Thursday, July 24, 2008

Children's Literature

I'm currently in the midst of reading four books, none that are near completion, so it may be a couple days until I'm ready to post another review. Thus, in the meantime I thought I might post a review or two on my favorite children's books.

Personally I love children's books. If I ever get a book published, I suspect it will be a book for children. In fact, the only story I've ever had published was in fact for a children's magazine.

I chosen three books to discuss today:

Caps For Sale: A Tale of a Peddler, Some Monkeys and Their Monkey Business Told and Illustrated by Esphyr Slodbodkina.

The title pretty much gives you the plot of the story, but for those wanting a little more detail here it is: One day a peddler who sells caps decides to take a walk into the country and rest under a tree. He sleeps for a long time and when he awakens he discovers all the caps, but his own checkered one, are missing! What he discovers is a large number of monkeys have absconded with them high up into the tree. Now he has to figure out how to get them back, but the monkeys have a plan of their own (think "Monkey See, Monkey Do").

Caps For Sale is a simple story, but a fun read aloud for children (especially if you include hand and foot motions which I always have). Originally published in 1940, the book is definitely a children's classic. The pictures are colorful and fun. As long back as I can remember this has been a favorite of mine. I have a memory of "reading" this book even before I could read, just because I knew it so well. I've purchased a copy of this book to read to ny daughter and hope she'll enjoy it as much as I did.

The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf (Drawings by Robert Lawson). This is another old, but good book. I am particularly fond of the artist, Robert Lawson's drawings (I'll post more about Lawson later).

Ferdinand is a bull who lives in Spain, but he is not like the other bulls. He does not like to fight. Instead he prefers to sit in the shade of a tree in the middle of the field and smell the flowers, which he does... until one day he accidentally sits on a bee. Stung by the bee Ferdinand rushes and butts his horns about the field looking quite mad. Unfortunately for him, he is seen by some gentlemen who just happen to be looking for the next bull to fight in Madrid.

Published in 1936, The Story of Ferdinand is a comical story and, like Caps for Sale, a wonderful children's classic that has survived the test of time. I've also purchased a copy of this book because I want to be sure to share it with my daughter.

The drawings are especially fun, even though they are black and white. Robert Lawson is mostly known as an artist, but he was also an author. Some of his books include: Rabbit Hill, Mr. Wilmer, and Ben and Me just to name a few. You may have seen his artwork in books such as Mr. Popper's Penguins, Pilgrim's Progress, and They Were Strong and Good (again, just to name a few). All of these books I've listed are excellent and worth tracking down -- though they are generally for older readers (8 years+), unlike The Story of Ferdinand (3-8 years).

Corduroy by Don Freeman is also one of my all-time favorites. The first in a series of books about a teddy-bear with green corduroy overalls, Corduroy was first published in 1968.

The story begins with Corduroy living in a department store and wishing for a home. A little girl sees him and wishes to take him home, but her mother won't let her because he is missing a button, and besides they've spent too much at the store as it is... Corduroy had no idea he was missing a button and so when the store closes for the evening he goes on the hunt for his missing button.

I loved this story so much I even had my own Corduroy bears growing up -- the first with the authentic green corduroy overalls and the second, a replacement for the first, with customized navy blue corduroy overalls (my favorite color). This book is a wonderful addition to a children's library and as the child grows you can add the other Corduroy books to their collection. Right now I only have the first, but I am on the lookout for: Corduroy Lost and Found and A Pocket for Corduroy.

What are some of your favorite children's books?


Discipula said...

My hands down favorite children's book is Goodnight Moon. My advice to new moms is to only have books on the shelf that you don't mind reading 1,000 times (x the number of kids you have). I have never once groaned, even inwardly, when one of my kiddos handed it to me...and I MUST be approaching the 6,000 mark for this book! :) It's a book that soothes them, and soothes me.

Discipula said...

ps...thanks for linking to me...I did the same for you!


Sarah Mehrens said...

Yes, Goodnight Moon is also a favorite and I've read that at least a million times already in her first year of life, but it's a good one to do that with. I also love "Runaway Bunny". Have you read "My World"?

Discipula said...

Yes, I love Runaway Bunny too. Haven't read My that MWB? Thought of a couple more.

Is Your Mama a Llama?
Guess How Much I Love You
The Little Engine That Could


Anonymous said...

Cool reviews - thank you very much. I'm always on the hunt for great children's books and have recently discovered Bayard and their series of StoryBoxBooks, AdventureBoxBooks and DiscoveryBoxBooks (which is a special Olympic edition) They have work by acclaimed children's books illustrator Helen Oxenbury appearing in the Storybox series for September. In addition to this, they also have some great activities for rainy days:,, Enjoy!