by Allen Say
Junior Library Guild sent us this book, and I’d seen some buzz about it on other blogs so I thought I’d read it and see what it’s about. It came in our Upper Elementary level and I was expecting a graphic novel-type book. I guess I was both right and wrong about that — the format is very unique, a cross between traditional kids non-fiction, memoir, graphic novel, and picture book.
The story is about Allen Say’s life growing up in Japan in the 1940′s and how he become a cartoonist and artist. At age 12, Say’s grandmother let him live in his own apartment in Tokyo because he got into a prestigious middle school there. Say studied hard and enjoyed the freedom, and in his free time he sought his favorite cartoonist to be his mentor. Say worked under Noro Shinpei for several years, learning a lot along the way, before accepting his father’s offer to move to America.
This is a beautiful book and I appreciate the information as an adult, but I don’t know how many children will appreciate it. The language is definitely kid-friendly (kudos to Say for doing that EXTREMELY well), but it would take a really sophisticated kid to want to pick the book off the shelf. To me, if felt like one of those children’s books that’s really for adults. I didn’t know who Allen Say was when I put this book in the TBR pile, and I still didn’t know when I was done with the book. What did he write? Some research revealed how very, very little I know about picture books (thus my Picture Book Challenge). Allen Say won the 1994 Caldecott Medal for the book Grandfather’s Journey. I recognize the cover of the book, but I’ve never read it. Maybe I need to add it to my picture book TBR pile (which is rawther small).
I’ve still got to track down nine of these. I can’t say I’ve been trying too hard, maybe I’ll get time to work on it over Christmas.
by David Ezra Stein
Papa Chicken is reading bedtime stories to little red chicken, but she keeps interrupting the stories.
I had high hopes for this one that were never realized. It won a 2011 Caldecott Honor award, and the pictures were kind of cool. The concept was really cool. However, it was really short and I felt the ending could have had more bang to it.
20.) No, David!
by David Shannon
David is always told “No!” or “Stop!” for doing things that he shouldn’t do. However, at the end of the day his mother still loves him.
This was cute. I know I say cute a lot when writing about these children’s books, but they are! I come from the teenager/YA world, which is full of sex, drugs, political oppression, and vulgar language. So a picture book jumping on the bed in red cowboy boots definitely counts as cute. The illustrations were great here, David is equal parts weird and funny, which should appeal to the intended audience. Though the book feels a little negative throughout (duh), the message is that parents still love their kids even if/when they have to discipline them. This definitely has a place on the bookshelf of any family with a rambunctious child! (1998 Caldecott Honor)
Written by Philip C. Stead
Illustrated by Erin E. Stead
Amos McGee is a zookeeper who has special traditions with each of his animals. He plays chess with the elephant, races the tortoise, sits with the penguin, give handkerchiefs to the rhino, and reads bedtime stories to the owl. However, Amos wakes up sick one day and the animals are all alone. They decide to come to Amos’ house to take care of their friend for a change.
I loved the pictures in this story, but it felt very reminiscent of Good Night, Gorilla. It felt very old-school in its style, with it’s gentle drawings and matte paper. There are little gems hidden throughout the pictures, like the teddy bear Amos holds when he wakes up and the socks on the penguin’s feet. It made me smile and the story was far better than Good Night, Gorilla…I wish I had read this one first. The 2011 Caldecott Medal was definitely deserved, in my (not-so-knowledgeable) opinion.
by Brian Selznick
[#46 in my 52 book challenge]
If you’ve read Selznick’s Caldecott Award-winning The Invention of Huge Cabret, then you understand the unique format of Selnick’s books. Wonderstruck, like Cabret, tells a story through both words and pictures. LOTS of pictures. Like, it’s a 600+ page book that only took me a couple of hours to read because it it mostly full-page illustrations. It’s an interesting concept: not quite graphic novel, not quite picture book, not quite regular novel, but, rather, something that meets at the intersection of all three formats.
The illustrations tell the story of Rose, a twelve-year-old deaf girl living in Hoboken, New Jersey in 1927 who dreams of New York City. The text tells the story of Ben, a boy living in Minnesota in 1977 after the death of his mother. Ben is deaf in one ear, and becomes deaf in the other after an accident. Ben and Rose’s lives are quite parallel throughout the story, until the ending reveals how their stories are related.
There are so many cool elements in this story, and Selznick’s pictures add great depth to the understanding of the time period. It immediately brought to mind EL Konigsburg’s From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, since so much of the action centers around a museum in New York. Konigsburg focused on The Metropolitan Museum of Art, while Selznick features the Museum of Natural History. In reading the acknowledgements at the end, I found out that Selznick was inspired by Konigsburg’s story and includes many references to Konigsburg and The Mixed Up Files throughout the story. His challenge is for the reader to go back and find all of these references — I immediately thought of two: the name of the bookstore, Kincaid’s, is the last name of Konigsburg’s protagonists, and Ben meets a boy named Jamie. The book is dedicated to Maurice Sendak, which just made me smile.
Also, I learned in my research that Brian Selznick is gay. He said that inspiration in writing a story about a deaf child raised by hearing parents (and a hearing child raise by deaf parents) was in growing up gay and knowing he was different from his own parents. I thought that was pretty cool. Thumbs up to Selznick.
This set of books features three great stories by Mo Willems, the Emmy and Caldecott Honor Award winning author. Willems is known for his works a writer on Seasame Street, and can be heard regularly as a “Radio Cartoonist” on NPR’s All Things Considered (one of my favorite shows). Reading this set of books has been an amazing experience. If you have a child under the age of 5 and don’t have any Mo Willems books, I suggest you drop everything right now and go get some (library, book store, or whatever!). If you ever even PLAN to have children under 5, go ahead and buy them in preparation because you’re going to want to have them around. Uh oh. I think I’ve just turned into a Mo Willems fan girl.
by Mo Willems
Leonardo feels like he is not as scary as his monster friends, so he makes a plan to scare the tuna salad right out of the biggest scardy-cat he can find. His target is a boy named Sam, but Leonardo is surprise by the lesson he learns after trying to scare the boy.
A delightful, funny book! The minimalist illustrations and text were perfect, sure to impress both kids and parents. I learned a new phrase from this book that I will be adding to my vocabulary: “Scare the tuna salad out of.” My favorite part was when Sam screamed at Leonardo in one crazy run-on sentence that took up the entire page. I could just imagine that reading that part, and the whole book, aloud with a child would be so much fun!
by Mo Willems
When Piggy sees that Elephant is sad, he tries to cheer him up by dressing up as a cowboy, a clown, and a super-cool robot. However, Elephant is still sad because all he really wants is to see his friend Piggie.
Cutest. Book. Ever. It describes friendship perfectly, while also being fun and charming. The text is given in speech bubbles over the simple drawings, which helped me imagine the characters’ personalities as I read. I wanted to give Elephant a hug and I wanted to be friends with Piggie. The language and text are simple enough that this book could be read with toddlers, and there is actually a whole series of Elephant and Piggie books for kids that want to read about familiar characters. I also read There Is A Bird On Your Head, which was just as good (I actually laughed quite loudly in the media center and drew some attention to myself when I read it).
by Mo Willems
Trixie and her father go to the laundromat to do laundry. While walking home through the streets of New York, Trixie realizes she has lost her Knuffle Bunny. Since Trixie is too young to talk, she tries to tell her father about the missing Knuffle Bunny so he can save the save the day.
What’s great about this story is the pictures. Just like the photo on the cover, the pictures are real photographs of the streets of Brooklyn with illustrations of the characters. They are fun to look at, and the story did win a Caldecott Honor award in 2005. The story is realistic, no doubt echoing a real-life experience with Mo and his daughter (who is actually named Trixie!).
Coming up in the next installment…more Mo Willems books. Yes…mo’ Mo.
by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld
Synopsis: Is the picture of a duck or a rabbit? In this story, two voices argue over that very question, and they eventually see the image in the opposite way and come to an understanding.
A book with a different kind of humor from many of the other kids books I have read, this one was a nice choice. I immediately thought it would be great to use with siblings to talk about seeing things differently and from other points of view, but then I extended it to the classroom and realized just how great a book this would be to use as a teachable moment with students. I think we’ll purchase a copy for the teacher collection in the library. The story is simple, but the uses are endless.
by Deborah Underwood
illustrated by Renata Liwska
Synopsis: Gentle pictures of animals show and tell the different kinds of quiet that a child might experience throughout the day. There’s “Best friends don’t need to talk quiet,” “hide-and-seek quiet,” and “Don’t scare the robin quiet,” just to name a few.
This would make excellent bedtime/naptime book for younger children. It is calming and reassuring, while also teaching a good lesson about how there are different times and reasons to be quiet. The companion book, The Loud Book, would also be a good choice for a young child’s bookshelf.
by Jerry Pinkley
Synopsis: Pinkley draws a beautiful, wordless retelling of the classical Aesop’s fable. In the story, a mouse ends up on a lion, who is kind and lets her go free. Later, when the lion is caught in a hunter’s trap, the mouse returns the act of kindness by chewing through the ropes and setting the lion free. The moral of the story is that no act of kindness is ever wasted.
I picked this book for the challenge because it won the Caldecott medal for 2011. Though the illustrations are beautiful, the story might be better understood by older children due to the story’s lack of textual narration. It would go very well with other fables or with children that that like to create their own stories to go with the pictures. I also see the value of a wordless picture book in the classroom for teaching visual literacy and inferencing.
The Little House
by Virginia Lee Burton
“Now the Little House only saw the sun at noon, and didn’t see the moon or stars at night at all. She didn’t like living in the city.”
I think this book bored me a bit when I was really little, but I certainly got the point of it as I got older: urban sprawl = bad.
The house is a happy house in the country, until more and more is built up around it. Eventually the house is surrounded by skyscrapers, looking lost and and lonely. The great-great-granddaughter of the builder sees the city house and has it moved back to the country, where it can be happy again.
Now, of course, we are anthropomorphizing a house here…this story is about people just as much as it is about a house. And the story is even more relevant today than it was in 1942. I’m more a suburban girl than a country girl myself, but I feel this book still describes my love for fresh air, stars, hills, and seasons. I grew up in a place where the closest city had only 92,000 people and was an hour away. Every time I move, I move to a place that is bigger and more city-like than the last. Maybe one day, like the Little House, I will return to a smaller town (though I am okay with the fact that that is unlikely!).