The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster and classically illustrated by Jules Feiffer (1961) is a book for the clever reader. The book is full of wonderful wordplay, cliché, word stereotypes, and logic puzzles for a young child (and the adult!) to chuckle over and enjoy.
In the story, the young Milo is bored of school and of everything else in his life. He doesn’t want to play with his toys. He does want to learn anything. What’s the point of it all? As he ponders the existential meaning of his life, a gigantic magic tollbooth appears in his home, and he enters (why not? he doesn’t have anything better to do) a magically different world where words and numbers are very important, but meaning is tragically lacking. Using his wits and his courage, Milo, along with the help of a clever watchdog named Tock, comes to the rescue in finding meaning. I loved the emphasis on learning, the cleverness of the wordplay, and the delight that comes from the many colorful characters in his trip through Dictionopolis and Digitopolis. Milo becomes the hero of the everyman because he does the “impossible,” and who can’t help but love Tock the watchdog! (more…)
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl is a book and a movie (Gene Wilder) that I have found memories of when I was a child.
Charlie is about a child who has nothing and wins everything. He first gets the coveted golden ticket. He gets a lifetime supply of chocolate and a tour of the magical chocolate factory, led by the wacky Willy Wonka. We know from the beginning that Charlie Bucket is our hero and that the other children have severe character faults that make them undeserving of the chocolate. We cheer the downfall of the naughty children, hoping Charlie will make it to the end. (*spoiler: he does!*)
“Spoilers” throughout the rest of this post. (more…)
My son (almost age 23 months) insists on reading the same books every night, usually three or four or five times. I’m very glad he loves to read, but I’m getting a bit weary of picture books. I do think we’ve had some winners in our Library Loot the past two weeks, though, so I thought it’s time to share what we are reading once again. (more…)
Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle is a magical friend to children, with her upside-down house and delicious cookies that are always waiting for you. She’s also a wonderful help to parents, who often don’t know how to solve the problems of parenthood.
When I was young I loved learning Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s “cures” for naughty children’s problems, such as not putting away toys, answering back, and refusing to take a bath. Her cures were ridiculous and magical, and they were funny.
However, as an adult, reading three volumes of such stories in The Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle Treasury by Betty MacDonald became tiring. In some respects, the sequels failed to live up to the original, and I was horribly disappointed. (more…)
In A Caldecott Celebration: Six Artists and Their Paths to the Caldecott Medal, Leonard Marcus illustrates the long road six Caldecott illustrators followed to produce to an award-winning book. This book is a combination of biography and art history as it looks at how six artists approached children’s book illustration over the last six decades.
I love the children’s books Marcus highlights, and it was truly fascinating to learn the stories behind them. The books he highlights are these (one for each decade).
- Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey (1942 Caldecott Medal winner)
- Cinderella by Marcia Brown (1955 winner)
- Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (1964 winner)
- Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig (1970 winner)
- Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg (1982 winner)
- Tuesday by David Weisner (1992 winner) (more…)