Friday, April 5, 2013

Children's Literature - more picture books

1.      Carle, Eric. The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Philomel; BRDBK Edition, 1994. (13 pages)
A hungry caterpillar eats more and more before transforming into a butterfly. This book is vivid and fun, the holes where the caterpillar “ate” things and the pages of different sizes would be interesting on a physical level to young children.
2.       Brown, Margaret Wise. Over the Moon; The Runaway Bunny, Goodnight Moon, and My World. Illustrations by Clement Hurd. HarperCollins Publications, 1942, 1947, 1949.  (102 pages)
This collection of three books in one includes classic favorites featuring a sweet young bunny as the main character. All three stories feature themes of home comfort as the bunny is shown what a good home has. He sees what a mother will do for a son, he sees the comfortable elements of a bedroom at night, and he sees what elements of house and yard make up a happy home. The stories are simple and teach a simple vocabulary of objects that young children would be able to observe in their own homes.
3.      Lakin, Patricia. Snow Day. Illustrations by Scott Nash. Scholastic, Inc., 2004. (30 pages)
Sam, Pam, Will, and Jill are four young crocodiles who get to go sledding on a snow day when school is cancelled. This story celebrates friendship and an unexpected break from the daily grind of responsibilities. It’s a bit repetitive and preachy as it makes a point to recommend safety helmets and safety goggles for those who want to sled, so it was not a favorite for me. It seems to be geared toward toddlers, but toddlers may not appreciate a snow day from school the way older kids would – so in my opinion, it’s a bit mismatched.
4.      Galdone, Paul. The Little Red Hen. Clarion Books, 1973. (37 pages)
A hardworking hen goes through the rigors of farm life to prepare some bread without the help of her lazy animal friends. In the end, she’s the only one who enjoys the spoils of her work. This tale is repetitive in a fun way, it teaches the sort of lesson that even the very young can understand. As Sir Walter Scott puts it, “He that climbs the tall tree has won right to the fruit.”
5.      Rey, H. A. Curious George Takes a Job. Houghton Mifflin, 1947. (47 pages)
A curious monkey escapes from the zoo and tries his hand at different vocations with disastrous results until he finally decides to become a movie star. I love the illustration of George painting a jungle scene in a woman’s apartment when he was supposed to be washing the windows. I thought that the most controversial page was the page in which George gets into the ether at the hospital and goes on a little drug trip! Some parents might not like that particular page.
6.      Berenstain, Stan and Jan. The Berenstain Bears and the Trouble with Commercials. HarperCollins Publishing, 2007. (30 pages)
This tale teaches young ones to think critically about what they see on TV and not buy into ideas which may be exaggerated. The Berenstains do a good job of illustrating that children and adults alike may fall prey to commercialism and naiveté. These authors know how to portray believable and flawed adult characters. They also include a short poem in the beginning of some of their books which describe the moral of the story, this reminds me some of how Aesop would leave a moral at the end of some of his fables.
7.      Hoban, Russell. Best Friends for Frances. Illustrated by Lillian Hoban. Scholastic Book Services, 1969. (31 pages)
Frances excludes her little sister Gloria at first, but when she is excluded by boys in her neighborhood she decides to make a best friends club with Gloria and in the end the boys join it too. Hoban does a great job of broaching the dramas of childhood friendship, including sibling friendship and friendships between boys and girls. The scenarios seem very accurate and relatable. One thing that might bother some readers is the fact that Frances engages in name-calling and calls her friend Albert fat several times.
8.      Glaser, Higashi. Hello Kitty. Hello World! Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers, 1976. (33 pages)
This children’s book doesn’t really have a story for me to summarize, but rather has a two-page spread for each major geographic area with many cultural relics and facts illustrated so that the reader may appreciate world culture. It’s a book that little girls who are into Hello Kitty would appreciate, although I don’t know that boys would care for it. One of the coolest features is that it gives translations of the greeting “hello” in many languages and offers a translation guide in the back where children can teach themselves a few vocabulary words and phrases in many languages.
9.      Sidman, Joyce. Ubiquitous: Celebrating Nature’s Survivors. Illustrated by Beckie Prange. Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2010. (40 pages)
Why is it that some species outlive all their contemporaries, barely changing for millions of years? This book of poetry explores and celebrates some of nature’s most “fit” species. In the poem, “The Lichens We” Sidman describes lichen as having “a slow but steady growing pace; resemblance to both mud and lace” and also offers concrete information about lichen (for example that lichen is in the kingdom fungi and has remained relatively unchanged for 400 million years).
10.  Sidman, Joyce. Song of the Water Boatman and Other Pond Poems. Illustrated by Beckie Prange. Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2005. (32 pages)
A pond is full of life and wonder, as this gorgeously illustrated poetry book highlights. In the poem “Spring Splashdown”, the words “leaping, leaping” take the form of a baby wood duck leaping down from a hole in a tree after hatching. Then on the following page after the poem, there is a short text describing the fun facts about the birds in the poem. I love how the author is able to blend literature and science in this book.
11.  Jenkins, Steve. What Do You Do When Something Wants to Eat You? Sandpiper, 2001. (32 pages)
Each page of this vivid book shows a predator species and a prey species; each page highlights a defense mechanism in the prey and teaches readers how animals adapt to survive. Jenkins uses an illustration technique that looks like cut paper scrap collage; I think it’s really effective. The colors are bold and the contrast is very strong. The illustrations are large – a full bleed with words printed right on the picture.
12.  Lauber, Patricia. You’re Aboard Spaceship Earth. Illustrated by Holly Keller. HarperCollins, 1996. (32 pages)
This book describes planet Earth as a giant spaceship, communicating in a way children will understand that earth is a closed system. Readers realize that the resources we use are recycled versions of the things that the dinosaurs used millions of years ago, and we will need recycled versions of what we have now sometime in the future. While it may feel a bit preachy, it is an important lesson and it’s communicated in a unique way children will really comprehend.
13.  Mansbach, Adam. Go the F**k to Sleep. Illustrated by Ricardo Cortes. Akashic Books, 2011. (32 pages)
Mansbach has an interesting and edgy concept for a picture book, I can’t see many parents of toddlers going for this although maybe parents of pre-verbal babies could read it in a sweet tone of voice and laugh to themselves. The summary is simple: this book is a rhyming sing-song plea filled with cuss words. I think this is more for a parent’s entertainment than a child’s. I loved the illustrations which were very cool, and I could envision some really trendy parents having some fun with this book, but I don’t think young children would care for it.
14.  Gaiman, Neil. Instructions. Illustrated by Charles Vess. HarperCollins, 2010. (40 pages)
I really loved this book in which Gaiman gives instructions for how to travel in a fantasy story. This book was one of the most unique and engaging picture books I’ve read all semester, I’m sure I’ll remember it. I think that, like many modern fantasy books, this book has a timeless quality. I could see toddlers enjoying it and older children finding deep messages within the instructions. A young one would think it’s cool to hear that all dragons have a soft spot, an older child may be able to think about the metaphor – how there are weak spots in the big problems in our lives – ways in which those problems are vulnerable to defeat.
15.  Chin, Jason. Coral Reefs. Roaring Brook, 2011.
A girl gets enveloped in a book about the sea before bringing her friends into the ocean world she has discovered. The text of this book was somewhat dry, but the illustrations brought another wordless story to the pages. It’s cool that her ocean journey began in a library and that the story ended with her showing her friends the portal to the new world she found. This communicates a real love of books, and how books have the power to transport us.
16.  Sidman, Joyce. Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night. Illustrated by Rick Allen.
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2010.
This book follows the same format as Sidman’s other books (reviewed previously) although she has chosen a different illustrator for this book. The theme of this book is night, and the poems reflect about animals that prefer to move around through dark woods when most of us are sleeping. There is an author’s note in which Sidman talks about how the woods at night can be creepy to most humans, “But” she writes, “there are all sorts of creatures that prefer the night. Why? And how?  This book is my exploration of those questions.”
17.  Postma, Lidia. The Stolen Mirror. McGraw-Hill, 1976.
A boy who will soon be an older brother finds himself in a world of magical creatures and despondent people who have lost their mirror (the thing they look to in order to know who they are). He embarks on a quest to face the dragon and recover the mirror, and after he meets with success he decides that he will teach his younger sibling (regardless of its gender) to fight dragons too. It was especially interesting to me that the dragon said that there was only one mirror and that the boy’s despondent friends let the dragon have it, this could hold deep meaning. Overall, I loved it – beautiful and scary illustrations, thought provoking ideas about depression and identity, and an overall story that “has it all”.

No comments:

Post a Comment