Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Another Five Caldecott Medal Winners (with suggestions for further exploration)

I’ve never seen the movie and I can only imagine that a lot has been added to the story to carry this book to film.  The black and white drawings of this book are wonderful and it is not surprising that this artist has won the Caldecott Medal more than once.  The story is good, the type of tale that doesn’t surprise but completely charms.

For Further Exploration:
Have the child create a board game of their own.  Encourage the child to perhaps put their game in a different place with a little research about their chosen location.
Research the various species of animal described and try to figure out what jungle might have them all.  (Also ask, “Do lions live in the jungle?”)

Marcia Brown has ambitiously translated a free-verse poem and then illustrated it.  This is a very sophisticated book on several levels.  The child who has grown up on Dr Seuss or Shel Silverstein may be excited to read a poem that uses internal rhymes and word rhythms to build a poem.  The illustrations are done like shadow-puppets, an apropos choice given the content of the poem.

For Further Exploration:
Make some shadow puppets.  (Templates can be found online or make your own.)  You may want to do this after watching a shadow puppet performance.  There are several available online.
Research puppetry.
For the adolescent reader, discuss “shadow” as an archetype and how each type has a shadow self.

I doubt my children will remember this but we had a copy of this book on our shelves.  I bought it because I adored the illustrations.  When I read the text, my appreciation grew by leaps and bounds.  Based on a traditional tale, this version draws on Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene for inspiration.  The text and images work perfectly together, making the book look as much like an illustrated manuscript as a contemporary picture book.

For Further Exploration:
Look at illuminated texts from the middle ages and discuss the similarities and differences between this book and the manuscripts from the past.
Have the child choose a traditional story from his/her ancestral roots and illustrate a page (or the entire text for the more ambitious).
Read aloud from Spenser’s text (you may want to do this in more than one sitting) which can be found in Canto 1 of the text.
Have the child create an emblem for his/her own shield if she were to go into battle with a dragon.
Discuss the different attitudes towards dragons in stories.  (Not all cultures saw dragons as evil!)
For the older child, The Hobbit is one of many stories that can be read which draw on the myth of dragons.
Also for the older child, discuss other traditional British legends including, of course, King Arthur, Beowulf, et al

Perhaps it is because I am not especially fond of fables that I wasn't blown away by this book.  I don't dislike them.  I have a book of Aesop's fables which I bought to replace the same edition I had as a child.  Otherwise, I don't think I've ever gone out of my way to include fables in my book collection nor read them to my children.

For Further Exploration:

  • Of course, read fables from various traditions and look up the geographical location on a map.  
  • Have the child think of a maxim and then write and illustrate a fable of their own.  
  • Read aloud from a book of fables without showing the child any illustrations, if there are any, from the book.  Have the child draw an illustration for the fable.  
  • Do the above with four or more fables and have the child practice penmanship by writing down the concluding maxim for each fable (and possibly the title as well).
There is much to say in praise of this book about the first flight across the English channel but the text is not one of those things.  Perhaps it's just me but something about the writing completely left me cold.  The story is interesting not because of the writing but in spite of it.  The illustrations are lovely and this historical story may be new to some adults who typically think that the "story of flight" begins with the Wright Brothers (and pretty much ends although it all evolves from there).  Far from it.  And reading about how Bleriot learned through trial and error should be an inspiration to any reader.

For Further Exploration:

  • Read about the history of flight, including the sketches of DaVinci and others who pondered the engineering capabilities of man's eventually flying.
  • Read about Daedalus and Icarus, the story of one boy's hubris and a father's failure.
  • Make paper airplanes.  Make different styles and discuss the advantages of the different styles to either fly long or fly high or fly smoothly.  (If your child really enjoys this, don't stop with paper.  Invest in some balsa wood airplanes and other types of model airplanes, including, of course, remote control models.)
  • Discuss and explore aerodynamics, how heat rises and how air blown across the top of a piece of paper will cause it to rise up against the pull of gravity.
  • Look at images of different types of airplanes through history and see how the mechanics and style of airplanes has changed over the decades.
  • And for fun . . . visit an airport and watch the planes lifting off (assuming you can get through security to do something like this nowadays) or watch an episode of Peanuts that includes Snoopy riding in his Sopwith Camel.  (Research Sopwith Camel and World War I while you're at it!)


  1. I like the suggests for exploration : )

  2. Me too. Albeit I don't know if I'll be able to keep it up. You never know. I may come across a book that simply doesn't lend itself to "further exploration" . . . come to think of it, there are some I probably reviewed before that I would leave me stumped. Good thing I didn't start this sooner. LOL!