Sunday, April 15, 2007

A Plethora of Picture Books

Every so often, I just gather together a bunch of very different picture books and read them to my "littles". Sometimes these books will get us off on a rabbit trail and sometimes we'll just read the book, smile and move on.

This past week, we read through a pile that I thought I needed to review. So, here's the review of a dozen picture books we read through this past week:

Swamp Angel by Anne Isaacs, illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky – this Caldecott Honor Book is a wonderful book for a “tall tales” unit; the illustrations are marvelous and the story is so outlandish as to be lots of fun. This book makes a great read-aloud and the ending is sheer genius!

Sod Houses on the Great Plains written and illustrated by Glen Rounds – the text and illustrations of this book really carry the story of the desolation and loneliness of the early pioneers who tamed the Mid-West while living in sod houses. This is a great non-fiction picture book about the era of expansion. When you’re done reading this one, you’ll have a GREAT appreciation for exactly how tough life on the Plains could be.

The Way West: Journal of a Pioneer Woman by Amelia Stewart Knight, illustrated by Michael McCurdy – another non-fiction book about the era of expansion, this one is taken from a real woman’s journal as her family of nine emigrates from Iowa in 1853 toward the Oregon Territory. The hardships, sickness, hunger and isolation are met and conquered in this lovely picture book.

The Faerie’s Gift retold by Tanya Robyn Batt, illustrated by Nicoletta Ceccoli – this is a story that was told to the author but she’s found in many cultures and ages. It’s the story of a good deed rewarded. The solution to what the woodcutter asks for as his one and only wish is a classic in logic; my kids had fun trying to guess the wish just before we turned the last page. The illustrations – like pictures from a wide-angle lens but softened by the gentle brushstrokes – are absolutely wonderful and add much to this classic tale.

Goldie the Dollmaker by M.B. Goffstein – sadly, this book is OOP and may be hard to find but if you have an artist in your family you really need to get this book. This book tells the fascinating story of a dollmaker who is an artist to emulate – one who creates because she knows someone somewhere will love the doll she has created; more importantly, Goldie doesn’t care if she makes a lot of money; to her success is in the creative process and the knowledge that just maybe someone will get one of her dolls and UNDERSTAND.

Dem Bones by Bob Barner – this Parent’s Choice Award book is a creative telling of the classic song; more than this, this book is a GREAT introduction to the more important bones in the human body. We were also able to obtain a copy of the video that was done based on this book – it was a marvelous follow-up and we were singing “dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones” for days afterward!

17 Kings and 42 Elephants by Margaret Mahy, pictures by Patricia MacCarthy – as you read this book you’ll wonder by are 17 kings traveling with 42 elephants, why are there no queens (String Bean REALLY worried about this question) and where is everyone going anyway? The illustrations look like batiked fabric and the rhymes are unique and very Ogden Nash-ish, if you know what I mean. This book is really fun to read-aloud!

Brundibar by Tony Kushner, illustrated by Maurice Sendak – y’know, I’m not sure if I like this book or not. On the surface, it’s a book about a brother and sister who try to earn money by singing so they can buy medicine for their sick mother. But if you look at the pictures by Sendak, you’ll notice many subtle (and not so subtle) references to Hitler’s Germany and the bullying tactics of the Nazis. This story is the retelling of a Czech opera which was performed 55(!) times by children in the Terezin Concentration Camp. My kids liked it, and didn’t get the underlying sense of diabolical-ness that I did.

Everybody Cooks Rice by Norah Dooley, illustrated by Peter J. Thornton – this is a unique book. This book is told by a sister who goes around the neighborhood looking for her little brother because it is dinner-time. The unique aspect is that everyone in this ethnically-diverse neighborhood is cooking ethnic rice dishes for dinner! The book ends with some really delicious rice recipes. This would be a great book for cooking math as well as geography studies!

Bread is for Eating by David and Phillis Gershator, illustrated by Emma Shaw-Smith – this book takes you through the process of bread-baking while incorporating a Spanish song into the text. Seems a little boy won’t eat his bread so his mother sings him the song and describes all the people and processes involved in getting the bread to the table. This would be a great picture for a unit study on bread!

The Empty Pot by Demi – let’s face it, I’m a sucker for Demi books. I love her illustrations and her brevity of words. She can speaks volumes in a picture book! Her books can (and SHOULD) be read-aloud to all grade-levels! This one tells the story of why honesty is ALWAYS the best policy.

A Day with Wilbur Robinson by William Joyce – ok, I’m also a sucker for William Joyce books and illustrations. I’m not sure why. I’m never sure if I “get” his books. It’s kind of like the feeling I have when I read a Gary Larson cartoon – I just like it! This book is the basis for the recently released Disney movie, Meet the Robinsons. There are lots of other books by Joyce – I’m going to do a separate post of his books as I think they don’t get enough attention and they’re really unique and creative!


Molly said...

Thanks Mary, I love when others review for me!!!!LOL!!

lapazfarm said...

We own Bread is For Eating and really like the illustrations. We also have Everybody Bakes Bread, which is in the same series as Everybody Cooks Rice. Awesome recipes in that one!I assume the rice one has recipes as well?

Mary G said...

Theresa, I'm so excited about "Everybody bakes bread" -- we love doing bread around here and we don't use a machine so we can get our agressions out thru the kneading!

Yep, the rice book has great recipes in the back -- I'll edit the post to mention those... unfortunately the Bread is for Eating just has a song -- no recipes....