Peppe the Lamplighter. by Elisa Bartone, illustrated by Ted Lewin. Published 1993. Caldecott Honor 1994.
Peppe the Lamplighter is an interesting glimpse into Italian-American culture and history. I loved the names of each of the kids in Peppe’s family. The use of light in the illustrations is really beautiful, especially on the page where Peppe’s sister Assunta lights the lamp. I also love the way Peppe lights each lamp in the name of someone he loves. I enjoyed the parallels between his lamp-lighting and the way people will light candles for others in church.
When I Was Young in the Mountains. by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Diane Goode. Published 1982. Caldecott Honor 1983.
The simple text of this book gives a nice glimpse into the author’s childhood, highlighting the many ways her life might be different from the lives of contemporary kids. I love the way the illustrator’s earth tones color scheme evokes the mountains themselves, and I thought the kids’ faces were especially endearing. I recognized Diane Goode’s name from a much more recent book - Cinderella Smith by Stephanie Barden. I feek silly for not realizing sooner than she was a Caldecott Honor illustrator!
Ox-Cart Man. by Donald Hall. illustrated by Barbara Cooney. Published 1979. Caldecott Medal 1980.
The text of this book is pretty bland and straightforward, but the illustrations are interesting in their resemblance of early nineteenth century folk art. This book makes a nice introduction to the time period for very young kids, or for an early elementary school unit on New England history. I like the way everything comes full circle in the end, getting ready for the whole cycle of the year to start again. It would make a nice companion for Apples to Oregon, which shows another slice of American history, and since the author is a poet, it might also work well for poetry units and poetry month activities.
Grandfather’s Journey. by Allen Say. Published 1993. Caldecott Medal 1994.
The paintings in this book are well-done, but I think their subdued colors cause the book to be overlooked by kids just browsing the picture books at my library. Adults are the most likely patrons to pick it up, usually to share in a classroom. The text is comprised mostly of simple declarative sentences that tell the facts of Grandfather’s life. Personally, I find them kind of boring, and can’t imagine reading them aloud to a child and truly engaging that child. The story might work in a specific academic situation, serving as an entry point for discussing cultural identity, but on its own, I’m not sure it’s very kid-friendly.
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