Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Caldecott Challenge Post #1

Animals of the Bible by Dorothy P. Lathrop. Text  selected by Helen Dean Fish from the King James Bible. Published 1937. Caldecott Medal 1938.  J.B. Lippincott. ISBN: 0397315368

The King James version of the Bible is so formal, it's difficult even for an adult reader, so I'm not sure how much kid appeal the text has, but the illustrations truly are great. The animals are drawn more realistically than the people, and some of the scenes - such as Abraham, ready to sacrifice Isaac - freaked me out a little bit, but I definitely see why it won the award. And my library actually still has a copy, and since it's based on the Bible, it's not something that's likely to ever go completely out of date or style.

Mei Li by Thomas Handforth. Published 1938. Caldecott Medal 1939.  Doubleday.  ISBN: 0385074018

Mei Li is looking forward to her family's New Year visit from the Kitchen God. When her brother San Yu  heads to the fair to purchase items to impress the God, Mei Li sneaks along even though girls are supposed to stay at home. Based on that set-up, I expected a Mulan-like story challenging gender roles - but the sexist moral of this story is that girls are happiest at home. I realize this comes from a less enlightened time period and a culture with different values, but the message of the story makes me hesitant to give it to kids without some kind of disclaimer for  their parents. It would be a nice way to broach the subject of sexism with school-age kids, though!

Wee Gillis by Munro Leaf, illustrated by Robert Lawson. Published 1938. Caldecott Honor 1939. Viking Children's Books. ISBN: 9781590172063

Wee Gillis must decide whether he wants to live in the Scottish lowlands and raise cattle with his mother's family or move with his father's family to the highlands and stalk stags. In the meantime, he divides his time between both families, strengthening his lungs and preparing for the surprising happy fate he will one day discover. The detailed black and white drawings pay wonderful attention to the details of the landscape and the figures' faces. The story is equally strong, and I think the ending is particularly amusing, even to today's kids.

Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans. Published 1939. Caldecott Honor 1940.  The Viking Press. ISBN: 0670445800

I can't remember a time when I couldn't recite the opening lines to Madeline, and I have a very clear memory of the way my mother always read the line, "Something is not right!" I never gave much thought to the illustrations, but I was amazed at how minimalist they really are. Such simple lines are used to portray the sink, the beds, the girls' hair, etc. and yet, I have such vivid memories of the pictures. There is a lot to observe in the illustrations if the reader spends the time. I also like the strange uses of color, even if I can't say I fully understand them. I like the yellow, in particular.

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

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