Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran

RoxaboxenRoxaboxen, written by Alice McLerran and illustrated by Barbara Cooney, quickly and unexpectedly become a favorite picture book in our family.  This story of a group of young children who build a play city out of things they find outdoors such as rocks and wooden boxes, captures the imagination of any child, inspiring young readers to think how they might replicate such a play area and reminding parents of wonderful hours spent in a similar environment of their own in bygone days.  
 
Pros:  Beautiful pictures with a story that encourages imagination and ingenuity.
 
Cons: Items in all pictures are small, and are difficult to see for children with vision impairment.
 
Age Range: 3-10
 
5 of 5 stars!

Leave a comment

Filed under Recommended Reads

Little Lost Lamb – 1945 Caldecott Book

Little Lost Lamb by Golden MacDonald (an pen name for Margaret Wise Brown) and illustrated by Leonard Weisgard received a Caldecott Honor in 1945.  The storyline, easy to guess from the title, follows a young shepherd and his flock high into the mountains, where a black lamb wanders away from the flock.  As night falls, the boy tries to find the lost creature, but he must also take the other sheep to safety.  Unable to sleep, he sets out in the darkness to find the young lamb.  Before he finds his charge, his dog chases away a crouching mountain lion.  Finally, all is safe as the shepherd carries the lamb down the mountainside.
 
Caldecott Criteria:
1. “Excellence of execution in the artistic technique employed.” – I find the watercolor pictures in this book to be simple, but detailed enough to be very interesting.  I enjoyed the varied colors used during the daytime scenes as well as the excellent use of shading to achieve a twilight feeling for the night scenes.
 
2. “Excellence of pictorial interpretation of story, theme, or concept.” – The illustrations make the story very easy to follow.
 
3. “Appropriateness of style of illustration to the story, theme or concept.”-  The style is exactly as I would imagine for a mountainous scene filled with sheep and trees.
 
4. “Delineation of plot, theme, characters, setting, mood or information through the pictures.” – The plot, characters, and setting are made clear through the pictures.  The mood, though, could have been more obviousby the use of other facial expressions, or maybe a colorful scene at the end to portray happiness when the lamb is found.
 
5. “Excellence of presentation in recognition of a child audience.” – My children and I all enjoyed this feel-good book.

1 Comment

Filed under Recommended Reads

Joseph Had a Little Overcoat – 2000 Caldecott Medal Winner

Joseph Had a LittleThe 2000 Caldecott Medal recipient book, Joseph Had a Little Overcoat, is based on a Jewish folk song.  Written and illustrated by Simms Taback, this book creatively retells a children’s classic for modern-day children to enjoy.  Joseph starts out with a a large overcoat, but as it wears out he uses the fabric to make smaller and smaller articles of clothing including a jacket, a vest, a scarf, a tie, a handkerchief, and a button.  Eventually he loses his scrap of cloth, but then writes a book about it, proving that “you can always make something out of nothing.”
 
Caldecott Criteria:
1. “Excellence of execution in the artistic technique employed.” – This book uses a watercolor, folk art style with occasional cut-outs to bring out the article of clothing being discussed at that time.
 
2. “Excellence of pictorial interpretation of story, theme, or concept.” – The illustrator very creatively used cut-outs on some pages to show the design of the fabric shown on the previous page on the current page in a new shape.
 
3. “Appropriateness of style of illustration to the story, theme or concept.”-  The folk art style with a slight Jewish flair is perfect for this book!
 
4. “Delineation of plot, theme, characters, setting, mood or information through the pictures.” – The plot, characters, mood, and information are well-described through the pictures.  The setting is less obvious.
 
5. “Excellence of presentation in recognition of a child audience.” – My children and I laughed throughout this book, then we enjoyed singing the song written out at the end.  This book is perfect to start a discussion about thriftiness with young children.

Leave a comment

Filed under Recommended Reads

The Princess and the Admiral by Charlotte Pomerantz

princess and the admiralThe Princess and the Admiral by Charolotte Pomerantz is a delightful tale based on Kublai Khan’s invasion of Vietnam.  After nearly 100 years of peace for this small, poor kingdom ruled by Princess Mat Mat, a celebration is being planned to commemorate the time.  Unfortunately, advisers bring news of an impending battle for which the kingdom is unprepared and fully unable to fight.  Through wit and wisdom the princess devises a plan to peacefully save her kingdom without so much as a single battle.  
 
Pros:  Another great book showing the benefit of mental strength over brute strength.  While I typically do not enjoy books with themes of women’s liberation, this book sweetly portrays the quiet power that a woman can have in some situations.
 
Cons:  The admiral was made to look quite silly, which could be taken as a negative portrayal of soldiers or men in power.
 
Age Range: 4-10
 
4 of 5 stars

Leave a comment

Filed under Recommended Reads

Pedro The Angel of Olvera Street

Pedro AngelPedro The Angel of Olvera Street, a 1947 Caldecott Award recipient, again indicates to me the interest at the time of this writing in learning about other cultures.  Written and illustrated by Leo Politi, this story is about life in the Mexican community on Olvera Street in Los Angeles.  While the storyline seems disjointed, the little boy’s love for music is evident throughout the book as he sings for his grandfather, participates in a Posada celebration at Christmastime, and wins a beloved music box after striking a piñata.
 
Caldecott Criteria:
1. “Excellence of execution in the artistic technique employed.” – The Latin, New World watercolor style is not pleasant or interesting to me.
 
2. “Excellence of pictorial interpretation of story, theme, or concept.” – Given that the only theme I could really follow was that of music I wished that the musical theme would have been more evident pictorially.  There are a couple of (I am not fond of the trend toward leaving out this preposition.) simple musical scores in the middle of the book, but pictures of the music box are poor.
 
3. “Appropriateness of style of illustration to the story, theme or concept.”-  The colors in the illustrations have a definite Latin flair and are simplistic, possibly illustrative of what might be seen through the eyes of a child.  Be that as it may, I would have appreciated even more use of color and more details.
 
4. “Delineation of plot, theme, characters, setting, mood or information through the pictures.” – Near the beginning and end of the book the pictures are helpful in depicting plot, theme, and characters, etcs, but in the middle they do not even seem to correspond to the storyline.
 
5. “Excellence of presentation in recognition of a child audience.” – The only reason my children connected at all with this book was that they had recently seen a play that included a Mexican Posada.

Leave a comment

Filed under Recommended Reads

With You All the Way by Max Lucado

With You All the wayWith You All the Way, a picture book by Max Lucado, offers many opportunities to teach valuable lessons through reading.  In this story a king offers marriage to his daughter to any one of his three knights who can travel through a dangerous forest following the sound of a specific flute.  A strong knight, a quick knight, and a wise knight are each allowed to take one companion along for the journey. In the end, the end the wise knight emerges with his travelling assistant, the prince.  In relating the harrowing experience, the wise knight notes that the only way he was able to make his way safely through the forest was by listening to the true sound of the flute over all of the noises in the woods that mimicked the real call.
 
Pros:  A great way to teach children about the value of wisdom over other attributes, choosing friends wisely, and watching out for counterfeits when seeking after God’s way.
 
Cons:  None.
 
Age Range: 4-10

Leave a comment

Filed under Recommended Reads

The Little Island – 1947 Caldecott Medal Book

The Little IslandThe 1947 Caldecott Medal Book, The Little Island by Golden MacDonald and Leonard Weisgard, is a well-known children’s classic.  This book tells what this small island experiences through each season, each time of day, and in different types of weather.  Animals and plants that inhabit the island play large roles in the story.  In the middle of the book, though, a boat visits the island, leaving a kitten behind.  Although I have not had much experience with pleasure-boating, I do not think I would take my cat along on such a trip.  Also, then, the cat and the island have a conversation discussing if the island is really a part of the world.  While I really enjoy the beginning and end of this book, the middle does seem very peculiar and out of place in the overall story.

 

Caldecott Criteria:

1. “Excellence of execution in the artistic technique employed.” – The water color illustrations depict life on a beach beautifully.  Since the author was from the coast of Maine, that is the locale she and the illustrator had in mind when this book was written, and that is exactly where these seaside scenes look like.

2. “Excellence of pictorial interpretation of story, theme, or concept.” – The pictures do a great job of following the storyline.

3. “Appropriateness of style of illustration to the story, theme or concept.”-  The greens, blues, and browns make these illustrations perfect for this ocean-themed book.

4. “Delineation of plot, theme, characters, setting, mood or information through the pictures.” – The setting and theme are very clear, but the plot and characters seem less evident.

5. “Excellence of presentation in recognition of a child audience.” – My children like this book and particularly enjoy learning more about sea life that we do not get opportunities to see in western Kansas.

Leave a comment

Filed under Caldecott Medal Winners