Literaritea: Classics and new favorites

Literaritea is a fresh series in which Megan offers a taste of her experiences reading picture books and poetry aloud to her five boys, ages 2-12. Ideally we have teatime with our literature, but not always. These are the 
books that resonate with all of us and if I don’t own these titles yet, I am in the process of acquiring them–they’re that good.

Rikki Tikki Tavi by Rudyard Kipling, adapted and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. Morrow Junior Books, 1997. 48 pages.

My two older boys were participating in a library research program this morning, and I had an hour to spend with my 2, 5 and 7yo sons. It’s tough to compete with the lone library game tablet and a Garfield book, but I decided to read aloud anyway and assume they would listen in spite of themselves. The story of a cuddly cobra-killer and the boy he rescues is irresistible, and sure enough, by the end of Rikki Tikki Tavi, all three boys were snuggling and crowding in to see the pictures. Would the mongoose be a match for a vengeful cobra widow determined to possess the family’s garden with her offspring?

Curse in Reverse by Tom Coppinger, illustrated by Dirk Zimmer. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2003. 32 pages.

I know of two picture books about witches that are actually pro-family. I prefer to think of such characters as fairies in disguise, because there are plenty of those in traditional fairy tales. I often refer to this story when I am busy and my hands are full with a fussy little one while I am trying to help another.

A witch out in the cold asks for shelter first from an innkeeper, then a rich man, and finally a poor couple who have little to offer. When she is rebuffed by the first two, she leaves a cryptic curse which is misunderstood, but justice is dealt humorously. When she pronounces “the curse of the one-armed man” on the couple who has shown kindness, they are perplexed because they didn’t know what else they could have done for her, but all is made clear when she visits a year later. Delightful reminder to show hospitality to strangers.

Great Children’s Stories: The Classic Volland Edition by Frederick Richardson. Checkerboard Press, 1972. 48 pages.

It’s fun to read collections that include both popular and obscure stories, along with variations on familiar themes. This is a great volume for introducing younger readers to a high standard of literary excellence and prepare them first for more lengthy fairy tales, like Andrew Lang, and later for the Great Books.

(Note: Several stories deal casually with death like many fairy tale collections.)

Yoo-Hoo, Ladybug! by Mem Fox, illustrated by Laura Ljungkvist. Beach Lane Books, 2013. 32 pages.

Still a favorite with the two-year-old. See review here.

The Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman, illustrated by Marla Frazee. HMH Books for Young Readers, 2000. 32 pages.

Most mothers know the reality of dealing with children’s eating preferences. Mrs. Peters is initially amused by her firstborn’s insistence that he will ONLY drink warm milk, and her daughter’s rejection of everything but homemade pink lemonade. There are so many things I love about this book: the poetry, the illustrations, the mother taking time to practice the cello while her youngest dumps lumpy oatmeal on the cat, the house full of books, the abandoned cello when fixing food for finicky eaters consumes all the mother’s time. The solution is charming.

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Megan is Associate Editor for Redeemed Reader who loves nothing more than helping readers (and non-readers) find books which are not only a good fit for them, but also combine Truth and Story. She has never regretted reading all those fairy tales in childhood, even though she didn’t realize at the time how much they matter to real life. She is the founder of Literaritea Press and plans to publish her first picture book soon. Megan lives with her husband and five boys in Virginia where she enjoys knitting, playing with words, and mountain views.

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