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). Two of our blogging friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have inspired us to join this vibrant meme.
Last Week’s Review and Miscellany Posts
Sign-ups for the Award-Winning-Books Reading Challenge is still open. Do join us and sign up if you are looking for exciting reading challenges with monthly book prizes. Click on the titles below to be taken to our blog posts.
We’re taking a little break from our Crazy Over Cybils theme as we celebrate Valentine week and share with you a few of our favorite picture books on lovelovelove.
Henry in Love
Story and Pictures By: Peter McCarty
Publisher: Balzer + Bray – An Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2010
Book borrowed from the public library. Book photos taken by me.
This is a quiet, gently-told story of a boy named Henry who started his day pretty uneventfully – he gets ready for school, goes downstairs to the kitchen, eats cereal toast banana and orange juice – all very regular stuff. The colors in the trademark McCarty illustrations are muted, each page has a single phrase or a very short sentence neatly describing what Henry is doing, and lots of glorious blank white spaces devoid of unnecessary clutter.
Then Henry’s mother gives him a blueberry muffin for school – a treat that he obviously treasures, since he refrained from eating it during lunch time (Henry obviously passed the marshmallow test), but saved it rather for his afternoon snack. On his way to school with his friend Sancho and his brother Tim, they came upon a football player from the high school team who invited them to play a little ball. It turns out that this hotshot football player is the brother of Chloe, Henry’s crush. Henry thought “she was the loveliest girl in his class.”
I like how this story highlights the little details that make up a child’s life and how they can be easily transformed with the hint of beauty and flower petals and showing off one’s best forward roll, and not talking to a girl because it’s not cool with the guys, and not being able to help one’s self regardless, and the transformative power that a simple blueberry muffin can make. My only peeve about the illustrations is that the faces of these creatures are so devoid of emotion I can’t really tell how they’re feeling. However, this could be a strength too as the reader can bring to the book what they wish, and read in Henry and Chloe’s faces what they will.
Here Comes the Bride
Story By: Beatrice Masini
Illustrated by: Anna Laura Cantone
Publisher: Tundra Books, 2002
Borrowed the book from the Public Library. Book photos taken by me.
This must be one of the more ingeniously-written and beautifully-illustrated books I’ve read this year. I have an affinity for books that are not predictable – fresh, unusual, and just a wee bit strange.
Filomena is a gifted seamstress. She has an unusual ability of turning brides’ dreams into “flowing satin”, “delicate lace”, or “shimmering silk sheaths.” I like how Filomena is depicted to be a no-nonsense, plain kind of girl who knows exactly what she wants.
While she sewed other women’s dreams, she was also weaving and stitching and embroidering her own wedding dress in her mind’s eye, dreaming of that special day when she is finally the bride.
Finally, the day came when Rusty, a mechanic from the shop next door finally found the courage he needed to ask Filomena to be his wife, to which she replied: “What took you so long? Of course I will marry you.” I love the fact that she isn’t coy, nor did she play hard-to-get, nor did she engage in any of the loathsome mind games that most young girls seem to be pretty fascinated about, the age-old dance where one takes one step forward while the other takes three steps back – the missteps an annoyance and a terrible inconvenience. There is nothing of the sort here in this lovely picture book – Filomena is as decisive as her fingers are skillful and dexterous, flying excitedly over mountains of cloth as she finally works on her own wedding dress. She misses a ride in the hills on Rusty’s scooter during the weekend because so intent was she in creating the most fabulous dress of “silk and satin and roses and lace” that she literally lost herself in the mountains of cloth in the process.
I love the powerful subtlety in the narrative as Filomena learns to trim down her dreams to its barest essential as she runs after that which she truly wanted – and the realization that weddings are more than fancy trappings and butterfly bows and little hearts stitched perfectly in the hems of a white white gown. And much too often, we get too carried away by the frivolous, the non-essentials, the superfluous – not realizing that the only thing we need, really, is the one right in front of us. This one is absolutely perfect for Valentine’s day. Definitely a keeper. The amazing detail in the artwork can make you spend hours just looking at little things one might have missed in the first reading. I am glad I chanced upon this book by accident in our library.
Edward Lear’s The Owl and Pussycat
Illustrations By: Stephane Jorisch
Publisher: KCP Press – An Imprint of Kids Can Press, 2007.
Borrowed from the public library. Book photos taken by me.
I have always loved this story. There are so many versions of this tale, but this one illustrated by Stephane Jorisch is by far, my absolute favorite. The poem never fails to move me – probably because it is reminiscent of the classic Shakespearian tragedy of Romeo and Juliet – this is the height of the unlikeliest of all romances in children’s poetry: an owl, a bird for crying out loud and its predator, the pussycat, together? I mean, come on, how strange could that possibly be?
While everyone else in the story wonders about this unlikely pair, the two cry out loud the oft-quoted famous lines:
“O let us be married!
Too long we have tarried”
And so they “sailed away for a year and a day, to the land where the Bong-tree grows” – everything is just so surreal and so otherworldly, one can not help but sigh at the impossibility of it all – with a Piggy-wig who gave his nose ring to the Owl and the Pussycat who were married the next day “by the Turkey who lives on a hill.”
And while adults can snicker and the children worry about what their offspring would be like, I would much rather suspend all questions, all queries, all uncertainties as I drown in the beauty of such an unlikely romance:
And hand in hand,
on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light
of the moon,
by the light of the moon.
I have finished reading Dandelion Wine by Bradbury and will definitely be sharing my thoughts about it during our next bimonthly theme. I just finished reading More than Friends: Poems from Him and Her by Sara Holbrook and Alan Wolf, and I’m hoping to feature this book for Poetry Friday this week. Dizzy in Your Eyes: Poems about Love by Pat Mora seems perfect for this week too.
How about you, dear friends, are you celebrating Valentine week in your blog too?
Here Comes the Bride was nominated for the White Ravens award in 2001 and named Andersen Award Best Picture Book in 2003.
AWB Reading Challenge Update: 12 of 35
29, 30, 31 of 150