Archive for November, 2010

As if preparing for Thanksgiving weren’t stressful enough, I know some of you are hatching elaborate shopping plans for Black Friday – a few with the intention of getting all your Christmas gifts purchased in one day. The mere thought of joining the hordes on Friday morning gives me anxiety-induced chest pain, so I will limit my participation to Cyber Monday, which is sure to include a large cart full of books at Amazon.com. I admittedly went a little overboard last year.

A table full of books greeting Eloise and Charlotte on Christmas morning 2009.

For those of you shopping for children, I put together my lists of Best Board Books for Babies and Best Picture Books for Toddlers. The lists were inspired by a request from a high school friend who recently welcomed her first child and is building the foundations of her baby’s library. She wanted my recommendations for classics old and new.

The titles on my list are selected from our home library and include books that have universal appeal. They are either books I loved as a child or ones to which my daughters’ have been especially attracted. As requested, these are what I consider to be some of the best building blocks for a home library. As a result, the picture book list in particular does not include many of the quirkier finds I’ve written about in the past and will write about much more in the future.

Having compiled these lists, I’ll be the first to admit how imperfect they are. The selections were based solely on my own reactions as a child and the experiences I’ve had with my children (whose tastes may vary significantly from other children’s). But the process of developing the lists did make me incredibly curious about what the rest of you think are the most essential children’s library classics. I’d love to hear what additions you’d make!

Best Board Books for Babies

“Each Peach Pear Plum” by Allan and Janet Ahlberg

“Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” by Bill Martin and Eric Carle

“Goodnight Moon” by Margaret Wise Brown

“Dear Zoo” by Rod Campbell

“Moo Baa La La La” by Sandra Boynton. Also try “Barnyard Dance” and the rest of the Boynton collection.

“Madeline Loves Animals” by John Bemelmans Marciano

“Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” by Jeanette Winter

“I Love You Through and Through” and “How Do I Love You” by Bernadette Rossetti Shustak and Caroline Jay Church

Bright Baby Books: “First Words” and “Colors”

Leslie Patricelli’s Books: “Big Little,” “Quiet Loud,” “No No Yes Yes,” “Yummy Yucky” and others.

Mini Masters Collection by Julie Merberg and Suzanna Bober: Stories, told in rhyming text, are based on the art of Van Gogh, Monet, Picasso, Matisse, Renoir, Cassatt, Seurat, Degas, Gauguin and Rousseau.

Best Picture Books for Toddlers

The Eric Carle Collection: “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” and “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” in particular.

“Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak

The Madeline Series by Ludwig Bemelmans

“Love You Forever” by Robert Munsch and Sheila McGraw

“Miss Rumphius” by Barbara Cooney (My all-time favorite)

“The Jolly Postman” by Alan and Janet Ahlberg

“Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” by Judith Viorst and Ray Cruz (The newest edition has Alexander depicted in color)

“Angelina Ballerina” by Katharine Holabird and Helen Craig

“The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein.

The Olivia Series by Ian Falconer

“How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight” and other dinosaur books by Jane Yolen and Mary Teague

“Chicka Chicka Boom Boom” and “Chicka Chicka 1, 2, 3” by Bill Martin Jr., John Archambault and Lois Ehlert

“Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus” and other books by Mo Willems

Mary Englebreit’s Mother Goose, Nursery Tales and Fairy Tales

“Click Clack Moo: Cows That Type” and other books by Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin

“The Tub People” by Pam Conrad and Richard Egielski


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Micki Freeny, the marvelous Washington D.C. librarian who ended my search for “Nasty Kyle the Crocodile,” has so kindly shared with me the identity of the lone soul who responded to her listserv query and provided my long-sought answer.

Her name is Ashley, a reference librarian at the Jacob Edwards Library in Southbridge, Massachusetts. I wrote her not only to express my overwhelming gratitude but also to discover just how in the heck she came up with the title when I assumed not another soul on the face of the earth had ever encountered Nasty Kyle.

Her response was astounding:

“I happened to know this book from my own childhood – the section where he paints his house is the one that stuck with me, as well. I probably would not have remembered the title, but not too long ago I was at my parents’ house and helped my mom sort through all of our old children’s books to see which ones were special to me to put aside for my own children some day and I leafed through ‘Nasty Kyle.’ Books have always been a huge part of my life, and I totally understand how a lost favorite can nag at you until you find it! Looking through my old books brought back so many memories; it makes me so happy that I was able to help a fellow booklover find an old favorite.”

Ashley, we’re kindred spirits! Thank you for reading and responding to Micki’s call for help on my behalf. I am forever in your debt!

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I just have to share one of the most thrilling developments in my obsession with children’s books. I’m not exaggerating when I say this truly makes the list as one of the top five most fabulous things that has happened to me this year.

I started my collection of picture books as a high school senior when I picked up a copy of “Eloise in Paris” from the Louvre. I was traveling through France with classmates and, when I returned home, I informed my boyfriend (now husband) that our first child would be a girl named Eloise. Seven years later, that’s just what happened.

Since then, my collection has grown to such a degree that no single bookcase can hold it. In addition to the exciting new finds I come across during my many visits to the bookstore, I’ve also spent a great deal of time tracking down favorites from my childhood. Many I dug out of boxes at my parents’ house, but others have required a bit more sleuthing.

One in particular has been the thorn in my side for nearly a decade. This book was about a grumpy alligator or crocodile who was generally unpleasant with his neighbors. For some reason, he decided to paint his house in vertical, multicolored stripes.

As a child, I was absolutely fascinated by the illustration of his rainbow colored house. And apparently, the impression stuck with me into adulthood: just look at how the walls in my daughters’ rooms turned out:

I’ve asked nearly every bookseller and librarian I’ve met in the past 10 years about this book. Not one has had the slightest guess at a title. My tireless Internet searches have yielded little other than Lyle the Crocodile titles and non-fiction books about reptiles. I even shelled out $2 and posted a listing on Stump the Bookseller, an amazing online database dedicated to finding long-forgotten books with only the vaguest of memories as reference.

After nearly three months on the database, I had nearly given up hope of ever finding the book. And then I happened on a friendly bookseller at Barnes and Noble in the Georgetown district of Washington D.C.

I had already found the book I walked in for (“Interrupting Chicken” by David Ezra Stein), but a book-obsessed girl can’t help but spend a few extra minutes perusing the shelves. Up walked the bookseller, who offered the customary, “Is there anything I can help you find?”

As has become my habit, I said: “Yes. Do you know of a book about a grumpy crocodile who paints his house in vertical, multicolored stripes?”

She nearly knocked me off my feet when she said, “I do remember it, but I know we don’t carry it anymore and I can’t think of the title. You should ask the children’s librarian at the Georgetown library.”

I was, of course, only visiting the D.C. area for the weekend, but on a whim, I submitted my inquiry via the D.C. Library System’s general “contact us” email form. I was dejected when the youth collections coordinator sent the following response: “I’m sorry, but I’m not familiar with the book you asked about.”

My bubble was officially burst, so it came as an utter surprise when I received the following email the very next day.

“I understand that our selection librarian responded to you that we are unfamiliar with the book you are looking for. Although the title doesn’t come to our minds, I will do some sleuthing to see if I can find it. I wanted you to know that we are still looking.” – Micki Freeny, Coordinator of Youth Services.

A day later: “I have searched many sources without luck so far, but I take part in a children’s literature listserv where people post ‘stumpers’ about books all the time. It may take a few days to get responses, but after I try a few more sources, I will post the query there.”

Can you feel my excitement reaching fever pitch?

Four days later: “One response I got on the listserv is ‘Nasty Kyle the Crocodile’ by Doug Cushman. I can’t find it listed in a local library (and I also checked the state of Maryland database), but it is available used from Amazon. Let me know if you think this is it.”

Time stood still and I dared not take a breath as Amazon compiled search results for “Nasty Kyle the Crocodile.” Up popped a somewhat poor photograph of the book’s cover, but I knew in an instant we had struck gold. There was the grumpy crocodile, greeting the morning with a grimace and a look of disgust for the birds chirping in the window.

And would you believe I got it for just 55 cents from Goodwill Books?! For the next week, I madly rushed to the mail every day in anticipation of the book’s delivery. And then it came.

I can’t properly describe the amazing sense of satisfaction I felt as I flipped through its pages. Here Kyle was, just as I remembered him except now bearing a name to go with my memory.

The book actually consists of four chapters addressing concepts such as colors, opposites, geography and math. The chapter containing my beloved painted house is called “Kyle Paints His House.”

Kyle does, in fact, choose to paint his house capriciously. When Fred Goat stops by to compliment him on the blue hue he has selected, Kyle switches to red paint out of spite. But then Olivia Hippo extols her love of red, and Kyle moves on to yellow.

Eventually, he’s forced to mix his buckets of primary colors to create green, orange and purple. The end result is my rainbow house, which delights the neighbors but irritates the ever-grumpy Kyle.

I’m not sure my 2 1/2-year-old, Eloise, was as impressed with the book as I was as a child. But who am I kidding, most of her books are for my entertainment anyway.

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Every year since 1952, the New York Times Book Review has asked a panel of judges to select 10 best illustrated books from among the several thousand children’s books published during the year. Included in the special “Holiday Gift Guide,” I’ve found this list a reliable source for at least one new title that sings my tune.

Published Nov. 7, there were several books among this year’s winners that caught my eye, among them “Shadow” by Suzy Lee.

I’ve flipped through this book in various stores, and its artistic brilliance never ceases to amaze me. The lack of text has given me pause in purchasing, however. I was also intrigued by “A Sick Day for Amos McGee,” written by Philip Christian Stead and illustrated by Erin Stead. I’m a sucker for a story about zoo animals and the woodblock-printing techniques employed by Erin Stead results in fascinating illustrations.

But the one I just had to go out and bring home immediately was Peter Brown’s “Children Make Terrible Pets.” The title itself is pure genius. A pet, by definition, is “a domesticated animal kept for pleasure.” I think most parents could agree that, by those terms, children do make terrible pets. Domestication takes years of laborious effort, and child rearing certainly isn’t a walk in the park with the dog.

Unfortunately, this is a concept Lucy Bear has yet to grasp. While practicing her twirls in the woods one day, she discovers a boy whom she races home to show her mom.

“See, isn’t he the cutest? Can I keep him, PLEASE?” Lucy pleads.

Mom forewarns that children make terrible pets but agrees to let Lucy keep the boy, knowing full well the inevitable outcome.

Lucy and the boy are thus forth inseparable: they play together, eat together and even nap together. Everything is sunshine and daisies until the boy (as all children do) begins to act up. He won’t be potty trained, he destroys the furniture and then he runs away. Using her super bear sniffer, Lucy tracks the boy down but has, by that time, realized a “very valuable lesson.”

How can you not love a book that contains the words “You were right, Mom.”!?! Although he has no children of his own (he dedicates the book to his niece and nephew), Brown has managed to perfectly capture the frustrations of parenting. And he has delivered his mother-knows-best moral like a gift in Christmas paper and ribbon.

The authentic feel of the story line can likely be credited to Brown’s own childhood efforts to domesticate things found in the wild. He shared the following explanation at my all-time favorite children’s literature blog, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.

“When I was a kid, I would bring home frogs and turtles from the woods and ask my mom if I could keep them as pets. My mom would always say, ‘Wild animals make terrible pets!’ And then I’d say, ‘But look how cute he is!’ …And then my mom would say, ‘Don’t you think he has a family somewhere who’s missing him right now?’ And I’d realize she was right and begrudgingly return the animal to where I found it.”

From the very beginning, Brown’s art has been inspired by his fascination with animals. Growing up, he spent his time drawing animals at the zoo as well as those at farms near his childhood home in New Jersey. On his website, Brown shares one of his very first picture books, created in early elementary school. It’s the most adorable story about his adventures playing tag with his real-life pet dog, Buffy.

All but one of Brown’s professionally published and wonderfully successful books star animals, as well. He is apparently still stuck on pets, as his bio says he spends his free time “daydreaming about my future pet bulldog, ‘Fill.’”

However, the true fun of this book is less about pets and more in imagining a world in which humans’ and animals’ roles are reversed. From Lucy’s perspective, the boy is the primitive one. His communication is incomprehensible – everything he says sounds like a “squeak,” so she names him “Squeaker.” And she carries him around, just like one would a rabbit. It leads children to wonder about the potential intelligence of their own household pets.

Equally entertaining is Lucy’s irresistible personality, which swings from overly feminine to bossy and in charge. Brown has given her such hysterical facial expressions, and her lines in this story couldn’t be more fun to read aloud.

Artistically, Brown brings something incredibly fresh to the table. Each page is framed in faux-wood grain. This, paired with a color palette of earth tones and punches of pink and teal, has a very retro-1950s vibe. I immediately thought of vintage cowboy pajamas.

Brown has masterfully combined pencil sketches, acrylic-gouache paint, construction paper and hand lettering with a “wee bit of digital tweaking.” The end result is incredibly delightful. This one-of-a-kind look, paired with Brown’s wonderful talent for using just the right amount of words (no more), make him a standout in the field of children’s literature. I’ll certainly be adding his other titles to our Christmas list.

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A Perfect Pigpen

While researching for my post on Ian Falconer’s “Olivia Goes to Venice,” I came across this image from the now-defunct Cookie Magazine. The photo was preserved on a wonderful children’s book blog and store from Austrailia called We Heart Books.

I’m absolutely in smitten with these walls, papered with actual pages from the various Olivia books. The treatment is successful thanks to Falconer’s minimalist approach to illustration — large expanses of white space and simple charcoal drawings accented by small touches of colored paint. It gives the same effect as a pastoral toile wallpaper. On point with my earlier complaints, very few of the pages from “Olivia Goes to Venice” could have been incorporated on these walls.

This handmade wallpaper would be perfect in a small nursery or children’s room, setting the tone for an Olivia-inspired space. Where you go from there could vary as much as Olivia’s eclectic interests.

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Eloise nearly jumped out of her stroller when she saw the stack of books at Borders bearing the trademark Olivia title – oversized, all-caps letters gleaming in red and white. I wasn’t far behind her; I was thrilled at the idea of introducing a new story line to our nighttime ritual. We’ve been reading the same five copies of Olivia’s various adventures every night since Eloise was old enough to ask for a book by name. “Just two Olivias tonight, Mommy,” she’ll say, a plea she picked up from Olivia herself.

So we snatched up our copy of “Olivia Goes to Venice,” which debuted at the end of September. We must have read it at least a half-dozen times the first day, but with each recitation, I had the growing feeling that something about this book was missing a part of what made the first five installments so special.

“Something is not right!” to quote Miss Clavel.

To begin with, I was surprised Falconer had even released another Olivia title. I recalled an interview I read in USA Today years ago. It was published at the time he released “Olivia… and the Missing Toy,” the third in the series. The newspaper reported: “He has plans for at least one more Olivia book – something about Christmas and presents – and then he may stop. ‘Four is kind of a nice number for a series,’ he says.”

Falconer did, in fact, write his Christmas book (“Olivia Helps with Christmas”), as well as “Olivia Forms a Band,” which chronicled Oliva’s determined efforts to create her own one-man-band with intentions of performing at a fireworks display.

We adore each and every one of these books. And I mean really, really love them – Eloise was even given the middle name Olivia out of my admiration for this feisty, confidant and imaginative pig. So, you can imagine I feel a little more protective of the series than most readers.

I suspect the Olivia brand, with its Nick Jr. animated series, has become so lucrative that Falconer can hardly say “no” to readers’ demands for “more Olivias.” And I would honesty be thrilled to see the series continue without end, if only Falconer would stay true to what made him a phenomenal success from the get-go.

When Olivia made her debut in 2000, critics rhapsodized over his minimalist illustrations, done in simple charcoal on white backgrounds with a splash of red gouache paint. He was deservedly compared to the great Hilary Knight, who brought Eloise to life in a palette of black, white and pink.

The New York Times wrote the following in a 2001 feature on Falconer:

“Mr. Falconer, a designer to the end, insisted that the cover of ‘Olivia’ show only the porcine protagonist on a white page underneath the book’s title, with no subtitle, background art of even the author’s name. The results are both stark and embraceable. Even among other publishers, ‘it’s become a standard for beautiful design,’ said Stephanie Bart-Horvath, an art director in the children’s book division of HarperCollins.”

Falconer also sparingly incorporates photographic images into his illustrations – artwork by Degas and Pollock, a poster of Eleanor Roosevelt, a photograph of the Egyptian Sphinx, etc. Colors other than red have always been used sparsely and always with intention: blue in “Olivia forms a Band,” green in “Olivia… and the Missing Toy,” pink in “Olivia Saves the Circus,” green and a bit of yellow in “Olivia Helps with Christmas.”

“There are plenty of terrific picture books, although I suppose mine look different,” Falconer told USA Today back in 2003. “Many have so many colors and details. Mine are clean and spare, so maybe they stick out.”

Sadly, it’s a completely different story in “Olivia goes to Venice.” The cover speaks volumes about Falconer’s out-of-character approach. Gone is the uncomplicated portrait of Olivia. In its place is a dust jacket overwhelmed with color, a photo of the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute stealing the show.

Nearly every page features full-spread photos of Venice’s landmarks. In addition, Falconer has accented his illustration with every color of the rainbow. His beautiful family of charcoal pigs almost seems out of place amongst this clutter.

In a You Tube video released before its publication, Falconer explained that the book was inspired by a childhood trip he made with his family to Venice and a subsequent visit he made as an adult. His impression of the city offers insight into how his work has been affected:

“It’s very different that Paris or London or any other European city, because it’s full of color. It’s bright, bright, bright colors everywhere – yellow, ochre, rust reds and gold. And then the barber poles in the water – you know, where they tie up the gondolas. It’s overwhelming. Olivia is just basically me in the book enjoying Venice for the first time.”

Falconer has accurately captured the overwhelming color qualities of Venice but, in the process, has overwhelmed the reader who has come to appreciate Olivia in her simple palette of black, white and red. This book is more a tribute to Falconer’s travels than one that honors a character who has claimed a place in picture book history. And the overall affect of his use of color and photography leaves the book feeling like one of the “As Seen on Nickelodean” paperbacks that summarize episodes of the animated series in full-color computer illustrations.

While the book is also wordy (I know, so am I) and the obsession with gelato seems a little forced, it is certainly not without its merits. The illustrations may have been compromised, but Olivia’s character has not.

Unsurprisingly, it is Olivia who “decided that she and her family ought to spend a few days in Venice.” As far as she’s concerned, she’s always in charge. And, as usual, we delight in observing the mischief Olivia inevitably finds: getting searched by airport security, drawing the attention of flocks of pigeons and taking out the bell tower in Venice’s Piazza San Marco.

Olivia’s search for the perfect souvenir is the true delight of this book, and I love that Falconer concluded the story as he’s done all the others: Olivia’s soundly sleeping and dreaming of self-grandeur. And to be completely honest, there’s nothing that would have kept me from adding this title to our beloved Olivia collection.

I vow to seldom, if ever again, spend time on this blog panning a book. I mean, why would anyone want to spend their time reading one of my tomes when I’m not even going to give you an idea for something new to read your children? But, in the case of Ian Falconer, one assumes his Olivia books are foolproof, and I honestly wondered if anyone else had the same reaction to this book as I did. Thoughts?

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Last winter, Eloise and I were searching the back hall for a missing mitten. Inspired, I started to recite “Three Little Kittens” but somehow ended up with Bo Peep’s Sheep.

“Three little kittens have lost their mittens and don’t know where to find them. Leave them alone and they’ll come home wagging their tales behind them.”


It wasn’t the only time in the past two and half years I’ve found myself flummoxed when it came to recalling the simplest of Mother Goose and basic nursery tales …

Now what exactly were Goldilocks’ complaints about Mama and Papa Bear’s beds? And what the heck did Jack and Jill do after they reached the bottom of that hill?

This ineptitude was an obvious blight on my mothering resume. I realized I needed a crash course in Mother Goose, Hans Christian Andersen and The Brothers Grimm. And tout de suite!

Mary Engelbreit answered my call for help with a trio of children’s treasuries, each bursting with illustrations in the same elaborate style that’s made her work immediately recognizable world-round. And while she has built what the Wall Street Journal dubbed “a vast empire of cuteness” around what started out as greeting cards, it’s apparent that Engelbreit has a unique talent for presenting the most timeless of tales in exactly the fashion we always imagined them.

In “Mother Goose: One Hundred Best-Loved Verses,” Engelbreit gathered together our favorite rhymes and paired each with an endearing illustration that looks as though it’s belonged to the accompanying verse from its very birth. This harmony of word and image is likely due to Engelbreit’s love of vintage storybooks – she learned to draw at the age of 8 by copying the illustrations from her mother’s childhood books from the 1920s and ‘30s.

Passed down across generations, primarily by word of mouth, it’s no surprise that countless variations of each rhyme exists. Depending on where you grew up or who taught you the rhyme, you may say little boys are made of any combination of slugs, frogs, snips, snails and puppy-dogs’ tails. But the variations Engelbreit has selected for her treasury are all surprisingly familiar, possibly because she, too, is a Midwestern girl – born, raised and still residing in St. Louis, Missouri.

With 100 in all, Engelbreit has represented both the most familiar verses and those that are lesser known, including some I had never heard before. As a child, I loved finding the face in the moon but never knew the rhyme that paid it tribute:

The Man in the Moon

Looked out of the moon,

Looked out of the moon and said,

“’Tis time for all children on the earth

To think about getting to bed!”

This is sure to be one I’ll enjoy sharing with my children as they drag their feet at bedtime. And I laughed out loud while reading “There was a Little Girl.”

There was a little girl,

And she had a little curl

Right in the middle

Of her forehead;

When she was good

She was very, very good,

But when she was bad

She was horrid.

This is my Charlotte to a T: unruly curls always hanging in her eyes, sweet as sugar when she wants to be but a whirling temper-tantrum tornado when she’s not getting her way.

Engelbreit’s golden touch was also bestowed up a dozen age-old stories in “Nursery Tales: A Treasury of Children’s Classics.” Imaginative and vibrant illustrations captivate the young reader, and the abridged versions of these fables move quickly enough to hold the child’s attention.

As was the intention in the origin of these fables, Engelbreit relishes in the moral of each tale. The smartest of the three little pigs is praised for her diligence in using brick to build her home, the emperor is chastised for his foolish pride, and the Little Red Hen is seen thoroughly enjoying the fruits of her labor.

While Engelbreit has preserved the crucial plot points of each story, she has taken liberties as editor to soften some of the more disturbing aspect of these sometimes-ruthless tales.

In particular, I was grateful for her revisions to the Grimm Brothers’ “Hansel and Gretel.” Did anyone else find it extremely upsetting as a child to imagine a mother and father willingly leading their children into the woods to starve to death? In Engelbreit’s version of the story, the children lose themselves in the woods while collecting strawberries for dinner, their trail of bread crumbs leading home eaten up by birds.

Engelbreit also has shown mercy in her treatment of the nursery tale villains, pardoning the death sentence of the wolf in both “The Three Little Pigs” and “Little Red Riding Hood.” In the first case: “Down tumbled the wolf, right into the cooking pot. He hopped out and scurried away, and that was the end of the Big Bad Wolf.” Who liked the idea of pigs eating wolf stew anyway?

In Little Red Riding Hood, the wolf runs away “embarrassed” after letting Red and Granny step out of his mouth unharmed. All the better to go to sleep afterwards, right?

It seems, however, that Engelbreit has delineated between real animals and imaginary creatures. Puss in Boots is allowed to eat the ogre-turned-mouse, the giant falls to his death from the beanstalk and Gretel still pushes the wicked witch into the oven to save her brother. These moments do go without illustration, though, sparing young children any images that might cause nightmares.

Released just last month, “Fairy Tales: Twelve Timeless Treasures” is possibly the most illuminating for the adult reader. Here, Engelbreit introduces us to the pre-Disney versions of our best-known fairytales while adding a few twists of her own.

In “Cinderella,” our heroine dons silver slippers not glass, an interpretation likely taken from the 1879 lyrical drama written by American poet Charles Hubner. And as shocking as that difference is, “The Little Mermaid” probably seems most foreign of all. In Hans Christian Andersen’s original tale, recounted in shorten form here, the mermaid is unable to win her prince without her voice. The sea witch presents her with an ultimatum: kill the prince or lose her life. The mermaid spares her true love but is rewarded with eternal life among the angels in the sky.

In some cases, Engelbreit has made her own subtle changes to the “happily ever afters” of these books. After bestowing a kiss on her amphibian friend, the Frog Princess and the transformed prince become playmates rather than husband and wife. Similarly, Sleeping Beauty celebrates her 16th birthday – not nuptials – with her prince by her side.

Engelbreit explains: “I wanted to share these timeless stories with children today, but as I read and considered which to include, I realized for the first time how many of the stories ended with the message that marrying a prince is the solution to all of life’s problems. If only that were true! … So I decided to edit some of these endings a bit, letting children know it is okay for the princess and her frog to remain friends or that a prince can help with the household chores.”

Engelbreit has succeeded in preserving these invaluable rhymes and tales while giving them the proper editing and fresh look needed to carry them forth for generations to come. They’re certainly popular around our house, already showing wear – a smudge of snack here, a bent corner there. Should they survive my girls, they’ll certainly delight grandchildren someday, as well.

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In the final installment of my guest series over at Sarah Bohl Designs, I fantasize about the room I’d create based on Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are.” I also share my ideas for a “Goodnight Moon” nursery, complete with a handblown-glass red balloon.

As one of four girls, I couldn’t be more thrilled to have been blessed with two daughters. And as a children’s literature fanatic (and huge Louisa May Alcott fan), I dream of one day having my own troupe of “little women.” But should this family ever add a boy to our mix, I’m dying to create a room from the pages of “Where the Wild Things Are.”

Maurice Sendaks’ timeless story and pictures have all the makings for an original and inspiring room. Max and his Wild Things are adored across generations. Sendak’s color palette features natural earth tones and subdued versions of the primary colors I love. His illustrations are also highly textural, with intricate pen-and-ink crosshatching adding dimension to watercolor backgrounds.

In particular, I’m inspired by the bold palm-leaf pattern from the front and end pages of the book. I’d let it take center stage in the room, replicating the pattern on a larger scale for the feature wall. The remaining walls would likely be painted in a denim hue, similar in color and texture to the illustration of the night sky when Max arrives at “the place where the wild things are.”

I would certainly use Pottery Barn Kids’ boat-shaped bed to pay homage to the sailboat in which Max made his voyage, painting my child’s name on the stern. And I’d love to find a curtain fabric similar to the muted orange and yellow horizontal stripe adorning the torso of one of the Wild Things.

I’d have fun hunting for a vintage wood boat wheel to serve as wall art and a white sail for a possible comforter. A branch-like side table would also be a consideration.

Another fabulous children’s classic that just cries out to be made into a room is “Goodnight Moon.” Can’t you just see the bold green walls and red and green striped curtains? This certainly wouldn’t be a room for the color-shy.

There would have to be a classic rocking chair and a little toy house (home to a young mouse). I’d seriously be tempted to incorporate a small vent-free fireplace (a Candice Olson favorite), topped by a classic mantel.

The walls would hold portraits (in ornate gilded frames) of the cow jumping over the moon and the three little bears. I’d also love to hang one of these gorgeous hand-blown glass balloons from Uncommon Goods.

This room would offer endless fun in the way of accessories: stuffed kittens, clocks, a comb and a brush, a classic black phone. I’m also imagining a mobile made from colorful knit mittens and socks.

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