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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.
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Nothing At All – 1942 Caldecott Honor Book

Nothing At All, a 1942 Caldecott Honor book authored and illustrated by Wanda Gag, tells the story of three orphan dogs who have been long-forgotten.  Each of their kennels mimics their own physical characteristics, such as pointy ears and curly ears, but the dog with rounded ears is invisible.  Yes – invisible, so his name is “Nothing At All.”  The two dogs that can be seen are found and adopted by children, but since Nothing was not noticed, he is left behind.  As he wanders nearby his home in an attempt to find his brothers, he comes across a bird who teaches him a magic chant to help him be seen.  Over the course of several days, he uses this incantation and slowly, but surely, becomes visible.  The children return for the dogs’ kennels  and, seeing the dog that is now called “Something,” adopt the third dog.

As I read through this book I was increasingly convinced that this book was a bit off-the-wall.  I will say, though, that since my kindergartener has been learning about zero or “nothing” as a quantity, that this book did reinforce that topic.

Caldecott Criteria:

1. “Excellence of execution in the artistic technique employed.” – I do not consider these illustrations to be excellent.  The dogs look like sheep and I believe that many of these illustrations could have been executed with much more imagination.

2. “Excellence of pictorial interpretation of story, theme, or concept.” – The only part of this story that is of note for its illustrations is the gradual change in Nothing as he develops spots, facial features, and an entire body.

3. “Appropriateness of style of illustration to the story, theme or concept.” – The style is very out-dated, but probably evoked great imagination from young readers living during the 40’s era.

4. “Delineation of plot, theme, characters, setting, mood or information through the pictures.” Only the characters and setting are clear.  The appearance of Nothing is the only central theme.

5. “Excellence of presentation in recognition of a child audience.” – My children did not seem overly confused by this book, as I was, but they were not very excited about it either.  I think if the pictures were larger it would be helpful.

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Barkis – 1939 Caldecott Honor Book

Barkis by Clare Turlay Newberry – 1939 Caldecott Honor Book

Barkis, an adorable cocker spaniel, is welcomed by a little boy, James, on his 9th birthday.  James and his sister Nell Jean disagree about who Barkis belongs to as well as who is the owner of the cat, Edward.  Only after Nell Jean saves Barkis from drowning in a creek does James agree to share Barkis.  He is rewarded by Nell Jean’s offer to share her cat as well.  Although I liked this book overall, I was disappointed that so much of the book was focused on the disagreement between the siblings.  Even though the final outcome is a resolution, my children do not need any encouragement to have petty disagreements!

Caldecott Criteria:
1. “Excellence of execution in the artistic technique employed.” – The grey/black/brown illustrations are less detailed than I would prefer, but still I could easily recognize the cocker spaniel.
2. “Excellence of pictorial interpretation of story, theme, or concept.” – With very simple illustrations, each character is pictured at least once, but the action in the story is evident.
3. “Appropriateness of style of illustration to the story, theme or concept.” – Very simplistic illustrations, but I would like to have seen more background or action.
4. “Delineation of plot, theme, characters, setting, mood or information through the pictures.” – Although the pictures portray the characters well,are portrayed well, the illustrations convey very little of the plot, theme, setting, mood, or other information.
5. “Excellence of presentation in recognition of a child audience.” – My oldest daughter loves animals and would like to have a dog, so she enjoyed looking at the pictures of this adorable puppy.

Age Range: 3-10

3 of 5

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Stella, Unleashed by Linda Ashman

Summary:  Stella, Unleashed was the first book we have read by Linda Ashman.  One- to two-paged poems from the perspective of the dog, Stella, make up this book.  From the picture on the cover, I expected a cutesy story appropriate for a toddler or preschooler.  I would say, though, that this book would be better understood by late-preschoolers to early elementary children.  The vocabulary stretched the understanding of my 4 year-old.  Some concepts, such as pet adoption and pet grooming, were unfamiliar to her and led to extensive conversations (which, is great!)  While a more tedious book to read than had I expected, it was fun over-all, making me want to find more books by this author in the future.

Pros: Teaching points: vocabulary, rhyming, pet-related concepts

Cons: A bit more mature than I had expected.   A bit choppy as there are different poems in each page.

☆☆☆1/2 of 5

Age Range: 4-9

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