NATALIE AND NAUGHTILY by Vincent X. Kirsch (Bloomsbury) Perhaps the only scenario that could top Eloise's dolce vita in the Plaza Hotel would be to have a house on top of the greatest department store in the world.
At bedtime, Natalie knew just what kind of story she wanted to hear: "There must be at least one happy ending at two cash registers." But it was never what Naughtily wanted to hear: "There must be two happy endings and one escalator!" When asked what they wanted for their birthdays, Natalie said: "To play on every floor of the store from top to bottom!" and Naughtily? "From bottom to top!"
The twin sisters have very distinctive styles, underscored by Natalie's Montessori-like order and offset by Naughtily's dragon and clown-suit haute couture. One rainy day, the girls insist upon being "helpful," issuing home-made maps and lists to insure that guests enjoy the full Nopps Department Store experience while giving a readers a floor-by-floor tour of the amazing place, from a fitting by the world famous designer Dandileoni to a demonstration of the new-and-improved automatic-flying-rainbow-making-umbrella on the gizmo and gadgets floor, to the toy department of our dreams,featuring a loopy rocket-ship rollercoaster, and even mile-long lines for returns, lost and found, complaints and directions, as any good department store should have. Thin-lined, extraordinarily detailed and wildly creative spreads invite children to indulge their visuals ids (and join in riding the unicorn on the antiques floor where a sign reads "do not ever touch anything"). A palette of fuschia, chartreuse, turquoise and gold screams wham, glam, thank-you-ma'am. This book is like getting to go in an elevator and press all the buttons, and then each time to have the double-doors open to miracles of imagination to boot (snow boots, fourth floor, by the way). I haven't seen the like of this book since the imaginative abandon of MAX AND SALLY AND THE PHENOMENAL PHONE by Milos Macourek and Adolf Born in the late eighties, or eye-popping childhood visits with my late grandmother to Marshall Field's Department Store in its full, glittering grandeur (sorry, Macy's, this is Chicago and it will always be Marshall Field's to me). Dozens of readings will still reveal new treasures tucked away to be found in these pages, though on the last endpaper Natalie Nopps has neatly provided a list of her own favorites to go back and seek. Like any great saleswoman, she knows just how to get us to be a return customer. Wow, I guess it's true: Nopps is topps, and so is this utterly fantastic title. (5 and up)
Also of interest:
More big business!
THE GOLLYWHOPPER GAMES by Jody Feldman, illustrated by Victoria Jamieson (HarperCollins) A father is falsely accused of embezzling money from the Gollywhopper Toy Company, but his son can save face for his family name by winning the manufacturer's incredible contest full of trivia and puzzles. A knockoff hybrid of Roald Dahl’s CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY and the challenging noggin scratching puzzle-solving style of Blue Balliet’s CHASING VERMEER (but slightly easier for middle-grade readers), this book is more than a gimmick, underscoring teamwork and with characters that are not plain just good or bad. Recommended to me first by kids (always a good sign). (10 and up)
On a personal note:
It may be of interest to check out the excellent History of Mother's Day, started in the incarnation as we know it by Julia Ward Howe, who made an impassioned "appeal to womanhood" to rise against war in rememberance of the pain suffered by bereaved mothers after the Civil War. It was further developed down the timeline by Appalachian Anna Jarvis, who sought to honor mothers past and present and came to dislike the commercial aspects of the holiday.
My Mother's Day gift to you is this link to Mom's version of The William Tell Overture (which I will try to upload, but in case it doesn't work, the link is at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5z4ZsA6X9fA.
Special thanks to my son for making me a mom, and to my goddaughter and family for helping me get my girlie-girl on at her tea party at the PlanetEsme Bookroom last Sunday. Strawberries and cucumber sandwiches for all! Thanks also to all teachers who act as moms-away-from home, loving aunties, grandmas, friends, and good ol' Mother Nature. Lots of great women out there to celebrate!
Links are provided for informational use. Don't forget to support your local bookseller.
More Esmé stuff at www.planetesme.com.