five candles on the cake!…five to celebrate Orange Marmalade’s fifth birthday

Five years ago I started tentatively blogging about children’s literature, and what a treat this has turned out to be for me!

paddy pork odd jobs illustration john goodall

Besides the gluttonous amount of children’s literature I’ve devoured in that time, I’ve also learned a great deal from Other Bloggers Who Know More and even made some blogging acquaintances with people I wish I could meet for a cup of tea and a good chat. An unanticipated pleasure.


So, I’m happy to celebrate Orange Marmalade’s fifth birthday, and want to say Thank You to my patient husband who puts up with my book addiction and to all of you who visit and share the wealth that is kids’ lit.

two speckled eggs cover imageTwo Speckled Eggs, written and illustrated by Jennifer K. Mann
published in 2014 by Candlewick

Ginger is having a birthday party. She wants to invite all the girls in her class…except one.

Lyla Browning.

Ginger is really a good kid. Not snooty. Not mean. It’s just that Lyla is so…odd.  I mean, she brings “a tarantula in a pickle jar for Show-and-Tell.” Trots about with a magnifying glass. Not anything like the other girls.

Ginger’s mother, however, puts her foot down. ALL the girls, or NONE of the girls. So, it’s Lyla Browning, too.

two speckled eggs illustration jennifer k. mann

A funny thing happens at the party, though. Ginger’s plans are unraveling; her friends are blistering along without much reference to her. Suddenly, the fact that Lyla Browning is not like the other girls is just what makes her the perfect, new friend.

Charming story, celebrating true friendship, individuality, and the curious appeal of speckled eggs. I love it. Jennifer Mann’s mixed media illustrations sparkle with personality, real life, and the glory of quirks. Ages 4 and up.

bug on a bike cover imageBug on a Bike, written and illustrated by Chris Monroe
published in 2014 by Carolrhoda Books

Look at that little roadie with his racy, red helmet and groovy spoke decor! Where is he headed?

Well, he’s not saying.

But rolling along merrily, he manages to collect scads of friends — and it is quite the eclectic group!

Toads, lizards, ants, yes. But also “an athletic pickle…lifting some weights,” a skateboarding bunny, a lithe green snake sporting a purple blouse. Up hill and down dale and soon there’s a l-o-n-g line of folks going who knows where!

bug on a bike interior chris monroe

Turns out — it’s Bug’s birthday party! And it’s a whangdiddly of a celebration! Everyone has a most jolly time, including our friend, the bug on a bike.

You will have a marvelous time, too,  jogging along with the crew and arriving at these superb party grounds. Wow. Chris Monroe’s rollicking, rhythmic text skips right along, while her sunny, tiny, Crayola-bright illustrations charm readers ages 3 and up.

Plus — she’s from Duluth. That’s major Minnesota points.

katie morag and the birthdays cover imageKatie Morag and the Birthdays, written and illustrated by Mairi Hedderwick
published in 2005 by The Bodley Head

I dearly love Katie Morag, the red-headed, gumptious gal in her Wellies, careening around the Isle of Struay. It’s a pity that more of her stories haven’t mainstreamed on this side of the pond.

This birthday extravaganza volume tracks through one year of the McColl family’s loving chaos and all the birthdays celebrated along the way.

There are lots of folks to celebrate — Katie’s baby sister Flora Ann is turning One, while Neilly Beag is 70 years young. Grannie Island, Granma Mainland, Liam, all the Big Boy Cousins…even the sheep and the dog have birthdays to mark.katie morag and the birthdays illustration mairi hedderwick

For Katie, every day that is not her birthday is a pinch of agony. “WHEN will it be MY birthday?” she moans. Not to worry — it’s a lovely one when her turn comes.

I love the out-of-doors wildness of life on Struay, and I adore the mussy household of the McColls, so similar to the realistic untidiness of Shirley Hughes’ families. The blustering strength, simple creativity, and genuine affection between all these characters makes for bracing, happy tales.

Besides all that, you get some Jolly Extras in this book including clever birthday cards and crafts to make, and the recipe for a jim-dandy castle cake with plenty of biscuits and chocolate! It’s a treat for ages 4 and up.

happy birthday bunny cover imageHappy Birthday, Bunny! by Elizabeth Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Stephanie Graegin
published in 2013 by Beach Lane Books

This is a sweet little creampuff of a story, simply celebrating the birthday of quite a young bunny.

She’s turning three according to the candles on the cake, but…she doesn’t really know what birthdays are made of yet.

So she asks lots of questions, and learns all about party clothes, wishing on candles, saying cheese for the camera, and being surrounded by a loud, loving, happy group of well-wishers.

happy birthday bunny scanlon and graegin

By that time, a drowsy bunny is ready to be tucked into bed.

Scanlon’s gently rhyming text is chock full of love and sweetness without being cloying. Graegin’s illustrations also pack in every ounce of charm possible with cute woodland animals, darling party clothes, happiness everywhere, in nursery pinks, blues, and honey-yellows. Try this for under-One to Three-Year-Olds who like Cute.

the birthday cake cover imageThe Birthday Cake (The Adventures of Pettson and Findus), written and illustrated by Sven Nordqvist
published in Sweden in 1985; first published in the U.S. in 2015 by NorthSouth

Goofy Pettson is an old bachelor who lives in a fetching, Swedish-red cottage amongst green fields and meadows. Quite idyllic, I’d say.

His companion is a cat named Findus. Together, these two have many adventures well known to Swedish children, and this birthday fiasco is one of them.

It’s Findus who’s having the birthday. He has three each year because birthdays are such fun. And for every one of them, Pettson makes him a scrumptious cake out of Swedish pancakes and whipped cream. Yum!

The process of making the cake this time around is fraught with difficulty. Pettson discovers he needs more flour. But his bike tire is flat. So, he heads for the shed to fix the tire, but it’s locked up tight and the key is missing.

Each step of the way, things get more confoundedly messed up. Pettson is a determined fellow, though, and inventive, and persuasive when it comes to dragging Findus into the mix.

In the end, and encompassing a fishing rod, an angry bull, an opera singer, a yellow-and-red floral curtain and a truckload of moxie…Pettson and Findus finally sit down to their delicious, creamy, birthday cake.

the birthday cake sven nordqvist illustration

There’s silliness galore in this winning story, with bright paintings of Pettson’s Swedish countryside adding immensely to the entertainment. It’s a longish story, just waiting to tickle the funny bones of kids ages 5 and up.

Plus — there’s a recipe for Pettson’s pancakes and directions to make them into your own delicious cake!

Thanks again for visiting Orange Marmalade!