Showing posts with label Chinese Zodiac. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chinese Zodiac. Show all posts

Friday, January 31, 2014

Happy Year of the Horse!

2014 Chinese New Year of the Horse
image from Story Nory
2014 is the Year of the Horse -- those born this year like to buck the rules and move forward quickly! Time to try new things and make big changes this year...if you're a horse, of course. 

As for me, I always enjoy making a booklist for the Chinese New Year. This year it's so easy that I have to limit myself to my traditional five titles! Here are some suggestions for reading in this Year of the Horse.

My Friend Flicka / Mary O'Hara

The story of a dreamy young boy who learns responsibility by caring for a horse, the eponymous Flicka. Fathers and sons, wild horses, dangerous illnesses... this really has it all. Plus a movie!
Frog, the horse that knew no master / Colonel S.P. Meek

A fun book I remember reading when I was quite young, this is a set of stories about an army horse named Frog, so named because of his habit of leaping forward from a standstill. The story is all about the military life in 1920's India and is very much of its time. But I recall a good read, and I loved the addendum in my edition that was all about military codes -- that led to some entertainment as well.
Misty of Chincoteague / Marguerite Henry

A beautiful book, just one in Henry's series of books about horses. I read this one first in a large edition full of pictures in my grade school library, and loved it. These days I might find the old fashioned gender roles a bit much, but hey, it's a great horse story.
Warhorse / Michael Morpurgo

Joey, a gentle farm horse, is sold to the army and sent to the battlefields of WWI. While dodging the noise and confusion of the war while helping to drag artillery and remove the wounded from the front lines, Joey wonders if the war will ever end, and when he will return home to his young master Albert. 

The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses / Paul Goble

And to finish off, a picture book. This 1979 Caldecott winner is a retelling of Plains Indian myth about a girl who loved wild horses so much she became one of them, leaving her tribe to run wild with the herd. Striking illustrations for the time, and a story of deep connection with the wider world.
And you? What are some of your favourite horse stories?

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Happy Chinese New Year!

image from etsy

Happy Year of the Snake!  

Chinese New Year this year falls on February 10th... what will it bring you? You can peek at a few predictions for the year at Elephant Journal, if you are at all intrigued by such things.

To continue a yearly tradition, here is a list of books featuring snakes:

Jungle Book capital K

1. The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling

Kaa is a character in Kipling's Mowgli stories. Unlike in the Disney films, in the book Kaa is "an exceptionally long, yellowish Python molurus." Also unlike the film, in the original book Kaa is one of Mowgli's mentors and friends. He is a powerful snake, more than a hundred years old and still in his prime.

2. The Greedy Python by Eric Carle

This story follows a familiar folktale pattern; in The Greedy Python a  snake eats every creature he comes across in the jungle, until he is enormous. All the animals inside befriend one another and kick at the python from the inside until he disgorges them all. Still hungry, he espies his own tail, gobbles it down -- and disappears.

The Little Prince Deluxe Pop-Up Book

3. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Who can forget the boa constrictor who has swallowed an elephant! Or is it a hat?....

Snakes also play a role in the end of this story but that part is a little sadder so I'll stick with the hat mistake for the snaky bit of this story.

Sherlock Holmes In The Adventure Of The Speckled Band (High Impact)4. The Speckled Band by Arthur Conan Doyle

And now for something a little more adult! 

One of the great Sherlock Holmes short stories, this one features a mysterious death, a trained snake who comes to a whistle (odd since snakes are deaf, but oh well, suspension of disbelief!) and Holmes' trademark sleuthing. A thrilling read!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Happy Year of the Dragon!

Happy Chinese New Year! This year we are entering the Year of the Dragon -- 2012 will be the year of the Water Dragon. What does this mean to you? Read more about how this affects each sign in the Chinese Zodiac.

As for me, I enjoy sharing books featuring each animal yearly...some years are easier than others! There are many more enjoyable dragon books than ox books, for example :)

Please share your own suggestions and recommendations in the comments as well -- we each have our favourite discoveries. Each year I mainly stick to children's books, and this year is no different. Here are five of my favourite dragon books:

1. My Father's Dragon / Ruth Stiles Gannett

The 1948 classic about Elmer Elevator and his quest to free a baby dragon from Wild Island. He uses his cleverness to outwit the wild animals trying to stop him, by appealing to their vanity. The ending is particularly amusing in its choice of language.

2. A Book Dragon / Donn Kushner

A quiet tale of Nonesuch the dragon, whose family is wiped out during the War of the Roses. He shrinks to the size of a large insect to save himself, and finds a treasure to guard: a medieval Book of Hours. He accompanies this beautiful book throughout the centuries, ending up in the back room of an American bookstore in the 20th century. His life story is full of historical fact and intriguing side characters. Sadly, out of print, as far as I know.

3. The Secret in the Matchbox / Val Willis -- illustrated by John Shelley

Another book which is unaccountably out of print, this is a delightful picture book perfect for reading aloud. Bobby Bell takes a matchbox to school, one which has a dragon inside. Nobody believes him until he lets it out and it grows and it grows and it grows.... causing chaos galore! The illustrations, by John Shelley are also fabulous. See for example, the full grown dragon:

4. George and the Dragon / Chris Wormell

I love this book to distraction! Little George, a shy mouse, moves into a new cave right beside a dragon's lair. Upon unpacking, he finds that he has no sugar for his tea. Asking his new neighbour (a vicious princess-stealing dragon who happens to be terrified of mice) for a loan has repercussions George could never have imagined. A true delight, especially for tea lovers ;) And the illustrations are exquisite.

5. The Best Pet of All / David LaRochelle -- illustrated by Hanako Wakiyama

This is a cute story about a little boy who realllllly wants a dog, but his mother doesn't. She does say okay to a dragon, though... if he can find one. He finally does, at the drugstore. But is it a good pet? You'll have to read this to find out. The illustrations really make this book; they are vintage style and have great visual jokes in them -- the second to last page always makes me laugh.
Read it if you can... or you can listen to Reese Witherspoon reading it! (though the pictures are kind of hard to see)

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Happy Year of the Rabbit!

Happy Year of the Rabbit!

Chinese New Year this year falls on February 3rd, and to continue a tradition, here is a book list featuring rabbits, in celebration of the Year of the Rabbit.

A classic tale of a group of rabbits who leave their threatened warren to start another one on the Downs of England. Memorable characters, adventure, and only a little dated now in its portrayal of gender.

2. Masquerade / Kit Williams

This gorgeous picture book began as a riddle -- the author painted illustrations that were an armchair treasure hunt, giving clues to the location of a real golden hare that Williams had had made and then hidden somewhere in England. It was accompanied by a book by Bamber Gascoigne, The Quest for the Golden Hare, following the quest by readers and fans to uncover the hiding place of the hare.

3. Peter Rabbit / Beatrix Potter

A very familiar tale of Peter, Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and of course, Farmer McGregor's garden. It was in this book that I was introduced to the word "soporific", still one of my favourites ;) There is also a delightful "Peter Rabbit" website with lots of information about Beatrix Potter and her world, and also downloadable crafts and activities (like a puppet show!)

4. Prince Babillon, or the Little White Rabbit / Nella

A forgotten gem, this is available in full text online thanks to the Internet Archive. It is a beautiful fairy tale, full of ironic humour, True Love, and wonderful illustrations by Charles Robinson. The heroine is also named Princess Melanie, which of course makes me inordinately fond of the story ;)

5. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane / Kate DiCamillo

Edward Tulane, a self-centred and proud toy rabbit, loves only himself. However, his life changes when he is separated from his comfortable life and the little girl who adores him. He embarks on a journey, acquiring new owners and listening to their hopes, dreams, and histories.

The classic tale of love and becoming real. Heartwarming pathos and the idea of love overcoming all makes this a must-read.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Year of the Tiger!

This year Chinese New Year falls on February 14th, so to spread the love around a little I will wish everyone a fantastic Year of the Tiger! According to theholidayspot:

This is definitely an explosive year. It usually begins with a bang and ends with a whimper. A year earmarked for war, disagreement and disasters of all kinds. But it will also be a big, bold year. Nothing will be done on a small, timid scale. Everything, good and bad, can and will be carried to extremes. Fortunes can be made and lost. If you take a chance, gamble for high stakes, but understand that the odds are stacked against you. ... The fiery heat of the Tiger's year will no doubt touch everyone's life. In spite of its negative aspects, we must realize that it could have a cleansing effect. Just as intense heat is necessary to extract precious metals from their ores, so the Tiger year can bring out the best in us.
Hmm, interesting. But of more immediate interest to me, I will continue on with my tradition of creating a book list to suit the animal of the year. Here are a few great books featuring Tigers:

Tiger is a kitten who likes to pretend he is a REAL tiger...and after spending the day running, roaring and NOT playing with wool, he is ready for bed. A sweet story about imagination, with extraordinarily appealing illustrations. (the follow-up, Tiger in the Snow, is a wonderful read-aloud as well)

This cute retro picture book is the story of Sophie and her mummy, who are just sitting down to tea when a large hungry tiger knocks at the door. They invite him in and he eats not only all the tea but everything in the house. Just as the tiger takes his leave, Sophie's Daddy comes home from work. His response to their story is that they should all go out to a café for supper. The illustrations are delightful (especially the tiger pouring the tea straight from the Brown Betty into his mouth) and some of the outdated references are so amusing to come across in a picture book - like the tiger drinking "all of daddy's beer".

Dicamillo, better known for her Tale of Desperaux or Because of Winn-Dixie, penned a tale of loss and renewal in her second novel. I don't think I can describe it better than its summary on her website:
Walking through the misty Florida woods one morning, twelve-year-old Rob Horton is stunned to encounter a tiger — a real-life, very large tiger — pacing back and forth in a cage. What’s more, on the same extraordinary day, he meets Sistine Bailey, a girl who shows her feelings as readily as Rob hides his. As they learn to trust each other, and ultimately, to be friends, Rob and Sistine prove that some things — like memories, and heartaches, and tigers — can’t be locked up forever.

4. Tiger, Tiger / Lynn Reid Banks

A teen novel set in Ancient Rome, this is a tale of twin tigers, Boots and Brute. They are brought from their jungle home to Rome where the weaker tiger cub becomes a pampered pet of Caesar's daughter Aurelia and the stronger one ends up as a feature at the Coliseum. Danger, a whiff of romance, the right and wrong of violent entertainment...all weave together to provide a riveting read.

Richard Parker the ravenous tiger is a castaway on the ocean with Pi Patel and a few other animals in this well known novel by Canadian author Yann Martel (also well known for his habit of sending books to our unappreciative Prime Minister)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Happy Chinese New Year!

January 26 begins the Year of the Ox! To celebrate what is known as the Year of the Ox, or Bull, or Water Buffalo, here is a list of possible Oxen themed reads:

Everyone knows the legend of Paul Bunyan and his big blue ox, Babe. Like everything American they are big enough to settle their big new country. And soon there will be a movie.

2. The Ox-Cart Man / Donald Hall, illus. by Barbara Cooney.

Originally a poem, and much revised into a picture book, this lovely old-fashioned story takes us through a country year with a self-sufficient family. This 18th century farming family uses an ox-cart to take their goods to market, where they sell everything including the ox and the cart in order to buy the things they need. The ox-cart man walks home to begin building another cart and raising another ox for next year. Perfectly illustrated by the inimitable Barbara Cooney.

3. The Story of Ferdinand / Munro Leaf

Okay, so Ferdinand is a bull, not an ox, but he is so delightfully charming I had to include him. I loved Ferdinand the peacenik bovine from the time I was a child. Just because Ferdinand is a bull doesn't mean he wants to be in a bullfight; he'd rather sit and smell the flowers -- until the day that five men come to find the meanest bull around for the bullring, and Ferdinand just happens to sit on a bee at that moment. The pacifist sensibilities of the story still hold up; it was published at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War and was seen by some as a comment on that situation. You can also watch a Disneyfied film from 1938.

Although in previous years I've chosen 5 representative books for the animal, this one was much more difficult! Even though I've been mulling it over for the past year I have only come up with three ox related stories. Please share if you have any more!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Happy Chinese New Year!

February 7 begins the Year of the Rat! In honour of this, here is a book list of ratty-themed reading for the year.

A school-age favourite of mine, this tale of Mrs. Frisby and her family of mice fascinated me. Mrs. Frisby, a meek field mouse, meets with a group of super intelligent rats while trying to get medicine for her sick son Timothy. They help her only because her deceased husband was one of the mice in the labs of NIMH who escaped with the rats; they had been experimented on to increase their intelligence and it worked so well, they intelligently escaped. The rats are now planning on moving further away from civilization to escape their dependence on humankind, and Mrs. Frisby is able to help them in return with information on the impending arrival of exterminators. A strange but charming book.

2. The Wind in the Willows / Kenneth Grahame
In the 100th year since publication, how can I neglect the wonderful character of Ratty, who thinks that there is "nothing, simply nothing as wonderful as messing about in boats".

Who is the Amazing Maurice? Why, he's a cat, a conman of a cat who travels the countryside with his magically intelligent band of rodents and a rather dimwitted, flute-playing boy. They travel to small towns off the beaten track and make quite a living ridding these towns of their rat infestations. This time, however, Peaches and Dangerous Beans (names chosen before the rats really understood the labels on the cans they were reading) are beginning to have reservations as to the morality of their scam... Perfectly Pratchett.

Yes, that Phillip Pullman. This is a charming middle school novel about one of certain group of rats, turned into a page boy and then stuck in boy form. He finds his way to the doorstep of Bob & Joan, cobbler and washerwoman, and after much getting lost and being found, and pitfalls along the way he learns the joys of being a human boy. Also features a marvellous Princess (formerly Mary Jane the kitchen girl), and lots of interspersed tabloid pages featuring the scandal of the "Rat Boy". A wonderful story.

Definitely adult reading, this one takes on the autobiography of a preternaturally intelligent rat, who lives in a used bookshop and reads (and eats) books incessantly. Told in the first person (or first rat's?) voice his sad and indigent existence is full of winks at the bibliophile reader. My only warning is that the accompanying art is not really very good. In fact it's pretty awful.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Happy Chinese New Year!

To celebrate the beginning of the Year of the Pig (my Chinese zodiac year), here are some suggested pig-friendly reads!

  1. Charlotte's Web by E.B. White Because Wilbur is 'some pig'! And the story of Charlotte the spider and little girl Fern trying to save Wilbur from slaughter was instrumental in my life as a vegetarian :)

  2. Babe by Dick King-Smith A British take on the idea of an extraordinary pig; this pig wants to be a sheepdog. See above for influence!

  3. Freddy the Pig series by Walter R. Brooks This lovely old-fashioned 26 book series features Freddy, the Renaissance pig of Bean farm, and various animal friends who have endless adventures. A favourite was Freddy the Detective.

  4. The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander This classic fantasy series begins with Taran, Assistant pig keeper, chasing HenWen the oracular pig into the woods. What happens to him there sets him on his destined path toward the High King.

  5. Interstellar Pig by William Sleator A young boy at his parents' summer cottage becomes entranced with his 3 strange neighbours, who are obsessed with a board game called Interstellar Pig. The object of the game is to travel through space to capture the Piggy; whoever has it at the end wins, everyone else and their home planets dies. But it is really just a game?