Thursday, December 22, 2011

And Speaking of Children's Books... are some of my favorites for Christmas!

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

Of course, The Night Before Christmas must always be read on Christmas Eve, but it must immediately be followed by The Polar Express.  I dare you not to cry.

Pedro, the Angel of Olvera Street by Leo Politi

Leo Politi was a Los Angeles artist who wrote and illustrated over 20 children's books.  Published in 1946,  Pedro takes you back to an L.A. filled with Posadas and pinatas, and a lot less traffic.  My father grew up in Los Angeles, and I've had this book as long as I can remember.  It is charming!

Christmas With the Savages by Mary Clive

I was introduced to this book last year by my friend Rosemary Quiros, and I am SO glad!  Published in 1955, but written many years earlier, it is basically Mary Clive's memoir of Edwardian childhood Christmases spent in great English country houses.  That may sound stuffy, but those nanny-raised hordes of children were hellions!  It is available on Amazon, but the sellers are in England.  It is DEFINITELY worth the wait and shipping.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Not technically a children's book, but it's a classic for a reason.  Read it again, or for the first time.

Merry Christmas!!
Mary Kay

The Chronicles of Harris Burdick

I started collecting children's books while I was in college, and one of the first that I purchased was Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg.  I was astounded by the illustrations, and it deservedly won the Caldecott medal in 1982.  I have read and collected many Van Allsburg books since, which is why I am so excited to tell you about The Chronicles of Harris Burdick.

The Mysteries of Harris Burdick,  NOT to be confused with the Chronicles, was truly that...a mystery.   A phantom author has created a portfolio of illustrations with a single caption under each, but then disappears.  Since its publication in 1984, countless school children have written their own stories to go with the images, including my own daughter.  Now 14 prize winning authors have thrown their own stories into the pot, including Kate DiCamillo, Lois Lowry, Gregory Maguire, Louis Sachar and Stephen King, and I loved every one.  They are fascinating, creepy and imaginative, and NOT just for children.  And perhaps you will be inspired to write one of your own!

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick is truly amazing.  In fact, I don't think I've ever read anything like it.  The story itself is completely original, with characters that speak to the reader, but it is his illustrations that really draw you in.  The Invention of Hugo Cabret deservedly won the Caldecott Medal, but Selznick's beautiful drawings are much more than renderings of the text. They are an intrinsic part of the story. Almost like a film or a very complicated flip book, the story would not be the same without the images.

I can't really tell you much about the plot without ruining the experience of the book.  I CAN tell you it is about a boy, a girl, an old man and a secret all wrapped up in 1931 Paris. It is sold as a young adult book, but I think it is an ANYONE book!

(PS: Has anyone seen the movie?)

Read Eat Cake, It Will Make You Want To....

When things are crazy busy, and I don't want to start a book that takes too much brain power. I look for a little bit of froth.  Eat Cake by Jeanne Ray fits that bill perfectly!

Ruth has a son in college, a surly teenage daughter, a needy live-in mother and a hospital administrator husband, that is, until his job is eliminated by the new hospital corporation.  Then he decides he'd like to restore boats for a living. And her traveling piano-player father breaks both his wrists and comes to live with them, which is awkward as his ex-wife HATES him. Are you feeling her stress yet?  When Ruth gets stressed she bakes cakes, delicious, amazing, to-die-for cakes, and it is her cakes that save the day.  It's a little bit predictable, but that's just what I need when my brain is too busy for complicated.  Besides, it comes with the recipes included.  Here is a great quote from the book.  Read it, then go have a piece of cake...

"Cakes have gotten a bad rap.  People equate virtue with turning down dessert.  there is always one person at the table who holds up her hand when I serve the cake.  No, really, I couldn't, she says, and then gives her flat stomach a conspiratorial little pat.  Everyone who is pressing a fork into that first tender layer looks at the person who declined the plate, and they all think, That person is better than I am. That person has discipline.  But that isn't a person with discipline, that is a person who has completely lost touch with joy.  A slice of cake never made anybody fat.  You don't eat the whole cake.  You don't eat a cake every day of your life.  You take the cake when it is offered because the cake is delicious. You have a slice of cake and what it reminds you of is someplace that's safe, uncomplicated, without stress.  A cake is a party, a birthday, a wedding.  A cake is what's served on the happiest days of your life."