Category Archives: Children’s Literature

The Books of Mo Willems

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pigeonbusElephant and Piggie. Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. Knuffle Bunny. These perennial story-time favourites were all created by one author, the endlessly original Mo Willems. In addition to his series titles, Willems also writes popular standalone books. Most child readers (and those who read to children) will be familiar with Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs and Tyrone the Terrible. This year, he has brought one series to a close and opened a new chapter.

 

After twenty-five stories, two gold medals from the Theodor S Geisel committee and five Geisel Honors, Willems has ended the adventures of Elephant and Piggie with The Thank You Book. These boisterous friends have had many adventures; including There is a Bird on Your Head! and We are in a Book! Told through humorous dialogue and simple, sparse illustrations, these books are a great pick for early readers and new installments will be missed.

knuffle

 

However, rather than saying a final farewell to these popular characters, Willems is using themmo-willems as a vehicle to bring attention to other exciting and worthwhile children’s authors in a new series called Elephant and Piggie Like Reading! In these books, Elephant and Piggie act as a framing device, introducing the story to readers and commenting on it in the final pages while another author writes and illustrates the central story itself.

 

I fully recommend checking out both of these new books. The Cookie Fiasco by Dan Santat uses a goofy cast of characters to introduce sharing and fractions to readers in a scenario all kids will recognize: four friends, but only three cookies. We Are Growing! by Laurie Keller explores individuality and self confidence amongst a group of silly grasses. Both books contain the humour and endearing characters found in Mo Willems’ own work and should satisfy any disappointed Elephant and Piggie super-fans.

 

 

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Three Anonymous Limericks

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poetry tile

There was a young woman named Kite,
Whose speed was much faster than light,
She set out one day,
In a relative way,
And returned on the previous night.

Poems, what a silly thing.
They’re meaningless and boring,
Pointless and rhyme.
Who wastes their time,
Thinking up ludicrous writing.

There once was a grumpy dog,
Who ate all the world’s frogs.
He put the planet on riot,
And France on diet,
Then began to rid the hogs
.

Augustus Gloop! Augustus Gloop! by Roald Dahl

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‘Augustus Gloop! Augustus Gloop!
The great big greedy nincompoop!
How long could we allow this beast
To gorge and guzzle, feed and feast
On everything he wanted to?
Great Scott! It simply wouldn’t do!
However long this pig might live,
We’re positive he’d never give
Even the smallest bit of fun
Or happiness to anyone.
So what we do in cases such
As this, we use the gentle touch,
And carefully we take the brat
And turn him into something that
Will give great pleasure to us all–
A doll, for instance, or a ball,
Or marbles or a rocking horse.
But this revolting boy, of course,
Was so unutterably vile,
So greedy, foul, and infantile
He left a most disgusting taste
Inside our mouths, and so in haste
We chose a thing that, come what may,
Would take the nasty taste away.
‘Come on!’ we cried, ‘The time is ripe
To send him shooting up the pipe!
He has to go! It has to be!’
And very soon, he’s going to see
Inside the room to which he’s gone
Some funny things are going on.
But don’t, dear children, be alarmed;
Augustus Gloop will not be harmed,
Although, of course, we must admit
He will be altered quite a bit.
He’ll be quite changed from what he’s been,
When he goes through the fudge machine:
Slowly, the wheels go round and round,
The cogs begin to grind and pound;
A hundred knives go slice, slice, slice;
We add some sugar, cream, and spice;
We boil him for a minute more,
Until we’re absolutely sure
That all the greed and all the gall
Is boiled away for once and all.
Then out he comes! And now! By grace!
A miracle has taken place!
This boy, who only just before
Was loathed by men from shore to shore,
This greedy brute, this louse’s ear,
Is loved by people everywhere!
For who could hate or bear a grudge
Against a luscious bit of fudge?’

Along with Dr. Suess, Roald Dahl had a huge impact on my imagination growing up.  While both engaged in wonderful word play and literary gymnastics, the dark undercurrent of Dahl’s characters was and is fascinating. I frequently purchase a copy of his “Revolting Rhymes” for children. Watching a child react to the ridiculousness and audacity of the actions of the characters and seeing their faces range from shock to laughter is like sharing a guilty secret.

Roald_Dahl

Solomon Grundy by Unknown

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The_Tales_of_Mother_Goose_-_coverSolomon Grundy,
Born on a Monday,
Christened on Tuesday,
Married on Wednesday,
Took ill on Thursday,
Worse on Friday,
Died on Saturday,
Buried on Sunday:
This is the end
Of Solomon Grundy.

Charles Perrault published the first edition of his Tales of Mother Goose in France in 1695, which contained the first stories which we would consider “fairy tales”. The edition was translated into English and published in 1729, to immediate success. John Newberry collected the original set of nursery rhymes in English around 1760 but it was his successor, Thomas Carnan who first printed the collection of rhymes in either 1780 or 1781 under the title, Mother Goose’s Melody, or, Sonnets for the Cradle.  The origin of the phrase or personage of Mother Goose is widely debated and as yet unknown.

TBPL Staff Poetry Favourites ” Jabberwocky” by Lewis Carroll

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JABBERWOCKY

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”
He took his vorpal sword in hand;
Long time the manxome foe he sought—
So rested he by the Tumtum tree
And stood awhile in thought.
JABBERWOCK
And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!
One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.
“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy.
’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
Lewis Carroll  1832–1898

I have a great fondness for the nonsense poem about the Jabberwock which was part of the Lewis Carroll book Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There. The made-up language is so full and rich and fun that it made me wish I spoke that language and could meet a Jabberwock, or  a Bandersnatch or at least a beamish boy.
Angela

Yesterday’s Dead By Pat Bourke

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yesterdaydead“If all the adults are all sick, who’s in charge?”

This is the tag-line for an absorbing children’s novel by Canadian author Pat Bourke.It is set in Toronto in 1918 just as the first world war is ending and the deadly Spanish Flu hits the city. The first half depicts the challenges faced by Meredith, a 13 year old girl who left school in order to take a position as a maid in a manor in Rosedale. She must support her family after her father is killed oversees. Meredith’s tale is historically accurate in nature and her bravery comes from being determined to do her best despite difficult circumstances like a condescending butler, rude children and work that doesn’t end. The second half of the novel tells the gripping story about what happens when the flu comes to the household and the adults and children start to succumb. The father is a doctor quarantined at the hospital when the cook, the young boy, the butler and finally, the young man of the house, all take ill and suffer varying degrees of delirium and distress. No one is allowed in or out of the house so Meredith must wrestle with the responsibility of making life or death decisions. Before it died out, the Spanish flu killed an estimated 30,000 to 50,000 persons across Canada. The author is able to vividly describe what such an outbreak would have been like, down to including details like some of the bizarre folk remedies and “cures”. It is by no means a grim book as there is humour, character growth and redemption in this novel as well. The author’s obvious research and vividly rendered characters and scenes bring this historical novel to life for children and youth.

Angela Meady is the Head of Children’s & Youth Services at the Thunder Bay Public Library