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My Mother is the Most Beautiful Woman in the World – 1946 Caldecott Honor Book

My Mother is the Most Beautiful Woman in the WorldBy the time we are reading this, our forty-first Caldecott book, it has become clear to me that people of the 1940’s must have been very intrigued with other cultures and countries since so many award-winning books written during that period have these common themes.  My Mother is the Most Beautiful Woman in the World, written by Becky Reyher and illustrated by Ruth Gannett, is a retelling of a Russian folktale.  In this story a little girl gets lost during a harvest-time feast.  When asked about her parents all she can say is that her mother is “the most beautiful woman in the world.”  The villagers sort through all of the gorgeous women nearby for the child’s mother, but are surprised when they find that her mother is a rather homely looking lady.  In the end, the mother tells her daughter that she is happy that her daughter sees beauty not only with her eyes, but also with her heart.


Caldecott Criteria:

1. “Excellence of execution in the artistic technique employed.” – Stippling and pointillism, a painting technique in which small, distinct dots of color are applied in patterns to form an image (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pointillism), are used throughout this book.  While I did not find these illustrations particularly beautiful, they are artistically detailed, and maybe that is the point given the storyline.

2. “Excellence of pictorial interpretation of story, theme, or concept.” – While I did not find these illustrations particularly dazzling, they are artistically detailed, and maybe that is the point given the storyline.

3. “Appropriateness of style of illustration to the story, theme or concept.”-  A peasant Russian style is evident throughout the story.

4. “Delineation of plot, theme, characters, setting, mood or information through the pictures.” – Each one of these literary aspects is clearly defined through the illustrations.

5. “Excellence of presentation in recognition of a child audience.” – When I asked my oldest daughter if she liked this book she very nostalgically replied, “Yeah, the pictures are pretty.”


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The Crane Maiden by Miyoko Matsutani

Another book that my children particularly enjoyed lately was The Crane Maiden written by Miyoko Matsutani and illustrated by Chihiro Iwasaki.  As an old Chinese man travels from his home to a nearby village he finds a large and beautiful crane caught in a trap.  When he tells his wife that he released the magnificent bird she assures him that he will be rewarded for his good deed.  Shortly thereafter, a young woman knocks on their door and is welcomed inside to eat and sleep.  Since this girl has no family, the couple The Crane Maideninvites her to stay as part of their family.  When she realizes that the couple is struggling financially, she offers to use an old loom to make cloth that can be sold, but requires that no one must look at her while she works.  After three days of work, her beautiful fabric is sold for a handsome price.  Later she offers again to make fabric with the same limitation of no one seeing her while she is busy at work, but this time the old woman peeks in and sees a crane working at the loom.  Immediately the woman leaves the loom, hands the fabric to the woman, and explains that she must leave since she has been seen as a bird.  She leaves the house as a woman, but flies away quickly as a crane.

Pros:  Again, my children loved this book!  Also, lessons of keeping promises and trust are easily taken from this story.

Cons:  There are mentions of pagan “gods” and some may not like the fanciful tale.

Age Range: 4-9

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