Chi’s Sweet Home

Chi's Sweet Home, Volume 12Chi’s Sweet Home by Kanata Konami
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It has been truly delightful getting to know the kitten Chi and the boy Yohei and their friends and families. The drawings capture the essence of kittenhood perfectly. As a cat “mom” all of Chi’s antics and dilemmas are thoroughly familiar to me. I’m a sucker for cats, but the author has a real gift for capturing the essence of catness. The drawings are simple but depict cat behavior to a T. Yes, it is for kids, but I loved every page of it. This story of a lost kitten finding a home and a family is heartwarming. My first cat was in an apartment that didn’t allow cats, so I could really identify with the fear of discovery. Over 12 volumes, the Yamada family find a new apartment that allows cats, Yohei and Chi grow and explore their environment. Chi is an indoor/outdoor cat with all the potential dangers of being allowed outside. Whether Chi is getting her first bath, going to the vet, or learning what being a cat is all about, you will both laugh and cry at her antics. She eventually is reunited with her mother and siblings and must make a decision where her true home is. I am not tired of Chi after 12 volumes, and while this is a complete story arc, I hope that Chi might have further adventures.

Book description: Chi is a mischievous newborn kitten who, while on a leisurely stroll with her family, finds herself lost. Separated from the warmth and protection of her mother, she breaks into tears in a large urban park meadow, when she is suddenly rescued by a young boy named Yohei and his mother. The kitty is then quickly and quietly whisked away into the warm and inviting Yamada family apartment…where pets are strictly not permitted.

The Hungry Little Bunny

Last Thursday was a gold banner day – a once in a lifetime day! And it is all thanks to social media and the Throwback Thursday theme. Two weeks ago I decided to post my first #tbt picture on Facebook. Last week I chose a picture of myself sharing a favorite book with my 6-month old sister.

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After I ran it through the scanner and had the picture enlarged on my computer, I gave a gasp. OMG! It was THAT book. The one I’d been looking for most of my adult life. My favorite book as a young child. I could describe it. I remembered the story about the rabbit that didn’t want his carrots and went around to see what the other animals ate. But I didn’t remember the name of the book or what the cover looked like. I had been looking for it FOREVER. At least it felt like it. I had searched libraries, described it to old children’s librarians, gone through the union catalog at library school hoping to find a likely title, searched the Golden Book archives, and tried multiple search strategies online.

Well, they say a picture is worth a thousand words, and I guess they are right! I got to work searching Google images for 1950s children’s books about rabbits. It didn’t take long to find a cover of a rabbit that had the same distinctive black ears that you can see in the photo above. The minute I saw it I got goosebumps. But I still wasn’t sure. Then I found this You Tube video of someone reading the book: The Hungry Little Bunny. The minute I saw the first page, I started crying. Yes, at work. I found my book!!!

Here it is on ebay, and this book is now MINE:

Hungry Little Bunny

Update: April 22

I was out of town visiting my folks for Easter this past weekend. Got home very late last night so didn’t check the mail box until on my way to work this morning. Yes, a package had arrived! I opened it as soon as I got to work. My co-workers have followed this story and felt that this moment required documentation, so with cell phone at the ready:

2014 04 22 001 Anticipation 2014 04 22 003 cropped

There I am, trying not cry yet again! It’s been quite the emotional journey! The book is in excellent condition and has that wonderful old book smell. Looking at it now, the illustrations are absolutely wonderful. I love how realistic the animals are, but at the same time they have the exaggerated big eyes that make baby animals so cute. Was this inspiration for the film animators of Bambi?

Hungry Bunny

And look at the wonderful flowers! I wouldn’t have noticed that at age 3, but the gardener me does now. Almost every page has a different flower illustrated, like the lady slipper and the bellflower shown here.

Still 5 stars after 55 years!

Primrose Day

Primrose Day title pagePrimrose Day by Carolyn Haywood

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was my favorite book in 1st or 2nd grade. I read it over and over. It must have made a big impression. All these years later I have to wonder did my interest in England start with this book or are we drawn to things because of past lives? Did I identify with Merry because we both had flowers for middle names? Or because I had moved from New England to Minnesota when I was 5? I’m sure the language differences weren’t as great, but there were some. I loved that the British word for truck was lorry, pronounced the same as my nickname – Laurie. I’ve always loved learning about other countries and cultures and am still enamored of the British Isles.

I could not find a cover photo of the original edition, and I do not like the modern covers on reprints of this book, so I’ve scanned the title page above. I remember the cover as being orange and it probably had the heavy duty “library binding.” I requested the original 1942 edition from Interlibrary Loan. It came from the Twin Cities Anderson Library Children’s Literature Collection. It is a plain yellow cloth cover and still has the old pocket in the back with the date due card. I have to admit that just thumbing through it and reading a few words here and there and looking at the original drawings (by Carolyn Haywood) brought tears to my eyes.

Primrose Day
Carolyn Haywood wrote stories about real children doing ordinary things. And even though it was first published in 1942, these are things that children still do today – playing with pets, dealing with homesickness, being teased at school, making presents, going on picnics, going fishing, making friends. I remember the chapter on going to an American school and being teased for using different words for things. And I remember the chapter about Merry’s birthday, and learning that primroses don’t grow wild in America. Merry would always go and pick primroses with her mother on her birthday and now she can’t even pick primroses with her aunt. But never fear – her aunt has a wonderful surprise in store.

Primroses

English primroses (Primula vulgaris)

I love gardening and I have planted primroses in my garden. The English variety are not hardy here. I had some very pretty pink Japanese primroses for a couple years, but even those are really Zone 5 and they didn’t come back last year. I must get some more, because I really do love them! I don’t think I have any pictures of them blooming, but here are some beaded primroses that I made:

Primroses_rabbit-vi

I did not remember the Scottie dog in the story, although I have always liked Scottie dogs. There were a couple of typos and things in the book that I wouldn’t have noticed as a child probably – the cook says she is “pealing” onions. And there is a reference to Mr. Ramsey being a “Scotchman” which made me cringe.

I also don’t remember the knitting, but I suppose it was around this age that I expressed an interest in learning. My grandmother tried to teach me. At first she thought she needed to reverse everything because I am left handed. I protested that she really didn’t need to do that. Us lefties are quite used to mentally reversing things for ourselves, having done it all our lives. It wouldn’t have been a problem for me at age 7 or 8, but my grandmother insisted that she had to do it for me and got herself hopelessly confused. I finally convinced her that I would be fine knitting right handed – it didn’t matter to me since knitting uses both hands equally!

Book Description: Merry Primrose Ramsey lives in England with her parents and her imaginary friend, Molly. At the outbreak of World War II, she is sent to live with her relatives in America, in a small town called Rose Valley. On the way over she meets a real best friend named Molly, who eventually moves to Rose Valley, too. Merry and her American cousin Jerry take to each other immediately and find all kinds of adventures, including rescuing a carrier pigeon and going fishing alone. Merry’s new life is not without trials. She misses her parents. She gets teased at school for the way she talks. Her puppy unravels the scarf she has spent weeks knitting for her daddy far away in England. And her birthday just won’t be the same without primroses to pick and make into a primrose chain like she always did in England…

I have been doing a bit of “Googling” and decided that Rose Valley in the story must be Rose Valley, PA, which is near Philadelphia (where Carolyn Haywood lived). It is a very small town, but would be within a couple hours train ride of NYC. It was settled by Quakers and has a very interesting history, which you can read about here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rose_Valley,_Pennsylvania.

My 2014 Reading Goals

Yes, it’s already March, but I set out my 2014 reading goals last November or so. Just thought I should get around to saying what my goals are, and what sort of books I might be reviewing this year. 48 books was my overall goal last year, and I reached 47. So I’m not going to increase it this year. 4 books a month is about all I can manage!

12 of these are determined by my face-to-face book club called the Daytimers. We read a different genre every month although our categories may change slightly from year to year. I joined this group in order to read things that are outside of my comfort zone, but since I select all the books for the group, I can tweak it to suit myself! No “Harlequin” romances for example! I’ll pick a love story with some literary merit…for example, The Shoemaker’s Wife, which we read for February this year. Other categories include a children’s book, mystery, historical fiction, a prize winner, a classic, a Minnesota author, a biography or memoir, etc.

The next 12 I am calling leftovers from last year. That includes more books related to Moby Dick, Pride and Prejudice, and the Tudors.

A new challenge is to read 12 or so books that include “Wife” in the title. I just thought that would be fun and different. It seemed like there have been a lot of such books lately: The Paris Wife, The Aviator’s Wife, The Tiger’s Wife, and of course, again, The Shoemaker’s Wife. So you’ll see that as a running theme this year.

I am hoping that 6 or so books will actually have something to do with Wales! For a long time, I have meant to post some guest reviews along those lines, as well. Our local St. David’s Society has a book group that meets bimonthly. I have not been participating, but I do have permission to post their reviews from the Society’s newsletter.

And finally, I want to revisit some of my favorite books from childhood and young adulthood – books that made a deep impression, and that I still remember after all these years. My very first favorite book was a picture book about a baby bunny who decides he is tired of carrots and goes around asking the other animals about what they eat. I remember he is quite dismayed by the dog’s bone. Eventually he decides it’s okay to just be a bunny and goes back home to his very worried mama. I’ve always thought the title was something like The Naughty Bunny or The Runaway Bunny. But it is NOT The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown nor is it The Naughty Bunny by Richard Scarry. I have searched for this book for 40 years, with no luck. So if it rings a bell with someone, PLEASE let me know. The illustrations were realistic, but cute, kind of like Garth Williams. I used to think it was a Golden Book, but I have searched the entire Golden Book catalog without finding it. It had to have been published before 1960, possibly well before then, since a lot of family books were gotten from book sales and yard sales. I haven’t given up hope of finding it, but I have been looking for a very, very long time.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

The Invention of Hugo CabretThe Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A hefty book, but easily read in a few hours at most. Text alternates with exquisitely detailed drawings (which earned this book the 2007 Caldecott Award) to tell the story. This is the kind of book I would have loved as a child (and still do) because it is about a real person and I learned something about the very earliest film making industry. Georges Melies really did end up selling toys at the Montparnasse station in Paris, and he really did donate his automata collection to a museum.

The movie, Hugo, based on this book, used actual film clips of Georges Melies which really brought it alive. It expanded on several of the lesser characters, which I enjoyed, but downplayed Hugo’s thievery. It also glossed over some of the reasons G.M. ended up trying to bury all memory of his film-making days.

For me, the major themes seemed to be about following one’s passion, and when that is not tended people become broken just like the clocks and the automaton that Hugo repairs. It is also about curiosity and having the courage to follow adventure in our lives.

Book Description:
Orphan, clock keeper, and thief, Hugo lives in the walls of a busy Paris train station, where his survival depends on secrets and anonymity. But when his world suddenly interlocks with an eccentric, bookish girl and a bitter old man who runs a toy booth in the station, Hugo’s undercover life, and his most precious secret, are put in jeopardy. A cryptic drawing, a treasured notebook, a stolen key, a mechanical man, and a hidden message from Hugo’s dead father form the backbone of this intricate, tender, and spellbinding mystery.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

The Invention of Hugo CabretThe Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A hefty book, but easily read in a few hours at most. Text alternates with exquisitely detailed drawings (which earned this book the 2007 Caldecott Award) to tell the story. This is the kind of book I would have loved as a child (and still do) because it is about a real person and I learned something about the very earliest film making industry. Georges Melies really did end up selling toys at the Montparnasse station in Paris, and he really did donate his automata collection to a museum.

The movie, Hugo, based on this book, used actual film clips of Georges Melies which really brought it alive. It expanded on several of the lesser characters, which I enjoyed, but downplayed Hugo’s thievery. It also glossed over some of the reasons G.M. ended up trying to bury all memory of his film-making days.

For me, the major themes seemed to be about following one’s passion, and when that is not tended people become broken just like the clocks and the automaton that Hugo repairs. It is also about curiosity and having the courage to follow adventure in our lives.

Book Description:
Orphan, clock keeper, and thief, Hugo lives in the walls of a busy Paris train station, where his survival depends on secrets and anonymity. But when his world suddenly interlocks with an eccentric, bookish girl and a bitter old man who runs a toy booth in the station, Hugo’s undercover life, and his most precious secret, are put in jeopardy. A cryptic drawing, a treasured notebook, a stolen key, a mechanical man, and a hidden message from Hugo’s dead father form the backbone of this intricate, tender, and spellbinding mystery.

The Knights’ Tales Collection

The Knights' Tales Collection: Book 1: Sir Lancelot the Great; Book 2: Sir Givret the Short; Book 3: Sir Gawain the True; Book 4: Sir Balin the Ill-FatedThe Knights’ Tales Collection: Book 1: Sir Lancelot the Great; Book 2: Sir Givret the Short; Book 3: Sir Gawain the True; Book 4: Sir Balin the Ill-Fated by Gerald Morris

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Easily 5 out of 5 stars, this is one of the most delightful reads of the year. Arthurian tales for ages 8 and up, told with much tongue in cheek humor, and very capably narrated by Steve West. These four tales are laugh-out-loud funny. Steve’s voices are perfect. I wanted to immediately start over and listen to them all again. Also available as individual stories, the books could be used as a read along for reluctant readers or adult learners. Not just for children!

Description:
Many years ago, the storytellers say, the great King Arthur brought justice to England with the help of his gallant Knights of the Round Table.

Sir Lancelot the Great
Of these worthy knights, there was never one so fearless, so chivalrous, so honorable, so…shiny as the dashing Sir Lancelot, who was quite good at defending the helpless and protecting the weak, just as long as he’d had his afternoon nap.

Sir Givret the Short
Poor Givret: his size makes him so easy to overlook. But there’s more to knighthood than height, and before long, Givret’s quick thinking lands him a place at the famous Round Table!

Sir Gawain the True
The knights didn’t always act quite as gallantly as a true knight should. Even King Arthur’s nephew, known at that time as Sir Gawain the Undefeated, was too full of himself to accept a token of thanks from a rescued princess! Someone needed to teach Sir Gawain that courtesy and friendship are just as important as strength and courage.

Sir Balin the Ill-Fated
While most of King Arthur’s knights freely chose a life of duty, for Sir Balin the Ill-Fated, destiny was foretold in a prophecy. Still, no matter how dire the task, a loyal and gallant knight never refuses adventure!