Look at this Book – ‘Shrek!’

* Every Tuesday we introduce you to a favorite book from our secret book room, and give you a unique “recipe for fun” this week over on our Book Cook page…

 Shrek 1

Today’s great book:  Shrek! by William Steig (1990, The Trumpet Club)

Time to Read: short and funny; another great bedtime or anytime story

Summary:  School Library Journal wrote of the book, “(PreSchool-Grade 3) When a horrid ogre ventures out into the world, he encounters a nasty witch, a knight in armor, a dragon and true love with a princess who’s even uglier than he is in this tale by William Steig.”

Best Quote:  “Shrek snapped at her nose.  She nipped at his ear.  They clawed their way into each other’s arms.  Like fire and smoke, these two belonged together.”

Our View:  Has there ever been a more devoted storybook character to bring understanding to the old cliche, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder?”  Though most every reader and parent will recall the great trilogy of movies by the same name, few realize that they were born in this very children’s book!  When I read it to my college students a few weeks ago, they were stunned that no one had ever told them one of their favorite movie characters was first a great big green mess of a giant named Shrek!  Known for his wonderfully creative children’s books like Sylvester and the Magic Pebble and Doctor De Soto, author William Steig (1907-2003) brilliantly captures the gross and the beautiful, all in one fair book.  My daughters laughed and laughed at the colorful illustrations and hilarious poetry.

Remember to visit our Book Cook page for the recipe – “Gooeys” – created by the kids to accompany this particular book.

Look at this Book! Katy and the Big Snow

* Every Tuesday we introduce you to a favorite book from our secret book room, and give you a unique “recipe for fun” this week over on our Book Cook page…

Katy Bkg Snow Review

Today’s great book: Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton (1943, Houghton Mifflin Company).
Time to Read: short and sweet; the illustrations alone are worth some extra time
Summary: “Katy, a brave and untiring tractor, who pushes a bulldozer in the summer and a snowplow in the winter, makes it possible for the townspeople to do their jobs.”
Best Quote: “Then she went home to rest. Then…and only then did Katy stop.”

Our View: The most familiar of Virginia Lee Burton’s books, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, only recently drew our attention to this particular book about a big tractor that includes a very important set of implements and one very very important snow shovel. My 8-year old especially enjoys the illustrations that Burton so beautifully crafts across each page. The details and words and ideas represented in these drawings alone make this book a must-have for your secret book room! There is a classic, maybe even nostalgic, feel to it. The character of Katy is also very important as this story’s core narrative is about taking care of your community and each other and doing what’s right even when it is difficult…and not losing heart until the job is done.

Remember to visit our Book Cook page for the recipe – “Katy Cubes” – created by the kids to accompany this particular book.

Look at this Book! Eating the Alphabet

* Every Tuesday we introduce you to a favorite book from our secret book room, and give you a unique “recipe for fun” this week over on our Book Cook page…

Eating the Alphabet

Today’s great book: Eating the Alphabet: Fruits & Vegetables from A to Z by Lois Ehlert (1989, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich).
Time to Read: short and sweet, especially for young children; great pictures with words for emergent readers
Summary: From the inside cover…In brilliant watercolor collages, Lois Ehlert introduces young readers to a wide variety of fruits and vegetables from A to Z. Clearly labeled and easy to identify, the collection includes such favorites as apples, bananas, potatoes, and tomatoes – as well as some less common edibles such as jalapeno peppers and radicchio. A glossary at the end of the book offers useful and interesting information about each fruit and vegetable. Here is an engaging presentation of fresh and wholesome foods that are popular all over the world.
Best Quote: “Apple to Zucchini, come take a look. Start eating your way through this alphabet book.”

Our View: This is a classic book by a classic children’s author and includes large-style collages of each fruit and vegetable labeled on each page – from A to Z. There is even a fruit for the letter X – who could have imagined it? In particular, books like this are a wonderful way to get your young children reading before they can actually read a word (that’s an emergent reader!) – the pictures are that good and that connected to the world in which your child lives. Healthy and colorful…all in a great children’s book!

Remember to visit our Book Cook page for a crazy A-Z game (this is more a recipe for fun and games than a food recipe, but still on our Book Cook page) created by the kids to accompany this particular book.

Look at this Book! A Chocolate Moose for Dinner

Tuesday is our time to highlight a favorite book from our secret book room, and give you a unique recipe over on our Book Cook page that you and your kids can make to celebrate your reading of the week’s particular book.
The books we’ll tell you about could be old or new and we’ll list the author, illustrator, publisher, and year of first publication so you can find them. They will also range in age from birth to teen and we’ll give you an idea of how long they take to read (short, medium, long) and why we love them.

Chocolate Moose Book Reading
Today’s great book: A Chocolate Moose for Dinner (Windmill Books, 1976). Written and illustrated by: Fred Gwynne (1926-1993); you might remember him as Herman Munster from the 1960s television series “The Munsters” or as the cranky judge in the 1992 movie “My Cousin Vinny.” Time to read: short. Summary: A child tries to picture the things her parents talk about. My kids like this book for the illustrations, while I like it for the clever wordplay. One compliments the other in a way that is rare in children’s literature, especially for younger kids. Toddlers love the large, colorful illustrations, while teens and adults love the absolute genius play on words. Here’s an example from the book:

Chocolate Moose Book Page It seamlessly brings words and illustrations to life, while at the same time giving us a short but sweet opportunity to laugh right along with our children and then make up some idioms of our own. We also like big books and this one is hardback with nice, large pages for the perfect read-aloud selection. It’s been a favorite of ours for many years and continues to be one of our top books to read out loud, especially during those times when the whole family needs a book-induced smile! Remember to visit our Book Cook page for a “MOOSE/MOUSSE” recipe created by the kids to accompany this particular book.

Hello world!

July 4 is freedom.  From the famed red, white and blue parade of our small town to crackling fireworks that burst across these vast Oklahoma night skies; memorable war movies like Bridge Over the River Kwai and Tora! Tora! Tora! to stars like James Cagney in Yankee Doodle Dandy and Robert Preston in The Music Man; smoke bombs and blackcat firecrackers; watermelon, junebugs, American flags, and homemade butterfinger ice cream.  These are just a few of the ingredients that have thoroughly mixed themselves into my memory after just a little more than four decades of celebrating this holiday, from childhood to manhood.

My college bound 18 year-old and I recently spent a week in Washington, D.C., our first in the nation’s capital, and marveled at a night tour of that city’s extensive and awe-inspiring landmarks like the Korean War Memorial, Vietnam Wall, and the Marine Corps Memorial.  Freedom was everywhere and we could feel its power and its heartbeat throughout the city.

I write all of that to remind myself and my daughters, and maybe a reader or two as well, of why I have created this website and blog on the eve of this freedom-infused holiday.  It is no accident that this blog debuts on the eve of America’s rowdy July 4th celebrations.  I believe that books are an ingredient for freedom.  They bring life and adventure, instruction and hope, pride, envy, sadness, pain, grief, joy, and peace.  They are words let loose onto a page or a screen, in a title or across a dustjacket, embedded in the hardback cover and across the rigid spine, written, typed, spoken, translated.  Words can bring freedom to one or millions, while age and time cannot bind them.

When our first daughter was nearing the end of Kindergarten, she was desperate to read the words in her favorite books all to herself.  She would sit on our big couch just a few feet from where I am writing this nearly fifteen years later and stare into the pages of books piled up around her and covering her tiny legs, trying with all her might to sound out the words and make sense of it, without our help.  It was right then, at that very moment, that I sensed the gravity with which learning to read holds every human being captive.  It was not an easy thing to learn to read and tears would eventually come as she so often sat there on that couch so motivated to read and so unwilling to let us help her.  It was as though reading a book consumed her, taxed her, worried her, needed her – it was amazing for me, her father, to behold.  For something inside her must have already known that freedom lingered there among those words, even within the pages of her childhood books…especially within the pages of her childhood books.

So here’s to freedom…and to books…and to the children and their dads who have learned the power of both.

Row, Row, Row the Boats by Michael Dahl – See the “Book Cook” tab on our Home page for a special recipe to accompany one of our favorite 4th of July books.

Row, Row, Row the Boats by Michael Dahl, 2004