Book Smarts

Since the Mini Maven arrived, several things have become abundantly clear: we can function on three hours' sleep (not well, mind you, but it can be done); the bouncy seat is a magical contraption, regardless of how ugly it is; and maybe — just maybe — the off-white couch wasn't such a good idea.

But perhaps the most disheartening thing we've discovered is that there are a lot of horrifyingly bad children's books out there. Yes, we get the point of those cardboard books that teach children colors and textures, though we can't believe people actually get paid to "write" them. And we're wild about the classics, such as "The Little Engine that Could" and "Goodnight Moon." But you know you're in trouble when Disney movies are re-envisioned as Little Golden Books. Something seriously gets lost in the money-making translation. 

So we were thrilled when the two newest titles from Yarmouth-based Islandport Press arrived in our mailbox. Islandport, run by former Portland newspaperman Dean Lunt, caught our attention a few years back when it began reissuing Dahlov Ipcar's children's books. And everything we've seen from this Maine publisher has been of the highest quality — both visually and editorially.

Islandport's latest Ipcar installment, "The Calico Jungle," shows exactly why books like this should be revived. In Ipcar's hands, a whimsical quilt becomes a gorgeously illustrated adventure for one sleepy little boy. It's a great bedtime story — well, it will be, anyway, once the mini's attention span gets a little longer.

Though we were unfamiliar with the work of the late Robert Baldwin, we are smitten with "The Fish House Door." This pure Maine fable underscores the things that are truly valuable in our lives, and the story is made even richer by the watercolor illustrations of young Massachusetts artist Astrid Scheckels. Even better, it's based on a true story Baldwin first heard in Newcastle.

These books are a must for kids from Maine — or from away. And they beat the remake of "Cars" anyday.

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Falbert said...

Time to shop for couch covers! Stylish, washable... and essential for furniture in a house with kids.

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