Friday, April 29, 2016

Mandy by Julie Andrews and illustrated by Judith Gwyn Brown

I adored this book when I was little. I installments to the kids before bed last year and they adored this book as well. It is well worthy of adoration. 

I am not as crazy about this particular cover. I am thinking about getting this edition. Just because it is prettier. 

This is written by the Julie Andrews. The Mary Poppins and Maria Julie Andrews. Often when some one famous writes a book, they are coasting a little too heavily on their name. But this book is legitimate. It would still be a beloved book if it was written by a nobody. 

Mandy, a ten year old orphan lives in a nice orphanage with nice people. Loving to be alone, she spends her spare time outside, She was rarely lonely at these times. The trees and flowers were very special to her and she knew the names of most of them by heart.

However, all was not hearts and flowers. 

She occasionally experienced very disturbing feelings. Sometimes she felt an ache inside that would not go away. It seemed then as though her life were very empty. 
Her attempts to keep busy were mostly an effort to fill her life so that she had not time to feel disconsolate. But the nagging sadness was persistent and it would envelop her when she least expected it. 
As Mandy grew, her longings grew stronger and sometimes she felt as though she must surely break apart with so much going on inside her. It was as though she were searching for something, though what or where it was she could not say. 

In her wanderings, Mandy discovers a little, abandoned cottage on the property next to the orphanage. In The Secret Garden style, Mandy takes the cottage for her own. For her own little place in the world. She pours her energy, her spare time, and her lack of family into making this her very own little house. Inevitably, questions arise--Where is Mandy for hours on end when no one can find her? Where are small things around the orphanage disappearing to? 

In an effort to protect her precious secret, Mandy lies, steals, and loses friends. But oh! your sympathies are entirely with her. Even when you cringe and think "Oh Mandy, don't do that." you understand exactly what is motivating her and have a sneaking suspicion in your inner soul that you might behave just like Mandy in the same circumstance. 

Her longing to belong, to have a family, and a place of her own are so real. Those feelings are so well communicated through the book that the absolute joy of the ending, when she finds her place in the world is incredible. I cried, my kids cried.      

This is one of Lillian's little wee watermelon (?) plants that just sprouted. 

Lily's pumpkin

The illustrations are sparing, but just plentiful enough to supply an adequate backdrop to imagination. 

Mandy climbing over the wall for the first time.

Cleaning the marvelous Shell Room in her wee cottage.

The times when Mandy is at the cottage are little osasis of calm and joy. She plants the flower beds with dear, old fashioned flowers. She scrubs the cottage to a fair-the-well. She makes and executes so many plans for her little house. I yearned for my own little cottage to take care of. 

Being reprimanded by kind-hearted Matron. Matron knows Mandy has a secret and since she loves Mandy, she doesn't want to force it out of her, but she is also worried about what the secret might be. With the loss of some semi-valuable garden shears from the orphanage's gardening shed, Mandy is punished by the withholding of her wages from the little general store until the shears are paid for. 

And finally, the climatic ending. As the summer progressed and fall started, Mandy started realizing someone else knew about the cottage. Footprints and then little notes and presents from An Admirer. When Mandy gets sick and is bedridden, she can't bear the thought of her little cottage being lonely or her admirer not knowing where she is. So she feverishly climbs the wall again. The exertion leaves her unconscious on the floor of the cottage. Having finally told her friend about the cottage saves Mandy's life, since the friend can direct Matron to the cottage. Mandy is brought to the Manor house, since it is closest, and at the manor house, in the midst of a family, Mandy finally starts to understand her place in the world. 

If you have not read this book. Do it now! You will be glad you did!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Spring Things by Maxine Kumin & illustrated by Artur Marokvia

This is another book that has been on my shelves for ages. I have no idea where we got it, and we rarely read it. I discovered it when I was going through books to get rid of books we never read. This book was almost pitched, but I decided not to. I have mixed feelings about this book. If I saw this for sale for $5 I could probably walk past it with nary a tremor at potentially missing a fabulous vintage book. But, it didn't end up in the discard pile, so clearly there is something about it. Mostly a young kid on a farm. And spring. I really do like spring. 

The premise of the book is a young boy has a birthday. After opening his presents, his parents tell him there is a surprise coming in the spring. 

To be honest, I am not nuts about the writing. It seemed a bit... juvenile. 

Doing a little research about Maxine Kumin turned up the fact that she was a Pulitzer Prize winning poet, with an impressive resume and body of work behind her. 

Huh. I guess I better not take up literary critiquing any time soon. I might mistakenly describe Shakespeare as...not timeless enough to become classics. Ha!

(Still, even if she is a Pulitzer poet, I am not enamored with the writing. Sorry.) 

The writing isn't terrible, and thinking about it, a lot of writers of the time wrote like this. It isn't completely different than some of Dr. Seuss' books. The initial Berenstain Bear books were written like this. So maybe Kumin was of the moment when she wrote this. 

I love the farm illustrations in three color printing. I always wonder how the illustrator/publisher chooses the three colors they will use. Lime green, black, and a coral-ish red. And why do they only smudge on the color here and there? Or was this just an illustrating technique and nothing to do with cost cutting publishers not wanting to publish all color picture books?

Getting some hay down

Because the boy was impatient for his final present, his father told him to find eight spring things and by the end, maybe his last present would be there. 

Bees and flowering trees.

The boy guesses that maybe he will get a lamb for his last present.

Slopping the hogs

Green things shooting through the dirt.

Kites and wind

This is one of my favorite pictures in this book.

Easter and new hats


And finally, his present! A brand new calf.

And really, maybe that is why I kept it--how can I resist a little boy so excited by a new calf?

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Mr. Postmouse's Rounds by Marianne Dubuc

My kids adore this book. Really truly. When I got it from the library again this week, Elsie and Gilbert had a fight over who got to read it first. 

Mr. Postmouse and his wagon full of deliveries.

First delivery to Mr. Bear. Who happens to be eating porridge with Goldilocks. 

One of the reasons we love this book is all the things to look at on each page. Clever little picture puns, fairytale references, and delightful details. 

I love Mr. Bear's honey collection system, his teacups his extra bed linens, and his Aunt Ursula. Get it? Ursula, somehow, someway is connected to bears. I mean, Ursa Major. 

The Rabbit family's house and the beginning of Mr. Snake's house, which is several pages long. 

Surprisingly, the kids love the pooping bunny reading a book. 

The continuation of Mr. Snake's house. And those birds! The thieving magpie, swinging canary, and traveling pigeon. 

For some reason, I find Mr. Squirrel's socks hilarious.  

Mr. Mole. the kids particularly like the ant at the bottom left who is lost and clearly meant to be on the next page. 

The smiling anthill. 

Mrs. Turtle.

The Croc's humid house.

The poop house. Hi-larious to my kids. 

The Big Bad Wolf. Being secretly burgled by the nefarious three pigs. And do you see Little Red Riding Hood peeping around a tree up there?

The Penguin's house.

The kids favorite part of the entire book is the little penguin stuck upside down in the snow. (Over to the right there.) Too, too funny. My fingers walk up the penguins house and then go ka-bam into the snow and they dissolve into helpless giggles. We do this about 15 times. Until I finally refuse to do it again.  

The skunk's smelly package and the chicken's worrying package.

And finally, home at last! Mr. Postmouse has an adorable house. 

I pretty much gave you the entire story right there. But I purposely deleted some pages, just so you would find something new if you decided to ever read this book. (Which you should. It is even more charming in person.) It is so hard to not show you all the delightful bits....

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyers & Illustrated by Marla Frazee

This book is fabulously precious! We have a smaller copy of this book and Elsie carried it everywhere with her for a few weeks. It was the book. Then it was replaced by who knows what other little book--Elsie is my little book child. 

This book is just chock-a-block full of babies. Babies of all types and description. They all seem to be fairly American babies, surrounded by all the trappings of modern American babyhood, but there is a fair bit of diversity. 

Aren't they sweet? All these different babies.

I really like this illustrator. Although I love the words, I don't think I would love this book as much if the illustrations weren't just so. 

As it is, the illustrations are just so. Aren't these babies squishy and snuggly looking?

Love-ed babies. Safe, secure, and adored.

The book goes through all the day to day events in the life of a baby.


I love the sleeping mother nursing with a book and a rocking chair. Nursing is the best thing for readers. I read more books while nursing than I ever have before or after. 

Viewing the world

Making noise! 
Oh the delight! And trepidation...

Playing games

Making friends. 

I love, love all the little, individual pictures.

Crawling babies on bright colored mats.

Oh how perfectly sweet! 

Babies are growing

And growing means birthdays!

Every day, everywhere, babies are loved--
for trying so hard,
for traveling so far,
for being so wonderful....

...just as they are!

We love babies. A lot. This book was written to celebrate the author's first grandchild and the love and joy she felt about that grandchild is palpable in this book.