A Blast From the Past: The Rocket Book

Drop by the Library of Congress and explore its Center for the Book site. Why? The site hosts quite a bit of exciting and free books that are sure to please readers of all ages. Need proof? If so, flip through The Rocket Book (1912) by Peter Sheaf Hersey Newell. Delightful verse and humorous images propel eager readers through a madcap story that as fresh now as it was when it first appeared 102 years ago.

Image from The Rocket Book by American artist and author, Peter Newell (1862-1924). A naughty boy playing in a basement finds and ignites a rocket that blasts upward in an apartment building. In this image, a family meal is explosively upset as the rocket races ever upward.

The Steiners on the floor above
Of breakfast were partaking;
Crash! came the rocket, unannounced,
And set them all a-quaking!
It smote a catsup bottle, fair,
And bang! the thing exploded!
And now these people all declare
That catsup flask was loaded.

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Old Book Illustrations, New Ideas

Old Book Illustration Blog

The images at Old Book Illustrations Scrapbook Blog are a treat to explore. Poring over this collection of vintage illustrations (mostly wood engravings/woodcuts, etchings or metal engravings) taken from books published between the 1700s through the early 1900s, is an exciting endeavor. One of my favorite pastimes is grabbing an illustration, dropping it into an image-editing program and overlaying colors.

Book Report

I am grateful that my wife is so understanding. Though I am an insatiable bibliophile, she tolerates my frequent book buying binges. Even so, during my latest lapse into literary licentiousness, I promised my spouse that I would do more than just purchase, voraciously read, and toss aside my acquisitions. I gave her my word that I would dutifully blog about each of my books. Here are the books that I hope will help me become a little wiser.

I’ll be posting my discoveries/insights here as I work my way through each book.

What the Dickens?

Celebrating the birth of a literary legend, Michael Cavna‘s thoroughly enlightening and entertaining Comic Riffs blog inundates readers with a deluge of Dickensian delights.

Other delicious Dickensian diversions:

Google Doodle celebrating Dickensian characters

 

The Class Menagerie: Chimeras, Cryptids, and Creativity

My daughter, a collector of cryptids, maven of mythology, and avid aficionada of all manner of animals, recently shared a wonderful book with me. We were away from home at the time, visiting relatives in another city. Making the most of her journey, my little scholar paid a visit to the Washington Memorial Library, a branch of the Macon/Bibb County Public Library system. Having long ago traversed the mythology sections in libraries near our home and exhausting their tomes of mythological lore, she spent a happy Friday afternoon and Saturday morning searching Washington Memorial’s collection for books for new literature about fanciful animals. Her earnest bookshelf browsing uncovered an excellent find.

Look at what I found,” she said, excitedly handing me a volume by writer and illustrator Keith DuQuette, “I really like this book!” After taking in the striking cover of a phantasmagorical cross between a cow and a rooster (a cooster) and reading the first few pages, I could see why she was so elated. Cock-a-Doodle-Mooo! is a treat to devour! Setting the tone for young readers, the author reminds his audience that the blending of beasts is a time-honored tradition. He also wisely adds that anyone can create a variety of varmints.

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But that’s only the beginning. DuQuette launches into a most fanciful demonstration by introducing the world to a conglomeration of contemporary chimeras. In addition to the comical descriptions of his new bevvy of beasts in witty rhymes, the author also serves up a heaping helping of intriguing illustrations. It’s a pleasure to see the books as much as it is to read it aloud.

For example, readers will discover the meandering Mouscodile who, we are told, is…

Not your average timid mouse,

he’s moving freely through the house.

Sassy, bold and getting fat,

he skipped the cheese and ate the cat!

Other blended beasts like Squoodles and Firefligeons engender a welcome dose of humor and wonder. With charming and alarming creatures, students of all ages will want to grab Cock-a-Doodle-Mooo! and find a comfortable spot for reading. The delightful denizens of DuQuette’s imagination are great catalysts for creativity. Introduce the book to your pupils and ask, “What if?

What if…

  • the beasts described in ancient myths and legends were real? How could proper science account for the description of a mythical beast’s anatomy, diet, and habits? (Note: this idea was explored in Discovery‘s fantasy-made-real production, Dragons).
  • we wanted to combine the characteristics of two more living things into an organism? What ground rules might we need to establish? Could we justify a desire to do such a thing on legal, moral, or scientific grounds? Why or why not?
  • animals described in Cock-a-Doodle-Mooo! and other, similar works did come into existence? What kind of habitat would they need? How big would their population become? What would limit their success is proliferating? Are there any real organisms that seem impossible but manage to survive anyway?

Books like Cock-a-Doodle-Mooo! are a great springboard for creativity. They inspire new ideas and suffuse young minds with the power of possibility. When combined with a little technology, fanciful works of literature also tend to engage students. For example, after reading DuQuette’s book, learners will be thrilled to visit SwitchZoo. It’s a site where students have an entertaining opportunity to mix and match animals.

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Related resources:

  • If cryptids are your cup of tea, check in with Cartoon Network’s Secret Saturdays Cryptid Lab where visitors can create a cryptid.
  • One of the best tools for generating hypothetical hybrids is Spore’s Creature Creator. This mesmerizing game allows players to establish all manner of bizarre critters and follow them as they create emerging civilizations.
  • For those who want to indulge in creepy creatures offline, consider reading Michael Berenstain‘s absolutely captivating Creature Catalog. Though this book is out of print it is well worth tracking down and purchasing! The artwork and prose are sure to capture the attention of readers of all ages. ccatolog

So Many Books, So Little Time

Bibliophiles rejoice! According to a post by Frederic Lardinois of the ever informative ReadWriteWeb blog, literature lovers can now dive into Google Book‘s EPUB Archive and download 1 millions books for free.

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