Tag Archives: families

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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Our Corner Grocery Store

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By Joanna Schwartz, Illustrated by Laura Beingessner

Tundra Books, 2009

Saturday is my favorite day of the week. I spend every Saturday at my Nonno Domenico and Nonna Rosa’s corner grocery store. It’s early in the morning when I arrive. Mrs. Mele is out walking her dog. Once in a while a car goes by, but mostly it’s quiet. The neighborhood is still asleep.

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Chloe’s Birthday…And Me

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By Giselle Potter

Atheneum Books, 2004

As we drove into Le Cerisier — which means “the cherry tree” in French — I squeezed my eyes shut. I wish it were my birthday, I wish it were my birthday, I said in my head over and over. Chloe was too little to even care that it was her birthday, and my birthday was my favorite day of the year — much better than Christmas or Halloween because all the attention is just for you.

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The Tub People

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By Pam Conrad, Illustrations by Richard Egielski

Scholastic, 1989

The Tub People stood in a line all day on the edge of the bathtub. There were seven of them, and they always stood in the same order — the father, the mother, the grandmother, the doctor, the policeman, the child and the dog. They were made out of wood, and their faces were very plain. They could smile or frown, or cry or laugh. Sometimes they would even wink at each other, but it hardly showed.

My son attached a piece of blue painter’s tape to the cover of this book, marking it as one of his all-time favorites. Although truthfully, he was probably also looking for a project that would stall his bedtime without making me lose my patience. (How can you get angry at a child for showing love towards his books?) One evening, the Tub Child is accidentally swept down the drain, causing untold grief, loss and helplessness to wash over the “surviving” Tub People. Despite the happy ending, there’s a melancholy tone to this book and illustrations that I’m not always in the mood for. But I recommend it all the same.

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The Only Boy in Ballet Class

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Written by Denise Gruska, Illustrations by Amy Wummer

Gibbs Smith, 2007

As soon as Tucker pushes open the door to Madame Clara’s Dance Studio, it happens. He stands a little taller. When he takes off his shoes and pulls on his very worn-out ballet slippers, he jumps even higher than usual. It feels like flying. He likes to carve the air with the other dancers.

Every once in a while, I crave a really simple rom-com in which the plot is so formulaic that exactly forty-nine minutes in, the lead actress feels sorry for herself and eats a lot of ice cream, straight out of the container. There’s something wonderfully  comforting about knowing exactly how things will turn out  — like they should, damnit — and that’s why I’m fond of The Only Boy in Ballet Class. Tucker Dohr loves to dance, although it embarrasses his Uncle Frank, his little sisters attempt to trip him, and the bullies in his class (who, of course, play football and all need haircuts) call him “Tippy-Toe Boy” or “Twinkle Toes.” It’s all so hurtful that Tucker cries sometimes when he’s alone. But then he’s goaded by his Uncle Frank to play a game of football with his arch enemies and surprise! He wows them with his pirouettes, jetes, and assembles. (Cue the feel-good pop music.)

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We Eat Dinner in the Bathtub

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By Angela Shelf Medearis, Illustrated by Jacqueline Rogers

Scholastic, 1996

“Do you want to eat dinner at my house, Josh?” “Okay, Harris.” “We eat dinner in the bathtub.” “THE BATHTUB?” “Yes.” “Why do you do that? You should eat dinner in the dining room.” “We sleep in the dining room.”

I don’t know what I love most about this slight little book, which is perfect for beginning readers. The hilarious premise?  (Harris’s kooky family uses every room in their house for purposes other than what they were intended for.) The wonderful illustrations? (Which beautifully underscore the idea that it’s not only okay but more fun to be different.) Or, quite possibly, it’s the fact that throughout this book, Josh and Harris are carrying on a conversation while having a totally free-range adventure: reading comics in a treehouse, climbing down a steep cliff face, biking down a curvy, narrow mountain road… Ah for the good old days.

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Piggybook

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By Anthony Browne

Alfred A. Knopf, 1986

 

Mr. Piggott lived with his two sons, Simon and Patrick, in a nice house with a nice garden, and a nice car in the nice garage. Inside the house was his wife.

My mother, a school teacher for thirty-odd years, recently found this book in her vast collection and presented it to me. “You’ll like this,” she said. And I do — especially after a particularly long day where I have felt like a combination of referee/hostage negotiator/butler/waitress/washerwoman.  Although written by a man, Piggybook is decidedly feminist. Mrs. Piggott is so taken advantage of by her greedy, sloppy family that one day, she leaves. In her absence, her two sons and husband turn into grumpy pigs, and their house a filthy sty. Of course, Mrs. Piggott does indeed return home and accept their groveling apologies and promises that things will be different. And things are. What I find so impressive is how Browne’s narrative is deepened by the illustrations; not until the very happy conclusion of this book does Mrs. Piggott have facial features.

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