Craicmonkey’s Storytime Delights #11

Mr. Putney’s Quacking Dog by Jon Agee

Mr Putney

Mr. Putney has some interesting animal friends. At first glance they seem normal enough, but turn the page and you will find that there’s some wacky word play at hand. No simple gorilla or kangaroo here; instead we have a goruler and a clangaroo. Each animal is introduced by a question and the answer can be found in the abnormal animal’s name.

Some of the puns are a little more vague – the oranguton needs to lose weight and the cramel can squeeze into Mr. Putney’s backpack – so this story would probably work better with an older preschool, kindergarten, or even grade one group.

Get ready for groan, moans, and a chorus of, “Ahhhh-haha!” as Jon Agee once again demonstrates his subtle wit. The children will most likely carry a couple of these away with them and will later regale their parents and friends with, “A traindeer! Get it? Because it’s a reindeer that pulls a train! It’s a traindeer! Hahahahaha!”

The Odd Egg by Emily Gravett

the odd egg

All the birds had laid an egg.

All except for Duck.

Then Duck found an egg!

Duck is very happy now that he has found an egg and can now join the other birds who have successfully laid an egg. That’s right; he has found an egg, which most likely explains why Duck has been unable to lay an egg up to this point, though this fact is never explored. However, the egg that Duck has found is strange and enormous and soon garners jeers and insults from the other birds. Soon after, the eggs, one by one, begin to hatch until only Duck’s egg is left. Yet Duck’s patience and perseverance is rewarded.

Emily Gravett combines her gifted artwork with humour, suspense, and our desire to belong, along with a cheeky sense of reprisal that will delight the children with its surprising and ultimately endearing ending.

Little Owl Lost by Chris Haughton

little owl lost

A baby owl has fallen out of its nest and is now lost in the forest. How will he ever find his mommy? Fear not! Squirrel is confident he can find Little Owl’s mother, he just needs to find out what she looks like. After a couple of mistakes, they find someone who really knows what Mommy Owl looks like and all is well again, until…

This is a simple story with beautiful artwork. The children will have fun calling out as Squirrel reveals who he thinks is Little Owl’s mother, much to the dismay of Little Owl. Chris Haughton masterfully, and subtly, captures the sense of bewilderment in the faces of the misidentified animals. Those of us who grew up with P.D. Eastman’s Are You My Mother will certainly recognise this story.

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All your Space LEGO base are belong to us, or, Memories of sparkly legs and being baked by the space heater

This past Christmas I received a very unique and wonderful gift from my younger sister, Carmen. My sister gave me LEGO, but not just any LEGO; this was LEGO from my past. When I was growing up we had several different LEGO sets from the basic red blue and yellow sets to fancy castles. As a young boy I would spend hours in the front porch of my parent’s home building with LEGO. I would build and rebuild the specific sets, but I found myself spending most of my LEGO time exercising my imagination and creating my own structures and landscapes. As I grew older, I spent less and less time playing with LEGO. However, a tradition had come about in our house, quite organically, that occurred at Christmas time. It was at Christmas that myself, and my two sisters as well, would pull out the LEGO and rebuild the sets.

IMG_3965
My Christmas present.

As I have said, we had several different sets, but my favourite sets were the space ones. I loved building those sets, but I also loved creating my own ships and bases using the pieces from the sets. The best pieces were the base pieces which were grey and had mounds and craters on them, and the scaffolding-like pillars that could be used as building supports or tail pieces for ships. Over the years pieces became lost, as LEGO is wont to do, and I would  scavenge from other sets to compensate. When I left home, the LEGO stayed at my parents’ house. As the years passed I began to think about LEGO only in passing.

The cool craters.
The cool craters.
The cool supports.
The cool supports.

Now that I have two children of my own, LEGO is back in the house. My daughter, Abigail, was quick to pick up LEGO very early on and I am constantly amazed at what she is able to create at only six years of age. My son, Graeme, who is three, is beginning to discover LEGO as well; and I find now that I am rediscovering LEGO myself. In addition, one of the programmes we offer at the Children’s Library I work at is a weekly LEGO club, and I have had the pleasure of hosting this club several times since starting there a year and a half ago. With the reintroduction of LEGO into my life, imagine my delight as I opened my gift from Carmen and discovered all three of the space sets, the original sets, completely reconstructed. It seems my sister had picked up the sets from my parents, went through the instructions, which we still had, and by way of online sellers, purchased all the missing pieces for each set. It was a Christmas miracle!

6930.
6930.
918.
918.
6970.
6970.

A couple of days later, I set to work building my Space LEGO. I made it a point to include Abigail in the process, as she has clearly shown an interest and it was a perfect opportunity to share some quality time with her. As we worked on the sets I told my daughter about how I played with these very same LEGO when I was young. At the same time I was reminiscing to myself about the times I spent in my parents front porch. One specific memory that came back very strongly involved the space heater we used to have. My parent’s front porch, although enclosed, was quite drafty in the winter and so we had an electric space heater. I had the habit of sitting right up against that heater as I built with the LEGO on the floor. I would get so hot from the heater that my skin would get itchy and I would have to pull away periodically to cool my skin down. Then I would snuggle back up to the heater and continue building. I would spend so much time cross-legged on the floor that the circulation in my legs would get cut off. This meant that if I did have to change position, usually to get away from the heater, I would have to endure the pins and needles as circulation was suddenly restored to my limbs. Leaving a building session was usually painful and awkward as all hell as I would stumble around on legs that were completely numb, then sparkly, then filled with an agonising throb that would force me to freeze on the spot; even the slightest movement would cause a shock to go through my body as I waited for the flow of blood to normalise throughout my legs. These are the things that were going through my head as I was building LEGO with my daughter. Neat, huh? As we moved onto the space ship set (918) I came across a wing piece that had been chewed; this was most likely done by our first dog, Buddy. Buddy was an English Cocker Spaniel, and as I worked to fit this damaged piece into my ship I realised that this LEGO had once again brought me memories of my youth. I was unable to get the wing piece to fit properly; there had been too much damage; but as I looked at my ship I knew that I would always be able to find a particular joy in this busted piece of LEGO.

Construction.
Construction.
6930.
6930.
6970.
6970.
918.
918.
Base of operations.
Base of operations.
Flight check.
Flight check.
The chewed wing.
“Sir. I believe one of the wings has been… well… chewed.”

It didn’t take long at all for Abigail and I to complete all three sets. Funny, I seem to remember it taking longer when I was a kid. Even though it didn’t take long, it was a special moment to share with her, and I want to thank Carmen for helping to create that moment.

A few days ago my daughter and I were building LEGO together. I was, of course, sitting cross-legged. As my wife called from upstairs to let us know that supper was ready, I knew as soon as I started to move that it would be a perilous journey up the stairs.