Month: November 2016

An Almost Indestructible Toy – Perfect Picture Book Friday

What jumps into your mind when I say Slinky?

Maybe you’re zipping back to your childhood, watching the steel coils walk, as if by magic, down your hall steps. And maybe the jingle from the television commercial is dancing in your head. For those of you who would care to take a jaunt down memory lane, here’s the video.

Warning: The urge to sing along is great. 

Now let’s jump forward to the year 2010. I’m no longer a child, I’m married, have a daughter, and can’t wait to give her a Slinky for her birthday.

I was positively beaming as I placed the box in her little hands. “You are going to LOVE this toy, Sweetie! I had one just like it when I was your age.”

I was celebrating a proud moment of parental success. I had finally found a toy my daughter could amuse herself with for more than ten minutes. I planned to claim those blessed minutes to read.  I pictured my daughter giggling as she sent her Slinky down the stairs again and again and again. I grabbed my book, snuggled into the sofa cushions, but never heard giggling. For that matter, I never heard that familiar slinkity springy sound of coils. Nothing.

“Sweetie?” I called to her. “Aren’t you having fun with your new toy?”

“Ummm… Mommy?” A little voice answered. “This toy doesn’t work. I think it’s dead.”

“Toys don’t die, honey.” (I was so naive.) “You just start at the top of the stairs, and send it down to the bottom.”

“Ummm…Mommy? It can’t do that anymore,” she said.

I set down my book.

My daughter sat on the stairs,knees pulled up, beaming at her latest masterpiece. The beautiful Slinky that offered children years of playtime fun, that mesmerized and was a joy to behold with its fluid motion was indeed dead. Somehow, my daughter had put that poor, defenseless toy into the stress test of the century. With a force she had never demonstrated previously, she had spread those tight, once thought indestructible, coils FAR apart and tied her beautiful Slinky into a bizarre knot around the banister railing. That Slinky, along with three pet mice, two goldfish (both named Goldie), and a tree frog, are buried in our back yard.

This brings me to today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday (PPBF) review.

Title – The Marvelous Thing That Came From A Spring

Written and illustrated by – Gilbert Ford

Published by – Atheneum Books for Young Readers -2016

Suitable for ages – 4-8

Topics/Theme –  determination and persistence and history of a retro toy.

Opening –  Richard James was a dreamer. But in 1943 the United Sates was at war. Richard had to support his country and his family, so he worked as an engineer for the United States Navy in a shipyard in Philadelphia. His assignment was to invent a device that would keep fragile ship equipment from vibrating in choppy seas.

Amazon Review –  View it HERE.  With magnificent dioramic illustrations, Gilbert Ford captures the joy, creativity, and determination behind the invention of an iconic, one-of-a-kind toy: the Slinky!

One day, a spring fell from the desk of Richard James, an engineer and a dreamer. Its coils took a walk…and so did Richard’s imagination. He knew right away that he had stumbled onto something marvelous.

With the help of his wife, Betty, Richard took this ordinary spring and turned it into a plaything. But it wasn’t just any old trinket—it was a Slinky, and it would become one of the most popular toys in American history.

Why do I like this book? The slinky seems like a simple toy, but behind its simplicity lies a fascinating history. Frankly, I was surprised at how hard a time Richard James, the inventor of the Slinky, had getting stores to stock this marvelous invention. I would have thought that seeing that baby in action would have drawn a crowd of clamoring, money-waving shoppers. So, what do you get when you team a fascinating story with perfectly suitable, retro illustrations? You have a super great book, of course.  See what I mean?
Gilbert Ford shares a school visit for his Slinky book HERE.

Find more “Perfect Picture Book Friday” reviews at Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog HERE.

The 39 Apartments of Ludwig van Beethoven – Perfect Picture Book Friday (PPBF)

A baby grand piano stands in my living room. The piano belonged to my aunt, Tante Helen. In her lifetime, the piano remained her pride and joy. When I think about my aunt, I either picture her stretching strudel dough over the backs of her hands in her cozy kitchen, painting a great forgery or abstract in her downstairs art studio, or playing her piano. Every holiday, every afternoon I visited her, and every free moment she found, Tante Helen played her piano. I loved to watch her disciplined fingers dance across the keys, filling her house with the music of Bach and Beethoven as well as popular songs from the movies and musicals of her youth.

When Tante Helen passed away, I inherited her piano. And thanks to years of piano lessons back in my school girl days, I enjoy playing that beautiful baby grand, too.

Since the day I inherited the piano, my husband and I have moved five times. Each time the piano movers arrive, I hold my breath until my cheeks are blue, watching the movers prop up my aunt’s beloved piano, remove the legs, wrap and secure moving blankets around the instrument before grunting as they tilt it on its side for what looks like a precarious ride out to the moving van. I feel like I don’t inhale again until we’re settled in our new home, and the piano is back on its legs.

Although I have only moved with the piano five times, someone in history has moved with his pianos (very plural) a whopping total of 39!

Welcome to Perfect Picture Book Friday (PPBF). Today I’d like to share the picture book, The 39 Apartments of Ludwig van Beethoven by Johah Winter, illustrated by Barry Blitt.

Title – The 39 Apartments of Ludwig van Beethoven

Written by – Jonah Winter

Illustrated by – Barry Blitt

Published by – Schwartz & Wade books 2006

Suitable for ages – 4-9

Topics/Theme –  determination and persistence

Opening –  

FACT: Ludwig van Beethoven was born in the town of Bonn in the country of Germany i the year 1770. Years later, he became a great composer.

FACT: Ludwig van Beethoven owned five legless pianos and composed great works on the floor.

Amazon Review –  View it HERE. How hard is it to move 5 legless pianos 39 times?
Beethoven owned five legless pianos and composed great works on the floor. His first apartment was in the center of Vienna’s theater district… but he forgot to pay rent, so he had to move. (And it’s very hard to move a piano. Even harder to move five). Beethoven’s next apartment was in a dangerous part of town… so he moved, and the pianos followed on a series of pulleys. Then came an apartment with a view of the Danube (but he made too much noise and the neighbors complained), followed by an attic apartment (where he made even MORE of a ruckus), and so Beethoven moved again and again. Each time, pianos were bought, left behind, transported on pulleys, slides, and by movers, all so that gifted Beethoven could compose great works of music for the world.

Why do I like this book?  Unlike Beethoven, I honestly didn’t move with my aunt’s piano numerous times because my playing disturbed my neighbors, but I can’t help but admire the passion Beethoven felt for his music under the pressure of neighbor after neighbor complaining about his loud playing and his continued determination to find a place to live where he could compose his music.
Because very little is known about why Beethoven moved so many times, the author wrote what he calls a mockumentary. Written with humor and accompanied by playful art, Beethoven’s passion for composing music is brought to life in a kid-friendly, entertaining story.
Learn about Jonah Winter HERE.

Lear about Barry Blitt HERE.

Visit a kid-friendly site about Beethoven Here.

Find more “Perfect Picture Book Friday” reviews at Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog HERE.