My fearless child loves the beach. “Don’t get wet, we are here for the sunset Foos,” we said.  Thankful she didn’t listen.

Photos: Seth




  1. Leo: A Ghost Story by Mac Barnett 2. A Fine Dessert: Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat by Emily Jenkins 3. Sidewalk Flowers by Jon Arno Lawson 4. The Skunk by Mac Barnett


Finally a library haul!  I had to get this one out before I return these gems to JPL tomorrow in exchange for another batch of beauties.

1. I cannot say enough wonderful things about Leo: A Ghost Story.  In fact, I have purchased this book three times (!) in the past month to give as a christmas present or birthday gift.  Mac Barnett writes the story of Leo, a ghost who after many years alone, is forced to find a new home and in the process makes a friend, Jane.  Jane believes Leo is an imaginary friend, and Leo, finally happy to have a play mate, is reluctant to reveal he is a ghost for fear of losing his friend.  I  readily admit I am guilty of over analyzing children’s books, but I love how subversive the illustrations by Christian Robinson are.  The understanding/creative/tour de force of a friend in this story, Jane, is  black.  As a woman of color and the aunt to beautiful little girls who look just like Jane, I can’t tell you how good that rare depiction made me feel.  Both cops depicted in the story are women.  And in contrast to what the media tells us criminals look like, the man who breaks into Jane’s house is a white man. Also, Mac Barnett dedicated this story to Jon Klassen, which made my cold heart grow three sizes. I love this illustrator/author bromance. It’s the little things, guys!

2. A Fine Dessert is one of those books Foos loved so much, we read it almost every night for two weeks.  Seth bought it for her for christmas, so I’ll be reading it every week for the rest of forever, hah.  A Fine Dessert, is, as the title describes, the story of the blackberry fool from England in the 1700’s to today.  A Fine Dessert is truly a sublime work of art.  If you look closely, you can see the story of the blackberry fool is not the only one being told.  This book is about changing gender roles, advancements in technology, changing racial relations, and changes in society. But most importantly, how through all of those (welcomed changes) the one constant is the love and bond of family and friendship.  The book includes a recipe for making a blackberry fool, which we made, and it was as delicious as the book itself.  Also, if you pay attention to the house scenes, the illustrator, Sophie Blackall, throws in an easter egg! Apparently, a little  black horse is a decor element that has, like the blackberry fool, been enjoyed centuries.

3. Sidewalk Flowers is a wordless book in which a little girl, on a walk with her father through the city, spots and collects sidewalk flowers.  I loved this book! I thought Sidewalk Flowers highlights the beauty that can be found in everyday life, if one looks closely and takes the time to stop and take it in.  The little girl not only spots and picks the flowers, but she also shares them with others.  True story, I read this book to my niece, nephew, and Foos during a sleepover.  The next day, on our walk home from the park, they picked up every flower they saw (weeds, really) and left one on the stoop or doorway of the homes we passed.  That alone is reason enough to share this book with your littles.

4.  The Skunk is the story a man who believes he is being followed by a skunk. Initially at least, it really does seem that way.  The man is so unsettled by the skunk’s presence that he moves away, only to find he misses the skunk.  Then roles are reversed, and he begins to stalk to skunk.  I think this story is good for both adults and kids.  Foos loved it because the shenanigans between the skunk and the man are silent movie funny. I think adults will love it because in a lot of ways the physical skunk in the story is representative of the metaphorical skunks in our lives. We try to ignore it, but its always there, lurking.

Read on!



Penelope Margo, or you know, Foos.

Our lovely neighbor, Leslie, moonlights as a florist.  She had a lot of flowers left over from a recent wedding, which I am told was very if-Lady-Galadriel-was-getting-married (seething with jealousy right now), so she made Foos a flower crown.  Dreamy, eh?

Photo: Seth



1. Joseph Had A Little Overcoat by Simms Taback 2. Neville by Norton Juster 3. When Louis Armstrong Taught Me Scat by Muriel Harris Weinstein 4. Isabella: Star Of The Story by Jennifer Fosberry

The ultimate lesson of Joseph Had A little Overcoat is you can always make something useful out of nothing.  Joseph has an overcoat, which eventually frays at the bottom, so he cuts off the fraying bits and turns into a jacket. That way what started out as an overcoat becomes many useful things for Joseph over time.  The illustrations are a feast for the eyes.  The edition we read included the lyrics to the yiddish song that inspired the book, and Foos being Foos insisted on singing it every time we read the story.  Joseph Had A Little Overcoat is a Caldecott Medal winner, you don’t really need my ramblings to tell you it’s good.

I picked up Neville mostly because it was written by Norton Juster, the author of The Phantom Tollbooth, a book that made my life when I first read it in the 6th grade.  Neville, about a boy doubting his ability to make friends in a new town, did not disappoint.  It is also a very relatable tale for most of us who had to move around as children without anyone considering our opinions on the matter.  I loved that the illustrations include a lot of gender and racial diversity.  It also seems as if Neville is being raised by a single mother, which is another thing many kids may relate to.  Reading it out loud is fun too, as there is a lot of shouting in this book, ha!

When Louis Armstrong Taught Me Scat is just a fun book – fun to read, fun to look at.  Louis Armstrong probably has a more accessible sound/personality than the jazz I like (Mingus), and I thought Foos would be into it.  In the book a little girl gets into Satchmo by listening to records with her mom, and later dreams she is getting her very own private lesson on how to scat from the man himself.  That dream makes up most of the story. It’s fun to read the scat improvisations between Satchmo and the girl out loud.  We spent quite some time looking at videos of the real Louis Armstrong on youtube after reading this book.  The story itself does not contain any biographical content, but in the back there is a nice page that does.

We own and love My Name Is Not Isabella, the feminist gem of a book by Jennifer Fosberry and Mike Litwin (it’s how Foos learned who Rosa Parks, Marie Curie, and Sally Ride were by the time she was two).  Isabella Star Of The Story is very similar in concept to that book, except instead of it being about famous women Isabella admires, this one is about all of the books she loves (Wizard of Oz, Alice In Wonderland to name just two).  Isabella is an amazing role model for kids. She is smart, spunky, interested in other women, loves to read, loves adventure, AND has purple hair. These books always manage to be both entertaining and informative. I know this blurb is supposed to be of Star Of The Story only, but I recommend all of the books in this series. I will probably be purchasing some as christmas gifts for my nieces and nephews this year.



LIBRARYHAUL11.The Enemy: A Book About Peace by Davide Cali and Serge Bloch 2. The Girl And The Bicycle  by Mark Pett 3. Edgar Wants To Be Alone by Jean-Francois Dumont 4. Sam & Dave Dig A Hole by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen 5. The Conductor by Laetitita Deverney

This library trip was actually library date with our good friend Alyse and her son Oliver.  We took the skyway downtown, had lunch in the library’s courtyard, and came home with these gems.

The Enemy is a book I very much enjoyed as an adult, but had a little difficulty explaining to my four year old, which is good. I don’t mind being uncomfortable. The Enemy tells the story of two soldiers stuck in trenches in opposite sides of a very long war. They both want to go home to their families, they both want the war to end, they are both filled with misconceptions of who “the enemy” really is. Foos actually read The Enemy alone before we had a chance to do so together. She kept saying “mom, the enemy is real, the enemy wants to kill us,” which as you can imagine freaked me out. Reading it together put what she had been repeating into context. The Enemy is beautiful and the message the story puts forth, that war is futile, is incredibly important and worth the slight discomfort you may feel explaining this story to your kid.

The Girl And The Bicycle is a wordless picture book. We are big fans of those kinds of books (looking at you, David Wiesner!) because the story always changes slightly in the telling, and everyone has a different way of explaining the story as put forth by the illustrations. The Girl And The Bicyle is about a girl who really wants a bicycle she spotted while on a walk with her brother. She counts all the money in her piggy bank realizes she doesn’t have enough.  Instead of giving up she works hard performing chores for a neighbor, and saving her earnings to purchase the bicycle. Judging by the change of seasons, it takes her about a year to earn enough. When she finally goes to the store to purchase the bicycle, it is gone. It isn’t a sad story (there is a really nice surprise at the end); it is a story about perseverance, kindness, and hard work.  The illustrations are lovely. If you look closely, there is a lot in the illustrations about the background of the woman she does chores for, too. A side story of love and loss, a hint of the person who probably helped her with chores around the house in the past.

Edgar Wants To Be Alone is a book a bout a paranoid and cranky rat, who hates the other animals at the farm he lives in, treats them poorly, and gets his comeuppance in the end. Throughout the book Edgar the rat is convinced he is being followed by an earthworm. By showing what Edgar is doing with what is going on underground simultaneously, the illustrations do a really good job of letting you know if there is anything to Edgar’s paranoia. While I thought it was fairly predictable, Foos loved it.

I spotted Sam & Dave Dig A Hole in the “New Arrivals” section of the library AFTER I had checked out my other books, and just had to have it. I love Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen, together, individually, anyway you want to set them up, their work is always amazing. We had to read Sam & Dave Dig A Hole like three times before we realized what was going on, and even then I’m not quite sure. The book is funny, Sam & Dave start digging a hole to look for treasure, and every time the get close to finding something, they change direction or get tired. Their dog comes along and the poor dog always seems to know exactly where the treasure is, but is unable to communicate it to the boys. The ending is a bit of a mind fuck — they end up back “home” except its not the same house at the beginning of the book at all.  They go in for a snack and I just want to yell “DONT GO IN THAT HOUSE IT’S NOT YOUR HOUSE!” but they do, and that is how the book ends. For all I know they are in another dimension, or got murdered, or maybe they got their snack. I don’t know and neither will you, but its a great book never the less.

The Conductor is another wordless picture book.  I was attracted to the Goreyesque illustrations and the unusual dimensions of the book, which lent it an air of a being interesting/artsy. The illustrations show an orchestra conductor, conducting nature; a flick of his hands wills the leaves off the trees, turning them into birds.  It’s a really beautiful book, whimsical and dreamy, but it doesn’t lend itself to much story telling.