The Children's Book Quote of the Day

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You monkeys, you March 31, 2010

Filed under: Classics,Picture Books — Kristi @ 10:56 am

“You monkeys, you,” he said, shaking a finger at them, “you give me back my caps.”

But the monkeys only shook their fingers back at him and said, “Tsz, tsz, tsz.” (from Caps For Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina)

Caps For Sale is probably my favorite picture book of all time. I can never exactly put my finger on the reason why I love it so. May be it’s because my grandmother used to read it to me. May be it’s because it’s one of the first books I read aloud to children and saw their faces alight with interest and humor. May be it’s the charming illustrations. May be it’s because beneath a simple story lies an age-old truth, that little monkeys will always do as you do and not as you say.

My little boy is now thirteen months old. I thought I would miss my little bundle of baby when he started turning into a toddler, but he just gets more fun every day. For weeks now he’s been imitating certain words we say and the sounds of dogs and birds in the neighborhood. When he flips open my cell phone and holds it up to his ear, he says, “Haaa!” You read that right. He drawls out the long i sound, making it into a short a sound, just like his Texas mama. As we walked through Hobby Lobby yesterday we made a game of it. I’d say, “Mama.” He’d say, “mamamamama.” I’d say, “Dada.” He’s say, “dadadadadada.” I’d say, “Katie Faye (the name we call my mother),” and he’d pause before saying, “kay kay kay ffffff!” When we checked out the cashier said, “Bye bye!” He said, “babababa!”

But this morning, when he grabbed the keys out of my purse, went to the front door, stood on tiptoes and tried to jam them into the doorknob, I realized just how much he notices about what we do. Minutes later, he got a pen off of my husband’s desk and tried to write on a piece of paper that had fallen from the printer tray! He not only sees what we do, he does what we do. This is not a cliché or a platitude. Little eyes are watching. This is my real life and it’s time for some real grace. I want him to be able to do as I do with no embarrassment or shame. I want so much to pass on good habits and healing words (even if they do come out with a West Texas drawl). Today, we are reading Caps For Sale, for my benefit, not his.

One last thing about Caps For Sale. I don’t think I’ve mentioned it on this blog before, but I’m a real sucker for dedications. My method of book browsing goes something like this: I am attracted by a good title and a nice cover design. If  it has one or the other, I’ll probably open it and look for the dedication. If it has a good dedication, I’ll definitely read it. If it doesn’t, I’ll flip through and see if any words jump off of the page at me to make me want to read it. I always fight the urge to turn to the last page, but it’s always a temptation. This is why I hate it when the dedication is at the end of the book. Anyway, I will occasionally share with you a dedication that I particularly enjoy and Esphyr Slobodkina’s in Caps For Sale is this: To Rosalind and Emmy Jean, and to their grandfather who loved to read to them. There’s something about that that just tenders my heart. The book was first published in 1940, before research told us that we should read to kids. I like to think he did it for the sheer pleasure of seeing the joy on their faces, the anticipation of the story’s climax, the satisfaction of the happily-ever-afters.


Especially in a boat March 30, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kristi @ 6:49 pm

“Such a good fellow, too,” remarked the Otter reflectively. “But no stability–especially in a boat!” (from The Wind In The Willows by Kenneth Grahame)


There might be March 29, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kristi @ 4:24 pm

Going to Aunt Mirandy’s is like going down cellar in the dark. There might be ogres and giants under the stairs, —but, as I tell Hannah, there might be elves and fairies and enchanted frogs! (from Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin)


A Melodious Neigh March 28, 2010

Filed under: Chapter Books,Classics — Shanna @ 6:37 pm

. . . I heard a neigh.  Oh, such a brisk and melodious neigh as that was!  My very heart leaped with delight at the sound. (from “The Chimæra” by Nathaniel Hawthorne)

Today turned out to be a perfect afternoon for horseback riding.  I enjoyed every drop of it, and appreciated many of my favorite sounds at my barn, including the melodious neighing of my horses, which always makes my heart leap with delight.


Miraculous Spiderwebs March 27, 2010

Filed under: Chapter Books,Classics — Shanna @ 11:49 pm

Mr. Zuckerman took fine care of Wilbur all the rest of his days, and the pig was often visited by friends and admirers, for nobody ever forgot the year of his triumph and the miracle of the web. (from Charlotte’s Web by EB White)

Recently I showed the movie Amazing Grace to my students.  It’s one of my all-time favorite movies, mostly because of how inspiring it is.  If you’re not familiar, it is about William Wilberforce, a member of the British Parliament in the late 1700s and early 1800s.  Wilberforce, with the aid of a group of like-minded individuals, worked tirelessly for most of his adult life to end the slave trade in the British Empire, a goal which he accomplished in 1807 after a 26-year campaign.

Toward the beginning of the movie, as Wilberforce’s character is being established, we see him sitting outside, marveling at a fantastic spiderweb. His bewildered butler finds him there, and Wilberforce explains that he feels that God has found him, and that in spite of the brilliant political career that is clearly in his future, he’s more interested in spiderwebs.  At the end of the film, just before the bill is passed to abolish the slave trade, Wilberforce leaves behind his cluttered office and heads outside, where he sits beneath a tree, and just above him, the camera focuses on another spectacular web, just for a moment, as Wilberforce recites to himself the speech he will deliver to Parliament later before the vote is cast.

In these two scenes, the spiderwebs serve as a reminder of divine interaction in the world.  In the first scene a young Wilberforce feels called by God and contemplates giving up his political career to serve Him in a “life of solitude,” as they say in the film.  I assume this means a withdrawal from the world after the manner of some clergy.  In the second scene, an older Wilberforce sits beneath a web, reminiscent of the earlier scene, and the implication is that in choosing the path of politics, he was living out the calling he had felt so long ago.  That deep love of God’s creation that had him wanting spiderwebs early on was the same love that moved him to compassion and action on behalf of an enslaved people.

I love that little detail of the spiderwebs in this movie because it reminds me that there are big miracles, like Wilberforce’s triumph, but there are little, everyday miracles, too.  Like spiderwebs.  And that sometimes, it’s the little miracles that change us and help us to hear God calling us to the work of the big ones.

And in Charlotte’s Web, the miracle of the web, of course, was the words spelled out in the delicate threads.  But maybe there’s a sense in which there’s something spelled out in all spiderwebs, though we often forget to look.  I wonder what messages we might find if we took the time to look.

(Sorry this became an essay!)


You do look funny.

Filed under: Picture Books — Kristi @ 6:27 pm
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“What are you laughing at, Frog?” said Toad.

“I am laughing at you, Toad,” said Frog, “because you do look funny in your bathing suit.” (from Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel)

True friends can tell you the truth. True friends can laugh at you without malice. True friends will help you find exactly the right bathing suit.


Anything so curious March 25, 2010

Filed under: Chapter Books — Kristi @ 12:45 pm
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All the ingenious men, and all the scientific men, and all the fanciful men in the world…could never invent, if all their wits were boiled into one, anything so curious, and so ridiculous, as a lobster. (from The Water Babies by Charles Kingsly)