Sunday, May 6, 2012

Stanley's Party by Linda Bailey illustrated by Bill Slavin

Text © 2003 Linda Bailey, Illustrations  © 2003 Bill Slavin

"Stanley knew he wasn't supposed to sit on the couch. But his people went out a lot." So begins the tale of Stanley the naughty dog. The first time he puts one paw on the couch, after his people leave him alone, Stanley is quite apprehensive and waits for someone to yell at him. The couch feels so good that  he pulls his whole body onto it and stretches out. Everytime his owners leave and return without noticing Stanley's disobedience, he becomes more emboldened.   Soon, not only is Stanley enjoying the sofa, but he also turns on the music and breaks into the frig for food.

He feels so clever when his owners return and congratulate him for being such a "Good dog." "Bark-de-bark-bark," Stanley says, wagging his tail.

Initially Stanley delights in his time alone, but after a couple of weeks he longs  for the company of another dog to enjoy his disobedience. So Stanley invites one single dog named Alice to his house.  However, in a scene straight out of every teen movie, other dogs overhear of the party and packs of dogs begin arriving. Stanley is the consumate  host, stating "The more the merrier!," while shaking paws at the front door.  He even invites his guests to raid the refrigerator.
In the human world, it's not really a party unless someone starts dancing with a lampshade on their head, such is also the case in the canine world (see cover illustration).   The party is cut short, however, when Stanley's owners return home early...
There are five books in the series.  We own Stanley's Party, the first book and Stanley's Wild Ride the second book. It is impossible for me or the kids to decide which of the two titles is the best - both are extremely entertaining. In each book Stanley is disobedient but  his antics somehow make him even more lovable.  Bill Slavin's illustrations are a joy to look at and Linda Bailey's text is topnotch. We raise our children to be obedient and respectful, so  my kids really get a kick out of Stanley because his behavior is contrary to everything they have been taught. I frequently give copies of these two books as birthday party gifts and the recipients and their parents have always raved about them.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

An Oldy but Goody: Most-of-the-Time Maxie by Adelaide Holl illustrated by Hilary Knight

Text copyright © 1974 by Adelaide Holl, Illustrations copyright ©1974 by Hilary Knight

I tend to gravitate toward books that feature children using their imagination and being creative: Cromwell Dixon's Sky-cycle by John Abbott Nez,  The Adventures of Sparrowboy  by Brian Pinkney, Andrew Henry's Meadow by Doris Burn, If I Built a Car by Chris Van Dusen. I guess in this hi-tech world, I want my brood to appreciate the simplicity but endless power of their imagination. Most-of-the-Time Maxie helps them do just that.

Maxie was Maxie, most of the time -
  Maxie MacDougal McCoy.
He was not very big, and not very small,
Not very short, and not very tall,
  Just an everyday kind of a boy.

But he had the most marvelous, magical powers.
He could do the most wonderful stunts.
At the drop of a hat - maybe quicker than that -
He could stop being Maxie, at once,

The story, told in a very lively rhyme, shows all of the exciting people Maxie can become with his imagination:

a pirate

an astronaut
a matador and a muscle man
a firefighter,
a police officer and a bull rider,
Maxi also becomes an explorer, racecar driver, cowboy, knight, tightrope walker, trapeze artist, wild animal tamer, pilot, train engineer and taxicab driver. Whew! I think the only occupations missing are a butcher, baker and  candlestick maker.

In all of his imagined occupations, Maxie is accompanied by his trusty canine companion. The pup is engaging in some comical action at all times.  In the astronaut illustration, he is clutching an air sickness bag.  In the firefighter illustration, he is painting spots on himself to resemble a dalmatian etc.

The Chicago Public Library doesn't own Most-of-the-Time Maxie, but it is available in used condition on Amazon. I discovered this gem at a thrift shop, and I cannot tell you how many requests for a reading I have received over the years. Best $.50, I have ever spent!