Mr. T.W. Anthony Woo by Marie Hall Ets. Published 1951. Caldecott Honor 1952. Viking Children's Books. ISBN: 9780670493487
This is a lengthy picture book about a shoemaker, his dog, his cat, his sister, and his secret pet mouse, whom his sister finds disgusting. (The mouse is the character for whom the book is named.) I couldn’t really connect with this one, and I found the black and white illustrations sort of monotonous. The one great thing I did notice was the onomatopoeia the author uses for the sound of the shoemaker working - “A-clink, a-clank, a whungk whangk.” If the book were just a bit more story-time friendly, I can imagine a room full of kids would have a lot of fun reciting that little refrain.
Barkis by Clare Turlay Newberry. Published 1938. Caldecott Honor 1939. Smithmark Publishers. ISBN: 9780765190567
This book sort of put me over the edge when it comes to Clare Turlay Newberry. Despite her engaging text, she manages to paint the least interesting parts of her story into each and every illustration. Sure, it’s impressive that she can paint such a realistic and cute little dog, but what child wants to see the same dog in ten different poses when he could be looking at scenes of the dog’s master fighting with his sister, or of any of the other interesting moments of the story? I don’t think of this book as a picture book, and I’m confused as to why such repetitive and sparse illustrations were repeatedly given awards!
The Two Reds by William Lipkind. Published 1950. Caldecott Honor 1951. Harcourt. ISBN: 9780152921279
The Two Reds is an eye catching book, thanks to its red, yellow, and black color palette and the various perspectives included in the illustrations. The story is iffy, though, thanks to the “signal senders,” who dress in headdresses and pretend to be Indians , and because the sudden friendship between the boy named Red and the cat named Red makes very little sense.Unlike some of the earlier books, though, the text in this one is actually incorporated in and around the illustrations, which gives it a more contemporary feel than a lot of the other books I’ve been reading lately.
Puss in Boots by Fred Marcellino. Published 1990. Caldecott Honor 1991. Farrar Straus & Giroux. ISBN: 9780374361600
What a pleasant surprise this book was! I am not crazy about fairy tales, and I seemed to remember reading this during childhood and having a hard understanding the story, but this is a great story! I love the size and color of the text, as well as the gorgeous illustrations, and I love the way the illustrator draws the eyes of the ogre, and keeps them the same even when the ogre becomes a giant. Puss and his master have sort of a Jeeves and Wooster dynamic, where Puss looks after the master’s interests when even the master doesn’t realize he needs looking after. I really enjoyed that relationship, and I finished the book with a smile on my face.
Once a Mouse... by Marcia Brown. Published 1961. Caldecott Medal 1962. Atheneum. ISBN: 9780684126623
It’s hard to believe this book is really illustrated with woodcuts. The drawings look almost like they were stenciled onto the page! I like that the story is framed by the hermit thinking about big and little, but that the author never comes right out to tell us the message of the story. This opens up opportunities for discussion between a child and the adult reading the book, but also gives us a pretty big hint toward the story’s theme. I think my favorite image is the close-up of the hermit banishing the tiger back to the forest to turn back into a mouse. It’s one of the simplest images in the entire book, but also the most powerful and emotional.
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