Monthly Archives: September 2012

Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Little Town on the Prairie, the 7th book of the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, takes place throughout Laura’s early teen years.  The stories detail a more prosperous time for the Ingalls family as the girls are quickly maturing and active in school and social events.  Changes for the family are abundant as they move back and forth between living in the shanty house on the claim throughout the warmer months and returning to stay in town during the winter.  Mary moves away to go to college, and the town continues to become increasingly populated.  Laura’s life takes on more grown-up themes as she works at her first job as a seamstress, receives her first calls from a young man, and eventually achieves her teacher’s certificate, and yet she is still the same spunky girl who enjoys playing outdoors and continues to detest Nellie Oleson.

Pros: It is a relief to finally see this hard-working family gaining in prosperity and settling into life comfortably.  This book innocently teaches lessons in proper decorum, living with meekness, avoiding jealousy, and loving with generosity.

Cons:  I did find that some parts of the story were a bit difficult for my children to understand and they could not related to Laura as well as they had in previous books.  For example, when Almanzoasks if he can walk Laura home, my children were just as oblivious as Laura was to the meaning of this request!

Age Range: 4-12

4 of 5

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Paddle-to-the-Sea – 1948 Caldecott Honor Book

Paddle-to-the-Sea, a 1948 Caldecott Honor Book, written and illustrated by Holling Clancy Holling, traces the travels of a wooden man in a small boat, carved by a little Indian boy, during the winter thaw, down a melting creek in Canada all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. Much can be learned of the geography and culture of the Great Lakes region by following the trail of this small creation.
Caldecott Criteria:

1. “Excellence of execution in the artistic technique employed.” – Although these illustrations are colorful, they are certainly not my favorite pictures of all of the Caldecott books. Since each object has less-defined edges, these pictures appear somewhat blurry and are confusing for those with visual impairments.

2. “Excellence of pictorial interpretation of story, theme, or concept.” – Since this book encompasses a huge variety of locations and various scenes, each picture is very different from the last and does a good job of telling the continued story.

3. “Appropriateness of style of illustration to the story, theme or concept.” – While the overall watery theme is well-depicted, I felt that the sub-themes such as the Indian culture, manufacturing locations, lumberjacking practices, and fishing as a profession could have been more clearly illustrated.

4. “Delineation of plot, theme, characters, setting, mood or information through the pictures.” – I liked how Paddle took shape as a distinct character at the beginning of the book. The theme and ever-changing setting fit the storyline well, but the mood was unclear.

5. “Excellence of presentation in recognition of a child audience.” – As with some other books, I would suggest spreading out the reading of this one over several sittings, especially with younger children. While we enjoyed the book, it did get tedious and was more difficult to understand for my 5-year old. I believe this book may be more enjoyable for a slightly older child. Many of the illustrations required extensive explanation, but of course, that was great for teaching purposes.

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An American ABC – 1942 Caldecott Honor Book

An American ABC by Maud and Miska Petersham, a 1942 Caldecott Honor Book, uses the alphabet to tell children the stories of many American heroes, icons, and places.  This book was written at a time when Americans were truly proud of what our nation stands for in the world.  Given recent unrest and uprisings stemming from hatred for the United  States, I was proud to share these stories with my children.  I would suggest reading this book in several sittings with younger children – while my kids enjoyed An American ABC, they did get squirmy by the end.

Caldecott Criteria:

1. “Excellence of execution in the artistic technique employed.” – This book is full of beautiful, old-fashioned illustation with creative use of reds, blues, and whites. 

2. “Excellence of pictorial interpretation of story, theme, or concept.” – I could easily decipher the topic of each page from the picture alone. 

3. “Appropriateness of style of illustration to the story, theme or concept.” – Although the illustrations are somewhat old-fashioned, they fit the overall tone of the book.  I loved the use of patriotic colors on each of the pages.

4. “Delineation of plot, theme, characters, setting, mood or information through the pictures.” – Each page has a different specific idea that is well portrayed in the illustrations, but even better, the overall theme of this book is made clear on every page.

5. “Excellence of presentation in recognition of a child audience.” – I appreciated using this book to help make these American images more familiar to my children.

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Cock-a-Doodle Doo – 1940 Caldecott Honor Book

Cock-a-Doodle-Doo –The Story of a Little Red Rooster, a 1940 Caldecott Honor Book by Berta and Elmer Hader, reminds me of the story of the ugly duckling with a bit of a twist. This chick hatches amidst a flock of ducklings, but soon realizes he is not one of them as he cannot swim and does not look like a duckling. He hears the call of a rooster at a nearby farm and knows he should go toward that animal. He sets out across a forest where he encounters many larger animals of prey, but finally makes his way to a farmyard filled with chickens, a rooster, and yellow chicks.

Caldecott Criteria:

1. “Excellence of execution in the artistic technique employed.” – Beautiful illustrations, some in color and some black and white.

2. “Excellence of pictorial interpretation of story, theme, or concept.” – The animals are easily recognizable and the overall story is recognizable through the pictures

3. “Appropriateness of style of illustration to the story, theme or concept.” – I think the whimsical, old-fashioned illustrations easily lend themselves to the story of a farm.

4. “Delineation of plot, theme, characters, setting, mood or information through the pictures.” – All of these are very clear, except that I would have liked to have seen emotion in the face of the chick.

5. “Excellence of presentation in recognition of a child audience.” – This was a fun book to read to my children, and they seemed to enjoy it a lot.

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Abraham Lincoln – 1940 Caldecott Medal Book

Abraham Lincoln, the 1940 Caldecoot Medal Book by Ingri and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire, expertly tells of Lincoln’s story allows children to relate to this American icon. The illustrations in d’Aulaire’s book alternate color with black and white on facing pages.

Caldecott Criteria:

1. “Excellence of execution in the artistic technique employed.” – Absolutely fascinating, detailed, and beautiful pictures! The color pages are bright and eye-catching.

2. “Excellence of pictorial interpretation of story, theme, or concept.” – Each aspect of the story is pictured either in a large page-sized print or smaller insets. Some of the questions my children asked were specifically answered by the illustrations.

3.“Appropriateness of style of illustration to the story, theme or concept.” – The folk art-type illustrations appropriately depict the country life of this man.

4.“Delineation of plot, theme, characters, setting, mood or information through the pictures.” – All of these criteria are more than satisfied.  I found it poignant that the last page does not discuss Lincoln’s assassination, but simply says that he sat down in his rocking chair.  The illustration clearly shows him seated in a setting reminiscent of a theater box in a rocking chair just as he was when he was shot.

5.“Excellence of presentation in recognition of a child audience.” – While this book was a bit long for my younger children, my 5-year old loved the entire book and was captivated by the illustrations.

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Blaze and Thunderbolt by C.W. Anderson

Summary:  Blaze and Thunderbolt from the Billy and Blaze series by C.W. Anderson has long been one of my favorite books.  What little girl doesn’t like a horse story? What little boy doesn’t like a cowboy story?  Billy and Blaze befriend Thunderbolt, the last of the wild horses, while vacationing on a ranch in the West.  From the first time Billy sees Thunderbolt escaping from cowboys who are trying to capture him until he is finally able to ride the horse and call him his own, the boy is intrigued by the magnificent animal.

Pros: Throughout the story Billy learns the importance of perseverance and gentleness as he befriends this wild horse.

Cons: Since we live in town, I hope my children don’t get the idea that they will get a horse for a pet.

Age Range: 3-8

4 of 5

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The Ox-Cart Man – 1980 Caldecott Medal Book

The Ox-Cart Man by Donald Hall, illustrated by Barbara Cooney – 1980 Caldecott Medal Book

The Ox-Cart Man tells the story of a family who works throughout the year on their farm to produce a myriad of items that may be sold at market in the fall to provide for their family.  The book begins at what seems to be the end of the process as the man sets out to sell the goods and even the cart and ox that he took to town.  He buys a few items the family needs, then returns home to start over.  The folk-art illustrations, while simple, perfectly complement this story.  The clear colors, countryside scenes, and pleasant expressions on the characters’ faces give a calming sense of well-being to this story about the rhythm of the passing seasons.

Caldecott Criteria:
1. “Excellence of execution in the artistic technique employed.” – Beautiful folk art illustrations.  Simple, yet effective.
2. “Excellence of pictorial interpretation of story, theme, or concept.” – As the family’s year unfolds, the story is easily understood through the pictures.
3. “Appropriateness of style of illustration to the story, theme or concept.” –The style of the illustrations perfectly fits the storyline.
4. “Delineation of plot, theme, characters, setting, mood or information through the pictures.” – The plot, characters, setting, mood, and information are depicted so clearly through the pictures on each page that the story could nearly be understood without words at all.
5. “Excellence of presentation in recognition of a child audience.” – My girls definitely enjoyed this book.  The illustrations led to great discussions about shearing sheep, spinning wool, and other old-fashioned farm tasks.

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