I’ve thawed from my frozen tomb! Like our new digs? I’m looking forward to writing some great features and interviews for everyone.
Today, however I have a small but nevertheless charming collection of books from NorthSouth Books, one of my favorite publishers, that I’ve been itching to share.
The Abc of Fabulous Princesses by Will Puchner
Grade Level: Kindergarten – 3
For expanding vocabulary through fun tongue-twisters, this book is a perfect choice for kids learning bigger words and perhaps studying for class. The story is simple; the avian Prince William is to be married and a whole bevy of also avian foreign Princesses come to meet him as candidates. Whimsical full page illustrations from the author-illustrator feature each of the twenty-six Princesses in procession, one for each letter of the alphabet. Small poems introduce them, filled with consonance, assonance and alliteration. Each descriptive poem sticks to the vowel or consonant of the alphabet that the Princess stands for so the results are wacky tongue-twisting little ditties. Reading them out loud with your kids or younger siblings or cousins would be a riot. The book could also be used in school settings as it provides a great outlet in which to introduce kids to new objects through the vocabulary described in the poems. The illustrations likewise have small details and objects that you can ask kids to point out and look for after reading. The book is further interactive in that Prince William doesn’t choose his bride! It’s up to the reader to decide who he should choose to marry or who they think is the best fit. Highly subjective, the book definitely works the brain and can easily be split up between a few nights or class lessons.
Call Me Jacob! by Marie Hübner and Iris Wolfermann
Grade Level: Kindergarten – 3
Call me Jacob! Is a more modern book in this grouping, following the story of a young boy named Matthew who doesn’t want to be Matthew. Matthew says “Life will be so much better if I change my name!” and proceeds to ask others to call him by other names. Hübner and Wolfermann present a sincere, funny, rather slice-of-life story here, reinforced by bright, simple, charming artwork with great color and cute character designs. It is subtle in that while the premise is comical, the focus of the book is really about jealousy, comparing yourself to others, and personal self-esteem. Our quirky lead Matthew is constantly comparing himself to others and the names he chooses are names of relatives and classmates who have particular traits and talents that Matthew is a bit jealous of. In the end he learns the value of his own name and why being himself rather than wishing to be someone else is much better. I think these are great little values to teach kids from an early age especially in our current culture which continuously pushes for people to compare themselves to others and subsequently feel bad about themselves. To teach otherwise is very much needed.
Georg Büchner’s Leonce & Lena retold by Jürg Amann and illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger
Age Range: 4 – 13+ years (this is higher than what I’ve seen, but I think it’s very sophisticated, which is a good thing, so I feel it has a very wide reading range and longevity, older kids will get much different context from the dialogue than younger)
Gorgeous doesn’t begin to start to describe this book and adaptation. A shorter excerpted adaptation of Büchner’s generally little known (at least here in America, I was not familiar with it before) 19th century satire play of the same name, this book is something to be treasured. The story, about a melancholic Prince Leonce from the kingdom of Popo, who, much like Matthew, is dissatisfied with himself (“Oh, if only we could just be someone else for a change) and the personal restrictions therein. After his father the King of Popo announces an arranged marriage of his son to Princess Lena from the neighboring Kingdom of Pipi (yes their names are exactly what you think they may be) Leonce, not wishing to get married flees to Italy with his friend Valerio. While in Italy they a young woman and her governess also traveling. The girl happens to be Princess Lena in disguise running for the very same reason. Theym over timem fall in love not quite knowing who the other is and return to Leonce’s father masquerading as automatons who then “fill in” for the missing Prince and Princess at the wedding.
The story itself brings to mind a pretty old pedigree and is comparable to The Fantasticks (and thus Les Romanciers, Pyramus and Thisbe etc) but being 100 plus years older. At the surface value it follows a Shakespearean model as seen in As You Like It, Much Ado About Nothing, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream but Leonce and Lena take it further with its introspective questioning of the self. Jürg Amann expertly excerpts key moments and dialogue from the play to present a concise version that kids can understand. The beautiful illustrations both full page and smaller floral and butterfly cut-outs from Lisbeth Zwerger make this adaptation very, very special. Painted in a palette of muted blues, rose-red and pinks, mustard yellows, white and brown and some splashes of dark green, they overall are a treat to behold and have a very unique visual appeal not surprising considering Lisbeth’s established picture book work. Her heavy use of paper marbling patterns for clothing, the ground, or for the floral and butterfly cut-outs further makes this book distinctive, sophisticated, and otherworldly. It would really make for a really special gift for a sophisticated child, adolescent or teen or even as a wedding present for a young couple. I was so excited to be able to get my hands on this book and share it with you. This treasure is too beautiful to miss.
I have a few other books to come, but for now I hope this is a great introduction for kid’s books this spring. Please if you pick any of these up or have read them, let me know what you think!
See you all real soon!
Staff Writer/The Doctor