The Adventures of Beekle – 2015 Caldecott Winner

9780316199988_p0_v4_s260x420His baby son’s mispronunciation of “bicycle” was the inspiration for the title of Dan Santat’s 2015 Caldecott winning picture book – The Adventures of Beekle.  Beekle is an imaginary friend who has yet to be imagined by a real child.

Rather than wait on his island for his special someone to appear, Beekle sets off to find her.  Santat floats him through a series of adventurous illustrations, with Beekle travelling through dark starry nights, reminiscent of Chris van Allsburg’s designs, to encounters with colorful dragons and double-page drawings of whales and harbors that mirror Maurice Sendak’s wild ones, until he finally reaches the real world.  Searching for his friend takes him through busy streets and subways, to fantastic playgrounds, and finally to the top of an amazing tree.

When Beekle does find his friend, Alice, the relationship slowly blossoms from shyness to perfection, and the story ends with a frame of Alice and Beekle connecting with a real boy and his imaginary friend,  happily proclaiming – “The world began to feel a little less strange.”  Friends can give you the courage to face the world – both the real and the imagined.

A lovely book to share and read aloud, as the pictures evolve in color and excitement to the final happy ending.



If You Want to See a Whale

9781596437319_p0_v2_s260x420A lesson in patience – and maybe meditation – Julie Fogliano’s children’s picture book If You Want To See A Whale has a calming quality and a reminder to stop and observe your surroundings – a message for adults as well as children.

With simple colorful illustrations, the story follows a little boy and his dog as they sit and stare at the ocean, waiting for a whale to appear.  With distractions everywhere, focusing on the task is not easy, but they succeed in the end.

I am currently reading Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being – another exercise in focus and patience.  Ozeki is a “writer, filmmaker, and Zen Buddhist priest,” so I can’t help wondering if she injected lessons in patience and meditation into this slow read.  But I am staying on task, and hope to succeed.9780670026630_p0_v1_s260x420

The Boy Who Loved Math

9781596433076_p0_v1_s260x420Budapest is a city on my bucket list, and the illustrations of that city by LeUyen Pham in Deborah Heiligman’s The Boy Who Loved Math offered a glimpse of its charm. This picture book is a biography of Paul Erdős, the mathematical genius who grew up in Budapest as a child prodigy who loved to play with numbers but had trouble following rules and completing mundane tasks – like buttering bread. Erdős did not like school and his eccentricities may have been hard to live with – unless you were his mother – but Heiligman cleverly focuses on his strengths and offers an inspiring and engaging story for children as well as adults.

As she humorously documents this genius’ idiosyncracies, Heiligman gives him credit for his contributions and many collaborations, spawning the Erdős number (which calculates the degrees of collaborative separation between mathematicians and Erdős – Einstein was number 2 – before anyone thought of six degrees of separation.

I have The Boy Who Loved Math on my list now for gift-giving and as a reminder to visit Budapest someday.


Julia Child’s Birthday

Two great cooks share their birthday today: Julia Child and my Italian grandmother. Both are no longer around and both believed in butter, although my grandmother was heavier on the olive oil.

Tart Dough

To celebrate, I attended cooking classes at “Université Patisserie” – a tribute to Mastering the Art of French Cooking, sponsored by a local resort. The instructor endeared himself when he noted that most French recipes originated with the Italians.

I learned how to make pâte à choux with a creamy filling, tart dough with almond flour, and then stuffed myself with treats created by the pastry chef.

Children’s picture books that channel Julia were reviewed in Ann Hodgman’s New York Times – Let’s Eat – one starred Julia’s cat.

Minette’s Feast by Susanna Reich follows Julia Child and her husband Paul as they settle into Parisian life. The entry of Minette Mimosa McWilliams Child, a Parisian cat who adopts the couple, offers a new perspective on Julia’s life in France. With beautiful color illustrations by Amy Bates, the highlights of Julia’s cooking adventures in Paris come to life, punctuated by the fussy cat who is a gourmet. Minette would never eat out of a can, and revels in the aromas of cassoulets and soufflés, but, alas, her favorite food is still a mouse.

The newest biography of the original Top Chef has just been published to coincide with her 100th birthday. Bob Spitz’s Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child is on my Kindle, and I plan to read it today while eating my grandmother’s biscotti.

Related Reviews:

Click, Clack, Moo – Cows That Type

Does anyone type on a typewriter any more?

Doreen Cronin’s delightful children’s book – Click, Clack, Moo-Cows That Type – was outdated by the time it was published in 2000, but it is a testament to the power of the written word in these days of leaving electronic messages.  With art by Betsy Lewin, Cronin’s picture book has literate cows and chickens with demands for better living conditions written to Farmer Brown in typed notes.  With the duck as the mediator, all ends well – with a funny twist at the end.  Adults will appreciate the innuendo; children will like the whimsy – and might have a few questions about that vintage relic that has been replaced by a computer keyboard.

Typewriters offer nostalgia and a little magic to the final product – but not always.  David Sedaris only recently converted to a Mac for convenience – not for the ease of the keys, but for the ease of getting through airport security.

“When forced to leave my house for an extended period of time, I take my typewriter with me, and together we endure the wretchedness of passing through the X-ray scanner. The laptops roll merrily down the belt, while I’m instructed to stand aside and open my bag. To me it seems like a normal enough thing to be carrying, but the typewriter’s declining popularity arouses suspicion and I wind up eliciting the sort of reaction one might expect when traveling with a cannon.

It’s a typewriter,’ I say. ‘You use it to write angry letters to airport security.” David Sedaris

I still fondly remember my first typewriter, and my satisfaction as I slammed the carriage into the next line.

Related Review:

Read a review of Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk –here