Friday, September 30, 2011

Dumbo - 70th Anniversary Edition Blu-Ray / DVD Combo - Review

One of the reasons I adore Disney's animated movies is because so many of the films are based on children's books and stories. In 1941, the Disney studio released their fourth animated classic -- Dumbo, an emotion stirring film about a little elephant with big ears. The simple and short movie, with its main focus on one memorable, loveable character is, in my mind, the most picture book-like animated film ever released by Disney. The story unfolds just as one would expect in a children's book, a combination of efficient storytelling and fantastic artwork that advances the storyline.

"But I think I will have seen ev'rything, when I see an elephant fly." - "When I See An Elephant Fly", song by Ned Washington and Oliver Wallace

This year marks Dumbo's 70th anniversary. Dumbo has always been an emotional film for me to watch. I remember viewing it as a child and feeling terribly sad when Dumbo was separated from his mother and ostracized by his fellow elephants. I'm pretty sure the film helped shape my mental image of a circus as it was one of my earliest exposures to circuses. The bright images of the circus portrayed in the animation, the elephants and all the animals, the clowns -- they certainly made an impression on my young mind. Even though the plot is relatively simple, the movie is so powerful and presents an important life message. Almost everyone can find some way to identify with the main character. Dumbo, though handicapped by his big ears, finds a way to fly high, to soar above those who taunted him and he eventually adapts and overcomes the obstacle of his large ears. We all have obstacles we face in life, we all endeavor to fly and achieve success in our own way. With a magic feather, a little confidence boost (and good friends like Timothy Q. Mouse) anything is possible.

Unlike the first three animated classic films to come out of the studio, Dumbo was produced on a limited budget. The pictures look a little more cartoon-like and are less elaborate than other films. But this style fits the film perfectly. After all, a circus is a rather cartoon like place. There's a definite emphasis on the animals in this film and many of them talk, with the exception of Dumbo. His feelings are clearly expressed in the creative animation. Speaking of creativity, while most of the film is the normal animation, there's an unusual pink elephant dream sequence, a completely surreal and unforgettable scene! I like many parts of this film, but I think my favorite scene is the one where Dumbo's mom rocks him in her trunk while the "Baby Mine" song plays. That scene pulls at my heartstrings and effectively shows the strong bond of love between Mrs. Jumbo and Dumbo, between a mother and her child. Both my kids watched the movie with me and seemed to enjoy it, despite the heartbreaking moments.

My son is particularly fond of all the Dumbo scenes in which the Casey Jr. Circus Train appears. In fact, the Blu-Ray menu shows a version of the train and you scroll through the menu choices, left and right in a way similar to train cars moving on a track. I learned a lot about the history behind the Dumbo movie by watching the Blu-Ray features:
- audio commentary (Cine-Explore version of the film)
- "Taking Flight: The Making of Dumbo"
- Celebrating Dumbo featurette

The Blu-Ray also includes a deleted scene, deleted song, a short film on the Dumbo ride at Disneyland, some games and a couple of animated shorts (The Flying Mouse and Elmer Elephant).

Was Dumbo originally a children's book before it was made into a Disney movie? Yes, well sort of. The story, written by Helen Aberson and Harold Pearl wasn't really a published work when Disney bought the rights. While a brief mention of these authors is made in the advanced features included on the DVD, the informative pieces don't really go into details. According to "The Mysterious Dumbo Roll-A-Book" article by Michael Barrier, the story was copyrighted in 1939 as a "Roll-A-Book," a special book on rolls with pages that you could turn by rolling knobs on the side of the device. Sadly there are no surviving Dumbo "Roll-A-Book" copies, and it is unclear if any were released at all. Read Barrier's in-depth article to learn more about the original authors and the Disney acquisition. Interestingly enough, the original story features a robin instead of a mouse as Dumbo's friend and confidant.

If your family hasn't seen Dumbo or it's been awhile since you watched the film, you might want to consider giving it a play on a family movie night sometime, especially if your kids are a little older. It doesn't take much time to watch at only 63 minutes long. I'm certainly glad we had the chance to review this 70th anniversary edition. It's a great Disney classic to own.

Related Links:

Download Printable Activities!
Download Printable Activities!

(DVD Source: 2-Disc Combo Pack provided for review purposes by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. All opinions expressed are my own. I am an Amazon affiliate and may receive a very small commission for products purchased through my Amazon links. View my full disclosure statement for more information about my reviews.)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Apples! From Orchard to Applesauce

Every fall we visit a lovely orchard near Madison, WI. Though just outside the city, Door Creek Orchard is surrounded by rolling hills and woodland and features upper and lower orchard areas. The beautiful rural setting is one of the reasons we continue to go back, year after year. The owners of the orchard also raise Black Welsh Mountain sheep (a rare breed not seen much in North America). I'm not sure what part of the excursion my kids love more -- picking apples or visiting the sheep!

We used some of our pick-your-own apples to make homemade applesauce. I like to make applesauce in small batches that we can eat immediately. Someday maybe I'll try canning.

When making applesauce, I don't peel the apples. It's an unnecessary step if you're planning on straining after cooking. (Technically, you wouldn't need to remove the seeds either, but my kids like to play with the seeds while the apples are cooking.)

Quarter 10-12 apples and add 1 cup of water to the pan. Allow the apples to simmer covered for about 8-10 minutes or until soft.

While we waited for the apples to cook, we made words out of the apple seeds.

We use a cone and pestle stainless steel strainer (also called chinois or china cap set) to strain the applesauce and remove the skins. This is an old-fashioned method of straining, but it really works well for small batches and the kids enjoy smashing the pulp with the pestle.

The McIntosh apples were sweet enough that we didn't need to add any sugar to our applesauce!

Find more of this week's Wordless Wednesday (or Wordful) posts at 5 Minutes for Mom.

Recent winners!

It's been awhile since I posted the winners of the Brimful Curiosities contests. Never fear, I always get the winners picked but I'm not always so good at writing the announcement. As in previous contests, I used to pick the winners. Congrats!

Ladybug Girl books by Jacky Davis and David Soman

The winners are kelsie rae. (comment #48) and mom22kids05 (comment #32).

Alice's Pawfect Tea-Party kit by Storybook Tea Kit Company.

The winner is freddie (comment #19).

Bailey by Harry Bliss

The grand prize winner of a Bailey Lunchbox and copy of the new book Bailey is MaryAnne (comment #5).

Two (2) other winners won a copy of the book Bailey by Harry Bliss: melanie (comment #92) and Katrina (comment #29).

Monday, September 26, 2011

ZhuZhu Pets Fashion Runway and Outfits - Review

My daughter has already started writing out her wish list in preparation for Christmas. I know, I know, it's still September, but a girl can still dream, right? Plus, her early lists give me a chance stay ahead with holiday gift buying. I've always thought it would be nice to have all the gifts purchased before the December rush. Unfortunately, I've never actually been that organized.

Looking back at last year's lists, one of my daughter's only requests for Santa was a ZhuZhu pet. (She always prepares two separate lists -- one for Santa and one for the rest of us.) Santa came through and left a black and white ZhuZhu pet in her stocking. She's played with her pet on and off throughout the year. Thanks to MomSelect and ZhuZhu Pets, recently her ZhuZhu play has increased quite a bit. We received a large package containing ZhuZhu pet fashion related products for review.

My daughter's favorite fashion product out of the products provided for review is the Wedding Dress Stylin' Outfit. The dress clips easily onto any ZhuZhu pet. The outfit also includes a flower-accented headband veil. Toys"R"Us currently has all the fashion outfits on sale for $4.99 each. Since my daughter acquired the dress, several of our ZhuZhu pets have exchanged vows and touched noses (that's how ZhuZhu pets give kisses, according to my daughter.)

I took a close-up picture of the bottom of the ZhuZhu pet to show you how an outfit clips securely to the bottom of the ZhuZhu pet. I'm impressed how this design ensures that the outfits do not impede the pet's movement and keeps the fabric away from the wheels.

We also received the Zhu Zhu Pets Fashion Playset - Fashion Runway. The Fashion Runway gives fancy diva ZhuZhu pets a chance to model their stylish outfits and pose for the paparazzi. The playset can either be used as a stand-alone accessory or it can be connected to other playsets to build a larger area for ZhuZhu pets to play.

The Fashion Playset comes unassembled and includes the following parts:
- a circular lighted stage (on/off switch on the bottom controls the colorful, blinking lights - 3 AAA batteries are included)
- runaway ramp with paparazzi, archway, y-intersection and u-connectors
- 1 stylish outfit with headpiece accessory (ZhuZhu pet not included)

Like in many of the habitat playsets, stimuli grooves in the ramp cause a response when the pet travels over the bumps. My kids love all the funky music the ZhuZhu pets play when they run over the ramp. The paparazzi images on the sides also swing outward when a ZhuZhu pet crosses the ramp and the stage lights start flashing. Because of the angle of the ramp, some of our ZhuZhu pets (especially those with a new battery) jump over the grooves and won't play any music. Also, the edges on the circular, lighted stage aren't quite high enough and instead of traveling around, fully powered ZhuZhu pets will hop the side and get stuck on the edge. In our experience however, ZhuZhu pets with partially drained batteries work just fine on this playset. Despite the slight design issues, both my kids think it's a blast letting their pets strut their stuff on the flashy runway.

Besides the fashion products, Cepia LLC (the creators of ZhuZhu pets) has expanded the ZhuZhu pet line to include ZhuZhu Puppies and ZhuZhu Babies. Guess what's on my daughter's list for Santa this year? -- a ZhuZhu puppy, of course! (Once again, I'm just glad she's not asking for a real animal!)

Many thanks to MomSelect and ZhuZhu Pets for providing a new ZhuZhu Pet, ZhuZhu Pets Runway and Outfit for my family to review. Learn about the latest Zhu-niverse developments at the following ZhuZhu Pets sites: Twitter, Facebook or on YouTube.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Where's Walrus? by Stephen Savage - Book Review and Walrus's Whiskers Craft

I've featured a number of wordless picture books on my blog, but the truth is wordless picture books weren't really on my radar before I had kids. However, after having kids I quickly realized the value of a book without words. Wordless picture books provide a wonderful tool to encourage interaction while reading together. They also help young children develop their oral communication skills and heighten their observation skills. Elementary-aged kids can use the books as a writing tool and write their own story to accompany the illustrations.

One of our favorite new wordless picture books is Where's Walrus? by Stephen Savage. My preschool-age son has wanted to "read" this walrus book nearly every day for the past month!

Where's Walrus? by Stephen Savage. Scholastic Press (February 2011); ISBN 9780439700498; 32 pages
Book Source: Copy from public library

All is quiet and peaceful at the zoo but Walrus apparently needs a change of pace. He decides to escape from the confines of the boring zoo and explores the city, careful to remain hidden from a searching zookeeper who tries to discern Walrus's whereabouts. To disguise himself Walrus literally tries on all sorts of different "hats," different life experiences. He blends in with firefighters, cabaret dancers, painters and more. Eventually he plunges headfirst into a perfect opportunity.

First of all, the design and straightforward illustrations in this book are fantastic. The uncluttered images and bold clean lines show off Savage's stellar graphic design talents and look modern and retro at the same time. Although Walrus tries to blend into various scenes, he's ridiculously and joyously easy to find (for all except the zookeeper...all those hats sure trick him). Kids won't have any problems spotting Walrus in the pictures, thus no frustration. In fact, when reading the book, my kids point out ways walrus could better camouflage himself. Did Walrus escape the zoo with a plan in mind or did he just luck out in life? Guess Savage leaves that part of the story up to the reader's imagination.

Related Links:
Stephen Savage - Website
Stephen Savage - Twitter

☆ ☆ ☆ Letter "W" Where's Walrus's Whiskers Craft ☆ ☆ ☆

OK, Mr. Savage. We fully enjoyed the "Where's Walrus" search, but one question lingering on our minds is where are Walrus's whiskers? There is a hint of a few whiskers opposite the copyright, dedication page but for the remainder of the book, Walrus's whiskers seem to have vanished! The zookeeper has a nice full "walrus" mustache but poor Walrus is without his characteristic thick and bushy stache. We know full well from our research that a walrus depends on his whiskers to help locate food.

We decided to help Walrus out with a Letter "W" Where's Walrus's Whiskers craft! To make this craft, I traced Walrus's face onto a piece of gray paper, using the large walrus image opposite the copyright page as a guide. My son and I discussed how Walrus's mouth is shaped like the letter "W" while we glued the walrus picture onto a white sheet of paper. My son then broke thin spaghetti into small pieces. He glued the spaghetti pieces onto Walrus's snout and added two paper tusks. Finally, Walrus has found his whiskers!

Shibley Smiles
A Mommy's Adventures hosts the "stART" meme (Story + Art) each week. Add your kids craft post to the Kid's Get Crafty linky at Red Ted Art's Blog. Join in Read Aloud Thursday at Hope is the Word. Wrote a post about play? Join the It's Playtime party! Find more great book tie-ins at JDaniel4's Mom Read, Explore, Learn link-up. Browse more book posts at Little Sprout Books' Feed Me Books Friday.

I am an Amazon affiliate and may receive a very small commission for products purchased through my Amazon links. (View my full disclosure statement for more information about my reviews.)

Full to the Brim - Kid's Book Giveaway List (9/23/11)

Happy 1st Day of Fall! Please check out my other "Full to the Brim" posts as well. Many contests are still underway. I *try to* publish "Full to the Brim" every Friday. If I missed your book giveaway, feel free to mention it in the comment section or send me an email. Thanks for visiting my blog and come back soon!

My Giveaways:
Alice's Pawfect Tea-Party from Storybook Tea Kit Company - Ends 9/26/11
Llama Llama Home with Mama by Anna Dewdney + Llama Llama Plush - Ends 10/3/11

Book giveaways:
Reviewed by Mom - Book Giveaway Ends 9/30
The Giant Book of Giants by Saviour Pirotta
Delightful Chaos - Book Giveaway Ends 9/16
The Field Guide to Dinosaurs
That's It Mommy - Book Giveaway Ends 9/28
American Girl Cécile and Marie-Grace Boxed Set
What Do We Do All Day? - Book Giveaway Ends 9/23 11:59 EST
All Together Singing in the Kitchen by Nerissa Nields & Kathryna Nields
Teaching Authors - Book Giveaway Ends 9/30
Planet Middle School by Nikki Grimes (middle grade)
PS Mom Reviews - Book Giveaway Ends 10/6
children's book from Five Star Publications
Bookin' With Bingo - Book Giveaway Ends 10/4
Middle School, The Worst Years of My Life (audiobook) by James Patterson, Laura Park and Chris Tebbetts (middle grade)
Opinions of a Moody Mama - Book Giveaway Ends 10/4
set of Bloomsbury Kids books
Imagination Soup - Book Giveaway Ends 9/30
Boogie Monster Dance Kit including the Boogie Monster picture book by Josie Bissett
From the Mixed-up files of Middle Grade Authors - Book Giveaway Ends 9/24
signed copy of Dial M For Mongoose by Bruce Hale (middle grade)
The Children's Book Review - Book Giveaway Ends 10/17
Waiting for the Biblioburro by Monica Brown and John Parra
Shalom Life - Book Giveaway Ends 10/3
Every Thing On It by Shel Silverstein
Vintage Kids' Book My Kid Loves - Book Giveaway Ends 9/25
In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
Jump Into a Book - Book Giveaway Ends 10/10
Brian Selznick Book Set Giveaway: Boy with a 1000 Faces, Walt Whitman Words for America by Barbara Kerley (illustrated by Brain), The Houdini Box, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, and Wonderstruck

Llama Llama Home With Mama by Anna Dewdney Book Giveaways (some include a plush toy)
Delicious Mom Ends 9/23
Resourceful Mommy Ends 9/23 11:59 PM ET
5 Minutes for Mom Ends 10/3
There's A Book Ends 9/30
My Four Monkeys Ends 9/26
Mama Buzz Ends 10/3
Guessing All the Way Ends 9/26
Empowering Mommy Ends 9/25
I Like it Frantic Ends 10/2
Life With Levi Ends 9/24
Girl Gone Mom Ends 9/14

The Gruffalo DVD Giveaways (some include a copy of the book)
Reviewed by Mom Ends 9/27
Sippy Cup Mom Ends 9/29
Mom Start Ends 9/26
Delightful Chaos Ends 9/26
Tammy’s Two Cents Ends 10/7

Kellogg's and Scholastic Free Book Promotion- receive a $5 Scholastic Book Clubs coupon when you purchase any two specially marked participating Kellogg's® products and find the unique code inside each box. Visit the website for complete details.

Fish for more children's book giveaways at Lori Calabrese's Fish for a Free Book linkup each Friday

Monday, September 19, 2011

Llama Llama Home With Mama by Anna Dewdney: Giveaway and Review - Llama Clothespin Craft

"Llama" is a rather strange word, isn't it? It is one of the only English words that begins with a double "l." According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the word is Spanish in origin, from Quechua, the language spoken by the Incas. Two l's are typically pronounced as a y in the Spanish language so technically the word should read "yama" (or "lyama" in Quechua).

Several poets and authors have used the fun double "l" word in their works. Ogden Nash wrote an animal verse titled, "The Lama." Mary Ann Hoberman writes of "The Llama Who Had No Pajama" in her poetry book of the same title.

More familiar to kids nowadays is Anna Dewdney's New York Times bestselling Llama Llama picture book series. Part of the reason the books are so popular is that parents and kids can easily identify with the various childhood dramas that little Llama Llama character experiences. In the books, Llama Mama helps him cope with his emotions and reassures her little llama. Dewdney's books are a joy to read and the rhythmic verses roll of your tongue with repetitive "llama llama ... mama" and other rhymes. The newest and fifth book in the series is Llama Llama Home with Mama.

Llama Llama Home with Mama by Anna Dewdney. Viking / Penguin Books for Young Readers (August 2011); ISBN 9780670012329; 40 pages

"Llama Llama, red pajama, sick and bored, at home with Mama."

Llama Llama wakes up feeling yucky and ends up spending his day sick at home accompanied by his mama. Mama Llama does all she can to help her little llama recover but, go figure, ends up sick with the same illness. Luckily, Llama Llama follows his mama's example and knows just what to do to help his mama feel better. In her painted illustrations, Dewdney perfectly captures the trials of spending a day sick at home...expressions of exhaustion, red noses (somehow she makes a sore, red nose look cute) and mounds of handkerchiefs. She also includes plenty of expressive words revolving around the sickness theme (yes, shnorltes is a word in her book!)

Out of all the books in the series this is my favorite. For once Dewdney doesn't really address a behavioral issue, but writes of sickness and colds, something that all children and parents suffer with at some point. The premise is so sweet and tender -- Llama Llama and Mama at home sick together snuggling and taking care of each other. Even though Llama Llama becomes bored when he starts to feel better, he doesn't behave inappropriately. Instead, he finds a solution to address his boredom. His solution? Books! Any book that promotes reading together as a family (sick or not) is, in my opinion, a keeper.

Other books in the series: Llama Llama Red Pajama, Llama Llama Mad at Mama, Llama Llama Misses Mama and Llama Llama Holiday Drama.

Related Links:
Anna Dewdney - Author Website

Find printables, games, activities and more at

Watch the Barnes and Noble Storytime this month and listen to Anna Dewdney read from her new book, Llama Llama Home with Mama.

✩ ✩ ✩ ✩ Letter "L" Llama Llama Clothespin Craft ✩ ✩ ✩ ✩

The double "l" llama is the perfect word to use when discussing the letter "l" with preschoolers. I found a Llama Alphabet Coloring Page and printed it on cardstock paper for my son to color. We talked about a the letter "L" while he colored. After he finished coloring I cut out the llama and cut off the legs. My son was a little upset about this part of the craft but felt better when he saw that we were going to add new legs. We observed that a clothespin looks like a lower-case "l" and that the word "leg" also starts with "l." My son pinned the two double "l" clothespin legs on his llama and made his llama leap. Llama Llama likes to use his legs to leap!

Win a Llama Llama Prize Pack! Viking / Penguin has kindly offered to sponsor a special Llama Llama giveaway.

One (1) winner will receive a Llama plush and a copy of the new book Llama Llama Home With Mama

To enter the contest, leave a comment related to this post.
• For contact purposes, if you are a non-blogger or your email is not accessible in your blog profile, please leave a valid email address within the comment section.
• Contest is open to US
• Contest ends on Monday, October 3, 2011 at 11:59 PM CST.
• Winners will be chosen at random and sent email notifications.
Three ways to gain extra entries (Maximum total entries is 4; please leave a separate comment for each entry):
1st extra entry: Blog about this contest then post your link in the comment section.
2nd extra entry: Follow me on twitter (iambrimful) and tweet about the contest.
3rd extra entry: Follow Me! or subscribe by email or RSS reader

I am an Amazon affiliate and may receive a very small commission for products purchased through my Amazon links. (View my full disclosure statement for more information about my reviews.)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - Drenched! FD water fights

The area fire departments competed in a water fight competition. A damp mist fell on us as we observed the teams work together to spray the barrel across the line with the water stream. My daughter kept a close watch for rainbows.

Find more of this week's Wordless Wednesday (or Wordful) posts at 5 Minutes for Mom.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Introducing "We Read it Like This" - BBAW Interview Swap

September is here and you know what that means -- the end of summer, the start of school, and let's not forget about Book Blogger Appreciation Week! This week (September 12-16) is a time for book bloggers to discuss the best of the best, to network and to talk books and more books.

One of my favorite parts of the week is interview day. I spend a lot of time reading other bloggers' posts, but it's really fun to find out more about the people behind the blogs. It's even more exciting to discover new bloggers, especially bloggers with a passion for children's literature.

I'm not sure how the organizers go about pairing up interview partners but I lucked out this year. Today I have the pleasure of introducing you to Ellen, a newish children's book blogger from Madrid, Spain. Ellen posts reviews at her blog, We Read it Like This. Her reviews include a special twist. Can you guess what that special twist might be? (The blog title provides a clue.) Read on to learn why you should regularly read (and listen to) her splendid blog posts.

We Read It Like This Wind-up fish (c) Imogen Duthie. Used with permission

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BC (Janelle): Many children's book bloggers write about the "read-aloud" potential of the books they review. You take a slightly different approach in your book posts. You often provide your own audio recordings along with your reviews! (Very cool, by the way) What made you decide to start a blog and adapt this format for your reviews?
WRLT (Ellen): One of my son’s gifts last Christmas was a recording of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are read by both his parents, with music and effects added on in a bit of a rush but rather professionally by my radio journalist husband ( This was the first review and audio I posted on the blog.

Where the Wild Things Are read by We read it like this

Originally, my main reason for starting the blog was purely selfish. I wanted to keep a record of the books we read to our son, of what it was like reading them to him (both for us and for him). I also thought it would be nice for him (and us) now and later in life to have recordings of his favourite stories read by us, his parents. I thought a blog was a good way to actually get them down and keep it up, a way of committing to the idea.

Something else that encouraged me to start the blog was how many people remarked on my son’s power of concentration when it came to listening to –sometimes quite long– stories at a rather tender age. ‘My kid wouldn’t keep still for a minute’, they said. I was interested in showing that there is nothing special whatsoever about my son, and that it’s simply a question of choosing the right book (right for the kid and right for the adult reading it) in the “right” (natural, enjoyable) kind of way. I thought providing recordings of the (entirely personal) way we read my son’s favourite stories might be interesting for other parents, carers and teachers as a way of comparing notes and finding nice books to read.

BC (Janelle): Can you briefly describe the steps involved in making an audio recording for a post? What devices and tools do you use? Do you think that you'll eventually include your son in some of the sessions?
WRLT (Ellen): Except for the recording of Where the Wild Things Are, with the fancy music and effects, mentioned above, all the other recordings are just plain old me reading in front of a tiny Sony recorder that does the job. I sometimes do two takes but normally don’t even do that. If I manage to read it without tripping up on any words, it goes up. I do not intend to pose as a professional story-teller or “voice”. I’m not. I’m simply inviting readers of the blog to have a sneak and listen to the way we read some of our favourite stories.

Having said that, I’m sure we’ll do at least a couple more “fancier” recordings, because it was so much fun doing it and our son loved the result so much.

As to including my son in the recordings, I have actually been thinking about this recently, now that he can talk a lot more (he’s about to turn 2.5). I did include one snippet of my son joining in in the review of Julia Donaldson’s Tiddler, The Story Telling Fish. And as I say, I’m pondering about how to go about it from now. I think some stories in particular would really benefit from his presence in the recordings, making them truer to the way we actually read them. So yes, I’m sure he’ll gain more presence in the recordings as he grows older.

BC (Janelle): You obviously have a passion for children's books. Did you grow up with books? To who or what do you credit your love of reading?
WRLT (Ellen): I am indeed passionate about children’s books and this predates the birth of my son. I have always liked them and I continued to buy picture books and story books for my own pleasure right through university and as a full-grown adult.

I did grow up with books, yes. Both my parents are novelists. I grew up in a household where books weren’t an issue, they were just there, everywhere, as part of life, for you to pick up. My father used to tell and write stories for us and I remember my mother reading all sorts of things to us out loud well past the age when we could also do so on our own. So yes, my parents may have had something to do with it!

On your blog, you mention that you work as a translator. You also provide a translated "sister" blog to We Read it Like This called Lo leemos así . When looking at translated versions of familiar children's books, do you ever notice subtle differences in the stories, for instance, changed meaning or different verse rhythms? Do any children's books come to mind that you prefer reading in the English language or vice versa?
WRLT (Ellen): We are a bilingual (Spanish-English) family, so we read books in both languages. Generally speaking, if a book was originally written in English, we get it in English (although there are a couple of exceptions of books we’ve been given as gifts, and, of course, the books we get out of the library here, many of which are in translation, mainly from English).

Translation inevitably introduces change. Echoing the original tone and feel in the new language will often require substantial change in many different aspects. Rhythm is especially tricky. Spanish and English rhythms bear very little resemblance at all. So a good translation will recreate the rhythm in the other language by creating an equivalent rhythm in that language rather than attempting to ‘copy’ it.

Translating literature is no easy task. Unfortunately, children’s literature, perhaps because it is sometimes deemed a minor form of art –or at least the “text” part is-, is not always given to literary translator/writer teams or even to particularly professional translators, whatever their field of expertise. So when you find a good version in translation you really do feel like jumping up and down and waving it about. ‘Here! Look what I’ve found!’ An example of this is the Spanish translation of Michael Rosen’s We’re Going on a Bear Hunt. Dare I say I like it better than the original? (And I do like the original!). It manages to add to and complement the original in unexpected ways. It takes its playfulness and elaborates. I love it. Another example is poet Gloria Fuertes’ version of Sendak’s The Nutshell Library, a really lovely version that manages to recreate Sendak’s spirit in Spanish, rather than simply provide a translation of the words.

BC (Janelle): The majority of my readers are from the U.S. and Canada. Could you recommend a few children's books or authors popular in Madrid that we might not know about? Is it hard to find English language children's books in Madrid?
WRLT (Ellen): The Spanish tradition of children’s literature as we know it is a fairly new thing, especially the picture book concept. If one looks at what the (impressive number) of children’s book publishers are doing in Spain, many are looking back at US and British classics from the 40s onwards and publishing them for the first time in Spain (there are still so many interesting things that have never been published in Spanish that there is still a lot to be done on that front. Perhaps precisely for this reason, Spanish authors writing in Spanish find it quite hard to squeeze on to the scene. One of the ways many of the Spanish authors make it and survive is through the several extraordinarily generous picture book and book competitions in general held in Spain.

Recommendations? It’s hard to find things translated into English, but someone who does very interesting stuff is Daniel Nesquens. Check out his My Tattoed Dad available on Amazon.

I’m also a big fan of Carmen Martín Gaite’s Little Red Riding Hood in Manhattan and of Marta Echegaray’s Inciértico, a real gem of a book in the nonsense tradition.

Oh! And there is one fabulous book I’d like to recommend. Although originally published in German in 1993, A Taste of the Moon has become tremendously popular in Spain since it was published in Spanish in 1999 by the publisher Kalandraka. It was published by the same publisher in English last year. I don’t know how easy it might be to get your hands on a copy in English from outside Spain, but please do try! It’s more than worth it!

We buy our books online through Amazon or The Book Depository, so we have no problem getting English language books here. There are also quite a few bookshops with an English language kids section in Madrid. We can’t complain in that sense.

BC (Janelle): I know that you are fairly new to the book blog world. Do you have any personal blogging goals for the next year?
WRLT (Ellen): My main goal, and it is no small goal, is to keep it going! I work full time as a translator and I enjoy spending as much time as possible together as a family, so I really don’t have much free time. One to two posts a month is probably my realistic goal. My posts are long and I spend quite a long time on each of them!

Generally, my aim is to strike the right balance between rigour and enthusiasm and for it never, ever to become a chore.

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I've really enjoyed the chance to peruse Ellen's website this week, and I'm rather sad that she lives so far away. She sounds like exactly the kind of person I'd love to meet (adore her accent), and I bet our sons would get along wonderfully. On her blog she challenges others to make their own "we read it like this" recordings. I might just have to take her up on that challenge one of these days so we can compare. My family does a mean version of We're Going on a Bear Hunt. It's one of our favorites as well.

For other book blog interview swaps, visit the Book Blogger Appreciation Week website. And, visit We Read it Like This today to read my answers to Ellen's interview questions.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Press Here by Herve Tullet - Make Your Own "Interactive" Book

I'm late to the ballgame with this one, my friends (or yellow dot game, in this case). Press Here has been on my list to review since its release this spring even though I didn't receive a review copy. In fact, after reading many great reviews on other blogs, I donated money to our public library so that they could purchase a copy. Yes, we like the book that much. Now, pressing on to the review...

Press Here by Hervé Tullet. Chronicle Books (March 2011); ISBN 9780811879545; 56 pages
Book Source: Copy from public library

Starting with a yellow dot and some basic instructions, Hervé Tullet immediately pulls readers into his "interactive" book, giving them the illusion that they have control over what happens. Kids love to think they have power and control -- every parent knows that. Press the yellow dot, make something new happen. With every direction, every page turn, the book seems to respond to touch, clapping, shaking. It's just a book, just paper pages, no electronics, yet it engages and entertains in the same way as the most technologically advanced gadget. So simple, so delightful, so brilliant. A good read-aloud choice for both one-on-one and groups, believe me, if you want a book kids will excitedly swarm around, this one is it.

Thankfully, Press Here is a sturdily designed book, ready to withstand repeated readings. Not only does this book offer wonderful read-aloud potential, with the minimal text it's also great for beginning readers. The book's creative, innovative design is no accident. Hervé Tullet has design experience as an art director for ad agencies and a magazine illustrator. Press Here was originally published as Un Livre in France, and it seems Hervé Tullet is a very popular children's author there, earning the title of "The Prince of Preschool." I can't wait to locate copies of his books from Phaidon. (They offer translated book versions of a few more Tullet titles.) J'aime!

Want more Tullet brilliance? Hervé Tullet's website is a fantastic resource. Lots of colorful, interactive online activities. Take some time to explore around, learn a little French. My kids like scribbling in À toi de gribouiller (For You to Scribble) and coloring in The Colouring Book.

● ● ● ● "Sunflower Grow" Homemade Interactive Book ● ● ● ●

My kids wanted to make their own "press here" books. Our sunflowers have reached great heights and are in full bloom. We thought they'd make a good subject for our own interactive books, aptly titled "Sunflower Grow." I used Microsoft Word and the kids helped me with the wording of the text.

Sunflower Grow
Let's grow a sunflower! Press a seed into the ground. (1)
Tilt the book to the left to water the ground. (2)
A sprout! Hooray! Blow on the page to bring in a few clouds. (3)
The sprout needs rain. Tap the pages with your fingers. (4)
Look, the flower is growing! Touch the yellow dot to make the sun shine bright. (5)
Wow! The sunflower sure is tall. Touch the middle to help it grow some petals. (6)
What a big flower. Look at all those seeds! Thanks for helping the sunflower GROW! (7)

We printed out the pages and the kids used markers to draw the pictures in their books. On the final page, we experimented with pointillism, an art technique that uses dots to make a picture. We dipped a pencil eraser in paint and used it to paint the seeds. My daughter got a little impatient and all her dots combined together! So much for pointillism. Good thing we didn't try to make the whole picture this way.

Shibley Smiles
A Mommy's Adventures hosts the "stART" meme (Story + Art) each week. Add your kids craft post to the Kid's Get Crafty linky at Red Ted Art's Blog. Join in Read Aloud Thursday at Hope is the Word. Wrote a post about play? Join the It's Playtime party! Find more great book tie-ins at JDaniel4's Mom Read, Explore, Learn link-up. Browse more book posts at Little Sprout Books' Feed Me Books Friday.

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