A few years ago, when we’d taken the kids to New Zealand for a month to travel about in a caravan, we found ourselves in a bookstore of all places. Shocking, I know. I had just started this blog and was looking for children’s books by kiwi authors. The kindly old clerk steered me to a table with several wonderful local books (like this one and this one which are totally worth searching out and reading by the way), but she couldn’t stop herself from recommending a British author, Julia Donaldson. “But huff you rid The Gruffalo, Dear? It’s just the bist book, all the kuds luff it, we sill heaps of ’em.” Indeed I had not. So I added it to my pile and checked out.
I tell you, it was the sleeper hit of the year, and as the perpetual reader of it, I promise you I have not grown tired of reading it aloud. I have it in my list of books to write about on this blog, I’m not sure why I haven’t done it yet. But I’m afraid another one of Julia Donaldson and illustrator Axel Scheffler’s books is taking precedence today- you know, Halloween and all.
Here’s the thing: it’s really, really hard to get the rhythm right (read: consistent) in a rhyming book. And even if you can get the rhythm to flow, it’s crazy difficult to keep the narrative clever and smooth within the cadence. It’s a rare book that comes along and kills it on both fronts. For instance, we all love Dr. Seuss, he’s got the beat, man! But 70 some pages of nonsensical prose is enough to drive me batty on the 15th reading. On the other hand, Ludwig Bemelmans was the master of a simple and jaunty story. The original Madeline is pure gold, but while subsequent titles begin with the same handful of pages of smooth prose, you soon realize that all of a sudden the meter is changing from page to page and the forced rhyme is sometimes in the middle of a sentence without pause, and you just feel so stilted trying to get through them that you just want to return to the zoo where Madeline would just say “pooh pooh” and call it a day!
Now stand down, Madeline lovers. Madeline was hands down my very favorite book as a little girl, and to my own children I’ve read all six books no fewer than two hundred times. Elsie’s actually going to be Madeline for Halloween for lord’s sake (oooh, which gives me another idea for next year). But oh man, “A circus lion earns his bread By scaring people half to death.” What what? How does that even rhyme? “The magician, as he took his pill, said ‘Ask me, Madeline, what you will.’ Said she, ‘I’ve cooked a dinner nutritious, Will you please help me with these dishes?” Just stop, you crazy genie. We’ll stick with the original thankyouverymuch and look past the page that says “Madeline woke up two hours Later, in a room with flowers.”
Bemelmans still has the upper hand on illustrations, mind you, which is probably why I haven’t rushed to get a post out on The Gruffalo. I mean the pictures in Madeline are so wispy and bright and full of life! And the illustrations in The Gruffalo are kind of ho hum I suppose. But no matter, it’s a fantastic book- rush out and find The Gruffalo, your kuds will luff it, I promise. But I digress, this post is not about Madeline or The Gruffalo, it’s about Donaldson’s delightful Halloween book, Room on the Broom.
Julia Donaldson has that magic touch, reading her books is effortless and smooth and most of all fun. Her rhythm is on point, as they say these days, and her stories are super entertaining and enjoyable.
Room on the Broom is a story about an apparently clumsy witch who keeps dropping things as she flies along on her broomstick. When she dips to gather them, she finds new characters that would like to ride along with her. Her broom gets heavier and heavier until it snaps and her passengers fall to the ground, and at that moment a big nasty dragon comes after her and so her new friends must somehow come to her rescue.
It’s a special kind of holiday book that I want to keep in our shelf all year long, and this is it, my friends! The rest of them get boxed up along with the glass pumpkins and the Happy Halloween pennant.
SO! What are everyone’s plans for Halloween? Costumes? This year Elsie, as I said, is going to be Madeline, and Toby is obsessed with The Gnome Book, so he’s going to be a woodland gnome. Pictures to come, I’m not quite finished with their costumes yet. But Halloween is right up there toward the top of my favorite holidays list, I’m sure I’ll be sharing pictures on the Facebook page as soon as they’re done!
What’s that? You haven’t liked the FB page yet?! Get on that, friend…
These aren’t book reviews, per se, but more profiles of the really, really good ones. Recommendations, really, for which I am not compensated. If you’re looking to buy any of them you can click on the the links and cover photos in each post, OR you can click on the little box over there on the right that says “amelie’s bookshop (buy the books)” and it will take you to my Amazon Affiliate store- you’re buying them as you normally would through Amazon, except that I get a teeny tiny commission. Or even better, walk on down to your local independent bookseller and support them.