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Mysterious Traveler by Mal Peet & Elspeth Graham (P.J. Lynch, Illustrator)

I haven’t covered a children’s picture book in a while and was motivated to post on one when I picked up Mysterious Traveler from the local library.

Already an old man, desert guide Issa has seen thousands of dawns. One particular morning, however, the desert reveals something new; something that changes his life. Tucked away in a narrow cave, shielded from a treacherous dust storm by a faithful camel, a baby girl lies wrapped in fine cotton and wearing half of a star medallion around her neck. Issa names the girl Mariama. As years pass, Issa loses his sight, and Mariama becomes his eyes. So Issa doesn’t see the pattern on the robes of a mysterious young traveler who comes through their village, or the medallion he wears. Who is this young stranger, and what does his arrival mean for the life Issa and Mariama share in the desert?

It is a wonderfully evocative and engaging story with gorgeous art. It is a simple story, with admittedly very little suspense but it has an elegance and warmth to it.

A great read-aloud book but also a good book for young readers.

Mysterious Traveller Possible cover First copies of Mysterious Traveler lo res

Unwitting Wisdom : An Anthology of Aesop's Fables by Helen Ward

Want to know how much of a book addict I am? I found a copy of Unwitting Wisdom : An Anthology of Aesop’s Fables by Helen Ward at Half Price Books for a dollar and even though I already have a copy I bought it anyway  It is simply too gorgeous of a book to pass up for a dollar. I will give it to someone as a gift.

Finding the book today inspired me to share it with you.  If you haven’t seen this beautiful work of art and literature I encourage you to seek it out.

For over 2,500 years the simple stories and wry humor of Aesop’s fables have entertained children and adults alike. Their lessons have seeped into the very fabric of our language, as evidenced by expressions such as “sour grapes” and “a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

Through the centuries many artists have risen to the challenge of interpreting their favorite tales. In this magnificent edition, award-winning illustrator Helen Ward has chosen a dozen of her favorite fables, painstakingly creating with words and breathtaking watercolors a dazzling new collection destined to become a classic.

I loved this book from the moment I saw it in the book store. And I remember reading it to my daughter when she was a baby.  It is a wonderful combination of illustrations and storytelling. The blurb above really doesn’t exaggerate about “creating with words and breathtaking watercolors a dazzling new collection destined to become a classic.”

This is a great book for story time, for just leafing through and enjoying the gorgeous illustrations or for reading on a quiet afternoon to appreciate the timeless stories.

For a taste of the illustrations see below.

Book Finds: In The Night Kitchen

20130504-221013.jpgWe stopped by the library this afternoon to pick up a movie my daughter wanted to watch (Tangled if you must know). We were in a hurry as the library closes early on Saturday but I had to make a quick check of the Friends of the Library sale section before we left. And I am glad I did as I picked up a copy of Maurice Sendak‘s In The Night Kitchen for a dollar! And since I just put my kids to bed I figured I would share this find with you my loyal audience.

I used to check this book out of the library frequently when my son was younger. I think he liked the big pictures and the playful, dreamlike quality of the story. I have read it to him before bed dozens of times at least. So when I saw a copy at the library sale I knew I had to pick it up.

For those unfamiliar with the story, it tells the tale of a boy Mickey who wakes up to noises in the night only to fall naked into “the light of the night kitchen.” There he finds three large bakers baking cake for the morning. They put him in the cake at first, mistaking him for milk, but he is having none of it.

I’m not the milk and the milk’s not me! I’m Mickey!

Instead, Mickey takes the dough, molds it into an airplane, flies it to the milk, and pours some out for the bakers.

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Soon after Mickey falls safely back into bed.

And that’s why, Thanks to Mickey, we have cake every morning.

It really is a wonderful example of Sendak’s work. Playful, imaginative, otherworldly and yet somehow real too.

And this is why I always stop and look at the book sale when at the library.

You never know what you might find. My children’s bookshelves are proof of that.

And if you need a bedtime story, here is the book in video form:

Watch In the Night Kitchen on PBS. See more from WENH.

Noah's Ark – Heinz Janisch (Adapter), Lisbeth Zwerger (Illustrator)

As long time readers know, I am a big fan of Lizbeth Zwerger and have been collecting her books at library sale and used book stores for a while now.  This weekend I got lucky again and found Noah’s Ark for $1.  Rather than a “review” I thought I would post a gallery that gives you some idea of the art the book contains.  Not surprisingly I found it to be a wonderfully evocative presentation of this classic story.

Book Finds: The Tree of Here by Chaim Potok (Tony Auth, illustrator)

tree of hereAs I have noted before, I often troll library sales and bookstore discount sections for children’s picture books. It alleviates my bok addiction in a way that is easy on the pocketbook and makes my kids happy.  Win-win, right?

What I still find amazing is how you can find such high quality books for such discounted prices. Depressing in a way, as it is sad to see little Susie’s grandmother’s in-scripted book in the sale pile and it would also be hard to see the rapid depreciation of hardcover children’s books if you were in the industry I suppose.  But for me it is a great joy; interesting books for a dollar or two.

One such find recently was The Tree of Here by Chaim Potok. Which it is appropriate to share today as it is Potok’s birthday. The famous Jewish author was born February 17, 1929 in Buffalo, New York.

Here is a teaser for Potok’s first children’s story:

Moving is so hard! Jason has good friends and a school he really likes, but his father has been promoted, and the family is moving to Boston. Sheltered by the branches of the huge dogwood tree in the yard, Jason pours out his fears. Can it be that the tree answers back?

The funny thing is that I kinda like the story and my kids have enjoyed having it read to them a number of times already.  But the critics did not like it.

A few examples below.

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