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Reading My Library

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Read Aloud Thursday

Read-Aloud Thursday at Hope Is the Word

Back to a bit of randomness in our Read-Aloud Thursday posts. Here are some titles from the library book shelves that we enjoyed thoroughly these past few weeks:

Both the bookworms (ages 2 and 4) connected with Things I Like, by Anthony Browne. It's a perfect book for toddlers as it opens up discussions about what it is that each individual likes. In the case of our little monkey in the story here, he likes playing with toys, dressing up, building sandcastles, having a bath, hearing a bedtime story and the list goes on from there. The things he likes are some of the same things both my boys like so we had fun reading it and making up our own lists as we went along. Cute book. Easy, simple, straight forward.

The Big Sneeze, by Ruth Brown was another favorite of ours. Again, it's a very simple story with very few words on the page.

"One hot afternoon, the farmer and his animals were dozing in the barn. The only sound was the buzz-buzz of a lazy fly."

The lazy fly ends up landing on the farmer's nose which sets of a chain reaction which creates a bit of chaos in the barn. So much for a lazy afternoon nap! Cute book, funny ending. Highly recommended.

Lastly, for this week we enjoyed the following Christmas title (that I now seriously want to add to our home library and, in fact, threw it onto my Amazon wishlist so that I'll remember it):

Small Camel Follows the Star, by Rachel W.N. Brown is kind of like Small One (linked to my review) except for that it is about a camel instead of a donkey.

Small camel is the newest little camel in Balthazar's corral. His feet were too big for his skinny legs. He had a very small hump. But he had big beautiful eyes and long eyelashes.
"I love you," whispered his mama. "You will grow up to be strong. You will carry heavy loads to faraway places. Balthazar will be proud of you."
If you know the story of the wisemen following the star to Jesus, then you can guess at the role Small Camel eventually plays. Illustrated by Giuliano Ferri, this book is a feast. Ferri receives extra bonus points for illustrating Jesus as more of toddler than a baby.

Absolutely adorable story in every way and definitely one that I would like to remember to pull out again during the Christmas season.

That's what we have to share this week. What have you? Be sure to check out Hope is in the Word to see what others are reading aloud with their children these days!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Babar the Elephant

A few weeks ago we made a trip to the library and drove ourselves into the Bru section of books which takes us straight to Babar the Elephant, created by Jean de Brunhoff.

I had read these books when I was little but had no memory or recollection of the stories themselves. I wasn't really thinking much of them other than a "trip down memory lane" when I started reading them to Bookworm1 and discovered that an evil hunter killed Babar's mother. Bookworm1 has been reacting to sad scenarios lately so I was a bit sorry I hadn't skimmed it first. Instead we talked it through on the fly and seem to have come through unscathed. (We will not be watching Bambi anytime soon though!)

In all honesty, I think Babar is kinda weird. The stories are just...different both from the perspective of time and place. Times have changed and Babar's original stories are far more blunt in their talk of cannibals and savages than I think we would naturally gravitate towards today. But, I can accept that because the first book was published in 1931 and the world was a different place. (It should be noted though that the mermaids in Babar and Zephir do not have sea shells to help cover themselves. Thankfully I caught that one before we started reading the story together!)

There are a LOT of Babar books. The first seven books were penned by Jean de Brunhoff and then after his death in 1937, his son took up the pen and produced additional Babar stories. You can definitely tell a difference in the stories, but they are all still interesting and more unique than anything we've read to date. Definitely interesting. Turns out Bookworm1 really enjoys reading about this King of the Elephants and so we made the most of our time with him, sifting through certain of the titles together.

Because I think Babar is quite the familiar character, I won't launch into a description of him. Instead I'll just provide the list of Babar books and titles as can be discovered on Wikipedia. But first I thought this was an interesting criticism that was listed on Wikipedia concerning the books:

Some writers, notably Herbert R. Kohl and Vivian Paley, have argued that, although superficially delightful, the stories are politically and morally offensive and can be seen as a justification for colonialism. Others argue that the French civilisation described in the early books had already been destroyed by the Great War and the books were originally an exercise in nostalgia for pre-1914 France. Ariel Dorfman’s The Empire’s Old Clothes is another highly critical view, in which he concludes, "In imagining the independence of the land of the elephants, Jean de Brunhoff anticipates, more than a decade before history forced Europe to put it into practice, the theory of neocolonialism." Adam Gopnik has a different point of view. In Freeing the Elephants he writes that it "is not an unconscious expression of the French colonial imagination; it is a self-conscious comedy about the French colonial imagination and its close relation to the French domestic imagination. The gist ... is explicit and intelligent: the lure of the city, of civilization, of style and order and bourgeois living is real, for elephants as for humans." He concludes that the satisfaction derived from Babar is based on the knowledge that "while it is a very good thing to be an elephant, still, the life of an elephant is dangerous, wild, and painful. It is therefore a safer thing to be an elephant in a house near a park.

So it would seem that Babar does not come without a bit of controversy. Although I speculate the youngest readers among us would not catch on.

Without further ado, here is the list:

Jean de Brunhoff's Babar books, and the titles of the English translations, were:

  • Histoire de Babar (1931) — The Story of Babar
  • Le Voyage de Babar (1932) — The Travels of Babar, or Babar's Travels
  • Le Roi Babar (1933) — Babar the King
  • L'ABC de Babar (1934) — A.B.C. of Babar
  • Les vacances de Zéphir (1936) — Zephir's Holidays, Zephir's Vacation, or Babar and Zephir
  • Babar en famille (1938) — Babar and His Children, or Babar at Home
  • Babar et le père Noël (1941) — Babar and Father Christmas

Laurent de Brunhoff's books (selected list):

  • Babar et ce coquin d'Arthur (1948) — Babar's Cousin: That Rascal Arthur
  • Pique-nique chez Babar (1949) — Babar's Picnic
  • Babar dans l'Île aux oiseaux (1952) — Babar's Visit to Bird Island
  • Babar au cirque (1952) — Babar and the Circus
  • La fête à Celesteville (1954) — Babar's Fair
  • Babar et le professeur Girafon (1956) — Babar and the Professor
  • Le château de Babar (1961) — Babar's Castle
  • Je parle anglais avec Babar (1963) — Babar's English Lessons (published as French Lessons in English)
  • Babar Comes to America (1965)
  • Je parle allemand avec Babar (1966) — Babar's German Lessons
  • Je parle espagnol avec Babar (1966) — Babar's Spanish Lessons
  • Babar Loses His Crown (1967)
  • Babar Vists another Planet (1972)
  • Babar and the Wully-Wully (1975)
  • Babar Learns to Cook (1978)
  • Babar and the Ghost (1981)
  • Babar's ABC (1983)
  • Babar's Counting Book (1986)
  • Babar's Little Girl (1987)
  • Babar's Little Circus Star (1988)
  • Babar's Rescue (1993)
  • Le Musée de Babar (2002) — Babar's Museum
  • Babar Goes to School (2003)
  • Babar's Museum of Art (2003)
  • Babar's Book of Color (2004)
  • Babar's Busy Year (2005)
  • Babar's World Tour (2005)
  • Babar's Yoga for Elephants (2006)
  • Babar's USA (2008)

Our library had the large majority of these titles so we have become quite familiar with this famous elephant. I don't think he'll rank as one of our favorite characters of all time. (Certainly not mine. Again with the death of his mother, the listing of cannibals, and general oddities.) But it's interesting to read through the books and see how Babar has evolved and changed over the years.

There is a cartoon series based on the books as well which we have not seen. If anyone has any insight on those, I'd be curious to hear your thoughts.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Valentine's Day Picture Books

Usually I don't think to pick up V-Day books (or any holiday books, really) at the library until we're right on the holiday, at which point most are checked out. This year I managed to snag a few V-Day books which are listed below.

Silly Tilly's Valentine is an awfully cute story about a mole named Tilly. She has a dreadful time remembering things and is easily sidetracked by ideas and activities. At the beginning of the book we find her baking cupcakes when she receives a call from her friend Mr. Bunny who is asking if she remembers what this particular day is. "Oh dear," she sighs, "I forgot to remember." That seems to be her running refrain. Of course, it's Valentine's Day and, of course, she is baking Valentine's Day cupcakes. But she is sidetracked by the idea of snow falling, along with "colorful snowflakes" (i.e, Valentine hearts which have flown out of her mailbox.) This is a funny and agreeable story. It is innocent fun and we really enjoyed it.

Bookworm1 (age 4) particularly enjoyed Little Mouse's Big Valentinewhich is apparently no longer in print. (So I hope our library holds on to their copy!) This book tells the story of Little Mouse who makes a gigantic Valentine that is so big that no one is interested in receiving it. Little Mouse goes on a hunt trying to find someone who might be interested in this creation and finally comes across another little girl mouse. He decides to give it to her but she suggests that they cut it down to size. So they do and suddenly there are a lot of Valentines for all of Little Mouse's friends.

We've been reading some of our own Valentine's Day books from our home library, but these are two we managed to snag in time to enjoy this season. I'd be inclined to add Silly Tilly to our collection for future reading purposes and will definitely keep an eye out for it. This year, I'm glad to have discovered it.

I know there are quite a few of you sharing your Valentine's Day book finds this season. If you have links you'd like to share, leave 'um in the comment section!

Happy Valentine's Day!