[Monday Reading] Of Friendships Lost and Gained in “The Bear and the Wildcat”, “City Dog, Country Frog,” and “Rabbityness”

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Myra here.

It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (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.

Last Week’s Review and Miscellany Posts

Here are a few of the reviews we have done last week. We are also inviting everyone to join our Award-Winning-Books Reading Challenge. We hosted the AWB Challenge last year and we are thrilled to be able to host it again. Do sign up if you are looking for exciting reading challenges with monthly book prizes. Click on the titles/images below to be taken to our blog posts.

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[Photo Journal/A-Z Photo Story Challenge] H is for Helmet Diving

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[Illustrator’s Sketchpad] Sergio’s Surreal Artistry and Influences

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[Poetry Friday] A Heroic Crown of Sonnets in “A Wreath for Emmett Till”

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Death and the Coming of Age in Literature

Courtesy of The Fault in our Stars by John Green (Poster from Powerbooks FB Page)

Courtesy of The Fault in our Stars by John Green (Poster from Powerbooks FB Page)

[BHE 67] Book Hunting in the Philippines and Singapore

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For the past several weeks, we have shared picture books that feature the loss of family members (from grandparents to parents to the loss of a spouse or a child). This time, I will be sharing three beautiful picture books that deal with the loss of a friend.

IMG_8112The Bear and the Wildcat

Story By: Kazumi Yumoto
Illustrated byKomako Sakai
Publisher: Gecko Press, 2011
Borrowed from the library. Book photos taken by me.

This beautifully-crafted picture book has a gritty, blunt-edged quality to it that brooks no sugar-coating or unnecessary whimsy. The illustrations of Komako Sakai with its shadowy dark contours also complement that overall vibe. In the first page, one reads this:

One morning, Bear was crying.

His best friend, a little bird, was dead.

The reader sees how Bear lovingly cut a tree from the forest to build a little box for Bird that he stained with berry juice and lined with petals.

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There is unadorned grief, painful recollections, depression and isolation. My heart was also caught by the following lines from the book:

Bear thought back to the morning before.

“Little bird,” he’d said. “Today it is this morning, isn’t it? Yesterday and the day before yesterday it was ‘this morning’, too. Isn’t that strange? Morning will come again tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, but it will still be ‘this morning’. It’s always this morning and we’re always together, aren’t we?”

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The little bird had cocked his head and said, “Yes, Bear. But you know what? More than yesterday morning or tomorrow morning, I like this morning best of all.”

Each time that Bear shows the little box to his forest friends, they will simply shake their heads and remind him that Bird will never come back to life and that he should forget about him. Feeling misunderstood, Bear locked himself up in his bedroom, not seeing anyone at all.

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Until one day, he decided to take a walk through the forest where he chanced upon a “strange wildcat napping on the bank.” This wildcat also had a box with him, albeit a little odd-shaped. How this accidental encounter between Bear and the Wildcat blossomed into quiet understanding marked with the fragrance of petals and beautiful violin music that celebrates grief and letting go, I shall leave for you to discover.

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Truly an important book that honours the time it requires for one to see the clouds and smell the grass as if for the first time, all over again – with a new friend.

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Story By: Mo Willems
Pictures byJon J Muth
Publisher: Hyperion Books for Children, 2010
Borrowed from the library. Book photos taken by me.

Mo Willems seems to have mastered the science and art of being succinct – filtering out needless nonsense and just sticking to the barest essentials of communicating a gleaming thought. Muth’s sensitive portrayal of the shades of passing time and emotions through his watercolours make this book a match truly made in dog and frog heaven.

During City Dog’s first day in the country, he ran as far as he could without a leash – imagine that sense of freedom – until he found a creature he has not seen before: Country Frog.

“What are you doing?” asked City Dog.

“Waiting for a friend,” replied Country Frog with a smile.

“But you’ll do.”

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This book also celebrates the gradual turn of the seasons from Spring (when Dog learned Country Frog games) to Summer (When Dog taught Country Frog his City Dog games), to Fall (a time for ‘remember-ing games’ as Country Frog’s laboured breathing makes it difficult for him to play)

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and Winter with the snowflakes and frozen ponds and Country Frog who is nowhere to be found.

And then comes Spring again, with glorious green fields across miles and miles on end and City Dog sitting on Country Frog’s rock, waiting for a friend. What City Dog found that Spring, I shall leave for you to discover. There are so many metaphors subtly interwoven into the cycle of the story tied with the natural passing of the seasons and the promise of spring.

IMG_8272Rabbityness

Story and Pictures By: Jo Empson
Publisher: Child’s Play, 2012
Borrowed from the library. Book photos taken by me.

I discovered this book through Carrie Gelson of There’s a Book for That who is also a fellow Monday reading enthusiast. Do check out her site as she always has truly wonderful picture book recommendations. She also has this blogpost that features books dealing with death and bereavement (perfect for our current theme) that you may want to check out.

Now, on to Rabbityness.

In this picture book, we are introduced to this Black Rabbit who despite his enjoyment in doing  the usual rabbity things such as hopping, jumping, and playing with his whiskers among other things – he is also peculiar in that he also enjoys doing ‘unrabbity things.’

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This book is a celebration of differentness – of splatters of paints and music that fills the universe and the infectious quality that being true to one’s self can bring to one’s world:

It made him SO happy, all the other rabbits caught his happiness. He filled the woods with color and music.

Then one day, Rabbit simply disappeared, making the rabbits in the woods very sad, the world now transformed into a drab, gray place with neither music nor colour. And in Rabbit’s absence, all that was left was:

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But down that dark hole, Rabbit was thoughtful enough to leave his friends a few gifts that would make the world around them more vibrant and filled with light. What those gifts are, I shall leave for you to discover. Such a glorious tribute to a radiant being whose music and colours echoed through a hundred dark tunnels giving love, laughter, and hope.

Currently Reading…

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Huzzah! Finally done with A Storm of Swords, and now starting the 4th Book of The Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin: A Feast for Crows. Did I tell you that this book series (and the HBO tv series too) is addicting? Perfect escapist literature – just the way I like it.

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Read-a-Latte Challenge Update: 173, 174, 175 (150)

14 Comments on [Monday Reading] Of Friendships Lost and Gained in “The Bear and the Wildcat”, “City Dog, Country Frog,” and “Rabbityness”

  1. I enjoy recommending Jo Empson’s Never Ever. Surprisingly, I had a couple customers who wanted book recommendations about death to read to their children. Mo Willems’ book was definitely one I shared.

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  2. shelleyrae @ Book'd Out // August 26, 2013 at 12:06 pm // Reply

    I watched the first half of season 1 Game of Thrones but that was enough for me – just not my thing.

    I hope you enjoy your reading choices this week!

    Shelleyrae @ Book’d Out

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  3. Wow! Such a different book for Mo Willems. Rabittyness looks very interesting. You have been very busy on your blog. Have a great week!

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  4. Thanks for sharing Rabbityness. Off to add it to my wishlist.

    Here’s my It’s Monday!

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  5. The Bear and The Wildcat sounds beautiful and poetic and meaningful. Thank you for sharing it with us today, Myra.

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  6. I had not heard of Rabbittyness. Great word in itself. I have been wanting to read the George R. R. Martin series. My son is addicted to them and I have seen Game of Thrones twice. He laments certain changes from the novels. Nice post

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  7. Some lovely images shared! Think I should reread City Dog, Country Frog- such beautiful pictures I haven’t visited in a while… Thanks for the wonderful share.

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  8. It is nice to see the illustrations. I have quite a collection of picture books myself, regardless of the fact that there are no little ones in our home anymore.

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  9. Thanks for sharing. I love City Dog, Country Frog; it is such an emotional book. I am still traumatized from reading A Feast for Crows, though. It is an interesting, but very violent story!

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  10. All three picture books look very good Myra. I am impressed with how many books like thiese are available! I will find them eventually! Thanks for all!

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  11. Thank you for these great titles. City Dog, Country Frog is one of my favorite picture books – such a tender and heartwarming look at friendship, loss and the seasons of life. Am intrigued with The Bear and the Wildcat and will definitely be searching for that one. Friendships Lost and Gained – this is a great theme! Thanks again! Carrie Gelson is a good friend of mine (we live and teach in the same district). We are kindred spirits when it comes to books!

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  12. The Bear and the Wildcat sounds wonderful. And sad.

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  13. I loved that TFioS poster! I hadn’t seen it! Thanks for sharing!!!

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  14. I love the vintage feel of the illustrations in The Bear and the Wildcat. It’s so important for us to share books that acknowledge grief and loss, feelings that affect us deeply at any age. Thank you for sharing.
    Catherine

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