Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Jan Berenstain

Last week Jan Berenstain passed away and there have been numerous articles about her and the wildly successful series of books, The Berenstain Bears, that she and her late husband created.
Who doesn't have a memory of a Berenstain Bears book that spoke to them as a kid?
Maybe it was The Berenstain Bears and the New Baby or Go To the Dentist or Get in a Fight.....there is something for everyone. Children's fears, anxieties and experiences all addressed by a pair of sweet, sassy, thoughtful bears. Corny? Sure. Loved? Absolutely.

We have some, what I imagine could be called "vintage", Berenstain paperbacks in our house. I love reading them and my kids are always listening with mouths agape (that means they've been pulled right into the tale) and it amazes me that decades after they were first crafted by the husband and wife creative team, these stories still so clearly resonate.
I put the image from my favorite title of the Berenstain collection at the top of the post. My son doesn't like "that mother's mean face", but I love it- it speaks to me now :).

Friday, February 24, 2012

Picture Books for Spring

It never ceases to amaze me how many beautiful pictures books are published each year. I know that it has become more and more popular to use a Kindle or the like for reading and I imagine that soon, even kids, will want to do their reading on that type of neat contraption, but I hope that doesn't slow the creation of these actual books....

There are three titles I have my eye on for the Spring. The first is Outside Your Window: A First Book of Nature by Nicola Davies. Admittedly, I am drawn to the illustrations, but I have found my kids really love books about the natural world around them and they are little sponges for facts about nature. The glowing Kirkus Review convinced me I would not be disappointed....

Lyrically textured and illustrated glimpses of the natural world. In this sweeping, comprehensive look outdoors, zoologist and noted children’s author Davies (Poop: A Natural History of the Unmentionable, 2011, etc.) here joins forces with the illustrative talents of British artist Hearld, a kindred spirit when it comes to drawing artistic inspiration from nature. Following the progression of the seasons, these poems and their accompanying eye-popping spreads capture the essence of common animals, plants and phenomena in ways sure to entice young readers to venture outside. Hearld’s powerful multimedia illustrations layer paper-cut animals and diverse flora with vibrant swathes of watercolor, ink and crayon, creating dynamic scenes to which children can readily relate, while Davies’ spare lyrics ground complex processes like the life cycles of frogs and dandelions and the formation of rainbows with relative clarity. Some broader scenes encourage children to explore with all their senses and prove especially evocative, as in this moving image of what can happen during a snow-filled winter’s night: “In the morning, you’ll find the snow has kept a diary / of things that happened when you were asleep. / The animals and birds who ran about the garden / have left a snowy record of their feet.”
Over 50 poems, lustrous illustrations, a couple simple recipes and some advice for saving seeds combine to lend enough nature-related food for thought for many a sitting.

The second title on my wish list is non-fiction and one of those ideas that seem so obvious that I can't believe nobody published it before. It is a book about how the things you would find in your backyard work- simply titled How Things Work in the Yard by Lisa Campbell Ernst.

The layout and art is something really different and so full of information. According to Publisher's Weekly, I am not wrong to be charmed.

Graph paper — style backgrounds emphasize the schematic approach to nature that Campbell-Ernst uses to explain how different items and creatures — such as birds, butterflies, rocks, and dirt — that can be found in a typical backyard 'work.' There's a playful aesthetic in evidence, from the bright palette and friendly cut-paper artwork to the innate humor in some of the questions themselves ('How does a squirrel work?'). The various parts of the animals, plants, and objects are labeled, and brief facts about each subject dot the spreads ('Each kind of firefly has its own special pattern of flashing'). It's an elegantly designed primer to the natural world Ages 4 — 8. (May)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Finally, I am probably most excited about And Then It's Spring by Julie Fogliano. She teams up with Erin Stead, illustrator of Caldecott winner and household favorite- A Sick Day for Amos McGee. Their collaboration results in a perfectly paced tale of little boy patiently, but eagerly, waiting for the first signs of springtime....

The Horn Book gave the duo a starred review and should convince most anyone this is a title to have in their library.
And Then It’s Spring
by Julie Fogliano; 
illus. by Erin E. Stead
Primary Porter/Roaring Brook 32 pp.
2/12 978-1-59643-624-4 $16.99
A small bespectacled boy and his companions, a dog, a rabbit, and a turtle, are on a search for spring. “First you have brown, / all around you have brown / then there are seeds / and a wish for rain, / and then it rains / and it is still brown, / but a hopeful, very possible sort of brown…” Fogliano’s poetic yet grounded narrative is reminiscent of Charlotte Zolotow’s picture-book texts in its understatement and straightforward, childlike observations. Her text builds the tension with an expertise of a much more experienced picture book writer, and she gets the pacing exactly right. As for the illustrations, there’s no sophomore slump for Stead: her second book is even better than her 2011 Caldecott winner, A Sick Day for Amos McGee (rev. 5/10). The graceful illustrations were created with the same medium (woodblock prints with pencil), but here she’s used a completely different palette of browns, grays, light blue, bright green, and touches of red, all set against negative space that most often suggests a cloudy sky. Observant readers will notice many humorous touches: the rabbit eagerly anticipating the first sign of carrots in the garden, the dog waiting for a bone he has planted to grow, a bird sunning itself under the garden label of a sunflower. But the humor never overshadows the mood of quiet anticipation or the thrill that comes at book’s end when, all of a sudden, “now you have green, / all around / you have / green.”

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Irish Butter Shortbread Cookies

It is the perfect time of year for something so easy and delicious! Thank you, Martha Stewart.

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) Irish unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface


  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar. With the mixer on low, slowly add flour. Continue mixing until dough comes together to form a ball.
  3. Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface; roll out dough to about 1/4-inch thickness, dusting rolling pin with flour as necessary to prevent sticking. Using a 2 1/4-inch round, fluted cutter, cut out dough. Transfer to prepared baking sheet, spacing about 1 inch apart. Gather up any scraps, gently re-roll, and repeat cutting process. Take care not to overwork dough.
  4. Transfer baking sheet to oven and bake until shortbread just begins to turn golden, about 30 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool. Shortbread may be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

cupcake toppers

Cupcakes are maybe even "over" now after experiencing a recent wild popularity. I think , no matter their status, cupcakes are an excellent addition to so many parties. Meri Meri has the best cupcake toppers around. They have a set for nearly every occasion and they are always a perfect touch....

Makes me want to start baking immediately!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Have a very good year, Lorelei!

Today, for a number of reasons, I turn to Statler and Waldorf's rendition of "It was a Very Good Year" in honor of Lorelei's birthday. First, because they, like Lorelei, are awesome. They, like Lorelei, are funny. And they, like Lorelei, are old. And like the two of us, they have also known each other for a very long and though we are not quite there yet - I look forward to being two cantankerous and snarky old friends talking about everyone and everything. Happy Birthday, friend, and have a great 37th year!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day

If you live to be 100, I hope I live to be 100 minus 1 day, so I never have to live without you.
- A.A. Milne

Monday, February 13, 2012

Animal Valentines

Image courtesy of

I checked the Illustration School: Let's Draw Cute Animals out of the library to see if I could transform a package of blank cards I had into animal valentines. It worked! The book had easy, step-by-step instructions on how to draw a variety of woodland, wild, water and farm animals.
I wound up with a set of 18 classroom valentines- no two alike. :)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

babes of npr

"Our first Babe of NPR, Ari Shaprio is the politically savvy love child of Jonathan Rhys-Meyer and an Avatar."

The tumblr "babes of npr" might change the way I experience public radio from here on out. And it's hilarious too. (Thanks, Evelyn, for sharing!).
"Tristan Ahtone, Wyoming Public Radio host/Kiowa Tribe member/jean jacket model/mega babe."
"Michele Norris, Host, All Things Considered. She’s “Mee-shell” and she’s hot."
"Tom Ashbrook (Host, On Point) directed coverage of the Gulf War, which ended because he smiled."

"Kai Ryssdal: financial know-how, everyman sensibilities, bedroom eyes. Let’s do the numbers."

images and captions via "babes of npr"


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