Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Caldecott Challenge Post #19

Freight Train by Donald Crews. Published 1978. Caldecott Honor 1979. Greenwillow Books. ISBN: 9780688149000

I’ve read this book with kids so many times, I’ve stopped really looking at the pictures, but they are definitely brilliant. Donald Crews does such interesting things with color, motion, and light, and this book is as close to perfect as any picture book gets. It’s a concept book, which teaches colors, a vocabulary lesson, teaching new words for the different parts of the train, and a story beloved by train-loving little boys everywhere. The plot and text are so simple, and yet so emotionally satisfying. I especially love the empty train track at the beginning and end of the book, and the way the colors on the different cars blur together when the train is in motion.

Truck by Donald Crews. Published 1980. Caldecott Honor 1981. Greenwillow Books. ISBN: 9780688802448

The only words in this transportation-themed picture book are printed on signs and the sides of vehicles. There isn’t much of a plot or story, rather the illustrations just follow the same red truck, labeled TRUCKING, through a tunnel, down the road, through rain and fog, and to its destination, where it delivers a load of boxed-up tricycles. The nice thing about the book is that it draws attention to street signs, encouraging even the youngest kids to notice print in their everyday lives. It’s also a favorite of toddler and preschool boys who are obsessed with vehicles, and I can imagine they have a good time coming up with their own narrative to describe what happens on the page. I don’t think this is Donald Crews’s best work. It feels a bit self-indulgent, like the entire purpose of the book is to show off what Crews is able to do with his art. Freight Train is, by far, the superior work.

Hot Air by Marjorie Priceman. Published 2005. Caldecott Honor 2006. Atheneum. ISBN: 9780689826429

This book gives a somewhat fictionalized of what might have happened on the first hot air balloon ride on which the passengers were barnyard animals. In this book, they are a duck, a sheep, and a rooster, who moo, baa, and cock-a-doodle-doo through a clothesline, a flock of birds, and a fountain. The majority of the book is wordless, with just the animals’ expressions and actions to drive the story along. Some pages are paneled like a comic book to show the progression of events, while others zoom out and show the entire balloon floating in space. The orientation of the book, as well as the involvement of animal characters reminds me a lot of Chicken Cheeks and My Friend Rabbit - interestingly, each of those books has very little text as well.

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

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