I forgot to mention that the Christmas singing is half carols and half murder ballads. Also there were pierogies and vodka. What more can you ask for, really? We all had a blast.
Though we won't be living in the land of real winter until next year, and are instead marking our seasons by the difference between wanting a sweater before dark and not wanting it until after dark, there are some real season-oriented books in heavy rotation here. One is Chicken Soup with Rice.
Jane loves all the Nutshell Library books, because they are tiny and fascinating, and because I sing them to the tunes from Really Rosie.
Anything that combines reading with singing is a big hit right now. This includes a little board book in which "You Are My Sunshine" is about a teddy bear (rather than the woman who left me and "shattered all my dreams," and why exactly is this a favorite song to sing to one's children, anyway?) and Tweedle Dee Dee by Charlotte Voake, which is a take on "The Green Grass Grew All Around."
The music is in the back.
We love all of Charlotte Voake's books, especially this one, the two about a cat named Ginger, and the unfortunately out of print First Things First. Her quick and expressive pen-and-ink line reminds me of Quentin Blake's enviable looseness, without feeling like imitation Blake. Look at those birds on the cover!
The other seasonal book we have been reading a lot (Tweedle Dee Dee is not particularly about the seasons) is The Year at Maple Hill Farm, by Alice and Martin Provensen. Somehow I missed it in my own childhood, though I had seen the Provensens' illustrations in Nancy Willard's A Visit to William Blake's Inn. Steve's cousin sent it as a Christmas present for Jane, but the grown-ups have been enjoying it too.
It has so much packed into every page, but it never feels busy or cramped. For shorter attention spans, you can read the overview from the top of the page, or you can delve into the smaller details below. It is gentle but totally unsentimental, and often funny, too, and the art is of course fantastic.
You probably can't read it from here, but the picture of a cuckoo in the middle row says "This big bird is laying her egg in a little bird's nest. She must be cuckoo." Ho ho! The next picture is a sequel: "This little bird is feeding her babies. She must wonder why one baby is so big."
There is a companion book, Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm, and I want it, too.
All of these make me want to get back to drawing more. I am terribly out of the habit. My quick cartoonish owl is well honed from many instances of Jane shoving a pen and notebook in my face and saying "OWL PEASE" but everything else is just piles of rust.
How are you?