McFig & McFly: A Tale of Jealousy, Revenge, and Death (with a Happy Ending)

mcfig

By Henrik Drescher

Candlewick Press, 2008

Far away from anywhere big and important, in a little cozy cottage surrounded by fruit trees and berry bushes, lived McFig and his little daughter, Rosie. One day, a stranger named McFly and his son, Anton, bought the land next door. This was OK with McFig, as long as they weren’t noisy or smelly.

In fact, they’re just the opposite. McFig and McFly have quite a bit in common and get along marvelously. So marvelously in fact, that McFig helps McFly build a cottage exactly like his own. But when McFig also builds a tall tower with his leftover lumber — making his house just a teensy bit bigger and better — so starts a competition that will consume, and eventually end, their lives. Continue reading

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Mirette on the High Wire

mirette

By Emily Arnold McCully

G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1992

One hundred years ago in Paris, when theaters and music halls drew traveling players from all over the world, the best place to stay was at the widow Gateau’s, a boardinghouse on English Street. Acrobats, jugglers, actors, and mimes from as far away as Moscow and New York reclined on the widow’s feather mattresses and devoured her kidney stews. Madame Gateau worked hard to make her guests comfortable, and so did her daughter, Mirette.

What was initially conceived as a biography of real-life daredevil Blondin is now a lovely tale of bravery and redemption. Continue reading

Adele & Simon in America

adele

Written and illustrated by Barbara McClintock

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008

Adele and Simon had traveled all the way from Paris to New York City to visit their Aunt Cecile. But that was just the beginning of their journey. Aunt Cecile was taking them on a train trip around America. The night before their departure, Adele, Simon, and Aunt Cecile were busy packing. Adele spread Simon’s things out on his bed. There was a journal, a pencil box, a cowboy hat, a tin drinking cup, a canteen, a bandanna, a pair of binoculars, a map, a pocketknife, a jacket, a vest, and a pair of bright red suspenders.

…All of which will eventually get lost on their travels, but that’s half of the fun of this book — spotting each item after Adele, Simon, Aunt Ceclie (and the occasional cowpoke) have given up their search. Continue reading

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Jillian Jiggs

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Written and Illustrated by Phoebe Gilman

Scholastic, 1985

“Jillian, Jillian, Jillian Jiggs! It looks like your room has been lived in by pigs!”

“Later. I promise. As soon as I’m through, I’ll clean up my room. I promise. I do.”

Now, Jillian meant every word that she said. But later, the promise flew out of her head…

Forgive me, Jillian Jiggs. My scanner could not do your fine illustrations justice — probably because the copy I own (passed down from my mother, a teacher for nearly thirty years) is a Scholastic Big Book and nearly as tall as I am. Continue reading

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That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown

emily

Written by Cressida Cowell, Illustrated by Neal Layton

Hyperion Books for Children, 2006

Once upon a time, there was a little girl called Emily Brown and an old gray rabbit called Stanley. One day, Emily Brown and Stanley were launching themselves into outer space to look for alien life-forms when there was a rat-a-tat-tat! at the kitchen door. It was the Chief Footman to the Queen. He said, “The Queen has very kindly noticed your rabbit. She would like to have that Bunnywunny.”

Smart girl that Emily Brown is, she says no thank you. (And pointedly reminds the imposing Footman that her rabbit’s name is Stanley, not “Bunnywunny.”) Continue reading

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Grandmother’s Pigeon

pigeon

By Louise Erdrich, Illustrated by Jim LeMarche

Hyperion Books for Children, 1996

As it turned out, Grandmother was a far more mysterious woman than any of us knew. It was common knowledge that she had trained kicking mules. We’d often heard how she had skied the Continental Divide. I was with her myself once when she turned back a vicious dog by planting herself firm in its path and staring into its eyes.

I have always been fond of books which start in media res. But let’s just cut to the chase, shall we? Erdrich rocks. Continue reading

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Leaf

leaf

Ideas, sound effects and pictures by Stephen Michael King

Roaring Book Press, 2008

No running text in this small book, just the occasional sound effect — the snip, snip of a mother’s eager scissors, the pitter, patter, splot of  a trickling shower. But the gorgeously simple drawings do a fine job of telling the story. Continue reading

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The Summer Snowman

summersnowman

by Gene Zion, Pictures by Margaret Bloy Graham

Harper & Row, 1955

On the last day of winter, when it snowed for the last time, Henry and his brother Pete made a little snowman…an especially small one. It was so much fun, they didn’t even hear their mother calling them for supper. That night when they went to bed, they tried to fall asleep but kept getting up and going to the window to look down at the little snowman standing in the cold, bright moonlight on their front lawn…Henry started to cry…”The moon will melt the snowman and in the morning he’ll be gone!”

Anxiety about a melting snowman can only mean one thing: Mom? Can you find me room in the freezer? But the narrative here goes a bit beyond that. Continue reading

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Arthur and Guen

arthur

By Jon Koons, Illustrated by Igor Oleynikov

Dutton Children’s Books, 2008

In the days of old, long, long ago, there were kings and knights and castles. There were princesses and dragons. There was heraldry and magic. And there was a boy named Arthur…

Here’s proof (yet again) that you can so judge a book by its cover. The phrase, “An original tale of Young Camelot,” just seals the deal for me. Continue reading

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