Emily Gravett’s The Rabbit Problem

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Emily Gravett’s The Rabbit Problem

Emily Gravett’s playful representation of the Fibonacci sequence in her children’s book The Rabbit Problem, is known for its unique use of media and style to illustrate the story.   This book is a deserving winner of the Kate Greenaway Medal, for its creativity of the ilustrations that become the backbone of the entire story.  Emily Gravett truly makes the most of every single page of this book.  Even the cover page, title page, and copy right pages are illustrated, with great detail, to contribute to the story and keep the story world alive.

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Even on the first end page, before the story even begins, there Emily Gravett includes this double page spread illustration that wonderfully functions as a prologue to the book.  The subject of the story is introduced on the chalkboard, while a drawing on the chalkboard comes to life.  The coming-to-life rabbit drawing appears to be looking at the calendar on the wall, which is where the story begins…

The basis of the story is a twelve month calendar that includes illustrations of the “rabbit world” on the top page, and a monthly calendar including relevant, engaging, and interactive bits of information that are added on the bottom page.  In order to read the book, and to enter the rabbits’ world told through the media of a calendar, the reader is required to turn the book on its side; the left page becomes the top page, and the right the bottom.

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As you can see in this page that depicts the calendar page for the month of May, the calendar theme becomes the foundation of the story as a whole.  It keeps the story moving at a consistent and comprehensive pace.  The top page is an illustration of “The Hungry Rabbit Problem” where the rabbits appear to be tearing apart the edges of the page in their search for food.  On the top page, there are hand written notes, an interactive ration book, and an order form-which acts as foreshadowing for the months and problems to follow.
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I have included a close up picture of the open-able pages of the ration book on this page, to demonstrate the incredible creativity and attention to detail that goes into every single page of this book.  The unimaginable time and effort that was clearly put into the illustrations and visual aspects of this book are what really stood out to me.  As a child, I would have loved the interactivity and the playfulness of the book, but as an a adult, I feel that I am able to fully appreciate the hard work and thought that was exerted to create this book.

Each month poses a new problem for the growing rabbit population to overcome.  Not only does the rabbit population grow according to the number of rabbits depicted in the illustrations, but also in the tiny population sign in the background of every illustration that increases in number, according to the Fibonacci sequence.  The problems for the rabbits evolve each month, as they often relate to eachother in a cause and effect type of relationship.  For example, the rabbit problem for the month of September is “too many carrots, causing the problem for the following month of October to be the “overweight rabbit” problem.

Depending on the age and developmental cognition of the child, this book can be used to demonstrate and teach various different lessons, concepts, and discussions.  For a younger audience, the concept of a calendar, of different seasons and times of year, and of basic cause and effect relationships can be taught using this book.  For upper elementary and middle aged students, this book can be used to demonstrate variety in book style, importance of detail, more complex and overarching themes of cause and effect, population growth, and the mathematical Fibonacci sequence.

I would recommend this book, more specifically to elementary school teachers, but also to anyone that wants to read a really cool childrens book!  I really enjoyed taking my time to look through each page, discovering the little details in the illustrations and extras that add to the visual representation quality of the story.  I had such a refreshingly exciting and engaging experience reading this book, and I believe that any child, adult, or caregiver will too.

Casey Quinn

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Town Is by the Sea

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Town is by the Sea, written by Joanne Schwartz and illustrated by Sydney Smith, is the story of a young boy’s normal day in his house by the sea. It weaves the story of his day along with his constant thoughts about his father who works in a coal mine underneath the sea.

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The story starts out telling the reader that from his house you can see the sea. It then shows the order of steps to get from the house to the sea, and the town spread out around it. We learn that his father works deep down in a coal mine under the sea.

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The story then drifts back into the daily routine of the little boy, from the moment he wakes up and hears the sounds in the world around him, and sees the flowers rustling in the wind. His thoughts then drift towards the sea and how he knows his father is working there digging for coal

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He then goes out to play in the playground with his neighbor, and as they are swinging he goes up so high that he can see far out at the sea, and once again his thoughts drift to think about the white tips of the waves, and how his father is hard at work underneath them.

The young boy heads home for lunch that his mother has made him and then she sends him into town on an errand to pick up things from the store. On the way, back he comments on how it is really sunny today, and that the sea is sparkling and once again his father is working underneath it.

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In the afternoon, the young boy goes to visit his grandfather’s grave, who was also a miner. He comments that his grandfather used to say to him that he wants to be buried by the sea because he worked long and hard underground. The boy then comments that the sea is calm and quiet today and deep down under that sea his father is hard at work.

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His father finally comes home from work at dinner time, and is tired and marked up with dark smudges from the coal. He gives the young boy a big hug and smile. His mother is preparing dinner, and his father goes to take a shower while the young boy listens to the ball game while setting the table. After dinner, the parents go to drink tea on the porch as the young boy comments on the sun setting sinking into the sea. As they are all snuggled together on the porch, he comments again on how deep down under the sea is where his father works.

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As the young boy drifts off to sleep he can hear the sound of the waves and thinks about the sea and his father. He thinks about the summer days, and that one day it will be his turn work like his father. He closes the story by saying he is a miner’s son and that in this town that’s the way it goes.

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-Jamie Williams

Family Poems for Every Day of the Week

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A bilingual celebration of family, Family Poems for Every Day of the Week (Poemas Familiaries para cada día de la semana) is a collection of poems that reflect the multicultural life experiences of many Latino children today. The poems were written by Francisco X. Alarcón and are based on his childhood experiences and his family. Maya Christina Gonzalez beautifully illustrates these poems with vibrant colors and swirling patterns that immediately captivate the reader.

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There are multiple poems for each day of the week that describe the feelings and events of that particular day. From a sleepy and grumpy Monday, to a trip to el mercado (the market) on Wednesday, followed by a day of non-stop play on Saturday… the week is always full. Each day is linked to a planet as a nod to the historical roots and rich worldwide heritage of the concept of the week while also highlighting the similarities between Spanish and English.

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This collection of poems describes each day of the week as a member of a family (much like that of the author), where every one is a unique individual but fits together perfectly to create one amazing whole.

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This book was published posthumously as Alarcón passed away in 2016. However, the legacy he left behind as a celebrated poet whose words have impacted the lives of many children will continue to live on through his many works. Maya Christina Gonzalez used the illustration of this story as a way to honor Alarcón and all of the work they had created together.

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Inspired by Mexico’s indigenous crafts, the patterns and images of this book were designed to bring history into the present and enhance the way we see the world. The circle imagery throughout the book is Gonzalez’s way of celebrating and continuing the life of Alarcón by pulling his work back into his family. The themes of timelessness and the cyclical nature of the world drive this story and allow it to share a special message with the reader: each day will come and each day will go, but regardless of what happens every day is to be celebrated, appreciated, and loved.

 

Josie Mark

Baby Goes to Market

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The book Baby Goes to Market by Atinuke and illustrated by Angela Brooksbank is a delightful story about a sweet but mischievous baby, set in a marketplace in South West Nigeria.

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The book begins with Baby on Mama’s back as the two of them enter the crowded marketplace. The market is very colorful and full of people, so Baby is very curious. Because he is so curious, the local banana seller gives Baby six of her bananas.

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Baby ends up eating one of the bananas before putting the rest of the bananas in the basket on Mama’s head; she is too busy buying other food to notice. Next, Baby notices an orange seller, who ends up giving him five juicy oranges. He eats one, and then puts the rest of them in Mama’s basket. This pattern continues as Baby and Mama make their way through the market. Baby is offered four chin-chin biscuits, three roasted sweet corn, and two pieces of coconut, and every time, he eats one piece and then puts the rest of the food in Mama’s basket without her noticing.

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Eventually, Mama gets worried that Baby is getting hungry because she thinks he hasn’t eaten all day. When she calls a taxi to get home, she puts her basket down and sees all the extra food Baby has gotten. All of the vendors who Baby befriended explain that they gave the food to Baby as a gift. Mama laughs and exclaims “What a good baby!” thinking that Baby put all of the food into the basket without eating any of it.

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This book provided a vivid and exciting look into traditional African and Nigerian culture, through a somewhat mundane trip to the marketplace. Multicultural stories like this one are incredibly important for young children to read, so they can be exposed to new experiences and cultures like the ones pictured. Through the writing and illustrations, the reader is presented with a full and rich look at the colors, foods, clothes, patterns, names, and values of Nigerian culture, all wrapped up in a somewhat simple and repetitive story surrounding counting pieces of food. The illustrator also did a great job expressing how crowded and overwhelming, but still exciting, the marketplace can be, especially for a small baby. It also was immediately apparent that both the author and illustrator were bringing their own experiences and personal heritage to the story itself, which helped make the book feel very authentic. Overall, I loved reading this book as an adult, and I am sure it would be an excellent choice for any child.

Alex Wolfe

I Just Want To Say Good Night

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I Just Want To Say Good Night

This colorful and entertaining picture book is a perfect bedtime story for all ages.  I Just Want To Say Goodnight incorporates the universal story of a child procrastinating their bedtime through a multicultural lens.  The bright and vibrant colors of the illustrations capture the setting in the African village beautifully, while demonstrating sentiment and emotion through the characters as well.  In addition, this book is notably a Caldecott Honor winner.

The book begins with the young girl Lala greeting her father and asking about his day.  The illustrations use the coloring of the sky to indicate that the sun is setting and it is almost the end of the day.  When Lala’s father tells her it is time for bed, she explains that she wants to say good night to a few animals in the village.  She says good night to the fish, the cat, the ants, etc.

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My favorite illustration throughout the book is the double page spread where Lala is saying good night to the monkey.  She kindly bends down to the little monkey’s level and offers him a flower.  The illustration is set with a bright pink and purple sky, and the sun close to the horizon.

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The concept of time passing, and night-time approaching, is wonderfully represented through the illustrations.  As the reader delves deeper into the story, the illustrated sky goes from sunset, to dusk, and then night.  Not only does the sky get darker, but the lighting and contrast in the rest of the illustration develops too.  Lala becomes more of a silhouette as the sky darkens, and shadows begin to appear.

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As time goes on, Lala has difficulty finding anything left to say good night too.  She finally says good nigh to a rock before following her Mama into the house.  Once in bed, she grabs her bed time book, in which the illustration and text both allude to the famous, and classic, bed time board book, Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown.

Author and Illustrator, Rachel Isadora is well-known for her wonderful children’s books in which she seamlessly incorporates playful and relatable stories in African settings and backgrounds.  She truly does a remarkable job of creating books with multicultural themes that children of all ages and ethnicities can thoroughly enjoy.  I absolutely loved this book, for its child-like humor and magnificent pictures, and would recommend it to any parent, family member, or caretaker that is looking for a fun and new book to read during bed time.

 

Casey Quinn

Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix

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by Jacqueline Briggs Martin and June Jo Lee, illustrated by Man One

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Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix is a kid-friendly biography of Roy Choi, a famous food truck chef who was born in Seoul, South Korea. The book recounts how Roy and his family moved to Los Angeles when he was two years old and how his experience as an immigrant influenced his upbringing. His mom made traditional Korean food like kimchi, and bibimbap; her food was so good that Roy’s family opened up their very own restaurant. Roy loved having Dumpling Time at the restaurant, where the whole family would sit down together and fold the dumplings to be cooked later that day. The book discusses how Roy’s parents closed their restaurant and had a more successful life in the jewelry business. Even with this prosperity, Roy felt like more of an outcast without the cultural anchor of the restaurant in his life. He eventually found his place in culinary school and started working in fancy restaurants. After a while, a friend encouraged him to open a Korean taco truck. Roy wanted to “remix the tastes” that were so important to him, combining traditional Korean flavors with dishes that everyone would love. He opened Kogi BBQ Truck, and at first people scoffed at the idea. Eventually, the food truck became very successful, and Roy loved seeing how his food brought diverse people together. Kogi expanded to a whole fleet of food trucks, and Roy even opened a restaurant called Locol in an underserved neighborhood. The book ends with Roy showing other people how to make their own food and cook with sohn-maash, or love.

Man One created the illustrations for this book in an incredibly unique way. He spray-painted canvases to create the backgrounds, then digitally uploaded them. He added in pencil drawings of people and all the landscape details, resulting in vibrant and alluring pictures throughout the book. Even the endpapers show images of ramen noodles, a small detail that really ties into the heart of the biography. I love how the authors included explanations of Korean words and foods that I wouldn’t have otherwise known. This allows them to tell the story in an authentic way, not dumbing it down or “Americanizing” it, while still allowing the reader access to all of the important concepts. I also appreciate that the authors didn’t glorify Roy Choi’s experience. They include parts about how isolated and different he felt, and how he lost his job at a fancy restaurant before opening his food truck. They also mention the doubt, based in racism, that people had of Roy’s idea. The inclusion of “Korean guys can’t do tacos” in the dialogue of the book underscores how stereotypes influence every aspect of our culture, including our thoughts about food. Roy Choi is an honorable person in my eyes; he became very successful and purposefully chose to continue serving people instead of making his food exclusive to the wealthy. He could have easily chosen to open a restaurant with a months-long waiting list, but he decided to make his food accessible to everyone. Roy serves as a great role model for children for a variety of reasons. He overcame the challenges of being different than most people in LA, chose a challenging and unconventional path to follow his passion, and gives back to the community when he is able. Overall, this is a sweet biography of a man who didn’t take no for an answer and persevered until he reached his goal.

Maddie Geller

Muddy: The Story of Blues Legend Muddy Waters

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Muddy: The Story of Blues Legend Muddy Waters is a biographical picture book written by Michael Mahin in 2017 that explores the dedication of electric blues musician Muddy Waters to his music and depicts his difficult path to success. Evan Turk’s abstract and almost cubist illustrations feature layered textures and newsprint along with a focus on negative space. These elements personify the musical feel of Waters’s journey and accompany flowing, lyrical prose.

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The story begins by introducing McKinley Morganfield and explaining how his nickname “Muddy” came to be: he loved to play in the mud despite both his mother and grandmother’s efforts to clean him up! This stubbornness is a theme throughout the book as Waters continues to stay true to himself and his Delta style of music even when he faces rejection and disappointment. The book also includes a hand-writing font that quotes lyrics from Muddy Waters’s music.

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Waters was first inspired by blues legend Son House, and when Waters had enough money, he bought his own guitar and employed the slide-bottleneck technique. The author of this book takes on the difficult task of classifying Waters’s unique style of music electrified blues inspired by the Mississippi Delta, using only words. This style had only been regionally popular before Muddy Waters became a star, and it is important to learn about because it had a huge influence on the development of Rock and Roll. The illustrations help to demonstrate these sounds showing textured movement. For example, in this picture above, the slide technique is shown by having four hands on the guitar, instead of just to, to convey the action.

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After years of practice and playing in juke joints in Mississippi, Muddy Waters went to Chicago with hopes of musical success. This image along with several other parts of the story help to convey the time period of this book: Muddy Waters was a sharecropper and in this picture, sharecroppers are seen working the fields while Muddy rides a train to Chicago. In addition, to Waters’s innovative style causing him difficulties, race relations in the United States were rocky. This concept is difficult to talk about with children, but the book explores this theme through images with subtle references to sharecropping and in highlighting Waters being taken advantage of by white record producers like Leonard Chess.

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There is a distinct shift in color scheme in the book when Waters arrives in Chicago. The people are more detailed and colors are more vibrant, indicating the difference between country and city life. Muddy Waters is outlined in this image and looks more similar to the previous country-style illustrations while the couple in the foreground is not outlined, highlighting this difference. In addition, there is more layering in this photo and the addition of newsprint. This indicates the hustle and bustle of the city.

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In addition to teaching about the life of Muddy Waters and how his style of music influenced future styles, this story also teaches lessons of persistence and staying true to oneself. It is a fun introduction to the biographical genre. This book would be a great addition to any classroom and could be used as featured content for Black History Month or Music Appreciation Month.

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After years of rejection and hard work, Muddy Waters persevered. He faced much difficulty becoming a respected recording artist and was often told that his style needed to change. In the end, Waters stood up for him passion and became a legend. Many children today may not have heard of Muddy Waters, so this book is a great introduction to an interesting popular culture figure featuring imagery-filled text and vibrant, unique illustrations.

-Rachel Platt