Award-Winning AWB (Award-Winning-Books) 2015 Books GB Challenges Grey and Golden, Young and Fleeting It's Monday What Are You Reading Picture Books Reading Themes

[Monday Reading] Picturebooks about Old People from Korea, New Zealand, and France – Kites, Godwits, and Feisty Dogs


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 Award Winning Books Reading Challenge for 2015 (#AWBRead2015)! It’s that time of the year to set new reading goals for the coming year.


Here is the sign up page and the March-April Linky if you already have reviews up. One randomly-selected participant would receive a copy of A Song for Ella Grey by David Almond, courtesy of Pansing books.

Click on image to be taken to my review of the book.
Click on image to be taken to my review of the book.

Click here to view my announcement post to learn more details.

Many thanks to Iphigene for this gorgeous poster.
Many thanks to Iphigene for this gorgeous poster.

These three picturebooks show the timelessness of grandparents’ stories as well as what signifies friendship and companionship in old age. I also love the fact that the protagonists in these stories are all coming from different countries: Korea, New Zealand and France.

IMG_0468Madame Martine

Written and Illustrated bySarah S. Brannen
Published byAlbert Whitman & Company, 2014
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

Madame Martine is an old woman who lives alone in Paris, France. She keeps to a fairly regimented routine whereby she “bought chicken on Monday, scallops on Tuesday, mushrooms on Wednesday, beef on Thursday, and fish on  Friday.” Her weekend schedule consists of fairly ordinary activities such as feeding the birds and staying quietly home alone.


There was no mention of family members; no exciting trips to the Eiffel Tower as well since as Madame Martine scoffed: “Eh. It’s a tourist thing.” Her life was fairly straightforward until this lovely wet and dirty creature found her in the streets:


With nary a hesitation, Madame Martine took this lovely dog in, named him Max, and carried him home. Told in gentle hues, the story showed how Max’s feisty nature ultimately brought Madame Martine to finally explore one of the most long-standing icons in Paris, the Eiffel Tower. Reminiscent of Naomi Kojima’s Singing Shijimi Clamsthe story explores how family can be found in the most unlikely places and in the most surprising creatures.

IMG_0396Baba Didi And The Godwits Fly

Written byNicola Muir Illustrated by: Annie Hayward Foreword by: Helen Clark
Published by: New Internationalist Publications, 2013
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

Isabella and her grandmother, whom she calls Baba Didi, spends a day at the beach, gathering pipis (edible molluscs native to New Zealand which I learned after googling the information)


and watching godwits feed themselves as they prepare to fly off around the world:

“From New Zealand, from this bank here at Ruakaka, Ahipara, from Miranda, Motueka and Farewell Spit, the godwits will one day smell winter, point their long beaks into the wind and they will… go. To Korea, to Japan and China, then to Russia and Alaska to find another summer full of good things to eat.”

There are parts in this book that tended to be wordy and quite didactic as it teaches about resilience and how migrating and flying off to other lands impact both birds and humans. But there are parts of it that also worked for me such as this conversation between Baba Didi and Isabella:


‘Well, why don’t they just stay here like the other birds?’ asked the little girl. ‘It’d be more comfortable. Why do they have to be the ones with such a long hard way to fly?’

Baba Didi looked hard at Isabella. ‘When there are hard times, Isabella – everyone always asks, “Why me?” Sometimes you just have to go. Sometimes you just know. The godwit knows. Your Poppa and I knew when we left Croatia. Sometimes, if you stay in the same place doing the same thing, it will be the end of you.’

The paintings are also quite beautiful and marked with its distinctive hues of mostly blues and greens which made up for the somewhat ‘educational’ tone that the narrative adopted. I did not know about godwits until I read this picturebook.


Baba Didi noted that while the godwits are not as colorful as the peacock or as bright and talented as a parrot – these little brown birds are gifted with the right wings that allow them to keep going across faraway lands til they reach their destination.


Helen Clark, the former Prime Minister of New Zealand (now Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme) wrote a beautiful Foreword about the godwits. I would have liked a detailed Afterword, though, providing more information about these beautiful birds and their pathways across the globe as they make the entire world their home.

IMG_0405The Best Winds

Written by: Laura E. Williams Illustrated by: Eujin Jim Neilan
Published by: Boyds Mills Press, 2006
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

The story opens with young Jinho and his friends laughing at Grandfather’s strange ways and his weird hanboks which the children thought to resemble bathrobes. Grandfather has apparently moved in after Grandmother died.


Then Grandfather told Jinho that he would show his grandson how to make a kite “for the best winds will be here soon.” While Jinho clearly prefers to do something else (skateboarding with friends or playing video games), his parents made him spend time with Grandfather as they gradually built a kite frame and colored it in, adding tails made of silk scarves:


Grandfather would often tell stories about his own grandparents to Jinho as they snip, cut, and paint the kite. Jinho  would tune out as his Grandfather recites his boring stories of growing up in a small village, until his Grandfather’s voice sounds “like a cricket in the background.” Jinho grudgingly realized though that they are creating something of beauty as the kite gradually unfolds in the family table.


However, Jinho’s impatient nature made him fly the kite on his own, even before “the best winds” arrived which made a tear in their beautiful kite. How the story was resolved, I shall leave for you to discover. I liked how the relationship between Jinho and his grandfather was depicted to gradually develop along with the building of the kite. I also liked how realistically the young boy was portrayed and how eventually the crickets stopped chirping, allowing Jinho to finally listen to his grandfather’s stories.

Currently Reading…

I was able to finish reading Marly’s Ghost by David Levithan last week (watch out for my review)


and This One Summer by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki (which I will be reviewing for our graphic novel theme soon):


I am now currently in the thick of reading By The Book: Writers On Literature and the Literary Life from The New York Times Book Review as my reading journal now explodes with books that I need to find.


I also hope to finish reading Raina Telgemeier’s Sisters for our GatheringReaders Book Club at the Jurong West Public Library:

Sisters by Raina Telgemeier
Sisters by Raina Telgemeier

I also hope to begin reading The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart as recommended by Earl from The Chronicles of a Children’s Book Writer for our current reading theme.


Still no progress with these two novels – Inferno by Dan Brown, The Kindly Ones by Neil Gaiman.


The Best Winds: 2007 Connecticut Book Award — Children’s Author (Nominee)

#AWBRead2015 Update: 36 (35)

11 comments on “[Monday Reading] Picturebooks about Old People from Korea, New Zealand, and France – Kites, Godwits, and Feisty Dogs

  1. I’m still wanting happier books, so I don’t know that I will embrace your “transient lives” themes. We’re all transient– some of us stick around longer than others, and that’s not necessarily a good thing, either!


  2. I love the illustrations in The Best Winds. It looks like an interesting picture book to pair with MIna’s Spring of Colors by Rachna Gilmore. It’s a novel that deals with intergenerational conflict. (I love everything that Rachna Gilmore writes)


  3. It should be interesting to have Dan Gemeinhart at our store in May. If you have any questions you want me to ask him, let me know. I kind of want to reread it now just because.


  4. Beautiful picture books, Myra – and we all need a max in our lives to shake us up a bit! Looking forward to your review of Marly’s Ghost – Levithan is such a talented writer.


  5. Kay Mcgriff

    I’m glad you found By the Book! Maybe I should have included a stronger warning about how quickly my list of books to read and authors to discover exploded while reading it!


  6. As I am a grandmother (as you know) I loved seeing all these ‘new’ books about grandparent relationship. They all look lovely, Myra. I’m seen others reading By The Book-looks like one to have! I’m looking forward to seeing what you think about This One Summer! Thanks Myra, you always share some new books to us!


  7. crbrunelle

    I too like the grandparent books. They always make me think about my own grandparents. 🙂


  8. I’ve dipped in and out of By the Book and the same thing happens to my reading list: it explodes! So many books I want to read!


  9. Count me in as one who loves titles that highlight the grandparent child relationship! Such a richness there. This One Summer is in my pile – I look forward to reading it


  10. Wow, love the look of Baba Didi And The Godwits Fly, thank you for sharing! 🙂


  11. I really enjoyed This One Summer – though I was surprised at how old it skews and it still got a Caldecott nod!


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