Saturday, January 26, 2008

Winnie the Pooh

Last night I reread one of my favorite books of all time. A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh. I can't begin to count how many times I've read--either on my own or read aloud--this brilliant book. The characters? Christopher Robin. Winnie ther Pooh. Piglet. Rabbit. Owl. Kanga and Roo. And of course the ever-sullen Eeyore. They're so wonderful. So lovable. So perfect. The language? So beloved. So familiar. So right. I really couldn't imagine a world without Pooh. Pooh captures everything that is so right with the world. The innocence. The charm. The love. The kindness. There's just something so good, so pure about Christopher Robin and his chums.

Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming downstairs, but sometimes he feels that there really is another way, if only he could stop bumping for a moment and think of it. And then he feels that perhaps there isn't. Anyhow, here he is at the bottom, and ready to be introduced to you. Winnie-the-Pooh.
When I first heard his name, I said, just as you are going to say, "But I thought he was a boy?"
"So did I," said Christopher Robin.
"Then you can't call him Winnie?"
"I don't."
"But you said--"
"He's Winnie-ther-Pooh. Don't you know what 'ther' means?"
"Ah, yes, now I do," I said quickly; and I hope you do too, because it is all the explanation you are going to get.

Christopher Robin and his stuffed bear, Winnie-the-Pooh, love to be told stories. (I think everyone likes to be told stories.) Pooh especially likes to be told stories about himself because as Christopher Robin says, "he's that sort of Bear."

The first story about Winnie-the-Pooh starts off like this, "Once upon a time, a very long time ago now, about last Friday, Winnie-the-Pooh lived in a forest all by himself under the name of Sanders."

I just love that beginning. Don't you? It's silly; it's fun; it's just right. Once upon a time . . . about last Friday. Genius.

The stories themselves are very interactive. The narrator speaks to the child directly. I really think Pooh is the kind of story that is meant to be read aloud. And read aloud often. It bears much repeating. It only grows better each time it is experienced.

According to the 80th Anniversary edition of the book Winnie the Pooh has been translated into thirty-one different languages!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Voyage of the Dawn Treader

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis is the third novel in the seven-book series The Chronicles of Narnia. Earlier this month I reviewed The Lion, the Witch, and The Wardrobe and Prince Caspian. You can read my reviews here and here. I loved both of these books. Loved. Yet I'm at a loss of words when it comes to the Voyage of the Dawn Treader. The Lion, the Witch, and The Wardrobe is the start of the magic. It is the first. It could arguably be the best. Prince Caspian has a charm all its own. It's consise; it's action-packed. It's thoroughly enjoyable. Yet The Voyage of the Dawn Treader--for me--has a certain magic all its own that I can't really explain. There are times when I feel it is my favorite. But at the same exact time I'm feeling that it's my favorite, I feel guilty for thinking that anything could be better than The Lion, the Witch, and The Wardrobe. I guess I feel I need permission to love another just as much--however differently--as I do my first love.

This is a book that had me at hello. Say what you will about the first two books, neither have a first sentence that pops or sparks with magic. "There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it." This sentence has to be one of my favorite, favorites of all time.

It goes on to say, "His parents called him Eustace Clarence and masters called him Scrubb. I can't tell you how friends spoke to him for he had none. He didn't call his Father and Mother "Father" and "Mother", but Harold and Alberta. They were very up-to-date and advanced people. They were vegetarians, non-smokers and tee-totallers, and wore a special kind of underclothes. In their house there was very little furniture and very few clothes on beds and the windows were always open."

This is our first description of Eustace, "Eustace Clarence liked animals, especially beetles, if they were dead and pinned on a card. He liked books if they were books of information and had pictures of grain elevators or of fat foreign children doing exercises in modern schools."

Can you tell already that The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is unique but uniquely wonderful? Eustace, as the reader soon learns, is the cousin of Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy. And The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is the story of what happens when Lucy and Edmund go to visit their most unpleasant cousin. You'll find that magic follows the Pevensies wherever they go. This time the magic doesn't come from a wardrobe or the blowing of a magical horn. This time it's a painting--a portrait of a ship sailing the ocean that "calls" or "invites" the children to an unforgettable but dangerous thoroughly adventurous journey.

Edmund and Lucy--as you can imagine--are elated, thrilled, ever-so-happy to be back in Narnia. To be reunited with their good friend, Prince Caspian. But Eustace is miserable, cranky, mean, and downright unpleasant.

The dangers they face on their journey are unique. They're not like the dangers faced in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe or even the dangers faced in Prince Caspian. There are more dangers to be faced overall. But they're subtler. Quieter. The book has them sailing along on the seas, then occasionally stopping at various islands--some known, most unknown. Each chapter (though sometimes several chapters are related) has an adventure all its own. The novel is a handful of episodes, mini-adventures if you will. All of them unique. All of them memorable. Some episodes, I think I'll carry with me always. There's just something about this novel that just works for me.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

First two in the Chronicles of Narnia

Becky's Review of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

My review of C.S. Lewis' classic children's book The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe is going to be chatty--quite chatty--and there's nothing I can do about it. I first encountered the magic of Narnia in fourth grade when my teacher read it aloud to us. My teacher, Mrs. Watts, was known for many things. She inspired much fear and trembling. Like Aslan, she was not safe, but good. While, other students may remember the discipline or the hard work...I'll always remember my magical introduction to Narnia. Soon after, I added book by book the series to my collection. Most of my copies were used. Most were ugly. But I devoured each one. I seem to remember my sister reading a few of the series at least. But unlike Little House and Ramona and Anne, this series was more me and less her. Narnia belonged to me--the magic, the wonder, the glory of it all. I remember the pure pleasure I experienced each and every time I opened up a book. I remember the book covers, yes. And I definitely have strong opinions on which book covers through the years are 'the best' of the bunch. But more precisely, I fell in love with the proper order of the series. Few things irritate me more than someone who insists on that new-fangled order. Which is why, if you could see me, you'd know how frustrating it is to read my 7-in-1 novel. But some things must be preserved at all costs.

Once there were four children whose names were Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy. This story is about something that happened to them when they were sent away from London during the war because of the air-raids. (p. 111 in the 7-in-1 edition)

The adventures in and out of the wardrobe that these four experience during the course of the novel is oh-so-magical. The characters--both major and minor--so memorable. The story, familiar yet resilient, even after having read it a dozen times. So many wonderful scenes. Scenes that resonate. In case you haven't read it, let me give you a teaser. Lucy, the youngest of the children, accidentally discovers a magical land of ice and snow while hiding in a wardrobe in the Professor's house. Her three siblings--Peter, Susan, and Edmund--at first don't believe her. They take her tale as a wild, silly, foolish story of a girl whose homesick and wanting attention. Edmund, the brother closest to her in age and thus her biggest tormentor, also wanders into Narnia unexpectedly. But who he meets there, will perhaps undo them all. Narnia is not a land at peace. Not at all. For the land is under a spell--an enchantment--the White Witch--the supposed Queen of the land--has made it always winter and never Christmas. And the lives of the children--all four children--are in grave danger when they're in Narnia. For there is a prophecy that four humans--two sons of Adam and two daughters of Eve--will come to rule the land as Kings and Queens and restore peace and order to the kingdom.

The heart and soul of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe is the revelation of Aslan, the King of the land, a lion.

And now a very curious thing happened. None of the children knew who Aslan was any more than you do; but the moment the Beaver had spoken these words everyone felt quite different. Perhaps it has sometimes happened to you in a dream that someone says something which you don't understand but in the dream it feels as if it has some enormous meaning--either a terrifying one which turns the whole dream into a nightmare or else a lovely meaning too lovely to put into words, which makes the dream so beautiful that you remember it all your life and are always wishing you could get into that dream again. It was like that now. At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump in its inside. Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror. Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realize that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer. (141 of 7-in-1 edition)

The children's journey to Narnia, their quest to meet Aslan at the Stone Table, and their battle to save Narnia and their brother from the grasp of the evil and wicked witch....are unforgettable adventures that deserve to be experienced again and again by readers of all ages. You're never too old to experience the magic of Narnia.

Lewis, C.S. Prince Caspian.

Prince Caspian, the second of the novels in the Chronicles of Narnia series, takes place one year after the close of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. The four children, Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy, are preparing to return to school when they're instantly, magically transported (or translated) to Narnia. What they find there shocks them. Shocks them for many reasons. You see, it hasn't been a year in Narnia time. It hasn't even been just a hundred years. Their castle, their lands, unrecognizable ruins. The adventures are about to begin. Again. Many surprises, many adventures await them, along with one old friend. A friend that takes a little more faith to recognize these days.

Prince Caspian centers on a new hero. Caspian. The son of Caspian the Ninth, king of Narnia. But it is Caspian's uncle, King Miraz, that rules the land, and rules it harshly. Gone are the days of talking animals and other fantastical creatures. No the "old Narnians" must hide if they are to survive at all. Caspian may have been raised by his aunt and uncle, but his upbringing was left to an old nurse who believed in the old ways. Now, Caspian is a young man who longs to restore the golden days of the past. Who longs to restore Narnia to its former glory. Who longs to create a peaceful age where old Narnians can live and live well. But he can't do it alone. What he needs is help. Divine help.

Can a horn of old bring much-needed help from afar?

I love Prince Caspian. I do. It is exciting. It is thrilling. Again, Lewis has created memorable characters and memorable scenes.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Charlotte Zolotow Award Announced

Charlotte Zolotow Award Books

The Charlotte Zolotow Award is given annually for outstanding writing in a picture book published in the United States in the preceding year. Up to five honor books and up to ten highly commended titles may also be named each year.

2008 Winner (one of my favorites, by the way) Thank You, Bear by Greg Foley!
2008 Honor Books: At Night by Jonathan Bean, Pictures From Our Vacation by Lynne Rae Perkins, Dragon Dancing by Carole Lexa Schaefer
2008 Highly Commended: Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts, Only You by Robin Cruise, The Trouble with Dogs....Said Dad by Bob Graham, The Chicken Chasing Queen of Lamar County by Janice N. Harrington, A Good Day by Kevin Henkes, What Happens On Wednesdays by Emily Jenkins, The All-I'll-Ever-Want Christmas Doll by Patricia C. McKissack, Pierre in Love by Sara Pennypacker, Grandad's Fishing Buddy by Mary Quigley, Jazz Baby by Lisa Wheeler.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Beginning with Books' Best Books for Babies 2007

Beginning with Books--Best Books for Babies and Toddlers Published the Previous Year

Mama's Day by Linda Ashman. Illustrated by Jan Ormerod
Whose Toes Are Those? by Jabari Asim. Illustrated by LeUyen Pham
Easy Street by Rita Gray. Illustrated by Mary Bono
Welcome Precious by Nikki Grimes. Illustrated by Bryan Collier
Look At You! A Baby Body Book by Kathy Henderson. Illustrated by Paul Howard.
Look at the Animals. Peter Linenthal.
Wee Willie Winkie by Salley Mavor
Hush, Little Baby by Brian Pinkney
Cheep! Cheep by Julie Stiegemeyer. Illustrated by Carol Baicker-McKee
Baby Cakes by Karma Wilson. Illustrated by Sam Williams.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Booklist Editor's Choice 2007--Picture Books

Lauren Thompson's The Apple Pie That Papa Baked
Janice N. Harrington's The Chicken Chasing queen of Lamar County
Ilene Cooper's The Golden Rule
Kevin Henkes' A Good Day
Libby Gleeson's Half A World Away
Ellen Levine's Henry's Freedom Box
Jane Yolen's Here's A Little Poem
Brian Floca's Lightship
Rosemary Wells' Max Counts His Chickens
Anita Lobel's Nini Here and There
Chris Smith's One City, Two Brothers.
Nan Gregory's Pink
Hazel Hutchins' A Second is a Hiccup
Meghan McCarthy's Strong Man: The Story of Charles Atlas
Emily Jenkins' What Happens on Wednesdays
David M. Schwartz's Where In the Wild

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Young Readers Challenge Month One:

The Young Readers Challenge has officially started. While it isn't a rule that the twelve required books be read one per month, that is a good a way as any for spacing out these round-up posts.

First off, let me say...that there is still time to join in the challenge. There is no official deadline. So don't think you're out of luck if this is your first time hearing about the challenge. The more the merrier.

In this round-up post, you have the opportunity to share with others what you've been reading. You may do this in one or two ways.

1) Leave a comment with a link to your review.
2) Leave a review or mini-review as a comment. So even if you don't have a blog of your own, you can still participate.

Some of you may be wondering how "long" or "short" a review would need to be. Really, it doesn't matter. I would say at least two sentences. :) Unless you use a lot of semicolons. :)

So leave me a comment anytime in the month of January, and I'll *eventually* round them up here in the body of this post with a snazzy little summary or intro of some sort. (Unless I'm still sick. In which case I take back the snazz.)

So enjoy your month of reading...I look forward to the reviews.

Nan is bringing us a review of My Senator and Me by Senator Edward Kennedy. It is illustrated by David Small.

Becky is bringing us a review of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe and Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis.

Kim has reviewed House at Pooh Corner.

Book Haven is bringing us a review of Possum Magic by Mem Fox.

Jenny is bringing us a review of Sam and the Firefly by P.D. Eastman

Boyett-Brinkley is reviewing three Gossie board books by Olivier Dunrea.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Goodnight, Me

Daddo, Andrew. 2007. Goodnight, Me.

Originally published in Australia, Goodnight, Me is a charming bedtime story featuring an orangutan parent and child. The book follows the story of a baby orangutan as he/she is put to bed. First the feet, then the knees, then the tummy, then the bottom, etc. Each part of the body has to be given a sweet and gentle goodnight. For example, Bless you, nose! Can you smell the sleep? and Time to close, eyes. Can you see any dreams yet? The illustrations by Emma Quay and the text by Andrew Daddo are charming and sweet and soothingly gentle. I can easily see this one becoming a child's favorite.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year

I'm not big on making New Years' resolutions. They're always a bit too grandiose and out of reach. Completely unrealistic. Like I'm going to wake up suddenly *different* one morning and be this perfect person. Change takes work, and since it requires consistency day after day after day whether you "feel" like it or not. It is always easier to put it off, push it aside, say you'll make the effort next week or next month. But concrete goals are a different matter. I'm not saying that I don't want to achieve loftier goals for the new year. But I'd rather have a few realistic ones than a long list of dreams and wishes.

I'm happy with how things are at Becky's Book Reviews. I like the structure of having interviews on Mondays and Travel-the-World features on Wednesdays. I like having reviews at all times in between. I like participating in the occasional meme. And I do enjoy posting the occasional youtube video. :) You need to insert a little fun into your life now and then. And those seemingly off-topic posts do just that for me.

But I would like to see more structure and polish at two of my other sites. Young Readers is a blog I created for reviewing books for those aged 0 to 9. But my philosophy has been, review what you want, when you want. I might post six reviews in one or two days...but then not post again for two weeks. I would *love* to commit to seven reviews a week. But, I'm realistic as well. I'd be happy to commit to five reviews a week. But even with five as my target goal, I'm unsure how quickly this change will come about. I need to change my thinking. I know that good things are possible. I just have to *want* it badly enough to work for it.

I would also like to see more structure at my Christian site, Becky's Christian Reviews. I am semi-ashamed of this one. I had high hopes of being wonder-woman. A woman who could review a new young adult book each and every day. WHILE also reading Christian fiction or nonfiction for review. It was a laughable scheme in some ways. I still want to make a success of it. But the truth is, I'm not sure how to redeem it. In the summer, I set a goal of reading 5 to 7 young adult books a week, and 2-3 Christian books a week. I would *like* to commit to that for this new year as well. BUT I'm hesitating a bit. I don't know how realistic it is in the long-term. So my perhaps realistic goal--maybe--is to read 8 Christian books a month. Given the month, that would equal one and a half books a week. (Some months it might be closer to two books a week.) That seems more feasible. But it might still be a stretch. Still, I'm willing to give it a try.