Just So Stories

Our house is literally strewn with books. Everywhere you look there are little piles of them, some just lying around on the floor and stairs by themselves, some on the furniture, some balanced precariously on the bannister. One of the problems is that we don’t have enough bookshelves, at least not in convenient locations. The other is just that we have a lot of books – our own books, books that come home from the kids’ school and from our local library, books for work, baby books that somehow never got put away, magazines, etc. Many of these books are in various stages of being read, so it wouldn’t make sense to shelve them upstairs. A recent survey of the books in the bathroom revealed the following: Moby Dick, Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories, Tasha the Tap Dance Fairy, a Curious George board book, a field guide to clouds, Magic Treehouse #18: Buffalo Before Breakfast and a book about Sitting Bull. My daughter recently learned to read on her own and has become a reading machine. She’ll come home with a stack of library books and knock them off in a few days, then she re-reads her old ones, and anything she can get a hold off. My son is just learning to read, but he loves books. He’ll grab whatever and spend a long time looking at every page, examining every detail. He particularly likes to look at textbooks, so he’ll head upstairs and bring down Principles of Neuroscience or Biochemistry and just leaf through them. Once my mom was visiting and she was wondering why we had cell biology textbooks in the kitchen and cookbooks in the upstairs hallway. He also likes to go over his own books, many of which he has memorized, and read them aloud.

Recently there have been a couple of books that my kids (and me) have been really digging. The first is called Moonshot by one of my favorite illustrators, Brian Floca. It’s an incredibly illustrated book about the Apollo 11 mission to the moon. It comes complete with little mission diagrams at the beginning and then relates the story with ink and watercolor illustrations that are so well-done and so detailed that you can spend hours just looking at them and talking about them. I totally wish I had this book when I was growing up and everyone should get a copy.


From "Moonshot" by Brian Floca.


The second book is D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths by Ingri and Edgar d’Aulaire. This is an old book which I had when I was a kid. And it actually IS the copy I had as a kid so it’s a bit fragile, but it is still in print and easy to find. This is a classic. It is a straightforward retelling of the Greek Myths, the language simplified for kids, but it still has all the gory details. It’s full of these amazing, vivid pencil drawings that I still remember from when I was a younger. My daughter is particularly into this book. I think she likes the idea of someone coming up with a totally random alternative explanation for natural phenomena like echoes (a nymph who’s voice was stolen by Hera and could only repeat what others say) and winter (happens because Persephone must visit Hades for three months every year, one for every pomegranate seed she ate while she was there), plus she likes the drawings. My son likes the fighting parts.


Aphrodite in D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths


The third book, I’ve been reading aloud to both kids, and its The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. I used to absolutely love this book when I was growing up. It’s sort of a mix between Alice in Wonderland and The Hobbit, but different, and better. It’s about a kid who gets a tollbooth in the mail, assembles it and drives through it and finds himself in an alternate land with a watch-dog named Tock, who is part dog and part watch and… well you just have to read it. But the writing is excellent and full of satire and plays on words and has these great pen and ink illustrations by Jules Feiffer and I’m having as much fun reading it to my kids as they are.


Dr. Dischord, from The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster


So that’s what’s going down book-wise at home. How about you, reader, any interesting books that have you and your family entertained, or that you really liked when you were younger? Happy reading!

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6 Responses to Just So Stories

  1. Love, love, love The Phantom Tollbooth! Interesting you compare it to Alice and Hobbit. I always thought it had more of a Wizard of Oz feel to it with a dash of Dr.Dolittle 😉

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  3. Nat says:

    I also have my childhood copies of the D’Aulaire’s books of myth: Greek and Norse. I haven’t shown them to the boy recently, but I’ll have to dig them out soon. He might be more interested in them, especially the fighting parts.

    Since we just recently moved, most of our books are sadly packed away, and not straying all over the house. Well, the kiddie books are everywhere, which doesn’t bother me much. The kids love their books and obsessively examine them. I can’t wait until the oldest can read on his own. It’ll be something to watch I’m sure.

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  5. Arlenna says:

    Your daughter sounds like me as a kid. I lived books and would get so desperate to read that I would go for anything, even my parents’ scary books that I didn’t like that I had already read: Robert Heinlein (don’t know why that scared me, but it did) and H. P. Lovecraft.

    We had a Bookmobile that would come to the church parking lot across the street from us once a week. We loved it, and before we could even read words my sisters and I would go and get kids books. Once we decided to pick out a book for our mom, and we picked a thick, small-print book with a picture of a big diamond ring on the cover. We told the Bookmobile lady we were checking it out for our mom and brought it home. It turned out to be “The Bitch” by Jackie Collins.

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