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Reading My Library

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Strange and Unusual

Some books just require an explanation. When I finish reading some books I wonder how on earth they ever made it to the point where they would be published. Of course, most of the time I think this after I've read books for adults but still. There are some awfully strange picture books out there and one of them, in my opinion, is Emily and the Ostriches, by Dan Bernstein.

Emily loves to dance but her mother gets tired of her constant movement and activity. One cold winter day, Emily is trapped inside the house and is itching to get out and dance. Her mother finally agrees to let her daughter dance 'to the corner' and back and then strangely allows her daughter to get all dolled up in her ballerina costume and go out to dance in the snow. But stranger still, Emily disappears. She just simply danced away somewhere.

But where? Ahh, that's a good question and I'm so glad you asked.

Emily danced herself into Ostrichville (populatio: 300.) I kid you not. And there she dances and becomes part of the tribe or whatever until Hubert G. Starling, choreographer for the Big Apple Ballet, pokes his head into Ostrichville. Apparently he gets his dance inspiration from the ostriches. He was making a regular visit to Ostrichville and finds Emily, invites her back into the human world, and she performes with the Big Apple Ballet where her family finds her. From that point on, Emily lives and dances in two worlds: both human and ostrich.

The illustrations by Gary Aagarrd are beautiful. Aagarrd is obviously quite talented as you can see here:

But Emily and the Ostriches? I personally might have thought twice. This story is just strange and inexplicable. I can't stop asking myself, "WHY? Whywhywhywhywhy?"


I'm asking myself the same question when it comes to Granite Baby, by Lynne Bertrand, although admittedly it's slightly less strange than Emily and the Ostriches.

It opens as follows:

"Back in the time when folks discovered granite deep under the north woods of New Hampshire, five burly sisters opened a stone quarry up on Umbagog Lake."
These five burly sisters are exactly that. Giants among women. Giant burly women who love to chisel things out of granite - including a tiny, real life baby that they name 'Lil Fella'. From there things actually become a little less strange. Lil Fella cries a whole, heaping lot. In fact, he cries so much and so loudly that the entire country can hear him (all the way to the west coast!) and are annoyed by him. These five burly sisters apparently have no mothering skills and it takes them a long, long time to figure out that Lil Fella is crying because he is hungry. Things improve once they figure this out. But before they do - there's a lot of carving granite and screaming baby involved.

This book reads like it was wanting to become a great American folk tale but, uh, well, I don't think this one is going to make it. If it did, I'd eat my hat. I consider this a fairly safe bet!


  1. How strange. and Um, unusual.
    I had someone tell me that they wondered why the SkippyJon Jones books were written, now, me and my kids love them! probably because I use a Cheech Marin voice to narrate!
    Have a beautiful weekend!

  2. Interesting... The Granite Baby makes me think of a Paul Bunyan book we just finished reading in home school co-op. That book was a lot of fun. This one just sounds ... odd.