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Sweet tooth stories…

I know I’m late on last week’s storytime reviews, I beg forgiveness dear readers!

Ok first up is The Ice Cream King by Steve Metzger.

Teddy and his mother visit an ice cream shop where Teddy is told he can have any kind of ice cream he wants, and gets a paper crown put on his head. As the Ice Cream King he rules a land filled with every kind of ice cream, and topping, imaginable. There’s an ice cream ocean, vanilla fudge volcano, whipped cream lanes, and an ice cream moon!

This is a really cute rhyming story about a boy’s vast imagination, with a gentle moral about sharing. The illustrations were simply scrumptious and had myself, the children, and the parents ready for a nice big helping of something cold and creamy! It’s a great story for summertime and we all enjoyed it.

 

 

The next story we read that day was Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate Cake by Michael Kaplan.

Firstly, I thought this book was hysterical. Betty Bunny doesn’t like to try new things. When her mother asks her one night if she would like a slice of chocolate cake for desert Betty Bunny promptly answers no, she hates chocolate cake. “What’s chocolate cake?” she asks. When she finally tries it she declares that she loves chocolate cake, she may even marry it one day. She can’t get it out of her mind, she thinks of nothing else. But she will have to learn a hard lesson about being patient and waiting for the things she wants.

Honestly, the book was really funny, especially for anyone that spends a lot of time with children. The author very obviously got this from something he’s seen and experienced with real kids. Betty’s whole attitude was just so realistic and amusing, any parent, aunt, uncle, grandparent, friend, etc would agree after reading this book. Oh, and the kids liked it too. They thought Betty and her antics were very funny. I hope we see more books about this character, and definitely more books by this author. The illustrations were fun and beautiful, a good balance of minimalistic and cool crazy clutter. The story was also well-balanced with humor and a light moral.

 

 

 

As our craft that day I drew a template of an ice cream cone and ran off copies. I then let the kids color their cones, gave them glue and a rainbow assortment of tissue paper to make “ice cream” and glue above their cone. It was a great activity and the kids had fun, we topped it off with fuzzy red pom pom balls, the “cherry” on top of a great storytime. 🙂

*Bonus Review*

Since the theme of this post is sweet stories I’m throwing in a review of The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen. Set in a small North Carolina town this novel initially piqued my interest because of the lovely cover art. Allen tells the story of Josey Cirrini, a young woman very much unhappy with her life but not willing to rock the boat enough to change it. Josey is plump, quiet, and can never live up to her high society mother’s expectations. She has two things hidden in her closet that make life bearable, sweets and trashy romance novels. And then one day there is a third something in her closet, something that is definitely not supposed to be there. Della Lee Baker, local waitress and fairy-godmother. Of course she does what every good fairy god-mother should, she shakes Josey’s world. Della pushes Josey out of her unhappy, but comfortable existence and out into the world where Josey finds that there are friends to be made, and maybe even a little love to fall in.

This book has a very fairytale feel to it, with just enough real world and just enough unexplainable magic to make it a divine treat for the senses. The power of family, food, friends, secrets, passions, love, and the color red are just a few of the things explored in this story. Allen has written a charming, warm, and enchanting novel brimming with whimsy and tantalizing possibilities. As the first book I’ve read from this author it totally cemented my love for her work. If you need something warm and comfortable to relax with after work, on a cold winter day, or late at night in your secret haven look no further. Your waistline might not thank you, but your heart will.

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Terrible Pet Stories!

On Wednesday at Storytime we read two stories about very different kinds of terrible pets.

First we read Children Make Terrible Pets by Peter Brown

You all might remember an earlier post I wrote about another Peter Brown book in which I expressed my affection for him. After reading this most recent Brown book at Storytime, affection has turned into undying love. Children Make Terrible Pets is simply adorable. Lucy, a cute little bear in a pink tutu, finds a little boy in the woods one day. She takes him home and names him Squeaker after the only noise he makes and then begs her mother to let her keep him. Which her mother eventually does (even though everyone knows that children make terrible pets), on one condition. Squeaker is Lucy’s responsibility. She has to take care of him and make sure he has everything he needs. This works out for a while and the bear and the boy have a lot of fun together, until Squeaker starts making messes and ripping up the furniture!

Brown says he got the inspiration for the story from something his mother used to say to him when he was young and would drag in wild animals asking to keep them as pets. She would ask him how he would like it if a wild animal took him home and kept him as a pet. This book has a great message for kids about the responsibilities involved in having any pet, and also about keeping the wild in wildlife.

My Storytime kids were highly amused, as were their parents and myself. The book totally reminded me of my own childhood antics. I kidnapped countless critters and brought them home to be my pets for an afternoon. The parents seemed to relate to the story as well, although from the other end of the spectrum. Everyone enjoyed it!

Also, did I mention the illustrations? Once again Brown did his own illustrations, and once again they have a quirky charm that is 100% his own and oh so adorable. See for yourself:

5 Bookies!

Then, continuing in the Terrible Pets vein, we read Tumford The Terrible by Nancy Tillman.

Written in rhyme (always popular with children, and, well, me) Tumford The Terrible is the story of a cat named Tumford and the trouble he causes around his house. He doesn’t do it on purpose, but when he makes a mess or breaks something instead of taking responsibility and apologizing he hides. Then one day his owners are going to a fair, and Tumford really wants to go with them. So they agree to take him, but only if he promises not to cause any trouble and to apologize if he does. He promises and off they go. Tumford is on his best behavior, and tries his hardest to stay out of trouble, but trouble just seems to find him wherever he goes. Can he take responsibility and apologize for the trouble he causes? Or will he just hide like he always does?

This is one of my new favorite picture books. It’s a great book for anyone that has a hard time saying they are sorry, and it conveys the message to young ones that no matter what they are always loved. Nancy Tillman has been a favorite of mine for a very long time, with her sweet, whimsical stories and freaking incredible illustrations. And Tumford doesn’t fail to bring whimsy, humor, and fantastic illustrations. One of the reasons I like Tillman as an illustrator so much is because of how real her pictures feel, they kind of suck you in and give you this warm and fuzzy feeling of joy. I wish I had been able to find my favorite picture of Tumford online so that I could share it with you guys but you’ll just have to click on the Nancy Tillman link and watch the Tumford slide show to see it. Or better yet, buy the book! My very favorite scene was so funny. I literally laughed for 10 minutes and all of my co-workers that I shared the picture with found it equally amusing, was of Tumford walking to the fair in his yellow wellies. He is walking on his hind legs and has his front legs out in the air in front of him doing a zombie-walk. I found it so amusing because he looks like a kitty doing the dance to Thriller. And I’m not gonna lie, that picture was the soul reason the book made Storytime. 😀

5 Bookies for Tumford The Terrible!

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Ugly Duckling, Reimagined, and a Chinese Tale of Virtue

On Wednesday we had our regular storytime after our fieldtrippers left. Usually I have the same kids and parents come to Wednesday storytimes, my little regulars, without many new faces being present. Not so this past Wednesday! We had 5 new little ones, accompanied by their big ones, which was pretty exciting I must say! I should also tell you, since I don’t believe I have, my Wednesday bunch are on the young side usually. It’s pertinent later, I promise.

So first we read The Ugly Duckling Dinosaur by Doug Kennedy. Set in prehistoric times this book is about a T Rex that hatches in the wrong nest, a nest of duckling, and follows the basic Ugly Duckling storyline. The story has pretty great watercolor illustrations (chosen because that’s what scientists use when illustrating creatures) that were fun and expressive. The kids enjoyed the illustrations, but the story itself went way over their heads. Also I would not recommend reading this story to children unless you have brushed up on your scientific dinosaur name pronunciation skills. Scattered throughout the tale are other dinosaurs and prehistoric creatures, and the occasional scientific name dropped in to keep the unwary storyteller (ahem, me) on their toes. I think it would be a good story for children in the 3rd-4th grade age range, something good to read in the classroom. It’s a fairly refreshing way to tell the Ugly Duckling story, with pretty accurate scientific depictions of the creatures and their habits. There was also an area in the back that had non-fiction information on a lot of different dinosaurs.

So I’ll give this one 4 bookies, it lost a point because I couldn’t actually read/pronounce several of the dinosaur names and come on, it’s supposed to be a children’s book.

Next up we read The Empty Pot by Demi. I love Demi’s work! Her illustrations are soft and beautiful and they take you back in time and make the story seem so real. To me anyway. This story the kids took to a lot better. The Empty Pot is the tale of a little Chinese boy named Ping, who is the best gardener in all of China. The emperor of China prizes his gardens and plants above all else, but one day he realizes that he has no heir. So the emperor devises a contest to see who the next emperor of China will be after he passes away. He gives each of the contestants a seed and sets them the task of growing it. Ping lovingly tends his seed, but day after day there is nothing but an empty pot. When the time comes for the emperor to judge everyone’s efforts and to announce the winner, and thus the new emperor of China, Ping is filled with shame. From all across the land people are flooding in with pots filled with the most lush, most beautiful plants and all Ping has to show is his empty pot. But he goes to the emperor in shame that he has failed, not knowing that he has in fact won because the emperor tricked them all. He had given each of them seeds that had been boiled and therefor could not grow. For his honesty Ping became the next emperor of China. It’s a moral tale that teaches children the value of honesty, but also of doing your very best and not being afraid to fail. Whimsical and charming, we really liked this book!

I give The Empty Pot the full 5 bookies, because it’s beautiful, and has a great moral.

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Gulliver! Holmes! Bovary! Oh My!

Once again, sorry for the lack of post in recent weeks. I took a much needed sabbatical, even from reading. A very good friend of mine was visiting all the way from Hawaii so I spent most of my time running around, getting up to no good, with her. Now that she’s gone back home and I’ve gone back to work life is getting back to normal. Which means, the project must go on!

So to update you guys I’ve been reading Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift, Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert. I have yet to finish any of them, but I feel like sharing my thoughts on each of them so far.

Here goes! I’ve read part 1 of Gulliver’s Travels in which Gulliver gets shipwrecked on the shores of Lilliput. I think, satirical allegory that it is, Gulliver’s time in Lilliput was very interesting. And I actually quite liked the story, although much of it is Gulliver describing his time there and there was not much dialogue. So on that front, so far so good. I’ll go into more detail when I review the work in it’s entirety.

Sherlock Holmes is AWESOME! Can I just say that again? He is awesome! I love Holmes and Watson so much, and I can see why there is such a legacy that continues to inspire people in every generation. I haven’t finished all of the Sherlock stories yet, there are just so many and I kind of enjoy savoring them rather than tearing through them voraciously. When I do finish them there will be a great big mushy gushy post, probably mostly lamenting the fact that they are over and lavishing praises on every little bit.

On to Madame Bovary. On the MB front I am about a third of the way through the book. I can’t really say yet whether I like it or not, at this point I have rather ambiguous feelings on the book. Let’s start by saying, for those of you who don’t know, apparently Flaubert was a misogynistic recluse as is so graciously (or not) pointed out by the woman who wrote the forward in the edition that I’m reading, Robin Morgan. Ms. Morgan is a self-identified feminist and while there is nothing wrong with that at all, I can’t really understand why anyone would ask her to write the forward for the book. At least not if they want anyone to buy it and read it. Most of the forward was spent telling the reader why Flaubert was a terrible person, why his work was irrelevant, and why an injustice was committed in the writing of it to Emma Bovary (the main character). Morgan states (paraphrasing here) that Emma is an inaccurate portrait of a woman and her life. Granted I haven’t finished the book yet, but so far I beg to differ in a big way. Many of the things Flaubert describes Emma feeling are things I’ve felt myself. If I can say anything about the story so far it’s that there is something uncanny about the way Flaubert captures universal emotions in prose, and to what an extent! As with the the others a full review will be following soon.

I welcome feedback from you guys as always, and suggestions for The Hat. Stay tuned for Storytime book reviews to come later today, and keep reading people!

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How to Wash a Cat Review and my next book…

How to Wash a Cat!

As you all know, over the last week I’ve been reading Rebecca M. Hale’s How to Wash a Cat. I love reading mysteries, and so I was surprised and delighted to have drawn a new one out of The Hat last week. How to Wash a Cat is Ms. Hale’s debut novel, and the first book in her Cat’s and Curios series. Not only was I happy to have a new mystery to read, I was intrigued by the fact that it was centered around an antique store (I love antiques) and that the main character had two cats who were also central to the story (I have four cats).

Synopsis: The main character’s Uncle Oscar has just passed away under mysterious circumstances and upon his death she inherits his antique shop, The Green Vase, which is filled with the relics of San Francisco’s Gold Rush Era. Odd acquaintances and neighbors of Oscar’s come crawling out of the wood-work all offering bits of help and advice, but the main character can’t help but wonder if there is something behind these seemingly good-willed offers. She also starts receiving strange items that Oscar has left for her relating to the strange life and death of a San Franciscan tycoon over a hundred years before. What is Oscar trying to tell her from beyond the grave, and can she unravel the mystery before someone else beats her to it?

Review: First, the good stuff. Hale is a great writer, to an extent. Her descriptions are vivid and very real. Her supporting characters are well-developed and likeable, or suspicious, or intriguing depending. I loved the setting, and the obvious mystery you would expect to find in any old city with such a turbulent history. The obvious mystery you expect to find waiting for you in the dusty corners of an antique shop. Reading this book was a lot like walking along the aisles of a nice, junky little antique store and breathing in the air that is musty and heavy with a sense of history. Like picking up an object and wondering what stories it could tell you of those who had owned it before. This book had such a good feeling like that, and an atmosphere that sucked you in and made you long to run off to your nearest junk shop.

The supporting characters were really something, I particularly liked the main character’s peculiar and pompous neighbor Monty. He was a great side-kick, and the comic relief for the story. An attorney named Miranda is kind of fierce and vicious, while her mother is eccentric and wonderful! Frank, one of the main character’s neighbors, is suitably suspicious and kind of shady, as are several of the other characters.

Now for what I didn’t like. In most mystery novels the author presents you with the quandary early, and the rest of the book is spent bringing you to the inevitable conclusion of said mystery. Not the case in this book. Even after finishing it, I wasn’t sure exactly what the whole mystery was supposed to be. Was it her uncle’s death? Was it some aspect of the hundred years gone tycoon’s life? What was her motivation? WHAT were they trying to find throughout the whole thing? Even when things wrap-up at the end I wasn’t really sure, it was such a let down. Second, the main character, who also narrates the book, doesn’t have a name. Or any physical description. Or any kind of character traits whatsoever. I found this irksome throughout the whole book. It might as well have been written about Monty and not the main character at all. The last thing, there was a mullet. One of the characters, Ivan, is supposed to be oh-so-yummy-super-hot, and he has a mullet. I can’t help it, I just hate them.

Rating: 3 1/2 bookies!

So now let’s see what The Hat has in store for us next shall we? I’m reaching in deep this time….. And it’s…..

Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift

Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift! Sweetness! I’ve wanted to read this for a while, just never gotten around to it. And this gives me just the most perfect excuse to see the new film adaptation starring Jack Black. If you’d like to read along you can buy a new copy of Gulliver’s Travels Here or a used copy Here.

Until next time, keep reading! And remember, I’m always looking for new recommendations for The Hat!

Gulliver and the Lilliputians

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Storytime Book: The Curious Garden, Plus Bonus Review!

The Curious Garden

Today at storytime we read the book The Curious Garden by Peter Brown. We were actually supposed to be reading The Crows of Pearblossom by Aldous Huxley but all of the copies had been returned to the publisher. I’ll get to that one later, right now THE CURIOUS GARDEN!

So, synopsis: The book is about a young boy named Liam, who one day goes wandering through his very industrial city. A city without trees, or flowers, or any sorts of growing things. As Liam is exploring he comes across some railroad tracks that have long been abandoned and notices a small patch of wild flowers growing there. The wild flowers are dying, and in obvious need of some TLC so Liam comes back the next day and tends to them. He comes back everyday after that and through his careful attention and ministrations his little garden begins to grow healthier and larger. Very soon his garden has gotten a mind of its own. Once again, no spoilers for the end! Read it and see what happens.

Review: One of the little girls that comes to story time every Wednesday has recently started growing some little potted plants. She was so into the book, she asked me “Could my garden do that?”. I’m going to go out on a limb and say she liked it. There was only one other child with us today, she was only about 1 1/2 so I wasn’t expecting too much, and she did spend most of the story running around. But whenever she stopped and I said “Hey look at this picture, isn’t that cool?” She grinned at the book and danced for a second. Did I mention my storytime kids are adorable? All in all I think both girls liked it. I also liked it, it might even make it onto my favorite picture books list.

Peter Brown wrote a fun, cute, and kind of believable story about the impact that one person, even a little boy, can make on the world. It says on his page that the book was actually inspired by a real abandoned railway in NYC. I really liked the story he told, I liked Liam as a character, and I also liked the moral to the story. One person can make a difference.

The illustrations (which I initially thought were done on a computer) were these really neat paintings, that were detailed and fun. I liked his cartoonish style a lot and I think it’s a style a lot of children would identify with. This was a perfect Earth Day type book. I actually liked his style so much that I’m planning on (at some point) ordering his other books. His most recent release, Children Make Terrible Pets<, looks really cute! All in all I think this is a great book for children, an enjoyable one for adults, and would make a perfect gift for any gardening or eco-enthusiasts you know!

5 bookies!

BONUS: The Crows of Pearblossom by Aldous Huxley *Spoiler Alert*

New release of The Crows of Pearblossom

Older version of The Crows of Pearblossom

Synopsis: Mr. and Mrs. Crow live in a tree in Pearblossom. Mrs. Crow lays egg after egg, but everyday they disappear. The crows discover that there is a nasty old rattlesnake sneaking into their nest and eating their eggs. Mr. Crow decides to ask his wise friend the owl what he should do and the owl comes up with a plan to trick the snake. So one day Mrs. Crow doesn’t lay any eggs, but instead she and Mr. Crow make some fake eggs out of clay and paint them to look like Mrs. Crow’s eggs. When the snake sneaks up and eats what he thinks are the Crow’s eggs, he gets a nasty surprise and dies a very painful death. After the snake dies Mr. and Mrs. Crow string him up and use him as a clothes line, and they have many baby Crows.

Review: I think this is a really good book for older children, and for adults, but I would definitely not recommend it for younger children, I hope you can see why ^. Although it was written for a 5 year old. Actually, I found it rather funny myself. The Crows are just like an old married couple, and spend a lot of their time squabbling. I’m sure any parents, or even just adults in general, reading this would be able to appreciate the humor. On the downside, I’m not sure many children would. Besides that, the ending of the story is a tad bit on the morbid side. Once again, that’s fine for myself, other adults, and older children, but I’m not so sure about younger ones. Also, I liked the lyrical style it was written in which I’m sure people of all ages would appreciate. Sadly it seems like that style of children’s picture book writing is becoming a thing of the past.

As for the illustrations, you will notice two different covers shown above. This book was first published in 1967 with the original illustrations done by Barbara Cooney who was a noted children’s author and illustrator. We’ll first talk about her illustrations. I LOVE Barbara Cooney as an illustrationist. *Um Miss Rumphius anyone?* She did such great pen and ink illustrations, like the ones used in The Crows of Pearblossom. I think, given the story, pen and ink was a perfect medium to use to represent this tale. It was a kind of darkly humorous tale, and her somewhat gothic renderings of the characters was kind of creepily enchanting. Those illustrations coupled with the story and writing style still give me the shivers a bit, just because they are eerie! BTW this version was more of a chapter book. I liked this version of the book best, but that’s not to say that the new one doesn’t have great illustrations.

Sophie Blackall’s illustrations for this story were quite good, although not in a style that is generally to my taste. Her usual style is very much to my taste, but she did something different with this book. Usually the story’s she writes and illustrates (or just illustrates) have a whimsical tale and therefor she provides lovely and whimsical illustrations. In The Crows of Pearblossom, however, her illustration style differs from that of her other works. I read that she said she was trying to brighten up what was a somewhat dark story, and make it more inviting for children. Reinventing it for a new generation as it were. The crows are very odd and kind of disturbing looking, lacking Cooney’s somewhat goth glam and going for a more modern, quirky look. As always with her work, the illustrations are excellent and she has a keen eye for detail that I truly admire. She did a great job of reinventing an old tale and making it exciting and accessible to new audiences with her brightly colored backgrounds and flamboyant style in this book.

All in all, it’s a great book. But like I said earlier, maybe not for the littlest ones in the family. Why do I prefer Cooney’s illustrations? Probably in part because I’ve loved her work since I was a little girl. It’s timeless and classic to me, and evokes wonderful nostalgia. That doesn’t, by any means, mean that I don’t like the new version, because I definitely do. I don’t think you can go wrong with picking up either for a hearty laugh and a good, fun, slightly creepy read!

4 1/2 bookies! (Because the little little ones won’t be enjoying it)

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Announcing last week’s winner and this week’s giveaway!

And the winner is……Grace Hudson!

What has Grace won? She’s won her very own copy of The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper.

The Dark Is Rising

If any of you missed the earlier post that explained the details of the contest you can click here to read that post.

You can win your own free book by leaving a comment on this post suggesting a book and the clicking the subscribe button. Grace, you can just keep racking them up for a while if no one else wants a free book…. This week’s book will remain a secret, and here’s why: As you all know, my project is about not only reading what I like to and want to read, but about reading what I need to read and what my friends have been telling me to read forever. So, in the very spirit of Reading From the Hat I will not be announcing the book before we have a winner from now on. If you win, you will be just as surprised by what we are reading as I am. Remember, I will be randomly drawing the entrants names from The Hat and also randomly drawing the book from The Hat. The book is my gift to you, and I will be shipping it for free. Really, there is no downside to this contest. Enter it people! Free stuff!

This week I hope to finish reading both The Dark is Rising and Sherlock Holmes, which means you can expect to see two new reviews and another drawing from The Hat in the very near future. Madame Bovary is looming near, as is my Book From The Hat Club book club book (er, we’ll work on how that sounds…) Girl in Translation. You can see the book club details here if you’d like to join.

What else is going on? Well, I’ve spent a lot of my free-time recently studying, researching, and writing a novel. I’m very proud of myself for finishing the prologue and first chapter both in the last 3 days. Yay! So the reading may be slow-going for a little while, but it’s in the interest of having more books in the world. My books. 😀 I’m even thinking of starting a sister blog to this one so that I can blog about writing, but that might be biting off way more than I can chew at the moment.

Keep reading people, and remember to enter the contest by commenting below and clicking the subscribe button!!!

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