Tuesday, April 25, 2017
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Illustration of Pinocchio (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Pinocchio. I had never read the book Pinocchio before I brought home a copy from my in-law’s house. It was published in 1916. Pinocchio was written by Italian writer, Carlo Callodi, in 1883. I didn’t even connect the name of the puppet-maker, Geppetto, to the fact that this story is set in a village in Italy. The story, of course, is universal. Little boys disobeying their parents keep getting in trouble until they learn to listen. They get in even more trouble if they lie about what they’ve done. If you have a good heart, people will... (Read More ...)

Mystery of the Glowing Eye: Nancy Drew Mystery Stories Growing up in the 50s, career choices for women seemed to be: Amana Radarange Oven (Photo credit: jmv) Stay-at-home Mom Secretary Nurse Teacher Librarian. My parents didn’t dictate this. My Mom speculated that I would be the next Betty Crocker for Amana. Amana was a kitchen appliance manufacturer in Iowa, where I lived through elementary school, who introduced the first home microwave, the Radarange. But, among my friends’ Moms, the fact that my Mom was a secretary already put her in the rare category of working Mom. So, I knew at least,... (Read More ...)

Original woodcut illustration for The Just So story ‘The Elephant’s Child’ by Rudyard Kipling (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Just So Stories.  The stories make you yearn to see far-away places. Tanzania.  Australia. The Himalayan Mountains. The Sahara Desert. Pusat Tasek. They teach you about animals. Dingos. Hippopotamuses. Kangaroos. Giraffes. Elephants. Hedgehogs. Armadillos. Leopards. Baboons. Crabs. They are sweetly affectionate, addressing “O my Best Beloved” as though the author were reading directly to the grandchildren sitting in your lap. They are moral. The camel... (Read More ...)

Satellite Radio Antenna (Photo credit: Wikipedia) What Happened at Midnight  What Happened at Midnight is the 10th in the series of Hardy Boys adventure story books. The brothers, Frank and Joe Hardy, become detectives, just like their father. But, he has let them in on the family business while they were still in high school. By the tenth book in the series, What Happened at Midnight, they are adults, already experienced and well-known in their community for their detective work. The Hardy Boys books are fast-paced, wasting no time introducing the reader to the characters, plot and action. In... (Read More ...)

Babar the Elephant. Who could be better for giving French lessons than a French elephant? Laurent de Brunhoff at the 2008 Texas Book Festival, Austin, Texas, United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) His name is Babar the Elephant. When my children were young, I bought Babar’s French Lessons, to introduce them to a language I’d studied since I was 10. Unfortunately, the only time I was fluent in French was for a brief time after I’d spent a summer studying French in Switzerland in college. So, though I could read the book easily enough, I couldn’t supplement it by speaking to my children... (Read More ...)

Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle (Photo credit: Wikipedia) How do you know, in 1911, how to describe something that won’t be invented until 1969? It is why I, and generations before and since me, have loved science fiction. Science fiction authors, like Jules Verne, Isaac Asimov, and Gene Roddenberry, of Startrek fame, predicted much of the technology we find common today, wrapped inside exciting adventure stories. These authors had the gift of extending what was known to describe what was possible, as though it had already happened. I once attended a lecture... (Read More ...)

Aesop’s Fables My copy of “The Aesop for Children” was printed in 1919. A chromolithograph of The Dog in the Manger from a McLoughlin Brothers book for children, New York, 1880 (Photo credit: Wikipedia) It must have been old and torn already by the time my grandmother brought it home from the university hospital where she worked. She was the principal for the hospital school at the University of Michigan, which taught children who were confined for a long time. She taped the torn pages, covered the book with fabric, and gave it to her grandson, my brother, who was born in 1944. He was old... (Read More ...)

Raggedy Ann. Raggedy Ann was born in 1915. It happened in real life, just as it is described in the Introduction to Raggedy Ann Stories. Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy The author and illustrator of the stories, Johnny Gruelle, had a daughter, Marcella, who found an old rag doll of her grandmother’s in the attic. Gruelle, an artist, painted a new face on the faded doll. His daughter loved it so much he decided to patent the doll and write adventure stories about her, and eventually her brother, Raggedy Andy. The patent was issued September 7, 1915. The first book of Raggedy Ann Stories was published... (Read More ...)

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod Eugene Field, also known for the poem The Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat, was best known for his children’s poem, Wynken, Blynken, and Nod. A poetic lullaby, the three main characters are revealed to be a child’s eyes and head, as he or she nods off to sleep, after a fantastical voyage to the stars. You probably remember how it starts. Wynken, Blynken and Nod from Johnson’s first-(fifth) reader (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Here’s the first verse: Wynken, Blynken, and Nod one night Sailed off in a wooden shoe — Sailed on a river of crystal light, Into a sea of... (Read More ...)

The Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat I would like to see what children would come up with if they illustrated old, public domain poems. Green and white check Gingham cloth (Pocket Square by Kent Wang) (Photo credit: Wikipedia) A friend mentioned the poem, The Duel, to me recently. It is known to most not by its actual name, but by its first line: “The gingham dog and the calico cat…” I think it is the first poem most Boomer children memorized. How much of it do you remember? My friend, in remembering the story, said, “It’s really brutal. The dog and cat kill each other.” We’ve veered... (Read More ...)