Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Milly Molly Mandy

Among my favourite childhood books are the wonderful Milly Molly Mandy stories by Joyce Lankester Brisley. Joyce was an illustrator and writer - her gentle Quaker-like stories followed the adventures of Milly Molly Mandy and her friends Billy Blunt and Little Friend Susan. Nothing much happened in their quiet village but every day was filled with new discoveries. Joyce's lovely black and white drawings simply begged young readers to color them in.

This is the map of the village that appeared in every book. These pages are from my 1936 copy of the first collection of stories. When I remember back to the books I loved as a child, maps were important - I loved a book that had a map in it. This map is particularly enchanting, drawn in Joyce's neat, precise style.

This is Milly Molly Mandy's family. Don't you love Joyce's homely characters?

In Milly Molly Mandy again, Milly-Molly-Mandy discovers a train carriage in a field. This was my favourite story because a traveller family moved into the carriage and made it their home.

A perfect example of Joyce's gentle but detailed illustrative style. The traveller woman sweeps out her new homeShe has put flowers in the window, hung a tea towel over the door and little puffs of dust are flying up as she sweeps.

Author/Illustrator Bio (from Haoughton Miffin):
Joyce Lankester Brisley (1896-1978) was born in Bexhill, England. Her first stories about Milly-Molly-Mandy were printed in 1925 in the Christian Science Monitor, and a collection appeared in book form in 1928. She wrote and illustrated six collections of stories about Milly-Molly-Mandy. The Milly-Molly-Mandy Storybook was published in the UK in September 1996. She also illustrated books by other authors, including the classic Ursula Moray Williams story, Adventures of a Little Wooden Horse.

Her stories continue to appeal to children - I read them to my granddaughter who was as enchanted with the simple little talesd and drawings as I had been.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Magic Beach

This semester I am presenting a unit of work on the 'Magic Beach' by Alison Lester to students ranging in age from Prep to Year Eight. We will be working to present a variety of art and multi media responses to the text. To learn more about 'Magic Beach' read this review by Dan Hurburgh. Hurburgh is Australian writer with a passion for maritime history.

A rhyming story line in a child's picture book seldom works well. They often seem so contrived and sometimes downright corny.

Not so in Alison Lester's 'Magic Beach'. This book deserves the status of a classic in contemporary children's literature. In fact, the book is regularly listed in the Best Seller lists in Australia, where the author resides. ...

All children love the freedom and fun of a trip to the beach. Alison transports us to one of the childhood's favourite playground, that place where the land meets the sea. The real joys of beachside fun are joined with pleasurable and harmless seaside fantasies.

On alternate pages, we are taken from beautiful realities to even more captivating fantasies. We go from a scene with a sparkling sea to an exciting world where we can ride waves pretending they are "wild white horses". We go from sandcastle building to a land of fire breathing dragons. We explore rock-pools and their magic world of starfish and crabs, and then go to an evenmore magic Kingdom where we can ride seahorses.

The beach is still magic when it's a cloudy and gray day, our imaginations will help us discovered a treasure chest. We can go boating in the safety of bay, and then let the wind and our fantasies take us to the "edge of the world".

We fish and laze on the jetty, and in our daydreams, we catch a monstrous shark.

It is now evening-time, we are toasting marshmallows around the glowing fire, and in the shadows, there may be smugglers hauling in crate-loads of booty.

It's time for bed, and to the sounds of the ocean, we drift off to sleep on the evening tide.

This is a fabulous book which has universal and popular appeal.

Thursday, April 14, 2005


Thursday, April 07, 2005

The trouble with growing up

The trouble with children’s books today is I am not a child anymore. I remember of course. And I can still read with a child’s wonder. But I have lost most of that wonder when I am compared to a child and I see not an ounce of what they see. I have taken things for granted and I am so ashamed that I had to grow up.

When I first read Harry Potter I was quite upset that I had to be grown to finally read that wonderful story. Why did I not have such a hero? Discovering children’s books is something I have done as an adult. Most of my children’s books were Golden Books. I still have the tattered things, but they are mine.

In 1987 I was 18 and working in a bookstore. A new shipment of children’s book had come in. It was then that I discovered the Viennese artist, Lisbeth Zwerger. “The Gift of the Magi” was the first book of hers I ever saw. I can remember the very moment, quite clearly. In that quiet moment, I saw what I wanted to do with my life.

The path is not always clear. And I continue to struggle with this dream of mine. The marriage of pictures and words create a world in a little book. I have one published book and it taught me many things.

So, the trouble is keeping your adult self out of your child mind. Create that wonderment. Revisit that playfulness. And don’t give up.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The Cross Families Favorite Picture Books

This list was compiled for a friend who wanted to know more about “Picture Books” as he was contemplating going to the library and reading to children there.

Following is a list of my families favorite picture books. This is not an all inclusive list of “the best” picture books, it is a list of my families favorites. It is not up to date because I have been “out of the loop” since my youngest is now sixteen and my daughters have lots of degrees, but I have no grandchildren. So, though I know there are new books out there that are also great, I don’t know them well enough to add them to this list. Yet.

This is where my original training is, my Master’s is in Children’s Literature, it is something I love very much. I believe, along with C.S. Lewis, that a good children’s book is a good book, period.

While compiling this list, I had a big pile of books in my family room pulled off of dark shelves and covered with dust. The kids (25,24, 23, 16 years old) went through them, pulling them out of the pile, dusting them off and exclaiming, “OH! I loved this!” or “Oh, lord we read this to Taran two million times!” We have had a couple of ‘read aloud’ sessions already. It was a lovely trip back into the past. Thank you Nils!

I’ve listed them by author’s last name first so that I could alphabetize them, thus making the list easier to use, but then put stars by our very most favorites.

Without Further Ado . . .

The Cross Families Favorite Picture Books.

Ackerman, Karen Song and Dance Man. Knopf, 1988.

Ahlberg, Janet Each Peach Pear Plum. Viking, 1978.

Barrett, Judi Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothing. Atheneum, 1970.

Barrett, Judi and Ron Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs Aladdin, 1982 *

Bemelmans, Ludwig Madeline. Simon and Schuster, 1939.

Berger, Barbara Helen Grandfather Twilight Philomel Books, 1988.**

Berger, Barbara Helen When the Sun Rose, Philomel Books, 1989

Berger, Barbara Helen A Lot of Otters, Puffin, 2000

Brown, Margaret Wise Goodnight Moon. Harper, 1947.

Cannon, Janell Stellaluna Harcourt, 1993

Carle, Eric The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Philomel, 1987.

Craig, Helen Angelina Ballerina. C. N. Potter, 1983.

Crews, Donald Freight Train. Greenwillow, 1978.

Degen, Bruce Jamberry Harper & Row 1983

De Rico, Ul The Rainbow Goblins Thames & Hudson; New edition, 1994 ****

DePaola, Tomie Strega Nona Putnam, 1975 *

Dillon, Leo and Diane Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears, Dial, 1976

Eastman, P. D Are You My Mother? Beginner Books, 1960.

Freeman, Don Corduroy, Puffin Books

Gag, Wanda Millions of Cats. Coward-McCann, 1928.

Goble, Paul The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses. Bradbury Press, 1978.**

Gwynne, Fred The King Who Rained, Aladdin, 1988 **

Heller, Ruth A Cache of Jewels and Other Collective Nouns Grosset and Dunlap, 1987

Hill, Eric Where's Spot? Putnam, 1980.

Hoban, Tana Is It Red? Is It Yellow? Is It Blue?: An Adventure in Color. Greenwillow, 1978.

Hoban, Russell Bread and Jam for Frances (All the Frances Books) Harper and Row, 1964.**

Hodges, Margaret Saint George and the Dragon Little Brown, 1990

Johnson, Crockett Harold and the Purple Crayon. Harper and Row,

Joosse, Barbara M. Mama Do You Love Me? Chronicle 1991

Keats, Ezra Jack The Snowy Day. Viking, 1962.

Kennedy, Jimmy The Teddy Bear's Picnic. Simon and Schuster, 1983.

Leaf, Munro The Story of Ferdinand. Viking, 1936.**

Lobel, Arnold and Anita On Market Street HarperTrophy; Reissue edition 1989**

Lobel, Arnold Frog and Toad are Friends. Harper and Row, 1970.**

Lowrey, Janette Sebring The Poky Little Puppy Gustaf Tenggren, illustrator Little Golden Books, 1942 **

Manson, Beverlie The Fairies Alphabet Book (There is a Whole Line of Beverlie Manson Fairie Books) Doubleday, 1982

Martin, Bill Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. Simon and Schuster, 1989. **

Mayer, Mercer There's a Nightmare in My Closet. Dial, 1968.

McCloskey, Robert Blueberries for Sal. McCloskey Viking, 1948

McCloskey, Robert One Morning in Maine, Puffin, 1967

McCloskey, Robert Time of Wonder, Puffin, 1957

McCloskey, Robert Make Way for Ducklings. Viking, 1941.

Munsch, Robert The Paper Bag Princess Annick Press, 1980 ****

Numeroff, Laura If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. Illus. by Felicia Bond. HarperCollins, 1985

Parrish, Peggy Amelia Bedelia. HarperCollins, 1992.*

Sendak, Maurice In the Night Kitchen HarperCollins, 1970 **

Sendak, Maurice Where the Wild Things Are. Harper and Row, 1963.**

Seuss, Dr. How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Random House, 1957 *

Seuss, Dr. The Five Hundred Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins. Random House, 1948. **

Seuss, Dr. Bartholomew and the Oobleck. Random House, 1949.*

Seuss, Dr. Green Eggs and Ham. Random House, 1960.

Seuss, Dr. The Cat in the Hat. Random House, 1957.

Seuss, Dr. Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now! Random House, 1972 **

Sharmat, Marjorie Weinman Nate the Great. Illus. by Marc Simont. Coward, 1972

Silverstein, Shel The Giving Tree, HarperCollins, 1964 ***

Slobodkina, Esphyr Caps for Sale. Harper and Row, 1947.

Small, David Imogene's Antlers. Crown, 1985.

Spier, Peter Rain Doubleday 1982

Steig, William Sylvester and the Magic Pebble. Windmill Books, 1969.

Steptoc, John Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters: An African Tale. Lothrop, 1987

Stevenson, James "Could Be Worse!" HarperTrophy, 1987

Thompson, Kay Eloise. Illus. by Hilary Knight. Simon & Schuster, 1995 (orig. pub. 1955). ********

Van Allsburg, Jumanji Houghton, 1982 **

Van Allsburg, Chris The Polar Express Houghton, 1986 ****

Viorst, Judith Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Atheneum, 1972.*

Waber, Bernard Lyle, Lyle Crocodile. Houghton Mifflin, 1965.

Wells, Rosemary Noisy Nora. Dial, 1997. *

Westcott, Nadine The Lady With the Alligator Purse. Joy Street Books, 1988.

Wick, Walter I Spy: a Book of Picture Riddles. Scholastic, 1992.

Williams, Margery The Velveteen Rabbit Doubleday *

Wood, Audrey The Napping House. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1984.

Yolen, Jane Owl Moon illustrated by John Schoenherr; Philomel, 1988

Zelinsky, Paul Rumplestiltskin E.P. Dutton, 1986

Zolotow, Charlotte Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present Pictures by Maurice Sendak, Harper and Row 1962 **

And now a short write up:

My personal favorites:

* Eloise - The loquaciously lovely Eloise, who is six and lives in the Plaza Hotel, whose moto is “getting bored is not allowed”, is a study in self confidence and creative living. She is my hero.

* The Rainbow Goblins - Ul De Rico is a painter of magnificence and this book is one of the most beautiful things you have ever held in your hands. It also sets kids imaginations on fire. I have used it again and again with dance with poetry, with creative writing and art. It is fantastic.

* Bread and Jam for Frances - Asked in a literature class once to list the character in literature we felt we were most like . . . not who we would LIKE to be like, but who we really WERE, I listed Frances. I nearly got thrown out of class. Frances is a Badger, so what? So I’m not Anna Karenina? Frances is intelligent, creative, bratty and obnoxious at times and sings songs in quite good rhyme to herself under the kitchen table.

* The Story of Ferdinand - Done in black and white illustrations, one of my favorite stories from childhood. The story of a bull with a delicate ego, who would rather sniff flowers than fight. Reminds me of a Warrior I know.

* The Paper Bag Princess - This is a must have for every female child on earth. Elizabeth, a beautiful princess, lives in a castle and wears fancy clothes. Just when she is about to marry Prince Ronald, a dragon smashes her castle, burns her clothes with his fiery breath, and prince-naps her dear Ronald. Undaunted and unclad, she dons a large paper bag and sets off to find the dragon and her cherished prince. Once she's tracked down the rascally reptile, she uses her wiles to flatters him allowing her to rescue Prince Ronald. But what does Prince Not-So-Charming say when he sees her? “You smell like ashes, your hair is all tangled and you are wearing a dirty old paper bag. Come back when you are dressed like a real princess.” No spoilers here. Get the book.

* Where the Wild Things Are - Sendak’s book has almost become a cliche. The thing is - it is as good as it is cracked up to be. Maurice Sendak never grew up, he understands childhood from the inside out. This book is MADE for children, by a child. An incredibly talented artist and fabulously creative child, but a child none the less.

* The Five Hundred Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins - It shall be said: Theodor Seuss Geisel was a linguistic genius of the proportions not seen on the earth since William Shakespeare, he was a creative genius completely unrivaled in his field. I wish I owned everything he ever wrote. This happens to be my favorite. I love the characters, love the story, love the hats. I also love the books where he makes up animals - On Beyond Zebra, If I Ran the Circus, If I Ran the Zoo, To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street. EVERYTHING he did is fantastic.

* The Polar Express - I didn’t see the movie, I couldn’t stand it. The book is sacred to me. I read it aloud every Christmas Eve. It is the ultimate expression of belief. The bell still rings for me.

* Owl Moon - "It was late one winter night, long past my bedtime, when Pa and I went owling." The absolute magic of simplicity of nature. I have never read this without getting goose bumps.

* Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present - Simple, real, authentic childhood. Charlotte Zolotow and Maurice Sendak are a dynamite combination.

* Grandfather Twilight - Barbara Helen Berger’s lushly colorful paintings are a marvel of light. This simple, symbolic, beautiful little story tells about Grandfather Twilight on his journey to place the moon in the sky.

* The Giving Tree - Will break your heart with beauty. Besides The Giving Tree, I most heartily recommend: Where the Sidewalk Ends, A Light in the Attic, Falling Up, which are all books of poetry with drawings. Shel Silverstein is irreverent, naughty, blazingly brilliant, THE children’s poet. The librarian at our school in Virginia was proud to say she didn’t have a single one of his books in the library. I bought the library the entire set. She put them behind the counter and wouldn’t let the children check them out. Oh, so short-sighted, so non-understanding of the fact that he speaks to a child’s soul in words of language and poetry that they then take to be their own.

If you are a dreamer, come in,
If you are a dreamer,
A wisher, a liar,
A hope-er, a pray-er,
A magic bean buyer …
Come in …

Rest in Peace Shel Silverstein, Poet Laureate of the child-mind, the child-heart, the child-soul.

My children offer their favorites:

Taran, 16:
* The Pokey Little Puppy. Read out loud, by me, at least six million times, every night for three entire years and at frequent intervals thereafter.
* Saint George and The Dragon
* Chicka Chicka Boom Boom (tremendous rhythm)

April, 23
* Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now! - read out loud, by April, over and over when she had no ‘r’s, with great drama, the beginnings of her acting career.
* On Market Street - Fantastically Funky ABC Book
* Frog and Toad are Friends
* Jumanji
* The Rainbow Goblins

Lezlie, 25
* In the Night Kitchen - this book was banned, because the darling child swimming in the milk is nude. What do they want? You swim in the milk in your clothes? Honestly! Lezlie adored this book. I bought it in hardback for her when I could hardly afford bread.
* The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses - beautiful illustrations (the girl still loves horses)
* Eloise
* The Rainbow Goblins
* The King Who Rained - the most wonderful and wacky book of homophones you ever saw.
* Blueberries for Sal

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Out of the 'drawer', blow off the dust . . .

OK fellow Blogerators . . . Children's Books. I've just metaphorically pulled this out of a drawer and blown a lot of dust off of it. What do you think? Shall I illustrate it? Shall I send out just the text? Shall I put it back in the drawer and leave it for another fifteen years? Do you suppose there is a market for a book of poems about color? Do you suppose I will ever really send anything anywhere? What do you think?

What Color Is a Rainbow?

Edwina Peterson Cross

What color is a rainbow?
Is it something that you dream?
Are its iridescent colors
Always what they seem?

What color are the feelings
that paint and shine your world?
Vivid, bright sensations
Like Kaleidoscopes are whirled . . .
Making Multicolored patterns
In the thoughts you think each day
Thoughts that dress themselves in words
And come out to dance and play

Words are such rich colored things
Full of luster, flash and flare,
Do you ever wonder
What colors words would wear?

What color is love?
Is it pink and sweet
Filling all your empty spaces
To make your world complete?
Is it round and red?
Is it soft and warm?
A coat for the cold
And shelter from the storm

What color is sad?
Some say it is blue
Rain crying down the windows
When spring is over-due
Perhaps sadness is transparent
With no place left to hide
Like a worn out plastic bag
With nothing left inside

What color is joy?
A cloud of pinky peach
The fullest, roundest happiness
That you can ever reach
A peach pinky apricot
Sparkled through with gold
Almost more delight
Than your heart can hold

What color is fear?
Is it black or white?
The iceblack grip
of terror in the night
When you look straight at fear
Perhaps it is grey . . .
Sucking your strength
And your courage away

What color is dizzy?
Short of chartreuse green
When the sky and world are spinning
and you’re stuck between

What color is fun?
A lemon yellow butterfly
Cherry red balloons
Against a turquoise sky
A breath-bright day
Of china blue and winter white
With boot tracks and igloos
and a snowball fight!

What color is hate?
Red and black
With a sneering lip
And a monkey on it’s back
Red for anger
Black that is blind
With bitter eyes
And a slammed shut mind

What color is calm?
Smooth lilacblue
Soft serenity and tranquility
Of silken orchid hue
Hushed plum-colored twilights
Strung with summer quiet sound
Deep slow breath moments
When you taste the peace you’ve found

What color is silly?
I think it must be yellow
A dandelion ridiculous
Butter fellow
Giggling away
At some corny joke
That is tickling in his middle
Like a loony yellow yoke

What color is a song?
Does it change on every note?
Shrill luting crimson
From a cardinals throat
A cradle song or lullaby
In baby pink or blue
A gold and ivory symphony
It’s message old and new
A red-orange crackling fire song
For camp or Halloween
And holly covered Winter Carols
Must be red and green

What color is cold?
Icecrystal blue
Shot with silver shadows
With white shivers raining through

What color is proud?
Purple and strong
a full quiet color
with a satisfied song
When you have worked
and you have won
When you have sealed
A job well done
There is a proud purple lift
To your eyes that will show
Respect for the most
Important person you know

What color is a burp?
Burbling bubbles of pea green
Blurps of sulphur yellow . . .
Or something in between?

What color is sleep?
Is it midnight blue
With slices of a silver
Morning showing through?
Or is it pearl pink
Like the wet moon’s beams
Shimmering full
Of bright sweet dreams?
Maybe it is black
When sleep is the best
Deep velvet black
Filled with peace and rest

What color is a sneeze?
Sulphoncyanie . . . .
Ah . . . Ah . . . Azogrenadine!
Phenosafraine . . . .
Ah . . .Ah . . . Ah . . .
Ah . . . Schweinfurt green!
A sneeze must be a color
That I have never seen!

What color is a hug
As yellow as the sun
A canary yellow feeling
That can’t be felt by one
A perfect pressing moment
A wish that you must share
An armful of yellow roses
To show how much you care

What color is comfort?
Chocolate brown
A handmade quilt
Of tawny goose down
Cinnamon toast
When its cold outside
Hot cocoa and a friend
With secrets to confide

What color is excitement?
Red and Gold
The blaze orange of autumns
First blush of cold
Is excitement silverblack
Like a carnival night?
The skyblack gasp
Or a roller coaster flight!

What color is relief?
A wash of dove gray
When your heart slows to normal
And you know everything’s OK

What color is bored
a flat, stale brown
When your thinking shuts off
And your mind sits down

What color is warm?
A soft pink glow
Like that spot inside
Where kind thoughts grow
A ruby colored warmth
When pink and red blend
Like a smile that says, “I like you . . .
You are my friend.”

What color is a shout?
Orange and LOUD!
A bold, bright color
That you can hear above a crowd
Until someone says “be quiet!”
So you grab your vivid speech
Wrap it is some creamy cotton
And your whisper is peach.

What color is a yawn?
Yellow and blue
With a tired stretching scrap
of green showing through

What color is lonely
Lavendergray . . .
Like the long slow hours
Of an endless day
The world drones on
In a purple monotone
Things can be grey and empty
When you are all alone.

What color is a laugh?
A froth of yellow and pink
Like the bubbles in the joyful juice
that unicorns drink

What color is magic?
Sometimes it is gold
The flashy kind of magic
Full of “Wonders to Behold”
There is silver magic
Made of music and of star
The secret spinning of the heavens
Like silvered singing from afar
There is an Old Earth Magic
In ancient shades of brown and green
The emerald mystery of the forest
the touch of things unseen
And there is a simple magic
Stronger than any that you’ve heard
The black on white bewitchment
Of the written word
The wizardry of language
The Sweet spell of a poem
The power in the meaning
Of words . . . like “love” and “home”

What color are dreams?
Now you tell me . . .
What colors are the hopes
And the dreams that you see?

Your creative thought can paint them
In a splash of rainbow hues
Reds and yellows, browns and greens
Purples, orange and blues

There is no limit
To the colors you can be
Once that you believe you can
And you set your dreaming free

Imagination and belief
Are lights that can shine through
The prism of your dreams . . .
Then the rainbow is you!


So . . .
Did you happen to think
As you read a certain song
“She has the color of that word
Quite wrong!
Lonely can’t be purple,
I think it’s pale blue”
Or . . . “Green for dizzy
will never, never do”

Then get out your pen and paper
And write down just what is true
What color are sleep and love
and lonely to you?

Now here’s the truth about words:
They are chameleons, you see
They change their colors
As they move from you to me
The only one who really knows
The things that words can do
As their colors bloom inside
Is the one and only YOU

So, (I dare you now!) pick up that pen
And set your rainbow free
And while you are about it
Perhaps you can tell me
What color is weird?
Or Lazy? or Time?
What color is nervous?
What color is a rhyme?

I’ll bet that you thought
This rainbow game was done
Hold on to your hat!
Its only just begun!

©Edwina Peterson Cross

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Making Pop Fiction

Patrons at Soul Food will be aware that I have been working with Sarah Boland to introduce Pop Fiction to the classes at LaTrobe. The project has been so successful that we are already planning the next book to introduce to the school.

In third term I expect to be working with Anthony Eaton an Australian writer with a number of successful books under his belt. This Easter I read through a stack and the most gripping of the pile was 'New Kind of Dreaming.'

An Amazon review sums up the story line. "In the desolate Australian bushland lies a mysterious town where Jamie Riley is sent to live for two years in foster care for car theft. The 17-year-old comes to realize that things are dreadfully amiss in sleepy Port Barren, and he is soon drawn into the mystery that eats away at the heart of the town and threatens to do him in. Soon Jamie, once the pursued, begins to pursue justice and finds the secret long buried that still haunts the area. This thriller is bound to enthrall even the most reluctant reader. At times surreal and dreamy, the careful writing is as spare as the countryside it describes. In fact, Eaton has breathed life into the setting so that it exists as another character. A well-rounded, thoroughly enjoyable story, adeptly told."

At this stage though it will be the quite funny 'Nathan Nuttboard Hits the Beach' that I introduce to readers from Prep through to Year 9. I think they will have a lot of fun making digital art to represent some of the events in this little gem.