On my blog:
- There was no Sunday Salon this week, and not because I didn’t have a wealth of wonderful links to share. But some confusing signage turned a 3-mile hike into an 8-mile hike, and I nearly lost my will to live. I certainly lost my will to blog.
- I celebrated my son’s soccer season, an especially fetching photo of Frances, and a sighting of the elusive elk herd
- I started a new feature, Blogs I Can’t Do Without
- I shared a few picture book biographies about musicians and singers
- I listed 10 books I can’t seem to stop abandoning
I’m going to start with my favorite picture book of the week: Nadine Brun-Cosme’s Big Wolf & Little Wolf: The Little Leaf That Wouldn’t Fall, illustrated by Oliver Tallec. There’s a quiet elegance and philosophy to Brun-Cosme’s books about Big Wolf and Little Wolf, and Tallec’s illustrations are always delightful and often brilliant. In this story, Little Wolf becomes a bit obsessed with a particular leaf in a tree and admires it throughout the seasons. He is determined to get his hands on this leaf, and he does, but not in the way you might expect. A lovely story about friendship, determination, and beauty.
My other favorite book this week is Ashley Spires’s The Most Magnificent Thing. I’ll be adding this one to my stack to read near the beginning of my Freshman Composition class, as it’s a wonderful story about having a brilliant creative idea that you can’t quite get to work out the way you want.
This week, we discovered Jim Arnosky. We read several of his books, but Armadillo’s Orange was my favorite.
I’m crazy about Georgia Graham’s illustrations in Wanda and the Wild Hair, but as the parent of a child with wild hair, I really hated the message: Wanda loves her hair, as she should, but every adult in her life thinks that Wanda needs to cut it. And the adults are RUDE in what they say to her about her hair. After all kinds of things get stuck in her hair, Wanda decides to follow her mother’s advice and cut her hair off. I suppose the final page, where Wanda looks at herself in the mirror and decides to grow her hair back, is meant to be a positive message about wild hair, but I was bothered by this book.
Joseph Bruchac’s The Great Ball Game is a Native American tale about a ball game between the Birds and the Animals. Bat, who has teeth AND wings, doesn’t know which team to play for: the Birds don’t want him, so he ends up playing for the Animals. The tale ends with a clever explanation for why birds migrate south for half the year and why bats come out at dusk. The gorgeous collage art is by Susan L. Roth, who should seriously have a whole wall of Caldecotts by now.
Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present has an appealing small size and lovely illustrations by Maurice Sendak, and the story is rather sweet: a little girl wants to find the perfect present for her mother and ends up finding a way to give her the colors that her mother loves best. But I found the repetitive structure and writing to be incredibly tedious. I didn’t think this book was ever going to end. If you’ve read the book, you will be able to appreciate my son’s comment: “It’s obviously going to be a banana. Can we skip to the end?” This was a 1963 Caldecott Honor Book.
Another Caldecott Honor book that we read this week was The Judge, written by Harve Zemach and illustrated by Margot Zemach. Not my favorite–more repetition, though certainly more lively, but there is a nice pay-off in the final wordless images.
I’ve read All the World before, but my mom checked it out for us from the library and I couldn’t resist reading it again. What a perfect marriage of writing and illustration. Some of Frazee’s images are just so beautiful in this book. A well-deserved Caldecott Honor book.
I didn’t realize that Harve and Margot Zemach’s daughter grew up to be a children’s book author and illustrator! We read two of Kaethe Zemach’s books this week, and Ms. McCaw Learns to Draw was our favorite. Dudley struggles in school, but he has a wonderful teacher, Ms. McCaw, who is incredibly patient and seems to know how to do everything. But one day, she reveals that she doesn’t know how to draw. Dudley jumps up to teach her and his classmates how. Every child has expertise to share, if only we know how to invite it into the classroom.
My strategy at the library this week was to pick books in the A’s and the Z’s, and that’s how I found The Lonely Phone Booth, a charming story about one of the last phone booths in New York City. The phone booth is plenty busy until one day when its regular visitors walk right on by with small silver objects held to their faces. In the age of the cell phone, who needs a phone booth anymore? The poor phone booth languishes, but one day it’s able to demonstrate its importance. The neighborhood rallies around it and refuses to let the city remove their phone booth. I might have enjoyed this one a little more than my kids, who have never actually seen a phone booth.
Somehow I managed to miss Emily, Michael Bedard’s fictionalized portrait of Emily Dickinson, but I rectified that this week. What a beautiful story, gorgeously illustrated by Barbara Cooney. This is one that I could read over and over again to discover new facets.
An Elephant & Piggie book that we somehow missed! Watch Me Throw the Ball is as brilliant as the rest of the series.
There is much to love in Allan Ahlberg’s quirky and clever story, The Pencil, perfectly illustrated by Bruce Ingman. A lonely pencil begins to draw and populate its world. First, a boy who demands a name. (The pencil christens him Banjo.) Then an assortment of people, pets, and objects, who all makes lots of demands (for names first of all, often to hilarious effect) and start complaining about their world. This is the first Ahlberg book I’ve read, and I’m looking forward to his others.