Dear Aunt Debbie,
We are the happy recipients of another excellent birthday box from you, this one for Eleanor's 7th last week. Your boxes are the cause of much excitement in our house, as the kids know there will be something for each of them, no matter the occasion. Sibling presents on birthdays are the best.
Guinea Pig, Pet Shop Private Eye, by Colleen AF Venable and Stephanie Yue, which you mentioned in a recent post. Eleanor likes the detective/mystery aspect of the adventures of the guinea pig Sasspants, who is pressed into working as a private eye by a hamster named Hamisher. Isabel likes the superbly silly humor throughout. The pet shop is run by a scatterbrained man, Mr. Venezi, who labels the cages of all the animals with the wrong names. As a result, the hamsters all think they are koalas; the chinchillas are called camels, etc. There's a lot of opportunity for reading aloud with accents and dramatic voices, which you know we enjoy. I also appreciate that Sasspants, the protagonist, is female, and wants to do nothing more than lie back in her cage with a good book. She's my kind of detective.
Perhaps the biggest hit so far is Fairy Tale Comics: Classic Tales Told by Extraordinary Cartoonists, edited by Chris Duffy. It's a gorgeous book: 18 fairy tales, retold and illustrated by contemporary cartoonists. There is great variety in the style of illustration, and in the choice of stories. The girls immediately gravitated toward the familiar -- Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White, Rapunzel -- and enjoyed pointing out the ways in which the retellings differ from the versions we know well. Raina Telgemeier's Rapunzel is a particular favorite: Rapunzel jumps out the window after the prince and saves both of them by using her hair as a rope.
After that first pass through the book, we're starting to read some of the lesser-known stories: "Azzolino's Story Without End," from "The King and His Storyteller"; "The Prince and the Tortoise," from 1001 Nights; the English tale "The Small-Tooth Dog." Here's a page from Luke Pearson's retelling of the Japanese tale "The Boy Who Drew Cats":
I love coming into the living room to find each girl poring over these densely-illustrated pages. Even Will loves flipping the cover open. Another hit -- thank you!