Stories indexed with the term ‘children’s literature’

Talking Trees, Leafing Through Archives


[Editor's Note: HD, a.k.a. Dave Askins, editor of The Ann Arbor Chronicle, is also publisher of an online series of interviews on a teeter totter. Introductions to new Teeter Talks also appear on The Chronicle's website.]

Robb Johnston

Last week, Robb Johnston rode the AATA bus from Ypsilanti into Ann Arbor and walked from downtown to my front porch take his turn on the teeter totter. [Robb Johnston's Talk]

Johnston has written and illustrated a self-published children’s book called “The Woodcutter and The Most Beautiful Tree.” And whenever anyone pitches me Chronicle coverage of a project they’re proud of, my first thought is: “Can I get a teeter totter ride out of this?”

Before Johnston’s ride, I test-read his children’s book the best way I could think of, given that my wife Mary and I do not have children: I read the book aloud to her, and did my best to pretend that she was four years old. It was my own first read through the book, so I was satisfied when I did not stumble too badly over the part of the woodcutter’s refrain that goes, “Thwickety THWAK, Thwickety THWAK.”

Oscar Wilde’s “The Happy Prince” notwithstanding, I think it’s fair to expect that a children’s book with a title like “The Woodcutter and The Most Beautiful Tree” will end well and leave everyone with smiles all around. And it does. So it’s not like I was truly surprised when I turned that one page near the end that reveals exactly how the final encounter between The Most Beautiful Tree and the Woodcutter ends.

But the book’s text and its illustrations pull the reader along to that point, and suggest so unmistakably a dark and dreadful ending, that when I did turn that page, I gulped a genuine breath of relief that she did not wind up getting milled into lumber at the end. [The tree in Johnston's book is female.] Well, yes, you might conclude that I am just that dopey. Or more generously, you might try sometime reading aloud a book you’ve never seen before.

But speaking of things we’ve seen before, some Chronicle readers might be thinking: Haven’t we seen this guy Robb Johnston before? Why yes, you have. [Full Story]

Column: Book Fare

The author's well-worn copy of "The Happy Prince" by Oscar Wilde.

The author's well-worn, 1965 edition of "The Happy Prince" by Oscar Wilde.

Christmas is over. Was everyone properly grateful?

You know who we’re talking about here, even though there are certainly none of them in your family. We’re talking about that little sugar plum who works up a sweat ripping open loot and caps the frenzy with, “Is this all?” Or the tot, her golden curls still sleep-tousled, who tears enough paper off each present to see if it’s worthy of further attention and, if it disappoints, chucks it aside for the next one.

A woman I know recalls the Christmas her brother visited with his family; the little darlings plowed through the booty in the twinkling of an eye, allowed themselves a few minutes to fight with each other and then demanded to go back to the hotel pool because they were bored. Visions of stuffing them in a coal sack and dumping them into the deep end danced in Auntie’s head.

This time of year always gets me thinking about Oscar Wilde’s “The Happy Prince,” a fairy tale guaranteed to bludgeon a sense of empathy into the most irredeemable of brats. [Full Story]

Teaching French By the Book

Jo Mathis

Jo Mathis

There’s nothing worse than facing a room of 25 college kids – and boring them, says University of Michigan French instructor Jenni Gordon.

In Paris years ago, the Ann Arbor resident discovered the power of storytelling in the classroom. Recently, in an attempt to help her UM students grasp the difficult concept of imparfait (imperfect past tense), Gordon wrote and illustrated a bilingual children’s story to share with them.

It worked.

The story of a little girl named Mathilde stirred within the students so many memories of childhood. “Suddenly, lots of people had a story to tell in the past tense!” said Gordon.

Now Press Lorentz/littleBeast Books in Ann Arbor has published Gordon’s story of Mathilde, a little girl with mixed feelings about her new baby brother. It’s titled both “Les Problemes de Mathilde” and – on the flip side – “One day, I had enough!”

The story is already a hit with the 20-ish crowd. [Full Story]

Howling for “Moon Wolf”

Maria LoCicero and Leandra Blander read from the book Moon Wolf, which they helped illustrate.

Maria LoCicero and Leandra Blander, students at Summers-Knoll School, read from the book "Moon Wolf," which they helped illustrate. They helped with a book reading on Sunday at the Crazy Wisdom Tearoom.

The Chronicle has no idea how often howling echoes through Crazy Wisdom Bookstore & Tearoom, but customers there definitely heard wolf-like sounds on Sunday afternoon. The occasion was  a reading of “Moon Wolf,” a children’s book illustrated by students at Summers-Knoll School and written by the head of school, Joanna Hastings.

The book is a classroom project turned fundraising venture – it’s now sold at several local stores. “Moon Wolf” tells the story of a wolf who lives in the moon and leaps to Earth when the moon is full, enjoying many adventures and raucous howling along the way. [Full Story]