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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

Summary:

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

Review:

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.

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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

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

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Fairy Wings – Lauren Mills & Dennis Nolan

This book right here is one everyone should own. I stumbled upon this gem (which is out of print, so find yourself a copy asap) through a list on Goodreads for “Gorgeously illustrated Fairy Tales”  and Gorgeous it is!

fairy wings cover

Shiny golden letters dress up this dust jacket showing Fia and Kip dancing.

Summary:  I will admit right now, I read this book sometimes when my kids are nowhere around. It’s stunning, and the story is touching. Fia, our heroine, happens to be the only fairy around without wings.  Because of this, she has no fairy friends, and her seven other sisters are embarrassed of her.  Fia plays with a frog, a rat and a crow and that simply isn’t done!  Because she is wing-less she also does things other fairy-kind wouldn’t dream of doing, like paddling around the river in a goose’s egg.  It turns out, she befriends a fairy  boy named Kip doing just this and they are fast friends.  He invites her to the May Dance and she just might work up the courage to go with him.

Fia and Father

“I have eight beautiful daughters… “might be my favorite line in the whole book. (yeah, I am a mom and I love my two very different girls like crazy, so this hits home for the parent. I’m pretty sure my kids have never given it a second thought.)

There is more drama than just the wingless, ugly duckling kind. You see, there is a Troll lurking about the woods and the May Dance just might be the perfect time for said troll to snatch up all the fairy people!  Perhaps Fia and her land-dwelling friends might be perfect to save them?  Don’t forget,  there’s also an adorable love story thrown in too.

fairy wings troll

Every good Fairy tale should have something creepy in it. This certainly fits that bill! Yes, those are tiny feet and hands sticking out of the net!

Review: Beautiful illustrations aside, this book isn’t just fluff to fill our kids heads like so much of the princess culture tends to offer us.  Fia is different, brave and kind.  She doesn’t wait around for a man to save her, but when a boy befriends her and actually loves her- it’s very touching.  I like Fia also because she is friends with unlovable creatures- not just the animals, but the Woodkins too (funny looking tiny land people). Her parents aren’t cruel, they love her desperately and support her throughout, a message which I enjoy reading to my kids all day long.  As far as fairy tale books, this one is one of my favorites.  Hopefully I have talked you into the wonderful book that this is.

  • Author: Lauren Mills
  • Illustrator: Lauren Mills & Dennis Nolan
  • ISBN: 0-316-57397-3
  • Publisher:  Little, Brown & Company
  • Copyright: 1995

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Disclaimer:  I purchased this book with my own money (though I did not pay nearly enough for it!) I emailed the author to ask permission for the review and she said yes! (good thing too, She has more books I want to review!)