Castles

Castles by Stephanie Turnbull, illustrated by Colin King, 2003.

This nonfiction picture book for kids is part of the Usborne Beginners series, originally published in Britain. There are other books about castles, knights, and life in the Middle Ages from Usborne, but this book in particular, like others in its series, is a simplified version meant for beginning readers. The book is recommended for ages 4 and up.

The book explains different types of castles and the parts of a castle. It also offers details about daily life for people who lived in castles, including hunting, food and feasts, and things they would do for fun.

There are also pages about knights, the armor they wore, jousts, and attacking and defending a castle.

The book ends by explaining why castles from the Middle Ages are in ruins today.

In the back of the book, there is a glossary of terms and a link to the Usborne site’s page of quicklinks, which still works and has links to child-friendly informational sites on various topics, organized first by topic and then by related book. Both the book and the website offer Internet safety tips for kids and parents.

The book is available to borrow and read for free online through Internet Archive (multiple copies).

What Were Castles For?

What Were Castles For? by Phil Roxbee Cox, illustrated by Sue Stitt and Annabel Spenceley, 1994.

This nonfiction picture book for kids is part of the Usborne Starting Point History series, originally published in Britain.

I love books about daily life in the past, and this book explains the lives of people who lived in castles during the Middle Ages by answering questions about what castles were for and what people in castles did. Each page of the book is organized around sections answering specific questions.

First, the book describes the basic purpose of castles and different types of castles that have existed and how they were built. The, it shows different parts of a castle and what people did in different parts. One of my favorite parts is where they show what is in a castle’s keep, which is where the lord of the castle and his family lived. The book uses cutaway pictures to show what is inside buildings, and the detailed pictures show the different activities of the people.

Among the activities of the nobles who lived in castles, the book explains how they would hunt and hold feasts and jousts.

Knights and warfare were central to the purpose of a castle, which was to provide a defensible fortress for the noble families who lived in them and their supporters. The book explains how boys from noble families were raised and educated to be knights. There are also pages showing weapons and the siege of a castle.

One of the things I liked about this book is that, while it is mainly about castles and the people who lived in them, it also shows how people lived outside of castles in small villages, towns, and monasteries. While castles are iconic of the Middle Ages, seeing how people lived in these other places gives a more expanded view of life in Medieval times.

The pictures really make the book! Every picture from the cutaway castle views to the scenes of villages and towns or jousts and hunts, show many people and small details. There are little descriptions labeling the people and details, most giving extra historical information, but some just for fun so readers can notice humorous details, like the monk being chased by bees at the monastery, the chicken escaping along the castle wall, the sister who is happy that her brother is going off to learn to be a knight, and the page who is learning archery but hasn’t made the target yet (his last failed shot falls short of the target, but it’s labeled as the best he’s done so far).

In the back of the book, there is a section with the legend of Richard the Lionheart and his minstrel and a map marked with famous castles around the world.

The book is available to borrow and read for free online through Internet Archive (multiple copies, including one in French).

Seashells for Katie and Andy

Seashells for Katie and Andy by Solveig Paulson Russell, illustrated by Marjorie Cooper, 1973.

This is a cute little picture book that presents information about seashells in story form.

Katie and Andy are at the beach with their grandmother. As the children collect seashells, their grandmother tells them what kind of shells they are and a little about them.

The shells included in the book are: coquina shells, cowrie shells, triton shells, conch shells, lace murex, olive shells, scallop shells, and limpets.

Toward the end of the book, the kids ask their grandmother if they can find shells anywhere else besides the beach, and she tells them about snail shells.

The grandmother also tells the children about different uses people have for seashells. She talks about how they can be used for jewelry, vases, and decorations of different kinds. She also mentions that they can be broken up and used in roads, but the children don’t like the idea of breaking shells.

My Reaction

This book is nostalgic for me because my own grandmother was an amateur naturalist, and she used to give us gifts of seashells that she found in her own travels. Some of the shells in my old collection still have labels with the names of the shells in my grandmother’s handwriting.

In the beginning of the book, there is a note to parents and teachers from the National College of Education in Evanston, Illinois about how the information in the book is educationally sound. I don’t have anything to criticize about the information in the book except one instance where the grandmother talks about “Indians” making necklaces from a certain type of shell. I’m pretty sure from context that they mean American Indians and not people from India, but I think that “American Indians” or “Native Americans” would be better terms to use for the sake of clarity.

They never say exactly where the beach in the story is, which would make a difference in the types of shells that the characters might find. Most of the shells covered in the book have a pretty broad worldwide distribution, but I suspect from the selection of shells given that the characters are probably in the Southeastern United States.

Winnie-the-Pooh and the Pebble Hunt

Winnie-the-Pooh and the Pebble Hunt by Walt Disney Productions, 1982.

This is a First Little Golden Book.

Winnie-the-Pooh and Piglet are trying to think of something to do. Piglet suggests a heffalump hunt, but Winnie-the-Pooh says that he would rather go on a pebble hunt because it’s easier to find pebbles.

They get a sock to keep their pebbles in, and they start collecting pebbles. However, they don’t notice right away that there is a hole in the toe of the sock, and the pebbles they collect fall out as they go.

They discover the hole when they stop to count how many pebbles they’ve found, and they realize that there’s only one pebble left in the sock. Also, they suddenly realize that they’re lost.

Fortunately, Winnie-the-Pooh realizes that they can follow the trail of pebbles they’ve lost to find their way back home. They tie a hole in the sock to stop the pebbles they’ve collected from falling out again, and they follow their pebble trail, picking up the pebbles again on their way home.

The book is available to borrow and read for free online through Internet Archive.

My Reaction

This is a cute and fun story where Winnie-the-Pooh and Piglet discover that their mistake in losing the pebbles they’ve been collecting is actually a stroke of good luck because their trail of dropped pebbles helps them find their way home when they’re lost. This little picture book was a favorite of mine and my brother’s when we were little, and my family still likes to jokingly quote Piglet when he realizes that there’s only one pebble left, and Pooh asks him to count again, slowly, just to be sure: “One pebble. I counted very slowly.”

The Little Red Hen

The Little Red Hen pictures by Tadasu Izawa and Shigemi Hijikata, 1968.

This cute picture book is part of a series of Puppet Storybooks. What makes it distinctive from other picture books is that the pictures are all photographs of tableaux with detailed puppets. The story is a retelling of the classic Little Red Hen folktale.

A hen finds a grain of wheat, but no one is interested in helping her plant it, so she does it herself. When it’s time to harvest the wheat, none of the other animals will help her, so she also cuts the wheat herself.

Because no one wants to help her, she takes the wheat to the mill to be made into flour and bakes it into bread all by herself.

When she has the nice loaf of bread that she has made, all of the animals who didn’t want to help before suddenly come to help her eat it. However, since none of them helped with making the bread, the Little Red Hen eats the bread herself with her chicks.

My Reaction

I’ve had this book since I was a little kid, and I always liked the pictures! The puppets are detailed and posed in realistic ways. The picture on the cover of the book is a 3D hologram, and I was fascinated by it as a young child. It was one of the first holographic images that I saw as a child!

(In my defense, I might not have been the one who scribbled crayon on that cover image. I was pretty good about not drawing on books when I was little, and most of my childhood books were used, so that scribble might have happened before I got it. I don’t remember anymore, so it’s hard to deny it completely, but according to my memory, my messy scribbles were done on the back wall of my closet, behind my clothes, because I knew that drawing on walls wasn’t allowed, and I was realized that if you’re going to draw on the wrong surface, it’s best to do it where nobody’s going to see it and complain. I was sneaky like that.)

While my copy of this book was printed in English, the books in the series were originally written, illustrated, printed, and bound in Japan. I never noticed that when I was a kid because I never bothered to look at the names of the illustrators and had no interest in where it was printed, but I found it interesting as an adult. It makes me think that there are probably also versions of this book written in Japanese, but I’ve never seen any.

How Fletcher Was Hatched

How Fletcher Was Hatched! by Wende and Harry Devlin, 1969.

Fletcher the dog is sad and upset because it seems like his owner, Alexandra, is forgetting about him. She’s been playing with the new baby chicks, which she thinks are cute, and she’s been forgetting to pet her dog or even fill his water bowl!

Distressed, Fletcher goes to see his friends, Beaver and Otter, at the pond. Beaver and Otter don’t have human owners, so they don’t understand Fletcher’s feelings about Alexandra, but they try to think of ways to get her attention. They think it would help if Fletcher could make himself more like the chicks Alexandra has been obsessed with. Aince he can’t make himself small and yellow, they decide that he should hatch out of an egg, like the chicks do. Fletcher is skeptical about this plan, but Beaver and Otter think that hatching out of an egg will be like having a new beginning in his relationship with Alexandra.

Beaver and Otter build an egg around Fletcher with reeds, grass, and clay from the river, leaving a little hole so they can give Fletcher water and food. When they’re done, it’s a very convincing but giant egg.

By the time they’re finished, it’s night. Fletcher is uncomfortable sleeping in the egg and wonders what Alexandra is doing. Meanwhile, Alexandra is having trouble sleeping because she’s worried about her lost dog.

In the morning, Beaver and Otto roll the egg over to Alexandra’s school to make sure that she sees it. The first person who sees the egg, though, is the school’s custodian. He’s shocked at the sight of such a giant egg and starts yelling for the science teacher to come look at it.

Soon, the egg is surrounded by children and adults, marveling over what kind of it could be and where it came from. The science teacher brings a friend who is a university professor, and the two of them are convinced that the egg must belong to a rare creature, although they disagree about the type of creature it is.

Fletcher waits to hatch until he hears Alexandra. Alexandra’s friends are excited about the egg, but she’s just upset and only wants to go looking for her lost dog.

Fletcher decides it’s time to hatch, and he busts his way out of the egg. Alexandra is happy to see him, even though Fletcher’s attempt at peeping is a little weak. Everyone is confused, but Alexandra is just relieved that she has her dog back. Fletcher feels better, realizing that he is important to Alexandra, and she really cares about him, even though he’s not yellow and doesn’t peep.

The book is available to borrow and read for free online through Internet Archive.

My Reaction

I read this book as a kid, but I had forgotten much of the story. I remembered that Fletcher hatched out of an artificial egg and that he did it to get his owner’s attention, but I couldn’t remember why he needed attention. I can understand Alexandra being temporarily distracted by the little chicks on the farm, but forgetting to give her dog water is really bad for a pet owner. I felt like her parents should have noticed and said something. But, mostly, the situation is just set up for the purposes of this humorous hatching of a dog from a giant egg. Because the egg was created by animals, the humans in the story never find out how or why Fletcher got in the egg, which is actually the funniest part for me as an adult.

Barbie and the Missing Wedding Dress

The Missing Wedding Dress Featuring Barbie by Karen Krugman, illustrated by Laura Westlake, 1986.

This Little Golden Book is a cute mystery with Barbie and her younger sister Skipper.

Barbie’s friends, Tracy and Todd, are getting married, and Barbie and Skipper are helping Tracy to get ready. Barbie is going to be Tracy’s maid of honor, and Skipper will be the flower girl for the wedding.

However, when they’re helping Tracy to get dressed for the wedding, Barbie’s cat gets loose and Skipper accidentally tears Tracy’s dress trying to catch the cat. The three of them take the dress to the dressmaker to be fixed.

After the dress is repaired, they stop at the shoe store to pick up Barbie’s shoes. However, when they leave the store, they suddenly realize that they no longer have the box with the dress in it. Instead, they have a box that contains several pairs of jogging shoes! Somehow, the boxes were switched, but how are they going to find the person with the right box?

Barbie, Skipper, and Tracy track the person with the dress across town, using the clues that the jogging shoes belonged to a woman in a floppy straw hat with a red van that says “Flo” on it.

The book is available to borrow and read for free online through Internet Archive.

My Reaction

I read this book when I was a kid and I liked to play with Barbies, and I thought that having them solve a kind of mystery was fun, although it’s a very simple sort of mystery, chasing down a lost object. I liked this book a lot when I was little.

Barbie fans might notice that Skipper doesn’t have her 2000s look, basically looking like a smaller version of Barbie herself, which was how she looked in the 1980s and 1990s, when I got my Barbie dolls. Since then, Mattel has changed Skipper’s hair. However, people who are younger than I am might not be aware that Tracy was also a doll from the 1980s, a friend of Barbie who came in a wedding dress. This 1982 commercial on YouTube shows bride doll Tracy with her groom, Todd. The Tracy and Todd dolls existed before this book was written, so the book was written to give the dolls a story, and the dolls weren’t created based on the book.

The Poky Little Puppy’s Naughty Day

The Poky Little Puppy’s Naughty Day by Jean Chandler, 1985.

This picture book book is part of the Poky Little Puppy series from Little Golden Books.

The Poky Little Puppy and his siblings are excited because they’re going to visit their grandmother. The Poky Little Puppy wakes up later than his siblings, and when he gets up, he feels playful and frisky. He keeps running around and knocking things over. He makes such a mess that his mother puts him in time out to calm down.

After while, his mother lets him go outside to play with his siblings, but she warns him not to get dirty because they’re going to visit his grandmother. However, the Poky Little Puppy doesn’t listen. Instead, he digs a hole under the fence and ends up in the neighbor’s yard, where he plays with some laundry and drags it through the mud, getting himself and the laundry all dirty.

As his mother and the other puppies start walking to their grandmother’s house, the mother sends the Poky Little Puppy back to apologize to the neighbor. Instead, the Poky Little Puppy gets into more trouble by chasing a butterfly through another neighbor’s flower bed. When he finally makes it to his grandmother’s house, he’s wet and muddy and leaves tracks all over his grandmother’s floor.

His grandmother makes him help her clean up, but even that doesn’t calm him down. Grandmother wants to read a story to the puppies, but the Poky Little Puppy is still too energetic. He knocks over a table and makes another big mess. By the time they get it all cleaned up, there’s no time for a story, and they all have to go home.

Finally, the Poky Little Puppy seems to have exhausted himself and is feeling badly about the trouble he’s caused today. When the puppies have their dinner and dessert, he is extra careful and doesn’t even drop a crumb. He later apologizes to the neighbors and promises to do better.

The book is available to borrow and read for free online through Internet Archive.

My Reaction

This is just a cute little story about the problems that young kids can get into when they’re feeling energetic and playful but are also acting thoughtlessly and going too far. Just being playful by itself isn’t a problem, but the Poky Little Puppy has to learn some self-control about how he plays, just like human children.

The Poky Little Puppy Follows His Nose Home

The Poky Little Puppy Follows His Nose Home by Adelaide Holl, illustrated by Alex C. Miclat, 1975.

This book is part of the Poky Little Puppy series of picture books from Little Golden Books.

The puppies’ mother allows them to go exploring a little outside of their own yard, but she warns them to stay away from the highway because the cars are dangerous and reminds them to be home in time for dinner. She also adds that if they get lost, they should rely on their sense of smell to get home.

As the puppies explore, they meet other animals in the countryside and stop to play. Eventually, they find themselves on the edge of the city. They are frightened of the noise of the cars, and a pigeon tells them that they’d better stay away from the city if they want to avoid cars.

The puppies realize that they need to turn around and go home, but when they try to sniff for familiar smells to go home, they have trouble. When they try to smell the apple orchard, they accidentally find a stand where a man is ffselling apples instead. Trying to smell flowers leads them to a flower cart. Trying to sniff for animals smells leads them to the zoo.

Then, the Poky Little Puppy realizes that what they really need to do is sniff for their own smell so they can retrace their steps home. Sniffing for their own trail works, and the puppies get home in time for dinner!

My Reaction

Like other Poky Little Puppy books, the story is cute. Nothing very stressful happens in the story, making it a good story for bedtime. Even though the puppies get lost temporarily, it isn’t for very long, and they get home in time for dinner, as they do in other Poky Little Puppy books.

The Poky Little Puppy

The Poky Little Puppy by Janette Sebring Lowrey, illustrated by Gustaf Tenggren, 1942, 1982.

This is a famous class children’s book, the first in a series from the Little Golden Books collection! In fact, it was one of the original first 12 Little Golden Books that were published in 1942.

Five little puppies like to dig holes under the fence and go exploring. Then, four of the puppies realize that one of their brothers isn’t with them. They look around and find him sniffing at the ground. When they ask him what he’s doing, he says that he smells something.

The puppies realize that the smell is rice pudding, and they hurry home to get some. However, their mother is angry about the holes they dug and sends them to bed without dessert.

The puppy who originally smelled the rice pudding is slower than the others (or “poky” as the book describes him, which is why he’s called the Poky Little Puppy). He comes home later than the others, and while everyone is asleep, he eats all the rice pudding himself.

The next day, their mother puts up a sign telling them not to dig holes under the fence, but the puppies ignore it and dig holes anyway so they can go exploring. While they’re out, the Poky Little Puppy hears something.

The other puppies realize that it’s the sound of chocolate custard being dished up, and they hurry home to get some. Again, they’re punished for digging holes, and they’re sent to bed without dessert. And again, the Poky Little Puppy comes home last and eats all the dessert while everyone is in bed.

The next day, the puppies dig holes again, but this time, when they hurry home for dessert and their mother is mad at them, the four puppies who got home quickly fill in the holes they dug. Their mother, seeing that they fixed the holes, decides to let them have their dessert. The Poky Little Puppy, who came home late again, doesn’t get any because the others ate his share, too.

The book is available to borrow and read for free online through Internet Archive (multiple copies).

My Reaction

This is a very simple story, but I remember liking it as a kid. Kids like stories with repetition, so the repeated incidents in the book appeal to them. The Poky Little Puppy thinks that he’s found a trick to getting all the dessert by staying out late enough that his mother has gone to bed and can’t tell him to go to bed without dessert. But, his trick stops working when the other puppies clean up their act and get the dessert before he even gets there. In the end, all of the puppies learn that digging holes means no dessert for any of them anymore.