Category Archives: Throwback Thursday

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. 

Frog and Toad pages 50-51

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.  

Frog and Toad pages 62-63

Karima Raharjo

Traditional Thursdays: Off to School, Baby Duck!

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Hannah Rosen

Today’s traditional Thursday features a book that is nearing its twentieth anniversary. The children’s picture book Off to School, Baby Duck, which was written by Amy Hest and illustrated by Jill Barton, describes a child’s natural fear of going to school for the first time.

The book cover, illustrating Baby Duck happily going to school.

 

Even though this book is not new, the message that it sends is timeless and extremely relevant today. This book depicts a situation that almost all children going to preschool or kindergarten experience. In the book, Baby Duck is reluctant to leave her house in the morning. She is dragging her feet on the way to school. She does not want to leave her little sister or her parents.

In this illustration, Baby Duck’s reluctance in clear. The image captures the expression of a nervous child.

An interesting aspect of this book is that it is her grandpa, not her parents, who helps her to become comfortable with the idea of going to school. He is the one who tells her that it will all be alright. He listens to her fears and then goes up to the teacher to help Baby discover that she should not be worried. This communicates the importance of grandparents in the life of children. It depicts how grandparents can have a role and relationship with the child that the parents often cannot assume. The grandparent has a greater depth of knowledge and experiences to draw from, and, as someone who usually does not spend as much time as the parents with the child, can spot when something is wrong with a different perspective. Grandparents are sometimes less threatening and more comforting than parents. Many books today forget about the importance of having a strong relationship with grandparents, and I was happy to see it shine through this story.

 

Some aspects of this story are a little dated. For example, the names of the characters are not the most empowering. The protagonist, Baby Duck, goes by “Baby”. Children who are going into kindergarten do not want to think of themselves as babies, and therefore should not be called babies. Baby’s little sister is named “Hot Stuff” which is a strange name and also not really appropriate as the name of a baby sister. Also, all of the ducks at the school look generally the same. There could have been a little more diversity amongst the ducks.  Otherwise, the book has held up well for this time period.

The illustrations in the book are bright and appealing for children and adults alike. The illustrations of Baby Duck really capture the emotion of being nervous for school. Baby Duck really does look like a young child in the way that she positions herself and shows her emotion through her face and body language. The book is pleasant all around: in its illustrations, its story, and its message of bravery and new beginnings.

This final page shows Baby Duck’s new excitement for school and all of the new experiences she will encounter inside.

“Big and Bad” – but mostly bad

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This Traditional Thursday, I got the exciting opportunity to read a Three Little Pigs adaptation called “Big and Bad”. This well-loved tale had me eager to see a fresh take on it. Instead, what we get is a fairly bland retelling with somewhat terrifying illustrations.

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As someone who had nightmares over “Where the Wild Things Are” as a child, I can assure you those EYES would not have sat well with me. Also note the rather bland font. Later, some character names are emphasized with color, but it doesn’t seem to serve any kind of meaningful purpose with regards to the text.

In terms of narrative, we have a straightforward retelling of the traditional fable, with the exception that the houses are built as a trap for Big Bad devised by the various woodland creatures. Eventually when he gets scared up out at the chimney, he becomes a comet in the night sky. My biggest gripe with the narrative is that, being so blase, I never reached a point where I felt engaged with the mythos of a Just-So Story, so the only significant adaptation felt tacked on.

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The issue with this book, aside from the borderline surreal illustrations, is not that it’s that bad, it just really doesn’t offer much worth reading.  A story needs a reason, it needs to want to be given life, and frankly I found myself only bored or annoyed as I worked through the text. And with something so well-worn as The Three Little Pigs, there are already so many fun and thoughtful adaptations, I don’t know why you would choose this one. A few that I love include “The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs” by Jon Sciezka and Lane Smith as well as “The Three Pigs” by David Wiesner.

If you’re going to read a classic fable, I definitely recommend the two pictured above instead!

-Josiah Pehrson

Smooooooooth Jazz

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new-doc-2_3Take a trip back in time with Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph. Using a collection of original poems, writer Roxanne Orgill tells the stories of jazz musicians like Thelonious Monk, Rex Stewart, and Maxine Sullivan who all gathered one day on  126th Street.

This story started with an idea—all the good ones do—and this idea was a spectacular one in its own right. As told in the book’s introduction, Art Kane, in 1958, decided to take a picture. But not just any picture mind you, but rather a picture containing as many American jazz musicians as possible. Not even owning a camera, Art Kane partnered with Esquire magazine to help make this photograph a good one.

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Armed with the Francis Vallejo’s tantalizing artwork, Orgill tosses us lightly onto those sun-bathed sidewalks, surrounded by laughter, chatter, and smiles. We are no longer viewing the book from 2016, because we are standing next to Rex Stewart as he passes a small cornet to a little boy named Leroy. We are standing next to a group of men wondering where Duke Ellington is at the moment. We are comforting a frantic photographer who is attempting, without prevail, to get everyone’s attention.

This is a great book to remind kids that history isn’t dead. Instead history is in the poetry found between the covers of a book, or in Vallejo’s exquisite illustrations, or in the smooth jazz that they might hear in an elevator, or even in a single photograph.

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Post by: Stephanie Thompson

Traditional Thursdays: Sideways Stories from Wayside School

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I have always loved Louis Sachar’s zany book – ever since it first crossed my school desk circa the fourth grade. Seeing the play interpretation at our local children’s theatre in a later field trip was a delight, and reading it years later to my dormmates as a college kid was like revisiting one of my funniest old friends.

What makes this story so timeless? Sachar’s ’78 classic is a crazy kooky and sidewayscoverfun read that brings in the ridiculous and unbelievable and makes it perfectly normal.

A teacher who thinks her students are so cute they must be monkeys?

Ice cream that tastes like your personality, but you can’t taste it?

Dead rats sneaking into school?

A boy who just can’t stop kicking things?

Just a normal day in a school that was accidentally built 30 stories high (without a 19th)!

Sideways Stories is a chapter book that collects 30 stories, each one starring a different member of the Wayside School community. Each chapter is about four pages long, and has a different tone, determined by the character.sidewayspaul

Some are driven by narration, some by action, some by descriptions – something for every type of reader. Paul, for example, engages in intense debate with Leslie’s pigtails over whether or not he should pull them. Sharie, on the other hand, is asleep her entire chapter.

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What I most like about this story is its snappy wit. The children all have their youthful good-natured (and sometimes self-serving) naïveté, but so do the adults. And everyone states the obvious…except the obvious just happens to also be hopelessly silly. I would highly recommend this as a read aloud or a silent chuckle-aloud!

 

By: Julia McCorvey

Traditional Thursdays: The Name Jar

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Oh, what’s in a name?
Well, alot actually!

Names are a huge part of how we identify ourselves, and children are bound to feel the same way. The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi, originally published in 2001, is a book that I remember distinctively when I was a young child and is one that I think will resonate well with children even today. Here on Traditional Thursdays, I will highlight some resonating and outstanding ideas this book offers.

the name jar cover

Many people consider Choi’s The Name Jar a more modern and culturally diverse spin off of Kevin Henke’s Chrysanthemum (which is also a wonderful classic!).

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Actually, Chrysanthemum was the original book I wanted to review, but after rediscovering The Name Jar, I found that this book may be more relevant for classrooms today.
For those unfamiliar with the story, The Name Jar follows a young girl named Unhei, who recently moved to the States from Korea. On the bus ride to her first day in school, people are surprised by her unfamiliar name and tease her for it. She loses confidence in her name, and decides to pick a new one. Her classmates help her out by suggesting names, which are all collected in a jar. However, a friend named Joey learns the backstory of Unhei’s Korean name…and helps her pick the best name for her: Unhei.

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This book is great to help young children understand what it means to embrace one’s identity, culture, and differences. I loved seeing the Korean characters in the illustrations, and the end pages are used exceptionally well:

the name jar

Here, we see a mix of Korean names and English names the class came up with together.

It is touching to see Unhei write her name in both English and Korean in front of the entire class and explain that her name means ‘Grace.’ It is even better to see the teacher respond to the students’ reactions, “Lots of American names have meanings too.” No matter what language our names may come from, they are special and deserve respect! Spending the time to know fellow peers and finding an appreciation of different identities is one of the most valuable lessons I believe a student should learn. The story is complex, yet written in a simple way easy for even younger readers to understand. Any elementary classroom would benefit from reading this book together.
On a slightly more critical note, I do feel that this story touches only briefly on the other struggles of immigrating to a new country (food, family, etc). While this is already a wonderful book that has culturally diverse elements, there is much room for expansion in future books.

In general though, as someone who also immigrated to the States from Korea at an early age, this book hits home to me. Many of my friends are not aware of the dread I feel during the first few days of classes when the teacher does not know or even try to pronounce my legal Korean name. It can be embarrassing!
But I will also admit that the few people who do stop me to ask, “Hey, how do you pronounce your real name?” is one of those small things that I appreciate deeply.
Cheers to The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi and the push for more classic diverse literature!

By Sunny Kim

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