Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A New Dr. Seuss Book? Really?!

Yes!  "I meant what I said and I said what I meant!"

On Sept. 27, Random House will release The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories, a collection of seven stories by the incomparable Dr. Seuss.

The stories were published in Redbook Magazine in 1950 and 1951, but never appeared in book form.

"We're like happy prospectors, having discovered a hidden vein of gold," said Kate Klimo, vice president of Random House/Golden Books Young Readers Group.

Here's a sneak peek:

1. "The Bear, the Rabbit and the Zinniga-Zanniga" is about a quick-thinking rabbit who outwits a bear with a single eyelash. *

(This story also was recorded by Marvin Miller in the album Dr. Seuss Presents: Fox in Socks/Green Eggs and Ham.)

2. "Gustav the Goldfish" is an early, rhymed version of the Beginner Book A Fish Out of Water, in which a boy buys a fish and is warned not to overfeed it.

3. "Tadd and Todd" is a tale passed down via photocopy to generations of twins.

4. "Steak for Supper" is about fantastic creatures who follow a boy home in anticipation of a steak dinner.

5. "The Bippolo Seed" is about a scheming cat who leads an innocent duck to make a bad decision.

6. "The Strange Shirt Spot" was inspired by the bathtub-ring scene in The Cat in the Hat Comes Back.

7. "The Great Henry McBride" is about a boy whose fantasies of a far-flung career are only bested by those of Dr. Seuss.

In an introduction, Dr. Seuss scholar and collector Charles D. Cohen discusses the stories' themes, including the importance of imagination and the dangers of greed.

He also notes that all seven marked a shift in Dr. Seuss's writing style from primarily prose to the rhymes we've come to adore.

Due to printing limitations of those early magazines, Random House is enhancing the colors of the illustrations to match Dr. Seuss's other books.

For more about Seuss's original stories in Redbook, visit Children's Picturebook Collecting here.

 * You may have noticed that the word, "Zinniga-Zanniga," is spelled differently in Redbook. According to Cohen, in his book The Seuss, the Whole Seuss, and Nothing But the Seuss, the title word was likely misprinted as "Zinniga-Zinnaga."

Monday, March 28, 2011

Chalk the Block

Add Humor to Your Neighborhood
By Michael Sherman
Klutz, 2011
$12.99, ages 6 and up, 40 pages.

Concrete got the blahs around your block?

Grab some chalk and turn all that wear and tear to your comic advantage.

In this fun twist on an old pastime, Sherman inspires kids to turn ugly concrete into a crack up with a few strokes of chalk.

"Release your inner smart aleck," he encourages before taking readers through a basic how-to and a slew of his own ideas.

The book comes with four fat pieces of chalk and pictures of cracks, walls, steps, rocks even drains dressed up silly.

There's even a section on how to take hopscotch up a notch (literally up a wall) and transform blacktop into track for tricycle test driving.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Say Hello to Zorro!

Written & illustrated by Carter Goodrich
$15.99, ages 4-8, 48 pages

Mister Bud the terrier had it good when it was just himself and his human.

But now his human has adopted a curly-tailed pug named Zorro and Mister Bud feels like he's losing control of how things work around home.

And who could blame him?

Until Zorro arrived, Mister Bud thought he was the center of everything.

He had a title of respect prefixed to his name, and what's more, he had his schedule and everyone stuck to it.

In this charming picture book, the lead character designer of Despicable Me explores what it's like to be an only pet -- to have things just the way you want them -- then have another pet thrust into your life and threaten to mess it all up.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Two Gems for Women's History Month

Girls will feel like they've strapped on wings after reading these captivating true stories of early 20th Century women who refused to let their future be decided for them. 

Just in time for Women's History Month come two stellar accounts of women who challenged themselves to dream bigger than women ever had: Wheels of Change by Sue Macy and Amelia Lost by Candace Fleming.

Each book is meticulously researched, and packed with gems of information -- anecdotes, quotations, even poems -- that will make readers' spirits soar and inspire girls to be confident in their pursuits and not let anyone hold them back.

Wheels of Change

How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom
(With a Few Flat Tires Along the Way)
By Sue Macy
$18.95, ages 8 and up, 96 pages

For women at the close of the 19th Century, the bicycle was like a silent steed ready to carry them away.

It gave them courage to break free of society's rigid hold and carve out their own dreams, according to this fascinating account by award-winning Macy.

"Imagine a population imprisoned by their very clothing: the stiff corsets, heavy skirts...," she writes. "And how liberated they must have been as they pedaled their wheels toward new horizons."

With the arrival of the high-wheeler and later bicycles in America, women gained a degree of mobility they'd never known and gradually, often unconsciously began to try things that only men were allowed to do.

The female cyclist "did not have to be born again in some mysterious fashion, becoming a strange creature, a 'new woman,'" Munsey's Magazine suggested in 1896. "She is more like the 'eternal feminine,' who has taken on wings, and who is using them with an ever increasing delight in her new power."

A few years later, a French cycling poster echoed this perception, showing an Athenian-looking woman with angel wings standing beside her two-wheeler.

Amelia Lost

The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart 
By Candace Fleming
$18.99, ages 8-12, 128 pages.

Award-winning Fleming strips away the mystique surrounding legendary aviatrix Amelia Earhart to show a woman as fallible as any other -- yet driven to conquer the air like no woman before her.

"All I wished to do in the world was to be a vagabond in the air," Earhart once said, and though Earhart met criticism in her later career for profiting from aviation, it was this guiding dream that's defined Earhart at least until her death.

When Earhart's plane vanished in 1937, her husband, late publisher George Putnam, worried that her disappearance would overshadow her legacy, and for some perhaps it has, yet Fleming doesn't dwell on Earhart's disappearance but lets it fade in and out of chapters about her life.

Fleming (The Great and Only Barnum) makes sure we see Earhart for what she was, a typical woman in many ways, but uniquely driven. As biographer Mary S. Lovell described Earhart, she was "an ordinary girl growing into an extraordinary woman who dared to attempt seemingly unattainable goals in a man's world."

We meet a woman who was at times impulsive and headstrong, who with Putnam could work the media and profited greatly from her record-setting feats, yet who had unstoppable courage and enthusiasm, and who not only earnestly believed a woman could do everything a man could do, but wanted other women to believe that to.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Owly & Wormy: Friends All Aflutter

Created and illustrated by Andy Runton
$15.99, ages 3-7, 40 pages.

Owly wants butterflies so badly he can barely stand it. But nothing seems to lure them into his garden.

Then one day he meets two plump green bugs that make him forget that having friends with fancy wings was ever important to him.

Well, almost forget -- that is, until the rainy season passes and a couple of leathery pouches in his garden do the "shaky shake."

Owly, the big-eyed owl from Runton's Owly graphic novel series, makes his full-color debut in this super-sweet picture book that shows that it's not what's on the outside that counts in friendship.

As with the Owly comics, the story is told through symbols and expressions, and is virtually wordless, yet it reads as vividly as any word-based picture book thanks to clever pictographs that appear above characters' heads.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Night Flight: Amelia Earhart Crosses the Atlantic

By Robert Burleigh
Paintings by Wendell Minor
$16.99, ages 4-8, 40 pages

If words could fly, these would.

In this poetic account of aviatrix Amelia Earhart's solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean, readers feel like they're taking off with her, and imagine what she must have seen and felt.

Burleigh's words thrill with their immediacy and momentum, while Minor's paintings envelop readers in the vastness and mercurial nature of the sky.

From the moment Earhart's single-engine Vega rolls down the dirt runway in Newfoundland en route to France, readers find themselves surrendering to whatever will happen.

It is May 1932. Earhart "pushes her last doubts into a secret place deep inside her," and readers too take in a deep breath and feel the plane's wheels go faster and faster. Her courage will now be their own.

Once the Vega is aloft, solitude embraces readers; "the plane swoops like a swallow" over tundra and ascends higher into the waning light of late day, rising upward until they can no longer hear the surf.

"Amelia Earhart lives for this moment: / to follow the wide horizon that never ends!" Burleigh writes -- and we imagine we live for it too.

At first the mood of the flight is one of bliss. The night is calm and the Vega soars eastward into "wisps of shimmering clouds" and expanses of glistening stars.

Earhart feels at ease and indulges in reflection about "first-time things"; among them, standing before whirling propellers as a young girl: "The props send puffs of soft snow into her delighted eyes."

Her mind soars with all that's she's looked down upon and her conviction "to try to do things as men have tried."  There is an expectation that the trip will remain smooth and sure.

"But she is wrong," Burleigh writes, his words hauntingly unequivocal in the last line on the page, as the ocean grows choppy and lives up to his description as "dark and seething."

Midnight arrives abruptly with a flash of lightning, its tendrils reaching down before her path.

"Fists of rain pummel the cockpit windshield," stirring Earhart from a half-dream; is it thunder or her heart pounding?

Monday, March 7, 2011

I Must Have Bobo!

By Eileen Rosenthal
Illustrated by Marc Rosenthal
$14.99, ages 3-6, 40 pages

Bobo the sock money is Willy's and Willy's alone. So why is Earl the cat stealing time with Bobo when Willy isn't looking?

In this darling first collaboration by author Eileen Rosenthal and husband Marc, author-illustrator of Phooey!, a boy and his cat vie over which of them should get Bobo all to himself.

One morning Willy awakes to find that his best stuffed toy Bobo isn't where he should be and in a panic, yells out to anyone who will listen, "I need Bobo!"

Willy opens his eyes so wide that his pupils shrink to dots and he stretches his arms up high, showing just how much he means what he says.

How can Willy possibly get through a day without his trusted toy? After all, Bobo helps Willy do everything: 

When Willy sees a bitey-bug and pokes him with a stick, it's Bobo he clutches in one of his arms. When Willy goes down a slide super fast with his eyes sealed shut, it's Bobo he hugs in front of him.

And when Willy walks past the fence that holds in a big, jowly dog (the one who stands on his hind legs watching Willy and clutches the pickets with his front paws), it's Bobo who holds his hand.

Knowing how much he counts on Bobo to get him through scary times, Willy can hardly bear the thought of losing him. "I must have Bobo!" he yells, this time gripping his head in both hands.

But hold on a second. What's that moving under Willy's bed covers on the next page? Isn't that Earl's gray tail hanging out from the blanket?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Crows of Pearblossom

By Aldous Huxley
Illustrated by Sophie Blackall
$16.95, ages 4-8, 40 pages.

The crows of Pearblossom are back and as snippety as ever, but have a winsome look that makes their squabbles more fun to laugh at.

In this sunny redo of Aldous Huxley's classic, Sophie Blackall lightens the look of the story just enough that the digs between the married crows don't seem as harsh and the ending feels less morose.

The story, about a crow couple who takes revenge on a snake who's been eating their eggs, was published in 1967 as a reader with mostly black-ink illustrations by award-winning Barbara Cooney and returns now as a full-color picture book.

Australian-born Blackall, who also illustrated Annie Barrows' Ivy & Bean series, plays off Huxley's dark humor and pays tribute to Cooney's original art while giving the book a rosier, more playful look.

Skies of lemon yellow, clear-day blue and misty coral warm the pages, and the crows, despite their acerbic tongues, look adorable. Their shiny black button eyes glisten and their armlike wings look like the soft branches of a Victorian feather tree.

Aided by the larger format, Blackall expands upon whimsical touches that made Cooney's version a gem and makes the story seem cheery even at the end -- when the snake dies a slow death from eating clay eggs, then is strung into a clothes line.

She also cleverly draws off Huxley's sense of irony. At one point Mrs. Crow is laying in bed with huge pink rollers on her head and her skinny tongue is frozen in mid rant, while a meek Mr. Crow lashes out at her while hiding behind his friend Owl.

This is a story that you love for the very things that make you uneasy about it. It's blunt and grim, yet in a clever, tongue-in-cheek way, and though you wonder if it would have been published if written by a less famous author, Huxley's audacity is refreshing for a genre that is generally sweet-toned and idealistic.