Friday, December 24, 2010

Five More Caldecott Medal Books

Frog Went A-Courtin'

I can't give this book a fair review.  I have a phobia about insects and there are a lot of insects in this book.  As a result, I found myself shuddering, closing the book, scratching at imaginary crawly things.  I simply didn't want to look at another page.  I suffered through to the end but anyone who has a phobia about insects would find this book disturbing.

For Further Exploration
  • For the parent and child who don't have my phobia, study the various types of animals and (blech) insects.  
  • This is not the first Caldecott winning book that was inspired by the lyrics of a folk-song.  For the musically inclined, learn this song and sing the lyrics or, as the author invites the reader to do at the end, write some of your own lyrics.
  • Write another version of this story, with different animals.  Or change the story so that the genders are different and the female animal approaches the male animal.  
Madeline's Rescue

I get excited when I reach a book I remember from my childhood but you can imagine  my surprise when I read it and remembered, at most, five pages of the story.  I remembered clearly how it began.  I remembered Madeline falling from the bridge.  And I remember one other image.  But that's it.  Oh well.  

For Further Exploration
  • This book takes place in Paris so why not find Paris on a map, look at photographs of the city.  See if you can find photographs that look similar to the images.
  • Learn some French words and phrases.  (Why not also read one of the Babar books?  These stories also take place in France.)
  • Study French cuisine, making a traditional French breakfast (baguette with jam, a croissant, hot chocolate) or buy a couple of French cheeses and enjoy them with some fruit (brie with grapes is especially delicious, munster with pear, neufchâtel spread on a bagel with fresh berries).  
Finders Keepers

I cannot recommend this book.  The illustrations are cute and the story starts off well but the two dogs resolve their problem through violence, a message I don't think I want my grandchildren to hear.  I suppose if you are put off by the violent resolution there is a moral lesson about the importance of sharing but I would have been happier without the violence.  


Another of the books I remember lovingly from my childhood.  I enjoyed reading this version and when I compare this book with Marcia Brown's other Caldecott winners (Shadow and Once a Mouse), I am especially delighted by this book.

For Further Exploration
  • There are variations on the Cinderella story you can share with your child.  Some are even Caldecott winners as well.  Seek out other similar stories, compare them and discuss the differences.
  • Read other books by Marcia Brown and look at the different styles of illustration, discussing how each story determines how the book should be illustrated, the use of different color palettes, etc.  
  • The next time you and your child(ren) sit down to write a story, think about the content and perhaps create an illustration style that compliments the story.
  • There are almost as many cinematic versions of the Cinderella tale as there are written versions.  Watch a few (like Cinderella or Cinderella or Ever After or Cinderella or The Slipper and the Rose.)  There are even more versions out there!
The Biggest Bear

I have understandably mixed feelings about this book.  Johnny is sad because his family is the only one that doesn't have a bear skin hanging up, evidence of some man's killing a bear in the nearby woods.  So Johnny goes out to kill a bear himself but he brings a bear cub home instead.  Awwww . . .

The bear cub grows up and eventually Johnny is left no choice but to leave the now grown bear cub in the woods.  Except, the bear keeps coming back so Johnny's father tells him what he must do.  Johnny takes his gun and the bear into the forest and . . .

That's right.  His father told him to kill the bear.

Now let me explain that I've worked with people who look at hunting season with nostalgia, a tradition handed down from generation to generation.  I grew up, however, in a culture where this was not only not typical but something upon which we frowned upon.  I see no game-manship in a man holding a rifle equipped with telescopic lens and large range shooting an animal that can't even get close enough to catch wind of him.  And unless it is a "clean shot," an oxymoron if ever I heard one, the animal suffers as a consequence of one man's idea of sport.

Therein lies the problem.  This is probably a perfectly delightful book for someone who's living in a community where animal hunting is a positive.  And I know about the whole population control idea, that the animals would starve unless we thin out the herd.  And yes, I am a hypocrite because I do eat meat.  That's my choice.  Just as it is my choice not to praise this book and to say that I would rather not have my granddaughter reading it.

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