Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Weekly Geeks 2009-13: Favorite children's books

In honor of National Poetry Month and International Children's Book Day, this week's Weekly Geeks challenged us to "Be a kid!" or "Be a poet!" Since I'm not too good with the poetry, I am going to take this opportunity to talk about a couple of children's books, which, in my opinion, happen to fit in nicely with the upcoming Easter holiday.

Opening lines:
We hear of the Easter Bunny who comes each Easter Day before sunrise to bring eggs for boys and girls, so we think there is only one. But this is not so. There are really five Easter Bunnies, and they must be the five kindest, and swiftest, and wisest bunnies in the whole wide world, because between sunset on Easter Eve and dawn on Easter Morning they do more work than most rabbits do in a whole year.
This is one of the books that has remained a favorite of mine from childhood, so much so that I bought myself a copy a few years ago. Originally published in 1939, this is the story of a little brown country girl bunny who aspires to be one of the five Easter Bunnies. Upon hearing about her high aspirations, "...all of the big white bunnies who lived in fine houses, and the Jack Rabbits with long legs who can run so fast, laughed at the little Cottontail and told her to go back to the country and eat a carrot. But she said, 'Wait and see!'"

Well! That's some chutzpah! (Bonus! In this discussion of "The Symbolism of Rabbits and Hares" you can see a picture of our heroine standing up to the big Jack Rabbits. Double Bonus! There's a children's poem at the end of the post!) The little country bunny grew up, got married and had 21 (!) children and sort of forgot her dream of becoming an Easter Bunny until one day word came down that one of the five Easter Bunnies had grown old and slow and Old Grandfather was going to need a new bunny to take his place. Mother Cottontail gathers her 21 (!) children and they go to the Palace of Easter Eggs to watch the competition. Old Grandfather watches all the jack rabbits speeding across the lawn, all very impressive, but the little mother cottontail with her 21 (!) well-behaved children in tow catches his eye. OMG! Do I smell a life-long dream about to come true?? I think so! You'll have to read the book to find out!

I'm not really sure why I liked this book so much as a child. The cottontail mother teaches all of her children to help around the house, doing dishes, sweeping the floors, making the beds, etc., so maybe I felt kind of proud because I could do those things and be a good helper. It could be that I grew up in the country and thought I had a chance of growing up to be the Easter Bunny...Yeah, I know; there are a few problems with that. But the little country bunny was no big male jack rabbit, and she had 21 (!) kids to look after, and she made it! (, sorry. That's ok, I didn't really give away anything that isn't on the back of the book.) Then again, I think it might have been the Palace of Easter Eggs that sealed the deal-a whole palace filled with Easter Eggs! I also love the illustrations by Marjorie Hack. If you click here you can check out the cover art and the first page.

If you are looking for a (new-to-them) book to read with your kids for Easter, I think this is a good one. It subtly encourages children to be well-behaved and helpful and to follow their dreams even if everyone else laughs and says they'll never make it. Besides, it's intriguing; I mean, five Easter Bunnies? Seriously? There are five??? Who knew?

Beatrice's Goat by Page McBrier-I actually read this a few weeks ago for the Weekly Geeks 2009-08: Rewind - Political & Social Issues challenge, but never got around to writing a post or a review of the book, so I think now is a good time to follow-up on that. Beatrice Biira was a girl in Uganda whose family received a goat through Heifer International, an organization whose mission is "To work with communities to end hunger and poverty and to care for the earth." Heifer gifts usually come in the form of livestock, like Beatrice's goat, and the recipients are required to pass on the gift by sharing offspring, knowledge, resources and skills with others in their community. Beatrice wanted to go to school, but her family could not afford to send her. Eventually, the money she made from the sale of her goat's milk helped her achieve this goal. The book tells Beatrice's story and shows how Heifer can help a community pull itself up out of poverty.

Part of the reason that I didn't get around to doing this review before is because I wasn't thrilled with the book, quite honestly. It was just little things; for example, Beatrice's goat is named Mugisa, which means luck. Throughout the book, the goat is referred to as Mugisa. Later other animals come into the picture; I can't remember what they were or where they came from-perhaps they were Mugisa's offspring, or perhaps they were other Heifer gifts-but their names and their English translations were also given, but then the author continued to refer to them by their English names (like Prosperity and Fortune). This was a little thing, but it bugged me.

Also, I was hoping that the book would be more of an introduction to Heifer International, but I don't think it ever actually mentioned the organization by name except in the afterward, written by Hillary Clinton. I guess the idea was to tell Beatrice's story, not to be propaganda for Heifer, a situation like this, isn't the point of telling Beatrice's story to get the word out about Heifer? I suppose it is a fine line between piquing readers' interests enough that they will seek out additional information on their own and forcing an agenda on your readers. Either way a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the book go to support Heifer.

Despite the fact that I wasn't blown away by this book, I still think it's a good way to introduce a child to the idea of charity and show him how he can make a difference in another child's life. I think Heifer in particular is a charity that would appeal to children because of their gift catalog which consists almost entirely of animals. What better way to celebrate Easter than by giving a rabbit or some chicks to a family in order to help them provide a food source and/or money for things like school, clothing, or medicine? For as little as $10, you could contribute toward the gift of a sheep, a goat, a trio of rabbits, a pig, or even some trees.

So, now that I've covered the kid lit part of the challenge, perhaps I will attempt some poetry after all. Let's see...

There once was a child who read
She loved to stand on her head
Although upside down
She still loved the sound
Of books being read right out loud.

Well, Whitman it ain't, but you get what you pay for! Hope you all came up with some better stuff than that!


Anonymous said...

Some very thoughtful reviews here. Nice to hear your critique of Beatrice's Goat, particularly since it sounds like one of those books you feel obligated to try and like for its positive message.

I especially enjoyed the sheer joy that was evident in your review of The Country Bunny and the Little Golden Shoes. 5 Easter Bunnies, you say? Who knew? :D

DeSeRt RoSe said...

Just wanted to let you know that you have an award waiting here :)

gautami tripathy said...

You make wish to read both these books. Wonderful reviews, both!

Weekly Geeks: Book reviewing in verse

Dreamybee said...

silvanime-Thanks for stopping by and for the kind words!

DeSeRt RoSe-Wow, thank you!

guatami tripathy-I'm so glad! I hope you enjoy them if you do check them out.

musing said...

Thanks for the reviews!

Some of my favorite books are children's books and all my kids are grown. :)

Anonymous said...

A lovely poem! (I admit, I tend to read short poems....) and I didn't know that there were 5 Easter Bunnies - huh. And really? 21(!) kids?!?!

Dreamybee said...

musing-Mine too, and I don't even have any kids!

bkclubcare-LOL-thanks! I know-21! And they all seem to be the same age. Can you imagine??

Kerrie said...

Just letting you know there is an award for you on my blog

Dreamybee said...

Thanks, Kerrie! Wow, 2 awards in one post...shucks, guys...

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your article about cough and cold medicines in children, as a dad and a doctor, I find children’s cough and cold medications a very scary topic.

There is a new product that has been shown to be safe and effective for children 1 and older. It is called Honey Don’t Cough, you should check it out and let parents know about it. Check out

Dreamybee said...

Hi Jeff,

Wellll....I don't remember writing any article about children's cough and cold medicines, and this comment seems a bit spammy, but I'm all for drugging your kids up as little as possible, so I'm going to go ahead and leave it up and say, "Thanks for stopping by!"