Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. Published 1963. Caldecott Medal 1964. HarperCollins. ISBN: 9780060254926
This classic is one I remember from my own childhood as well as a story time favorite. It's brilliant for so many reasons - the wolf suit, the wild rumpus, the fact that Max's dinner is still hot when he returns to his room. It represents complete picture book perfection. I'm disappointed that it was made into a movie, because I know there are kids who will see the movie and maybe never get to experience the book on its own. That's a shame, because all the CGI in the world can't compete with those wonderful two-page spreads showing the wild things dancing under the moon and swinging from tree branch to tree branch.
Outside Over There by Maurice Sendak. Published 1981. Caldecott Honor 1982. HarperCollins. ISBN: 9780064431859
Unlike Wild Things, this Sendak book truly is terrifying. I could never have handled reading this when I was a child, and even now the grey goblin baby made of ice is enough to make me turn on every light in the house on my way to bed. The grotesque images throughout the story - especially Ida's big, hobbit-like feet - are enough to turn my stomach, and even though the ending is happy, I still felt unsettled after closing the book. I understand that Sendak is a genius. I just don't like this book.
Umbrella by Taro Yashima. Published 1958. Caldecott Honor 1959. Viking Juvenile. ISBN: 9780670738588
This book relates a story about the author's daughter, Momo, when she was three years old and received her first umbrella. The text is somewhat disjointed, and the ending in particular felt tacked on rather than emotionally satisfying. The illustrations are at times blindingly bright, with lots of fluorescent pinks and yellows, and though Momo looks fairly cute on the front cover, the inside illustrations portray her as mostly faceless, which I found very distracting. I love the scene where the rain washes away the chalk drawings from the sidewalk and the wonderfully detailed end papers, but many other pages seemed sloppy and random by comparison.
I'm a fan of cumulative rhymes, so this book appeals to me quite a bit. The concept of military men building and firing a cannon is very likely to appeal to preschool boys. The bold illustrations, childlike depictions of the soldiers' faces, and the green grass and flowers lining the bottom margin of the page keep things light and focused on the fun of the story rather than the destructive power of weapons, which makes it appropriate for the youngest children. The final two pages of the book - the explosion, and then the animals, grass, and flowers overrunning the cannon - are my favorites.
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