I Want My Hat Back

Have you seen my hat?

What is a hat?

Thank you anyway.

I love my hat.

I love my hat.

Today we are reading … I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen (first edition 2011, Candlewick Press).

I Want My Hat Back is the deceptively simple story of a bear who has lost his hat. What if he never sees it again? WAIT! He has seen his hat…

This is a book that does more showing than telling, and this is where the mastery of Canadian author/illustrator Jon Klassen lies. The style of both the illustrations and the dialogue is minimalistic, with words and colours used sparingly to create a delicious tale in which the memorable animal characters are skillfully brought to life.

Why Leola loves it…

Excuse me, have you seen a rabbit wearing a hat?

Leola knows what the squirrel doesn’t! She is delighted to have experienced the thrill that comes from having read between the lines. Jon Klassen trusts the ability of the child reader to fill in the gaps and achieves a naughty twist without being scary or gruesome. 

Why I love it…

The beautiful illustrations use an unusually muted colour palette (dull browns and greys and just a splash of red). They are so simple, and yet they say so much. From the look in the bear’s eyes we know exactly what he’s thinking.

This is the rare kind of book that offers me sublime insights into my children’s capacity to comprehend the unwritten story. It’s a book that makes us laugh when we read it and smile when we think about it. It is nothing short of perfect.

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Posted in Amazing illustrations, Books for preschoolers, Claire's favourites, Enjoyed by all ages, Favourite Illustrators | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Little Prince

“People have forgotten this truth,” the fox said. “But you mustn’t forget it. You become responsible forever for what you’ve tamed.
You’re responsible for your rose.”

From The Little Prince
Written and Illustrated by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900-1944)
First published in 1943

Leola with rose and stars The Little Prince

Leola fell asleep listening to “The Little Prince” and dreamed of a special rose and a sky full of sunsets and stars.

Today we are reading… The Little Prince, a novella by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

The Little Prince is simultaneously a fantastical fairy tale and an allegory about the importance of childhood innocence and love. The protagonist crashes his aeroplane in the Sahara desert and while he is trying to repair his plane, a little boy appears and asks him to draw a sheep. As their relationship grows the pilot learns that the “little prince” comes from asteroid B-612 where he has left behind three volcanoes and a rose.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, a French aviator, began writing The Little Prince during World War II. He served as a pilot during the war and disappeared on a mission over the Mediterranean in 1944. Saint-Exupéry’s life is deeply intertwined with the story – he once found himself stranded in the Sahara – and this seems to imbue even the most absurd encounters with a sort of innocent plausibility.

Why Leola loves it…

Leola enjoyed the story, especially the little prince’s conversation with his wise friend the fox; and the picture of the boa constrictor that swallowed an elephant (you might think it looks like a hat). little_prince_boa_constrictor_elephantLeola sometimes fell asleep listening to The Little Prince – not because she was bored by it, but because she found it very simple and soothing…and she was rather tired. “Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them.”

It is only grown ups who find The Little Prince a profound book. For children, it is an uncomplicated story that makes them smile knowingly as they imagine the little prince’s small planet that is only as big as a house;  and his three volcanoes, one dormant and two active, that he uses to cook his food and keep himself warm.

Why I love it…

Like so many people around the world I am in awe of The Little Prince. Just as the little prince finds answers to his questions, the reader is gently shown the answers to what is most important in everyday existence. I am inspired by the simple message of The Little Prince to look with the heart instead of with the eyes and find the true beauty of common things.

"What must I do, to tame you?" asked the little prince. "You must be very patient," replied the fox. "First you will sit down at a little distance from me--like that--in the grass. I shall look at you out of the corner of my eye, and you will say nothing. Words are the source of misunderstandings. But you will sit a little closer to me, every day . . ."

“What must I do, to tame you?” asked the little prince.
“You must be very patient,” replied the fox. “First you will sit down at a little distance from me–like that–in the grass. I shall look at you out of the corner of my eye, and you will say nothing. Words are the source of misunderstandings. But you will sit a little closer to me, every day . . .”

Thank you Katrina, Suz, Karen and Claire for a lovely evening discussing The Little Prince. You brought him to life for me. xx

Posted in 20th Century, Children's Classic Books, Children's Classic Books 20th Century, Children's story for adults, Claire's favourites, Enjoyed by all ages, Inspiring books | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Owl and the Pussycat

The Owl and the Pussycat went to sea
In a beautiful pea green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five pound note.

From The Owl and the Pussycat, a nonsense poem by Edward Lear
first published in 1871 in his book Nonsense Songs, Stories, Botany, and Alphabets.

Leola made a special Valentine for her friend Coco.

Leola made a paper heart
for her friend Coco.

Today is Valentine’s Day, so we are reading… a wonderful version of The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear, illustrated by Kevin Waldron with additional verse by Angela McAllister (Koala Books, 2009).

This lilting, joyful poem is a celebration of romantic love. The Owl and the Pussycat embark on a journey with only some honey, some money and their love for each other to sustain them. There is song, dance (on the shore in the moonlight no less!), food, a wedding… and now, thanks to the addition of a new verse, there are owl/pussycat babies as well.

Why Leola loves it…

Like generations of children before her, Leola loves rhyming verses and knows The Owl and the Pussycat almost by heart. She loves this version with its vibrant and gloriously detailed illustrations. Her favourite thing to look for is the piggy-wig skilfully balancing a shilling on the end of his nose, his nose, his nose. (Of course it’s the shilling he received in exchange for his nose ring, so his nose must seem like the logical place to keep it!)

Why I love it…

I adore Kevin Waldron’s striking illustrations, which are whimsical, colourful, full of quirky details, a little bit retro and really, really cool. I want them on my walls. You can view his folio here. He hails from Dublin and there is a nice picture of him here which I thought I should share, it being Valentine’s Day and all! 😉

The new verse is lovely and in keeping with the style of the original poem. I could certainly imagine Edward Lear using the word “rumbustifus” to describe the owl/pussycat babies at play. You can read Lear’s unfinished posthumous work The Children of the Owl and the Pussycat here and see for yourself that the babies were meant to be!

Posted in 19th Century, Amazing illustrations, Books for preschoolers, Books for toddlers, Children's Classic Books, Claire's favourites, Enjoyed by all ages, Favourite Illustrators, Oscar's favourites, Poetry, Rhyming verse | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Up In the Tree

“Oh moan! Oh groan!
There’s no telephone!
We’ve run out of pancakes,
We’ve run out of tea,
We’ll have to eat LEAVES
Up here in our tree!”

From Up In the Tree
Written and Illustrated by Margaret Atwood
First published in 1978

Leola "up in the tree"

Leola climbed to the highest branch and found herself surrounded by butterflies.

Today we are reading… Up In the Tree, by acclaimed Canadian writer Margaret Atwood. Written for her daughter Jess, this charming story of two children who make their home in the leafy branches of a tree is another vintage treasure. If you have time, listen to this interview with Margaret Atwood and hear a playful reading of this beautifully simple book.

Why Leola loves it…

Leola’s favourite part is when “OH MY! OH ME!” two porcupines (which according to Leola are actually beavers) take the ladder away from the tree and nibble it to pieces, leaving the children stranded. She finds this very funny!

Why I love it…

The book looks charmingly primitive with its two colour design. The illustrations in blue, red and brown (the combination of the blue and red inks), have a kind of innocent simplicity that is perfect for this whimsical story. Margaret Atwood hand lettered the entire book to save on costs. The lettering itself is beautiful and expresses much more character than a digital font ever could.

Posted in Books for preschoolers, Books for toddlers, Claire's favourites, Poetry, Rhyming verse, Vintage picture books | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Giant Jam Sandwich

The village bus, they all agreed,
Would spoil the fields of Farmer Seed.
So eight fine horses pulled the bread
To where the picnic cloth was spread.

From The Giant Jam Sandwich
Story and pictures by John Vernon Lord and verses by Janet Burroway
First published in 1972

Leola had a picnic in the park and made her first daisy chain.

Leola had a picnic in the park and made her first daisy chain.

Today we are reading… The Giant Jam Sandwich, a book I remember vividly from my childhood.

When four million wasps fly into town the villagers hold a meeting.

 Then Bap the Baker leapt to his feet
And cried, “What do wasps like best to eat?
Strawberry jam! Now wait a minute!
If we made a giant sandwich we could trap them in it!”

After much baking, slicing, towing and spreading, Bap’s ingenious plan comes to fruition.

But what became of the sandwich? Well…Leola and I have decided not to tell! If you don’t remember, track down a copy  of this beloved picture book classic.

To see illustrations from the book and read more insights head to Vintage Books My Kid Loves. You can also watch Grandma reading the story on YouTube!

Why Leola loves it…

Leola loves what she calls “finding things books,” and for her the intrigue of The Giant Jam Sandwich comes from the carefully depicted characters whom we can follow through the story. Farmer Seed, for example, can be seen making use of his tractor in a variety of interesting ways!

Why I love it…

Forty years since it was first published the whimsical charm of The Giant Jam Sandwich has not faded. The rhyming verses are wonderful to read aloud and the illustrations are teeming with quirky details. Look out for the lady with the marvellous peacock feather hat! 

Posted in 20th Century, Books for preschoolers, Children's Classic Books, Enjoyed by all ages, Poetry, Rhyming verse, Vintage picture books | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Lines and Squares

And the little bears growl to each other, “He’s mine,
As soon as he’s silly and steps on a line.”

From the poem “Lines and Squares,” by A.A. Milne

On a blue sky morning Leola went walking beside the river with her Mummy, her Daddy and her big brother. As they walked Leola’s family couldn’t help noticing that Leola was being ever so careful to watch her feet and keep in the squares. “Would something happen if you stepped on a line?” asked Mummy. “Bears,” Leola replied, smiling her happiest smile. Leola didn’t step on a line all of that week. Not even once.


On a blue sky morning Leola went walking along the river path with her Mummy, her Daddy and her big brother.
As they walked Leola’s family couldn’t help noticing that Leola was being ever so careful to watch her feet and keep in the squares.
“Would something happen if you stepped on a line?” asked Mummy.
“Bears,” Leola replied, smiling her happiest smile.
Leola didn’t step on a line all of that week.
Not even once.

Today we are reading…Lines and Squares,” and other poems from When We Were Very Young,” written by by A.A. Milne and illustrated by E.H. Shepard. This small treasure of a book was first published in 1924 and includes the first appearance of Winnie-the-Pooh in the poem “Teddy Bear.” I still enjoy the copy I was given for my third birthday.

Do you remember James James Morrison Morrison Weatherby George Dupree; the three little foxes who didn’t wear stockings, and they didn’t wear sockses; Mary Jane crying with all her might and main; and Halfway Down (I’m not at the bottom, I’m not at the top; So this is the stair where I always stop)? I love them all but “The King’s Breakfast” was my childhood favourite (Don’t forget the butter for the Royal slice of bread). Which one is your favourite?

Posted in 20th Century, A.A. Milne, Children's Classic Books, Claire's favourites, Enjoyed by all ages, Poetry | Tagged , , | 2 Comments