Tag Archives: ages 4-8

[Z] Zoo’s Who by Douglas Florian

30 Apr

Zoo’s Who is a book of poems and paintings about animals by Douglas Florian. (Linking to Amazon because the author’s website links to Amazon…) The paintings are mixed media with stamps and pieces of magazines and parts of the poems themselves incorporated into the paintings. The poems are short and sweet. While some hit the mark better than others, they are great for getting alliteration, rhythm, and puns into children’s ears before they decide poetry is hard and inaccessible. There are also nice examples of concrete poems, and it is obvious thought was put into the design of each poem and painting. (This is probably why I like poetry books by designers so much.)

My favorite poem is “The Eagle”:

I’m not a seagull.
I’m royal.
I’m regal.
All birds are not
Created eagle.

Okay, so maybe I just really like the last line. But isn’t it good? 😛

This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter Z.

[Y] Yucky Worms by Vivian French

29 Apr

Yucky Worms by Vivian French and illustrated by Jessica Ahlberg is a picture book that teaches kids about worms. But not about how they’re yucky, like the title might suggest. Instead, the book uses the story of a boy exploring the garden with his grandmother to tell about worms and how they live.

The drawings are pretty scientifically correct from what I can remember from dissecting a worm in biology class, except that the aortic arches are called hearts (but what five- or six-year-old needs to know what an aortic arch is?). There are also great ideas to encourage further exploration in the back of the book, along with a short index that lets the reader look up specific information about worms.

Fun and educational, and highly recommended, even if you don’t like worms (like me).

This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter Y.

[U] Umbrella by Taro Yashima

24 Apr

(This was first written for my History of Youth Literature class.)

In Umbrella by Taro Yashima (1958), a little girl, Momo, who is impatient to use her new umbrella and rain boots finally gets to use them on a rainy day, and through this experience, she becomes a little more independent. These parents of the 50s are supportive of the main character, parenting in a gentle but firm way. The mother seems to be the main caregiver and the father looks like he works outside the home in the illustrations, although it is not mentioned explicitly in the text. It is very much a “normal” small nuclear family, but it also happens to feature a Japanese American family before race became much of an issue in children’s books.

I loved the brush paintings in this book and the mini Japanese lessons that are given on each page (like how the kanji for Momo 桃 means “peach” in Japanese). It’s a deceptively simple, sweet story that was a Caldecott Honor Book.

The book was written for the author’s daughter, actress Momo Yashima Brannen of Star Trek fame, and her brother was Mako Iwamatsu, whom I probably knew best as Aku from Samurai Jack. Taro Yashima also wrote and illustrated the book Crow Boy (1955), another Caldecott Honor Book, which I remember reading as a child. Roger Pulvers writes about the family in this piece: Two Generations of Japanese and Japanese American Artists: Activism, Racism and the American Experience.

This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter U.

[T] The Three Bears by Paul Galdone

23 Apr

It was a nice coincidence that this book happens to come right after Stone Soup. In my head, they are in the same category–they are both books that I read as a child that I rediscovered this semester while collecting books for class. Also, both were stories that I was familiar with in other contexts, but I’m pretty sure the copies I found were the same editions that I read as a child.

The Three Bears by Paul Galdone

I took a quick picture before returning it to the library.

I never really liked the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears because it didn’t really make sense. How could porridge from the same pot be too hot, too cold, and just right if the “just right” bowl was the smallest one? Shouldn’t it be the coldest? Unless “too cold” was in a plate, which I’ve never seen. How does a little girl break a bear’s chair just by sitting on it? I didn’t mind the fact that bears had chairs, but wouldn’t even the smallest one be heavier than a little girl? And then why doesn’t the little girl get punished for breaking all the bears’ stuff?

I think I was a little happier when I found out that the oldest versions of the stories had an old woman instead of a little girl, but this is probably why I tend to prefer retellings of fairy tales instead of the fairy tales themselves…

This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter T.

[S] Stone Soup by Marilyn Sapienza

22 Apr

(This was first written for my History of Youth Literature class.)

As I was thinking about what to choose for this assignment, I thought of books that I still remembered from my childhood. One that I still remember pretty vividly is Stone Soup (1984). The version I remember from kindergarten is the one with pigs as the main characters retold by Marilyn Sapienza and illustrated by Hans Wilhelm. It looks like it’s out of print now, but I remember distinctly that they scrubbed the stones a lot so they were clean. This was very important to me as a 5-year-old.

As an adult, I can see why parents would tell this story to their kids to teach them about sharing, and I think many versions of this story emphasize how important it is to share, especially with those in need. While that is definitely a theme in the version I read, I think I related more to the main characters and how they were proactive in making the best of what they had. I think that kind of positive thinking can be instrumental in helping children overcome hardships, and that’s the message that I would like to pass on. (I haven’t read the other versions, but from the covers, this pig version looks like a more lighthearted take on the folktale).

This book also had the added bonus of getting me interested in cooking, and I think about it all the time when I cook, especially when I make soup.

This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter S.

[M] Millions of Cats by Wanda Gág

15 Apr

I found Millions of Cats by Wanda Gág (1928) while looking for picture books from different decades for my family picture books assignment (I’d tried to get a book from each decade, and it was the oldest picture book I could find). I don’t really remember reading it as a child, but it looked familiar. According to Wikipedia, it’s the oldest American picture book still in print, and one of the few picture books to win a Newbery Honor. (I still think Newbery Honor is a misleading name… These are the books that are the runners-up for the Newbery Award, but Honor makes them sound better than the ones that actually win the Award… anyway…)

It’s a simple story about an elderly couple that decides to get a cat for companionship. The husband ends up finding millions of cats that are all pretty, but they can’t keep them all. When he makes them choose amongst themselves who is the prettiest of them all, they end up fighting. In the end, it is the cat who thought herself homely who ends up living with the couple.

I found a video on YouTube of Shelley Duvall’s bedtime stories show with James Earl Jones reading the book (♥ his voice):

Shelley Duvall sums up the book by saying that we shouldn’t try to keep more pets than we can handle, but I think the lesson here is to be humble like the pretty cat who doesn’t think she’s pretty. It’s one of those books trying to teach kids a lesson, but the fact that it has millions of cats in it makes it a little silly.

This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter M.

[H] hello! hello! by Matthew Cordell

9 Apr

I picked up hello! hello! by Matthew Cordell to read for my family picture book assignment in my History of Youth Literature class, but I didn’t end up using it because I liked Chloe by Peter McCarty more.

hello! hello! is about a girl who encourages her family to take a break from technology and go outside. The story is told mostly in pictures, and there are only a few words in the whole book.

I loved the concept of Hello! Hello! from the start, but after I read Chloe, I thought it could have been done so much better. hello! hello! kind of hits you over the head with the message, while Chloe is more subtle. I understand why people who are constantly using technology (myself included) might need a more obvious lesson, but I prefer to get to know the characters a little better (more words, lol).

Still, it’s a simple story with a lesson that is definitely important for kids to learn in this day and age.

This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter H.

[C] Chloe by Peter McCarty

3 Apr

(This was first written for my History of Youth Literature class.)

Chloe by Peter McCartyPublished just last year, Chloe by Peter McCarty (2012) is a book about Chloe, the middle child of a large rabbit family (ten older siblings and ten younger siblings!) who encourages her family to play creatively instead of just sitting in front of the TV during their “family fun time.” This book is responding to the media overload that children are facing today and goes back to older values, with a large family and a “father knows best” attitude (although from this study, earlier picture books seem to focus on the mothers). In the end, however, even her father secretly plays with the bubble wrap Chloe shows them is more fun than TV.

Many recent picture books like Chloe seem to want to take us back to the “good old days” of childhood. However, instead of just circling back and writing the same stories as those from the beginning of the 1900s, these newer books improve on the old ideas and incorporate those values into diverse settings that better reflect reality. The roles of the parents in these books also reflect the shift in family dynamics from the mother as the primary caregiver to both parents sharing parenting responsibilities and ultimately respecting the child as an individual.

Chloe is probably my favorite find of the semester so far. I loved it so much that I bought a copy for my cousin’s 1-year-old (she has a Miffy-themed room, so it kind of fits :D). For more about Chloe, check out the video Peter McCarty has on his website.

This post is my Blogging from A to Z entry for the letter C.