I am progressing well with my goal of 120 picture books reviewed this year. I am truly enjoying this challenge. it is keeping me very regular in my PB reading (utterly essential for any PB author) and the demand of reviewing adds, I think, a more critical eye to each reading. Additionally, as I read the blogs of others involved in the challenge, I am discovering plenty books unknown to me and some wonderful bloggers. If you haven’t yet checked out Danielle’s There’s a Book blog, please do so. She is a prolific, humorous, informative Kidslit blogger, whom I follow daily. Now onto today’s books.
#48 The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
The illustrations in this book are just black and white sketches, yet they so effectively support the simplicity of the message. I love watching children’s reactions to this book, as it doesn’t have your typical picture book, happy ending. Some children sit silent at the end, quite contemplative for normally noisy kids, whereas others almost want to argue with the unfairness of life and why the boy/man should have reacted differently. This book was first published in 1964, yet the message is as urgent and fresh today as 45 years ago. It has also been translated into numerous languages. This is a controversial text and I understand why. It is the story of a tree and a little boy. Each day the little boy comes and eats the apples, plays with the branches and trunk; as the boy grows he demands more and more of the tree, who never ceases to give without counting the cost. It is a story about unconditional love, and about selfishness; I personally don’t find contradictions or confusion in the dichotomy of this message, though I do think the book is more appropriate for maybe 8-10 year olds. There is no moralizing, though Silverstein does have the protagonist recognizing, too late, that the greatest value is the relationship itself not what one can receive from another. As many of you will have read this classic book, I would love to know your reactions?
# 49 A Book of Sleep by Il Sung Na
This author/illustrator is a really gifted artist. I think the pictures of each of the sleeping animals is so beautiful and clear that this could almost be a wordless picture book. Appropriately, the accompanying text is brief and melodic.
“When the sky grows dark
and the moon grows bright,
everyone goes to sleep……
except for the watchful owl.”
With a background of midnight blue for the night, Na takes the nocturnal owl on a journey through the sleeping habits of many different animals; from horses sleeping upright to penguins huddled in groups…. Until, of course, the sun rises and it is bedtime for owl! Young children will, I suspect, clamor for repetitions of this beautiful book.
# 50 Spoken Memories/Painted Words – Marianthe’s Story by Aliki
This is a moving, autobiographical picture book; a book that will be enjoyed by 4-8 year olds, most especially those in international or very multicultural schools. It truly is a great asset to a school library. Told in two parts; Marianthe is a little girl uprooted from her home country and traditional way of life and transported to the USA. In part 1, Painted Words, we follow Mari’s first day in a school where she understands neither language nor customs. This strong, little girl endures the inevitable teasing and perseveres, communicating her story through paintings and sketches to her teacher and classmates, who are learning much about tolerance and difference. Turn the book over and part 2, Spoken Memories, takes us further into the story, as Mari slowly learns English and even helps her mother with the new language at home. Finally able to communicate with her peers, and with relationships deepening, she is able to share about her homeland of Greece; the war and famine and need to leave their home. This book marries art and text very effectively, both in the two messages and in Aliki’s illustrations, where her portrayal of individuals in the story, is vivid. This is a wonderful book to help children understands the huge challenges of immigration.