Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Emily (1959)

I've run into technical difficulties, so am resorting to posting sans images. Which is a pity, as this book has very lovely paintings. The cover can be seen here.

Emily (aka Emily, The Traveling Guinea Pig)

Emma Smith, il. Katherine Wigglesworth

1959, an Astor book published by McDowell, Obolensky

Emily was a guinea pig who loved to travel.

When Emily decides to take an excursion to the sea, she worries that her brother Arthur, a gardener who tends to be somewhat hapless, will be lost without her. No worries, assures her brother. He'll be fine. So Emily sets out.

She carried an umbrella and a capacious canvas bag. They hampered her walking, but she did not know how she could go on a journey with less. She had to have an umbrella as shelter against the sun or the wind or the rain. And as for the bag, it was full to the brim of neccessary things. Her painting equipment and her diary ; food and a change of clothes ; kerosene lamp and tea kettle, a rug, hammock, a ball of string, a pair of scissors ; adhesive tape and iodine in case of an accident, and needs and thread in case she tore her dress ; also a box of matches. Emily liked to be ready for anything.

She meets various creatures, but her most important encounter is with the rather silent weasel, who helps her carry her useful but heavy bag, shares a meal, and is a rather sinister presence.

Meanwhile, back at the house, Arthur and his bachelor buddies are having a wonderfully lazy time eating and sleeping and not lifting a paw to do chores.

Will Emily reach the sea? Will the weasel prove predatory? Will Arthur clean the kitchen before Emily returns home? It's all very sweet, and accompanied by beautiful Kate Wigglesworth paintings.

About the Author


aka Elspeth Hallsmith

The online verdict seems to be that she had a brief, early flash of high respectability with her first two novels, then vanished off the face of the earth after starting a family. She re-emerged recently under the support of novelist Susan Hill.

About the Illustrator

____ - 1986

Katherine Semple married biologist Vincent Wigglesworth in 1928, and they had four children. She lived in Lavenham, a village in Suffolk, England. The village made the news this year after scenes from the upcoming Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows film were shot there. Lavenham's scenes will be used to bring to life Godric's Hollow, the place where Harry lost his parents and acquired his scar.

Other books - children's

Emily's Voyage (1966) il. Irene Haas (sequel)

Out Of Hand

No Way Of Telling

Other books - adult

Maidens' Trip

The Far Cry

The Opportunity Of A Lifetime

The Great Western Beach (memoir)


A list of guinea pigs in fiction

The original publisher, Astor Honor

Lavenham website

Sir Vincent Wigglesworth obituary

Suffolk Free Press story on Harry Potter filming

Thursday, March 11, 2010


A post from March, a review of The Witch's Bridge, has been updated with a photo of the paperback cover.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Big Snow (1949)

The Big Snow
Berta and Elmer Hader
1948, Macmillan Publishers

The winner of the Caldecott Medal for 1949, this picture book follows the world of a forest after a blizzard.

About the authors
Berta Hoerner (1891–1976)
Elmer Stanley Hader (1889-1973)

They were friends with Rose Wilder Lane, dating from Berta's days as Rose's roommate

The Hader Connection
Beyond Little House

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Picture Book awards 2010

Picture-Books in Winter

Summer fading, winter comes--
Frosty mornings, tingling thumbs,
Window robins, winter rooks,
And the picture story-books.

Water now is turned to stone
Nurse and I can walk upon;
Still we find the flowing brooks
In the picture story-books.

All the pretty things put by,
Wait upon the children's eye,
Sheep and shepherds, trees and crooks,
In the picture story-books.

We may see how all things are
Seas and cities, near and far,
And the flying fairies' looks,
In the picture story-books.

How am I to sing your praise,
Happy chimney-corner days,
Sitting safe in nursery nooks,
Reading picture story-books?

Robert Louis Stevenson


from Chester, The Worldly Pig, written and illustrated by Bill Peet, 1990 Caldecott Award Honor winner for Bill Peet: An Autobiography.

It's awards season for the entertainment world, books no less than movies, and a slew of kid book awards got announced this month. There is one large difference between awards given to material intended for adults, and awards given to children's entertainment - the judges in the latter case are very free to indulge their own biases, preferences and fantasies without regard to the intended audience, as that audience is completely absent from the judging. I'm not sure that's a reality that can be or should be changed, but it does make judging children's literature a different kettle of fish. The situation is intensified in the case of picture books, where the audience is too young to acquire or consume the books and completely at the mercy of adults to provide both the book and the reading.

The Caldecott Medal winners for 2010 were announced this month. This award goes to "the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children."The 2010 winner is The Lion & the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney. 2010 Honor winners were All The World, illustrated by Marla Frazee and written by Liz Garton Scanlon, and Red Sings From Treetops: A Year in Colors illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski and written by Joyce Sidman. Pinkney is the first individual African-American to win the Caldecott Medal, which has been won twice by an interracial couple.

The Theodor Seuss Geisel Award goes to the author and illustrator of the year's "most distinguished contribution to the body of American children’s literature known as beginning reader books published in the United States". This year, the winner is Benny and Penny in the Big No-No! written and illustrated by Geoffrey Hayes. 2010 Honors winners include I Spy Fly Guy! written and illustrated by Tedd Arnold, Little Mouse Gets Ready written and illustrated by Jeff Smith, Mouse and Mole: Fine Feathered Friends written and illustrated by Wong Herbert Yee, and Pearl and Wagner: One Funny Day written by Kate McMullan, illustrated by R.W. Alley.

The Coretta Scott King Book Awards were also announced this month. The 2010 illustrator winner is Charles R. Smith Jr. for My People. The 2010 Honor for illustrators was The Negro Speaks of Rivers, illustrated by E. B. Lewis. Both were written by Langston Hughes.

And the Schenider Family Book Awards "honor an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences." Their 2010 pick for Young Children's Book was Django, written and illustrated by Bonnie Christensen.


The Caldecott Medals Home Page at the American Library Association

Coretta Scott King Awards at the ALA

The Schneider Family Book Awards at the ALA

The Theodor Seuss Geisel Award page at ALA

Seattle Times interview with Jerry Pinkney

Little, Brown and Company Books for Young Readers (The Lion & the Mouse)

Beach Lane Books (All The World) - a Simon & Schuster imprint

Houghton Mifflin Books for Children (Red Sings From Treetops, Mouse & Mole)

Toon Books (Benny and Penny in the Big No-No! and I Spy Fly Guy!)

Dial Books for Young Readers (Pearl and Wagner: One Funny Day) - Penguin Putnam

ginee seo books (My People) - an Atheneum Books for Young Readers imprint

Jump At The Sun Books (The Negro Speaks Of Rivers) - an imprint of of Disney Book Group

Roaring Brook Press (Django)

The New York Times bestseller list for Children's Books (Jan 29, 2010)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Odds and Ends

First, a picture to evoke summer in the dead of winter.

Stars For Christy (1958, author Mabel Leigh Hunt, illustrator Velma Ilsley)

Now, new books and newish movies.

Frances Hodgson Burnett's 1904 novel A Little Princess has gotten a not-particularly-necessary sequel from Hilary McKay. Wishing For Tomorrow has just been released in the U.S. While I've been a fan of McKay's Exiles and Casson series, I was underwhelmed by this one. There's nothing really wrong with the book, it's just that there's a sameness to it. An uncontrollable little girl who's a force of nature, a grinning boy who acts as an amused spectator to a group of mad girls, a book-obsessed girl, a clutzy heroine, jealousy, girlish intrigue - there were times when it simply all felt too similar to the Exiles and Casson family books. And I've never been a fan of an author hitching a ride on someone else's work, no matter how creative or well done their own effort may be.

Elizabeth Goudge's 1946 novel The Little White Horse is also a 2008 film called The Secret Of Moonacre. I've never truly recovered from the scene where Maria discovers a cunningly placed box of biscuits on the mantel in her dreamy new bedroom. Biscuits. Mantels. Villains named, literally, Blackheart. Lions. Unicorns. Midnight forest rambles. There's no way a nice, rousing film version won't ruin it.

I've always found the 1001 series by Universe - you know, those enormously fat books claiming to contain the films you absolutely MUST see, places you absolutely MUST visit, etc., etc. before you die - to be irritating. I read for many reasons, but not to be goosed into action by the idea that if I don't act now, I'll die uncultured and parochial. But everyone I know loves these books and scans them eagerly to see how they match up against the compilers, so it you like that sort of thing, Universe has produced a kid book version. 1001 Children's Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up by Julia Eccleshare, the children's book editor at The Guardian Review.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Beezus And Ramona movie

Beezus And Ramona is a movie! It's due out on August 13, 2010. How they will update the simple 1955 book - in which 10-year-old Beatrice 'Beezus' Quimby deals with her exasperating little sister Ramona - is anyone's guess. The obvious change is changing an average 10-year-old kid into a beautiful 18-year-old woman. The little actress playing Ramona is 11 - a year older than the Beezus character in the book.

Even granted that a) it's easier to have older girls play the roles than very young children, and b) the movie is likely based on the series as a whole, it's a bit sad. Every once in a blue moon, there's a Precious and everyone gets all KUDOS! about how they cast someone who remotely resembles the actual character. Then it's right back to casting stars who fall so far out of the original material's vision that you begin to wonder at the point of even using the original material. Oh, right - built-in audience.

IMDB listing here
Beverly Cleary website
Harper Collins website

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Story Of Little Babaji (originally Little Black Sambo)

The Story Of Little Babaji (originally Little Black Sambo)

Helen Bannerman, il. Fred Marcellino

1996, Harper & Row; (1899, original edition)

The background: the original title and illustrations of Helen Bannerman's late 19th century tale of a little boy's encounter with tigers was, due to circumstances beyond the control of the author or the children who enjoyed the book, impossible to maintain. 'Sambo' had become a racial slur, and the illustrations made many people uneasy.

In this updating, the story remains, but the characters are given more authentic Indian names, and the illustrations have changed from that slightly scary coarseness of turn-of-the-century cartoons to the soft warmth of Marcellino's watercolors.

About the Author


Bannerman was a Scottish woman who lived for many years in India, where all of her books are clearly set. The offense that surrounds them is due partly to undeniably alarming illustrations in early editions, but part of the problem must be laid at the feet of English writers born prior to 1980 and their habit of calling anyone with more pigmentation than a snowflake 'black,' and the confusion this creates when translated into American.