Thursday, December 30, 2010

More Caldecott Medal Books--Eight This Time!


Animals of the Bible

Pretty black and white illustrations and quotations from the King James Bible offer a variation on the picture Bible tradition with its emphasis on the stories that include animals, from Eve’s temptation by the serpent to the peaceful kingdom promised in Isaiah.  Definitely a book written for Christians, with Catholic overtones in the imagery.

For Further Exploration

  • Study each of the species mentioned in this book, how they live, their natural habitat, etc.
  • Make models of each of the different animals, using clay or even salt dough.
  • Read the same stories from a different picture Bible story book or from a different translation of the Bible.
  • Make your own picture Bible story book, copying sections of the Bible and illustrating them.

Prayer For a Child

Another clearly Christian book with adorable illustrations.

For Further Exploration

  • Find a poem and illustrate it line for line.
  • Have your child write a prayer poem, listing things in the room, home, etc. to be blessed.
  • Once a month, listen to your child’s prayers (if you are welcome) and write them down.  On a rainy day, have your child create a prayer journal with illustrations of prayers.  Especially note any that have been answered.
  • On your child’s birthday, write a prayer poem of your own for your child.  Over the years, collect these and, upon your child’s moving from your home, collect them into a scrapbook with photographs.
Many Moons

I think the version of this book I borrowed from the library is not the one that one the Caldecott Medal.  Darn.  I was oh so excited because this story is by James Thurber who has long been a favorite of mine.  What can I say?  I grew up with The New Yorker.

For Further Exploration
  • Watch the cycles of the moon through the month.  Perhaps have your child take a photograph or draw a picture of the moon.
  • Study the moon.  How far is it from the earth?  Several answers are suggested in the book but are any of them right?  What is the moon made of, really?  How large is it?  Etc.
  • Talk about the different people of the court and their roles in the kingdom.
  • What is a motley?  Look at different images of motley costumes.  
  • For the older child, study space exploration, watch documentaries about the moon landings, and movies about space exploration milestones (The Right Stuff, Apollo 13, etc.).
  • For the older child, watch King Lear and discuss the fool’s role in the play.  If your older child is interested, why not read the play as well?  
The Rooster Crows

What merit this book offers, lies in the American tradition.  Some traditional nursery rhymes mixed in with brief rhymes that are strictly “new world” come together with some illustrated, some not.

For Further Exploration
  • Study some of the symbolism of the different rhymes.
  • Choose some (or all) of the rhymes that are not illustrated and make an illustrated book of those rhymes.
I can’t really think of any more because I’ve never been overly fond of nursery rhymes.

They Were Strong and Good

I have misgivings about this book but I also like it very much.  The author shares his family tree, from maternal ancestors coming to America through slave owning on his paternal family’s side.  And therein lies the problem.  To say that they were strong and “good” throws into question the absolutely not good history of slavery.  Perhaps this book is best saved for an older child with whom one can discuss the ideas implied in owning a slave and what it means to be good.

For Further Exploration
  • Write down some of the stories you remember your parents telling you about your family.  Don’t worry about how accurate these stories are.  These stories will be lost or forgotten if not recorded so start sharing them now.
  • Discuss with your older child the history of slavery.  (For the still older child, you might want to look into the implications of “slavery” in child-prostitution and children soldiers.)
  • Create your own family tree, filling it out as far back as you can.  Make a copy for your child to continue building upon in later life.
The Little House

Here is a great example of how my memory simply doesn’t work.  I remembered this book about a little house in the country that becomes part of city as industrialization intrudes.  And how the owners of the house fight to keep it where it is, as it is, nestled there amongst the tall buildings.  Having grown up in Manhattan and seen how things changed so much in my own neighborhood(s), my memory created a story where most things change but there is this one haven of sameness.  My memory was wrong and that is not how the story ends.  Oops.

For Further Exploration
  • This book does a wonderful job of looking at time and how days turn into months which turn into seasons which turn into years.  Have your child tell your home’s story for one year.  What does your house (apartment, townhome, whatever) see from one day/week/month/season to the next?
  • Think about some of the things that were new when you were a child (remember walkmans?).  Discuss the idea of change, of how technology evolves.  
  • Throughout the book, you can see how the emotions of the little house change; discuss personification and make a list of other books or stories that include personification.
  • The illustrations in this book are evocative of folk-art traditions.  Look at other examples of folk-art paintings and drawings.  Have your child create a story, illustrated with folk-art-like drawings.

Mei Li

Cute book that brings to light gender roles in the context of Chinese culture during the 1930s.

For Further Exploration
  • Study about the Kitchen God and other Chinese New Year traditions.
  • If you live in an area where there is a Chinese community, why not attend a Chinese New Year celebration?  Bring ear plugs.  They can be noisy.
  • If you do not live in an area that has a “China Town” you can go out to dinner at a local restaurant or order take-out and enjoy an Americanized version of a Chinese meal.
  • Better yet, why not make your own Chinese dinner from scratch?  All that measuring and mixing will teach some real life skills.
  • For the older child, discuss gender roles in the book. 
Make Way for Ducklings

Another classic I remember from my childhood.  At least this one I remembered correctly, the details holding strong in spite of the passing of time.

For Further Exploration
  • Study mallard ducks, their habits, migration, etc.  Look at images of other species of ducks.  
  • This book mentions many landmarks in the Boston area.  Look at photographs of some of these locations and compare them with the drawings in the book. (There is also a statue that pays homage this book so look for photographs of this as well.)
  • Study the history of Boston from the indigenous people to the present times.  There is a long timeline of history to be explored.  How might the duck's experience been different if they had lived 100 years ago?  Or 300 years, even?  What about if the story had been written today?  What differences might there have been?  (Notice that the boys on the bikes are not wearing any protective gear, etc.)
  • Make a map tracing the route of the ducks using what you learned by studying Boston.
  • Take a walk around your neighborhood and make a list of some of the landmarks you see.  Now have your child write a story about your neighborhood from an animal's perspective. It might be a bunny trying to move from one back yard to another or a squirrel in search of the best place to find food for the winter.  
  • For the older child, watch March of the Penguins.  There are some scenes that may be too intense for younger children.  Discuss the differences in how the mallards are portrayed (personification) in the book and how the penguins are presented (naturalism) in the film.


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