Tag Archives: animals

Pattan’s Pumpkin: A Traditional Flood Story from Southern India


Pattan’s Pumpkin: A Traditional Flood Story from Southern India

Chitra Soundar and Frané Lessac have adapted a traditional Irula story to make it more accessible: turning the traditional churraka into a pumpkin and highlighting the story’s universal themes.

The story does, not, however, abandon its cultural roots. It is authentic in its language, retaining the Indian names Pattan and Kanni and placing the tale at the base not of any old mountain range but of the Sahyadri Mountains. Pattan and Kanni are illustrated with the characteristic dark skin of the Irula people and are dressed in traditional garb. Soundar also does not shy away from describing the details of Pattan and Kanni’s way of life as they grow pepper, rice, nutmeg, and bananas; ride elephants; and nurture animals in the foothills of South India’s mountains. As any culturally diverse book should, Pattan’s Pumpkin presents its characters positively: clever, resourceful, grateful for what they have, kind, and willing to share. These characteristics not only help children understand cultures beyond their own as positive but also model values for the children themselves!

Lessac’s pictures are as bright as the spirit of Pattan himself. The colors – oranges, yellows, reds, greens – pop off the page and bring the story to life. The use of full-page spreads accentuates the size of the pumpkin, sure to make any child shriek with shock and delight, and the landscapes are rich and vivid in their scope.


Lessac’s spread toward the end of the story is lush green and deep black, dotted with every color in between. A picture does not do these colors justice!

Pattan’s Pumpkin comes together to tell not only an entertaining, engaging story but one that is valuable in any lesson on geography, history, culture, or even religion.


Tacky the Penguin


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…


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.


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.


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.


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

Free Fridays: The Watermelon Seed by Greg Pizzoli

Free Fridays: The Watermelon Seed by Greg Pizzoli

Greg Pizzoli creates a hilarious tale that so many children can relate to in The Watermelon Seed.  Greg Pizzoli writes and illustrates children’s books, while still teaching at University of the Arts part-time.  He has written and illustrated Not Very Scary, The Watermelon Seed, and Number One Sam.  He contributed to three books which will be published in throughout 2015, including Tricky VIC, Templeton Gets His Wish, and Just Izzy.  Pizzoli’s blog showcases a class’s adorable reactions to The Watermelon Seed.  In 2014, The Watermelon Seed won the Theodore “Seuss” Geisel Medal, named for the famous Dr. Seuss.  In addition to his children’s books, he sells screenprints and buttons featuring his illustrations on Etsy.


Have you ever freaked out after swallowing an apple seed or a watermelon seed? I most certainly have because who knows if a plant will grow inside of me! Pizzoli describes that very phenomenon in The Watermelon Seed.The main character, a crocodile, loves watermelon.  It is his very favorite food, and he can eat it for every meal.  Until one day, he makes a grave mistake: swallowing a seed.


I swallowed a seed!

His mind rushes to the worst conclusion: that the seed will become a giant watermelon inside of him.  Of course, a watermelon plant has a ton of vines, which will of course come out of the crocodile’s ears, as one would expect.

Melons and Vines oh my!

He then goes on to panic that he will actually become a watermelon, turning pink and being a part of a fruit salad.  His stomach grumbles, signaling the growth of the seed into a melon.  But alas, our protagonist is safe because of one simple act: a great, big burp.


The seed flies out of the croc’s mouth, saving his life.  He swears never to eat melon again, until he gives in for just one bite…

This book is extremely fun to read aloud to a young child because the author uses so many goofy words.  The key to making this book amazing is to make all the crazy sounds as ridiculous as possible.  The illustrations are cute, especially because they often include giant versions of silly words.  I would absolutely recommend this book as a read aloud for ages 2.5-5 years old.  My only concern with this book is that it could discourage kids from eating fruits and vegetables for fear of the seeds growing inside of them.  The child’s fear can easily be combated with some reassurance from a parent or teacher.  This crocodile’s tale will give you a case of the giggles!

Hayley Robinson