Always Room for One More

Reading My Library

I grew up in an 1100 square foot (+ unfinished basement) home with my parents and 6 siblings.

We barely managed to fit the dining room table into the dining room–and barely managed to fit ourselves around the table.

But despite all this, we regularly had family, friends, and neighbors over to play or be babysat–and to enjoy dinner with us.

I remember aunts or friends asking Mom if she was really sure that she wanted to babysit their kids. Mom would reply “What’s one or two more?”

I loved that attitude–and still love it–“What’s one or two more?”

No matter how squished we were in the first place, one or two or three more was still plenty do-a-ble.

Always Room for One More
Always Room for One More by Sorche Nic Leodhas is a children’s story I can definitely identify with. Based on an old Scottish song, the tale tells the story of “Lachie MacLachlan and his good wife, and his bairns to the number of ten.” They live in a little house, but Lachie declares that there’s “always room for one more.”

He invites in a tailor, a sailor, a Piper, a shepherd, soldiers, and more. The whole house is full with dancing and singing, and always with room for one more–until the poor little house simply bursts. Literally.

Poor little house. Poor Lachie MacLachlan. Poor Missus MacLachlan and ten MacLachlan bairns.

Except maybe not.

The many dozens of people to whom they’ve shown hospitality pitch together to rebuild their house–a new house, twice as big as the old–where there’s “always room for one more.”

I’m not precisely sure why this story is filed in my local library as jP Alger (indicating author name Alger.) The text is copyrighted by a Leclaire G. Alger–but I see no indication of who this Alger is or why he or she’s got the copyright. At any rate, it’s filed under A, so I’ve read it along with my books by author “A”.

The back of the book states that the story is an old Scottish popular song that has been handed down at least four generations in the author Sorche Nic Leodhas’s family. Leodhas has half-translated the work into words that can be understood by American readers–but has left in enough Scottish phrases to make the tale’s roots clear.

This was a delightful tale that I enjoyed very much. I definitely recommend that you look it up.

Artist Arlene Alda

Reading My Library
For my second time in two weeks, I am forced to squelch my natural dislike of counting books and to recommend yet another “1,2,3” book. For this last batch of children’s picture books from my library reading challenge included yet another counting book–and a surprisingly good one, at that.

Arlene Alda&039;s 1 2 3
Arlene Alda’s 1 2 3: What do you see? is not your typical counting book–but it is typical of Arlene Alda’s artistic and imaginative writing and photography.

The text on each page is simple–just the numbers 1 through 10 with a particular number highlighted. But the photography is spectacular. Alda “finds” numbers in unexpected places–like the 3 found in the banana peel on the front cover. The book goes from 1 to 10 and back again for a total of two photos per number–from sources as diverse as a seashell, a flamingo, and the shadow of a bike.

Arlene Alda’s A B C: What do you see? takes the same tack, only with letters instead of numbers. Alda finds an A in a sawhorse, a B in a cut apple, a C in shrimp in a saute pan–and so on and so forth.

I marvel at Alda’s imaginative eye and have started to look for letters and numbers in my world too–Is that a T I see in that mailbox, centered on its post?

Alda continues to share her gift of creative sight in Here a Face, There a Face, where she finds faces in all sorts of organic and inorganic items. The text in this title is spare, but appropriate. “Looking up, Glancing down, Staring straight ahead. On a pot, in a pan, even on some bread.”

Did You Say Pears?

Did You Say Pears? takes on a slightly different flavour, exploring homonyms and homophones through words and photos. Alda poses a grand question throughout the book: “If [blank] is [blank] and [blank] is [blank], don’t you agree that pairs could be pears?” Some of the homonyms (words that have at least two different meanings) that Alda uses include: horns, pants, and glasses. Her homophones (words that sound alike but have different spellings and meanings) include blew/blue, flower/flour, and (of course) pairs/pears.

I am thoroughly enthralled with Alda’s writing and her photography. She is truly an artist–one who sees the world differently and invites her readers to see the world through her eyes. Check these books out next time you’re at your local library!

AL (a potpourri of children’s books)

I’m still trecking (slowly) through my public library’s children’s picture books–mixing together my read every book goal with Carrie at Reading my Library‘s personal challenge.

Carrie is moving much more quickly than I–her last count had her at 558 picture books read (Wow!) and partway through the “B” section. In my defense, I don’t have any toddlers to read for–and I’m a full-time graduate student and teaching assistant.

Reading My Library

My last trip to the library gave me a modge-podge of books. The library had only one title per author for most of the authors in this trip–and I could find no discernible theme in what I found, except of course, that the author’s last names all began with the letters A and L.

The Butter Man by Elizabeth Alalou

The Butter Man by Elizabeth Alalou and Ali Alalou (illustrated by Julie Klear Essakalli) has a story-inside-a-story narrative. The young narrator is impatiently waiting for the couscous her baba (father) is cooking to be done. When she complains that she’s starving, her father begins telling her the story of himself, as a young boy in Morocco during a drought, waiting for the butter man. He and his family were hungry. There was no butter to dip their bread in. What’s more, the pieces of bread grew smaller and smaller with each day. To keep her son’s mind off the hunger–and to make the bread last longer–baba‘s mother tells him to sit by the road each day and wait for the butter man, who perhaps might give him some butter for his bread. If he ate the bread too soon, he would not have any butter to dip in the bread should the butter man come. So he waits each day with each day’s portion of bread, until the hunger is unbearable and he eats it without butter. Until one day, when he sees a man coming down the road. It’s not the butter man, but it’s even better.

I enjoyed this book. It’s a bit more text-heavy than the picture books intended for toddlers–it’s probably more suitable for slightly older children. But the cross-cultural story is engaging. The authors subtly contrast the waiting the narrator experiences–waiting for dinner to be done–with the waiting her father experienced in Morocco during a famine. The book gently encourages children to be patient–and to be thankful for what they have–without ever once mentioning a “moral”.

Louella Mae, She’s Run Away!, written by Karen Beaumont Alarcon and illustrated by Rosanne Litzinger, tells the story of a great search underway for Louella Mae, who has apparently run away. The story is told in lilting rhyme, with one stanza per layout. What makes this book unique and special, though, is that the last word of each stanza is left out, only to be revealed in the next page–allowing the reader to try to guess where the family will next search for Louella Mae. For example, one rhyme is…

“Round up the horses!
Hitch up the team!
Hop in the buckboard
and look by the…”

The next layout fills in the missing word “stream.” I enjoyed guessing at what location will be search next, and had a delightful surprise when Louella Mae turned out to be–well I won’t tell you what she turned out to be. You’ll just have to read the book!

Ten Little Wishes: A Baby Animal Counting Book I recognize the value of counting books, but I generally tend to hate them. I find them simplistic and boring. I mean, how many times can you handle “Two Birds”, new layout “Three Ladybugs”, new layout “Four Caterpillars”. Ughh!

So I wasn’t too excited when I found a counting book amongst my latest library pile. But I was pleasantly surprised. Ten Little Wishes: A Baby Animal Counting Book by Andrea Alban Gosline is NOT your typical counting book. Ten Little Wishes has a family taking their new baby on a walk through the countryside, taking a look at all the baby animals about and saying a wish for the baby at each stop. The family meets a doe and her 1 little fawn, a couple of mares and their 2 little foals… Each layout introduces a number, an animal, and the correct names for the adult and baby version of each animal.

All of this is done in sweet rhyme–

Around the corner, what a surprise!
10 new puppies with sleepy eyes.
A litter for Mama to cuddle and tend,
born before my story ends.

May baby make some special friends.

This book is definitely a keeper!

As a sidenote, the illustrations done by Lisa Burnett Bossi add an additional dimension to this book. I enjoy them as illustrations alone, but I especially enjoyed that they portrayed the father holding baby in a sling and mom and daughter wearing dresses. It’s a bit fun to see a little old-fashioned-ness in such a new book!

Not quite nursery rhymes (I like Allan Ahlberg)

How do children learn nursery rhymes?

I certainly don’t know how I learned them–but learn them I did. Whether I was taught them by my parents, read them in books, or heard them from an audio cassette tape doesn’t really matter. I learned them any way.

Allan Ahlberg’s books Each Peach Pear Plum and Previously aren’t nursery rhymes–but they draw upon the grand store of English nursery rhymes to tell their tales.

Each Peach Pear Plum

Each Peach Pear Plum is an “I spy” book in which readers are given opportunity to find nursery rhyme characters in the illustrations.

Each Peach Pear Plum
I spy Tom Thumb

Every layout builds upon the previous layout–so Tom Thumb is easily seen in the second page, but Mother Hubbard is hidden.

This is a fun, not too difficult book/activity to do with young children who are already familiar with a decent collection of nursery rhymes and children’s fairy tales. (And if they’re not, you should remedy that post-haste!)

Previously by Allan Ahlberg

Previously turns the nursery rhymes and fairy tales backwards, starting with Goldilocks arriving at home “all bothered and hot.”

Previously she had been running like mad in the dark woods.

Previously she had been climbing out of somebody else’s window.

It turns out that previously Goldilocks had run into Jack (of Beanstock fame), who had previously tumbled down the hill with his little sister Jill, who had previously met a frog-prince, who had previously

I think you get the picture.

Reading My Library

This is a fun, if somewhat inside-out romp through the repertoire of English fairy tales and nursery rhymes.

I’m enjoying Allan Ahlberg in my trip through my local library’s picture book section. Check out Reading My Library to read about Carrie’s trip through HER local library with her two sons.

Ag-Jon Agee

Reading My Library

Continuing on through the alphabet in my quest to read every book in Eiseley Library, I stumbled upon author and illustrator Jon Agee. I’d heard of him before, read a review of his book The Incredible Painting of Felix Clousseau–but I’d never read anything of his before.

Unfortunately, my library didn’t have a copy of The Incredible Painting of Felix Clousseau when I was perusing the stacks–but it did have plenty of other fascinating pieces by Agee.

Agee illustrates in a blocky, just been sketched manner which I find innocently appealing–but it’s the stories that I enjoy the most. Agee’s stories aren’t fantasy, fluffy children’s stories. They’re slightly silly but otherwise relatively realistic stories which include both the young and the old. The stories are well written enough to be enjoyable for adults, and just ridiculous enough to be enjoyable for kids.

The Retired Kid by Jon Agee

The Retired Kid tells the story of 8-year-old Brian who, tired of the hard work of being a kid, goes into an early retirement. He flies off to a retirement community in Florida, where he meets a fantastic collection of old folks. He enjoys certain aspects of retirement (card games, golf, fishing, and movies)–but discovers that other parts are not so fun (prune juice smoothies, knitting classes, and weekly checkups.) He starts to think about the hard work of being a kid–and realizes that maybe his job isn’t quite so bad.

Terrific by Jon Agee

In Terrific, a grumpy old man named Eugene wins an all-expenses-paid cruise to Bermuda. His response is “Terrific. I’ll probably get a really nasty sunburn.” When Eugene’s ship is shipwrecked and he is stranded, he announces “Terrific”–and comes up with an even more pessimistic prediction for his future. But in the end, Eugene discovers something that is truly terrific–and this time, he’s not being sarcastic.

Nothing by Jon Agee

When Suzie Gump, the richest lady in town, asks Otis what’s on sale in his shop, he looks around and announces “Uh, nothing.” Suzie is eager to snatch it up, whatever the cost, starting a city-wide craze for buying nothing. Shopkeepers throw out all their best goods to make room for more nothing. Eventually, though, something will come back in style–and Otis’ll be ready when it happens!

I’ll be definitely keeping my eyes open for more Agee–his stories are a lot of fun!

Carrie at Reading to Know did an author highlight of Jon Agee when she was going through the AG’s.

Africa calling, Nighttime falling

Working my way through the children’s section of my library, a la Reading My Library, I came upon Daniel Adlerman’s Africa calling, nighttime falling.

The jacket inscription had me a bit worried: “At night when you dream of far away place you will find the animals. They will protect you. They will comfort you. They will call to you. Wander through this book. Let the engaging words transport you, and the stunning illustrations keep you there. The animals of Africa are calling you. Come!”

The part about the animals protecting and comforting made me fear that the book would be pervaded by animism. Thankfully, the book jacket advertised falsely.

Africa calling, nighttime falling

Africa calling, Nighttime falling turned out to be pure poetry, introducing the reader to a half dozen African animals through lilting rhyme and hypnotizing cadence. As the book draws to an end, we see a young African-American girl sitting in her bed, surrounded by her favorite African stuffed animals. “Slumbering through the darkest night, I sleep protected till morning light. Africa calling, nighttime falling. Warmly beaming, peaceful dreaming.”

The artwork is exquisite–three-dimensional collages that combine watercolor, found objects, and torn or cut paper figures. I’m not usually big into illustration–I tend to skip straight to the words–but these illustrations forced me to linger. They’re beautiful, artistic, but still approachable and down-to-earth.

Africa calling, Nighttime falling turned out to be a pleasant surprise in my children’s book reading venture. Why not check it out yourself?