A marvelous chapter book and one that you rarely hear about is The Return of the Twelves by Pauline Clark. (Also called The Twelve and the Genii). Written in 1962, it tells the story of a young boy, Max, who lives in England in an old farmhouse. One day he finds some toy soldiers under a floor board in the attic, and of course, they come alive.
This is a familiar plot to all of us today (Indian in the Cupboard, Toy Story), but this one has more of a twist to it. It turns out that the Bronte family (yes, that Bronte family) used to live nearby and the soldiers could have been the toys of Charlotte, Emily, Anne and their brother Branwell.
The characters are rich and the story moves right along as Max gets more and more attached to the soldiers, and then becomes aware of their history, and then must save them from being sold to a collector.
I read this years ago to my younger son and we kept saying to each other “Why hasn’t someone made this into a movie?”
Fun back story … apparently the Brontes DID have a bunch of soldiers that they played with. They invented elaborate lives for them and wrote all kinds of stories and plays about the soldier characters they had created. There are actually published works (such as The History of the Young Men by Patrick Branwell Bronte -- see the very fuzzy photograph below) that survive. Pauline Clark clearly researched these for the novel because some of the names and characteristics are just what the Brontes had used. I love that kind of stuff.
You can read this aloud to an age as young as 4th grade perhaps, and as old as 8th, if they aren't too "cool" to listen. Of course, they could also read it themselves. But then how would you know what happens?
Several weeks (months?) ago I created this page so we could all share and talk about our favorite children's books. And now ... finally ... I am doing it!
"Mom Pie" is one of my favorites from the days when I read my boys picture books. At the time we found this book, my boys were ages 7 and 4 - about the same age as the boys in the story.
In this delightful and realistic book, Mom is too busy to pay attention to the boys because company is coming over. She is stirring, cleaning, arranging ... and the kids are upset and confused that she doesn't have time for them.
So they make a pie - putting several things that remind them of her into a dish. I'll let you read the rest.
The illustrations are adorable and spot-on, as in this depiction of mom getting ready. Look at the clock. Isn't that exactly how it feels to be rushing?
My children loved this book and I know yours will, too!
"Mom Pie" is by Lynne Jonell and illustrated by Petra Mathers.
I have always loved to read. I read like crazy as a kid, and when I grew up I carried a book with me everywhere; reading in the subway, or waiting in doctor’s offices. I kept a journal of what I read: 50 or 60 books each year, a mix of classics, lighter novels, and history.
Then I had a baby.
Exhausted to stupefaction by my newborn, I could not read a book. I could glance at the paper, I could peruse a magazine, but I couldn’t stay awake for a book.
One day I realized that Sam, my son, could hold his head up. I put him on my lap, took a little word book and read it to him. He loved it! We read it again. And again. I was reading a book!
OK, it wasn’t Thackeray, but I had already read Thackeray. He was good, has far as brilliant nineteenth century writers go, but his books didn’t have any illustrations of smiling moons in the sky or adorable messy puppies. And when I made the adorable puppy “woof” sounds as I read to Sam, he would look up at me, grinning a drooly grin, filled with delight at the joys a book could bring. I fell in love with reading in a whole new way.
I started to buy books every where we went: the supermarket, Costco, garage sales. We went to library constantly. One day I bought a little Winnie the Pooh flap book in the checkout line called “Who Hid The Honey?” In the story, Pooh is looking for his honey pot, and each page features a different place that, alas, the honey pot cannot be found. We got about halfway through, and then it was our turn at the cashier. I put the book down, and told Sam we’d finish it when we got home.
But he fell asleep in the car, and when I woke him up from his nap we went to the park, and at bedtime we read something else, and before you could say “Tigger”, several days had gone by, and we still didn’t know who hid Pooh’s honey.
It bothered me. I needed to know what had happened to that darn honey pot, but I felt silly reading it on my own. It would just be weird if I actually sat down with a cup of coffee and read the thing to myself while Sam was sleeping, wouldn’t it? I forced myself to wait until it was reading time with Sam, but when I went to get the book to finally read it to him, I couldn’t find it! I looked everywhere, but it had disappeared. I felt a little panicky. How would I ever know the end of the story, if I couldn’t find the book?
Weeks went by. The stupid thing never turned up. I checked to see if the library had the book, so I could just read the ending, but they didn’t carry it. Doggone it! Who, oh who, had hid the honey? And who had hidden the darn book about the hidden honey?
I moved on, and tried not to think Pooh and his honey pot. I was being ridiculous, I told myself. Probably Rabbit took it for his garden, or maybe Roo borrowed it for a game and forgot to return it. Anything could have happened to it. Of course, Pooh was going to be fine, and the pot would turn up. It always did, in these types of stories. There was no need to obsess about it, right?
Imagine my delight when the book surfaced, months later, during a bout of vigorous, furniture-moving cleaning. I was overjoyed. Sam couldn’t even remember the thing, but was happy enough when I interrupted his block building to sit right down and read a book to him.
As it turns out, Pooh himself was to blame. He had been so worried about someone taking his honey, that he had hidden it in a very unusual place, and forgotten that he had done so. In his paranoia, he had outsmarted himself. A life lesson for us all.
I always knew that I would love reading to my children, but I never anticipated how rich the trove of children’s literature would be, and how I would come to love and cherish those books as deeply as any adult books I have ever read.
Sam is in college now, and his younger brother Jack is in high school. I miss reading to them so much, but I am eager to share all the amazing books I learned about during those years. This page is where you can read about my favorites or suggest a few of your own. Let's read together.