CHILDREN’S BOOKS: Some Weird Picture Books That Are My Favorites.

From Zack Smith: Writer’s list, here are some bizarre picture books that you should definitely check out!

Zack Smith: Writer

Happy New Year!  Thought I would get a few recommendations down as I got back to work.

These are some picture books that are so weird and wonderful and crazy that adults can enjoy them as well.  There’s tons of books like these out there, but these are a few of my favorites.

First, a recent one:

This is a really cool book by Matt Furie, whose artwork is colorful, surreal and kind of creepy…but overall, very gentle.

It’s a simple tale about a frog and a rat who go for a nighttime bike ride, meet up with some weird creatures who turn out to be friends, and then they all head to the beach together.

Night Riders 2

Furie does some crazy-detailed pages with creatures lurking in every corner, but despite the seeming threat of danger, the book is more about revealing all sorts of wonders around every corner, and will…

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The Circus is Where It’s At: Oddballs and Misfits in Henrik Drescher’s Klutz and Maira Kalman’s Roarr Calder’s Circus

These are book reviews by Gathering Books about Klutz by Henrik Drescher and Roarr Calder’s Circus. Check them out!

Gathering Books

 “Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls and children of all ages! Welcome to Burfoot’s Circus, the travelling home of freaks, misfits, drop-outs and the socially inept – sometimes all of the above – come together for your entertainment pleasure tonight, out of a love of performing in some cases, and simply fear of discovery in others.”
– Jackie Trippier Holt, Freaks Like Us


While I don’t remember watching the circus inside the Big Tent, I do enjoy watching acrobats, trapeze artists, jugglers, lion tamers, and other circus performers every chance I get. I’m particularly enamored by contemporary circus acts like the vibrant Cirque de la Mer who I saw perform at Sea World San Diego, and the visually captivating Cirque du Soleil. I watched Cirque du Soleil’s performance, KA, at MGM Grand in Las Vegas about five years ago with my aunt and uncle.

Click on the image to be taken to the websource. Click on the image to be…

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Picture Books with Unconventional Families

A fantastic list by Strong in the Broken Places Blog site about picture books that deal with unconventional families. Check it out!

Strong in the Broken Places

We generated this list on my grad school’s private forum, and I thought it might be interesting to you all. It’s picture books that don’t just have the mother-father-sibling-dog family relationships.

  • The Family Book by Todd Parr
  • Olivia by Ian Falconer–single mother
  • “Let’s Get a Pup!” said Kate by Bob Graham–androgynous, cool parents
  • A Chair for My Mother by Vera Williams–a single mom and grandmother raising a girl
  • Monster Mama by Liz Rosenberg–single mother, metaphor for mental illness
  • And Tango Makes Three–true story of gay male penguins who hatched and raised a foster baby penguin
  • A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever by Marla Frazee–two active, clueless grandparents on vacation with two boys
  • Eloise–pretty much unsupervised girl living in fancy hotel
  • Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting–a man and his son who are homeless living in an airport
  • December by Eve Bunting–also about homelessness
  • More…

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Rabbit Ears Treasury of World Tales Volume 3: The Bremen Town Musicians and Koi and the Kola Nuts

Blog 2 Info

Genre: Fairy Tales / Folktales

Year Published: 2007

Year Read: 2012

Series: Rabbit Ears Treasury: World Tales #3

Publisher:  Listening Library (Audio)

Blog 1 Introduction logo

Now how many of these “Rabbit Ears Treasury” audio CDs will I have to listen to just to be satisfied?  All of them of course! So, imagine my surprise when I finally picked up another “Rabbit Ears Treasury” audio CD, which is called “Rabbit Ears Treasury of World Tales Volume 3: The Bremen Town Musicians” and “Koi and the Kola Nuts” and I definitely enjoyed both stories on this CD!  “Rabbit Ears Treasury of World Tales Volume 3” is definitely an audio CD that you will enjoy for many years to come!

Blog 3 Summary
I have pretty much already summarized both of these stories through their book counterparts, so I will just briefly summarize each story:

The Bremen Town Musicians
Told by: Bob Hoskins
Music by: Eugene Friesen

The Bremen Town Musicians

When a donkey is threatened with death because he had grown too old to work on the farm, he decides to run away to the town of Bremen and along the way, he meets a cat, a dog and a rooster who were also in the same predicament as he was.  Further down, the four friends meet up with a band of robbers and they prove to be a match for the unsuspecting robbers!

Koi and the Kola Nuts
Told by: Whoopi Goldberg
Music by: Herbie Hancock

Koi and the Kola Nuts

When the youngest son of the former chief, Koi, only receives a Kola Nut tree after his father’s death, he decides to go to a village that would treat him with respect.  Unfortunately, Koi ends up in a village that wants to eat him and he must complete three impossible tasks in order to avoid being thrown into the cooking pot!

Blog 4 Pros
Wow! The “Rabbit Ears Treasury” series just keeps getting better and better!  These two tales are excellent to listen to and my favorite of the two stories is “Koi and the Kola Nuts” since Whoopi Goldberg does a brilliant job at narrating this ancient African folktale.  I loved the way that Herbie Hancock’s music just flows so well with this story as it contains an African beat that truly defines the African feel of this story and Whoopi Goldberg’s narration is smooth and regal as she narrates the story of a young prince who wants to be treated in a respectful manner, while meeting some great animal friends along the way.  In the other story “The Bremen Town Musicians,” Bob Hoskins has done an excellent job at narrating the classic Brothers Grimm tale as his narration is both hilarious and engaging to listen to.  Eugene Friesen’s music is both creative and hilarious to listen to as I find myself enjoying putting together the different instruments that go with each animal (the rooster has a voice that sounds like bagpipes and the cat has a voice that sounds like a violin) and Eugene Friesen’s music beautifully complements with these elements of each animal.

Blog 5 Cons

As with most of the audio CDs of the “Rabbit Ears Treasury” series, there is no book to accompany it and for readers who remembered reading the “Rabbit Ears” series during the 80s and 90s might be a bit disappointed with this.  This can be a problem especially if you wanted to show your children or your friends the stories so that way they could better understand the story, especially with “Koi and the Kola Nuts” that has many African terms that many small children might not understand very well with only an audio CD to go by.

Blog 6 Overall
Overall, “Rabbit Ears Treasury of World Tales Volume 3: The Bremen Town Musicians and Koi and the Kola Nuts” is definitely one collection of classic stories that both adults and children will enjoy for many years to come!

So go out and buy this fantastic series of popular children’s stories! I am sure that you will not be disappointed by these brilliant CDs!

5 stars



Also reviewed at: Rabbit Ears Book Blog

Princess Scargo and the Birthday Pumpkin by Eric Metaxas

Princess Scargo and the Birthday Pumpkin Book Cover

Blog 2 Info

Genre: Native American / Birthday / Folktale / Sacrifice

Year Published: 1992

Year Read: 1993

Series:  American Heroes and Legends

Publisher: Rabbit Ears Books

Blog 1 Introduction logo

“Princess Scargo and the Birthday Pumpkin” is a wonderful tale from the genius minds of Rabbit Ears about a young Native American princess named Scargo who learns about the power of sacrificing the things you love to save the people you love.  Geena Davis’ tender narration along with Michael Hedges’ Native American inspired music and Karen Barbour’s beautiful illustrations makes “Princess Scargo and the Birthday Pumpkin” an instant classic for the young and old.

Blog 3 Summary

A drought came to the land and the ponds were dried up which made the Nabscuet tribe upset because they needed the fish to survive on.  So, Chief Segam called for a meeting and they decided to dig up a lake to withstand the drought, therefore, when the rains come, the hole will be filled up and a new lake would be created.  Everyone in the tribe helped out with the lake, except for Princess Scargo who could not work because she was a princess of a great chief.  Unfortunately, even though everyone tried to work on the lake, the fish continued to die.

Finally, the rains came and filled up the hole to that created a lake and everyone celebrated.  Unfortunately, it would be a long time before the fish returned to the lake and Princess Scargo was sad because she wanted to help out the tribe so badly.  As Princess Scargo went to the forest to stare at the fish in her birthday pumpkin, she got an idea and realized what she must do…

Blog 4 Pros

Geena Davis does a fantastic job at narrating this story of a heroic Native American girl who must sacrifice her most precious gift to save her people.  Geena Davis’ narration is extremely tender, making this story extremely pleasant to listen to.  Michael Hedges’ music is truly inspiring as he captures the true essence of Native American music as the music is deeply mesmerizing and magical.  Karen Barbour’s illustrations are beautiful and colorful, especially of the images of the birthday pumpkin with the images of all the animals in the forest being drawn on the outside and when the scenes came where they showed the inside of the pumpkin being filled with fish, the images were mesmerizing and beautiful at the same time.

Blog 6 Overall

“Princess Scargo and the Birthday Pumpkin” is a wonderful tale about the power of sacrificing the things you love to save the people you love and many children will enjoy this classic tale for many years to come.  I would recommend this book to children ages five and up since there are some difficult words in this book that smaller children might have a hard time understanding, such as the names of the tribes.  Parents might want to help children understand the names of the tribes of the Indians by reading the names to them first.

5 stars



Also reviewed at: Rabbit Ears Book Blog

Jack and the Beanstalk by Eric Metaxas

Jack and the Beanstalk Book Cover

Blog 2 Info

Genre: Fantasy / Folktale / Drama

Year Published: 1991

Year Read: 1993

Series: We All Have Tales

Publisher: Rabbit Ears Books

Blog 1 Introduction logo

Let me just say, that “Jack and the Beanstalk” was the first Rabbit Ears story I have seen and it helped introduce me to the series I have come to love so much over the years! “Jack and the Beanstalk” is an ancient English fairy tale that is given a hilarious boot from Michael Palin’s humorous narration, David A. Stewart’s jazzy and mystic music and Edward Sorel’s scratchy yet beautiful illustrations and it will definitely be an instant treat for many children around the world!

Blog 4 Pros

Now, I have mentioned before that this was the first Rabbit Ears story I have seen, so what made this story truly memorable in my eyes? Well, for one thing, Michael Palin’s narration was a treat to listen to as his narration is extremely hilarious, especially when he is voicing Jack’s mother and the ogre’s wife as his voice is high pitched and that truly made listening to Jack’s mother and the ogre’s wife’s voices more irresistible to listen to. In contrast, Michael Palin provides a deep and booming voice when he is voicing the ogre, which is extremely effective in providing intensity to the scenes with the ogre. Edward Sorel’s illustrations are extremely scratchy yet beautiful at the same time as they beautifully capture the rich scenery of the luscious green forests and the colorfulness of the ogre’s garden. I also loved the illustrations of Jack and the ogre themselves as they truly stand out from the other characters as Jack has big blue eyes that indicates his innocence and he wears a red shirt with blue pants while the ogre is extremely huge and he wears a blue shirt with pink pants, while capturing the true essence of medieval times. David A. Stewart’s music was so fantastic that I was literally mesmerized by the beat of the music. David A. Stewart’s music was really catchy and mystic that it provided a dramatic tension to the story and it truly made this story dramatic and I also loved the theme song at the end called “Jack Had a Dream” which was extremely catchy, so I would definitely recommend you listen to this song! Eric Metaxas’s writing is truly witty and dramatic at the same time and I loved the little crude humor he incorporated into this story which included this line:

“He [the ogre] burped very, very loudly sending such an awful stench through the room that Jack thought he would faint dead right then and there in the oven and be discovered.”

This is like the most graphic yet hilarious description about a burp that I have ever read!

Blog 5 Cons

Parents should know that the ogre might scare young children especially when he threatened to eat Jack a couple of times. Parents might want to reassure their children that ogres do not exist in real life and this tale is simply a fairy tale.

Blog 6 Overall

Overall, “Jack and the Beanstalk” is a true classic fairy tale that every child will easily enjoy for many years! I would recommend this video to children ages five and up since scenes with the ogre might scare smaller children.

Blog 7 Awards Parents’ Choice Gold Award Parents Magazine – The Year’s Best Videos for Kids


5 stars



Also reviewed at: Rabbit Ears Book Blog

The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

The Velveteen Rabbit Book Cover

Blog 2 Info

Genre:  Fantasy / Toys / Drama

Year Published:  1985

Year Read: 2010

Series: Storybook Classics

Publisher: Rabbit Ears Books

Blog 1 Introduction logo

“The Velveteen Rabbit” is Rabbit Ears’ first classic story that is based off of Margery Williams’ popular tale and it is about how a toy rabbit learns the true meaning of being real. With Meryl Streep’s tender narration, George Winston’s soft music and David Jorgensen’s beautiful illustrations, “The Velveteen Rabbit” is an instant classic that children will watch over and over again.

Blog 4 Pros

What made this video truly memorable was Meryl Streep’s tender and soothing narration. Meryl Streep gives the story a very subtle mood by narrating in a graceful and soft-spoken tone that many children will be mesmerized by her narration. Meryl Streep has also done a brilliant job at expressing the various emotions that each of the characters experience throughout the story. The scene where I think that Meryl Streep’s narration stood out the most was the scene where the real rabbits tell the Velveteen Rabbit that he is not real and the Velveteen Rabbit begins to cry and Meryl Streep actually sounds like she is about to cry in this scene which truly brought out the realism of the situation in this scene. George Winston’s piano solo music is extremely beautiful and engaging, as his music is both happy and sorrowful, depending on the scene. The scene where I think that George Winston’s musical abilities truly shine was the scene where one of the real rabbits was dancing in front of the Velveteen Rabbit and George Winston plays the piano in such a dramatic and fast paced tone that I found myself loving every second of that scene. The video’s true highlight is David Jorgensen’s illustrations as they are extremely beautiful and captivating. David Jorgensen makes all the characters look extremely realistic, which gives the story a sense of realism and the images that stood out the most to me were the images of the real rabbits, as they look realistic and beautiful.

Blog 6 Overall

“The Velveteen Rabbit” is a beautiful story about knowing the importance of true love and children will easily relate to this story as they will feel sympathy for the Velveteen Rabbit trying to find the true meaning of being real. I would recommend this book to children ages five and up since small children might be upset at the fact that the Velveteen Rabbit feels upset when he realizes he is not like the other real rabbits.

Blog 7 Awards National Association of Record Manufacturers (NARM) – Best Selling Children’s Album New York International Film and TV Festival – Gold Medal Chicago International Film Festival – Silver Plaque Birmingham International Educational Film Festival – Best Early Childhood Videotape American Film Festival – Finalist Houston International Film Festival – Finalist Redbook Magazine – Listed Among the 15 Best Illustrated Children’s Books Grammy Award Nomination – Best Recording for Children Action for Children’s Television (ACT) Award American Film Festival – Finalist CINE Golden Eagle Award Parents’ Choice – Parents’ Choice Award for Recording


5 stars


Also reviewed at: Rabbit Ears Book Blog

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