Posts tagged out of print

If I Crossed the Road, full of fun and adventure!

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If I Crossed the Road

Picture Book

Ages 2-6

By Stephen Kroninger

32 pages

Atheneum/Anne Schwartz Books

1997

Out of print

 

 

Stephen Kroninger is a multi-media artist. As a commercial artist his work has appeared in Time Magazine, Newsweek, The New Yorker and The New York Times. As an animator he’s produced work for Nickelodeon and HBO. In addition to If I Crossed the Road, he’s published two other picture books for children.

He works with cut paper, magazine clippings and photographs to create his vibrant, uncluttered collage art. It’s bold, colorful, whimsical and so much fun.

If I Crossed the Road is an utterly uncomplicated story about young boy and all the things he would do, if only he was allowed to cross the road. Though the thing he’d most like to do is quite simple, his wild imagination brings him to the farthest reaches of the universe.

This over-sized picture book starts out;

“My mom says I’m too little to cross the road by myself. But I’m not too little to THINK about it.”

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If he could cross the road, he’d ride his bike to the park and play ball.

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Maybe he’d visit his grandpa, or go fishing.

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Perhaps he’d even get ice cream…in outer space!

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And no matter where he goes, his dog is always by his side.

But what’s the thing he’d most like to do, if only he could cross the road?

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The Little Brute Family and The Stone Doll of Sister Brute are utterly lovable, completely hilarious and thoroughly unforgettable.

The Little Brute FamilyBruteCover

Picture book

Ages 2-8

By Russell Hoban

Illustrated by Lillian Hoban

40 pages

Macmillan

1966

 

The husband and wife team of Russell Hoban (1925-2011) and Lillian Hoban (1925-1998) were a giant force in the world of children’s books. Together the pair created Bedtime for Frances (as well as several other Frances books) and Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas (which is the basis for the fantastic Muppet special). Their stories are sweet and funny and are imbued with valuable life lessons; their characters are endearing and identifiable.

These farcical stories featuring grumpy characters make for two truly adorable books.  Russell Hoban’s writing is charmingly droll; Lillian Hoban’s art is delightful. Though the images are small, they’re saturated with life. Her depiction of the Brutes is marvelously comical and readers will quickly fall in love with their homely faces and bad attitudes.

The Little Brute Family opens, “In the middle of a dark and shadowy woods lived a family of Brutes.”

The Brutes—Papa Brute, Mama Brute, Brother Brute, Sister Brute and Baby Brute—were unhappy and angry creatures.

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No one ever said “please” or “thank you.” During mealtimes, Brother and Sister would kick each other under the table while Mama and Papa made faces. For breakfast they ate sand and gravel porridge; for dinner Mama made stew from sticks and stones.

In the spring the little Brutes made kites that were too heavy to fly, so they dragged them on the ground. In the fall they jumped into piles of leaves and stomped on each other, yelling.

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Then one day Baby Brute caught a wandering good feeling in a field of daisies. He put it in his pocket and said, “How lovely.”

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At dinner, when Mama Brute served Baby Brute his stick-and-stone stew, he said, “Thank you.”

 

“Then the little good feeling flew out of his pocket and hovered over the table, humming and smiling.”

 

The good feeling spread quickly throughout the Brute family and they wished for it not to hover, but to stay. The following day, instead of collecting sticks and stones for stew, Papa collected wild berries, salad greens and honey. In the spring the little Brutes made kites they could fly instead of drag; in the fall they collected nuts and acorns to roast by the fire.

“The little good feeling stayed and stayed and never went away, and when the springtime came again the little Brute family changed their name to Nice.”

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The contrast between the brutish behaviors and the new nice attitudes makes the nice parts all the more satisfying. The Little Brute Family provides a gentle reminder to focus on the good parts of life, in a heartwarming and hilarious way.

 

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The Stone Doll of Sister BruteSBruteCover

Picture book

Ages 2-8

By Russell Hoban

Illustrated by Lillian Hoban

32 pages

Macmillan

1968

Out of print

 

The Stone Doll of Sister Brute begins, “Once upon a time, before the Brute family changed their name to Nice, Sister Brute had nothing to love.”

When Sister Brute asked Papa for a doll he just walked away growling, so she asked Mama. “Mama gave her a stone.”

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Sister Brute loved it anyway. She drew a face on it, made it a dress and named it Alice Brute Stone. One day, while Sister Brute and Alice Brute Stone were out walking, they encountered an ugly dog in hobnailed boots demanding to be loved. Though Sister Brute explained that she already had something to love, the dog threatened her.

‘“Love me,” said the dog, “or I will kick you very hard.”’

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Then he kicked her! Sister Brute kicked back but her kicks weren’t as hard because she wasn’t wearing hobnailed boots. Sister Brute threw her stone doll at him but, since nobody ever played dolls with him before, he thought Sister Brute was playing and took this as proof of her love.

“So he followed her home with Alice Brute Stone in his mouth, and he kicked Sister Brute lovingly all the way.”

Before long Sister Brute complained that all she had was “tiredness and kicks and bruises.” Mama correctly responded, “Maybe that is because you have been loving only a hard stone and a kicking dog.”

When Sister Brute asked what else she could love, Mama said, “I don’t know.” It was then that Mama noticed Alice Brute Stone’s face, the one Sister Brute drew herself, and it looked just like hers.

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‘“You could love me,” said Mama Brute, “and I will give you soft hugs and kisses and sing you lullabies.”’

‘“What will Papa give me if I love him?” said Sister Brute.”’

Papa would give her kisses and knee rides. Brother had smiles and string to offer, and Baby had rusty bolts, colored glass and turtles to share.

Sister Brute realized she could love Mama Brute, Papa Brute, Brother Brute, Baby Brute, her stone doll, and her kicking dog.

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As many times as I’ve read these books I never fail to laugh, a lot, and I love them more and more each time.

 

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Cracked Corn and Snow Ice Cream: A Family Almanac is a treasure for the whole family.

Cracked Corn and Snow Ice Cream: A Family Almanac

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Non-fiction/Reference

All Ages

By Nancy Willard

Illustrated by Jane Dyer

64 pages

Harcourt Brace & Company

1997

Out of print

 

 

An almanac is defined as an annual calendar containing important dates and statistical information. Readers may be familiar with The Old Farmers Almanac. Published annually, it contains—among other things—weather forecasts, planting charts, astronomical data, and recipes for the coming year. As a child I was fascinated by it. It seemed to be able to predict weather for specific days, and general weather patterns for whole seasons with remarkable accuracy. Looking through its pages always made me feel as though I were living in a different time, yet it was full of information pertaining to the future. It was like a book of magic.

This family almanac, created by Nancy Willard and Jane Dyer, is also a book of magic. Willard gathered stories from her grandmother’s family, of life on a farm in the Midwest, at the turn of the century. When Dyer heard the stories, she was reminded of her own family’s past and their roots in Kansas.

Though a snapshot of a different time, there’s helpful advice that can be used today. It’s temperature, not light, that helps to ripen tomatoes; a slice of lemon rubbed on your hands will help rid them of stains. While some of the information is not relevant to current, daily life—like reminders to cut your ice and tips for storing it properly—it’s still deeply engrossing.

Nancy Willard won the Newbery Award in 1982 for A Visit to William Blake’s Inn: Poems for Innocent and Experienced Travelers. (That same year Beverly Cleary’s Ramona Quimby, Age 8 won a Newbery Honor.) Willard is a poet, a novelist and a picture book writer. Her writing is beautiful and full of energy, immediately drawing readers into the life of the characters.

Jane Dyer has illustrated several books, including Time for Bed, written by Mem Fox, one of my favorite books for babies. Her art in this book is superb. It’s delicate and vibrant and imbues the text with nostalgia.

Each month spans four pages and contains several sections. “Dates and Festivals” features fixed holidays, birthdays of notable figures and important dates in history. “Variable Feast Days and Holidays” highlights celebrations that fall on varying days each year.

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The “Farmer’s Calendar” offers planting information, tips for the care of livestock and tips relating to nature.  “Worth Knowing” and “Worth Cooking” contain facts and recipes respectively.

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Each month closes with “The Voices,” direct quotes from Willard’s family members giving readers a personal glimpse into life on a farm in the early 1900s. Photographs of the people speaking in “The Voices” are featured in double page spreads, which separate the seasons, leaving a more lasting impression of times past.

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There’s a section that appears in a few of the months labeled “Cow Facts” where readers learn that thirty-three cows fit in an average classroom! And when milking a cow by hand, a gallon of milk contains 340 squirts.

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Amongst all these features are poems, spells, old sayings, birthstone information, etymology of the names of the months, old wives tales, and myriad other tidbits. Dyer’s amazing art is sprinkled throughout—covering a quarter page and accompanying a poem, or as a small detail along side a special date. She’s also created colorful and ornate hand-lettering to break up the traditional black type.

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Use this book as a template to create your own family almanac, as a lesson on life in a different era, or as a reference for wonderful old-world recipes. Break it out at the beginning of each month to discuss upcoming holidays, or to aid in your planting schedules. Or just read through it and marvel at a lifestyle of not so very long ago, but far removed from our current way of life. However read, Cracked Corn and Snow Ice Cream is a treasure for the whole family to share.

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