When I was a little girl, I must have read Francis Hodgson Burnett’s “The Secret Garden” at least ten times. I was absolutely fascinated by almost everything about it. The old house with a name (Misselwaithe Manor? Why didn’t I think of this, let’s name our house! Suffice it to say, whatever title I dreamed up didn’t catch on in my childhood home) that was gigantic enough to make it hard to know who all lived there, the overgrown garden that had been locked up for mysterious reasons, the way the British lived in India, the sensory descriptions of how bringing the garden back to life felt and smelled…I ate it all up. It was like a fairy tale that could actually happen, and the story felt both nostalgic and exotic at the same time. I had never heard of a moor, and I had certainly never encountered phonetic spelling of a thick Yorkshire accent like that of the the undermaid, Martha. Continue reading
March seems to be chock full of birthday celebrations for children’s book authors. Here are just a few that I have selected from a long list. If you haven’t heard of some of these writers and illustrators, now is a great time to sit with a kid in your lap and discover a new favorite. Ready? Set? Go!
Dr. Seuss (also known as Theodor Seuss Geisel or Theo LeSieg) was born on March 2. Not only is Dr. Seuss’ birthday celebrated on the 2nd, but the National Education Association celebrates Read Across America Day every year on or near that same date. (This year’s event is on March 1.) In case you are not familiar with the whimsical writings of Dr. Seuss, try “Green Eggs and Ham” or “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.” Kids love the playful rhymes and curious creatures of Seuss’ imagination. Continue reading
On the cover of some classic titles in the juvenile section, in a subtitle or small print, you will sometimes find the words, “based on,” “adapted from,” “adapted by,” “retold by” or “from the story by.” These phrases indicate that you hold in your hand not the original book by an author but a re-written version, usually written at a lower reading level for a younger audience than that originally intended for the work. Usually true to some of the plot points, adaptations tend to strip away the original language the author used. The flavor of what makes the story a classic can become unintentionally lost. The challenge is to make sure that your reader is aware of the great differences between the original and the adaptation.
Over the years I have talked with older kids who think they have read many classics, but what they have really read are the adapted or condensed versions of these works. My fear as a librarian is that these kids will miss reading the original versions and gaining an understanding of what truly makes them classics. Why are we in a hurry? And how can we share classics in their intended form with young readers? Continue reading
I am not one for “updated” takes on classics. So when I saw that Emma Thompson had written a book inspired by Peter Rabbit, my stomach did not feel well, and I felt in need of some parsley. “Oh goody,” I thought, “another movie star becomes a picture book author.” Happily, though some might consider revisiting Peter Rabbit to be old-fashioned, Emma knows that when a story or character represents universal truths, it can stand the test of time.
Children can relate to Peter’s boredom, naughtiness, anxiety, adventure, comfort and safety. Add some original art by British artist Eleanor Taylor (she filled some big boots), and, I am delighted to say that this book delivers. Eleanor has her own spin on Peter. He’s a tad softer, but there is no doubt who is wearing the blue coat.
In this deceptively simple story we experience the quest for adventure, an accidental trip to a “faraway” land, a giant rabbit (Finlay McBurney) and his clan, as well as a unique contest and circumstances all wrapped up in a radish that will have you gently chuckling. And trust me, every word was contemplated and said aloud before being committed to the page. So, I recommend, curling up with a cup of tea and enjoying this loving, humorous and adventurous tribute to over 100 years of a favorite rabbit.
View an excerpt of the book from National Public Radio’s interview with Emma Thompson.
Illustration credit: Beatrix Potter, 1866-1943. From The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library