# 48-50 in the There’s a Book Read to me Picture Book Challenge

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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.









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8 Responses to # 48-50 in the There’s a Book Read to me Picture Book Challenge

  1. lori says:

    I ordered your book #50 from the library. It looks like a really nice read. The owl book looks adorable too- that might one that I would like to purchase for my grandson. Thanks for the great reviews.

  2. Joanna says:

    Hi Lori, so glad that you are going to look at Marianthe’s story… it is touching and courageous.

    A Book of Sleep is just a stunner for its art work, as can be seen even from the book cover, I think.

  3. Diane says:

    mmm yes in “The Giving Tree” I loved what he eventually realised abiet too late, is the relationship and not just the receiving. For me I think it is good that stories don’t always have a happy ending as such, but teach children lessons of life that they may not otherwise have learnt.
    The book of sleep reminds me I am way past my bedtime posting this..ha
    “Spoken words/Painted Memories” what a wonderful title, and I was instantly interested, being of multicultural…. yep I am interested alright.
    Thanks Joanna… now I must get some sleep.

    • Joanna says:

      Hi Diane, thanks for your comments. I suppose some of the controversy lies in the extreme agape love of the tree.. is this healthy? is it meant to be Godlike? and also the extreme egoism of the child/man.. but then again it is the extremes that make the point for me.

      Spoken Words/Painted Memories really manages to convey the pain and fear of starting school/making friends in a language you don’t understand at all, yet not in a way to traumatize a listening child.

  4. Patricia Tilton says:

    Great reviews! The Giving Tree has always been a favorite. I agree, not all books should have happy ending, especially when there is a lesson to be learned. The owl book looks like a wonderful bedtime story — very creative. Reminds me of the newspaper features I wrote long ago about those who work while we are sleeping.

    But, you know “Spoken Words/Painted Memories” really caught my eye. I love the stories of those who immigrate and I think it is important for children to understand the difficulties, yet the similarties. It sounds quite unusual, Part 1 on the front and Part 2 on the back once you turn it over. It also reminds me a bit of my favorite Patricia Polacco book, “The Keeping Quilt.” It too is about a young girl who immigrates to America from Russia and the difficulties she encounters, but the legacy of love and stories she leaves for future generations of her family. True story.

    • Joanna says:

      Thank you, Pat. I think the Giving Tree actually touches many of us adults with its message!

      I was quite moved by Marianthe’s story, especially as I knew it was autobiographical. Actually although I wrote it would be good for schools with many immigrants, I am now thinking it would be maybe more appropriate for those schools which might have just one or two, as the child is then so much more the outsider. Thanks, Pat, I am going to see if our library has “The Keeping Quilt”.

  5. Patricia Tilton says:

    Ijust bougt a paperback copy of the Keeping Quilt for my granddaughter for her upcoming birthday. I used to take my daughter Nicole to Patricia Polacco’s book signings and talks (20 yrs ago) and actually saw the quilt in the book that has been handed down from daughter to daughter. She is of Russian descent and all of her books have a flavor, although she’s branching out more– but the Keeping Quilt is my favorite. Look at her website.

  6. Joanna says:

    Wow, so it the same quilt passed on each time, how lovely. I certainly shall check out her site.

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