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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Tag Archives | Dr. Seuss

The Grinch

I’m just going to say it. Go on the record.

I do not like The Grinch. I do not like the book. I do not like the character. I do not like the story of How The Grinch Stole Christmas. I do not like the brilliant theater productions of the story (though I acknowledge the brilliance.) I do not like the TV special, which I grew up watching, and which I did not let my kids watch. I do not like the movie or the song. I do not like any of it, Sam-I-Am.

Lest you think I’m simply grinchy about all things Grinch, I will tip my hand here at the beginning and say that I love the name “Grinch.” It’s perfect. As perfect as Ebeneezer Scrooge’s name, and let’s be honest, How The Grinch Stole Christmas is really just a knock-off of Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. It’s just not as well done. It lacks…subtlety, among other things.

Scrooge is afflicted with his own personal bah humbugness, but you suspect even before all of the Christmas Ghosts visit that he could be a different man with a little therapy and some homemade Christmas cookies. But the Grinch is just mean. He’s not all “Bah humbug!” when Christmas frivolities get on his nerves—he’s all “I MUST stop this Christmas from coming.”

Dude. Take your two-sizes-too-small heart and get back to your cave.

I’m tired of making excuses for the grinches of the world. He takes the stockings and presents, the treats and the feast of the wee Whos! He takes the last can of Who-hash, for heaven’s sake! And then The Tree—he shoves the Whos’ Christmas tree up the chimney! Who does that?!

It’s CindyLou Who and her sweet trusting nature that just undoes me. 

“Santy Claus, why…Why are you taking our Christmas tree? WHY?”

The Grinch poses as Santa Claus—can we agree this is an abomination?

He tells her there’s a light that won’t light, and so he’s taking it back to his workshop to fix. Sweet CindyLou believes him—she trots back to bed with her cold cup of water. My heart! And the Grinch takes the very log for the fire; then goes up the chimney, himself, the old liar.

We did not have this book growing up. We watched the TV special but I’d never read it until I babysat a family who had it. They had three boys, ages nine, six, and three. They were wild. Difficult. Not kind to each other. And they were exhausting to put to bed. I think this is why their parents went out.

I suggested a few books to wind down one summer night, and the six-year-old demanded that I read How The Grinch Stole Christmas.

“YEAH!” said the nine-year-old. “It makes babies cry!” And as if on cue, the three-year-old started to whimper. I said we weren’t going to read a book that made anyone cry. And besides, it wasn’t even Christmas.

But two hours later, after the older two had passed out, the three-year-old brought How The Grinch Stole Christmas down to me and asked me to read it. His eyes were huge. His thumb was in his mouth. He said he had to go potty first. Then he needed a cold cup of water—just like CindyLou Who.

When we finally sat down to read the book, we did not get past the first page before huge tears welled in his eyes. I told him I could not in good conscience read him a book that made him so sad. He suggested we just look at the pictures. And so we did. We talked through the pictures, and he trembled as we did. He obviously knew the story.

And it did not matter one bit that The Grinch could not finally take away Christmas—that Christmas came in fine style even without all the trappings he’d stolen. It did not matter that The Grinch’s heart grew three sizes in the end and that he himself carved the roast beef. This, I suppose, is meant to be the “lesson,” the take-away that makes the rest of it all okay. Too little too late, I say.

I had a three-year-old on my lap trying so hard to brave, trying not to be The Baby his brothers told him he was. His little heart hammered as we turned those pages and by the time we were done, I was done with The Grinch.

So there.

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Bookstorm™: Little Cat’s Luck

 

Little Cat's Luck

Little Cat's LuckMany people love cats. You might be one of them. Many children consider their cat or their dog to be one of the family. Marion Dane Bauer understands that. She wrote Little Cat’s Luck, the story of Patches, a cat, and Gus, the meanest dog in town, out of her deep affinity for both cats and dogs. You can tell. These are real animals who have adventures, challenges, and feelings that readers will avidly follow … and understand. Written as a novel-in-verse with charming use of concrete poetry, Little Cat’s Luck is a book that will interest both avid readers and those still gaining confidence.

We are pleased to feature Little Cat’s Luck as our March book selection, written by the perceptive Marion Dane Bauer and illustrated by the playful Jennifer A. Bell, storytellers both.

In each Bookstorm™, we offer a bibliography of books that have close ties to the the featured book. You’ll find books for a variety of tastes and interests. This month, we’re focusing on books for primary grade readers. We’ve included some books for adults with background information about cats, information texts, narrative nonfiction, and plenty of memorable cat characters. 

Downloadables

 

 

Don’t miss the exceptional resources on the author’s website. There’s a book trailer, a social-emotional learning guide, and a teaching guide that you’ll find useful as you incorporate this book into your planning.

BOOKSTORM TOPICS

Memorable Cat Characters. You may know and love these books but have your readers been introduced to Macavity, Pete the Cat, the Cat in the Hat, Atticus McClaw? From picture books to early readers to middle grade novels, there’s a wide range of books here for every taste.

Friendship. There have been excellent books published about animals who are friends, many you wouldn’t expect, both as fictional stories and true stories.

Smart Animals. Do you know the true story of Alex the Parrot? Or how smart an octopus is? Do you know what animals think and feel? There are books here that will amaze you and deepen your appreciation for animals and birds.

Caring for Animals. These fictional books are good discussion starters for the responsibility of having an animal pet, especially a cat. 

Spirit of Adventure. Animal adventures have been favorites ever since Jack London published Call of the Wild. These are some of the best stories, just like Little Cat’s Luck and Little Dog, Lost.

Animal Mothers and Their Offspring. How do animals care for their young? We’ve included a couple of books that will fascinate young readers.

The Truth about Cats. From The Cat Encyclopedia to How to Speak Cat, these are information texts filled with facts. Good choices for your students’ book bins.

Best of all? There are so many good books about cats!

Let us know how you are making use of this Bookstorm™. Share your ideas and any other books you’d add to this Bookstorm™.

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Two for the Show: What Scares You?

Note to readers: we are trying a new format this month. We want to make our blog more conversational. Let us know what you think.

Phyllis Root:
bk_TwoRamona
What scares you? How do you deal with that fear? And why do so many of us like to scare ourselves silly, as long as we know that everything will be all right in the end?

An article in The Atlantic, Why Do Some Brains Enjoy Fear,” explains how the hormone dopamine, released during scary activities makes some of us feel good, especially if we feel safe. If we know those ghosts in the haunted house aren’t really ghosts, we can let ourselves be as scared as we want by their sudden appearance.

In Ramona the Brave Ramona hides a book with a scary gorilla picture under a couch cushion when the book becomes too terrifying. She’s in charge of how scared she wants to be, and books offer us that opportunity: we can close them if they’re scary, or even look ahead to the end to be sure everything will be fine.

Jacqueline Briggs Martin:
We can give ourselves little doses of scare. Doses that feel like fun because we are watching events happen to someone else.

Phyllis:
bk_TwoLittleOldLady
The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams, illustrated by Megan Lloyd, is a deliciously scary experience. On her way home through the forest as it starts to get dark, the little old lady meets two big shoes that go CLOMP, CLOMP. Since she’s not afraid of anything, she continues toward home—but the shoes clomp behind her, as do, eventually, a pair of pants that go WIGGLE, WIGGLE, a shirt that goes SHAKE, SHAKE, gloves that go CLAP, CLAP, and a hat that goes NOD, NOD. To all of them she says “Get out of my way!” because, of course, she’s not afraid of anything—although she does walk faster and faster. When she meets the scary pumpkin head that goes BOO, BOO! she runs for home and locks the door. Then comes the KNOCK, KNOCK on the door. Because she’s not afraid of anything she answers the door and sees the whole assemblage of clothing and pumpkin head. “You can’t scare me,” she says. “Then what’s to become of us?” the pumpkin asks. The little old lady’s idea for a solution makes everyone happy. Part of the genius of this book is that it invites listeners to join in on the sound effects, giving them an active part in the story as well as an outlet for building tension.

bk_TwoSeussThe narrator in What Was I Scared Of?, written and illustrated by Dr. Seuss, only has to confront a pair of empty pants (a fun twist on having the pants scared off of one), and like the old lady, this narrator claims he isn’t scared of anything. Still, when the pants move, he hightails it out of there, and each time the pants show up again, whether riding a bike or rowing a boat, the narrator runs from them. When he unexpectedly encounters the pants and hollers for help, the pants break down in tears; it turns out they are as scared of him as he is of them. The narrator responds empathetically by putting his arm around the pants’ waist and calming the “poor empty pants with nobody inside them.” Neither is scared of the other any longer.

Jackie:
This book has always been a favorite at our house. Who would not be scared of such pants? And this list of frightened responses is so inclusive—and so fun to read out loud:

I yelled for help. I screamed. I shrieked.

I howled. I yowled. I cried,

“Oh save me from these pale green pants

With nobody inside!”

Dr. Seuss’s language in this story frequently makes us laugh. One of my favorites:

And the next night, I was fishing

for Doubt-trout on Roover River

When those pants came rowing toward me!

Well, I started in to shiver.

I’m not a fishing person, but I might head out to Roover River for a couple of Doubt-trout.

bk_TwoNightmareAnother story in which the fearsome is also fearful is There’s a Nightmare in my Closet. I can’t believe this Mercer Mayer book is forty-seven years old. It seems as current a childhood worry as stepping on a crack in the sidewalk. Mayer’s illustrations are perfect—we can almost hear the silence in the illustration in which the kid tiptoes back to bed, after closing the closet door.

Phyllis:
Facing your fears and befriending them runs through all of these stories. Virginia Hamilton’s Wee Winnie Witch’s Skinny, an original tale based on research into black folklore and illustrated by Barry Moser, involves actually out-witting a very scary being. With more text and a more story-telling tone, the tale relates how James Lee’s Uncle Big Anthony is attacked by a cat who is really Wee Winnie Witch in disguise and who rides him through the sky at night. As weeks pass, Uncle Big Anthony “got lean and bent-over tired. He looked like some about gone, Uncle Shrunken Anthony.” Mama Granny comes to the rescue with her spice-hot pepper witch-be-gone.

bk_TwoWeeWitchWhen Wee Winnie Witch takes off her skin that night to ride Uncle Big Anthony, she snatches James Lee from his window and takes him riding with them through the sky where he is both terrified and thrilled. When Wee Winnie Witch returns to the ground and puts on her skin again, she finds that Mama Granny has treated the skin’s inside with her spice-hot pepper witch-be-gone. The skin squeezes Wee Winnie Witch so hard that she shrivels into pieces on the floor. Uncle Big Anthony gradually returns to his former self, and although James Lee never wants to see a “skinny” again, the thought of the night-air ride up in the twinkling stars still makes him say “Whew-wheee!”

Jackie:
This tale is gripping—and for me, a bit disturbing, or maybe thought-provoking. I was troubled by the thought and image of the Wee Winnie Witch riding Big Uncle Anthony with the bridle in his mouth. But, as I thought about it, I wondered if Hamilton was possibly reminding us of the degradation that slavery brought to black people. So many were bridled and lashed and worked to death. Hard to say. In any case this story has plenty of scare and a strong hero in Mama Granny.

Phyllis:
Terrified, thrilled, and brought back to a sense of safety again: these stories do all that but with different levels of bk_TwoHamburgerterror. And because picture books are usually read aloud by a comforting adult and because we’re free to shut them and even put them under the couch cushion, we can choose how scared to be, knowing that we can safely close the book. But like James Lee, we might also say “Whew-wheee!”—then open the book to read it again.

And what kinds of stories do ghosts tell to scare themselves? Read The Haunted Hamburger by David LaRochelle and find out.

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Skinny Dip with Amy Baum

gr_sleepy-hollow-moonWhat keeps you up at night?

The Disney version of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. I had to sleep in my sister’s room for 6 months after that terrifying cartoon.

What’s the first book you remember reading?

Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik. I loved Little Bear and his very functional family. Also, I thought it was simply magical that all of the letters spelled out a story. I am still a fan of large type (though that could be my age).

Disclaimer: There was one story that caused many sleepless nights: “Goblin Story” in Little Bear’s Visit. I highly recommend reading this story during a clear, bright day. A big shout out to Kim Faurot at the Saint Paul Public Library Children’s Room.

What’s Your favorite holiday tradition?

Giving Presents for all occasions – I am most certain that there is a holiday packed into every week of the year.

Were you a teacher’s pet or teacher’s challenge?

Oy, such a challenge. I have dyslexia, but that wasn’t a “thing” back in the sixties – hence I was trundled off to speech therapy. It was great fun. We did a lot of puppet shows with Steiff puppets – and while they were very itchy I was a proud porcupine.

Do you like to gift wrap presents?

gr_aaxmanwithlogoYes, shopping, presents and holidays all go hand-in-hand. I have a closet full of cool gift wrap which I buy all year round. I must admit to using gift bags on unwieldy items. Though one can get some swell boxes at The Ax-Man surplus store. It also delights me to watch the painstaking measures some recipients will go to in an effort to preserve the wrapping paper. You people know who you are.

What 3 children’s book authors or illustrators or editors would you like to invite to dinner?

Such an unfair question. I would require the capacity of the Algonquin Round Table and I would try to accommodate SOME list of some of my heroes:

  1. Maurice Sendak
  2. Ursula Nordstrom, aside from being a fabulous editor she wrote one of my favorite books of second grade, The Secret Language.
  3. Edward Gorey
  4. ph_wedgewoodMargaret Wise Brown
  5. A.A. Milne
  6. E.L. Konigsburg
  7. Eric Carle
  8. Nancy Ekholm Burkert
  9. Walter Dean Myers
  10. Beatrix Potter – I eat off her Peter Rabbit Wedgewood every day
  11. E.B. White
  12. Tomi Ungerer
  13. Charlotte Zolotow
  14. Dr. Seuss
  15. M.E. Kerr

I am quite certain that I am leaving several important guests out. By the way – I would not cook out of deference of my guests – catering all the way! I do not use my stove – I occasionally dust it.

What’s your favorite line from a book?

“It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer.”– Charlotte’s Web

What book do you tell everyone to read?

The Phantom Tollbooth, Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present, The Nutshell Library, The Moon Man, A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver. It depends on who my audience is and what their needs are at the time.

Are you a night owl or an early bird?

Both – nighttime is for reading and hanging with my faithful dog. Morning is for “catching up.”

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Skinny Dip with Anita Silvey

bk_UntamedWhat keeps you up at night?

Usually one of my beautiful Bernese Mountain Dogs. My girl developed a love affair with the local raccoon and woke me every time he came near the premises.

What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?

Left a nine to five job with benefits to become a full-time writer.

What’s the first book you remember reading?

 Seuss’s Horton Hatches the Egg

What TV show can’t you turn off?

Newsroom or Nashville

Do you like to gift wrap presents?

I’m dangerous with scissors and tape, so as few as I can.

What do you wish you could tell your 10-year old self?

Relax and enjoy the journey; it is going to be okay.

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Turtles in Children’s Literature

Our Bookstormbook, The Shadow Hero, is the origin story of a superhero, The Green Turtle. While this character is not an actual chelonian—though that would be an awesome super hero—there are many turtles and tortoises in children’s literature. Some might even be, technically, terrapins. Here are some notables.

TurtleTimeline_July

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Seussical the Musical!

Darling Daughter has discovered the stage. She is in her first musical this spring and is having a ball. Ninety-four middle schoolers (with help from some wonderful teachers and staff, of course) are valiantly putting on Seussical. I say valiantly because it is a big project. It’s really a mini-opera—very few lines are not sung. […]

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