This story about the havoc a young boy accidentally causes with his fish kite, is a funny folk tale from China which is filled with references to the country’s language and culture. I love the way the illustrator uses the eyes of his characters to establish certain moods - of surprise, curiosity, etc. - and to direct the reader’s eye toward certain areas of each picture. It’s the kind of story preschoolers and early elementary schoolers get a huge kick out of, and the ending made me smile, too.
Pierre Pidgeon by Lee Kingman. Published 1943. Caldecott Honor 1944. ISBN: 9789997490049
The illustrations are definitely the best thing about this story, which was so forgettable I actually had to go back through the book again two days after I finished it to remember what it was about. The most interesting thing about the pictures is the figures’ facial features. Only their eyes are actually drawn onto their faces. Their noses, chins, and mouths are merely suggested by the shape of their faces. It’s amazing that the illustrator was still able to convey so much emotion without actually drawing in the lines of their mouths. I also absolutely love the picture where Henri the bull buries his face in the grass. The reader gets a real sense of the depth of the grass and can almost feel the texture of those leaves against his/her own face.
Skipper John’s Cook by Marcia Brown. Published 1951. Caldecott Honor 1952. Charles Scribner's Sons. ISBN: 9789997490261
This story, about a young boy named Si who becomes the cook for a fishing boat simply because he knows how to make something other than beas, is one of the more charming older Caldecott honorees. I think all kids love to imagine themselves in positions of importance, where they can do what no one else can, and this story indulges every aspiring sea captain’s fantasies. Marcia Brown’s illustrations are very kid-friendly, and my favorite is this one where Si’s mother waves goodbye to him. The shawl she wears has this great texture, which contrasts with the texture of the fishing nets and the rolling of the waves beneath the boat. I also loved the ending of the book, which finds Skipper John once again in need of a cook. Kids can easily pick up on that dangling thread and retell the story again using a different character and a different food.
The first thing I noticed about this book right off the bat was its bright and tropical colors, which really draw the reader into the setting of St. Thomas, where the story takes place. The entire book is really a lesson in the food, language, culture, and accent of the people of St. Thomas, as well as a great book to share with little boys who love sharks. I think my favorite thing about this one was its use of the word “frangipanni” - how often does that turn up in children’s books?
See other Caldecott Challenge participants' blogs on the challenge page at LibLaura5. Follow my challenge progress here.