Island Boy

Cooney, Barbara. Island Boy. New York: Viking Kestrel, 1988.

This lovely little book was a gift to Alexis for Christmas 1991.  I don’t remember how I happened to acquire this signed copy, but I am glad I did.  This is a stunning book.

It is a full circle story from youth to death. It is a story of determination and a life well lived. It is a story of leaving and homecoming. This is the story of a boy of Tibbets Island, Matthais. He is kind, loving, and determined.

Matthais’ Pa began the process of taming the island.  He called it Tibbets Island.  He cleared the land, dug a well and built a house.  When he was ready, he moved his family to the island.  At that time Matthais’ family had Ma, Pa, and three children.  By the time Matthais came there were six boys and six girls.  Matthais was the youngest.  When he was small he helped where he could.  When he wasn’t helping, he was sitting under the shade of the red astrakhan apple tree, his Ma had planted. He was watching his island and dreaming of the big, wide world.

In time, he joined his siblings in the steamy winter kitchen and learned to read and write.  He helped plough the fields and chop the woods.  As his brothers and sisters grew up, they left the island for jobs or to marry. His brothers told him he was too young to leave home.  Matthais didn’t pay attention to them.  He longed to see what was beyond his island.  His Uncle Albion was a ship builder.  Uncle Albion built a handsome schooner, the Six Brothers. When it made its maiden voyage, Matthais served as a cabin boy.  For fifteen years, he sailed on the Six Brothers.  He sailed with her here and there, up and down the coast in all kinds of weather.  He eventually became the master of this grand vessel.  Despite the work and joy from sailing, he remembered his island and he longed to return.  He decided one day to return and he did.  He was determined.

He returned to the island and repaired his boyhood home.  He married and lived a full life.  He was clever and knew how to make a good life for himself and his family.  The book ends with his death.  It would be sad, but he lived a life that spoke to so many people.  Many people came to pay their respects to him.  His grandson, Matthais saw all those people, who came to pay their respects and he heard comments like this,

“A good man…” “A good life.”

What more can we ask?  This is a wonderful book to read.  It could be maudlin, but it isn’t.  Matthias lived a full, useful life and it was laid before us in all its quiet glory.  With this book, a meaningful discussion can be had with children about life and how we live it.

This book is worth picking up just for its luminous illustrations.  It reminds me of the primitive folk art style that I have seen at Colonial Williamsburg and other museums.

Barbara Cooney

The book Island Boy is a story about beginnings and endings.  Barbara began her life in Room 1127 of the Bossert Hotel in Brooklyn on August 6, 1917.  Her family was prosperous and they lived in the suburbs. She began summering in Maine at the age of two¹.  It seems to call her back, just as it did, Matthias.  She returned to Maine to a little house overlooking the sea.  She died in Damariscotto, Maine in March of 2000².

It is said that these books are her most autobiographical, Miss Rumptious, Hattie and the Wild Waves, and Island Boy.  Like Matthias in Island Boy, she traveled widely, but was called back to the wilds of Maine. In Miss Rumptious, a book I haven’t read, Miss Rumptious is encouraged to do something to make world more beautiful². Barbara took this to heart and her books are beautiful.  She earned the Caldecott award in 1959 for Chanticleer and the Fox and again in 1980 for Ox-Cart Man.  Her illustrations are detailed and sumptuous. Illustrating books may have been a way to earn a living, but it gave her the opportunity to make the world more beautiful.

You can read more about this author on these websites.




2016: A Year in Review

collage1_2016Happy New Year! I am starting 2017 with a review of books from 2016. Here is the consolidated list (libraryrecap).

I have enjoyed writing this blog. I began writing to explain to my new nephew, why I chose the books he received as a birth gift. My family encouraged me to write a blog.  They seem to think that I know something about children’s books.  They are so lovely and kind!  What I know about children’s books is that I like them.  If I could, I would inspire every child with the love of reading.  I like reading books. I like paring books with ideas, events and activities.

Since they encouraged me to write, I have been writing this blog for my pleasure and practice. Sometimes, but not often, it gets me out of dinner dishes (I can’t do dishes tonight, I have to work on my blog).  If I had stopped with the volumes purchased for my new nephew,  it would have been a very short blog. When I finished his list I segued to the rest of my children’s book collection.  Many of these books are old favorites of mine. It has been a lovely walk down memory lane. As I reread and write about these books, I remember snuggling up with my girls and sharing these stories.  Reading to children is a wonderful activity. It was fun, fun, fun to read and discover these books with my girls. It was fun, fun, fun to remember that time through this blog.

My family has become accustom to keeping a list of their readings for the monthly reading report. I hope that you have enjoyed these reports.  2016 was a very enjoyable reading year!  I hope it is another good year for reading and for all other endeavors.

Happy New Year to everyone! May your year be productive, satisfying and fun! Find some good books to read. Here are some of the books that were read in Haus Reimund in 2016.collage2_2016


madelineBemelmans, Ludwig. Madeline. New York: Viking Press.

Do you have a feisty little girl in your life?  Then you both might like reading this book.  I had two little girls and we loved to read about Madeline. She was the smallest and the bravest of twelve little girls living in a large house in Paris. She caused her teacher, Miss Clavel some distress from time to time.  Here’s how Madeline is described.

She was not afraid of mice—
she loved winter, snow, and ice.
To the tiger in the zoo
Madeline just said, “Pooh-pooh,”
and nobody knew so well
how to frighten Miss Clavel.

Miss Clavel, who must have radar ears, wakes in the middle of the night and knows that something is not right. Madeline is ill and is rushed to the hospital with appendicitis. Spoiler Alert!  Madeline gets well.  Her friends come to visit poor Madeline.  She is not so sad as they imagined as they looked at all the gifts she’d been given and here’s what was the most impressive:

But the biggest surprise by far—
on her stomach
was a scar!

Imagine what happens that night in the house covered in vines!  Miss Clavel awakes again to something not quite right.  Can you imagine a room full of little girls who want to be in the hospital just like Madeline?  What a ruckus! Poor Miss Clavel!

This book is a delightful rhyming book.  It is fun to ready by yourself, with a friend, or to someone else.  Pick up a copy and enjoy it with someone.

Here’s another reason to spend some time with this book. Did you ever want to visit Paris?  Here’s your opportunity. Ludwig Bemelmans illustrates many of the sites of Paris for us. Here are the sites in this book: the Eiffel Tower, the Place de Concorde, the Paris Opera House, the Place Vendome, the Hotel Des Invalides, Notre Dame, the Gardens at the Luxembourg, the Church of Sacre Coeur, and the Tuileries Gardens facing the Louvre. You can take a nice side trip by examining the illustrations in this book.

Ludwig Bemelmans

He was born in the Italian Tyrol in 1898. He moved to the United States in 1914.  He worked in restaurants and eventually opened his own.  He didn’t begin his career in literature until 1934.   He was a humorist, satirist and painter¹.

Surprisingly, he wrote only five Madeline books, but they were very popular. Madeline was a Caldecott Honor Medal in 1940.

You can listen to this interview with his grandson insights into his life:  Here’s the transcript for that interview: At 75 She’s Doing Fine; Kids Still Love Their ‘Madeline’:

Other places to learn more about this author.


Tom Swift and His Rocket Ship and Astrotwins: Project Blastoff

discoveryThis summer I was luck enough to visit the Udvar-Hazy National Air and Space Museum.  It is in a huge hangar at the Dulles Airport.  It has an impressive display of all kinds of airplanes and space vehicles, including the shuttle Discovery.  It was grand and amazing place. We had such a fun time there.  Before we left, I needed a souvenir to remember my visit.  I chose Mark Kelly’s book.

rocketboys2As I was looking for a book for this blog, I remembered this purchasing this book.  In the meantime I was perusing the bookshelf and I found Jim’s stash of Tom Swift, Jr. books.  I decided to read both of them and report out.

  • Appleton II, Victor. Tom Swift and His Rocket Ship. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1954.
  • Kelly, Mark. Astrotwins: Project Blastoff. New York: Simon & Schuster for Young Readers, 2015.

Tom Swift and his friend, Bud Barclay are preparing a rocket ship.  Tom and Bud along with a significant staff provided by his family’s company want to win the Rocket Race among Nations. Tom, Jr. is an inventory extraordinaire!  He has invented several things to gain advantage for the upcoming orbital flight around the earth.  He wants to win that race.  With a large lab for their work and an island to assemble the rocket, you might think it would be a shoe-in.  However, Tom has problems.  He has to contend with spies and saboteurs. A shady competitor, Rotzog, also wants to win Rocket Race.  Rotzog is determined to win and he doesn’t care what happens to Tom and Bud.  He thinks the race will help him be master of the world.  How do Tom and Bud escape this nefarious devil?  Do Tom & Bud win the Rocket Race of Nations? Find a copy of this book and find out.

As you can tell by the title, Mark Kelly’s book is about twins.  They are 11-year-old Mark and Scott.  It is summer and although they have chores to do and bikes to ride, they get restless.  The first thing they do is dismantle their Dad’s calculator, which lands them in hot water.  They are sent to visit their Grandpa.  This isn’t really a problem as they love to visit him.  Despite the chores Grandpa assigns and all the activities at his home, they get bored and begin to bicker. Their very smart Grandpa suggested that they practice détente and work on a project together.  One that will keep them out of trouble and from destroying things. The project they decided upon was to build and launch a rocket ship.  With plenty of help old friend, Barry and their new friends, Jenny (Egg), Howard and Lisa. They build a replica of John Glenn’s Friendship 7 capsule.  Was it easy? No!  They actually had to go to the library and study!  Who gets to fly it?  How will they power it?  Where will they launch it?  All the questions and more are answered in this very entertaining book.

Harold and the Purple Crayon

HaroldPurpleCrayonJohnson, Crockett. Harold and the Purple Crayon. New York: Scholastic, Inc., 1959.

This classic story is making a comeback! I was wandering the aisles at Target looking for a baby shower gift and this little gem was nestled in among the other books on the shelves.  I hadn’t seen it in a long time.  Here is a book I remembered from seeing it on Captain Kangaroo. The simple lines and movements were enhanced by the filming technique they used on that show. With simple lines, Crockett Johnson shows us Harold’s imagined journey. The clean, minimalist drawings allow a reader to travel along and add their own details.  With a child it would be simple to have a discussion on “what will happen next” or “where will Harold go?”

This is a story of adventure and soaring imagination. Here’s the opening line, “One evening, after thinking it over for some time, Harold decided to go for a walk in the moonlight.” Harold proceeds to walk down the path and across the fields of his imagination. With his trusty purple crayon, he takes care of his needs (he draws the moon to light his way), rescues himself (he draws a boat so he does not drown) and when he has had enough adventure he figures out how to draw himself home (a view of the moon through his window).

After you read this book to your child, don’t hide the box of crayons get a large roll of newsprint!  Let your child draw his/her own adventure, just not on your walls. Pick your favorite color crayon, pen or pencil and with a large pile, roll or stack of paper let your imaginary adventure begin.

Crockett Johnson

Crockett Johnson is the pen name for David Johnson Liesk.  Crockett was his childhood nickname. He was a cartoonist, child book author and painter.  His comic strip Barnaby ran in papers from 1942 to 1946.  He was friend and mentor to Maurice Sendak, who illustrated books for Crockett’s wife, Ruth Krauss. He wrote and drew during the McCarthy era and at one point he was under investigation by the FBI¹.

In his late life, he was fascinated by the pythagorean theory.  He created a series of pictures based on proof of geometric theorems.  In 1980 he had an exhibit at the National Museum of American History titled “Theorems in Color”.  Take a look at this picture titled “Square Roots to Sixteen” an excellent example of his work².

You can read more about this author and see some of his art work at these websites.




School Bus

A yellow bus on the cover of a Donald Crew's bookCrews, Donald. School Bus.  New York: Mulberry Paperback Books, 1984.

I can tell that school started this week. On my morning and afternoon commutes there are school buses coming and going all over the area. As I write, I think about by friend, Cyndi. Her oldest son, Owen started kindergarten a few weeks ago. Owen was so excited to be a bus rider this year. He started several weeks ago and I had the chance to ask Cyndi how he liked riding the bus.  “He loves it!”  she reported.  I hope his enthusiasm for bus riding continues for the entire year.

I see so many buses on my morning and afternoon commutes. Big buses and small buses traveling the roads in and around Austin.  All the different buses taking students to school and home again.  It is an exciting time of the year to be a bus rider!

This lovely book by Donald Crews illustrates the daily life of buses.  They wait in the bus yard to begin the day.  Buses, large and small, leave the bus yard to drive all through the town.  They pick up children here and there and deliver them safely to school. Full buses arrive at school right on time for student to begin their day.

Faithfully these buses wait for the school day to end.  Empty buses arrive at school to collect their charges and traverse the town again to deliver students safely to their homes.

This simply illustrated books shows readers the secret life of the school bus.  At the end of the day, once the bus has delivered all its students, it makes its way back to the bus barn.  The buses are home again!  They need lots of rest!  They are on the road again in the morning!

The drawings in this book are bold and simple.Crews’ graphic style makes these drawing accessible to even the youngest child.  His pacing is beyond compare.  Reading this book with a child you get a sense of the buses’ movements throughout the town.  They stop, they go, they wait.  They pick up students and drop them off. It is a good book to use to prepare a student for their first school bus ride.

School Buses and School
Today I passed buses of that special yellow hue,
Carrying students from home to school.
School has begun. Are students glad?
To be back in the classroom, it isn’t so bad!

New things to learn and new friends to find,
Working to increase the powers of the mind.
At the end of the day, weary to the bone,
School buses are there to carry them home.

Donald Crews

He is an American author and illustrator. He is noted for his books with transportation themes.  He won the Caldecott Honors in 1979 for his book Freight Train and again in 1980 for his book, Truck. He is the winner of the 2015 Laura Ingalls Wilder Award.  This award honors an author or illustrator whose books, published in the United States, have made, over a period of years, a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children. His books are full of color and wonder and are worthy of this award.

He grew up in Newark, New Jersey.  Reading his various biographies it sounds like he had a good time.  When he and his siblings weren’t eating, sleeping or going to school, they were out in the street playing games with all the other neighborhood children.  He spent two months out of every summer visiting with his Grandma in Florida.  His book, Big Mama, chronicles some of the time he spent with her.¹

As he was growing up, his artistic talents were noted.  He had a mentor teacher, who believed in him and assured him that he would go to school and would succeed.  Donald noted the importance of teachers in children’s lives.  Outside of family members they are the first people who can show confidence in a student.  As Donald said, “…the opinions of outsiders usually make a stronger impression that relatives.”²

Here are places to read more about Donald Crews.

Here are some interviews with Donald Crews.



A Walk in the Woods

A Walk in the WoodsA Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail
Bryson, Bill
New York: Broadway Books, 1998

No, watching the movie did not make me read this book.  I read this book a number of years ago, when I was on a search for books of humor.  It wasn’t the laugh until you cried book I was seeking, however it was amusing as well as insightful, informational and charming.

Yes, I do reread books.  It is like visiting with an old friend. This year, I choose to reread this book on my vacation as we were going hike a small portion of the Appalachian Trail. This trail is approximately 2,100 miles long and travels through 14 states.  It begins at Springer Mountain in Georgia and ends at Mt. Katahdin in Maine.  You can access the trail at any number of places along the way.  We accessed the trail at Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia.  The Appalachian Trail Conservancy is based there and we started our trip at their office.  The staff there is very helpful.  Jim and I wanted to hike a small (very small) part of this trail.  We consulted with the staff on the best direction to head out from the office to hike a representational part of the trail.  South was recommended to us as north took you through Harper’s Ferry and along a railroad canal for much of the distance we would be hiking.

South we headed and made for the Loudoun Heights Trails section.  To reach the trail, we walked across the Shenandoah River Bridge.  The river here was wide and fast flowing.  It was magnificent. Over the river and under the bridge, we began our climb.  We had planned to hike to the ridgeline and back about a 5 mile round trip. As I said, we planned to hike only a small piece of the trail. The trail at this point was breathtaking.  It was lushly green with towering trees.  There were small brooks, tiny water falls, elegant flowers and wild raspberries.

Boots on the trailHere’s one of the first sights that greeted us as we began our climb, boots on the trail.  We stopped and marveled. Were they a joke?  Did they fall off someone’s pack?  Did someone jettison them?  We shook our heads.  We definitely would not want to be without boots on this trail.

We continued our climb. As we did, it reminded me of this section from the book. It comes from the first days of Bill Bryson’s walk.

“The hardest part was coming to terms with the constant dispiriting discovery that there is always more hill… Each time you haul yourself up to what you think must be the crest, you find that there is in fact more hill beyond, sloped at an angle that kept it from view before…” (p. 35)

The trail was a challenging climb for us.  We clambered upward. Sometimes, it makes you wonder why you choose to take up trials. I wonder about the author’s decision to walk this trail as a vague idea of getting fit.  Before I hiked this trail, I would haven shake my head in dismay at that thought.  You don’t hike this trail to get fit.  To be a “thru” or even a “section” hiker, you need to be fit.  Jim and I were carrying our camera backpacks.  With my hydration bladder full of water, my camera backpack weighs between 15-20 pounds.  Jim’s weighs more.  I can’t imagine hiking this trail with a full pack as described in the book.

We hiked on  July 5th, 2016.  The day was a bright, hot, muggy, and  still.  While the trail was shaded, there was not a breath of wind to help cool us.  We are not used to hiking in this kind of weather.  We are used hiking where it is 100º  with 0% humidity, not 95º with 95% humidity.  Alas we were defeated and had to turn back.  We hiked about 2 miles from the Conservancy office about 1/2 mile short of our goal.  We needed enough energy to hike back to the office and meet our ride.

We hiked back to the Conservancy Office.  Hiking down is not always easier than going up.  Good thing we reserved a little strength. Again we passed those lonely, abandoned boots. I wondered about their hiker.  Was he like Bill’s friend, Katz?  Did he throw them down in a fit of anger and despair at the trail? I will wonder, but never know.

The hike was hot, hard and exhilarating!  We didn’t make our goal, but we hiked the trail. We made it back and entered gratefully into the air-conditioned coolness of the AT Conservancy office.  They have a room in the back for hikers. It has a place to rest, a fridge full of low cost drinks and a restroom.  The most amusing sight was the sign with the phone underneath it.  The phone provided free long distance service for hikers. In large friendly letters the sign above the phone said, “Call your Mom and Dad!”  Underneath that printed in smaller letters, it said, ” Call your kids!”

All kinds of people hike the Appalachian Trail, young and old.  While we were in the office, we say some young men who were “thru” hikers.  They stopped to rest, pick up mail and check in. There was another woman, recently retired, talking to the staff about the possibility of “thru” hiking.  There were also sightseers from the town, section hikers just starting or finishing and other day hikers, like Jim and I.  It was fascinating to listen to their stories.  I only got a small glimpse of the trail and while Bill Bryson didn’t hike all of it, he did hike over 800 miles.  His book, while it is a tale of a walk in the woods, it was also a commentary on the parts of American he hiked.  Our country is so beautiful and we are fortunate enough to travel freely within it.  If you are not up for a hike on the AT, find a piece of America that is new to you and visit it.  Appreciate it.  Bryson came away with a new appreciation of America, the wilderness, nature, and mountains.  Here’s one of his final reflections: “Best of all, these days when I see a mountain, I look at it slowly and appraisingly, with a narrow, confident gaze and eyes of chipped granite.” (p. 274).  You will need to read the book to find out what prompts this specific appreciation.

Here’s how Bill Bryson ends his book.

“We didn’t walk 2,200 miles, it’s true, but here’s the thing: we tried.  So Katz was right after all, and I don’t care what anybody says.  We hiked the Appalachian Trail.” (p. 274)

Jim and I never intended to try that hike for a number of reasons.  We did hike the trail as we intended.  I can now say, “Been there, done that and have the t-shirt to prove it.”

On a side note, last night I watched the movie, A Walk in the Woods.  It was an amusing movie.  While not nearly as comprehensive as the book, it provided most of the humorous bits from the story and some of the glorious scenery from this wonder of the world.

If you want to read more about the Appalachian trail visit the Appalachian Conservancy’s website:

If you want to read more about Bill Bryson, try these websites.