Chrysanthemum – Kevin Henkes

Okay Moms and Dads. I have found a book you should all read to your little ones.  I have seen this cover all over the place in my book wanderings, but had never read it. Published back in 1991 (so no excuse for me never having read it) it has been chosen as an ALA notable book and School Library Journal book of the year.  I found my copy for a few dollars at a second hand store and decided to just buy it because I recognized it.  Oh, man oh man, I have been missing out.  Not only does it have a subtle message about self-esteem, the drawings are bright and kid-tested wonderful.  Am I over-selling this thing?  Maybe, but I doubt it.

Chrysanthemum kevin Henkes


Chrysanthemum loves her name.  That is she loves it, until she goes to school and realizes that her name is super long and all her classmates have short “normal” names.  Chrysanthemum struggles with kids making fun of her flower name and picking on her a bit.  She “wilts” when they tease her and even dreams of changing her name.   Her parents try to help her, but suddenly the best (and kinda crazy) music teacher helps out because she loves Chrysanthemum’s name.  Mrs. Twinkle shows the readers (and her music class) that being different can be wonderful. She is quite different and said to be an “indescribable Wonder” herself. This all done without obviously saying “okay kids, being different is actually pretty neat”  it’s just waiting there for the little ones to grasp on their own and mine did and that makes me smile.

Mrs. Twinkle


My princess-loving girls like this book. A lot.  This gets multiple repeat requests from them.  That alone is reason for me to love it for the breath of fresh air that it is.  But more than that… It’s teaching them a message I want them to hear.   That it’s not okay to make fun of people, and that being yourself is the best thing you can be.  The writing in the book doesn’t quite rhyme, but it feels lyrical, which makes it a fun read aloud book.  The pictures add so much to the story that there are words and picture stories that happen here and it’s all so polished.

Okay, enough said- just go rent it from the library and then find yourself a copy after that.


Rasmus and the Vagabond

rasmus and the vagabond

Poor Poor Rasmus.  If only he had curly hair and better yet- was a little girl instead of a boy with straight hair. Surely if he was, the nice families would come and adopt him from the orphanage, Right?  While the older boys try to tell Rasmus to stop hoping for a family, he simply can’t give up the dream and settle into the orphanage life, which is all he has ever known.  Rasmus is a pretty good boy, but he just cannot take the orphanage anymore and he runs away wishing for freedom and hopefully a family.  It turns out, freedom is scary when you are a little kid in a dark, cold and foodless world.  Oh, he forgot about hunger! And Man, is he cold!  Thankfully our little friend bumps into the friendly Oscar not too long into his newfound independence.  A disheveled, friendly man who declares himself to be God’s best friend.

Together Rasmus and Oscar travel the countryside in search of food.  They sing for their supper (Oscar is a wonderful accordion player how can earn decent money when he tries) and do various chores to get by.  The country setting makes me want to get out of the city immediately and go for a stroll down some dirt road and just enjoy the world for a bit.  In fact, I was jealous of it all if I am honest and can see why Oscar chose to be a wandering bum.  The world isn’t all rosy for our friends.  The police suspect them of stealing all the time, and they bump into two very bad men.  I do not want to wreck the surprise or storyline, but this isn’t just a cute story about a friendship between a lonely boy and a nice man.  There’s action in it to keep the kids entertained.  Action with guns, and rolling fist fights, Jail-time and secret hideouts.

For a book written in 1956, Rasmus and the Vagabond sure is a timeless and wonderful read.  Astrid Lindgren does a fantastic job writing books that kids and adults both love.  There was emotion that made me want to hug poor little Rasmus and his fantasy of a mom to hug him when he is sick, and action enough that kept me reading late into the night to see what was going to happen. When I closed the book… I literally sighed a happy sigh and went to sleep with a big silly smile on my face. I thought I knew how it would end, but I didn’t guess correctly! I have read a number of Lindgren books, and this one is my favorite so far.  I am so glad that Plough Publishing re-released this story (using the same illustration as the older hardback versions) the book world is a better place because of it.  New York Book Review is releasing two other Lindgren books in May that I am eagerly awaiting so I can read them too. Mio My Son, and Seacrow Island so be on the lookout for those too.  It has gotten to the point where I don’t have to know what the book is about, if Astrid Lindgren wrote it, I’m going to read it.  I know it’s early in the year still, but for now Rasmus and the Vagabond is my favorite read of 2015.  I received a copy of this book for review and its going on my favorites shelf to read to my girls when they can handle chapter books.

  • Author: Astrid Lindgren
  • Illustrator: Eric Palmquist
  • ISBN: 978-0874865974
  • Publisher: Plough Publishing House
  • Copyright: 2015 first published 1956


Disclaimer:  I received a copy of this book for review from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Cinderella – KY Craft

cinderella ky craft

If I could only have one version of Cinderella, this one is it.  The pages are beautiful, stunning even, and look appropriate to the Victorian era (but don’t hold me to that, I am not versed in art history or fashion whatsoever)  Amazing illustrations are not enough though, the story has to be a good one, and this is the main reason I love this book.

The story begins the same as the traditional tale with our neglected heroine.  Cinderella is kind though, and actually meets the prince one day in the woods.  She found a hurt bird and was tending to it when he came riding by.  He notices her kindness and beauty right then but Cinderella quickly leaves because she is embarrassed of her raggedy appearance.    Cinderella thinks of the prince after that day.   Eventually a ball is held and she wishes to go, but of course her wicked family does not let her.  The storybook describes how Cinderella continued to brush her sisters hair until it was “perfect and smooth”  which I love because she is being kind even in the face of rudeness.

Now for the twist,  as she is crying her heart out she sees the little bird whose wing she mended.  The bird then turns into her fairy godmother (who is far from elderly and plump) she sends Cinderella to the ball with mice footmen in a flying coach.  Cinderella amazes everyone at the ball, and the prince falls in love, feeling as if he has known her from before.  On the second ball, Cinderella has a great time, but does not get home before midnight.  The prince then goes looking for his love and tries the shoe on all the maidens in the kingdom.  Cinderella asks to try on the slipper and the Prince says yes, making a reference to the bird she rescued.  With both slippers on, she turns into the ravishing princess.  The step sisters recognized her and fall at her feet, begging forgiveness for their rude treatment. Cinderella embraces them and they are forgiven.  The prince apologizes for not fully recognizing her “heart whether clothed in rags or regalia.”  Because he saw how humble and kind she was he falls even more in love and they are married and live happily ever after.

I love this version because it shows examples of Cinderella being kind and good not just telling us she was so.  If it’s so important to be that way, the story should take some time showing it!  I also like the prince more in this book than others because he admires Cinderella before the ball, and loves her even more after he knows her full story.  I think this is my favorite because if my little girls were going to dream of becoming a princess or meeting a prince, I would want them to behave this way, and find a man who sees beauty in many forms.

  • Author:  K. Y. Craft
  • Illustrator: K. Y. Craft
  • ISBN:1587170043
  • Publisher: Chronicle Books
  • Copyright: 2000


Disclaimer:  I bought this book with my own money. It’s still in print and plentiful at the library.


The Princess Who Had No Kingdom – Ursula Jones & Sarah Gibb

The Princess Who had No Kingdom - ursula jones & Sarah Gibb

The Princess Who had No Kingdom – ursula jones & Sarah Gibb Image courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company (C) Sarah Gibb.

If you haven’t read some of the Ursula Jones/Sarah Gibb combination books, you are missing out.  Together they have produced some beautiful fairytales!  This particular story continues to be a favorite in our bedtime routines.  It’s funny and pretty and Oooh that’s a good mix.

Summary: This fairytale is a bit different than others.  We know little about our princess except that she works hard and is looking to find her kingdom.  (She knows and does not doubt that she is in fact a princess, she just is not rich has not found her kingdom quite yet)

Princess who had no kingdom 2

Image courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company (C) Sarah Gibb.


Image courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company (C) Sarah Gibb.


Cream horn fight over the princess Image courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company (C) Sarah Gibb.

Everywhere our princess goes, wealthy mothers hide their eligible sons so they don’t fall instantly in love with her.  Our Princess carries on taking packages in her cart and selling royal cast-offs to earn a bit of money as she searches for her kingdom.  Finally there is a ball held for an up-and-coming prince turned king and our princess decides to attend.  All of the wifeless kings fall in love with her (even though she is dressed in a rag dress and not concerned with fitting in.)  There is even a pastry fight as each king offers our princess their kingdom, yelling at the others.   She sneaks out of the ball and begins to search again.   Along the way she finds a former acquaintance and he tells her she is the queen of his heart.  They decide to make a go of it, He telling Jokes and she carrying parcels and they find they are quite happy.  Oh, she also realizes that she is the queen of “here, there and everywhere”  in a sort of “home is where the heart is” kind of way.

Review:  Any story that encourages kids to be themselves, to value hard work, and to choose love over money is a winner in my mind.  The illustrations are colorful and different.  Every other page goes from full color illustration to a silhouette combination and my daughters really enjoy looking at the intricate pictures even on their own.  If you are looking for a princess story that is a little different from the rest, this one is it.

  • Author: Ursula Jones
  • Illustrator: Sara Gibb
  • ISBN: 978-0-8075-6630-5
  • Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company
  • Copyright: 2009


Disclaimer: I bought this book with my own money and emailed the publisher for permission to post pictures.  Image courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company (C) Sarah Gibb.


Clever Jack Takes the Cake- Candace Fleming

This is my husband’s favorite book to read to the girls at night. I love the story too, but he and the girls have so much fun reading it that I don’t read this one out loud as much as he does.

clever jackSummary: Poor Jack wants to go to the princesses birthday party, but cannot afford a gift.  He decides to make her a cake for which he must trade his few belongings to make, on his way to the party with his beautiful cake, birds, trolls, creepy dark forests, cake eating bears and strawberry allergies all get in the way of his wonderful creation making it safely to the party.  In the end, he is left standing before the princess with nothing but a story to tell… well she loves it!  Stuff is boring but stories are fun!  The two become friends and eat cake together.  (My daughter literally said- “nawh, I like stuff more, mom… ” so we have to more work to do on her!)


Review:  This one is so fun to read and definitely one that adults will enjoy as well.  It has remained a favorite for over a year now, so I would call that classic material. Jack’s positive attitude is great and hopefully something that will help kids remember that stuff doesn’t make you happy and a good attitude always helps. The illustrations are unique, with a simple hand-drawn look.


  • Author: Candace Fleming
  • Illustrator: G. Brian Karas
  • ISBN: 978-0-375-84979-4
  • Publisher: Schwarz & Wade Books – imprint of Random House inc.


Disclaimer:  I purchased this book with my own money (and a few copies for friends too)