Everything old is new again for kids
HUSH, LITTLE BABY Illustrated by Marla Frazee Harcourt Brace
THE DINOSAUR'S NEW CLOTHES Written and illustrated by Diane Goode Ages 3 and up
MIKE MULLIGAN AND HIS STEAM SHOVEL Written and illustrated by Virginia Lee Burton Houghton Mifflin Ages 4-8
ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND By Lewis Carroll Illustrated by Helen Oxenbury Candlewick Press Ages 8 and up
BUILDING THE BOOK CATHEDRAL Written and illustrated by David Macaulay Houghton Mifflin All ages
If you and your shopping list have yet to hit a bookstore, here's a holiday tip: When it comes to children's books, it's never been easier to give new versions of old favorites. Stores are brimming with colorized reprints, collector's copies, and anniversary editions. Here are just a few of the classic and traditional tales that blend the best from the past with a dash of the present.
An Appalachian lullaby, Hush, Little Baby, is charming as a picture book. Fresh, energetic illustrations by Marla Frazee feature a grumpy older sister who starts the baby crying with a rough push on the cradle. She's quite content to have the companionship of her parents as they attempt to quiet the yowling infant. Although it takes all night - and involves endless trips to an itinerant peddler - the noisy little one is eventually hushed. Words to the song move the action along, but Frazee's controlled palette of cozy-colored, humorous vignettes would work well on their own. Music and lyrics are provided on the last page.
"The Emperor's New Clothes," by Denmark's Hans Christian Andersen, was published in 1836 and translated into English a decade later. Now, more than 150 years later, Diane Goode illustrates and recasts the tale in The Dinosaur's New Clothes. Yes, you read that correctly. Not only do prehistoric beasts take the roles of emperor, swindlers, and all royal subjects, but they are placed in the extravagant French palace of Versailles. Goode keeps Andersen's plot, exposing - literally - the embarrassing consequences of vanity, but she adds the amusing incongruity of dinosaurs wearing powdered wigs, jabots, and elaborately embroidered suits. This is a delightfully silly romp that still carries a powerful message.
Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel celebrates its 60th anniversary this year. With the heart of a mother and the eye of a designer, Virginia Lee Burton wrote it with her own small sons in mind. Mike and his beloved steam shovel, Mary Ann, have been stalwart friends to generations of readers. Not only does their cellar-digging triumph still ring true, but Burton's creative illustrations and blocks of shaped text continue to be lauded among book-designers. The updating of this old favorite includes a paperback version, and a narration on cassette tape.
For independent readers
Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland revolutionized children's literature when it was published in 1865. Instead of preaching morals and lessons, it offered an imaginative plot, interesting characters, and a shameless use of nonsense. Now, English artist Helen Oxenbury makes it even more appealing and accessible to modern readers. This Alice is a thoroughly contemporary little girl with a denim jumper and white sneakers. The art's cheerful tone enhances the playfulness rather than the sometimes-bizarre nature of Carroll's work. Purists may still prefer the original illustrations by Sir John Tenniel - and, in fact, all readers should know about them - but Oxenbury's interpretations are a sheer delight and pump fresh air through the rabbit hole that leads to Alice's improbable adventures.
Slightly more than a quarter-century ago, Houghton Mifflin published David Macaulay's very first book, "Cathedral." If you're a behind-the-scenes type of person, here's a new work you won't want to miss: Building the Book Cathedral. In it, Macaulay gives readers a tell-all volume of the successes and shortcomings of his original Caldecott honor book. This new enormous work includes the complete text of "Cathedral" plus some wry observations by the now-famous author-illustrator. It's an interesting, informative, and inspired volume.
* Karen Carden reviews children's books regularly for the Monitor.
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society