Monthly Archives: October 2014

Traditional Thursdays: Why Mosquitos Buzz in People’s Ears


1976_Why_Mosquitoes_BuzzWhy Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears  written by Verna Aardema and illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon is a traditional African folklore that has been adapted to a marvelous picture book.  The story follows a train of misguided actions that lead to the death of one of Mother Owls kids, which then leads to Mother Owl refusal to the wake the sun. King Lion attempts to right this wrong and punish the killer of the Owl’s child so that balance may be restored. The story begins with Mosquito who tells an outrageous lie to Iguana, who then decides he would rather have sticks in his ears than listen to Mosquito’s lies. As Iguana trudges off, Python greets his fellow reptilian but Iguana does not hear. At Iguana’s silence, Python worries that Iguana is plotting against him and sneaks into the burrow of the rabbit to spy on Iguana. The Rabbit rushes out after seeing the python entering and runs away in fear. The Crow sees the Rabbit scurrying during the day and assumes the worst. He then screeches to warn the other animals. Monkey hears the Crows screeching and jumps from branch to branch to escape the danger, but as he is jumping off of one of the branches it falls and kills one of Mother Owls kids. Mother Owl falls into a pit of depression after her child’s death and refuses to wake the sun. She accuses Monkey of killing her child and King Lion confronts Monkey. However, Monkey explains he only jumped on that branch because of the crows screeching. The crow then blames the rabbit, who then blames the python, who then blames the iguana. Iguana explains that it was the mosquito’s fault and everyone unanimously decides the mosquito will be punished. However, the mosquito had been hiding the whole time and knew what would happen to him so he flies off. But the guilt and fear leads him to every so often whisper in people’s ears to ask if he as been forgiven and he’s answered with a clap.


This book won a Caldecott Award in 1976 for its beautiful illustrations. The illustrations are very unique and have a very interesting texture that adds to the story wonderfully. The artwork was made with the usage of watercolors, pastels, and cutout shapes. The different methods combined give this story an African quality to it and that support the story’s origin.

My uncle bought this book for my brother and I when I was 5 and I absolutely loved it. My brother was older and would read it to me, but now after reading this as an adult I wonder if this was maybe too inappropriate for me at the time. The killing of the baby owl is not something I remembered and re-reading I was quite shocked when that happened.  I probably enjoyed it so much as child, because my mother use to tell us folktales similar to this before we went to bed. Aside from that, the overall story is wonderful.

Muniro Dini

James Earl Jones reading Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears




Free Fridays: Big and Bad


This week in ENED 2100, we are discussing differences in renditions of classic fairytales. That, combined with the fact that today is Halloween, inspired us to share with you all a mysterious and dark retelling of The Three Little Pigs.


In the text, the names of the animals are colored, while the rest of the text is black.  The coloring of the names of the animals draw reader’s attention and indicates that this story is more about tan animal community rather than the intellect of individual pigs.  The use of figurative language in the text draws the readers in.  Words like gobbled, gruesomely, splendid, and succulent were used.


The illustrations are mesmerizing; facial features indicate character.  The illustrator uses foreshadowing through the ominous grey sky over the vast landscape in the scene before the wolf falls into the furnace.


Jamie’s favorite illustration was the illustrations of the two cats on page 16 (pictured below) because it looks like one cat with tow heads, which makes it look more devious.


Big and Bad by Etienne Delessert is a take on the classic Three Little Pigs story.  The difference between teamwork and individuality is expressed in this version.

By: Lexi Witkin, Jamie Galvin, and Stefania Girardi

Winners Wednesdays: Snowflake Bentley



This 1997 Caldecott Award-winning book written by Jacqueline Briggs Martin and illustrated by Mary Azarian follows Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley’s story of how he became passionate about snow, nature, and photography and the legacy he leaves behind today.  Bentley has always been intrigued by and loved snow from a small age, and his curiosity soon turned into a fiery passion.  In conjunction with his love for nature and photography, Bentley spent the rest of his life attempting to photograph snowflakes, capturing break-taking and seemingly impossible pictures for the time.


Though the people around him teased and discouraged him and though he was considered a failure by economic and social standards, he prevailed and is today the founder of scientific interest in snow.  Because he followed his dreams and did what was most important to him, today’s society can thank him for his tremendous success.  Told in narrative form, children are able to read this book for fun but can also learn so much more about history, interesting facts about Bentley, and snow through inserts at the front and back of books as well as little snippets throughout the book.  This is an extremely informative story that can increase children’s domain knowledge and, at the same time, inspire them to pursue what they find interesting and are passionate about even if they are ridiculed or criticized.

The interesting and lyrically written storyline is tremendously enhanced by Azarian’s breathtakingly beautiful and intricate relief prints.  Her precise and detailed black outlines along with the dimensional and vibrant coloring bring Snowflake Bentley’s story to life, and enraptures the reader.  Azarian herself is an inspiration as well, saying in her Caldecott acceptance speech that she wanted to do her part and share Bentley’s story while living out her own passions so that she can become successful as well–not in the monetary or fame sense, but in the sense that she is impacting people by the art she creates.


This book is a fantastic way to inspire children to pursue something they love or think is interesting even in the face of ridicule or a discouragement and also a fun and appropriate way to introduce non-fiction biography to children.

-Angela Wang

Trendy Tuesdays: The Day the Crayons Quit



In The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Dewalt crayons stand up for themselves by sending letters to their owner Duncan, to express their complaints.  Each crayon has a different complaint to talk about.  Some crayons are not used enough, like the pink crayon.  Others are used too much and are now so stubby that they cannot see over the box and need a break, like the blue crayon.


The illustrations by Oliver Jeffers are what really make this story come to life.  Each letter is written in handwritten that looks like a child, in the colored crayon that is speaking to Duncan.  It also then shows  picture of the crayon and a picture depicting whatever their issue is with Duncan.


I think children will particularly enjoy the peach crayon who does not want to come out of the box because Duncan took his wrapper of him and now he is naked! They will also enjoy the fight between the yellow and orange crayons for what color that the sun really is.  But, in the end Duncan draws a picture that satisfies all of the crayons and obeying all of their commands.  He also gets and A+ for creativity on his drawing.

-Stefania Girardi


Marvelous New Picture Book Mondays: Once A Shepherd

Marvelous New Picture Book Mondays: Once A Shepherd

Once A Shepherd by Glenda Millard is a story of how war can can change the entire trajectory of a person’s life.  It is spell-binding and abrupt, but still an appropriate and humanizing introduction to the tragedies of war.


The story begins with blissful newly weds who tend sheep and spin wool.  Tom and Cherry live a peaceful life in a hilly countryside.  The characters’ affection–and, later, pain–in the story is tangible through the beautiful watercolor-based illustrations by Phil Lesnie.






Suddenly, World War I breaks out and skews their story.  Cherry stitches her husband’s uniform and prays.  The couple bids a heartrending goodbye as the audience discovers this soldier is leaving his future family–his wife and the baby she is carrying.  The words of the story make it clear how strong their bond is.  Tom leaves for war with dread and shock etched on his face.  Tom belongs in a pasture, not in a trench.  In an act of heroism, Tom dies while saving the life of an enemy soldier.

Remorseful, the wounded and grateful solider visits Cherry, offering her her late husband’s coat and closure.

The grieving wife crowns her child with forget-me-nots as her sweetheart once did her.  Wounds heal; peace returns.  This book offers more than just a war story like CNN or FOX broadcast.  It offers a story of healing and courage to children who might not get this side of the story otherwise.  Millard does a fantastic job of imbuing children with a perspective that not only countries fight wars, but people fight wars.  And people can heal from wars.

Free Fridays: Hanukkah Bear


Hanukkah Bear

If you’re looking for a precious holiday book, this is definitely the one for you. Hanukkah Bear, written by Eric Kimmel and illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka, tells the story of an elderly woman named Bubba Brayna who has an unlikely Hanukkah guest – a bear, who smells potato latkes cooking and meanders over to her house. Due to her poor vision, she mistakes him for the rabbi and therefore ends up partaking in all of the Hanukkah traditions with him. She feeds him all of her latkes, plays a dreidel game with him, and gives him a nice handmade scarf. Despite the bear only talking in grunts, Bubba Brayna knows what he means and talks to him all throughout the evening. Once the bear leaves, the real rabbi along with all of Bubba Brayna’s friends show up and she realizes she had been mistaken about the bear’s real identity. Instead of being upset about all of the traditions being done without the real rabbi, Bubba Brayna invites them all to come in and help make more latkes and celebrate.

Hanukkah Bear 2

I love how this book provides a simple explanation and example of what Hanukkah is. I feel like unless people are Jewish they don’t know much about it, which makes this great for a classroom read aloud. Children can be exposed to different winter traditions than they are probably used to. At the very end of the book, the author provides a short description of Hanukkah that is still kid friendly and also a recipe for latkes. I think it would be a great idea to make them and bring them to class for the class to try. I appreciate that the Jewish people are not depicted in a stereotypic way. Bubba Brayna wears more traditional clothing most likely due to her age and the rabbi wears a yamaka, but other than that the rest of the guests wear clothing that any person would wear. I think the artist’s choice to illustrate with acrylic paint was a great idea because it makes the illustrations very bright and warm, which kind of encapsulates the feelings associated with Hanukkah. All of the characters look joyful and content, especially the bear, who at the end is seen cozily sleeping in his den with the scarf. This story really captures the spirit of Hanukkah. I definitely recommend this to children of all ages because I think it is so important for them to be exposed to other religions and customs outside of their own. I know I will now be adding this one to my classroom library list.

– Adrianna Moss

Free Fridays: Stellaluna


stellaluna cover











Stellaluna is a beautiful picture book that will evoke nostalgia in many of us, and is an excellent addition to the repertoires of young readers.

     Stellaluna follows a young bat who is separated from her mother during an owl attack then she is a baby. Her mother loved her very much, and Stellaluna was devastated to find herself lost and lone. She soon falls into a bird’s nest, where she is forced to live like a bird – sleeping in the nest, not hanging by her feet, and eating bugs—so that she can stay in the nest. Stellaluna loves her nest family, and soon adopts the birds’ ways. As the story goes on, Stellaluna is discovered by other bats and realizes she is different. However, she accepts her differences from her bird siblings and is glad that they can still be friends.













  Stellaluna‘s tone is peaceful, soothing, and serene throughout Stellaluna’s trials, primarily due to the nature of the illustrations. Janell Cannon does an excellent job of combining soft lights and deep tones to paint elements like the soft brown bats and the deep blue night sky. The illustrations also support the plot by showing Stellaluna at her most pivotal moments, like the first time she eats a bug.
















Overall, Stellaluna is a classic picture book for young readers looking for a story about friendship and defying differences, as well as a touching story about the love between a mother bat and her child. Children will enjoy endearing characters and the beautifully painted illustrations that serve as the backdrop for this lovely story. Share this wonderful picture book with your children!

Traditional Thursdays: Stone Soup



Stone Soup is a classic, old folk tale told and illustrated by Marcia Brown that demonstrates the importance of synergy and generosity for the benefit of the community.  The book tells the story of three weary, traveling soldiers who go into a village hoping they would have some food to spare and a place to rest.  Seeing the soldiers from a distance, the peasants hide their food and give excuses, saying that their harvest has been bad, they need to use the food and beds to care for their sick father, etc.  Being clever soldiers, one of them spoke out and said that since nobody has food, they will make stone soup from three big, smooth stones and water in the middle of the square.  They taste the soup and speculate that it would taste better with salt and pepper, and the curious peasants can’t help but run home to grab some salt and pepper.  Again, they taste it and say it would that a good stone soup should have some carrots, cabbage, beef, potatoes, barley, and even milk, and each time the villagers run off to get their hidden foods.  At last, the soup is ready and smells ever so delicious, and all the villagers including the soldiers celebrate with a soup feast and lots of dancing.  Full to the brim, the soldiers are given the best beds to sleep in and leave the next day, leaving the gift of stone soup with the villagers.


This book won the Caldecott Honor, and it’s plain to see why.  The illustrations, while simple with only back, white, and orange, give the people great emotion and evoke the same emotions of weariness, sadness, curiosity, excitement, and joy as the story progresses.  The simplicity of the art brings out the character of the village and of the people inside and the appeal in the different patterns and textures of the bright orange.  In conjunction with the plot, children are sure to enjoy the art and story.

stonesoup2 As a child, I read this book, fell in love, and reread it over and over again because I was so amazed and caught up by the charm these three soldiers cast on the villagers.  I knew that this was no magic–they made this soup merely from the ingredients they put into it–but it’s the magic of teamwork and generosity that made the soup taste so exquisitely delicious and their feast so delightful.  When the soldiers leave the next morning, the villagers say, “Many thanks for what you have taught us… We shall never go hungry, now that we know how to make soup from stones.”  Little did they know that they didn’t just learn how to make stone soup–they learned how to make wonderful soup together.

-Angela Wang

Winners Wednesdays: Freedom Summer


In Freedom Summer, Deborah Wiles tells the story of two young boys in the summer of 1964, right after the Civil Rights Act is passed.  This book received the Coretta Scott King / John Steptoe new talent award for Jerome Lagarrigue and the Simon Wiesenthal “Once Upon A World Award.”

download (1)

The story is told from the perspective of Young Joe who is best friends with John Henry.   Young Joe does everything with John Henry–except swimming in the public swimming pool, visiting the movie theater or buying ice pops at the supermarket.  Instead they help John Henry’s mother–Young John’s family’s maid–with chores around the house and swim in a local creek.  Young Joe accepts that this is the way things are in the segregated South yet doesn’t see John Henry as much different from himself.


When people in Mississippi organize to enforce the Civil Rights Act and register to vote, the boys don’t realize the magnitude of their mission.  The boys understand, however, how the new laws will effect them and are ecstatic to be able to do new things together–like finally swim in the glistening town pool.  They run to the pool early in the morning to be the first swimmers in the newly desegregated pool.  When they arrive, they watch in horror as tar fills the empty pool and workmen stomp it flat.  Almost defeated, they sit up on the diving board.  When Young Joe tries to comfort his friend, John Henry cries hot, angry tears and insists he wanted to swim.


Something clicks.  They both have quarters.  They have each other.  The boys walk into the convenience store, arm in arm, to buy ice pops.

The beautiful oil paint illustrations by Jerome Lagarrigue portray the bliss, excitement and disappointment of these two children who decide not to let their society mold them.   The art adds movement to the children’s laughter, pain to the city’s betrayal, and strength in the moment when Young Joe and John Henry realize they can make their own dream come true.

Deborah Wiles is also known for her 1960’s trilogy for upper elementary and middle school students, which includes another work about the Freedom Summer entitled Revolution.

Trendy Tuesday: Sam & Dave Dig a Hole


Sam & Dave Dig a Hole, written by Mac Barnett (2014) and illustrated by Jon Klassen, is a great read for little boys and girls. The basic plot of the book is embedded in its title: Two boys named Sam and Dave “dig a hole” in search of “‘something spectacular.’” What the boys don’t know is that they keep digging around huge jewels! Sam and Dave continuously decide which direction they should dig, and each time they change directions they miss the jewel by just a few inches. Of course, Sam and Dave don’t know that they are within reach of “‘something spectacular,’” but readers do; kids will love being in on the secret.

Sam & Dave Dig a Hole is an excellent example of a picture book that utilizes the relationship between text and illustrations. In fact, the book cannot be read without the pictures, nor can it be read without the text. Without the illustrations, there would be no knowing that the boys keep missing their “‘something spectacular,’” because the text makes no mention of it. Yet, without the text, we also wouldn’t know what Sam and Dave are looking for when they dig, without which the story would lose its element of irony.

The collaboration between the illustrations and the text are not just collectively vital to understanding the story; they are also each beautifully crafted. The language of Sam & Dave Dig a Hole is sophisticated, and the illustrations are textured and fun. The text is spare but impactful; Sam and Dave’s simple conversations are delightful, and the surrounding text contains language that will provide teachable moments for kids. Kids who read Sam & Dave Dig a Hole will likely want to embark on their own “‘mission[s],’” “underground,” for “‘something spectacular.’” The illustrations are also exemplary. Readers watch as the scenes become progressively darker with dirt, until whole pages are filled in a way that readers feel like they are immersed underground. Additionally, the book’s design exemplifies a wonderful use of space. The illustrations progressively fill the page more and more as Sam and Dave dig deeper and deeper underground.

Sam and Dave Dig a Hole is a delightful story sure to please children and adults alike. All who read will feel in on the secret. While reading, readers can’t help but ask, “Are they ever going to find ‘something spectacular’?” I recommend Sam & Dave Dig a Hole to anyone who wants to know the answer to that question, and for anyone who enjoys a good story.

— Lauren Heyano