Monday, January 31, 2011

Can You Measure a Groundhog's Shadow?

We've been lucky to receive some great picture books lately from a variety of places. First, we were pleased to win a signed copy of Kathleen T. Pelley's Magnus Maximus, A Marvelous Measurer. Illustrated in a very detailed fashion by S.D. Schindler, this is the story of one Magnus Maximus. Just as the title reveals, he is an extraordinarily talented measurer and counter. The only problem is that Magnus spends more time looking at the details in his life than at the big picture. It will take a small accident and a friendly young boy to get Magnus to step back and enjoy life.

Z and I had a great time with this book. Magnus is quite talented and even manages to stop an escaped lion with his measuring skills. I like that even though Magnus learns to enjoy the immeasurables of life, he doesn't give up doing what he is good at. He just begins to do it in moderation. I think this is a great lesson for kids. There are very few things in life that are all or nothing. And for Z, who happens to have a very technical and organized mind, I think this book is an especially good fit. Of course, the first thing he wanted to do after we read this book was to start measuring things so we may have to work on absorbing the lessons of this book!

Next, we received a copy of Brownie Groundhog and the February Fox from the publisher. This is a beautiful new picture book written by Susan Blackaby from nearby Portland, OR and illustrated in wonderful contrasting colors by Carmen Segovia from our ancestral country of Spain. Brownie Groundhog is disappointed when she emerges from her den in February and sees her shadow. She starts grumbling and attracts the attention of a very hungry little fox. But luckily Brownie is a smart girl and she manages to avoid becoming lunch and actually makes a new friend.

This is a fun story about making the best of a situation, even while waiting for something better to come along -- like spring. I like that this is a Groundhog Day book that doesn't focus so much on the single event but on what lies ahead. Even if it's six more weeks of winter, there are still things to look forward to. I also appreciated that Blackaby is not afraid to introduce some new words in this picture book that might not be in a kid's vocabulary. Z really liked this book as well, especially when it gets to the part with hot cocoa and cinnamon toast!

Finally we won a signed copy of the renowned Shadow by Suzy Lee. This wordless adventure is nevertheless an engaging story. The top pane of each story shows a little girl in a storage room, with boxes and other items piled high. The bottom pane is the shadow version of the room. At first we see everything clearly -- the girl's shadow, the bicycle hanging from the ceiling, the ladder with boots on top. And then things start merging and shifting. The bicycle becomes a sun and moon, the girl's hand-shadow-bird takes off, the ladder becomes a palm tree. Eventually the shadow world takes over -- until mom calls "Dinner's Ready" anyway.

I think this book would make a wonderful animated short. As is, Z and I loved telling the story of what we were seeing to each other and then creating our own shadow world in our home. We won a poster of the book cover as well and Z has it up in his room. I'm not sure how this book would be for a kid who is afraid of the dark but it might help them to see that no matter what you see in the shadows when the lights are off, you can always turn them back on and everything is as normal as ever.

Appreciating the stories we've been given,
K and Z

Support our site and buy Magnus Maximus, A Marvelous MeasurerBrownie Groundhog and the February Fox and Shadow on Amazon or find them at your local library. We received one of these for review and won copies of the other two.


  1. wow ... all of these sound really good. These are all big "issues" at our house. My Little One has been learning measuring at school and has been driving me nuts measuring everything around him ... sometimes getting his terms mixed up (your foot is 8 pounds long, Mommy!).

    I love the cover of the groundhog book, which reminds me I need to brush up on that whole thing so I can answer the inevitable question.

    Finally, the shadow books sounds really cool ... and I could imagine it as a short film too. I'd love the Pixar people to get their hands on this!

  2. Jenners - Z gets mixed up too between length/height and weight. Funny! And I love that you have to keep learning so many things to keep up with kids' questions. :)