They All Saw A Cat – Perfect Picture Book Friday

28101612Title: The All Saw A Cat

Author & Illustrator: Brendan Wenzel

 Publisher: Chronicle Books, 2016

Ages: 4-8

Themes: perspective, observation, curiosity, science, empathy

Opening:

The cat walked through the world,                                                                                   with its whiskers, ears and paws…

Synopsis:

The cat continues to walk through all the pages just like this. It is seen by a child, a dog, and a fox. It is seen by a fish, a mouse, and a bee. It is seen by a bird, a flea, a snake, a skunk, a worm, and a bat. Every creature sees something a little different. For a dog, the cat is perceived through the lens of its typical species interaction. For worms and bats the cat is only visible through the ways in which it moves through space (vibrations). At the end the cat comes to some water, “and imagine what it saw?”

Why I like this book:

This book implicitly asks the reader, “When you see a cat, what do you see?” It is a brilliant and stunning book on perspective, empathy and also science. This is a book whose concepts the very young will grasp easily, though I would certainly use this if I were teaching theory of knowledge to 11th grade International baccalaureate students too! I will stick my neck out and say I think this is an award winner.

This book I would use as a mentor text to teach the art of a great picture book. It has:

  • great page turns
  • snappy one sentence ending
  • contrast of double paged spreads with lots of white space and those with none and vibrant
  • simple short sentences using two sets of repetition
  • a masterful implicit message
  • stunning art work of the various perceptions of this cat yet the cat clearly is the same throughout these visual transformations
  • layers of learning
  • amazing pacing as groups of perspectives unfold (the first three views are potential predators; the second three are potential prey.; the final six are simple observers.)

Activities/resources:           

This book begs the question what does “X” really look like and this will be an inevitable discussion following a reading. The seeds of empathy are planted and if you want to take the discussion further with older children, you can indeed look at some classroom, local or global problems that occur from us all seeing the world so differently.

Each week a group of bloggers reviews picture books we feel would make great educational reads. To help teachers, caregivers and parents, we have included resources and/or activities with each of our reviews. A complete list of the thousands of books we have reviewed can be found sorted alphabetically and by topics, here on Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

SNOWBIRDS – Book Recommendation

9781507200698cvr.inddTitle: Snowbirds

Written by:  Crissa-Jean Chappell

Published by: Merit Press, January 2017

Themes: Amish, Old Order Amish, Rumspringa, friendship, LARPing

Ages: 12+

Reviewed from an ARC, which I received from the publisher in exchange for an impartial review.

Opening:

All the trees have been chopped down. Me and my best friend, Alice, used to play hide-and-seek in this empty lot. Now it’s just a field of stumps. I listen for night birds—whippoorwills and owls—but hear none. Only the rumble of traffic, growing closer, then farther away, keeping time like a pulse.

Synopsis:

Every year, Lucy waits eagerly for the arrival of the “snowbirds,” the Old Order Amish who come trundling into Florida on buses from the north, bringing Lucy’s best friend Alice, with whom she’s spent every winter she can remember. This winter is different. At sixteen, Alice is in the middle of “Rumspringa,” a season in which Amish teens try out forbidden temptations, in order to get them out of their system. Lucy is part of a different sect, in which teens aren’t allowed such bold experimentation, and she’s fighting to keep up as Alice races from one wild party to the next. Then, one night after just such a party, Alice vanishes. Wracked by guilt, Lucy knows that she should have been watching out for Alice, but instead, she was kissing Faron, an Older Order boy shunned by his society. Now, Lucy plunges into a search for her best friend—while also hiding her own secret, which could put her in even more danger. (Goodreads)

Why I like this book:

Ever since I watched THE WITNESS with a young Harrison Ford in it in 1985, I have been fascinated with the Amish. I have had some close strongly Mennonite friends over the years, and they of course share the same Anabaptist roots (while not being as separatist as the Amish.) This past summer I spent some time in Pennsylvania during my big road trip and visited several Amish markets and communities. Snowbirds proved a sweet and moving foray into this faith community, and I got a kick out of some of the Pennsylvania Dutch as I understand Swiss German!

One of the characteristics of a strong novel is how it blows away stereotypes, and that is exactly what SNOWBIRDS achieves. It brings alive the two different Amish communities, The Old Order and Lucy’s Florida sect, deftly drawing you into the heart and values of these communities, through the characters and cultures with their flaws and strengths. It was a spark of genius that led the author to contrast two Amish communities rather than contrasting one with a more secular group or vastly different Christian denomination. Somehow the similarities allow for greater contrast for the reader.

The nuanced characterization and universal teen desires to protect friends and forge new experiences, lure the reader into the mystery and the exposee of the cultures is subtle and satisfying. By the end of the novel I no longer felt like a total outsider looking in! Rumspringa no longer felt like a foreign rite de passage, but instead I could parallels with the wild oat-sewing years of many young people before conforming to parental and cultural expectations. This is a story with layers, personal, religious, geographical…. told through a lens of beautiful physical and emotional detail. One sensed the author’s intimate knowledge of the Florida scenery and extensive research into Amish practice. While Lucy’s order does not practice Rumspringa, this summer of transition in her friendships and faith is very much her coming of age. Her boundary-pushing and courage combined with respectfulness won’t leave the reader indifferent— a protagonist who grabs you from the get go. She’s a nuanced character and this novel provides a window into lifestyles we too quickly judge without sufficient knowledge.

There’s a great combo of character and mystery driving SNOWBIRDS and the pacing meant I was reluctant to put it down. At this time of divisiveness and separation in the nation, it is wonderful to see young adult books like this, which can impart empathy in us for those from extraordinarily diverse backgrounds to ours. Whether you are an Amish or Catholic or Muslim or atheist teen, this is an awesome read. My review would be incomplete without mentioning the rad secondary character, Crystal, who’s a zany wheelchair-using LARPer (live action role playing). LOVED this character.

Activities/resources:

This link takes you to the author’s website.

And, here are a few great sites for further information about the Amish:

 

Tell Me A Tattoo Story – Perfect Picture Book Friday

25861929Title: Tell Me a Tattoo Story

Written by: Alison McGhee

Illustrated by: Eliza Wheeler

Published by: Chronicle Books, 2016

Themes/Topics: tattoos, fathers and sons, personal history

Suitable for ages: 5-7

Opening:

You wanna see my tattoos?

Synopsis:

This is a modern father-son love story. The father tells his little son the story behind each of his tattoos, and together they go on a beautiful journey through family history. There’s a tattoo from a favorite book his mother used to read him, one from something his father used to tell him, and one from the longest trip he ever took. And there is a little heart with numbers inside—which might be the best tattoo of them all.

Why I like This Book:

In pastel greens, yellows, orange and purple, Eliza Wheeler charmingly brings alive this tattoo history between father and son. The language is simple as is the story arc, but I found this a delightful and unusual focus for a picture book, which I believe will work equally with little readers used to adult tattoos and those for whom it is more of a new art form.

Activities/Resources:

I’d do an art lesson where in pairs, students create wash off tattoos on each others arms of an important moment in that child’s life.

Or, here is a website on how to make your own temporary stick-on tattoos with your children.

Each week a group of bloggers reviews picture books we feel would make great educational reads. To help teachers, caregivers and parents, we have included resources and activities with each of our reviews. A complete list of the thousands of books we have reviewed can be found sorted alphabetically and by topics, here on Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.