Showing posts from June, 2010

The Amazing World of Stuart by Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Martin Matje, 55 pp, RL 2

Stuart's Cape, which was previously only in hardcover and the follow up, Stuart's Goes to School, are now available in one great book at one very low price, magnificent color illustrations and all, titledThe Amazing World of Stuart, and that is a very good thing!

As I am always saying, there are so few 2nd and 3rd grade reading level books for kids written in the 50 - 70 page range, which is exactly what kids need once they move beyond "beginning to read" books. Not only are these books, written by  Sara Pennypacker and illustrated by Martin Matje's, illustrator of one of my favorite series, The Ink Drinker good, they are laugh-out-loud funny and full of imagination. I discovered this as I sat on the couch and began to read Stuart's Cape.   My two boys, ages 4 and 11, sat down on either side of me and chose to have me read out loud rather than turn on a movie or play a game and the laughs started almost immediately.

In Stuart's Cape, we …

The Doll's House by Rumer Godden, illustrated by Tasha Tudor, 126 pp, RL 3

The Doll's House, written in 1948 by British author Rumer Godden, with illustrations that were added in 1962 by Tasha Tudor, is, along with Rachel Field's Hitty: Her First Hundred Years, a significant influence in the relatively small genre of books about dolls. Having read or reread The Doll People, Big Susan and Hitty, as well as many picture books featuring dolls and or doll houses, some themes seem to be universal: the dolls, for much of the time, are at the mercy of the children who play with them, much like children are at the mercy of the adults who parent them.
In The Doll's House, Emily and Charlotte Dane are the present owners of a motley group of dolls they have named the Plantaganet family. Tottie, the oldest doll in the family, once belonged to Emily and Charlotte'sGreat-Grandmother and their Great-Great-Aunt Laura. made of wood, she was purchased for a farthing. The sisters had chosen two other dolls to be Tottie's mother and father. Mr Plantaga…

The Dollhouse Fairy written and illustrated by Jane Ray

Jane Ray'sThe Dollhouse Fairy is exactly the kind of book I would have loved as a little girl! Ray's illustrations, which are a combination of paintings and collage, bring to life the cardboard dollhouse of the title. While I had a "real" dollhouse as a child, I also built my own from cardboard boxes and school glue, using scraps of fabric, napkins, magazines and whatever else seemed to fit. I even built an orphanage out of a huge box and made all sorts of dolls from my mom's old pantyhose to fill it. Jane Ray has captured this DIY essence in her artwork, knowing just when to use a photograph of a clock, patterned fabric, a tea set or a cake to enhance the beautiful paintings of the dollhouse. Ray's book begins, "Rosy loved her dollhouse. It was her favorite thing in the whole world because her dad had built it just for her. Rosy and Dad made all the furniture together and collected all sorts of things to put in the different rooms."
The Dollhou…

The Doll People by Ann M Martin & Laura Godwin, illustrated by Brain Selznick 288pp RL 4

When I started this book review blog in August of 2008 I was rushing to get as much content printed as possible and started with skimpy reviews of some of my favorties. Hitty: Her First Undred Years by Rachel Field  andThe Doll Peopleby Ann M Martin and Laura Godwin were the first books I reviewed, however the content of these reviews did not reflect the excellence of the books. While The Doll People trilogy of books is hugely popular and surely does not need yet another person touting it, it remains one of my favorites and I would like to do it justice in a review, especially since I am featuring reviews of books about dolls all this week.
Of course, and for me especially, part of what make The Doll People Series such magical books are the amazing illustrations by Brian Selznick, author and illustrator of the innovative, Caldecott winning The Invention of Hugo Cabret.  Martin and Godwin are fabulous writers, but having Selznick along to bring the dolls to life makes all the differen…

Hitty: Her First Hunudred Years by Rachel Field, illustrated by Dorothy P. Lathrop 206pp RL4

First published in 1929, Hitty: Her First Hundred Years won the Newbery Award in 1930. Narrated in the first person by Mehitabel, or Hitty, herself, she tells how she went from a sturdy piece of Mountain Ash Wood in Maine in the early 1800s to a carved doll and playmate to Phoebe Preble. Hitty's adventure begins when she and Phoebe join Captain Preble aboard his whaling ship. From there, she finds her way from a tropical island, to India, to Philadelphia then to New York. She travels with a snake charmer, attends the opera, meets Charles Dickens, has her daguerreotype taken, becomes a doll of fashion and sits as an artist's model.  Sometimes she is a child's plaything.  Sometimes she is loved, sometimes she is ignored and sometimes she is treated badly.  And, for long periods of time, she is lost to the world whether it is underwater or in a hayloft.  As children's book author and illustrator Rosemary Wells says of Hitty, a childhood favorite of hers, she loved Hitty&…


I loved dolls when I was a kid.  Madame Alexander, Barbie, baby dolls, cloth dolls.  I even went through a period where I made dolls out of my mom's old pantyhose.  I made an orphanage out of a cardboard box, furniture, bookshelves, books and all, and stocked it with kids.  I made dolls with papier-mâché heads and arms and loads of yarn hair.  Surprisingly, I did not turn out to be a collector of dolls as an adult, however I did indulge my daughter pretty seriously, sinking a lot of money into American Dolls...
Now that my seven and a half year old niece is becoming interested in her mom's old dollhouse and sewing, I started thinking about all the books about dolls that I also loved and decided to do a week of reviews of the wonderful picture and chapter books that have dolls and/or doll houses as their main characters.  Boys, don't feel left out.  Most of the stories are universal, ofen adventurous and surprisingly not as pink as you would expect!
[This is the very set (min…

Great Books for Summer!

I published this list a year ago to the day, almost and thought I'd re-post it and maybe add to it. However, I could not come up with any newer, better titles in the activity books section, although I did find a few good summer-themed chapter books to add!
Here is a collection of titles that are great for summer vacation! Some are activity books, some are novels and a handful are general non-fiction. All are sure to keep a reader busy in a plane, train or automobile, hammock or beach chair...

Need to keep the kids occupied during a long, hot summer?
Bart Kingis the man for you (and your kids ages 9 and up)! Author of the superb The Big Book of Boy Stuff and the Big Book of Girl Stuffhe has also written these little gems. All of these books will get kids out of the chair and even out of the house doing something nifty and creative, but, I have to tell you that it is IMPOSSIBLE to read any of Bart King's books without turning to the person next to you and reading a paragraph or t…