Young Elbert is at an elegant adult garden party when he hears a word that he had never heard before. Tucking it away and forgetting about it, he goes about his business. When a croquet mallet is dropped on his toe, Elbert lets the word out. Surprised by the response of the guests and the punishment he gets, he seeks advise on how to "cure" his bad word. With the gardener's help, he is able to turn the bad word into more creative and socially-acceptable words. Elbert is victorious over the word and it disappears from him forever.
I have not stumbled upon a picture book that touches on the topic of profanity until this one. So very cleverly written, it's a lesson to all of us on the creative words that are available for our use when the rest of the world is stuck on the old, very ugly ones.
It's 1894 and a pioneering young scientist named Emmaline is working on creating a flying machine. The only problem is...she's intensely afraid of being in the air. She needs an assistant, and that's where Robert "Rubberbones" Burns comes in.
So begins The Strictest School in the World: Being the Tale of a Clever Girl, a Rubber Boy and a Collection of Flying Machines, Mostly Broken. Set in an English village, the story follows the efforts of Emmaline and Robert, as aided by her indulgent Aunt Lucy and their butler, Lal Singh.
The group spends a summertime happily engaged in their aviation endeavors until Emmaline's distant parents send her away to St. Grimelda's School for Young Ladies, which happens to be The Strictest School in the World. It doesn't take long for Emmaline to experience the horrors that occur behind its towering stone walls and decide that she must find a way out. Many students have come to the same conclusion, but not one has ever escaped successfully. But with Emmaline's knowledge of flying machines and her cohorts on the outside who are willing to assist in her getaway, will she have what it takes to break free?
This is a thoroughly fun book and a perfect candidate for a multi-age family read-aloud. It's enjoyable on so many levels, featuring lovable and brave characters, a simple story, and humor throughout. The author takes advantage of every opportunity to play with the book, from the "reviews" on the back cover written by characters in the book, and the prehistoric pet pterodactyls kept by the school to maintain order with the students, to the names of the characters like Miss Sumfiddle, the mathematics instructor, and Miss Venividivici, the frightening Latin teacher.
The Strictest School in the World is a lighthearted book that's wonderfully suited for the end of the school year when most of our students are dreaming of their own impending freedom. And it looks like the adventures continue with a followup all ready and waiting for us: The Faceless Fiend: Being the Tale of a Criminal Mastermind, His Masked Minions and a Princess with a Butter Knife.
Skippyjon Jones is to Judy Schachner and the American South what Peter Rabbit is to Beatrix Potter and the English Countryside....but with a little caped crusader action thrown in!
So begin the adventures of Skippyjon Jones, a Siamese cat who wants so much to be a chihuahua he has created his own alter-ego, El Skippito Friskito. This cape-donning, mask-wearing Spanish sword fighter rallies to the cries of his imaginary amigos who live the bedroom closet.
He travels to another world inside the closet with the other chihuahuas (with names like Poquito Tito and Don Diego) and, with a spanish accent and fun(ny) rhymes, battles the likes of dinosauritos, the Bobble-ito, or any nemesis who threatens his dancing pretend BFFs.
The Skippyjon books have a great sense of cadence and rhyme that make you want to clap and maybe even do a little dance while you read. Dancing is encouraged!
"Oh, my name is Skippito Friskito. (clap-clap)
And I heard from a leetle birdito (clap-clap)
That the doggies have fled
From the gobbling head
Who goes by the name Bobble-ito! (clap clap)"
Higher level vocabulary (some in Spanish) and humor are peppered through the Skippyjon stories. For example, Skippyjon as Skippito tells Poquito Tito something is a "pain in the sciatica." Most women who have been pregnant know of this pain. My six-year-old, however, looked a bit puzzled! All the references are easy enough to explain and children will be more knowledgeable after.
Skippyjon Jones is the first in a series of books featuring this frisky feline. As a family we own the entire set and enjoy reading them again and again. It is also a special treat to find a copy with Ms. Schachner reading the story herself.
Ms. Schachner has created a delightful character that will appeal to children and parents alike...especially those parents with curious, highly imaginative toddlers and pre-schoolers.
» Our thanks to Robin Storch for sharing this terrific review! Visit Little Bits of Life for more.
If you've ever had a cat, you know it's pretty difficult to discourage them from doing anything they want to do. In our house, disciplining our cat doesn't mean she'll stop the undesirable behavior. It just means she knows to run away even more quickly when we catch her. In The Cat Came Back, we meet a strong-willed feline who will not be deterred when he decides he's finally found the home he's been looking for.
For his new owner, the cat targets a farmer named Mr. Johnson. But Mr. Johnson does not want the cat and tries to find him an alternate abode. After several attempts, Mr. Johnson gets more and more desperate and tries sending the cat off on a pirate ship, stashing him on Santa's sleigh, even launching him on a rocket to Mars.
"But the cat came back the very next day.
The cat came back—we thought he was a goner.
But the cat came back.
He just couldn't stay away."
Based on a folk song by the author (but with a slightly different ending), the text definitely has a lyrical feel to it. The illustrations do a great job of capturing the book's silly spirit. The Cat Came Back is a fun read-aloud, and is enjoyable for cat-lovers, who will surely understand the cat's determined behavior, as well as cat-detesters, who will be amused at the thought of a cat hurtling through outer space.
I devoured Letters from Rapunzel in a few quick gulps. Written as a series of letters, lists, and short essays; the format deserves partial credit for my speedy reading. But the honest, funny main character and her quest are really why I raced through the pages.
The story begins with a girl who calls herself Rapunzel, because as a twelve-year-old stuck in the Homework Club, she feels trapped. Rapunzel uses her time there to start writing letters to a mysterious post office box number she found on a ripped up piece of paper in her father's favorite chair. She hopes this unknown recipient can help her in her quest to free her father from the evil spell that has seized control of his life.
In reality, the evil spell is clinical depression and Rapunzel's letters chronicle her initial refusal to accept her father's illness and then her struggle to understand its hold on him. The story never reads like an after-school special; instead, it moves along like a mystery. And the answers Rapunzel finds have just as much to say about her as they do her father.
The frank and humorous tone of the letters keep the mood of the book lighthearted despite its weighty subject matter. Rapunzel is a clever girl and it's easy to identify with her point of view as she points out just how ridiculous school can be. "And it's the only thing keeping me sane while we review how to set up word problems again. Except Mrs. Seisnek says we should really think of them as word OPPORTUNITIES. Ha!"
Though our library categorized Letters from Rapunzel in its Juvenile Fiction section (and not Young Adult), I'm still calling this a Level 5 book, because an older reader might be better equipped to understand depression as well as some of Rapunzel's behavior which shouldn't be imitated.
Some of our favorite family conversations have started with a phrase like, "Wouldn't it be funny if...." In The Elevator Family, Douglas Evans starts with just such a wacky premise: "Wouldn't it be funny if a family tried to live in an elevator?" and allows us to see it lived out in hilarious detail.
When the Wilsons arrive at the San Francisco Hotel and discover that there are no vacancies, they decide to set up camp in the elevator. After all, it has a full-length mirror, a telephone, wall-to-wall carpeting and even soft music playing. Plus, much to the delight of 10-year-old Winslow, it moves!
Otis, as they affectionately call their room, is small yet incomparably cozy. They outfit their new place with all the necessities and happily spend the majority of their San Francisco vacation in the elevator. Yet their stay is anything but dull. The Wilsons find excitement simply from interacting with the people who enter and exit the elevator, and their lives. They even experience an earthquake and solve a kidnapping caper while they are there!
The Elevator Family is a fun book from start to finish, and I chuckled out loud while I was reading it. Filled with puns and just the right amount of silliness, this book should be a hit with the Level 3 age group!
Just a soul whose intentions are good, Mrs. LaRue’s dog, Ike, is sorely misunderstood. If he had known that the chicken pie was off limits, he wouldn’t have pilfered a piece. As for the time he ripped Mrs. LaRue’s coat, it was only because she was about to cross the street without looking. He had to do something to stop her from stepping in front of that car, so he grabbed her coat with his teeth. And as for those neighbors who complain about his infrequent howling? Have they ever stopped to think how their vacuuming interrupts his mid-day naps?
In Dear Mrs. LaRue: Letters from Obedience School, we get a humorous look at life from Ike’s perspective. He’s justifiably miffed at being sent off to what he sees as dog prison. During his two-month sentence, he writes letters home to his owner explaining his actions and describing the harsh conditions he must endure. The illustrations cleverly contrast his full-color, fairly happy stay at the school with his black-and-white perceived world in prison. You can almost hear the whimpers and whines!
After every appeal he can conjure up, Ike finally decides to make a break for it. He plans a daring escape from doggy detention so he can live a life of freedom…and probably hunger. Will he be successful in his attempt? And what will happen to Mrs. LaRue? The exciting ending to this book finally delivers Ike his just desserts.
Once upon a Marigold describes itself accurately with the subtitle, "part comedy, part love story, part everything-but-the-kitchen-sink." It's daunting to describe the plot of this wonderful novel in any sort of concise manner. Check out the summary provided by the Library of Congress: "A young man with a mysterious past and a penchant for inventing things leaves the troll who raised him, meets an unhappy princess he has loved from afar, and discovers a plot against her and her father." This fun storyline unfolds itself in surprising twists and exciting turns.
But the characters are the real treasure in this story. They are endearingly quirky and a large part of what makes this book so funny. Consider: Ed, a troll who is waging a campaign against the tooth fairy, can never get his cliches quite right as he mixes together sayings like, "That cup of tea is definitely not down your alley, if you know what I mean." Christian, the boy Ed finds in the forest and raises, creates crazy inventions and trains carrier pigeons to carry "p-mail" message. Marigold, the princess Christian admires from afar, has been given a fairy birth-gift gift of reading the minds of anyone who touches her...so no one touches her except her loving father. Even the dogs, Bub and Cate, kept us laughing with their antics.
After reading the ominous ending, were were excited to learn that Twice Upon a Marigold is on the way! You should have just enough time to enjoy Once upon a Marigold before the sequel is released this May.
This was such a fun book to read aloud! It's a great choice if you're looking for something to keep children of multiple ages entertained. Once upon a Marigold reads like a movie, and I couldn't help being reminded of The Princess Bride at times, since it has a similar sense of humor and spirit of adventure. Highly recommended!
I really enjoyed this book. The author strings words together in elegant ways I've never thought of. My favorite character was Christian, the main character. In my opinion, the best part of the book was when Marigold and Christian are p-mailing back and forth. The most humorous parts were probably Marigold's bad jokes that she picks up: "On what side are the scales of a dragon on? The outside of course!" I recommend this book to anybody who enjoys a story about "everything-but-the-kitchen-sink."