Monthly Archives: December 2019

Free Friday- The Most Magnificent Thing

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I absolutely loved this book written and illustrated by Ashley Spires. I always enjoy books that have a dog as the child’s best friend because it reminds me of my childhood. That is what initially made me want to read this book, but there were so many other things that I loved about it. I think the title is so perfect for this book. It is vague, simple, and innocent. It shows the imagination and inventiveness of a child. It shows how excited children can get about seemingly simple ideas.

This story follows a little girl in her journey in creating the most magnificent thing. Spoiler alert: It is a scooter for her dog. She struggles in making it and eventually gets very frustrated and wants to quit. This leads a walk with her dog where she is able to calm down and clear her head. She then comes to the realization that “there are parts of the wrong things that are really quite right.” After this, she is able to make the most magnificent thing!

I loved the way the illustrations were done as well. Only the important objects, people, or animals were in color and 3D. The background is not important in the little girls design of the most magnificent thing, so it is just black and white with very little detail. It really enhances the other characters.

Something else that I loved about this book was the subtle humor that Ashley Spires put in to it. Pictured above is a page that says “They set up somewhere out of the way and get to work.” They are clearly in the way of everything, but a child wouldn’t realize that. It is so funny. She is poking fun at the way children think, while also illuminating how inventive and creative they are. The sky is the limit!

Both the little girl and her little dog are so animated and expressive. The way she appears is exactly how you would think a frustrated child would look.

-Caroline Saltmarsh

Winner Wednesday- The Snowy Day

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For today’s Winner Wednesday, the book that will be examined is The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. This book was the Caldecott winner in 1963. 

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The Snowy Day is the story of a young boy’s adventures in the snow on a very snowy day. The story follows Peter as he explores his new, snow-covered surroundings and entertains himself in the snow. He puts a snowball in his pocket, and is sad when it is no longer there. Children will definitely enjoy this story, as most young children can relate to this experience in playing and experimenting in a snowy environment. 
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The illustration in the book are truly superb. They are made of painted materials that look as though they are cut up and reglued into different arrangements. They capture the feeling of the world you know being transformed by a huge snowstorm. They also help you see the world from the eyes of a child, as the snow piles truly look like looming mountains. 

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In recent years, this book has faced some backlash. The book has an African American protagonist, but was written by a Caucasian author. Some think that this is an insult to African American authors. However, it was written when very few books with African American characters were published at all. It shows an African American boy experiencing a universal childhood experience that transcends race. This book was very important at the time, as it showed that children who may not look alike can have similar experiences and can find commonalities. It also allowed for African American children to see themselves represented in a book, not as the side character, but as the main character. This book is important in the history and evolution of children’s literature, even if it can be replaced today by a more relevant story. 

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Hannah Rosen

Trendy Tuesday: “The Book of Mistakes” by Corinna Luyken

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For this trendy Tuesday, I have chosen to review The Book of Mistakes. While it was published two years ago in 2017, this book is still very trendy and other books have adopted similar themes. This book qualifies as trendy because many of the books we have read over the course of the semester contain similar but unique themes of identity formation, especially the more recently published titles. The Book of Mistakes describes the progression of a drawing that has encountered multiple mistakes. The mistakes are continuously turned into successes and creative new ways to alter the drawing.

 

Furthermore, there are various pages throughout the book that are wordless. At the beginning of the book, the text is simple. It is used to describe the drawing, including which aspects were mistakes and which were intentional. However, when the illustrations become more complex, the pages become wordless, so that the reader may focus on the developments in the illustrations.

As the book progresses, the illustrations get more and more complex. They are mostly black and white and employ little use of color throughout. Towards the end, the illustrations use a lot of yellow as they begin to get more complex ad extravagant. On some of the spreads, there is so much detail on the pages, readers could spend hours looking at the pages.

Overall, I think this book is excellent. While the illustrations are beautiful and the words simple, it also has a bigger message: that mistakes help to make people who they are.

-Maddy

 

Marvelous New Picture Book Monday: “Sulwe” by Lupita Nyong’o

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This week’s marvelous new picture book comes from Academy Award winning Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o. Sulwe is written by Nyong’o and illustrated by Vashti Harrison. It tells the story of a girl ashamed of her dark complexion until she goes on a nighttime adventure to discover the beauty in her darkness.

Nyong’o uses descriptive language to describe Sulwe’s skin color as “the color of midnight.” She writes that Sulwe did not look like the rest of her family, “not even a little, not even at all.” Her “midnight” darkness is contrasted with her mother’s complexion of “dawn,” her father’s of “dusk” and her sister’s of “high noon.” Nyong’o uses the times of day to extend the imagery of skin complexion.

The book explores a girl’s journey to self-acceptance as she sees her inner beauty. Sulwe is driven to shame over her skin color as her peers exclude her and called her hurtful nicknames like “blackie” and “darky,” while they called her light-skinned sister “ray” and “sunshine”. Driven by this shame, she tries everything from using an eraser on her skin to using makeup to eating bananas to lighten her complexion. After all of these attempts fail, she turns to prayer. Her prayer ends with a rhyme, “if you hear me, my lord, and would like to comply, may I wake up as bright as the sun in the sky” only to find “not a trace of daylight in her midnight skin.” She is consoled by her mother, who tells her to look for her inner beauty. As she goes to bed that night, a shooting star appears in her room and takes her on a journey. She sees the story of night and day as sisters and how people wanted day but not night, calling them names similar to the ones Sulwe and her sister get called: “lovely,” “nice,” and “pretty” for day, and “scary,” “ugly” and “bad” for night. Nyong’o draws this parallel between Sulwe’s experiences and the legend she is told. After realizing that only daylight is exhausting, the people plead to have night back, recognizing her unique beauty as Sulwe claims her own beauty.

This spread shows the descriptions of Sulwe’s family’s skin complexions

Harrison’s full-bleed illustrations complement Nyong’o’s writing and set up a rich contrast between light and dark. We see Sulwe standing on her own against a starry midnight sky in the opening spread. Her attempts to lighten her skin are displayed in panel format. The illustrations grow bolder and brighter as Sulwe goes on her nighttime adventure with a shooting star. The sisters in the legend, night and day, are pictured beautifully, their colors contrasting on each spread, but still mirroring each other as sisters do. In the final spread, we see Sulwe standing alone, this time in a light and bright background.

The most beautiful spread in my opinion, depicting night and day-two sisters in Sulwe’s legend

Nyong’o based the story on similar experiences of being teased for her dark complexion, as she outlines in her author’s note. Though she notes that the fantastical adventure Sulwe goes on is fiction, it symbolizes a journey to self-acceptance that the author did go through. With the obsession with lighter skin as a standard for beauty in African and African American communities, this book is a great way to push back and show children to value inner beauty. Even if this book does not serve as a mirror to a child’s experiences, the theme of self-acceptance is a universal one any reader will connect with.

-Elias Ukule