Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Five More Caldecott Medal Books for Further Exploration


Where the Wild Things Are

What can I say about a children’s book that is well and truly and deservedly a classic?  The illustrations are glorious.  The story is perfectly dark and yet reassuring, after all there’s his dinner waiting for him.  I also love the movie although I’m not sure that a younger child would enjoy it.  I could be wrong.  What children love often surprises me.  Case in point, this book was released to unfavorable reviews and some parents challenged the book in libraries because they felt it inappropriate for children.  But children loved and continue to love the book.

For Further Exploration

  • Have your child create a new “wild thing” to live on the island.  
  • Listen to different kinds of world music.  The public library may be a good place to find a broad variety.  Choose a song that sounds like it would be good for a wild rumpus.  Now dance!  
  • Write a story in which a large part of the story is told through images, with no words.  Bind your story into a book and share it with friends and family when they visit.  Or . . .
  • Have your child write a story in which he/she goes to the where the wild things are and what adventures they have while there.
  • When your child has outgrown this book, return to it from a more mature direction.  Talk about how some books are “challenged” to be removed from the library.  This book is one that was targeted.  Discuss why this book would cause anyone to want it banned and then discuss why it should not be removed from the library.  This could begin a longer exploration on censorship and book banning.

May I Bring a Friend?

I vaguely recall this book.  Perhaps someone read it to me.  I don’t know.  It’s a cute story, utterly ridiculous.  The kind of silliness that typically inspires many giggles.  The illustrations are vivid and fun to look at.  A good complement to the story!

For Further Exploration

  • Using a calendar, or simply seven sheets of paper, draw a picture of the “friend” that was invited on each day of the week.  (Reinforce the different days of the week.)
  • Look up each of the animal friends and see where they can be found, the many different countries from which these many animals originate.
  • Make an invitation of your own, either creating one that the king and queen sent to the little boy or create an invitation you will send to a nearby friend or family.  And tell them to bring a friend! 
  • Write a sequel.  Pretend that the your child has received an invitation.  Look at the stuffed animals in your child’s collection or even find some new animals in books.  Have fun with the illustrations!  (What if your child brought a “wild thing” friend?)
  • Using clay, make models of the friends that the boy brought with him.  (You could do this with the “wild thing” the two of you create as well.)


The Snowy Day

I remember this one from my childhood and as an adult I find it to be an absolutely charming book, a pleasure to read and to look at.  There is such a perfect marriage between the simple illustrations and the simple story that is told.  I remember snowy days like this when the snow was pristine and begging for me to come outside to play.

For Further Exploration

  • Write a story about “The Rainy Day” or “The Foggy Day” or rewrite this story but make it your own “Snowy Day.”  What would your child do on a snowy or rainy or foggy or windy day?
  • Study snow and snowflakes and other types of weather.
  • Cut out paper snowflakes and make some hot chocolate (from scratch!).
  • Make a list of words that describe snow (cold, wet, white, etc.).  Put each word on a piece of paper and try to think of other things that are cold.  On another page, other things that are white.  Now make a list of opposites and do the same thing.  Snow is cold not hot.  What are some things that are hot?
  • If you live in a climate where there is no snow, make a snowperson from pompoms or cupcakes.  (When I was a little girl, I made snow penguins.)
  • Write your own childhood memory about weather and share it with your child.  (Make a second copy to file away for a future grandchild.)

Once a Mouse

Using beautiful woodcut illustrations, Brown tells a traditional story about a shaman who changes a mouse from one creature into another and then back into a mouse.  The colors are not vivid, which is quite effective for this simple story.

For Further Exploration

  • Rewrite the story, using a different series of animals.  Have fun choosing first a small animal–perhaps a squirrel, a rabbit, or even a butterfly–and then a larger and larger one until the animal is once again returned to its smaller size.
  • Compare this story with the story of Puss in Boots or with the Aesop fable The Lion and the Mouse.  Each has a lesson to teach and include felines (tiger/cat/lion) and mice.  Have your child look for the similarities and differences for themselves.
  • I’ve recommended this before but use potatoes to make stamps or, for an older child, use linoleum squares to create a design.  (The subtle layering of colors that Brown achieves in this book are best appreciated once you’ve tried to do the same yourself.)
  • For the older child, talk about predators and prey and research different species of animals, perhaps creating a chart to diagram the way one species feeds off another.

Always Room for One More

In our highly graphic, visual age, I wonder if the simplicity of this book, from story to imagery, wouldn’t go overlooked altogether.  I can’t say I was especially thrilled with either.  I think if I had loved the story more, I would have found the illustrations quite interesting, different from any others.  As it is, I was bored reading the book and the images are nice but not nice enough to make me oooh and ahhh over the book.

For Further Exploration

  • This story is based on a folk song and,, at the end of the book, there is the score for the song.  If you or your child is musically inclined, learn the song and share it with guests the next time you have some.
  • Look for Scotland on a map and learn a few things about the country from which this folk song originated.
  • Learn a folk song from your own heritage, whatever that may be.  Perhaps write and illustrated your own book.  


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