February 2011

Virginia Lee Burton

Beloved author/illustrator of many children's picture books involving the personification of machines & houses; Mike Mulligan & His Steamshovel, The Little House, Maybelle the Cable Car, Katy & the Big Snow, and Life Story

As Wikipedia put it so succinctly: "Virginia Lee Burton's books are notable for their swirling, stylized illustrations and her stories concerning technological change. Characters are apt to be buildings or machines." Great for getting little boys into books!

Virginia Lee Burton

Beloved author/illustrator of many children's picture books involving the personification of machines & houses; Mike Mulligan & His Steamshovel, The Little House, Maybelle the Cable Car, Katy & the Big Snow, and Life Story

As Wikipedia put it so succinctly: "Virginia Lee Burton's books are notable for their swirling, stylized illustrations and her stories concerning technological change. Characters are apt to be buildings or machines." Great for getting little boys into books!

5 Remembered Gems

Today's review is a little different;
It's five children's books that I particularly remember being read to me, around 5-6 years old. If I remembered them distinctly enough to find them by searching for a phrase out of them fifteen years later, you know they are memorable!!

1. Something from Nothing, by Phoebe Gilman
2. Tikki-tikki-tembo, by Arlene Mosel, illustrated by Blair Lent
3. The Little House, by Virginia Lee Burton
4. The Five Chinese Brothers, by Claire Huchet Bishop and Kurt Wiese
5. The Little Engine that Could, by Watty Piper (I prefer the old illustrations, done by George & Doris Hauman)

Magyk

On a cold wintry day in the Castle, the Ordinary Wizard Silas Heap comes upon a newborn girl, lying (well wrapped but alone) in the snow. Quickly he takes the child under his robes and begins to hurry home to his wife Sarah and their seven sons-- the youngest of whom, Septimus, was born today. As he hurries to their warm tiny home in The Ramblings (a topsy-turvy extension complex of halls and rooms within the Castle walls), he is stopped by Marcia Overstrand, who today has become the ExtraOrdinary Wizard. "Tell no one you found her. She was born to you!" is her cryptic command, and she brushes by, leaving Silas dumbfounded. As he reaches home, he finds his wife sobbing and his six little boys too terrified to cry; Septimus has died! The tiny baby girl is immediately accepted into the family, in some ways filling the hole baby Septimus' death left in their hearts. They name her Jenna, after Sarah's mother.

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Septimus Heap

The adventures of the Heap family- Silas & Sarah and their seven sons (Simon, Sam, Edd, Erik, Jo-jo, Nicko & Septimus), as well as their adopted and much-beloved only daughter, Jenna. They live in a world full of Magyk (indicated by non-standard spelling and capitalization), spreading from the Wizard Tower throughout the Palace, Castle, adjoining Ramblings and the Port beyond. Septimus, being the seventh son of a seventh son, is especially full of it, and finds himself the apprentice of the Extra-Ordinary Wizard, the intimidating, purple-shoed Marcia Overstrand. He also manages to apprentice himself to the Last Alchymest, Marcellus Pye, despite living 500 years later than said alchemist, but that's another story (Physik). Did I mention that Jenna is also the Crown Princess, hunted by the evil Substantial Spirit of her great-great-great-grandmother?

Angie Sage

Author of the Septimus Heap series. Visit her online at www.septimusheap.com.

The Hobbit

A very ordinary hobbit finds himself in an utterly unlooked-for adventure, thanks to the meddling of Gandalf the Wizard. He never wanted to cross distant lands to get dwarven treasure back from a dragon! Or did he? Perhaps the Took side of the family was stronger in him than he knew? Regardless, he finds himself as the 14th member of an expedition to reclaim the gold rightfully belonging to Thorin Oakenshield- once King under the Lonely Mountain. Despite the lack of proper meals and lodgings, Bilbo begins to enjoy his adventure, despite encountering trolls, Beorn the wild bear-man, wood-elves, goblins, Wargs, a wretched Gollum creature, and one very greedy dragon (Smaug). Whatever would their company have done without Gandalf? They surely would have been eaten by trolls or goblins or both!

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J. R. R. Tolkien

The Father of all Fantasy literature; J. R. R. Tolkien's influence on literature extends even past his creation of a new genre (through the melding of the ancient aural Epic, the then-popular morality allegory, and the ever-appealing children's fairy tale). While previous authors such as George MacDonald had already written fantastical works, Tolkien's work represented a new sort, now dubbed "high fantasy"-- one obviously intended for adults, highly polished and deeply layered. His goal (which he achieved!) was to make his readers feel as if the story they were reading was both true and familiar to them; part of a distant past which they somehow shared. He wrote volume after volume of backstory, grammar of invented languages, writing systems, and genealogies so that his work has the feel of a historical chronicle.

Beautiful, Oops!

There's a new children's book that has captured my fancy. Called Beautiful, Oops!, it is a whole new type of pop-up book, celebrating the potential in every "mistake." The book itself is a study in creativity-- totally thinking "outside the box." This would be a GREAT way to start a discussion with your children on God as Redeemer; One who reclaims for Himself what is captive, ugly and wrong, making it beautiful, holy and right by His very presence. This book brings home the "mistakes are opportunities for good" very effectively, but it's up to you to apply that to your child spiritually-- sometimes, our mistakes hurt others very deeply, and it is only God's grace that can bring anything good out of something like that.

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