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Traditional Thursday: The Skunk by Mac Barnett

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Have you ever felt like someone was following you? Did you ever feel like you could not get away? Didn’t you want to know why that person was following you? In The Skunk, by Mac Barnett, the questions above were proliferated as a man was relentlessly followed by a skunk. When he walked a few blocks, the skunk would follow him. The man took many sharp turns down the road, hailed a taxi downtown and hid behind shrubs just to get away from this skunk. However, the skunk was always two steps ahead of him. Every turn, every taxi, every bush, held a skunk relentlessly by his side. The man would ask the skunk, “What do you want?” However, the skunk being a skunk could not answer the poor man. When the man finally found himself alone at a party without the skunk by his side, he wondered, where the skunk was, was the skunk looking for him, was he following someone else? With his mind racing with all these questions, Mac Barnett reverses the roles between the man and the skunk. The man was now looking in the alley way, searching on top of Ferris Wheel’s and diving in the sewers just to find the skunk. When he finally found the skunk, he carefully followed his every step. The picture book ends with the man saying, “I think I will keep an eye on him and make sure he does not follow me again.”

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Barnett’s clever and sly storytelling is simple in form however, the meaning behind the picture book is much more complex. The narration is considerably a dark comedy with features of silliness and suspense. For younger readers, they will appreciate the simple concept of a skunk following a man throughout the book. When the roles reverse, and the man starts to go against the norms of what they see in society, children may think this is comical. However, older children will appreciate the overall meaning of the narrative. The refusal of Barnett to wrap up the story with a cuddly harmony of results makes the ending seem a bit ambiguous. The reader is still left with the question to the man’s questions unanswered. The reader is instead forced to create his or her own understanding of the meaning of the text. One of the greatest pleasures with picture books is that it allows you to overanalyze everything. As readers we are not only just reading the text but we are also trying to find hints of the authors intentions in the illustrations. Is it about letting go? Curiosity? Passion? Obsession? The beauty of this narrative is the ability for the meaning to be taken in a variety of different directions.

-Sasha Gray

 

 

 

Traditional Thursday: The Skunk by Mac Barnett

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Manyoni coverFor this week’s picture book, I’d like to share one of my favorite books during childhood: Where Are You Going, Manyoni?  by Catherine Stock. This book tells the story of a young girl’s long walk to school in southern Zimbabwe, opening with her waking up and eating porridge, walking the reader through many landscapes with all kinds of animals, and finally taking us to her school, where she greets her teacher and plays with her friends for a few minutes before the school day begins. The beautiful illustrations transport us to this world entirely, depicting riverbeds, dams, pans, plains, and other elements of rural Zimbabwe, as well as bushpigs, hyenas, impala, and more. Not only do the illustrations bring this part of Zimbabwe to life, but they also convey the passage of time and the true length of Manyoni’s walk through light and coloring, using cooler and darker colors towards the beginning, closer to dawn, and warmer and brighter colors as the day wears on. In many of the illustrations, finding Manyoni amidst the vast wilderness can be tricky, becoming a game through which the reader can interact with the book.

Manyoni dawnThis is a wonderful book to have in a school or classroom library. Where Are You Going, Manyoni? can be used to teach science, with students learning about the geographical features or the flora and fauna in this part of Africa. What do hyenas eat? Where do impala live? What creates a krantz? This last question ties into another way to teach the book: vocabulary, culture, and life in other countries. For instance, using the glossary in the back of the book, students may learn that some of the unfamiliar words in Manyoni come from Venda, a native language of southern Zimbabwe and northern South Africa, but that some of the unfamiliar words come from Afrikaans, a descendant of Dutch. This may lead to the question of how Afrikaans came to be and why the Venda are split across national borders, presenting an opportunity to learn about the history of colonization and independence in southern Africa. In a broader sense, this book raises children’s awareness about something that is simple and yet significant: all over the world, there are children who walk one or two hours to get to school every day. This book shows us the difficulty and value in education, but also the beauty along the way. Manyoni helps us learn something about a girl in Zimbabwe; it helps us appreciate Manyoni, her walk to school, and the awe-inspiring landscapes surrounding her. Perhaps best of all, it gives us a thirst to learn more about Zimbabwe, South Africa, and every other place in the world.

Manyoni koppies

Eleanor Heisey

Marvelous Mondays: Where are you going, Manyoni?

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This week, I had the privilege of hearing Rebecca Kai Dotlich speak about her picturebook, Bella and Bean. The book tells a story about two very different friends (and mice!).

Image Bella is a creative yet obsessive poet who is constantly writing, trying to find the perfect words for her poems. Bean, on the other hand is an adventurous and outdoorsy mouse who simply wants Bella is come explore with her! Bella is quite annoyed by her fellow mouse’s constant interruptions but as soon as Bella gives in she finds herself inspired by Bean’s adventures. In the end, the two mice compose the perfect friendship poem, solidifying their bond. 

After hearing Rebecca Dotlich talk, I could see so much of her in this story. She is witty and playful in speech and that is evident in the dialogue between Bella and Bean.  It was great to experience an author’s background and passion for a story. I would recommend this book for all ages, especially 1st-3rd grade. This story provides its readers with lessons of friendship and acceptance.

 

This is definitely a must read!

Enjoy,

Anna Tobia

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Brigid loves to draw, but she quickly tires of her drawing materials. One day she asks her mother for some markers, but her mother knows better. She tells Brigid that children draw on the walls and the floor and that it never comes out. But Brigid tells her mom about the new washable markers that come out with soap and water, so Brigid’s mom buys her 500 washable markers. After a week of drawing lovely pictures that look better than the things she has drawn in real life, Brigid decides she needs new markers- special smelly markers. Since Brigid proved to her mom that she would not draw on the walls or the floor, Brigid’s mom agrees and buys her 500 special smelly markers. Again, Brigid tires of the markers after a week. This time Brigid asks her mother for “super indelible never come off until your dead and maybe even later coloring markers.” When Brigid gets her markers she draws pictures that are more beautiful and colorful than the real things she draws.

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But of course, Brigid gets tired of coloring again, but this time she is tired with paper. Since she knows she can’t draw on the walls, Brigid decides to color her finger nails. Her fingernails look so good she draws on her hands and before she knows it she has colored her entire body. When Brigid’s mother finds out she calls the doctor who gives her some special soap. Brigid takes a bath with the special soap, but the soap takes off all her color and leaves her invisible. Brigid’s mother freaks out and thinks Brigid’s life is ruined because you can’t go through life being invisible. Brigid however is quick on her feet and colors herself with a skin colored marker, which she already tested on her father.

ImagePurple, Green, and Yellow is a fun book with a silly little girl that loves to draw. It can serve as a great way to teach young children about what materials are appropriate to draw on and with, and what could happen if you decide to start drawing on yourself! This book is sure to be a favorite as children discover whether or not Brigid will stay colored with markers forever!

-Megan Wongkamalasai

Purple, Green, and Yellow by Robert Munsch

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William Joyce’s The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore highlights a man whose story had yet to be told. Morris, who loved books and stories, writes his own story into a book—“he would open it every morning and write of his joys and sorrows, of all that he knew and everything that he hoped for.”  One day, a powerful wind blows and scatters all the words in his book; luckily, a woman in the sky, pulled by a bouquet of flying books (or as Joyce says, “a festive squadron”) offers Morris a good book to keep him company.

This book leads Morris to a building full of fluttering books, and Morris soon makes it his home, caring for the books, fixing their bindings and dog-eared pages.  Morris shares all kinds of these books with others—even the “lonely little volume whose tale was seldom told.” Why? Because Mr. Morris Lessmore believes that every story matters.  As time passes, Morris resumes writing his own book.  In his old age, the roles reverse and his beloved book friends take care of him, reading themselves to him at night. Ultimately, Morris finishes writing his own book, and leaves his nestled book friends.  The books soon discover, however, that Morris left something behind—his story.  As the book concludes, a young girl has found Mr. Morris Lessmore’s story, “And so our story ends as it began…with the opening of a book.”

In this picture book turned Academy Award-winning short film, the pages pull the reader in.  The illustrations depict so much motion, you feel as though when you glance around you are actually watching an animated movie.  On these unique pages, books appear flying like birds, with their pages spread like wings; also, the books are depicted as adorable little creatures, walking around with little legs that have sprouted from their binding.  Surprisingly, this is illustrator Joe Bluhm’s first picturebook, although he was won awards and acclaim for other of his artwork.  Bluhm’s images play with the language in a clever and pleasing way; when Morris becomes “lost in a book” we see him hanging from giant J’s and flying across pages that pass by like skyscrapers.

Children, parents, and librarians alike will delight in this story for its appreciation of words and books of all shapes, sizes, and genres.  It is an endearing tale, with just enough poignancy and playfulness.  Children might just come away from it recognizing that a book can be a great companion.

Happy Reading!

Caroline

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

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The beauty of Cinderella: A Three Dimensional Fairy-Tale Theater lies in the format and illustrations of the book. This is a new gem to add to the bookshelf, as it was first published October 4, 2012. This is Jane Ray’s second publication of this sort, with her first being a three-dimensional theater of Snow White. We can only hope she is to bring more theatrical fairy tales to us in the coming years.

I love how the story comes to life with three layers of art in each of six intricate scenes. The story literally unfolds as you pull open the side curtains of the stage to find the classic tale written briefly but elegantly on the sides. Each scene has a hidden background illustration, with details that one has to really search to find, a central layer with the main action and characters of the story coming to life, and a piece in front that represents the stage and a fixture of some kind to hold it all together. These scenes are delicate, but beautiful and help capture the feeling of being in the audience of a real theater production.
I would recommend that this book be handled with the greatest of care, as many parts of the page are very intricate and could easily rip despite the fact that the paper is quite solid and thick. Also, the book doesn’t ever open completely, so if a child or even an adult were to try to use force to open it, there could easily be damage. This book is, however, to be appreciated and admired by boys and girls, ladies and gentlemen, of every age because it takes a classic fairy tale to a whole different dimension (literally).
Happy Reading!
Madison Glasgow =)

Cinderella by Jane Ray

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Sing to the Sun is a collection of poems celebrating and depicting different aspects of African American culture.  The topics cover everything from music to nature, African heritage, family, play, and other aspects of everyday life.  The poems “Granny” and “The Black Birds’ Party” are written in the classic African call and response style, making it a fabulous read-aloud.  The poems are all very joyful and vibrant, in keeping with the title of the collection.  Kids of all ages should enjoy and be able to relate to these poems.

The illustrations are done in a brightly colored, African-inspired style, and there is at least one illustration for every poem.  Just like the poems, Bryan’s contrast of vivid warm and cool colors is sure to put a smile on your face.

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Because of the numerous references to family and African heritage, this book could be a good tool in a social studies class for young children.  It could be used to tie parts of our everyday lives to the lives of ancestors who came long, long before us.  The tradition of call and response is just one example.  This connection could also be made with songs children are used to singing, games they play, hairstyles they are used to seeing, and art they enjoy.

This book would also work just fine as a simple soul-lifter on a dreary Monday morning.  Whatever your purpose in reading them, I hope you enjoy these poems.

“Sing to the Sun

It will listen

And warm your words

Your joy will rise

Like the sun

And glow

Within you”

-Sing to the Sun, Sing to the Sun by Ashley Bryan

Post by Hallie

Sing to the Sun, Poems and Pictures by Ashley Bryan