[Monday Reading] The Beauty of the Sunrise and the Wilds of Nature in Picturebooks “Soon” and “Pongo”

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It's Monday! What Are You Reading

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 (new host of Monday reading: Kathryn T at Book Date). 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.

Since we launched our reading theme last month, I have been on the lookout for picturebooks that transcend cultural boundaries and show the universality of what it means to be a citizen or a child of the universe.

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These two beautifully illustrated picturebooks demonstrate just that while showing the exquisite beauty of nature at the same time.

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Written by: Timothy Knapman Illustrated by: Patrick Benson
Published by: Candlewick Press, 2015 ISBN: 0763674788 (ISBN13: 9780763674786)
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photo taken by me. 

This book was in one of our library displays at the Jurong West Public Library – and since I do judge a book by its cover, I immediately grabbed it off the shelves. It’s a fairly simple story that may actually be paralleled with Bernard Waber’s Ask Me illustrated by Suzy Lee with the father and daughter taking a day trip in the park. In this story, however, it’s a mother elephant and her baby Raju encountering quite a number of animals as they walk through the jungle:

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While seemingly innocuous, there are actual dangers in the presence of the crocodile, the snake, and the tiger – and with Mother elephant consistently admonishing her youngling to “be very quiet” – which is naturally punctuated with Raju asking almost like clockwork “When can we come home again?” – think of it as baby-elephant equivalent to human-child speak of “Are we there yet?”

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Eventually, it becomes clear to the reader that the Mother Elephant is planning on taking Raju somewhere special in the jungle. And that there is something to be appreciated from this simple journey: the mother’s fierce protection, the playful relationship she has with Raju, and the herding off of everyday dangers to witness something as glorious as the sunset, making everything worthwhile:

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PongoIMG_0741

Written and Illustrated by: Jesse Hodgson
Published by: Flying Eye Books, 2013 ISBN: 1909263095 (ISBN13: 9781909263093) Book Awards: Pongo received the “Highly Commended” award in the 2012 Macmillan Children’s Book Awards.
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photo taken by me. 

Flying Eye Books has been gaining a very solid reputation as one of the premiere publishers in children’s literature that create exquisitely crafted picturebooks that are awe-inspiring. Pongo is one such book. While, again, the text is fairly simple, the art is truly something to behold.

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Meet Pongo, one of the creatures who “lived deep in the dark, dark depths of the rainforest.” As can be seen above, the text is sparse and the reader gets a visual treat of full page spreads, page after page after page. It allows for that strange immersive experience of actually being in the jungle surrounded by nothing but greens and the occasional bright but fleeting and elusive orange:

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Yes, the colour orange figures prominently because Pongo is in search for the Sun, which as he was told, happens to be a bright orange just like him. Young readers would find it hilarious how Pongo mistakenly assumes several creatures in the forest to be the sun (see below for one such visual pun):

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with Pongo’s ignorance serving as a good contrast to the child’s presumably sharper sensibilities. In Pongo’s search for the sun, he not only finds a good friend, he also discovers beauty:

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This book is beautiful. Find it. Wear orange. And eat oranges too while you’re at it.

Currently Reading…

My family and I are now currently in Berlin. At the time that this is posted, I would have been on my way to conduct a professional development workshop at the Nelson Mandela School. This weekend was beautifully spent with the glorious sun, great company, cool weather, and Berlin’s gritty, untamed pulse with broken beer bottles in the S-bahn and musicians and artists galore.

A Tribute to Berlin’s Ampelmänn or Little Traffic Light Man.

And seeing that the next few weeks would be spent on the road, I thought that this is the perfect companion book to read. I am enjoying it deeply.

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Gloria Steinem’s My Life On The Road.

8 Comments on [Monday Reading] The Beauty of the Sunrise and the Wilds of Nature in Picturebooks “Soon” and “Pongo”

  1. I’ve been dipping into the Gloria Steinem since Emma Watson made it Her book club pick and I received an ARC. Interesting. Love the art in the picture books. Happy Reading!

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  2. Have a great time in Berlin!
    I love the pictures in those books.

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  3. Enjoy your adventures (and books along the way)!

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  4. I like the juxtaposition of your global travels with the theme of universal citizenship! I lived in Germany for three years, would love to return some day.

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  5. I really admire Flying Eye books, they just seem to be willing to take fantastic risks and create picture books that are works of art. Some publishing houses seem to only want to create very commercial books, so it’s really inspiring to find houses that are willing to create unusual and beautiful picture books.

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  6. Berlin is my favorite city in the world for the reasons you described — that grit, vibrancy and youthfulness about it despite its difficult history is a testament to what a unique place it is.

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  7. I love it when I happen upon that just-right book for my travels. The art in Pongo is really gorgeous. Enjoy your time in Berlin!

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  8. Since my library’s reorganization they don’t have a special spot for new picture books. So I don’t read many new books but I’ve gotten through some oldies that I missed. I’ll keep an eye out for these in the animal section (it’s all divided by subject now — I’m guessing SOON will be an animal book rather than family or issues). Thanks for the sneak peek.

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