Rosie and the Rustlers

By Roy Gerrard. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1989.

Where the mountains meet the prairie, where the men are wild and hairy/There’s a little ranch where Rosie Jones is boss. It’s a place that’s neat and cozy, and the boys employed by Rosie/Work extremely hard, to stop her getting cross.

The cadence of the words is enough to pull you in. But come on, don’t you already want to know what happens next? In a nutshell, Rosie’s men — including One-Leg Smith, Salad Sam, and Utah Jim who’s nice but dim — find themselves in pursuit of a gang of outlaws who tried to steal their steers. And so the “hazardous adventure” begins. Not to worry, it all ends well. The bandits (and their cabin) are lassoed, the townspeople applaud, and Rosie’s boys even get a reward from the sheriff. I would be remiss not to mention the enchanting, 80′s-era illustrations. The characters look like a sort of Wild West version of trolls, with overly round faces, wide eyes, and arms as short as a T-rex’s. But you just. Can’t. Look. Away.

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Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm

By Alice and Martin Provensen. Aladdin Books, 2001

Who lives at Maple HIll Farm? People live here. Two dogs and five horses live here. A pig lives here. Then there are — some geese, lots of chickens, a few cows, a few goats, several sheep, and four special cats…

I can’t imagine a better picture book for any animal-loving kid. On each page are illustrations of the dogs, horses, pigs, cats, chickens and goats who live (or used to live) on the author’s real Straatsburg, NY farm, followed by verbal snapshots of their unique personalities. For instance, the big rooster, aptly named Big Shot, doesn’t like children. Willow the cat “is very beautiful, but not very interesting.” And Whiney the sheep is always lost and never knows where the gate is. My kids can look at these gorgeous, simple drawings forever. We’ve decided we all want to live at Maple Hill Farm.

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Mr. President Goes to School

Written by Rick Walton. Illustrated by Brad Sneed. Peachtree, 2010.

“Mr. President,” said Madam Secretary. “…It’s the Sticks and Stones issue again, sir. What should we do?”

Well, apparently the answer is don a disguise, get the heck out of the White House and hide out in elementary school, where even the nastiest problems can be solved with a snack and the hokey pokey. My kids cracked up at the stern-faced leaders of Bulrovia and Snortburg sitting criss-cross applesauce in the Oval Office. I loved the subtle reminder that grownups are at their best when we act like kids.

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Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

By Roald Dahl, Illustrated by Quentin Blake

Alfred A. Knopf, 1964

“Mr Willy Wonka can make marshmallows that taste of violets, and rich caramels that change color every ten seconds as you suck them, and little feathery sweets that melt away deliciously the moment you put them between your lips. He can make chewing gum that never loses its taste, and candy balloons that you can blow up to enormous sizes before you pop them with a pin and gobble them up. And by a most secret method, he can make lovely blue birds’ eggs with black spots on them, and when you put one of these in your mouth, it gradually gets smaller and smaller until suddenly there is nothing left except a tiny little pink sugary baby bird sitting on the tip of your tongue.”

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Iggy Peck, Architect

By Andrea Beaty, Illustrated by David Roberts

Abrams Books, 2007

Young Iggy Peck is an architect and has been since he was two, when he built a great tower — in only an hour — with nothing but diapers and glue. “Good gracious, Ignacious!” his mother exclaimed. “That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen!” But her smile faded fast as a light wind blew past and she realized those diapers weren’t clean! Continue reading

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The Bear With Sticky Paws

By Clara Vulliamy

Tiger Tales, 2007

There’s a girl named Lily and she’s being very grumpy, stamping her little feet and slamming the door. She says, “I DON’T WANT ALL THIS BREAKFAST!” and throws down her spoon.” “NO, I won’t wash my face. NO, I won’t brush my hair. NO, I won’t get dressed…” “NO! NO! NO!”

I could criticize many things about this odd little book, but the Lily in me says “NO!” The truth is, its luscious candy-colored illustrations and sparse,wackadoodle text tap into what all kids genuinely want: the love of their parent(s). Continue reading

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Two Bobbies: A True Story of Hurricane Katrina, Friendship, and Survival

By Kirby Larson and Mary Nethery; Illustrated by Jean Cassels

Walker & Company, 2008

The city of New Orleans, on the mighty Mississippi, is a place many people and pets call home. Jamming with jazz and dressing up fancy for Mardi Gras, it  bustled with life day and night. But on April 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina bore down on the city and everyone who lived there, including a wisp of a cat and one puppy.

Much to the concern of my children, I’m a total sucker for (read: I cry a lot while reading) books about dogs and cats in peril. Two Bobbies fits the bill. Continue reading

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Billy Twitters and his Big Whale Problem

By Mac Barnett, Illustrated by Adam Rex

Disney/Hyperion Books, 2009

Mom says…”Billy Twitters, clean up your room, or we’re buying you a blue whale…” But I’m not worried. See, I know a thing or two about blue whales. I mean, they’re the biggest animals in the world, ever. It’s not like you can just have one delivered to your house overnight.

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Princess Hyacinth: The Surprising Tale of a Girl Who Floated

By Florence Parry Heide, Illustrated by Lane Smith

Schwartz & Wade Books, 2009

Princess Hyacinth had a problem. Well, you’re saying, everyone has a problem. But this was an unusual problem. Oh, she didn’t look unusual, that wasn’t it. She had two eyes, with a nose between them and a mouth under that — you know, the usual things in the usual arrangement…So what was the problem?

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Buffalo Bill and the Pony Express

buffbill

By Eleanor Coeer, Pictures by Dan Bolognese

Harper Collins, 1995

It was spring, 1860. Bill saw a sign in the post office at Fort Laramie. The sign said: WANTED. RIDERS FOR THE PONY EXPRESS. Young, skinny fellows under 18. Orphans welcome. $25 dollars a week. “That’s the kind of job I want!” said Bill.

I am awfully partial to books about the Wild West. There’s something so romantically desolate (desolately romantic?) about riding on the open range, eating out of a chuck wagon and sleeping under the stars which appeals to the Annie Oakley in me. (I can conveniently forget that back then, people used corn cobs instead of toilet paper.) ¬† Continue reading

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