Category Archives: Picture Books from the past

Traditional Thursday – Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel

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Frog And Toad Are Friends coverLooking at this classic book’s cover can almost transport me back to my elementary school library. Frog and Toad Are Friends is the first book of four beloved books written by Arnold Lobel that detailed the adventures of two very good friends, Frog and Toad. I had not read these books, again, since I was a child, but as I was reading this one for this review, I found it just as amusing as I always had. Lobel is able to write stories that are clever and funny, while also being a heartfelt representation of friendship and love.  

One of my favorite moments is when Frog and Toad decide to go swimming. Toad does not want to come out of the water because he thinks he looks funny in his bathing suit. Unfortunately, others keep arriving because they heard Toad looks funny in his bathing suit. Eventually, he has to come out and all the other animals laugh at him including Frog. Admittedly, this is not very nice of everyone. If I were reading this with children, I would want to have a discussion about this kind of behavior. But on the next page, Toad asks Frog what he is laughing about. Frog tells him, “I am laughing at you, Toad, because you do look funny in your bathing suit.” And Toad just responds, “Of course I do.” I think this highlights a very realistic part of friendship, where you can laugh at each other in silly situations out of good nature. It shows that Frog and Toad really are close friends. And if you look at the image, he does look quite funny in his bathing suit. 

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The structure of these books is also interesting because it resembles a chapter book where the text is the primary feature. The pictures just seem to be inserted in the story. Despite this, the pictures are incredibly important to the story, as you could see in the story about the bathing suit. His illustrations convey Frog and Toad’s emotions and their bond really well. 

Lobel also uses different techniques for the pictures, which can be seen on this page. 

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Some images have a very clear border like this picture on the left, and others seem to blend into the page. It has this effect of making the reader feel like an outsider looking in sometimes and other times feel immersed in the story. This seems to convey that, as readers, we are outsiders looking at Frog and Toad’s friendship and the bond they share, which is only between the two of them. But we can also share in some of the emotions they feel because we can relate that to our own friendships. 

The book ends on a very positive note of friendship and leaves a very warm feeling that captures the essence of these books. Frog and Toad are just two friends, sitting there, feeling happy together.  

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Karima Raharjo

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Free Fridays: “The Quilt”

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For this week’s “Free Friday” blog post, I just had to pick The Quilt written and illustrated by Ann Jonas in 1984. I stumbled across this book at the library the other day and was instantly drawn into its cover art, ultimately deeming this book a true classic. IMG_7630

The book’s quilted endpapers are the same fabric as the inside of the little girl’s own quilt—the book itself literally and figuratively cloaks the reader with the story, bringing them inside the girl’s world. The title page shows a sewing machine, which can bring up a discussion for readers about how the quilt itself was made.

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The book’s language is very simple and straightforward—it starts with, “I have a new quilt.” The book is from the little girl’s perspective—she explains how her parents made the quilt for her, and introduces her stuffed animal Sally, inviting the reader inside her world. The story uses dramatic irony– at one point, the little girl can’t find the cloth used to make Sally, but Sally herself can as she’s right next to it, adding a playful element for the reader.

The simple and relatable language makes space for the illustrations to truly shine. Sparse, white backgrounds enable the quilt, the little girl, and her stuffed animal Sally to take the spotlight. Once the little girl brings the reader to her bed, through her bedroom window, we can see it getting darker and darker, as the room itself gets darker–can you find that fabric in the illustration below?

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Then, throughout the night, the little girl imaginatively envisions her quilt as a magical little town with many different areas to explore. The story’s turning point occurs as the little girl can’t find Sally, who fell (or hopped?!) off the bed!

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As she looks for Sally, the background becomes black and the little girl travels, in her imagination to many different places, all evoked with a variety of bright, contrasting colors. The little girl explores a circus, a neighborhood, a lake with boats and ducks, a forest, and more. 

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In the morning, as the sun is rising, the little girl sees Sally at the edge of a cliff (her bed!) and ends up on the ground with her: “Good morning, Sally.”

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I absolutely love how we never learn the name of the child herself. This is a very realistic depiction of children as they don’t often go up to people and say “my name is ____,” unless they were scripted to do so. Children just start talking about their lives, through the lens of imagination, which is exactly what happens in this story.

Additionally, It is very important to represent the experiences of people of all colors in children’s literature—the little girl in this book is a person of color, which is another one of its qualities that drew me in. Although written by a white woman, the author doesn’t center the story around the little girl’s race as many white authors do in children’s books, seen in either their story or illustrations. Ultimately, this book is a great storytime treat for children of all ages—I even read this to a fourteen-year-old who absolutely loved it! Definitely pick this book up at the library if you see it, you won’t regret it!

–Emma Waldman

Tacky the Penguin

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Tacky the Penguin written by Helen Lester and illustrated by Lynn Munsinger is truly a children’s literature classic. How is being different a good thing? Let Tacky share his story with you…

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Tacky the Penguin is an odd bird, he doesn’t do things like his companions Goodly, Lovely, Angel, Neatly, and Perfect do. Tacky greets his friends with a “hearty slap on the back” and always does “splashy cannonballs” off the iceberg. His companions always march 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4, but Tacky has his own way of marching.

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Because Tacky does things differently, his friends don’t pay much attention to him or include him in their activities like singing. Everything changes when one day the penguins of the iceberg hear the “thump…thump…thump” of Hunters in the distance.

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All of the penguins run and hide in fear, leaving Tacky to face the Hunters by himself. The Hunters say that they’ve come to catch some pretty penguins, so Tacky decides to show the Hunter what kind of penguins live on this iceberg. Tacky marches for the Hunters… 1-2-3, 4-2, 3-6-0, 2 1/2, 0, and they are very confused. He does a big cannonball for the Hunters and gets them all wet. Finally, Tacky starts to sing with his not so lovely singing voice and soon enough his companions join in! They all sing as loudly and as horribly as they can until the Hunters run away as fast as possible because these were not the penguins they came looking for.

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All of the companions hug Tacky and are grateful that he scared the Hunters away and saved them all. The penguins realize that “Tacky was an odd bird but a very nice bird to have around.”

This story is one of my all-time personal favorites because I think it does a fantastic job of showing how being a unique individual is a beautiful thing. It’s a message that can be tricky to teach young children, but Tacky’s story makes it fun and relatable. The illustrations done by Lynn Munsinger in this book are all hand painted watercolor pieces. The images have been praised for their vibrant colors and vivid facial expressions that contribute to an all around classic feel. The text itself conveys a humorous attitude, but Munsinger’s illustrations bring to life the character of Tacky the odd bird and highlight the fun he has while being himself. Attention to details is one of the key elements of this story, from the hairs that stick up on Tacky’s head to the way he slouches when he walks – every aspect of Tacky reflects his daring, unique personality. Overall, a fun family story, Tacky the Penguin teachers its reader the lifelong lesson that even though someone might be different, they can still be a great friend.

 

Josie Mark

Winners Wednesdays – Click Clack Moo: Cows That Type

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Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type immediately caught my eye at the used book store last week. I had seen it in countless classrooms and home libraries, but had never gotten a chance to look through it. After flipping through the first few pages, I could easily see how the book has garnered so much popularity – and why it was awarded a Caldecott Honor in 2001.

The giggle-inducing picture book, illustrated by Betsy Lewin and written by Doreen Cronin, is written in a blunt storytelling style that adds to the humorous nature of the book. The premise is simple – the cows at Farmer Brown’s ranch somehow acquire a typewriter, and use it to communicate their demands for electric blankets to the distressed farmer. After a bit of back and forth, the cows and the farmer reach an agreement. Young readers will be delighted by the cows’ antics and the farmer’s ensuing frustration. Even though there is no “main character” among the animals, readers can’t help but root for the group of mischievous cows.cows-2

Click, Clack, Moo also plays with sounds and repetition that engage children in the reading. Almost every page ends with onomatopoeia that highlights the sheer absurdity of typing cows: “Click, clack, moo. Click, clack, moo. Clickety, clack, moo.” This repetition is the perfect invitation for choral reading in a classroom or other group environment!

The book’s illustrations are lighthearted, playful, and overall superb: Lewin uses bold lines and bright colors to invoke a goofy energy. Her use of perspective also draws the reader into the story. In several illustrations, the reader is situated behind the characters or objects in the scene, creating the illusion of peeking into the action. Further, the notes between the animals and farmer are included as part of the illustrations, so that the text and images blend seamlessly together.cows-3

With a witty plot and even funnier illustrations, Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type deserves a spot on every parent, teacher, and child’s bookshelf.

Post by Sami Chiang

Traditional Thursdays- A House for Hermit Crab

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When discussing great children’s literature, Eric Carle is certainly an author who comes to mind.

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While everybody has read The Very Hungry Caterpillar, there are so many other amazing Eric Carle books out there! I picked Carle’s A House for Hermit Crab for today’s “Traditional Thursday” because it was one of my favorite books growing up. A House for Hermit Crab is a classic example of how Carle is able to use his distinct, bright collage-style illustrations to entertain children while also educating them.

The story starts with a hermit crab who has outgrown his shell and needs a new one. He finds a shell but thinks it’s too plain. He plans to try to spruce it up a bit to make it feel more like a home.

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The next month he stumbles upon some beautiful sea anemone and asks if one of them would like to live on his shell. A sea anemone agrees to and he gently picks it up and places it on his shell. This pattern of interaction repeats every month throughout the year with other sea creatures including sea urchins, coral, lantern fish, star fish, snails, and pebbles until his shell is full and beautiful.

However, by November he realizes that he has grown throughout the year and his house is now getting too small for him again! The sea creatures on his shell have become like family to him and he doesn’t want to leave them. He then meets a smaller hermit crab who says he would love to live in and take care of hermit crab’s shell. Hermit crab agrees to give his home to him and finds a larger, plain shell for himself that he plans to decorate all over again.

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I think A House for Hermit Crab is a wonderful book to read to early elementary school students, especially when they’re going through some sort of major change. Hermit crab shows children that change can be a positive thing and you can do your best to make the most of the necessary changes in your life. Hermit crab also demonstrates that when you are kind to others, they will help you out and you can create friendships for life.

Additionally, this book is a fantastic educational resource. The text includes lots of sea-life vocabulary words, including a glossary of terms at the end of the book. This book would fit wonderfully in a curriculum that includes learning about the ocean and aquatic animals and would help reinforce a lot of terminology. It is also useful for teaching kids about the sequencing of months and passage of time. The story unfolds throughout a full calendar year, and having a repetitive pattern every month makes the timeline easy to follow for children.

Although the color scheme of the illustrations can be kind of plain and boring, it just makes it that much more pronounced when color is added as the shell gets increasingly more decorated with each page.

Overall, I would say that A House for Hermit Crab is a wonderful picturenew doc 12_1 book that can be utilized for both entertainment and education in an elementary school classroom. The themes of accepting change and creating friendships are powerful sentiments that help make learning facts about sea life more accessible and engaging. In Eric Carle’s vast collection of children’s books, A House for Hermit Crab is a hidden gem that the children of today should definitely get a chance to read.

-Jenna Ravasio

Traditional Thursdays: Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

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Some may not consider Chicka Chicka Boom Boom to be along the classic genre of children’s books. However, this was a book I grew up with and it is very endearing to me. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom was written by Bill Martin Jr and John Archambault and illustrated by Lois Ehlert. It was published in 1989 by Little Simon which is part of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Company.

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Children were unaware as they were reciting along with the book in its rhythmic cadence that they were actually learning the alphabet. As a child, I loved the competition of which letter would get to the top unaware that I was learning the alphabet.

The book is about a group of friends going on an adventure that ends up with them racing to the top. The reader experienced anticipation to never knowing which additional letters was eventually going to crash the tree. So again it drew on children’s imagination which lead to discussion with the reader and the child.

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The illustrator made the book bold and colorful while relating it to the reader by providing some human elements to the letters. For example, when they fall out of the coconut tree the letters had injuries like any other child might experience. So some of the letters ended up with injuries like “skinned-knee D and stubbed-toe E and patched-up F.”

An important lesson this book teaches is being inclusive. The reader sees throughout the book that no letter is ever left behind not even “tag-along K.”

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This book allows any child’s imagination to imagine the adventure always begins anew each day even if “A is out of bed.”

P.S.: For all of you teachers or aspiring teachers out there. There are some different lessons, crafts, activities on Pinterest that go along with Chicka Chicka Boom Boom if you want to use the book in your classroom.

-Kendall Shaw

Winners Wednesdays: The Kissing Hand

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An absolutely perfect book for back-to-school time is The Kissing Hand  written by Audrey Penn and illustrated by Ruth E. Harper and Nancy M. Leak. Published in 1993, it has quickly become a classic children’s bookissinghandk. In addition to being a New York Times Bestseller and landing high on lists of recommended children’s books, The Kissing Hand  received the Ed Press award for excellence in educational publishing.

The story begins with a young raccoon named Chester who is extremely nervous about his first night of school. His mother sees his worry and lets him know that he will find lots of fun things to do at school. Most importantly, their family’s secret of the kissing hand will make him feel like he’s at home anytime he’s lonely. It will give him the courage to go to school without her.

She kisses his palm and shows him that all he has to do is press his hand next to his face, and he will be reminded of how much she loves him. The kissing hand works to make Chester feel better, and he even decides to give his mother her own kissing hand before he heads off to class, making the mother happier and more reassured too.new doc 2_4

I think this is a wonderful book that I would read to students between the ages of 3 and 8. They can likely relate to Chester’s anxieties about being away from his mother and starting something strange and new that he doesn’t know if he will like or not. They can take comfort in knowing that even when they’re at school for what may be the first time, their parents still love them and are not far away from their hearts. The text is simple and straightforward enough for children of these ages to understand, and the watercolor illustrations help to engage the children and further their understanding of the emotions in the story.

The story obviously conveys that it’s okay for kids to be nervous when starting new things, but it also touches upon the fact that parents can get nervous too and need the love of their children to comfort them. Children don’t normally realize that parents can be vulnerable like them, and the fact that they can reassure their parents is empowering.

While the illustrations are certainly not Caldecott worthy, they are still colorful and illustrate the action of the book well. Additionally, there is a set of heart stickers in the back of the book that can be used by a teacher or parent to reinforce the idea of the kissing hand. I think the stickers are a fantastic way to remind children that they are loved, and the stickers could help comfort them in times of trouble.

The Kissing Hand‘s message of love and comfort is a heartwarming sentiment that readers of all ages can benefit from. Parents, teachers, and children alike can take something away from this story. No matter how old you are, it is clear to see that The Kissing Hand is an adorable picture book that can easily capture the hearts of all of its readers.

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By Jenna Ravasio