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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Happy Free Friday! For today’s book, I will be talking about one that my partner and I read during class today and FELL in love with! The book is Barack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope and is written by Nikki Grimes and illustrated by Bryan Collier. This book actually made me emotional because its prose and evocative language were so powerful in making me remember Obama’s administration.
The picture book began with an African-American mom and her son watching former President Barack Obama on their television, and the son asks who this man is that everyone is cheering at. The mom explains who he is and the child has trouble pronouncing his name while exclaiming that he has so many friends (all the people on the TV are simply supporters at his rally). Then, the mom tells her son the story of Obama, starting from when he was about the same age as the boy.
Throughout the story, we see “Barry” (as Obama was referred to when he was younger) constantly being reminded by his friends and family around him that there is always hope, even if you can’t see it, hear it, or feel it–it will always be there. This is what Barry began to stand by as he grew up. In the story we explore his diverse family background and it eventually brings us to his rise to presidency. We see him grow as a young boy into a man, one who firmly believes that “yes, we can!” and that knows America is in dire need of a leader who can instill again a sense of hope for a better future. For a child that doesn’t know much about former President Barack Obama, this picture book would be a fantastic introduction to him. For a child that already knows about him, this book would also be a great choice to satiate their interests!
The way that this children’s picture book was able to evoke such a deep sense of emotion from myself and my parter was truly astounding. I think it is really challenging for a picture book to be able to do this. I will say that it was mostly the forthright and expressive writing style which evoked emotion for me. In the corner of almost every page was a small snippet of conversations with the mother and son from the beginning of the story. It was really fun to see the boy’s reaction to the story his mother was telling him: in one instance he asked, “He [Obama] didn’t give up, did he?” when his mom told him about the constant late nights and hard work the soon-to-be president was putting into garnering people’s support for him.
The illustrations also wonderfully captured how Obama aged throughout the story. During his young adult years, I really began to see how he transformed into the man we all knew as president. This book is hands-down one of my favorites that I have read in this class. I highly, highly recommend!
Happy Traditional Thursday! Today I thought I’d talk about a book that I absolutely loved as a child, and is still a staple on my bookshelf. Katie and The Mona Lisa, by James Mayhew, was among my favorite books as a kid, and I can remember begging my parents to read it again and again and spending many hours sitting on the floor looking through the beautiful illustrations.
The book begins with Katie and her grandma, who frequently visit museums on their days out. They discuss their favorite paintings, and Katie says hers is the Mona Lisa. When Katie asks Grandma what makes the Mona Lisa smile, Grandma suggests that Katie go find out! So Katie goes and looks at the Mona Lisa herself, and is soon invited to come into the painting. So she does. Delighted at having a visitor, Mona Lisa explains that she is quite lonely and doesn’t feel like smiling anymore, so Katie takes her on an adventure to make her smile again. Through this adventure, Katie and Mona Lisa find themselves in many other famous paintings, and causing more than their fair share of mayhem in the museum!
By far one of my favorite parts of this book is the illustrations. Done in a way that makes them feel like art themselves, I really appreciate the way that James Mayhew is able to breathe a new life into already established subjects of famous art pieces and settings. The illustrations also serve to depict these famous art pieces in a respectful way, which I believe they achieve, while also portraying a very compelling story about a little girl who gets to go into and literally experience the famous art that she sees.
Another thing that I love about this book is its ability to introduce kids to famous art in a way that is still fun and engaging for them. For me, at least, this book and the others in the series were among my first introductions to famous art pieces like the Mona Lisa, and I learned a lot about art and artists through this series. By bringing kids directly into the painting, not only is James Mayhew able to create interest in art, but he is able to explain the painting better and in many cases, explain the artists’ motivation behind the creation of the piece.
I love this book and the ability that it has to engage young children in a topic that they’re not usually interested in, art, and I definitely plan to use it in my future art lessons, along with the other books in the series!
This Winners Wednesday, I am reviewing the winner of the 2019 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature- picture book section- Drawn Together, written by Minh Lê and illustrated by Dan Santat. You may recognize Santat’s name as the author and illustrator of 2015 Caldecott medal winning The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend. Santat returns with stunning illustrations that draw you into the world in the pages. But first, a little about the book.
The story follows a Thai-American boy who is sent to visit his grandfather. The differences between the two are starkly obvious in the beginning as the grandfather eats a more traditional meal while the boy eats a hotdog with fries. They struggle to come up with anything to talk during dinner and later cannot agree on what to watch on TV. The boy gets up to dig out a sketchbook from his bag pack and draw a wizard. Then, something magical and unexpected happens as the grandfather joins him in painting an ancient warrior. Together, they construct a world on paper that allows them to connect like they haven’t before.
Lê narrates the story through the perspective of the boy. The book has very few words, judiciously chosen to carry the narrative when the illustrations alone would not have. The words work in tandem with the illustrations as sentences are split on different two-page spreads, drawing the reader to turn the page. Lê uses ellipses to build suspense and make the turn of the page irresistible to the reader.
Santat’s incredible artistic ability is on full display throughout the double-page spreads. He uses multiple comic-like panels on each page to carry the story through its wordless start. In the little conversation that takes place between the boy and his grandfather, the boy asks questions in English while the grandfather’s replies are in Thai script. The speech bubbles in the panels are the only text until the grandfather brings his calligraphy brush and ink to join the boy in making art. After this, Santat’s illustrations explode out of the panels, replaced by colorful full bleed art across each spread. This shift corresponds with the pair coming out of their shells and breaking their communication barrier. The boy’s colorful wizard and the grandfather’s monochrome warrior construct a world that absorbs your attention with intricate details and color combinations. As Lê writes, they “build a new world that even words can’t describe.” Indeed, Santat’s illustrations leave you…
Drawn Together is a beautifully illustrated book that shows the shift in the relationship between a boy and his grandfather. More than that, it is a book about the generational gap that separates the two. It shows that art can be a powerful mode of communication and connection, especially in overcoming a language barrier to bridge the generational gap.-Elias Ukule
Inspired by the award-winning hit film Hidden Figures that premiered in early 2017, Suzanne Slade wrote her trendy book A Computer Called Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Helped Put America on the Moon in March 2019 to bring more attention to the black, female mathematician that the world didn’t even know about until recently.
The picture book explores how Katherine developed her love and passion for mathematics and eventually went on to become an esteemed researcher and mathematician at NASA. When Katherine began working at NASA, she was one of only two other women who worked there at the time. It has become trendy recently, (thank god!) for our society to be more approving and encouraging of girls and women to pursue careers and education in STEM fields, as for long in the past being a women in science or math was frowned upon and they weren’t viewed with the same potential and intelligence as men were. It is so important for books like A Computer Called Katherine to be available to young girls and boys, and one that depicts a black women achieving highly in the STEM field nonetheless! The process behind writing this book was no easy feat, according to Slade herself. She said she did mountains of research and interviewed dozens of Katherine’s colleagues and friends in order to most accurately depict her story.
The watercolor-like illustrations make the story flow easily and are very appealing to the reader’s eye. Veronica Miller Jamison’s (illustrator) mixed-media art pairs really well with Slade’s clear and easy-to-follow prose, and her use of blue hues throughout the story make the illustrations stand out. The launch of Apollo 11 is depicted in a series of panel illustrations, which create a dynamic and engaging sequence for children to follow. There is even a timeline in the back of the book where children can get a little history lesson to put Katherine’s story in context.
The author hopes that children reading this story will be inspired to pursue their dreams, no matter what they are, just like Katherine did. This picture book is definitely vital to have in classrooms; there is no child too young to read this or be read this to. If anything, the younger we read books promoting diversity and gender equality in different career paths, the better! Suzanne Slade really took advantage of this trend of women in STEM to create a wonderful story depicting the accomplishments of Katherine Johnson and celebrating and encouraging young children to chase their dreams. Happy reading!
Happy Free Friday, friends! Today we’re taking a look at The Color Monster: A Story About Emotions by Anna Llenas. This book follows the Color Monster as he is initially “all mixed up” and learns about emotions from a girl (who is not named at any point in the story).
I found a fun surprise upon looking under the jacket at the front cover of the book! While the jacket has four color monsters and the title of the book on it, the front cover has this design. This design matches the endpapers and introduces the reader to the aesthetic of the book. The whole book has this sort of crayon, collage, cut and paste kind of feel. It’s a whole mix of things, like the Color Monster’s mix of emotions.
The book follows as the girl describes different emotions to the Color Monster, comparing each of them to a different color. The girl explains happiness (yellow), sadness (blue), anger (red), fear (black), and calm (green), and shows each emotion with vibrant illustrations and accurate descriptions. This spread about sadness stood out to me because it showcases the illustrations, which seem almost 3D, and teaches kids that it’s okay to cry.
In the end, the girl has helped the Color Monster understand his emotions and shows all of the emotions discussed throughout the book on the same page. The Color Monster even discovers a new emotion to understand at the end, which is shown in pink on the last page of the book.
The Color Monster is a great book for social emotional learning and helping kids make sense of their emotions. It’s also super cute with cool illustrations, and reminds me a lot of the movie Inside Out. This book offers educators a way to discuss emotions with kids, and I certainly plan to use it in the future!
The Very Hungry Caterpillar, written and illustrated by Eric Carle, is a widely recognized book and has been read by or read to probably almost every single child in the United States. Considering it has been around for 50 years (it just celebrated its 50-year anniversary), Its popularity and ability to still be as relevant and loved today as it was in the past is not something to brush aside. The timeless story, brightly colored illustrations, and the book’s playful design are engaging for children and teachers love the simple brilliance of the book that can be incorporated into their classroom in so many ways. Need an art project? Boom, make an art piece Eric Carle style. Need a science lesson? Boom, use the book as an opening to a lesson about the life cycle of a caterpillar/metamorphosis. Need a writing lesson? Boom, the perfect sentence starter: “If I wear the very hungry caterpillar I would eat….” Need a lesson about numbers and days of the week? C’mon, this book is just asking for it. As you can see, the possibilities of incorporating this book into the classroom are endless, which is part of why I think this book has seen such consistency in its popularity.
Our next stop is the illustration station. Eric Carle has a very specific style that can be found throughout many of his picture books and is very easily recognizable. The bright colors and the collage technique utilized for the illustrations give the book a three-dimensional feel and draw readers’ eyes in to the pages of the book. The design of the book itself is unique because each page has a hole in it where the caterpillar eats through the food. This adds yet another element to the story and the experience of reading the book because kids are excited to see the holes appear as the caterpillar continues to gorge itself on food. The page layout is also interesting because they start of small and progressively get larger and larger as the caterpillar eats more and more on each successive day.
In terms of the writing style, the repetitive nature is always a huge draw for kids and nothing is more exciting for a little one than being able to predict what’s going to come next in a story. This book could even be read using a choral reading style where all the kids chime in on the repetitive phrase so as to get the class really involved in and engaged with reading the story. The words used and the phrasing is simple and succinct, so children are likely to have an easy time understanding and grasping what is going on in the story, even as it alludes to the seemingly much more complex concept of metamorphosis.
The quirky nature of the story combined with its eye-catching illustrations delight both children and adults alike and make this a book that children will want to pick up and read again and again. The fact that the book can be so applicable in so many different areas of the classroom and can also just be read for pleasure is what helps it to stay relevant even after all these years. This was one of my favorites as a kid and I can remember not ever wanting to put it down. Hopefully this book will stick around for years to come so we can share our love for this book with future generations and get them on board The Very Hungry Caterpillar train!
For today’s Winner’s Wednesday, I wanted to focus on a winner of the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award, a lesser known award that is given to children’s books that “effectively engage children in thinking about peace, social justice, global community, and equity for all people.” Before She Was Harriet, by Lesa Cline-Ransome and illustrated by James E. Ransome, tells the story of Harriet Tubman’s life and legacy, beginning at the end. The book also received the Coretta Scott King Award Honor, which recognizes books by African Americans that reflect the African-American experience.
The book begins with Harriet Tubman as an old woman, “tired and worn, her legs stiff, her back achy.” The story then delves into the different personas that Harriet Tubman took on during her life, starting at suffragist, and describing her time as a Union spy, Aunt Harriet, and Moses. Each page describes one of the personas, explaining what she did and accomplished during that period of her life.
The book continues to make it’s way through her life from end to beginning, and then circles back to Harriet as an old woman, remembering each of her personas and how much she “dreamed of living long enough to one day be old, stiff and achy, tired and worn and wrinkled, and free.”I really enjoyed the unique perspective on Harriet Tubman’s life that this book provides. While most of us learn about Tubman in school, we only learn about her in the context of the Underground Railroad and her role in helping enslaved people escape during the era of the Civil War. However, this book shows readers that she did much more than that, including serving as a war nurse, a Union Spy, and a suffragist after the war. Not only that, but the book also describes her life before she became involved in the Underground Railroad, when her name was Minty and she was a slave herself. The way that the author chose to go through her life from end to beginning and then circle back to end really emphasizes all the ways that Harriet Tubman changed the world around her, and why she is such an important woman in history.
I recommend that everyone read this book for a new perspective on a well known historical figure, and a beautiful way to teach children about injustice and activism in history.
– Katie Chabot