One-Minute Book Reviews

March 22, 2008

Tasha Tudor’s Classic Easter Story About a Young Girl’s Holiday Dream

Filed under: Children's Books — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 9:17 am
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[This is a repost of a 2007 post.]

A young girl dreams of a magical journey on the back of a fawn in a picture book that’s been a holiday favorite for more than 60 years

A Tale for Easter. By Tasha Tudor. Aladdin, 32 pp., $5.99, paperback. Ages 4–8.

By Janice Harayda

This classic picture book is a kind of Easter counterpart to The Polar Express, though it has a smaller format than Chris Van Allsburg’s Christmas fable. Generations preschoolers and other young children have delighted in Tasha Tudor’s sentimental tale of a girl who, on the night before the holiday, dreams of taking a magical journey on the back of a “wee fawn” that shows her “rabbits smoothing their sleek coats,” lambs “in fields of buttercups” and other gentle creatures of the season.

A two-time Caldecott Honor artist, Tudor uses second-person narration and soft watercolors to show Easter through the eyes of girl who lived at around the time of the Civil War, to judge by her Little Women-ish dresses and bonnet. Tudor sets the tone early: “You never can tell what might happen on Easter. You’re not always sure when it is coming, even though you go to Sunday school … it is only when Good Friday comes, and you have hot cross buns for tea that you know for certain Easter will be the day after tomorrow.” And while a story this sweet won’t appeal to everybody, Tudor has following among all ages, including many adults. And A Tale for Easter is so widely available that you may be able to find in bookstores and libraries at the last minute.

Recommended if … you’re looking for a picture book that evokes the magic of a season of rebirth without getting into Christian theology. A Tale for Easter may especially appeal to a child who sees herself as a “girly-girl.”

Published: 1941 (first edition), January 2004 (Aladdin paperback reprint).

A new review of a book or books for children or teenagers appears every Saturday on One-Minute Book Reviews. To avoid missing these reviews, please bookmark this site or subscribe to the RSS feed. One-Minute Book Reviews is a noncommercial site that does not accept advertising or free books or promotional materials from publishers and provides an independent evaluation of books by an award-winning critic.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

March 1, 2008

Why Laura Ingalls Wilder’s ‘Little House’ Books Aren’t Just for Girls (Quote of the Day / Jonathan Yardley)

Filed under: Children's Books,Classics — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:05 am
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Many people think of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House” books as a series for girls. But is it true? Jonathan Yardley wrote about Wilder’s books his “Second Reading” series in the Washington Post and recalled how much he had enjoyed Little House on the Prairie and Little House in the Big Woods as a child:

“What surprises me a bit in thinking back to my own reaction to these books as a boy is that it seems to have made no difference at all that girls, not boys, were at the center of these stories. Most of my favorite books were about boys — Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer, Thomas Bailey Aldrich’s The Story of a Bad Boy, Booth Tarkington’s Penrod and Sam — but I remember with great affection, even if I can remember neither the title nor the author, a memoir of a girlhood spent in Manhattan’s Gramercy Park, and as my reading habits advanced I thought Little Women a much better book than Little Men, which of course it is.

“I say this not in order to lay claim to preternaturally premature feminism, but to make the point that Wilder’s books are open and accessible to readers of both sexes. The girls whom she portrays are thoroughly feminine, but they also know how to load guns and do chores in and out of the house. Indeed, the chief trouble with the Laura Ingalls Wilder industry as it now exists is that it idealizes the girls of the frontier far more than Wilder did. The front cover of my copy of Little House in the Big Woods shows two cute-as-buttons girls in a bright, sunny woods, wearing clothes that look right out of Ralph Lauren. That may be good TV, but it’s bad Laura Ingalls Wilder.”

To read all of Yardley’s comments on Wilder, click here: www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/11/07/AR2007110702595.html.

(c) 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.janiceharayda.com

January 19, 2008

Beverly Donofrio and Barbara McClintock’s ‘Mary and the Mouse, the Mouse and Mary’

A girl and a mouse share more than a house in an engaging bedtime story

Mary and the Mouse, the Mouse and Mary. By Beverly Donofrio. Illustrated by Barbara McClintock. Random House/Schwartz & Wade, 32 pp., $16.99. Ages 2–6.

By Janice Harayda

This quiet, lovely bedtime story goes against the grain of almost everything that is fashionable in picture books. That’s partly what makes it so appealing: It won’t lose its appeal when a book with more glitz comes along, because it has no glitz. What it has is heart, lots of it, that shows up most clearly beguiling illustrations by Barbara McClintock.

Mary and the Mouse is a book of opposites. Mary lives in a big house in the early years of the baby boom. The Mouse lives a little house in Mary’s house. They meet by accident and wave to each other every night until they grow up and leave for new homes. When Mary becomes a mother, she and her family live in another big house. When Mouse becomes a mother, she and her family live in another little house inside Mary’s house. The daughters of Mary and the Mouse vary their mothers’ pattern – they smile at each other instead of waving – until one night each of them “did something brave”: They found the courage to say, “Good Night!”

This simple plot serves worthy themes – affections survive separations, children resemble their parents but are unique, and change may not occur in one generation — well-supported by the art. McClintock creates lively human and animal faces that show real expression. And her warm and painterly seem to catch gestures in midair, as motor-drive camera does. Her cover image has Alice-in-Wonderland quality, and it’s pleasure to fall down the rabbit hole – or mouse hole – into this book.

Best line/picture: As an adult, Mary lives in a beautiful glass-and-fieldstone home in the spirit of Philip Johnson’s Glass House. This is refreshing. You could easily get the idea from recent picture books that all American children live in a) trailers; b) suburban colonials; or c) brownstones. Architectural diversity almost doesn’t exist in them.

Worst line/picture: None.

Published: August 2007 www.randomhouse.com/kids

Furthermore: This is the first book for children by Beverly Donofrio www.beverlydonofrio.com, who lives in Mexico and wrote Riding in Cars With Boys. Barbara McClintock wrote and illustrated the children’s book Adèle & Simon. She lives in Connecticut.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com

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