I Just Want to Say Good Night is Rachel Isadora’s nuanced take on the traditional bedtime tale. This book follows Lala, who lives on the African veld, as she desperately tries to avoid bedtime. Before she goes to bed, she insists, she must say goodnight to the fish, the cat, the bird, the goat, the monkey, the chickens, the ants, and her dog. She finishes out this ritual by saying goodnight to her book: Goodnight Moon.
Isadora’s writing style uses repetition and short phrases to make the narrative flow with a comfortable, soothing rhythm. This book perfectly captures a curious, energetic and spirited young child’s reluctance to end the day.
The oil painting illustrations provide a vivid and harmonious backdrop for the story. Isadora uses oil paintings to create the African veld, blending and swirling colors together in a way that audiences both young and old will find compelling and soothing. The images shift throughout the book from bright, warm color tones (yellows, oranges, pinks) to dark, cooler tones, (blues, greens, browns) echoing the story’s transition from daytime to nighttime.
I Just Want to Say Good Night is a beautifully warm and comforting bedtime tale. Isadora’s striking oil paintings perfectly echo the story’s tone and are captivating without being overstimulating. This book would be perfect for parents and young children to share as an end to the day.
For this Traditional Thursday, I selected a childhood favorite: Chrysanthemum. Kevin Henkes authored and illustrated this book, along with a number of other favorites of mine, including Owen and Wemberly Worries. Chrysanthemum was published in 1991 by Harper Collins.
The book follows the story of a little girl whose parents name her Chrysanthemum. She and her parents absolutely love her name and think it perfect for her. She spends the first part of her life appreciating the name her parents gave her. Chrysanthemum writes her name in as many ways as she can and whispers it to herself throughout the day.
Chrysanthemum loves her name and thinks it perfect…until she starts school. Her classmates begin to pick fun at her for her name. They tell her it’s too long and is the name of a flower, to which Chrysanthemum “wilted.” She goes home to her parents who comfort her and tell her the name they gave her is perfect, but she continues to be made fun of at school and begins to have nightmares of being an actual flower.
What finally makes Chrysanthemum proud of her name is when their music teacher announces her name is also a flower, and tells the class if her baby is a girl, she will name her Chrysanthemum. The tides kind of turn, and now all the students who made fun of her are jealous of Chrysanthemum. The book ends with the class in a play, Chrysanthemum playing a flower. The very last page is unique, as it is a short epilogue of the story, outlining how the play went and what her friends think of her name now.
The illustrations in this book are well done, but nothing extraordinary. However, the colors used are bright and cheerful, and match the whimsy of Chrysanthemum’s name and her upbeat parents. The text is separate from the illustrations, which are outlined in black. The book gives the feeling that you are looking through a photo album of Chrysanthemum growing up. I think this approach was successful, especially when the size and number of illustrations on each page varies.
This is also another book where the main characters are animals. I am not convinced about whether this is a positive choice by the author, but I do believe it allows for children from all different backgrounds to identify with Chrysanthemum. I enjoyed the underlying lesson in the book about being proud of you are, even when your peers are unkind.
Posted by Megan Matthews
Tuesday is the 1992 Caldecott Award Winner, written and illustrated by David Wiesner.
The book contains very little text, with most of what is there being clock times of a particular Tuesday night. The story follows a particularly active weeknight for a group of frogs. When the sun goes down, the frogs arise from the swamp and begin their journey around town. Their chosen method of travel: flight by lily pad.
As their adventure continues, there are a few simple time updates, but without commentary.
The frogs return to the swamp by the time the sun rises again, only to leave a mystery on the hands of local citizens.
Without much text, it was important for the illustrations to do the talking in this book, and they did just that. I enjoyed this book for a number of reasons. I think the variety of illustration layouts added even more interest, especially when there were frog close-ups inlayed in a double-page spread of the larger group of frogs.
The gutter received some attention as well, allowing it to separate the time stamps from illustrations on some pages, while having enough detail away from the gutter on the illustrations that covered two pages. The version of the book I found was paperback, which lent itself well to the gutter, as a hardcover version would have lost details in it.
The reader can easily see the emotion and excitement of each frog, due to such well-done illustrations. The dark color scheme overall allows for a sense of mystery, and the white background of the time-stamped pages adds a nice break between full-color pages.
My favorite part of the book is the final page. It encourages the reader to walk away using their imagination as the next adventure of nighttime flying animals is introduced. If you look closely enough, you can see the back end and shadow of two pigs taking flight.
Posted by Megan Matthews
For this week’s Traditional Thursday, I thought it might be fun to revisit a childhood favorite: The Berenstain Bears. This series was a staple in my house growing up, and I immediately grew nostalgic upon viewing this book on the shelves of the bookstore.
The Berenstain Bears Go to School chronicles Sister Bear’s entrance into Kindergarten, and the start of Brother Bear’s school year. At first, Sister Bear is quite apprehensive about leaving home and venturing into the classroom. However, Mother Bear takes her to the schoolhouse, where she visits her soon-to-be teacher, Miss Honeybear, and her fear begins to dissipate. She comes to recognize that the school classroom is just her size, and is much less scary than she thought. Come morning, however, she begins to worry again once the big, yellow school bus pulls up. There, she makes friends with a few equally-nervous kindergarteners. At school, she has a marvelous time painting pictures, building cities out of blocks, and looking at books. Once she gets home, she can’t wait to share all she has learned with her parents. Both Sister Bear and Brother Bear come to realize that school can be comfortable and fun.
The book’s illustrations echo the traditional Berenstain Bear style: vibrant illustrations, sharp images, and the classic bear caricature. The text is not especially well incorporated into the images, but is clear and easy to read. The book does a good job of varying full spread and smaller images, and the bears’ detailed facial expressions work to enhance the storyline.
Although the book’s content is not particularly profound or innovative, I think it would be a good book to use with young kids, especially those who are apprehensive about leaving home or attending school for the first time. The story feels comfortable and wholesome, and could jumpstart in children a love for the Berenstain Bears series. The Berenstain Bears Go to School teaches young children that although school may seem scary at first, it is made just for them and can be a very fun and non-intimidating environment. This book would be helpful to use to help children learn about change, transitions, and how to cope with feeling nervous about new situations.
Posted by: Natalie Gustin
The cover illustration of Shy by Deborah Freedman immediately caught my eye. The use of watercolor that was beautifully blended, and the gradient of warm to cool colors as you make your way up from the bottom of the page were masterfully done. The animals truly felt like they were a part of the page and not just stuck on top after making the background.
This book of friendship begins with a giraffe named Shy who loved to read. His favorite books were about birds, but he had never actually heard a bird sing. One day he finally heard a bird, but was too shy to talk to it. Before he could gain the courage to talk to the bird, it was gone. Shy left home for the first time to find the bird.On his journey, he came across many creatures, and finally a whole chorus of birds! Shy listened for the bird he heard earlier. He heard the bird, but when he finally was prepared to speak to it, it was gone again. Sadly, Sky made his way back home.
Once at home, Shy longingly gazed at the birds in his books. Suddenly, he heard the bird again! Without hesitation this time, Shy sang back to the bird. At last, Shy and Florence the bird became friends and happily read Shy’s books together.
The book began with full pages of warm colors. As it progressed, the pages became more filled with cool colors, like the cover art. This made it feel like a rainbow, which is fitting because the whole story takes place outside in nature. The colors on each page corresponded nicely with what was happening at that point in time (i.e. blues were used when the birds were flying in the sky, reds were used at sunset, etc.) The colors were also blended into the animals, even if the animals weren’t the particular color of the page, which was unique (i.e. an elephant had shades of green since it was on the grass). This technique made the pages fit together perfectly; nothing felt out of place. Finally, the text was also placed in different places on each page (i.e. not always on the bottom of the page), making the book even more interesting to read.
Post by: Halie Petrich
Harlem is a poem written by Walter Dean Myers with illustrations by Christopher Myers. This Caldecott Honor book shares the deep culture and history of Harlem through both its poetry and illustrations. The poem first starts by describing the journey to Harlem, mentioning beginnings in Georgia and Goree Island, where many slaves originated. Harlem is described as this place of promise, and Meyers continues by talking about their music, and its origins in African countries. There is a focus on the blues and its beginnings in Harlem and the impact that it makes on the community. Many iconic Black men of the time are mentioned, from Jack Johnson to W.E.B Du Boise. The poem covers many aspects of the culture in Harlem and shares insight on what it was like to be a Black American in the 1920s.
The illustrations are vibrant and unique and help the understanding of the poem while sharing Harlem’s story. The people in the book have different shades of skin tones, and many have the same stern facial expressions, showing diversity and unity. The backgrounds on some pages almost seem patched together, representing how all the different aspects of Harlem come together. Some illustrations take up the full page, while others are framed, drawing the reader in. They also represent parts of Harlem’s culture, like the buildings and streets, a woman braiding a young girl’s hair, collared greens, and more.
As the conversation of more diverse representation in books continues, I think this book is wonderful view into black culture and its history. I think this book would be great for older children learning about Harlem to help broaden their understanding.
Posted by Neena Kapoor
I Love My Hair, written by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley and illustrated by E.B. Lewis is a beautiful book about embracing one’s natural hair and beauty and is especially poignant for young Black girls who may need reassurance that their hair is magnificent in a society that does not always show this. The story inspires confidence in young girls through the beautiful illustrations, the connection of hair to nature and natural beauty, and the relatable content.
The writing style of the book is perfect because it is from the POV of a young black girl getting her hair done and her Mama is telling her how she should celebrate her hair because she can change it any way she wants to and it is a part of their heritage. Mama continues to instill confidence in the girl, Keyana, as she explains the significance of certain hairstyle to her identity. The story, with Mama combing Keyana’s hair as she sits in her lap while they talk together, is one that many young Black girls would be able to connect to as they think about their own mother’s combing their hair. This book and the way it tells the story is truly a mirror for young Black girls and it is also a lens for young children of other ethnicities to see what other hair types look like and that they are beautiful like their hair (which may be more overtly celebrated in society). The writing in this story is meant to instill pride at a young age in Black girls about their natural beauty.
The beautiful watercolor illustrations make it so Keyana’s hair is almost a character of its own, becoming the rows of seeds, the globe around her head, etc. The illustrations showcase the beautiful brown skin of the characters and again emphasizes the fact that this book is the perfect mirror for Black girls. The illustrations showcase the expressions of the characters, but also the pure joy and power of them. Most of the illustrations span across both pages so that the reader is really brought into the bright illustrations and can take every detail in, with the text integrated well. The illustrations also do a great job conveying the meaning of the text for younger readers.
I Love My Hair! is a beauty self-empowerment for young Black girls that instills confidence and pride in them about their hair and heritage. Young children will enjoy the story from Keyana’s POV and the colorful watercolor illustrations. This book is very special to me because my second grade teacher gave it to me and my sister as a present and it was the first time I had seen a little girl who looked like me as the star of a book. I related to the way her mother combed her hair like my mother did and it made me appreciate my hair more.
Posted by Ashanti Charles