Monthly Archives: January 2011

New Books Giving Old Ideas A Modern Twist


Silverlicious by Victoria Kann

Silverlicious is one of those books that grabs your attention and does not let go! This book is endearing, whimsical, imaginative, and manages to convey a positive message.
The main character, Pinkalicious loses a tooth, unfortunately for her, it is her sweet tooth. After writing a note to the Tooth Fairy, Pinkalicious wakes up to find responses from various holiday characters: Cupid and the Easter bunny just to name a few.
I will not spoil the ending, but can tell you that Silverlicious is a wonderful book that shows young readers being sweet is a reward in itself !

Marvelous Picture Books: Once Upon a Time


Niki Daly’s Once Upon a Time was published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 1993. Niki Daly is an incredibly accomplished South African writer and illustrator of children’s books. He has won many award for his books, since beginning writing and illustrating children’s books in 1978. Once Upon a Time won an award from Parent’s Choice Awards Program (Recommended for Age 4-8) and A Children’s Africana Honour Book in 2004. Daly’s books are mainly multi-cultural books, addressing the impact of apartheid on South Africa. He does not sugarcoat the social and racial issues in his books.

Once Upon a Time tells the story of Sarie, a young girl who struggles with reading, especially when asked to read aloud in school. Her classmates giggle as she stumbles over words, while reading aloud in class. On Sundays, she spends time with Auntie Anna in the rusted old car. Sarie confesses her fear of reading aloud in school and how her classmates laugh at her for stumbling over words, except for her friend Emile. She finds a book in Auntie Anna’s car and reads it aloud with the assistance of Auntie Anna. It is the story of Cinderella. Sarie and Auntie Anna read the book over and over until Sarie no longer struggles to read the story. She gains confidence as Auntie Anna helps her strengthen her reading skills. Sarie is finally told, “You read beautifully” by the principal of the school. While reading this book of a young girl overcoming her struggle to read in school, the reader is captured by not only the beautiful story told through text, but also through Daly’s enchanting watercolor images of beautiful South Africa. The illustrations make the story come alive. It is an inspiring story for children to experience, especially those who struggle with reading themselves.
I came across this book in Cape Town, South Africa in March of 2009. During the Spring of 2009, I took a class with Ann Neely called “Children’s Literature of Social Transformation.” We delivered between 900 and 1000 pounds of children’s books to the township of Manenberg. During the class, we had talked about Niki Daly as a writer and illustrator. I particularly fell in love with Daly’s Once Upon a Time because it is something not only relatable to the children of South Africa, but also to children around the world. It depicts some children’s fear of reading and the power of adults reading along with children. I think this is a fabulous book for all children to read.
Niki Daly has participated in the creation of 48 children’s books. Some of his other marvelous children’s books include: Not So Fast Songololo, Jamela’s Dress, Happy Birthday Jamela!, What’s Cooking, Jamela?, and Pretty Salma.

Happy Reading!
Grace Anne
If you would like to learn more about Niki Daly, visit his website:

Newest of the New: Bink and Gollie


The works of one award-winning author are impressive enough. Put two such authors together with an equally prolific illustrator and the result is unfairly good, also called Bink & Gollie. Published by Candlewick Press this past September, Bink & Gollie, I realize, may be outside the bounds of this “Newest of the New” post. I’ve justified it, however, by using the fact that the collection just received the coveted Geisel Award for 2011. Few stories are as entertaining to as wide of an age range as those created by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee in this book.

Bink and Gollie are two friends with a penchant for adventure and imagination. Bink is a small, apparently younger girl with a head of blond hair resembling the style of an onstage Cyndi Lauper. Her mind cruises at supersonic speeds as she impulsively becomes enamored with everything around her. Gollie is her taller, apparently older, and far more rational counterpart whose opinions are as neat and pronounced as the red bow in her hair. The girls are both very active, cruising around town on skates in warm weather and on the frozen lake in winter. They also go to the movies, climb mountains (imaginatively), cook, garden, and chat on the phone. They appeal to both genders (Bink, in fact, can very easily be confused for a boy if not for her skirt) and seem to know each other as if they were sisters. The two live presumably alone in their own houses, the contents of which sized to match its occupant. Together, their adventures in everyday life showcase their personalities and chemistry with one another and entertain readers of all ages.

Bink & Gollie is actually a collection of three stories surrounding the eponymous duo. In the first, a day of skating brings Bink and Gollie to an advertisement for a “bargain bonanza” on socks. Bink, of course, immediately falls in love with the most colorful socks in the bin, the garishness of which Gollie is unafraid to point out. After some stubbornness on both sides, a compromise brings the friends back together. The second story starts with Gollie deciding to venture off on another global adventure inside of her bedroom. Bink, despite obvious clues left on Gollie’s door, cannot help but constantly interrupt the concentration required to scale one’s living room wall in the middle of a blizzard. Finally, the third story is another love-at-first-sight tale with Bink this time acquiring a new pet goldfish. Despite Gollie’s constant belittlements, Bink continues to gush over her new best friend. In the end, however, it is Gollie who comes to the rescue when Bink and her fish are in the direst of predicaments.

The language and illustrations are really what set these stories apart from most other children’s books. Multiple Newbery honoree and winner Kate DiCamillo and New York Times bestseller and Pulitzer Prize nominee Alison McGhee use advanced words and clever phrases for their astute characters’ dialogue. Whether it’s “using your gray matter”, “longing for speed”, “bonanzas”, “spectacular”, “remarkable”, or “marvelous companions” Bink & Gollie is sure to provide new vocabulary to all readers while not bogging down those in earlier stages of reading.

Tony Fucile brings the book to life with his illustrations. Most remarkable is the extremely deliberate use of color against the mostly black and white backgrounds. The characters are always bright and colorful as are the elements of the page which are supposed to draw the reader’s attention. It creates a very simple and clean look where everything important is highlighted against the rest. Bink and Gollie themselves appear just as their personalities would have you expect and have been drawn to look fun and mature without becoming too cute or stylized. It is an impressive effort which hands-down serves as a defining feature of the book.

In conclusion, Bink & Gollie is an absolute gem of children’s literature, new and old. It is suitable for both early starters who are on the reading fast-track and also older hi-lo students (high interest, low ability). Everything about the book is charming and it is certainly one I will remember for years to come; I recommend it with the highest praise possible.


Sources (Tony Fucile profile)

Books from the Past: The Story of May


The Story of May by Mordicai Gerstein was published by Harper Collins in 1993 for children ages 4-8. Mr. Gerstein has one a number of honors and awards for his work, including the New York Times “one of the ten best illustrated books of the year” for Wild Boy (1998), Victor (1998), Mountains of Tibet (1987), and Arnold of Ducks (1983). He won the Caldecott for The Man Who Walked Between the Towers (2004). Gerstein’s enchanting illustrations have gained significant critical acclaim and captured my attention as a child when I would beg my mother to read me The Story of May one more time.

On the first page, a beautiful spring dawn is emerging over the rolling green hills. Gerstein titles most of the pages with names of the months, so we begin with “April and May.” The month of April is the mother, who wakes up her daughter, the month of May, so she could teach “May how to scatter wildflowers, how to welcome returning birds, and how to make cherry and apple buds swell and blossom.” But May wanders too far and ends up meeting her Aunt June. Through their conversation, May learns that her father lives at the other end of the year and decides that she wants to visit him.
On her journey, May interacts with her diverse family, with each character portraying attributes of their particular season. June wears a green sundress and nibbles from her abundant garden. Uncle July sings in his overalls and devours watermelon. Grandpa August sails in his rainbow sailboat. Aunt September is surrounded by sunflowers, butterflies, and squash. Uncle October wears a suit of leaves, picks apples, and carves pumpkins. Grandma November serves cider in her cozy living room.

In a snowy white wonderland, May finally meets her father, December. He tells May about him and her mother, stating: “We had terrible fights; ice storms and sun showers. The other months were in a state of nervous confusion. Finally, the family decided we should all settle into some sensible order, and your mother and I were put at opposite ends of the year. And you are our daughter, the loveliest month of all.” One of the great strengthens of this book is to demonstrate the different sizes and structures that each unique family has.

When May decides that she misses spring, she continues her journey back home. Uncle January skis her down the slopes to her ice-skating Aunt February, who has a perpetual cold and gives Valentines to everyone. Cousin March swoops in on his kite to carry May back to her mother, April.

The last page has a similar image to the beginning, where May is sleeping beneath the trees with green hills in the background. The book concludes by stating that occasionally December visits May, which is why it is sometimes cold in spring, “But most of the time, the months stay where they belong. And because the earth is round and always turning, we visit each of the months every year, year after year, the way one does with family, or dear old friends.”

This is a beautiful ending to a book about seasons, time, love, and family. After you read it, you won’t be able to think of months without thinking of Gerstein’s illustrations and little May’s journey to discover her family.



Marvelous Picture Books: "The Very Hungry Caterpillar"


Eric Carle’s most famous work, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, depicts the life cycle of a young caterpillar. Readers first meet the young caterpillar as he hatches from “a little egg lay[ing] on a leaf,” and follow him as he spends a week growing and eating fruit, desserts, and many other snacks. The caterpillar then builds himself a cocoon, spends several weeks inside, and eventually emerges as a beautiful butterfly.

This classic picture book, first published in 1969, has been used in countless classrooms and read by many young readers across the world. The book is ideal for young children, ages 2 – 6 years old, as it uses short words and a simple sentence structure throughout.
Carle uses a series of collages to create his stunning pictures; the illustrator paints on plain tissue paper with acrylic paint using a variety of paintbrushes and other texturizing tools to create a palette. To create his different images, he cuts out shapes from these colored pieces of tissue paper, and glues them together, like a collage, to form different foods, animals, and scenes. Throughout The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Carle uses the sun, the moon, leaves, fruits (apples, strawberries, oranges), a slice of cheese, a pickle, an ice cream cone, a slice of pie, a salami, and a large cocoon to describe the tiny caterpillar’s journey to becoming a butterfly.
In my opinion, this book fits perfectly into an early childhood classroom. The simplicity of the words and the direct correspondence between text and pictures on the page, allows children to practice reading and build comprehension skills, like using context clues and pictures to understand a story line. Additionally, the holes in each of the middle pages give children a chance to put their tiny fingers through the strawberries and the cupcake, furthering their interaction with the images and the text. It can also provide teachers with an opportunity to embed counting (one apple, two pears, three plums), the days of the week (on Monday he ate, on Tuesday he ate, on Wednesday he ate), and even the life cycle of a butterfly into reading. Through the use of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, teachers who might struggle with finding ways to meet grade level standards or generalize skills to multiple academic areas, can essentially kill many birds with one stone. Carle’s website includes links to teaching activities and lesson plans related to this and many of his other books.
In addition to the classical favorite, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Eric Carle has written and illustrated many amazing children’s books, including: The Grouchy Ladybug, The Very Busy Spider, The Foolish Tortoise, “Slowly, Slowly, Slowly.” said the Sloth, I See a Song, Why Noah Chose the Dove, and my personal favorite Draw Me a Star.

Happy Reading!
Christine Douthwaite
Carle, E. (2011). The official Eric Carle website. Retrieved from
Carle, E. (1969, 1987). The very hungry caterpillar. New York, NY: Philomel Books.

A new year…A new semester…A new Caldecott Award book!


Today, Vanderbilt starts the “spring” semester….with 3 inches of snow covering the ground. That snow just makes it an even more exciting day! It is wonderful to have students back on campus. And our 3 posts per week will begin again.

The week started with the annual announcement of the ALA awards for the best books for children of 2010. Our favorite award, the Caldecott, went to the fabulous A SICK DAY FOR AMOS MCGEE, illustrated by Erin E. Stead (and written by her husband, Philip C. Stead).

Amos is a gentle and compassionate zookeeper. He spends each day caring for the animals, meeting each one’s needs in the most appropriate way possible. But Amos becomes too sick to make it to the zoo one day. His friends, the animals, become the caregivers for Amos….and, following his example, take care of him in the most appropriate ways possible!

Now you should head straight to! Jules’ post about the awards is brilliant. Be sure to see her photos of Erin Stead’s work. To make sure you don’t miss my favorite images, I borrowed them for Neely’s News…..

So, please spend time looking closely at A SICK DAY FOR AMOS MCGEE. Enjoy the story told in words and art. Happy Reading of both!  Ann