Monthly Archives: April 2011

Marvelous Picture Books from the Past: Tikki Tikki Tembo


Tikki Tikki Tembo is a classic tale retold by Arlene Mosel and illustrated by Blair Lent in this 1968 story. The book follows two Chinese brothers, the second born is named Chang which, according to the book, means “little or nothing”. The first born, however, has been honored with the name Tikki tikki tembo-no so rembo-chari bari ruche-pip peri pembo, meaning “the most wonderful thing in the whole wide world”. In the story, these boys are playing near a well which their mother has warned them about. One day, Chang falls into the well and Tikki… must go get help. Since Chang’s name is short and easy to say he is able to tell his mother and the Old Man With The Ladder to help rescue Chang. Months later, the boys again play near the well and this time Tikki… falls in. Poor Chang is so out of breath from running down the mountain that he cannot say his brother’s full name. It takes him multiple attempts in order to say the entire name and by the time Tikki… is rescued he is very sick. The story ends by saying that this is the reason the Chinese have given their children shorter names as opposed to very long ones.

The illustrations in it make it feel like an old folk tale and remind me of Maurice Sendak’s work in Chicken Soup With Rice. Each page shares the same five or so colors with all the blues being one shade as well as all the greens, etc. Overall this gives the story a very basic feel which is easy to internalize.

Overall, the story flows well. One of the most enjoyable parts of the book is, in fact, just saying Tikki…’s name out loud. It has a very Dr. Seuss feel to it and rolls off the tongue very well. The actual story has enough repetition in it to make it easy for beginning readers. This element also has the effect of reinforcing the folklore feel of the story as it makes it seem more of a proverb or fable.

I clearly remember this story from when I was sitting in the library in elementary school. It was of course never the most popular book or one that everyone can pull out of memory. It is, instead, a book that many people see again years later and recognize as being fun to read and charming. I recommend it for young readers to check out of the library and have fun reading before putting it back and sharing it with someone else.

Picture Books of the Past: Harold and the Purple Crayon


Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson is undoubtedly one of the most loved and respected children’s books from the past. Written in 1955, this book continues to be a simple yet powerful story of a young boy who has the creativity and imagination that readers, both young and old, can appreciate. Harold is a 4 year old boy who decides to go on a “moonlight” adventure one night, but after discovering that the moon is missing, he has to create his own adventures with his large purple crayon. For example, Harold draws himself a path to a forest, ocean and other exciting places, marking his journey with landmarks and assistance to keep him safe. This crayon allows him to continue on a long adventure until eventually he decides that it is time for bed and draws himself both his house and his bed.

While the story is a simple concept with very basic illustrations, it is clear that message readers can take away from the book is far more complex than Harold himself could even understand. Crockett Johnson encourages readers to create their own future and draw their destiny much like Harold did, with their own purple crayons. This is a message we can all appreciate and take to heart, even 61 years after it’s original creation.

We recommend reading this book to preschool-age children and encourage independent reading for those in middle elementary. Perfect especially served as a nighttime tale, this book provides as a perfect adventure that leads to a dream-filled night’s rest. In an interactive format, this book can operate as a great starter for an art project or personal story for which individuals can determine where their own purple crayon–or pen, or marker—will take them! We enjoy this book very much and we hope you do too!

Happy Reading!

Katie & Trevor

Marvelous Picture Books: "Mirette on the Highwire"


“Mirette and
the “Great Bellini” traverse the Paris skyline on high wire in the climactic scene of this picture book about conquering fear. The two meet at Mirette’s mother’s boarding house, where Bellini is staying with a troupe of traveling performers. Mirette persuades Bellini to teach her his art, and soon enough the two are performing above the rooftops of Paris. While Mirette gets to step outside her daily routine of peeling potatoes and scrubbing floors, Bellini manages to reaffirm his mastery.”

This Caldecott award-winner is a truly inspiring tale for young women. Mirette is an inspiring character. The fact that the main character is a girl and not a boy sends a positive message to female readers. McCully describes in her Caldecott acceptance speech how Mirette “strives for equality on the wire,” which sends the message that girls need to see themselves as actors, not as people to be acted upon. Each page features a lot of text, so it is appropriate for older readers (7 – 11 years old). This age group will also appreciate Mirette’s courage and dedication to a dream. The fantastical ending of Mirette and the Great Bellini starring in a world tour together also encourages readers to work towards their wildest dreams, because you never know what may happen. The illustrations in this story are beautifully crafted and are reminiscent of the time period in which the story takes place. The pictures look antique and thus instill in the reader’s mind that this story took place 100 years ago. Despite the female lead, this book has wide appeal because it challenges readers to pursue their wildest dreams and to remain dedicated to all their endeavors. Mirette’s success in walking on the high wire is inspiring to all readers because what she is able to achieve on her own is so amazing. Aside from achieving her own goals. she is able to inspire a world renowned tight rope walker who has quit his craft that he should not give up on his talent. This empowers readers to feel that they can have infuence over adults!

We really enjoyed this book, and feel that it is a great book, especially for little girls!

Happy Reading!
Jenny & Kelley

A Truly Marvelous Picture Book: The Firebird by Demi


While browsing the library here on campus the golden spine of this book beckoned me to take it off the shelf. Once I flipped it open, I discovered end pages decorated with mystical creatures and gilded swirls. The Firebird is one of those picture books that just captures the imagination and transports you to

Once Upon A Time. The majority of the images are gilded. However they are made increasingly interesting by a matt, mostly likly painted, details layered on top. The contrast between these two textures creates a sophistication that any art or children’s literature enthusiast would love to look at.

The beautiful images of this book surround an equally magically story. The classic Russian fairytale of the young archer, Dimitri, and his brave steed , The Horse of Power, who complete seemingly insurmountable tasks assigned to them by Tsar Ivan. One of the task is the capturing a Firebird. The plot thickens as Dimitri must capture a princess for the Tsar to marry.

The illustrations of this book are so elegant. I really could rip the pages out and frame them! Don’t worry I won’t! I took some pictures of the book with my personal camera, can you see how the sunlight really highlights the golden pages? ps: This book has been loved so please mind the finger prints!


The Pirate of Kindergarten, a book written by George Ella Lyon and illustrated by Lynne Avril, details the struggles, and ultimate triumph of an optically challenged little redhead named Ginny.

Ginny suffers from undiagnosed double vision. A condition that makes doing all the things she loves, like reading, drawing, and coloring, difficult. Ginny learns to squint and concentrate really hard in order to see properly. On “Vision Screening Day” a male nurse (nice touch Ms. Avril) tells Ginny that she has double vision, and refers her to an ophthalmologist. This visit turns Ginny into “a Kindergarten Pirate” granting her the competence, and confidence, to do all the things she loves.

Lyon’s short, yet descriptive sentences are wonderfully brought to life by Avril’s vibrantly colored illustrations. Chalk, pencil, and acrylic combine to create vivid, buoyant depictions of Ginny’s pre- and post-treatment world. Young readers will be undoubtedly entertained as double letters float across the pages, imaginary chairs abound, and a bunny grows a third ear. Offering a unique perspective on, well, the perspectives of others, Avril’s artwork delights while effectively portraying the struggles Ginny faces. Our favorite illustration, of Ginny gazing through the ophthalmologist’s phoropter, is this book’s most realistic. Dually, Avril makes this odd looking, imposing instrument appear far less so. Making this book a wonderful and soothing introduction to the world inside an ophthalmologist’s office for any nervous child.

While Lyon makes some mention that “someone always laughed,” overall Ginny does not seem to be bullied for her klutziness, errors in class, or ultimately, her eye patch – scenarios that if faced by a real child would likely result in far more social stigma and ridicule from peers. Regardless, positive subtle and not so subtle lessons abound in Lyon’s text, sending many feel good messages to young readers. We love Ginny’s love of school, and in particular reading.

Additionally, Lyon’s more meaningful messages regarding individuality and confidence shine loud and clear. While the book’s ending is a bit abrupt, leaving something to be desired, young readers will have enjoyed learning about Ginny’s sight, how it was corrected, and perhaps they will have learned a bit about the beauty and validity of all of our different perceptions.

Happy Reading!

Jess & Abby

Picture Books from the Past: An Extraordinary Egg

Leo Lionni was originally from Holland; born in 1910. He is known in the children’s literature world for being an author and illustrator, but has also held jobs as a teacher, critic, editor, printmaker, sculptor and more. He has written and illustrated forty children’s books, four of which were Caldecott Honor Books (Inch by Inch, Swimmy, Frederick, and Alexander and the Windup Mouse). Many of his illustrations are done in a collage format, and influenced illustrators such as Eric Carle and Ezra Jack Keats. Lionni passed away in October of 1999, but he is still a much celebrated contributor to the world of children’s literature.

An Extraordinary Egg was originally published in 1994 by Random House Children’s Books. This book is significant because it was the last book Lionni published before his death in 1999. It is recommended for children ages 4 to 7 and is a fable about the meaning of friendship. As is the case in many of Lionni’s books, the characters are humanistic frogs – walking upright on back legs and talking. In the story, three frogs are living on Pebble Island, and one day Jessica (one of the frogs) finding an incredibly white and smooth pebble. Her friends quickly tell her that it is not a pebble, but a chicken egg. When the egg hatches, the reader realizes that it is not a chicken egg but an alligator egg, however the characters are not aware of this and continue referring to the newly-hatched creature as a chicken. Jessica and the “chicken” 
become great friends, and the “chicken even saves Jessica when she falls into the water. Later, the alligator and its mother are reunited and the frogs are quite confused as to why the mother calls the “chicken” her “sweet little alligator” and think is a very silly thing. This book teaches children the real meaning of friendship – that it doesn’t matter what your friends look like, but that friendship is about trust and compassion. 

If you want to learn more about Leo Lionni or An Extraordinary Egg, visit one of these websites:
Images from:


I just read If I Never Forever Endeavor by Holly Meade. This delightful new book chooses to present children with the idea of exploration and risk taking through tongue-twisting rhymes and the flight of a bird. The protagonist, a young bird, never actually receives a name or personality, thus allowing any child to envision him or herself in the shoes of the bird.

The illustrations combine backgrounds made of watercolors with characters and central props made of paper collages. The paper collages almost seem to pop off the page, bringing to life both the inner angst and physical movements of the bird on his journey of taking to flight. All of the bird’s adventures occur on bright and sunny days thanks to the consistent light blue tone of the sky and rich shades of yellow and green in both the plants and the birds.

The charming plays on words scattered throughout the book offer amusement for any adult and introduce some popular sayings in alternate forms. My personal favorite was Meade’s alteration of the phrase, “on the one hand.” As the bird debates flying, he compares both options by saying “On the one wing, I would try…On the other wing, I could try.”

If I Never Forever Endeavor could be used as a powerful mirror by both parents and teachers. A fear to fly and fall might be a fear of not making friends or knowing the correct answer on the first day of school. A fear of to fly and fall might be a fear to stand up in Kickball during P.E. and trip over the ball. The beauty of this poem is its validation of any child’s inherent doubts of taking risks. This validation of feelings coupled with the success and satisfaction of taking said risks provides encouragement for the young audience. Meade also does an admirable job creating realistic experiences: the bird has trouble flying on his first few tries. But after his “thwack,” “thump,” and “flutter,” he begins to flap and “float alongside a friend.”

Overall, this is a cheerful and entertaining read with marvelous illustrations and a valuable lesson of experiencing the world that every child should learn.

“Friends of a feather, I say, endeavor and fly!”

Read and enjoy!

Sarah Barr

Dear Primo: A Letter to My Cousin


Duncan Tonatiuh’s Dear Primo: A Letter to My Cousin is a beautiful book with a universal message – people, no matter where they are from, have similar experiences. Two cousins, one that lives in America and the other in Mexico, write letters back and forth to each other that reveal details from their everyday lives. The boys participate in similar activities but in slightly different ways. For instance, both boys go to school, one by subway and the other by bicycle. Also, in the summer, when they get hot, both boys use water to cool down. One boy uses the fire hydrant and the other jumps in the river. This symbolizes how people seek the same things no matter where they are from. For parents and teachers, this theme is terrific to use as a way to talk to children about culture because it shows how people are more similar than we often think. Parents or teachers could also go into even more detail by discussing immigration and how the cultures of people that come to the United States influence and is influenced by their new home. For Hispanic children, the book can serve as a way to discuss their family and other important issues.

In addition to the theme, Tonatiuh incorporates Spanish throughout the book, an element, which makes the book great to teach children about Spanish. He incorporates the Spanish words into the text and labels the images with the words. Tonatiuh also illustrates the book in a way that is engaging to the reader. The collage-like images are simple and at the same time a great deal of fun.

Duncan Tonatiuh’s Dear Primo: A Letter to My Cousin serves as an engaging teaching tool. Parents and teachers can utilize the book to teach about language, culture, and immigration. This book is a terrific example of how children’s literature can engage children to teach them about important lessons.

Wonderful Books from the Past: Blueberries for Sal

written and illustrated by Robert McCloskey
Blueberries for Sal is a classic book of little Sal and her mother picking blueberries, while a mother bear and her cub arrive on the other side of the hill to eat blueberries for the winter. Inevitably Sal and the cub get mixed up with the wrong mother after wondering off to eat blueberries. The story takes place on a Maine hillside, which is flourishing with blueberries. As a child, my parents read this book to me countless times, especially during summers on Cape Cod. It reminded me of picking raspberries and blueberries with my grandmother on the Cape. Like Sal, I remember eating the berries rather than putting them in my own bucket. Grannie would remind me to save some for the pie. I think this book is definitely a contributing factor to the comforting feeling of making a blueberry pie.

It is a precious book is filled with simplistic navy and white illustrations of the beautiful New England countryside. In 1949, Robert McCloskey won a Caldecott Honor for Blueberries for Sal; yet, he describes his career in children’s books, “sort of an accident.”
“I really think up stories in pictures and just fill in between the pictures with a sentence or paragraph or a few pages of words.”
-Robert McCloskey
Though unintended, McCloskey was an incredibly talented author and illustrator (or should it be illustrator then author) of children’s books. He is also well known for Make Way for Ducklings, which won the 1942 Caldecott Medal and Time for Wonder, which won the 1958 Caldecott Medal. He was the first illustrator to win two Caldecott Medals. His illustrations were heavily influenced by living in New England, particularly his illustrations in Blueberries for Sal and Time of Wonder. I highly recommend reading Blueberries for Sal and other books by Robert McCloskey. Readers of all ages can enjoy his timeless stories and wonderful illustrations.
Check out the Weston Woods video of Blueberries for Sal, which was released in 1967. Weston Woods takes fabulous picture books and produces a video adaptation of the original book. These videos can be found at However, here is a youtube video of Blueberries for Sal:
Happy Reading!

Grace Anne

Kitten’s First Full Moon


written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes

“The picture books texts I love most are those that are so succinct that not one word can be extracted and not one word need be added.” –Kevin Henkes, Caldecott Medal Acceptance Speech

Kitten’s First Full Moon depicts Kitten’s journey as she hunts for the moon that she thinks is a big bowl of milk. Poor Kitten! Kitten eats a bug, falls down porch stairs, and gets stuck at the tip top of a tree, and leaps into a pond before returning home to her own big bowl of milk.

This 2005 Caldecott Medal winning book is absolutely spectacular. Henkes’ book is illustrated entirely in black and white, and is created through a combination of thick brush strokes and black and gray colored pencil shading. Kitten’s First Full Moon was printed on a full color press in four colors, giving the illustrations a rich, three-dimensional feel.

Like Henkes states in his Caldecott Medal Acceptance speech, “Kitten is a child. She is myopic. She is curious. She is persistent. She wants and wants and wants. She makes mistakes. She misunderstands. She gets hurt. She is confused. She is scared. She is also a symbol, a symbol that says: childhood is anything but easy” (Henkes, 2005) Children can easily identify with Kitten. Childhood is scary, confusing, impulsive, and full of mistakes; children are growing up and learning as Kitten is growing up and learning.

“So she pulled herself together and wiggled her bottom and sprang from the top step of the porch.”

The beautiful illustrations, the simplicity of Henkes text, and the correspondence between text and pictures on each page results in a phenomenal book. Children can practice reading and decoding skills and use pictures and context clues to build upon comprehension skills. All the while, they are enjoying a playful story about an adventurous young Kitten.

“Lucky Kitten!”

Happy Reading!



Henkes, K. (2004). Kitten’s first full moon. New York, NY: Greenwillow Books.

Henkes, K. (2005). Caldecott medal acceptance. The Horn Book Magazine, 81(4), 397-402.