[Monday Reading] An Allen Say 2-in-1 Special

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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

We’re also inviting everyone to join our Check Off your Reading List Challenge 2014.

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Click here to sign up. If you have already signed up, here is the April-June linky where you can link up your reviews or updates from your reading list. We are also very excited to share that Pansing Books will be giving away copies of Julian Sedgwick’s Mysterium: The Palace of Mystery to two lucky CORL participants from April-June. So link up your posts now!

Carrie Gelson of There is a Book for That is also hosting #mustreadin2014.

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Firstly, I have to apologize to all of you friends for not being able to visit your blogs during the past week, as I have just arrived from Manila last Saturday (wee hours of the morning) and I had to rush to attend the Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC) that same day, which is currently ongoing here in Singapore til this week. For those of you who might have missed my posts about the AFCC, here are the sessions that I am moderating and where I am speaker, here are the sessions I am excited to attend as part of the audience, and the book launches that are happening in the next few days. I promise to make it up to all of you once the AFCC is over by Wednesday this week.

Today is also a huge day for me as I will be sharing a panel with the great Junko Yokota in a few hours time, as we discuss award-winning picture books. I would speak about my experience as a Cybils Judge this 2012 and 2013. I would also be moderating a session on the future of fantastic YA fiction with Sally Gardner, Payal Dhar, and Lara Morgan. And I will be launching my second edited collection of essays for AFCC entitled One Big Story. I just received a copy of the book last Saturday, and as you can see here, I am thrilled!

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And now on to today’s book offering. Of course we can not let our reading theme go by without doing a feature on Allen Say’s works.

IMG_3748The Boy in the Garden

Written and Illustrated by: Allen Say
Published by: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2010
Borrowed from the library. Book photos taken by me.

This picturebook is a prime example of how intertextuality works in children’s literature. The Boy in the Garden is based on a Japanese folktale about The Grateful Crane, a story which was read to Jiro, the young protagonist in this story. The strange and magical folktale has left such a deep imprint in Jiro’s consciousness, such that when he and his father visited the huge home of Mr. Ozu, a family friend, during the New Year, he can still hear the echoes of his Mother’s story ringing in his ears.

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Jiro’s imagination was even more fired up when he saw the crane in Mr. Ozu’s perfectly-landscaped garden. As he marveled at the beautiful sight of the bird, the adults started laughing and called out to him from the house that it is merely a bronze statue, and nothing else. He felt a deep sense of betrayal and humiliation that the adults were laughing at him, and so he ran as far away as he could until he reached a small cottage.

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And it is here that the boundaries between what is real and what is fantastical merged beautifully in Allen Say’s trademark-surreal fashion. For a moment there, the character of Jiro and the woodcutter in the story of The Grateful Crane merged – the boy transformed into a man, while the beautiful woman remains enigmatic, mysterious and ethereal throughout.

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And yes, there’s food too, as the Crane Wife served Jiro a bowl of soup.

So many layers here that can be teased out and examined in greater depth. I just discovered from Lois Lowry’s blogpost that the story here is actually based on Allen’s childhood experience, which makes it even more interesting. This is a thoughtful, quiet book that would definitely grow on the reader with every retelling.

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Written and Illustrated byAllen Say

Published by: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1997
Borrowed from the library. Book photos taken by me.

This is one picturebook that I am definitely adding to my text-set on multicultural children’s literature as we discuss alternative families. Allison is the adopted Asian daughter of a Caucasian couple. As she grows up and examines her reflection in the mirror, she realizes that she does not look at all like her parents, which made her wonder about who she is. Clearly, Allison looked like Mei Mei, her doll, whom she thought of as her little sister; but she looked nothing at all like her mom and dad.

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As her parents gently answered her confused questions about her origins, Allison realized that her real parents gave her away and that it may be because they didn’t love her. With this secret knowledge tucked away in her heart, Allison now looks at the world differently. While she was in school, she asks her classmates whether their eyes are like their mother’s eyes, or whether they have a mommy in another land.

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There is now a wound in Allison’s heart that made her destroy her Mom’s old doll and her father’s baseball and mitt, her anguished voice crying out: “You’re not my daddy!” How the story ends and how Allison’s identity issues was resolved, I shall leave for you to discover.

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The family portraits are charged with unarticulated emotions as once again Allen Say’s luminous and subtle artwork convey more than what the text is saying. Truly a remarkable picturebook that is filled with symbolic imageries, one that becomes increasingly important in our multicultural age.

Currently Reading…

I was invited to do a two-day teacher training in Manila last week at Headway School for Giftedness, and they also flew my entire family in and sponsored a 3 day and 2 night stay in Boracay right after the workshop, which was a real treat.

Taken in Boracay using my iphone camera

Taken in Boracay using my iphone camera

Gorgeous coconut trees

Gorgeous coconut trees

And so while in Manila, I am glad to share that I have already finished reading Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys. Woo-hoo! Three cheers for me. I actually did enjoy it, and am looking forward to reading Dream Thieves next. I also finished reading a collection of poems by Mary Oliver, American Primitive while on the beach as can be seen here:

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and am currently reading Oliver’s New and Selected Poems: Volume One. 

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I have missed The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt while I was away, but eager to get back to it:

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I’ve also started reading Ophelia and the Marvellous Boy by Karen Foxlee. It’s a slow start for me on this one, so I’m hoping the pace will pick up soonest.

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Reading Challenge Update: 104, 105 (25)

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11 Comments on [Monday Reading] An Allen Say 2-in-1 Special

  1. I was so lucky to see some of Allen Say’s original art up close and personal when our public library featured them. I enjoyed Drawing from Memory!

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  2. I don’t know this second Allen Say book, Myra, & will find it, as my brother’s children are adopted, two from Korea, & may find it important, even though they are adults now. Allen Say is a wonder-that art is magnificent to see. Congratulations on your book, and on the wonderful little vacation you had too. Reading on the beach is a good thing! Someday perhaps I’ll get to see you present!

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  3. The ‘The Umbrella Thief’ cover is absolutely amazing, so colourful! AFCC sounds exhausting but like a lot of fun as well! Allen Say illustrates beautifully, especially in ‘The Boy in the Garden’. It looks so realistic while also looking quite mythical! I hope you enjoy your reading!
    My Monday post
    Juli @ Universe in Words

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  4. readerbuzz // June 2, 2014 at 6:45 pm // Reply

    I must look into that new book about adoption. Interesting. Thank you for sharing.

    Here’s my It’s Monday!

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  5. What a great picture! My children loved reading about Ghandi and we’re very interested in Indian culture. When I found a salwaar kameez at the thrift store that fit my 8 year old daughter, and a kurta for my 10 year old son, they researched and decided to go as Indira Ghandi and Nehru for Halloween. They were years ahead if their time. I found this article interesting: http://www.buzzfeed.com/hnigatu/15-adorable-kids-pose-as-iconic-figures-in-womens-history

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  6. The Allen Say books look absolutely beautiful. I definitely need to check those out!

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  7. Allen Say books are so equisitely powerful. Never tire of reading them. My latest read was Erika-San. Love all the pictures you shared this week! 🙂

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  8. Beautiful photographs!!! I’ll pretend I’m there with you 🙂 Thanks for sharing the Allen Say books, they look fantastic. Allison looks like a good match with the new Cynthia Kadohata book that is coming out this fall! I have Ophelia to read as well… someday 🙂

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  9. Fun! I’ll have to find “Alison.” I’m adopted, so I always like to find new adoption books! 🙂

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  10. Allen Say’s art is always incredible. Allison is one I haven’t seen yet–and I thought I’d seen ALL the adoption picture books, LOL. Can’t believe I discovered two new-to-me ones this week (Allison and one I talk about on my blog today). Raven Boys is on my #mustread2014 list. I’m hoping to finish the rest of that list off this summer and make a new one for fall, but I haven’t been very motivated lately to read anything on my list.

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  11. Love the photos you shared. Just gorgeous. I hope you enjoy Dream Thieves. I loved Raven Boys and Dream Thieves – can’t wait for the third title!

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