Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Caldecott Challenge Post #78

Anatole and the Cat by Eve Titus, illustrated by Paul Galdone. Published 1957. Caldecott Honor 1958. 

Anatole, the mouse who works for a cheese factory without ever revealing his identity as a mouse, is such an endearing character. In this adventure, the owner of the cheese factory has a cat, who terrifies Anatole and makes it basically impossible for him to do his job. Anatole, ever crafty, finds a clever way to solve the problem, even though he comes close to losing his job. I enjoyed the story, and I'll try to keep it in mind the next time I want to do a French story time!

Dick Whittington and his Cat by Marcia Brown. Published 1950. Caldecott Honor 1951. 

I'm always impressed to know that there are people out there who can cut images like the ones in this book out of linoleum. As someone who can't cut a straight line with a pair of scissors, I am in total awe of artists whose talents require so much precision and focus. That said, aside from the interesting method of creating the pictures, this book didn't really resonate with me. I think there is something to be said for the message, that loving something and setting it free brings with it great rewards, but otherwise, I wasn't all that entertained.

The Egg Tree by Katherine Milhous. Published 1950. Caldecott Medal 1951.

My mother had an Easter tree when I was a kid, and this book brought back memories of watching her hollow out eggs so I could take them to school and decorate them, then bring them back home to hang on the tree. The dialogue in this book, and the behavior of the kids, seemed very contemporary, despite the book's age, and I think only the style of dress in the illustrations gives away that the setting is actually Pennsylvania Dutch Country. I was kind of disappointed by how dull the colors are in the images, but I did like the two-page spreads showing the kids hunting for eggs and later painting them.

Chanticleer and the Fox by Barbara Cooney. Published 1958. Caldecott Medal 1959.

I love the color scheme of the illustrations in this book, and how certain patches of color are used to draw the eye across the page in a particular way. I've never been crazy about the story itself, but I like the way the mother uses a moment of drama between animals as a way to teach her kids a lesson. I also think the cover illustration is great - the fox peeking out of the bush at Chanticleer tells us so much about the story to come.

See other Caldecott Challenge participants' blogs on the challenge page at LibLaura5. Follow my challenge progress here.

Caldecott Challenge Post #77

The Wheel on the Chimney by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Tibor Gergely. Published 1954. Caldecott Honor 1955.

The text in this book, which is all about the lives and flight patterns of storks, is a bit on the dry side, but the illustrations more than make up for that. I have never seen a better visual representation of the way birds move - not just as individuals, but in flocks. Most of the illustrations are great, but my favorite is the one where the flock of white storks lands on the green field where the woman in pink sits painting them. I also love the pinkness of all the flamingos as the storks land by the side of the water in Africa.Tibor Gergeley knows how to capture nature in a visceral way that leaves the viewer breathless.

Frog Went a Courtin’ by John Langstaff, illustrated by Feodor Rojankovsky. Published 1955. Caldecott Medal 1956.

I owned a paperback version of this book as a kid, and I always liked that it looked like a coloring book the author had colored in with crayons. I didn’t care much about the romance, but loved seeing the different creatures file in for the wedding supper. Reading it now, my favorite pictures are of the raccoon carrying the silver spoon and the chick wearing his bib. (I am kind of freaked out by the chick lying down being forced to drink castor oil after he eats too much.) I like that the animals all seem very large and important until the tom cat comes along and gives us some perspective. It’s a neat way to sort of end the magic of the party before Frog and Miss Mouse run off to France!

Moon Jumpers by Janice May Udry, illustrated by Maurice Sendak. Published 1959. Caldecott Honor 1960

Maurice Sendak was already one of my favorite children’s authors and illustrators before I saw this book, but his illustrations of these children playing outside at night took me right back to my own childhood. I love the way he depicts the glow of the moon on the tree branches and on the lawn, and that one of the little boys looks just a tiny bit like Max. Janice May Udry also gets major kudos for lines like, “We climb the tree just to be in a tree at night.” Why do kids do things? Often just to do them. This book captures that feeling of being out at night just for the sake of it in a magical and timeless way.

See other Caldecott Challenge participants' blogs on the challenge page at LibLaura5. Follow my challenge progress here.

Caldecott Challenge Post #76

The Thanksgiving Story by Alice Dalgliesh, illustrated by Helen Sewell. Published 1954. Caldecott Honor 1955. 

This is a romanticized retelling of the pilgrims’ journey to the New World, of their relationships with the American Indians, and of the first Thanksgiving feast. It’s told in this strangely distant tone that glosses over anything bad that happened, and toward the end, it’s slips into this conditional language, guessing at what could have taken place at the Thanksgiving feast instead of telling us what did happen. The book jacket calls it a “book to read aloud to children when they first want to know why we have Thanksgiving day.” It’s really far too long for preschoolers, and not particularly informative. I also didn’t think the illustrations supported the text that strongly. They were sort of abstract and again, focused on only mundane things, not the more exciting or emotional parts of the story.

Green Eyes by Abe Birnbaum. Published 1953. Caldecott Honor 1954.

On his first birthday, Green Eyes looks back on his year as a kitten, then looks ahead to life as a full-grown cat. This book is so contemporary-looking, it could have been published today. The illustrations have strong, bold lines and lots of color, and the text is pretty minimal - I might consider using this one when I do my pet-themed story times in a few weeks! My favorite page is the spread where the picture window looks out on the white of the snow and Green Eyes curls up in his box beside the radiator.

Ape in a Cape by Fritz Eichenberg. Published 1952. Caldecott Honor 1953.

I like the rhyme Eichenberg uses for each letter of the alphabet, and I was disappointed to lose it on the last page. My favorite rhymes were “vulture with culture” and “Irish setter with a letter.” The picture of the Irish setter was probably my favorite image in the whole book, mostly because many of the others looked creepy and unsettling to me. In terms of talent, though, the most impressive picture is of that little rabbit holding down the lid over the “fox in a box.” That is a picture that truly speaks a thousand words.

Anatole by Eve Titus, illustrated by Paul Galdone. Published 1956. Caldecott Honor 1957.

This book reminds me a lot of Library Mouse - but this classic story is better written and more fun. I love the idea of a mouse wanting to make an honest living instead of stealing from people, and I like that the people respond favorably, even giving him an important title and lots of treats for his trouble in helping find the best cheese flavors. My favorite feature in the illustrations is the shade of blue used to depict nighttime. I also love the playful little mice children.

Mice Twice by Joseph Low. Published 1980. Caldecott Honor 1981.

A cat invites a mouse to dinner in the hopes of eating her, but mouse is too smart for that. She brings her friend dog with her. In a true game of cat and mouse, the rival animals go back and forth trying to outsmart each other, until finally Cat gets what’s coming to him. This book makes clever use of well-known rivalries in the animal kingdom, with an end result that will surprise and delight preschoolers.

See other Caldecott Challenge participants' blogs on the challenge page at LibLaura5. Follow my challenge progress here.

Caldecott Challenge Post #75

The Little Island by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated Leonard Weisgard. Published 1946. Caldecott Medal 1947.

I have always loved anything illustrated by Leonard Weisgard, and this book is no exception. I love the rich, deep colors he uses in his paintings, and the way he fills entire pages, with no white space leftover. The story is one of Margaret Wise Brown’s stranger stories, especially at the end, but I think it shares an important message about individuality and interconnectedness.

The Happy Day by Ruth Krauss, illustrated by Marc Simont. Published 1949. Caldecott Honor 1950.

Though my favorite Ruth Krauss books are those illustrated by Maurice Sendak, I do have a soft spot for the animals in this book. The front cover really doesn’t do justice to the cuteness - or the realism - of the animals inside. I love the chaotic movement on each page, and how it increases as excitement builds. And the ending is very sweet, just right for toddlers and preschoolers.

The Wave by Margaret Hodges, illustrated by Blair Lent. Published 1964. Caldecott Honor 1965.

I’m not too crazy about the illustrations in this book, but I like the storyline. The idea of one man sacrificing his own welfare to save his neighbors is a noble one, and I think kids really understand lessons like that when they are packaged in exciting scenarios like this one. One page I do like is the page where the wave rolls through and knocks against all the houses. I can feel the movement of the water, and sense how fortunate the people were not to be in their homes at the time of the disaster.

Baboushka and the Three Kings by Ruth Robbins, illustrated by Nicolas Sidjakov. Published 1960. Caldecott Medal 1961.

This book has such a charming look to it. It almost looks homemade, as though a child wrote and illustrated it. The story is essentially the same as the legend of Old Befana, only this one is Russian and Old Befana is Italian. I like that it has something of a religious message, that we have to be ready when Jesus comes, but that it also doesn’t vilify Baboushka, but gives her hope and a purpose while she waits for her opportunity to see Jesus once more. Oddly enough, my favorite illustration is the pattern on the endpapers. I love the blue.

Bear Party by William Pene du Bois. Published 1951. Caldecott Honor 1952. 

This book reminds me of the Teddy Bears Picnic song. I liked the illustrations of the costumes the bears wore the party, and the sound words used to evoke the music played at the party. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of the fact that the bears no longer recognized each other without their costumes, but it seemed like a commentary on how people grow apart when they fight to the point that they stop really knowing each other and focus instead on their anger. In any case, I think most kids would agree that a party is a pretty good way to end fights and bad feelings.

See other Caldecott Challenge participants' blogs on the challenge page at LibLaura5. Follow my challenge progress here.

Caldecott Challenge Post #74

Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey. Published 1948. Caldecott Honor 1949. 

This is one of the few books of which I have very specific childhood memories. I always thought Sal was a boy, despite the pronouns in the text, and I remember being fascinated by the endpapers, where Sal and her mother can their blueberries. Though I probably couldn’t have articulated it back then, I have also always loved the blue ink of the illustrations. Looking at now, I’m drawn to the details - Sal’s shoes, the distinct sound of the berries hitting the bottom of the empty pail, and the faces on the people and the bears. This remains one of my absolute favorite picture books.

One Morning in Maine by Robert McCloskey. Published 1952. Caldecott Honor 1953.

I never read this one as a kid, but I can imagine I would have loved seeing Sal a bit more grown up - and old enough to lose a tooth, at that! The story is lengthy, which can make it tricky for young story time audiences but perfect for elementary school class visits. I love how realistic all of the characters look, and how occasionally they look out of the page right at the reader. I also enjoyed Sal’s little sister, Jane, who moves silently in the background of many pictures, doing her own thing. There is so much happening in the illustrations that is never mentioned in the text, which, for me, is always the sign of a wonderful picture book.

If I Ran the Zoo by Dr. Seuss. Published 1950. Caldecott Honor 1951.

I don’t tend to think of Dr. Seuss as an illustrator. I focus more on his talents as the author of all those wonderful rhyming books. But the art in this one did grab my attention. My favorite picture is of the head of the blue-haired Iota. It’s so simple, and yet conveys so much personality. I also like the way that the very first page turn effectively performs a magic trick. In the blink of an eye, Gerald McGrew leaps in to trade places with the zookeeper, setting up the whole fantasy that follows. It’s such a small detail, but one of my favorite moments in the book.

Bartholomew and the Oobleck by Dr. Seuss. Published 1949. Caldecott Honor 1950.

I haven’t thought about this book in years, but reading it brought it all back to me. My third grade teacher read it to my class, and I remember making oobleck afterwards. I always thought it was neat that every page was almost exclusively black and white except for the green splotches of sticky oobleck. Something about the story reminds me of King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub. I’d like to bring the two together for a story time.

A Pocketful of Cricket by Rebecca Caudill, illustrated by Evaline Ness. Published 1964. Caldecott Honor 1965.

I haven’t been fond of many Evaline Ness books in this challenge, but this one - written by Rebecca Caudill - stole my heart. Like Mary and her lamb, Jay and his cricket go to school, only to find themselves in a bit of trouble. I love the way Caudill describes Jay’s discovery of the cricket, as well as his use of the cricket as a kind of security blanket on his first day of school. I like the earthy color scheme Ness uses, as well as her depiction of Jay as small and thin compared to objects such as his bed and the school bus. This would be a great book to share at back-to-school time that might be overlooked by those who have not read it before.

See other Caldecott Challenge participants' blogs on the challenge page at LibLaura5. Follow my challenge progress here.

Caldecott Challenge Post #73

The Most Wonderful Doll in the World. by Phyllis McGinley, illustrated by Helen Stone. Published 1950. Caldecott Honor 1951.

This book reads like an early chapter book, despite its lack of chapters. I’m not crazy about the illustrations, but I really enjoyed the story. I was a kid who had a lot of dolls, and I could relate to Dulcy’s love for her own dolls, and especially for the lost Angela. Dulcy remains realistic throughout the story - both in her building up of Angela and her bragging about her, and in her transformation after she realizes there is a difference between lying and imagining. Dulcy and the reader both learn a lesson, but from a child’s point of view, not because of outside adult influences.

Stone Soup by Marcia Brown. Published 1947. Caldecott Honor 1948.

I remember this story from childhood, and it remains a favorite. It’s somewhat puzzling to me as an adult how no one in this entire town ever figures out that they’ve been had, but as a kid, I always thought the whole thing was incredibly clever, rather than dishonest. My favorite picture from this one is the scene of the sleepy townspeople leading the soldiers toward the village where they will find beds to sleep in. I like the stars coming out overhead and the faces on the sleepy kids as they lean against their parents. The following page showing the soldiers sleeping in the priest’s, baker’s, and mayor’s house is a close second favorite. I like that each of the houses is entirely blacked out except for the small squares showing where the soldiers sleep.

Roger and the Fox by Lavinia R. Davis, illustrated by Hildegard Woodward. Published 1947. Caldecott Honor 1948.

I really like this one. I like that the endpapers show fox prints. I like the way the color - or lack thereof - on some pages evokes the cool, crisp weather. I like Roger’s determination to see a fox and his willingness to continue on his search even after adults tease and scoff at him. The touches of blue throughout the book look really interesting and I like the way the blue represents snow, water, and sky, depending on what is happening. I have a lot of favorite pages, but one that especially stood out is the page on which Roger wakes up “and the ceiling in his room glistened with reflected light.” I could remember that exact feeling, of waking up on a snow day to a room glistening in much the same way.

The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship. by Arthur Ransome, illustrated by Uri Shulevitz. Published 1968. Caldecott Medal 1969. 

My enjoyment of this book was chiefly because of the writing. Arthur Ransome has become a favorite author of mine as my husband and I have read through the Swallows and Amazons series, and his style is evident even in this Russian folktale, which deviates quite a bit from the British sailing adventures he usually wrote. I like stories about underdogs, of which the Fool of the World is surely one, and even though I think it’s weird that the princess has no say in who she will marry, I like that the Fool is able to win, with the help of other unusual, marginalized characters

The Steadfast Tin Soldier by Hans Christian Anderson, illustrated by Marcia Brown. Published 1953. Caldecott Honor 1954.

I really like this fairy tale, but I had no idea the ending was so gruesome! I have always loved that the soldier falls in love with the ballerina because she is standing on one leg. I’m not sure I understand the significance of the colors in the illustrations, or the reasons they get brighter or darker at certain points. My favorite pages in the book are the ones drawn with a gentler touch and lighter palette.

See other Caldecott Challenge participants' blogs on the challenge page at LibLaura5. Follow my challenge progress here.

Caldecott Challenge Post #72

The Desert is Theirs by Byrd Baylor and Peter Parnall. Published 1975. Caldecott Honor 1976.

I really don’t care for the Byrd Baylor / Peter Parnall picture books. I don’t even have anything to say about this one except that, like the others, it was a disappointment.

The Treasure by Uri Shulevitz. Published 1979. Caldecott Honor 1980.

I like this story for its message, its surprise twist ending, and the warmth of the facial expressions on both Isaac and the captain. I appreciate the fact that Isaac sends a reward to the captain for his role in his discovery of the treasure, and that he is thankful for the wealth he receives. This story is a great lesson in following one’s dreams, being charitable with one’s wealth, and in the way a journey away from home can help us see something new about a place we’ve always known.

The Contest by Nonny Hogrogian. Published 1976. Caldecott Honor 1977.

This story was perfectly fine right up until the end, and then I got really confused. The way the story was set up, I expected Ehleezah to be punished in some way for her duplicity concerning the two robbers. I have no idea how to read that final image, other than as a happy ending, and that didn’t really work for me within the context of the story. If the focus of the entire book is on the contest between the two robbers, why include Ehleezah at all? Why should we care what happens to her? It would have been much more interesting if she either wound up alone, or if she found herself another set of willing victims and conned them all over again. Perhaps we’re supposed to read it as a positive thing that she ditches the robbers, but I see nothing in the story itself to suggest that. A strange book.

Nothing at All. by Wanda Gag. Published 1941. Caldecott Honor 1942.

Are all editions of this picture book oversized? The one I borrowed from my local library is huge, and I can’t help but think all books should be available in this size for story time! In any case, though I didn’t like this book as much as Millions of Cats, it’s a pretty good pet story. Nothing at All’s quest to become visible would make a really nice flannel board, thanks to its incremental changes to the invisible dog’s appearance and its repetitive refrain: “I’m busy getting dizzy!” I also love the way the dogs’ houses correspond to their shapes.

See other Caldecott Challenge participants' blogs on the challenge page at LibLaura5. Follow my challenge progress here.

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