Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Caldecott Medal Winners

A Tree is Nice

This book lists the many ways a tree is nice–for shade, for growing fruit, for raking leaves and burning them, etc.  The drawings are simple, the kind of drawings that say much with few lines and alternating between black and white wash pages and colorful ones.  Not an exciting book to read but . . . well, how else can I put this but . . . nice.

For Further Exploration
  • If you have a yard, you can plant a tree with your child and watch it grow.  Perhaps take a picture with your child standing next to the tree on the anniversary of the year the tree was planted.
  • Collect leaves from different types of tree and learn the different types of trees in your area.  Create a nature journal/scrapbook. 
  • Draw leaf shapes on construction paper.  Use autumn colors or even cut out only green leaves and then paint them autumn colors.
  • Study the ecological benefits of trees or about the animals that make trees their habitats.  While making meals, discuss the fruits that grow on trees, how they grow, and where they come from geographically.
  • Make a list of things that are nice.  Pick one and write and illustrate your own book, with all of the things that make your chosen thing “nice.”  
  • Read another book about a tree, one of my favorites, by Shel Silverstein:  The Giving Tree.  Discuss with your child where things come from and how even simple things like the bread we eat and the water we drink comes into our homes through a series of other people and the work they do.  
Baboushka and the Three Kings

This is a charming story, apparently a traditional tale but one with which I am not familiar.  Not too surprising.  I was raised atheist so the Christian themed books were few and far between.  As were the Judaic and Islamic and the Buddhist, Taoist, Hindi, Zoroastrainistismistic . . . well, you get the point.  Anyway, I liked this book.  There’s something sweet about it but it isn’t one I would “must have” on my own bookshelf.

For Further Exploration

  • The illustrations in this book reminded me of stained glass.  So why not study stained glass and how these were used traditionally and as decoration.
  • Make your own stained glass images using black construction paper and tissue paper.  (How to’s can be found online.)
  • Dover Publishers offers a plethora of stained glass coloring books using translucent paper with bold black outlines.  You might want to add a few of these to your collection (for a bit of rainy day fun).
  • Research where this story originated and then where Jesus was born by mapping it on an atlas or globe.  Perhaps write a story about the journey the wise men took after leaving Baboushka's home.
  • Who else might the three wise men have met along their journey to Jerusalem?  Write another story about someone else who either didn’t follow the wise men (like Baboushka) or decided to join them (unlike Baboushka).

Chanticleer and the Fox


How could an English major, such as myself, resist a retelling of a medieval classic?  I certainly can't.  The story is fun to read, with a few challenging words to help build vocabulary.  The illustrations are reminiscent of older, traditional illuminated pages.  Really charming.

For Further Exploration

  • There are many tales of a fox trying to outsmart another animal, with more or less success.  Perhaps read one or two others and compare and contrast the stories.
  • Look at examples of illuminated manuscripts and perhaps have the child draw an illuminated story, either making up their own story or one that is a family favorite, even a story from your own childhood.  
  • For the older child, talk about personification and how the animals are given human traits.  Explore the moral lesson of the story and think of examples in your lives when perhaps a little flattery took things too far.
  • For the still older child, why not read some of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales for yourself?  I'd recommend getting a version that is told in updated English if you are not accustomed to reading medieval English.  Some of the stories are quite "colorful" so be prepared to blush.
  • For that same "still older child" talk about the idea of pilgrimages and plague, about Sir Thomas Becket, using a map to familiarize yourselves with the journey the tale tellers are taking.  And . . .
  •  Research the different roles the tellers hold (reeve, miller, knight, etc.).  And of course, 
  •  Since Chaucer never actually finished the tales, find a pilgrim who doesn't tell a story and have the child write another tale to be added to the Canterbury Tales.
  • Bocaccio's Decameron is considered Chaucer's inspiration.  You definitely want your child to be older before reading this one together because some of these stories made me blush, or at least made me think I should blush.  I don't blush easily.

Nine Days to Christmas:  A Story of Mexico

This is the story of a young girl's first posada, a traditional holiday party, complete with pinatas and a parade and more.  The illustrations are deceptively simple, the colors vivid but the images gentle, and surprisingly evocative.

For Further Exploration

  • Learn about the holiday traditions of another culture.  There are so many out there!  You could even do a countdown to the holidays, learning about a new tradition every day up until Christmas (Kwanzaa/Chanukah/New Year/et al).
  • Write a story about your own family traditions.  What do you do, year after year to make the holidays special?  
  • Search online for how to make your own piñata and on the next rainy day, make your very own piñata.  Hang it up for the next celebration (birthday, anniversary, or whatever).
  • Ultimately, this story is about a few days in a child's life.  Why not write and illustrate a book about a day in your child's life together?  (If you know that "tomorrow" will be a rainy one, make a list of the things your child does today and tomorrow, when the weather keeps you all indoors, sit down with paper and crayons and write your very own story!)
  • For the older child, study Mexico's history, learn about some of the great Mexican-American citizens who have helped our nation. Discuss immigration laws and what these things mean for our country.
  • Learn some Spanish Mexican (not Spanish, there is a difference) phrases.  Compare the two languages, 

Time of Wonder

A summer in Maine is described in detail with illustrations that are vibrant.  The sensory details McCloskey evokes on the page make this an interesting book to read.

For Further Exploration

  • Discuss the five senses and look for examples of each throughout the book. Which sense is evoked the most?  Which is used the least?
  • Look up all of the animals mentioned.  Perhaps add descriptions and illustrations to your nature journal (see above).
  • Have your child write about summer and the things you do as a family from one season to the next.
  • Look closely at the illustrations at the many different types of boats.  Research boats and boating.  Learn how to fold a paper boat or, if you are more ambitious, find a model and build a model boat.  If you have access to a boat, why not go rowing or even fishing?  
  • Notice the way McCloskey paints the scene with the hurricane, how his brush strokes create movement.  Look at painting masterpieces where brush strokes are used vividly to create movement in a painting.  Have the child try to do this for themselves painting either a rainy or windy day or an event in which there is a lot of motion.
  • For the older child, notice the reference to the "Indians" and discuss indigenous tribes that lived in the area before European colonization.  

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