It’s Monday, What are you Reading? A Caldecott Medal Book Binge: 1943, 1944, 1965, 1981

It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen and Kellee from Teach Mentor Texts (and brainchild of Sheila at BookJourney). Since two of our friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have been joining this meme for quite awhile now, we thought of joining this warm and inviting community. As we are currently in the middle of our bimonthly theme “Dusty Bookshelves and Library Loot” I thought of sharing the Caldecott Medal books that I have lying around on my shelves from my recent book hunting expedition in Las Vegas.

One of the reasons why I was all tingly with excitement while I was at Savers Bookstore in Las Vegas was the presence of so many award-winning-books on sale at 69 cents. Granted, most of the titles are quite outdated {read: old}. It’s good though, that I have a special affinity for classic reading materials, in addition to the fact that it intrigues me what made these books win the Caldecott Medal during their time.

As I went through my recent book buys from Las Vegas, I discovered that I have five Caldecott Medal books lying around in my shelf (the fifth one I will be featuring sometime this week) and a handful of Caldecott Honor books and Newbery Honor/Medalists. Perfect for a few of the reading challenges that we have joined this year.

May I Bring a Friend?

Story By: Beatrice Schenk de Regniers
Illustrated by: Beni Montresor
Publisher: Aladdin Paperbacks, An Imprint of Simon & Schuster, 1964.
Bought my own copy of the book.

The story begins with a young, cute, curly-haired boy receiving an invitation from the King and Queen to visit their house on Sunday for tea. The boy responds by asking “May I bring a friend?” to which of course his gracious hosts replied, “Any friend of our friend is welcome here.” The twists of course can be seen with the ‘friends’ that the young boy brings to the castle: from a long-necked giraffe to a group of flying monkeys, a majestic elephant, and scary lions wearing masks. I am sure kids would find it hilarious guessing the ‘friend’ that this upstart little boy would bring next, as they would also widen their eyes in horror at the strange behaviours of the unexpected guests. It is a timeless little tale of delightfully breaking social taboos while at the same time an ingenious way through which social conduct, appropriate and ethical behaviors are communicated to young children. Among the four books, though, I would say that this is the one that I failed to connect with for some reason. While I did enjoy the storyline and what is meant to be a “hilarious comedy of manners” as reviewed by The Horn Book, the illustrations didn’t appeal much to me with its cluttered and too striking contrasts of red and pink and healthy blotches of black in both the monochrome and colored artworks. Perhaps I should find more of the artist’s work for me to make a comparison.

Many Moons

Story By: James Thurber
Illustrated by: Louis Slobodkin
PublisherVoyager Books of Harcourt Brace & Company, 1943. 
Bought my own copy of the book.

I am no stranger to James Thurber’s wit and crystalline writing as I have reviewed his The Wonderful O and The 13 Clocks as illustrated by Marc Simont. I didn’t realize that Thurber has also produced a Caldecott Medalist picture book in Many Moons. This book is also about royalty with a King being worried about his lovely ten year old daughter, Princess Lenore’s health, as she fell ill because of a “surfeit of raspberry tarts.” As the Royal Physician was alarmed at Princess Lenore’s condition, he sent for the King who immediately told his Princess that he would get her anything her heart desires. Princess Lenore asked for the moon. How about that for a request, huh? Serves the King right, if you ask me.

Naturally, the King summoned the wise Lord High Chamberlain, the Royal Wizard, and the Royal Mathematician to get him what his daughter wants. However, each one simply made a list of things they managed to do for the King, but sadly, they could not offer any possible solution to this conundrum. The High Chamberlain claimed with pride that he was able to bring blue poodles, hummingbirds’ tongues, angels’ feathers among others; while the Royal Wizard was able to cure heartbreak, concoct special mixtures of eagles’ tears, wolfbane and nightshade to ward off witches and demons; as the Royal Mathematician computed how far is Up, the distance between the horns of a dilemma, and the price of the priceless – but they are all flummoxed as to how the Moon can be brought to Princess Lenore. It was the Court Jester who managed to figure out a way around this – by speaking to Princess Lenore about her conception and understanding of the moon and how she feels about it. Pure genius the way that Thurber can only do it. You have to read the book to find out. I also enjoyed Slobodkin’s light shades and pastels as the artwork actually reminded me a little bit of Dr. Seuss’ The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins.

The Little House

Story and Pictures By: Virginia Lee Burton
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1942.
Bought my own copy of the book.

I have just recently read The House by J. Patrick Lewis as illustrated by Roberto Innocenti. There are quite a number of parallels between the two books as both depict a “strong and well-built house” and how the house changes with the passing of time across several generations.

I believe that Zoe from Playing by the Book once asked me about a book similar to this sometime in March – she was asking about books that show the changes in society in a specific town over time in an Asian setting. While this book is not set in Asia, it does show how the little house originally built in the countryside found itself right smack in the middle of a bustling, hurried, noisy, smog-filled city after several generations. It is interesting how the entire house remained untouched while everything around it has radically changed. I especially liked the typography in this book as it seems purposefully and ingeniously crafted to complement what the narrative is saying. However, I had an issue with the page number being placed in a prominent section of the text, rather than somewhere in the left or right-hand corner as one would originally expect. Oftentimes, I wondered whether the number has a special significance to the narrative only to realize that it was actually the page number. Regardless, I thought that this was a charming book that clearly illustrates the passing of the seasons and how society’s evolution is naturally tied to the transformation of the natural world around it. I would also recommend that the book be read alongside Jeannie Baker’s Window (1991) and Home/Belonging (2004).

Fables

Story and Pictures By: Arnold Lobel
Publisher: Harper Trophy, A Division of Harper Collins Publisher, 1980
Bought my own copy of the book.

Now this is my absolute favorite from my Caldecott Medal Book Binge Special Feature. I love Anita and Arnold Lobel and discovering Fables lying unloved in a bargain bookstore made me gasp, thus I adopted this book and took it back home here in Singapore.

True to form, this is not your usual fable-type book even while it does have the traditional elements with animals as protagonists (crocodiles, pigs, lion and beetle, pelican and crane, etc) and moral lessons in the end. However, the ‘moral’ twists, if you can call them as such, are not the usual preachy and predictable ones about humility, kindness, obedience and the like. Arnold Lobel had me at the very first story The Crocodile in the Bedroom who preferred the orderly and neat floral patterns in his bedroom wall to the real flowers in his wife’s garden which are messy, scattered, horribly entwined, and in a ‘terrible tangle.’ The lesson being: “Without a doubt, there is such a thing as too much order.” I love it. As an educator and academic who thrives on order, this is such a beautiful reminder that a little chaos is good for the soul. Definitely a must-have book in your collection.

Currently Reading…

I have just finished reading Clash of Kings by George RR Martin, Book 2 from the Game of Thrones series, and am now currently reading A Storm of SwordsI love how the narrative is told in various voices and does not follow a sequential, chronological pattern. I like how enfleshed the characters are as the story goes deeper and even more magical. Plus, I have a special affinity with Khaleesi, the Mother of Dragons. Perfect end to a long hard day.

A Storm of Swords with lovely waffles and coffee on the side. Care to have a bite?

I am also enjoying Dear Genius: The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom as collected by Leonard Marcus. Hopefully, I can feature the book in the coming weeks – I love Ursula!

How about you, dear friends, what have you been reading this week?

AWB Reading Challenge Update: 85-88 (35)

Caldecott Challenge Update: 16-19 of 24

PictureBook Challenge Update: 93-96 of 120

14 Comments on It’s Monday, What are you Reading? A Caldecott Medal Book Binge: 1943, 1944, 1965, 1981

  1. I loved Game of Thrones, but, like I often do, I thought I’d stop at book one. Now I’m rethinking that!

    Here’s my It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? I hope you will stop by!

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  2. I enjoyed many Caldecotts in college when taking a children’s literature course…and then, reading to my children.

    Love your vignette with book, coffee, and waffle! Yum!

    MY MONDAY MEMES POST

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  3. I loved the Game of Thrones books, too. Perfect pool-side summer reading. The first three books are the best… after that he loses control of the story a bit.

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  4. Hooray for Caldecotts! I have not yet read YOU MAY BRING A FRIEND, and it’s been ages since I read FABLES, but recall enjoying it. LITTLE HOUSE and MANY MOONS were definitely highlights for me from those early Caldecott years. Can you believe I have yet to read a George RR Martin book? For some reason, I’m slow to jump on the cult-like following with series . . . haven’t read Twilight, or the Hunger Games either! Wonder what the reading psychologist would say? :)

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  5. The Caldecotts are old favorites though I haven’t read them in a whie. I love the fables. Thanks

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  6. The Little House was one of my own kid’s favorites…our tattered copy is evidence! Have you read Mike Mulligan’s Steamshovel, by Burton as well? Such a great read!

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  7. I love the Lobel’s books , but had not seen Fables yet. I’ll have to check it out.
    I’d recommend another Virginia Lee Burton book too, “Life Story”. It follows a location in the US, from pre-history through the dinosaurs, ice age, native americans, up to following the seasons on the farm on the land now. A poetic and very moving book.

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  8. Absolutely love Fables! I had a colleague whose third grade students would act out these stories each year. I’m also eyeing your waffle. Thank you for this trip down Caldecott memory lane.

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  9. My husband and my son have both been reading the George R.R. Martin series this summer! Like you, my husband just finished book 2, and my son finished book 4…and can’t wait for the next one!

    Enjoy your books this week –

    Sue

    Great Books for Kids and Teens

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  10. The Little House is one of my all time favorite children’s books.

    My favorite book this week was Ghouls Just Haunt to Have Fun by Victoria Laurie. Please come see what I’m reading now.

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  11. Little House is such a sweet gem of a book! It’s just…cozy. Isn’t it wonderful that a book like that can withstand the test of time?

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  12. I wanna read Game of Thrones – a friend of mine has been raving about it. But for the meantime, I think I’ll enjoy the TV series first.

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  13. I am hearing so much about The Game of Thrones books recently, I must get the first one and try them out.

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  14. I enjoyed reading your Las Vegas posts having lived there for seven years! I wouldn’t have thought of going to Savers to find books. I’m glad you got to visit Dead Poet Books!

    Like

2 Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Reading in September: A Round Up and AWB Reading Challenge «
  2. [Monday Reading] Snapshots of Life During the War in “The Last Flower” by James Thurber and “Archie’s War” by Marcia Williams | Gathering Books

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