Monday, November 01, 2010

Caldecott Medal Winners and a Bonus Book

One Fine Day by Nonny Hogrogian

This delightfully illustrated book tells the traditional Armenian story about a fox that drinks an old woman's milk and the repercussions of his actions.  Some of the pages are so expressive and the illustrations are wonderfully colorful.

For Further Exploration

  • Encourage the child to come up with a similar story of their own where the consequences of a single action create a domino effect of actions.  (There is an episode of M*A*S*H where the writers have Hawkeye trying to meet the demands of a long list of people to get a pair of boots for himself--S2E17.)
  • Read the children's nursery rhyme For Want of a Nail.  Compare it with this story.
  • It's a Wonderful Life is a sentimental look at how the actions or choices of one person can impact an entire community.  
The Funny Little Woman retold by Arlene Mosel and illustrated by Blair Lent

This is a cute book which tells a variation on the more familiar (at least in the West) muffin man story about a baked good that runs away.  In this case, however, the item is a rice dumpling that rolls underground where the old woman is taken by demons to serve as slaves.  

I found it a little uncomfortable that when she is being grabbed by the demons she giggles: te-he-he-he.  Although the funny little woman giggles throughout the text, this moment especially made me step back, if you will.  The violence of being kidnapped, a small woman by a large and clearly masculine demon, should not be met with dismissive giggles but with horror and fright.  I would imagine feminist readers or those who are fighting the idea of "rape culture" would find this part alarming.  

Even without that odd giggling moment, I probably wouldn't highly recommend this book.

For Further Exploration:
  • Oni and Jizo are Japanese words used in this book and looking up their meaning would be a fun and easy exercise.
  • There are so many stories about the runaway muffin man, gingerbread man, biscuit.  Perhaps go to the library and see what other versions of this traditional story you can find.  Compare this book with one of those stories.
  • For the older child, compare this story with the myth of Persephone or other stories of journeying into the underworld and emerging with a treasure (which can also be "merely" knowledge or greater self-awareness such as Luke's entry into and emergence from the cave in Star Wars Episode V:  The Empire Strikes Back.)
  • Bake something with your child--a dumpling, cookie, etc.--and then while eating the food, make up a story of your own about an adventure you and/or your child (or both of you together) might have chasing your runaway food.
Arrow to the Sun by Gerald McDermott

This book is so gorgeously illustrated that it is a pleasure just to look at it's brilliant images.  The story is a retelling of a traditional story that includes a quest as a boy searches for his father.  Both the story and the images are inspired by the Pueblo Indians.

For Further Exploration

  • Read other traditional Pueblo Indian stories and create your own illustration for one of the stories.  Or create your own picture book.
  • Look for images of traditional Pueblo Indian crafts online or look for books at your local library.  (They are known for their pottery, among other things.)
  • Research individual tribes (ie. the Hopi and/or Tewa, etc.) and learn something about their individual cultures.
  • Compare and contrast this story with Telemachus, the son of Odysseus who also went in search of his father.  (Also notice the virgin birth aspect of this story that is similar to many religious traditions if this does not offend.)
A Story A Story: An African Tale by Gail E Haley

This is one of a plethora of Spider stories, a traditional theme in African tales.  From the very first page, introducing how the story teller would introduce the moment for story-telling, I was enchanted.  The artist uses woodblock prints to illustrate the story.  

For Further Exploration
  • Make your own print blocks.  The easiest are made from potatoes.  For the more ambitious, you can make linoleum or even wood printblocks but these would require investing in more material.  
  • Research other spider stories about Anansi and perhaps read and illustrate some of your own.
  • Create a Family Story-Telling Tradition that includes a intro and outré, a phrase that you would use before the story's beginning and at the story's conclusion.  
  • Talk about how repetition is used and how onomatopoeic words are used to create rhythm and sound. Read this book with other books that use the same devises (ie Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears which I reviewed here.)

The Red Shoes by . . . well, not Hans Christian Andersen and illustrated by Gloria Fowler

This is a pretty revision of Andersen's fairy tale.  I thought it would be at least close to the original and even questioned my memory to some extent.  Gone is the violence and the theme of redemption, replaced with a "positive message," or so says the jacketflap.

Because this story is altered, the violence removed altogether, this book will be a safe one to read even to young children.  The illustrations are lovely (although I confess I thought that the shoes would be colored in a bright red).

For Further Exploration

  • Read the Hans Christian Andersen version and compare the two stories.  What stays the same and what is changed?  Think of another story and rewrite it to either be less violent or more contemporary.  
  • For much older children, compare this version with the original and discuss the changes from a sociological or feminist perspective.  
  • Watch Hans Christian Andersen which is a charming movie in which Danny Kaye plays the author, sings some amusing songs, and even makes a pair of red shoes for a ballerina.
  • The Red Shoes is a classic, a film that inspired (and continues to inspire) many young girls to learn ballet.  Not a story for little children, it is interesting to compare this with the original story to see how the original tale informs the movie.

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