“Picture This” walks the reader through the feeling which can be conveyed through picture design. This unique book deconstructs the dynamics involved in illustration and invites the reader to play along. This book is an incredible resource for the artist, teacher, reader, student. The activities and advice which infuse the book could give rise to interesting discussion and projects.
Daily Archives: June 18, 2007
Caramba is a cat who can’t fly. You may say, cats don’t fly but in this story cats indeed fly and Caramba can’t. Marie Louise Gay tells the story of being different and the challenges which difference brings with humour and lovely illustrations. Caramba finds his way in an unexpected turn of events.
Thematic links difference, failure, friendship, the unexpected.
“Bright Eyes, Brown Skin” is a book that shouts the need for illustrated picture books with non-white characters. Like Snow Tunnel Sisters, it serves a specific purpose getting books produced with brown-skinned characters in them. It would be well worth having in a library but would not be an “A-list” must have story. It is a poem that follows the day of some African American preschoolers. It highlights the attractiveness and joy of the preschoolers and their daily lives. The illustrations by George Ford are sweet. I understand why the Fords and Ms. Hudson made this book and why it has been published and purchased. There is need for this kind of portrayal of African American children.
This book could be useful for discussing who we see in picture books and on T.V. and how different ethnic groups are portrayed. Questions like, who would write this book, why would they write it, is it an important book, for whom is the book important, who else needs more visibility in literature or popular culture?
Thematic links – school, children, community, U.S.A., racism, skin colour.
Two So Small tells the story of a boy on the way to visit his grandmother. The boy finds some strange objects and collects them in his goat-drawn cart. He gets progressively more lost and finally meets a giant baby. The story makes you think of Little Red Riding Hood and you have an expectation of some danger along the way but all is well in the end. Hazel Hutchins tells an enjoyable fairy tale and Ruth Ohi captures the whimsy with her ink and water colour illustrations. Ohi’s illustrations help the reader feel a part of the story and she plays with the scale of the boy and giant baby’s worlds.
Thematically links to fairy tales, strangers, helping each other, the power of the individual, story telling.
Sidewalk Rescue by Hazel Hutchins and Ruth Ohi is another fun story for a wide range of readers.
Emma, the hen, finds she is cold in the hen house and ventures out into the farm yard to see if there is a better way to get warm. She encounters the other farm animals and eventually rouses the family in the house. The farmer comes to the rescue. This story has an appealing main character and predictable difficulties and challenges. It is a good story for young readers and writers. It could be fun to extend this story with other farm creatures or wild animal encounters. The illustrations by Barbara Spurll are charming and enjoyable. Thematically the book would link to winter, farm animals, survival, facing challenges, comedy or humour, story writing.
Emma’s Cold Day fits our expectations of good story for children – happy ending, industrious main characters earn their reward, things will work out for the best, the world is a cheerful place, troubles are temporary. I can’t decide if these assumptions on texts for children are good or bad. I certainly prefer to read happy endings myself. When I see movies or read books with unhappy endings, I tend to spend time re-writing them to suit myself. I wonder what could be done differently so that things would work out more unsatisfactorily. Yet clearly life doesn’t always work out for the best. One of my pet peeves in the face of tragedy is the old stand-by, “It was for the best”. Maybe is wasn’t for the best. Maybe life doesn’t always get to have happy endings. Maybe we don’t all get to be Cinderella, or maybe Cinderella doesn’t always get the Prince, maybe sometimes it is better that she doesn’t get the Prince. Maybe the Prince is a jerk and she’d be better off without him. But do I want to explore that in a children’s book? Some children’s books need to but you won’t find that in “Emma’s Cold Day”. The chicken saves the day and they live warmly ever after.
I can’t figure out quite how this book ended up on my list of books to read and review. I wrote the list. I chose the books. This doesn’t fit the criteria – new, Canadian, aboriginal. Nope, nope, nope. How did I get this book?
I love Maurice Sendek’s “Where the Wild Things are”. Nodelman critiques it for its stereotyping of boys and glorification of individualism but “Wild Things” is a wonderful little piece of fantasy and it never struck me that it was about boys or aggression. It is about having a bad day and making poor choices. It plays out the consequences for that choice and the fantasy of the boy in running away from his punishment. Max is on a quest for control. He does want to be able to be in charge but he is pulled back to his home, the warmth, the comfort, the company of home, even though it is a place where he has to suffer the consequences of poor choices. Not a bad story.
“Outside over There” is in a similar vein. This time we have a female main character – Ida. Ida is lonely for her father who is away at sea. She is in charge of her baby sibling and while she is supposed to be watching, goblins come and take the baby away. The illustrations turn me off in this book, quite in contrast to the joy I get from the “Wild Things” illustrations. I don’t like the look of the baby or the goblins as babies. It would benefit from a more cartoon-look as there is in “Wild Things”. Changed illustrations might have taken this book from yuck to alright but it wouldn’t be a book that would need replacing in my library.