Month: June 2012

by Thornton W. Burgess

Another story about a new animal arriving in the forest and making everyone nervous. This time it is an eerie voice heard at night that frightens the smaller creatures. Eventually they figure out it\’s a coyote who has moved in from the West. The foxes quickly discover that the coyote is larger than them, and a competitor for the same prey. Granny Fox is determined to trick the coyote into leaving, even though she\’s afraid to face him herself. In the end the coyote proves that he\’s not afraid of them and smarter than anyone else. Even though he can quickly loose his temper, he also has a sense of generosity and fairness. The foxes begrudging admit that he\’ll stay among them.

The themes through this book were about judging those you\’ve just met, honesty (or lack of it, rather- as Granny Fox was spreading rumors) and being brave. Curiously it showed two aspects of this: the skunk always put on a brave face even when he was frightened, and soon other animals decided he was brave and left him alone. Whereas Reddy Fox always brags that he\’s brave, but shows himself to be a coward so the other animals tease and pester him about it. There was a slight discrepancy with an earlier story here that puzzled me; in one scene here the coyote gets tricked into meeting the porcupine, an animal he\’s never met before and doesn\’t quite know how to deal with. But in The Adventures of Prickly Porky it seemed that the coyote hadn\’t met the porcupine at that time yet, either- he was forced into a surprise encounter with it rolling downhill. Hm.

Rating: 3/5 …….. 71 pages, 1916

Fables Vol. 2 

by Bill Willingham 

Second volume in the Fables series. The story in this one takes place on the farm where all the non-human fable creatures live.  Snow White and her sister Rose Red drive up to see how things are going on the Farm and find themselves in a middle of a revolution. A group led by one of the Pigs wants to storm on the human fables who live (unfairly, they feel) in New York City and then move on to take back their homelands. Violence, treachery and complications ensue. Snow White finds her sister has joined the other side, the tiger Shere Khan is stalking her, and she has to figure out who is supplying the animals with weapons and stop them. Again, I really wasn\’t so much taken by the storyline as intrigued by the portrayal of famous characters in a different light, but didn\’t get enough of that. I could have done without the violence. At one point when heads were getting blown off and bunnies toting guns, I was ready to just quit, but later picked up the book and finished it. The ending was interesting, and I am curious to see where the next volume leads, but not sure how long I\’ll continue in this series. I love the artwork.

rating: 3/5 …….. 128 pages, 2003

more opinions:
Things Mean a Lot
Adventures of an Intrepid Reader
Girl to the Rescue
Book Bloggy Blogg

Fables Vol. 1

by Bill Willingham

This is my first unintentional DNF book. I lost it today, on a walk to the park. We retraced our steps, asked at the library, it\’s simply missing. I\’m hoping someone picked it up and will turn it in! And annoyed that I was nearly done and now have spoiled the ending for myself by starting to read the second volume, which gives a bit of a rehash at the beginning. Argh.

Well, so the premise is that all the creatures of fable, legend and fairytale (was the lion\’s kingdom briefly mentioned supposed to be Narnia?) have been driven out of their homelands and secretly taken up residence in New York City (except for the ones with outlandish appearances, or talking animals, who live upstate on \”The Farm\”). When the story opens, it\’s reported that Snow White\’s sister Rose Red has been murdered, and an investigation ensues. I\’m not really big on murder mysteries so that part of the story didn\’t wow me much. I was more interested in the background story teased out of the characters, and the revelations of who was doing what where and why now. The Big Bad Wolf  is a detective, Snow White works for the government, Prince Charming is wooing and dumping princesses left and right. Jack of the beanstalk is a disreputable character it seems, and one of the three little pigs wanders in and out of the pages, now a fat old porker. There\’s lots of other interesting characters as well. I got just far enough to realize who was responsible for the crime scene, but not enough to read about why it happened. Crossing my fingers someone returns this one to the library (they only have one copy, so if it doens\’t show up I\’m on the hook for it) so I can finish the last chapter.

abandoned …….. 128 pages, 2002

by Thornton Burgess

Like Mr. Mocker, this story isn\’t so much about a character himself as the confusion he causes in others. The porcupine is a newcomer to the forest and the other animals are impressed with his size, long teeth, and sharp quills so they keep their distance. Soon stories begin to spread about a strange, frightening creature seen at daybreak on the hill where Prickly Porky lives. It is an animal said to have no legs, head or tail, yet chases others with alarming speed. Peter Rabbit is terrified of it, even Reddy Fox and his wise Granny run away from it. Of course eventually someone figures out the mysterious creature\’s identity and then as each character learns what is going on they trick others into coming by when the strange beast appears so they can see them get frightened out of their wits. The last one to be fooled is Old Man Coyote, very put out indeed!

This is the first time I\’ve read a Thornton Burgess book and wondered at the accuracy of the animal behavior it depicts (aside from the animals talking and holding parties for their friends, of course). I know that porcupines eat bark, climb trees, grunt to themselves, sleep in piles of dry leaves. But has one ever really curled himself up and rolled downhill? It sounds like a myth to me.

Rating: 3/5 …….. 74 pages, 1916

by Thornton W. Burgess

Hm. There\’s not much really happening in The Adventures of Old Mr. Toad, I\’d hardly call it adventures at all. Instead, it\’s mostly about Peter Rabbit\’s curiosity when he discovers all kinds of things he didn\’t know about his homely neighbor the toad. When the story begins Peter and his friends are laughing themselves silly because Mr. Toad tells them he\’s going to sing in the spring chorus around the pond. They\’re astonished to find that the relatively unattractive toad has a wonderful voice. Peter Rabbit is so impressed that he begins to pay more attention to Mr. Toad and further learns all about baby toads (tadpoles), where Mr. Toad goes in the summer and how he hides from enemies and bad weather by digging himself into the ground. He (and the reader) finds out about Mr. Toad\’s an astonishingly long, sticky tongue and beautifully jeweled eyes. But probably the most surprising thing of all is that Mr. Toad has something in common with the largest animal in the forest- Buster Bear. And when that discovery is made a little adventure does take place; although as is common in these books it has to do with some animals playing tricks on the others. Enjoyable reading that will teach you quite a bit about toads, in a friendly fashion! For a little summary on some facts about toads found in the book, visit Ellyanna\’s Discoveries.

Rating: 3/5 …….. 118 pages, 1916

by Craig Thompson

I\’ve had Blankets on my TBR list for some time but had to put in a hold request at the library to finally get a copy in hand. I can see why it is so popular, and it certainly stands up to all the praise on other blogs (see links below). The first thing that impressed me about this book was its length. At almost 600 pages, it is by far the most hefty graphic novel I\’ve ever read. And yet it was quick to get through. I only lingered over it to appreciate the artwork and reabsorb some of the scenes.

The story is about the author\’s childhood, coming-of-age and innocent awakening to the wonders of love. It\’s painful to read at times, lovely at others. Craig grew up in a Christian family with well-meaning parents who managed to make him feel guilty about his body and plenty of other things as well, including his gift for drawing. He shared a bed with his younger brother and a lot of the memory parts are of them playing together, squabbling over space, cringing from their father\’s anger, consoling each other. As he grows older, they drift apart and Craig finds himself more alone as he doesn\’t fit in well at school. Even at religious camp he can\’t meld with the crowd and join in the mass mentality; he always feels apart. But there he meets Raina, and almost instantly loves spending time with her. Their friendship develops to the point where after camp is over, they write long letters pouring out secrets and affection. Finally Craig convinces his parents to let him go visit Raina. He finds that her family isn\’t perfect either: her parents are facing divorce, she is often left alone to care for two adopted siblings with special needs, and her older sister\’s baby. Even so they manage to find plenty of time to spend alone, and grow even closer. Long walks in the snowy woods, long talks in her bedroom, clandestine snuggling at night… When Craig returns home he wants to continue their connection but Raina feels that a long-distance relationship is too much strain. He also starts questioning his religious upbringing and trying to reconnect with his brother, in the process of all that seeking to find himself.

It really is beautifully expressed, everything from the awkward tenderness of first love to the sibling ties and rivalry to the troubled relationships with parents. The drawings filled with patterns and dreams felt wonderfully expressive of emotion. And I loved the scenery. Some panels just showed the trees reaching to the sky, or the houses sitting in drifts of snow, or the arrangement of a room, and it made the story feel so real and vivid in a place, just like paragraphs of description can do. I think so far this is my favorite graphic novel, even though quite a bit of it can be hard to take in- there is prejudice, unfairness and unkindness, hints of child abuse and neglect. But the wonderful moments and tenderness make up for all that.

Rating: 4/5 ……. 582 pages, 2003

more opinions:
Shelf Love
Book Bloggy Blogg

by Flora McDonnell

It is a blistering hot day. The elephants are hot. The tiger is hot. The rhino is hot. One by one the animals all follow baby elephant to to water where they splash around and cool off. Very simple story with wonderful pictures. They\’re lively, expressive, textured and quite unique. I think that\’s what drew me to pick up this book. My favorite spread is where the tiger lolls across two entire pages with his ears drooping and his tongue hanging out. All the animals look so happy when they finally get into the water, and the splashing pages are full of action. Fun little book.

Rating: 3/5 ……. 32 pages, 1999

by Pam Abrams photographs Bruce Wolf

Clever little board book that has pictures of food in the shape of letters to form the alphabet. A isn\’t for apple here, it\’s for asparagus, B is lines of blueberries, C my favorite fruit, a slice of cantaloupe. Food letters of note? I for ice cubes, Q for quesadilla, U for udon noodles, V some lovely vanilla beans and the always- troublesome X? x-tra cheese on a pizza. I like the picture of Y for yogurt- a bowl of granola with a thick creamy yogurt Y in the middle. My seven-year-old was more intrigued with this book than the baby I borrowed it for! It\’s also fun to sing the ABC song putting in the words now I eat instead of now I know. Makes for lots of giggles. Yum yummy!

Rating: 4/5 ……. 16 pages, 2004

by Thornton W. Burgess

This little story illustrates clearly how difficult life is at the bottom of the food chain! Whitefoot the wood mouse has enemies on all sides- from birds in the air that would swoop down on him to predators on the ground. So he thinks he\’s quite safe when he finds a new home inside the farmer\’s shed, under a pile of wood. It\’s all quiet and cozy until the farmer and his son busy themselves using the shed to make sugar from maple sap. Whitefoot is curious and watches them until it seems their activities will endanger his snug little home!

Then there\’s an odd gap in the story and we find Whitefoot living out in the open again, in a little hole. He has to move when threatened by a weasel, and goes through some exhausting travels trying to find a new suitable hiding place, while at the same time dodging his many enemies. Finally Whitefoot makes a new, safe home and then something wonderful happens: Whitefoot meets another wood mouse and falls in love. Everything is roses until his new little mouse wife wants them to move! and her idea of a perfect house doesn\’t really suit Whitefoot at all.

Another charming Burgess story that teaches about how wild animals live while at the same time encouraging children to be kind and fair to others. I read this one on my kindle.

Rating: 4/5 …….. 112 pages, 1922

by Thornton W. Burgess 

Grandfather Frog and his cousin old Mr. Toad have a little rivalry going on. Whenever they visit together old Mr. Toad boasts of things he\’s seen traveling in the wide world, and Grandfather Frog claims that sticking close to home is the best. Finally the toad goads Grandfather Frog enough that he decides to leave his pond and do some traveling himself. All his friends urge him to stay at home but their worries that Grandfather Frog doesn\’t know how to take care of himself in the wide world only sting his pride and make him more determined to go. Of course he has plenty of mishaps on his adventures, from getting hot and tired away from water so long, to having a frightful scare when the farmer\’s boy intends to catch him. Even after a narrow escape he still stubbornly continues on and it takes more serious scares that threaten his life before the old frog swallows his pride and goes back to his safe home, very much relieved to be there!

 I think this little book teaches children pretty clearly that the grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence. Others may look like they\’re better off than you, but different things suit different people and we shouldn\’t envy what others have but be content with what we\’ve got. It also teaches quite a bit about nature, particularly things about frogs: what they like to eat, how dependent they are on water, their modes of travel, etc. I found it quite an engaging little story that has a lot going on under the surface.

 Rating: 4/5 ……. 96 pages, 1915


All books reviewed on this site are owned by me, or borrowed from the public library. Exceptions are a very occasional review copy sent to me by a publisher or author, as noted. Receiving a book does not influence my opinion or evaluation of it


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