dinosaur and didn't think about the repercussions.
Gracie:  But look at his face!
Isaac:  Yeah, he knew what was going to happen... he is a stinker.
Elijah:  No, he's good!  He's good because he saves everyone by drawing water!
Lily:  The boy has an idea.  He is hiding in the tube slide, and he draws a rain cloud.
Gracie:  It's the one smart thing he's ever done.
Lily:  And then it starts raining.  And when you see this part, it's sort of gross... the dinosaur starts melting.
Dad:  Because he's chalk.
Lily:  It's gross.  It reminds me of Wizard of Oz.  Bad guys always get melted because they are terrible and bad.
Gracie:  Bad guys end up as little green pools when they get hit with water.
Dad:  Green guys and water don't mix.  So here's the obvious first question for you: What would you guys draw if you had magic chalk?
Lily:  Puppies!  And dog food.
Elijah:  I would draw a baby.  Then we could have two newborn babies!
Dad:  Wow - you like babies so much that you already want another one?
Elijah:  Yes!  And this one would be a boy.
Isaac:  I would draw a roomful of magic chalk.  I would draw a giant underground room with more magic chalk in it.
Gracie:  I would draw a million dollars!
Dad:  So you would be a counterfeiter, Gracie?
Isaac: (singing)  Gracie's breaking the la-aw, Gracie's breaking the la-aw.
Gracie:  What's a counterfeiter?
Dad:  Someone that makes his own money.
Isaac:  And it's illegal.
Gracie:  Okay then.  I would draw seventy-seven thousand pandas.  Because right now there are not many pandas left in the world.
Dad:  Ah, reversing extinction is a much nobler pursuit than counterfeiting.
Mom: (chiming in)  I would draw a buffet table.  Chinese buffet.  With crab rangoon and cream cheese wontons.
Gracie:  I would draw a chocolate fondue fountain!
Isaac:  NO.  I would draw a giant pig.
Gracie:  What?
Isaac:  It would be the world's biggest pig.
Gracie:  What would you do with the world's biggest pig?
Isaac:  Give it to poor people.  And they can all eat pig and they'd never run out of food.
Dad:  How would you describe the pictures in this book?
Gracie:  Realistic!
Isaac:  They look like photographs.
Gracie:  They almost look like reality.
Dad:  The word for that is "Photorealism."  That's when a painting is so real it looks like a photograph.
Lily:  It helps it make the dinosaur look more scary.  Really really scary.
Isaac:  What are the pictures made with?  It doesn't even look like he used an art utensil.
Dad:  Acrylic paint and colored pencils.  Just like materials we have.
Isaac:  How long do you think it took for him to make this book?
Gracie:  I bet each page took three weeks.
Isaac:  I'd bet a page a month.
Dad:  What else is unique about this book?
Gracie:  There aren't any words, so you get to make up the words.  And that means you get more involved in the story.
Isaac:  He's got to make a sequel.
Lily:  Make a series please.  Then we'll know what's happening with the chalk.  Like if someone else comes over to use the chalk.
Dad:  Right -- at the end of the book the kids leave the chalk behind.
Lily:  That makes me wonder if someone else finds it.
Isaac:  Every kid who reads this book is going to go looking for that chalk.

holding a butterfly, by Lily

dinosaur, by Elijah

chalk dinosaur, by Isaac

dinosaur coming to life, by Gracie

Author/Illustrator: Bill Thomson
Published, 2010: Marshall Cavendish
Like it?  Here it is

Monday, January 17, 2011

Review #83: the Life-Size Zoo series

Dad:  Yea!  We finally tackle some non-fiction.  Today we are looking at 3 books in a series: "Life-Size Zoo," "More Life-Size Zoo," and "Life-Size Aquarium."
Gracie (age 10):  The books show life-size pictures of animals and they give you really neat facts.
Isaac (age 12):  It's like going to the zoo.  The books tell you what animals do during the day, and the animals are the exact size you would see them at the zoo.
Dad:  But even better, because you wouldn't get that close to an animal's face in real life.
Isaac:  It's like we have two zoos and an aquarium in our house right now.
Lily (age 7):  It's a Home Zoo.
Isaac:  It's a whole zoo in your hands.
Dad:  Tell me about the size of the books...
Isaac:  They are really big.  Since the animals are life-size, they need the books to be big so you can see as much of the animal as you can.  And some of the pages fold open, and there is a huge animal.  One page folds out a bunch of times, and it turns into a huge lion face -- it's so awesome.
Dad:  Can you imagine sitting right in front of that lion?
Isaac:  Eep!
Dad:  Why don't we take one book at a time, and you guys each highlight one animal inside.  First up, "Life-Size Zoo."  Go ahead, Gracie...
Gracie:  The giant panda is smaller than I expected.  But it still has a really big head.  His face is bigger than mine.  I already knew a lot about pandas -- there are a lot of interesting facts about them.  This panda's name is Kou Kou.  For each animal, the book tells you its name, its gender, its age, and its scientific name.
Isaac:  My animal is the ceratotherium simum.
Dad:  Which is a...?
Isaac:  Rhinoceros.  My cool fact is that their horns are made up of hair.  They are not bone.  They are bundles of hairs all smashed together.  I never knew that until I read this book.
Dad:  And you can actually see the hairs in this giant photo.
Isaac:  Yes.  And it is very gross.  You can see every little detail and every piece of mud.  This page folds out.  It is a huge, huge, huge picture of a rhinoceros.  But even though it folds out, the only things that can fit are his horn and his eyeball and his skin.  Because it's life-size.
Lily:  I have Carol the Zebra.  That's a big head.  She is 10 years old.  Her scientific name is equ....  blah.
Dad:  Equus quagga burchelli.
Lily:  Blech.  That's a bad name.  I like "Carol."  Carol has a lot of black and white stripes.  There are hairs around her mouth, and it helps her find food.
Gracie:  Dad, do you find food with the hair on your chin?
Lily:  There are three kinds of zebras.  A plains zebra, a grevy's zebra, and a mountain zebra.  Do mountain zebra's live on mountains?
Dad:  Maybe.  Those ones probably live on the mountains, and these ones live on the plains.  And these ones live in gravy.
Lily:  Awww!  I don't want to eat gravy now.
Dad:  You never know if a zebra's been wading in your gravy.
Lily:  Ew.
Dad:  Now, on to "More Life-Size Zoo."  Isaac, what animal are you going to tell us about?
Isaac:  Bats.  I learned that the ends of bat wings are actually hands.  They have a little claw thing at the top, but that's their thumb.  All their fingers are hooked into their wings so they can open and shut them.
Dad:  It's almost like animals that have webbed fingers.  But here, the webbing is their wings.
Lily:  I didn't know that!
Dad:  Do you remember when we saw a bat at our old house?
Gracie:  There were two bats.
Dad:  Did you ever look at them after I caught them?
Isaac:  No.  We were too freaked out.
Elijah (age 5):  I loved it!
Dad:  You don't remember that!
Isaac:  You were a baby.
Dad:  Your turn Lily.  Tell us about an animal...
Lily:  Wolves are white, gray, and brown.
Dad:  Not just one color?  Patchy?
Lily:  Yep.  And his tongue can go all the way up and touch his nose -- like you, Dad.
Dad:  Like me?
Lily:  Only his tongue can clean his whole nose.
Dad:  I couldn't clean my whole nose, could I.  And if I was going to clean my nose, I probably would not use my tongue.
Lily:  When he eats, he uses his teeth to go right into the skin by the bone and r-r-r-riiiip it out!  He has really sharp teeth.  And to show that they love each other, wolves bite each other.
Dad:  I love you, Lily.  I want to give you a nibble.
Lily:  Aagh!
Dad:  Why did you pick the wolf?
Lily:  Because I love him!  He's cute.  And I like his name.  Kinako... Kinako... my Kinako.  He's bad, but I love him.
Gracie:  I'm going to tell you about a vombatus ursinus.  A wombat.
Dad:  You guys really like looking at those scientific names, huh?
Gracie:  Yes.  I really do.  A wombat has a face like a koala, a body like a bear, and claws like a mole.  He's kind of cute.  Ish.  Except his nose.  His whole entire body fits on the page except for one tuffet of hair on his head.  When he's getting attacked, he just digs a hole and goes down in it.
Dad:  Why did you pick this one out?
Gracie:  Because he has a really big fancy scientific name.  And plus, I know nothing about wombats even though I often use the word "wombat" in everyday sentences.
Dad:  Give me an example.
Gracie:  "You are such a wombat, Lily!"
Dad:  You mean she's cute and cuddly?
Gracie:  I don't usually mean it like that.
Lily:  That's another insult!
Dad:  Elijah, you had an animal from this book that you wanted to share...
Elijah:  Okapi.
Dad:  What did you learn about the okapi?
Elijah:  Not just his legs look like a zebra, but his tail does too.
Dad:  He also has a fancy tongue.
Elijah:  He has a white tongue.  He can stick his whole tongue out to lick his eye.  (Holding up his hands) His tongue could be this big.
Dad:  Yes!  14 inches!
Elijah:  And he can use his tongue for getting leaves.
Dad:  What do you like about the picture?
Elijah:  He is white, brown, reddish brown, black, and red.
Dad:  Lots of colors on an okapi!  Thanks buddy!  Time for "Life-Size Aquarium..."  Lily?
Lily:  Dolphins talk with their foreheads!
Isaac:  Isn't it like sonar?
Dad:  They send out sound waves, right?
Lily:  Yeah.  And they listen with their chin part.  Under their mouth.  Their jaw.  Just the dolphin's head fits in the picture.  It's supposed to be life-size.
Gracie:  This is a japanese spider crab.  His scientific name is macrocheira kaempferi.
Lily:  I would be scared of him.
Gracie:  He's the largest crab in the world.  And he's got these little tentacles inside his mouth he uses to eat with, and they are always moving.  His eyes can bend too.
Dad:  I like all the textures and colors.
Gracie:  All red and pink and yellow.
Elijah:  He's really cool.  I would want to be him.  Only I wouldn't want to pinch anyone.  Unless they were very evil guys who will never be good guys again.
Dad:  Close us out, Isaac...
Isaac:  This is a clione.  Yes, I have never heard of them before.  It is a little fishy thing.  It's about an inch big.  And it is white and orange, and really see-through.  When it sees shellfishes, these six tentacles fly out of its mouth to catch them and eat them.
Dad:  So do the books only have giant life-size animals?
Isaac:  Nooo.  This one is very very very very small. But if I open the pages up, there is a big walrus behind it.  Putting them next to each other helps make the big animal seem bigger and the small one seem really teeny.  There are five cliones in the picture.  The book doesn't give them names.
Dad:  Why don't you name them...
Isaac:  This one is Augustas.  This one is Buddy.  These ones are Flippers, Mr. Giant, and W.
Dad:  So, who would like these books?
Lily:  Zoo lovers.  People that like monkeys.
Isaac:  Everyone would like them.  Unless they are scared of the zoo.
Gracie:  These books are good for people who heard their mothers say "We can go to the zoo tomorrow," and then the next day it rains.  They can check these books out of the library and it's just as good.
Isaac:  I guess if someone is scared of the zoo, they can get these books instead, and they will be completely safe.  So they are for everyone.

Batman the bat, by Isaac

Kou Kou the giant panda, by Gracie

Kinako the wolf, by Lily

Pippi the okapi, by Elijah

By: Teruyuki Komiya
Published, 2009-10: Seven Footer Press
Like them? Here they are

Monday, January 10, 2011

Review #82: Dotty

Dad:  What did you think of "Dotty"?
Isaac (age 12):  Is Dotty a cow?
Lily (age 7):  She's a bull.
Isaac:  She looks like a cow-lion.  Or a rhino-cow.
Gracie (age 10):  Dotty looks like a giant cow with purple horns and a lion's mane.  And she has dots all over.
Lily:  Dotty is an imaginary friend.  An imaginary pet.
Isaac:  The book is about a girl named Ida with a pet named Dotty that looks like a water buffalo.  I've decided that's the closest thing.
Lily:  Ida takes Dotty to school.  All the other kids in school have imaginary pets too.
Isaac:  Then they have a Christmas break, and most of the kids give up their pets.  A couple of kids still had them.  But then they have another break, and when Ida comes back, nobody even remembers their pets.  They think it's funny that Ida still has hers.
Lily:  Ida feels like a baby because she still has her imaginary friend.  Then Ida's imaginary pet bumped one of the girls that was making fun of Ida.
Dad:  Who do you think really pushed the girl?  Dotty or Ida?
Lily:  Ida did it and blamed it on her imaginary pet.
Isaac:  No.  I think Dotty really did it.
Gracie:  I think it's Ida, not the pet.  The book says the imaginary pets all have problems, but the kids are really the ones having the problems.  I'll show you...  See, that boy won't share.  It's not his pets - it's him that won't share.  And that girl right there is talking out of turn - not her pet.
Isaac:  I know that it's supposed to be the kids doing it...  But I like the idea better that the pets are doing it.  I think it's cool.
Dad:  So you choose to be like Ida...  to believe in the pets.
Isaac:  I LIKE the pets.
Dad:  Good!  Me too.
Lily:  Ida gets in trouble and has to go to the teacher's office.
Isaac:  The teacher asks Ida, "Do you want your blue leash back?"  But she accidentally gives her a red leash.  And the teacher says, "Oopsie. That's my leash."  And then she says, "Come on Gert," and the teacher had a leash that was tied to Gert.  Who is a giraffe... thing.  Like, a girraffe-pony-deer with stripes.
Lily: Then Ida feels okay because she knows someone else has an imaginary pet - someone that is way older than her.
Dad:  So, who is the author of this book?
Gracie:  Erica S. Perl.
Dad:  And what did you think of her story?
Gracie:  It's a good storyline.  It is imaginative and fun.  It's rocking.
Isaac:  It was a cool idea - it's like a whole other world, but still close enough to the real world that you don't notice.
Dad:  And who is the illustrator.
Gracie:  Julia Denos.
Dad:  And what did you think of her illustrations?
Gracie:  She has good fashion sense.
Lily:  The art is loose and sketchy.  It's awesome.  It looks like crayon, pencils, and paint.  It's a collage!
Dad:  Yep, that's called mixed-media.
Isaac:  I think she has a really good imagination in order to think of all these cool imaginary animals.  Most of the imaginary animals are kind of little, but the illustrator made Dotty bigger, so Dotty sticks out more than all the others.
Dad:  Wow - good point, Isaac!  And that ties into the story too.  Ida wants to forget about Dotty, but she can't.  Dotty is not a little fluffball that she can just shove into her pocket and ignore.
Gracie:  I like how the kids' clothes match their animals.  These two both have dots.  These guys both have stripes.  These guys have hats.  There's lots of good fashion in this book, so I like it.  Fashion is always important to me.
Dad:  A person wouldn't know that by looking at you today.
Gracie:  Yes they would.
Dad:  Maybe you and Julia Denos need to hang out and she can give you some pointers.
Gracie:  Dude!  My outfit is totally cute!
Isaac:  Uhhhh...
Dad:  I don't think mom would let you walk outside today like that.
Gracie:  I have wild fashion sense.
Dad:  Often you do quite well.  Today it looks like a buffalo-lion picked out your outfit.
Elijah (age 5):  I have a whole bunch of imaginary friends.
Dad:  Oh yeah!  Your imaginary kitty cat.
Elijah:  Oliana.
Gracie:  Elijah told me Oliana moved far, far away and can't visit anymore.
Elijah:  No.  She's here right now!  She did move away, but she can still visit a couple times.
Dad:  What does she look like?
Elijah:  She's an orange cat with stripes.  I have a whole bunch of imaginary friends.  Oliana.  And Hanker... he kind of looks like a hamster with horns.  Because he does have horns.  My biggest one is Manker.  He is an imaginary friend with wheels.  He's the biggest imaginary friend I have.
Isaac:  I never really had an imaginary friend.  I tried to.  But I could never really get into it.
Dad:  Who is your imaginary friend Lily?
Lily:  Liliana.
Dad:  That's the name of your second cousin.
Lily:  Yeah, but it's also the name of a girl who lives in Lilyland.  That's where my imaginary friends stay.
Dad:  Quite often we say, "Lily, you aren't here right now are you...  You are off in Lilyland."  You sort of zone out on a regular basis.
Lily:  Yeah.  When that happens, I'm usually playing with my imaginary friends.
Dad:  You guys are weirder than I thought.
Isaac:  Dad, you can take a photograph of my friend Mr. Fred.  Because he's not imaginary.
Gracie:  He doesn't move much.  He just stands in Isaac's room.
Dad:  And he freaks me out quite a bit.
Gracie:  He's a stuffed man Isaac built and hung on his coat rack.
Dad:  He just stares at me from behind his glasses and fuzzy beard.
Isaac:  He doesn't have glasses.  He has an eye patch.
Gracie:  Just a second.  Ensenta is talking to me.  (silent pause)  Are you done?  Okay.
Dad:  Ah, is Ensenta still around?
Gracie:  She's right here, only you can't see her.  She's pink with purple wings, giant eyes and a fuzzy mouth.
Dad:  What?  She used to be a kid.
Gracie:  She used to be a girl from Mexico.
Dad:  She changed?
Isaac:  Now she's a little poofball.
Dad:  I didn't know that.  She used to be a girl from Mexico who liked to drink milk.
Gracie:  Oh yeah!  She would drink my milk for me!
Dad:  That's the only time she showed up.  When Gracie didn't want to drink her milk.  So Ensenta would drink it.  This little imaginary Mexican girl.
Gracie:  Hee hee hee HAaaaaaaah!
Dad:  That's about all she did.  She never showed up unless milk was around.
Isaac:  Then Gracie got smarter when she got older.
Gracie:  Now Ensenta is allergic to milk.
Dad:  As a kid I didn't have an imaginary friend.  But I did have an invisible friend.  There's a big difference.
(confused silence from the kids)
Dad:  His name was Jonamacon.  And he would play Monopoly with me when no one else would.
(Gracie begins patting Dad on the back)
Dad:  Now that I think about it, that's kind of sad actually.
Kids:  (laughter)

Dotty, by Isaac

Elijah with Hanker and Manker, by Elijah

some inhabitants of Lilyland, by Lily

Gracie and Ensenta, by Gracie

Mr. Fred, by Isaac
(I often forget Mr. Fred is in the boys' room, and I've been startled a great number of times when passing by...)

Author: Erica S. Perl
Illustrator: Julia Denos
Published, 2010: Abrams
Like it? Here it is

Monday, January 3, 2011

Review #81: The Baby Sister

Isaac (age 12):  "The Baby Sister" by Tomie dePaola.
Dad:  Why did we decide to review this book for Bookie Woogie?
Gracie (age 10):  Because we are getting a baby sister!  We are!  We are!
Lily (age 7):  Girls are awesome.
Dad:  Now, here's something to notice.  What's the name of the boy in the book?
Gracie:  Tommy!
Dad:  And who made the book?
Gracie:  Tomie!
Dad:  What was the name of his baby sister in the book?
Gracie:  Maureen.
Dad:  And look at the book's dedication...
Gracie:  "For my sister, Maureen."
Isaac:  The book is the story of his life.
Lily:  I love it.  The story is about a boy who is getting a baby.
Gracie:  A boy named Tommy.  When his mommy tells him he's getting a baby, he says "Mommy, may I please have a little sister with a red ribbon in her hair?"
Lily:  Tommy is waiting and waiting and waiting, excited for the baby.
Isaac:  While they are waiting, they had to set up the baby's room.  And Tommy drew some pictures for the baby.
Gracie:  Then his mom goes away to the hospital.
Lily:  Tommy was sad because his mommy was gone.
Dad:  Are you going to be sad when your Mommy is at the hospital for a few days?  We'll be eating a lot of omelets and oatmeal over here.
Isaac:  Aagh!
Dad:  That's all I ever cook.
Isaac:  Hopefully Grammy or Nana will be coming.
Gracie:  Tommy's mom was home before he knew it.  And they are happy.
Lily:  Woohoo!  Woohoo!
Isaac:  And we are going to leave the ending a surprise.  I'm not going to tell you if it's a baby boy or girl.
Gracie:  It's a girl with a red ribbon in her hair.
Isaac:  Hey!  You just ruined it!
Dad:  Ruined the whole story... because it's called "The Baby Sister."
Isaac:  It is?  Oh!  Ho!  Dear.
Dad:  I think Tomie dePaola gave away the end of the story.
Isaac:  Bad Tomie dePaola.
Dad:  Not that long ago, people had to wait until their babies were born to find out if they were boys or girls.
Isaac:  Did you know what I was going to be?
Dad:  Yep.  The only kid we didn't know about was Gracie.  In the ultrasound she was sitting cross-legged like a stubborn little lump and wouldn't move for anything.
Gracie:  Even before I came out, I was a stinker.
Isaac:  What did Tomie dePaola use for the art?  Watercolor?
Dad:  I think so.  It's definitely a transparent paint of some kind.  Not opaque.
Isaac:  "Opaque."
Dad:  That's a good word to learn.
Isaac:  Opaque.  Opaque.
Dad:  You know what "transparent" means...
Isaac:  See-through-y.
Dad:  Yep.  With transparent paint, if you laid down yellow paint on top of dry blue, it would turn green.  You'd see through the yellow and the colors would mix together.
Gracie:  The paints in this book are transparent.
Dad:  But with opaque paint, if you put yellow over blue, it would just look like yellow paint sitting on top of blue paint.  You wouldn't see through.
Isaac:  Opaque.  Opaque.  Opaque.
Dad:  Let me tell you what I love about this particular book.  Now, there are lots of books about new babies coming...
Isaac:  There are?
Dad:  Yeah - you might not know that because we don't get many.  Most books about new babies have kids saying things like, "I don't want a new baby!  Mommy doesn't have time for me anymore!  I'm going to run away!  I'm going to give the baby away to a zoo!  I wanted a brother, but I got a sister!"
Gracie:  I don't like those books.
Dad:  I would bet if you randomly picked 10 books about new babies, 9 out of the 10 would be about upset older siblings.  Or maybe even all 10 out of a random selection.
Isaac:  Not if this one was one of the 10.
Dad:  Right.  It's very rare that you find books with kids who are happy about new babies coming.  So, what about you guys?  When new babies come to our house -- and that's happened quite a few times...
Isaac:  Especially for me.
Dad:  Are you guys ever upset about a new baby coming?
Gracie:  No way!
Dad:  See, so I would never want to put ideas in your head otherwise.  I like this one because it presents it pleasantly.
Isaac:  Look - that baby in the book has enough hair to have a pigtail already.
Gracie:  How does a newborn baby have so much hair?  Our sister Evie is still pretty bald.
Dad:  Yeah, the baby in the book has more hair than Evie has grown in 3 years!
Lily:  I want our new baby to have a blue ribbon in her hair.
Isaac:  She might have even less hair.  It keeps going lower and lower with each kid.
Lily:  But what if she's the one with the most hair?  It's possible.
Dad:  Watch her come out like a furry beast.
Gracie:  Ha hah!
Dad:  So, tell everyone what we've been calling our baby while she's inside...
Gracie:  "Puggle."
Dad:  And how do you guys feel about baby Puggle coming?
Lily:  Excited, even though the baby is probably going to be crying a lot.
Gracie:  I'm pretty excited.  I get to hold the little... thing.  The little person.  Little tiny person.
Dad:  So Isaac, this is old hat for you.  This is the fifth sibling you've watched come along.  You could probably write a book yourself about all this.
Isaac:  Very easily.
Dad:  Which is the first baby you can remember?  How far back?
Isaac:  Lily.
Gracie:  When Lily came, you made us all wear gas masks.
Dad:  Not gas masks.  Hospital masks.  Because you and Isaac were horribly sick.
Lily:  This is a good book for people who are getting a baby.  It helps you learn about getting a baby.
Dad:  Is there anything in this book that reminds you of our experience with Puggle so far?
Gracie:  I felt the baby move.
Isaac:  I didn't get to feel that until two days ago.  She was a stinker.  Whenever Mom said "Everybody come -- she's moving!" the time I put my hand on her, she'd stop.
Dad:  Is there anything you can do to help get ready like Tommy did?
Isaac:  Building the crib with Dad.  Right Dad?
Gracie:  And we can draw pictures for the baby.
Dad:  Last thing: What should we name this baby?
Lily:  We are having a girl.
Dad:  So should we name our baby Maureen like in the book?
Gracie:  Let's name it Olive.
Dad:  We've been discussing the same few names for months now...
Gracie:  Zion, Sparrow, and Olive.
Dad:  Olivet.
Gracie:  No, Olive.
Dad:  Well, Olive is a choice too.  Olivet, Olive, Sparrow, and Zion.  Everybody tell me what your vote is.
Gracie:  Olive.
Lily:  I want it to be Sparrowwwwwww!
Dad:  Why do you like Sparrow?
Lily:  Because it comes from the same kind of Bible verses that have "Lily" in them.
Gracie:  Then you guys would be buddies.  But I like Olive.
Isaac:  I like Zion.  But that one got eliminated already.
Dad:  Not necessarily.  Why do you like that one?
Isaac:  It's just a cool name.  Zion Zenz.
Dad:  I know!!  I love it!
Isaac:  Zion Zenz!
Dad:  People get all weirded out by the Z's, but I love it precisely because of the multiple Z's.  No one flips out about "Julie Jaeger."  Or "Eric Emmons."  Why are Z's any different?
Lily:  But why would you name a baby girl Zion?
Gracie:  I think it's a boy name.
Dad:  Last year's Caldecott winner "Lion and the Mouse" is dedicated to his "great-granddaughter Zion Noel."
Lily: (singing)  The lion and the mouse - is about a mouse - who got trapped by a lion...
Dad:  So it even has some literary connection.  Faint connection.
Gracie:  I vote for Olive.
Dad:  And my favorite is Olivet.  So we have a four way tie!
Gracie:  If we name it Olivet, I'm calling it Olive.  Mom likes Olive.
Dad:  Actually, Mom just threw another name into the mix.  Just yesterday.
Gracie:  What?
Dad:  The new one she's thinking about is Magdalene.
Lily:  Bahhhh!
Isaac:  I like it.  I like Zion better, but Magdalene is a good name.  I really really like all of the choices.
(little brother Elijah walks over)
Dad:  Hey!  Elijah is the tie breaker!  Mom wants "Magdalene," I want "Olivet," Gracie wants "Olive," Lily wants "Sparrow," and Isaac wants "Zion."  So...
Gracie:  Which one?!
Dad:  You get to break the tie!  What's it going to be?
Lily:  Sparrow, Sparrow, Sparrow...
Gracie:  Olive, Olive!
Isaac:  Zion Zenz!
Dad:  Elijah, break the tie for us...

Tense silence, and then:

Elijah (age 5):  Sparrovet!
Dad:  Sparrovet?  Oh dear.
Isaac:  Magdo-zio-sparro-vet!
Dad:  Alright...  Well, I guess we'll find out soon!

Tommy paints a picture for the baby, by Isaac

Tommy and Maureen, by Gracie

Baby Maureen grows up, by Lily

Author/Illustrator: Tomie dePaola
Published, 1996: Putnam
Like it? Here it is

Update:  We recorded this review back in November.  One month later, on December 25, 2010 (yes, Christmas afternoon!) the lovely Magdalena Bell Zenz wiggled her way into our arms!  Welcome to the world Magdalena!

Grace, Evangeline, Magdalena, Isaac, Elijah, and Lily
(and yep, she's as bald as a boiled egg under that hat...)