Doing some digging into the lives/works of Ingri and Edgar Parin d'Aulaire--the lovebird creators of one of the books I cherish most, a dreamy anthology of Greek myths published first in 1962. D'aulaires' Book of Greek Myths is a kid-vibe, colored-penciled, William Blake-ish spectacular, and (adorably) was lithographed by Ingri and Edgar's son Per Ola! The couple was ASKED by the New York Public Library to start making children's books! Pretty cool.
Drawings like the eyeball-covered Argus, and Heracles battling the lion are burned indelibly into my my mind. These were among the first stories I read where it felt like something real serious was on the line. Like Edith Hamilton for kids or a an awesome addendum to the exposure Percy Jackson is affording classicism! The index at the end is especially rad for school projects!
See also, the recently re-released (by New York Review of Books) D'aulaires' Book of Trolls, D'Aulaires' Book of Animals, and D'Aulaire's Book of Norse Myths!
New NW kids magazine now on newsstands! Includes "Knickknacks and Turnipheads," my interview with Emily Winfield Martin-- author of Oddfellow's Orphanage and The Black Apple's Paperdoll Primer-- as well as Green Bean's reviews of the best books for young creatives.
As we celebrate Women's History Month here at Green Bean, I thought it would be fun to celebrate a few fictional female characters (and their authors) who've inspired us as well! I sat down this morning to make a list of the imaginary women and girls who've influenced me throughout the years, and I could hardly narrow it down. Eventually, (after much anguish and deliberation) I came up with a top five. And as much as I would have loved to include picture book heroines like Olivia the Pig and Miss Rumphius, there just wasn't room. (Maybe I will give the picture book ladies their own list one day.) I do hope you'll share your top five in the comments or let us know in person. Without further ado...
1. Anne Shirley, from Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery. What can I say? There really is no other female character who has inspired me as much, at so many different stages of my life. From childhood to adulthood, I have considered Anne Shirley a kindred spirit and 'bosom friend.'
2. Meg Murray from A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L'Engle. The Wrinkle series was my first introduction to science fiction as a kid and I've been hooked ever since. Meg was a glasses-wearing misfit, not unlike myself, and her smarts, humor, and fierce loyalty have cemented her in my mind as the ultimate girl sci-fi hero.
3. Cassie Logan, from Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry, by Mildred Taylor. Cassie's kindness, love for her family, and even naivete are what drew me to her as a child, but as an adult, I can't help bu be struck by her willingness to grow and change and face the world head-on, even when everything seems wrong.
4. Cassandra Mortmain, from I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith. What's not to love about a girl who lives in a tumbledown castle with her quirky, artistic, (pennyless) parents and sister in the 1920's? Cassandra's narration, wit, true individuality, and her capacity for love, have never failed to make me a blubbery, teary mess (in a good way).
illustration by Lizzie Stewart
5. Ananka Fishbein and all of the Irregulars, from the Kiki Strike series, by Kirsten Miller. Okay, okay, so this might be cheating a bit. There are six girls. AND I didn't technically find the Kiki Strike books until I was already an adult, but I've been such a fan since then, I just couldn't resist including them. Kiki and all the delinquent girl scouts are pure fun. Had I read these books as a child, my number one wish would have been to grow up to be a butt-kicking super spy. (Actually, that is still my number one wish.) The Irregulars are truly superheroes for the modern age.
Written in verse and apportioned like a diary, Thanhha Lai's Newberry Honor and National Book Award-winning Inside Out & Back Again is a wonder-- a rare middle-reader occasioning close and gentle reading.
Inside Out's ten year old hero and narrator Hà is both tough and tender. She faces a mind-boggling migration from communist-occupied Saigon to an All-American Alabaman outpost with the humor and heart we are all working toward.
A beautiful introduction to the Vietnam War, Vietnamese culture more broadly, and to the trials of entering a new life and language as a refugee in the United States. This is a particularly good one for parents and young readers to enjoy and unpack in tandem. So happy to welcome a new lyric-loving voice to the genre! I'm a full-fledged Lai fan already!
ROUTINE (From Part II At Sea)
Mother cannot allow
hers or anyone else's.
After one week
on the ship
Brother Quang begins
I wish he would
keep it to:
How are you?
This is a pen.
But when an adult is not there
We must consider the shame of abandoning our own country
and begging toward the unknown
where we will all begin again
at the lowest level
on the social scale.
It's better in the afternoons
with Brother Vũ
who just wants us
to do front kicks
and back kicks,
at times adding
Brother Khôi gets to monitor
lines for the bathrooms,
where bottoms stick out
to the sea
behind blankets blowing
in the wind.
When not in class
I have to stay
within sight of Mother
like a baby.
Mother gives me
her writing pad.
there's but one pad.
so I draw
over my words.
Pouches of pan-friend shredded coconut
Tamarind paste on banana leaf
Steamed corn on the cob
Rounds of fried dough
Wedges of pineapple on a stick
And of course
cubes of papaya tender and shiny.
Mother smooths back my hair,
knowing the pain
of a girl
who loves snacks
but is stranded
on a ship.
I don't know about you, but I was mighty shocked to open my curtains to a snowy white yard this morning. As beautiful as it was, (and as much as I do love snow) I will admit to being a little disheartened. Snow on the 1st day of March? What about spring?
I happened to pick up And Then It's Spring, by Julie Fogliano for a read when I got to work, and I am oh so glad I did. I'm not sure how they've done it, but Fogliano and illustrator Erin E. Stead have managed to create the perfect balm for the anxious, rain-soaked Portlander's soul!
At heart, the story is one of simple anticipation, but it's really so much much more than that.
Recognize the illustration style? The incredibly talented Stead won the Caldecott Award two years ago for her work on, A Sick Day for Amos McGee. We just adore her illustrations, and were thrilled to find this great interview with her over at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. It's such a treat to catch a glimpse of artists' lives and work. (And what an adorable pooch!)
“or maybe it was the bears and all that stomping, / because bears can’t read signs / that say things like / ‘please do not stomp here— /
there are seeds / and they are trying’ "
And Then It's Spring is the perfect reminder that the snow will melt, the green will return, and March will go out like a lamb in the end. Until then, I'll just have to put daffodils in every room in the house.
We still have a few copies left of this lovely book in store, so come on down and see it for yourself!