Sunday, October 25, 2009

Recommended Reads - Mrs. Biddlebox and Mrs. Murphy

I love children's books that not only entertain but teach in a clever, memorable way. In early childhood, story telling is one of the most effective ways to teach many things, like values, math, history, social studies among others. There are two books on my kids' bookshelf that fit this category and have become family favorites.

"On a knotty little hill, in a dreary little funk, Mrs. Biddlebox rolled over on the wrong side of her bunk". And so begins a story about a woman in a grouchy mood having a bad day from the very start. She decides to turn the whole rotten morning into a cake, taking the lawn, the sun, the sky and baking it into submission. As she goes about the business of making this unique, from-scratch cake, the reader can see she is taking starting to feel some satisfaction in whipping her day into something better. By the end of the day her cake is done and she sits down to eat, at first taking a dainty slice, but eventually eating the whole thing. Her belly is full, she has changed her attitude, and the first contented smile appears on her face she heads to bed. The illustrations by Marla Frazee are as imaginative and fun as the story itself, bringing alive her fierce determination to actively welcome something better. My kids love the funny illustrations and the fantasy of taking a bad day and making into something really good. I like the book's message of empowerment and responsibility to meet the day with a positive attitude, no matter what happens. "Mrs. Biddlebox" is all the more poignant in that the author, Linda Smith was inspired to write the book as she battled cancer. Intended for four to eight year olds, the book is a real pleasure to read for us as well.

"Mrs. Murphy's Marvelous Mansion", by Emma Perry Roberts is written for the same age group and is about the peculiarly dressed Mrs. Murphy and her quirky little house. She lives on a cul-de-sac surrounded by large, vanilla houses remarkable only in their uniformity. The neighbors try to ignore the eccentric Mrs. Murphy and her odd house, until the Very Finest Neighborhood Contest brings out their neighborhood pride and intolerance. The neighbors let her know that she doesn't belong on their street. Mrs Murphy is surprised but invites them all over to her house for lunch so that they can see for themselves that her house is lovely too. Merely out of curiosity the neighbors accept her invitation. When they enter her tiny-seeming house, they are surprised at how spacious it seems and how beautiful it is. After the guests are shown around and each has commented appreciatively on some wonderful aspect of her house, they eat lunch together and there are smiles all around the table. As the neighbors are leaving one comments, "On the outside, her house is so much different than I expected." Another neighbor agrees that when they looked only at the outside, they couldn't appreciate the inside. Mrs. Murphy closes her door, thinking to herself that "it is a fine day indeed when we learn that beauty on the inside matters more than beauty on the outside." The old message of not judging a book by its cover is brought home in a powerful way that kids can really relate to. The illustrations by Robert Rogalski are as eccentric as Mrs. Murphy, with bold, rich colors and strangely beautiful rooms that give a sense of vast spaciousness and whimsy. The book's message of appreciating and looking for the goodness that is found on the inside makes for a lively discussion and a fun read.


  1. Jackson has the Mrs. Biddlebox book in his classroom; I love it. Have you read The Big Orange Splot? Another great book with a great message of embracing individuality and creativity...

  2. No, I haven't heard of that one, but I just put it on hold at the library. Thanks for the tip! I love finding new good books to read.