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.
These two picturebooks demonstrate how friendship knows no colours, transcends linguistic barriers, and goes beyond cultural differences. I juxtaposed these two books to also highlight the different approaches used by book creators in driving home the same message.
The Seeds Of Friendship
Written and Illustrated by: Michael Foreman
Published by: Candlewick Press, 2015 ISBN13: 9781406356502. Book borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.
A young boy named Adam has moved from a presumably tropical country (first clue: it was his first time to encounter snow) with lots of animals to a new city filled with skyscrapers and where his new home is now in a tall building overlooking a sea of gray.
He amuses himself by drawing pictures that remind him of home (these are shown to be wild animals such as a lion, elephant, crocodiles, a hippopotamus) or drawing animals in his glass windows whenever it is too cold outside to play:
Eventually, he finds friends who helped him build, not a snowman, but a menagerie of animals that is reminiscent of home. Adam was also happy when his teacher gave him seeds which he took home and planted in their window boxes. Eventually the grey city is transformed into a bustling “city of gardens.”
Truth be told, I am a little on the fence with this one. I have a bit of a hit-or-miss relationship with Michael Foreman – some of his books I truly enjoy, while the others I find to be a tad too explicit and borderline didactic. I suppose my issue with this book is that it tends to fall in the latter category. Despite this, I do recognize the importance of these kinds of picturebooks where a child may find their story represented in such a narrative, providing the much-needed recognition that they are not alone in going through this experience.
My Two Blankets
Written by: Irena Kobald Illustrated by: Freya Blackwood
Published by: Little Hare Books, 2014 ISBN: 1742979378. Book borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.
I remember this picturebook distinctly. When I was in Perth last year, most of the librarians and book lovers I had the privilege to meet were telling me just how special a title this book is. I am glad that I finally found this one in our library.
The story revolves around a young girl nicknamed Cartwheel who has just moved to a different city with her aunt. While the sense of trepidation was not explicitly articulated, the alienation and that queer feeling of being singled out in a crowd has been captured perfectly in both the subtle narrative and Blackwood’s inimitable art (see below):
In fact, I find that there are some resonances even with Armin Greder’s art (see I Am Thomas), although of course in a much tamer style, especially in this one here:
It was the “waterfall of strange sounds” that moved me, the old blanket that Cartwheel drew comfort from, and the new blanket she is gradually making as she forms new memories and builds friendship in this strange new place that she now calls home.
This book is emotionally stirring, its authenticity keenly felt as the narrative goes beyond trite phrases or well-meaning intentions to educate, moralize, or drive home a particular agenda. It is simply a story of two girls who found each other, the words that built a bridge between them, and the two blankets that constitute one’s being, no matter what one chooses to use at any point in time.
My family and I just spent a long weekend in Prague and now taking the bus on our way to Vienna!
And so I finished reading two books in the past several weeks: Gloria Steinem’s My Life On The Road which I started reading in Berlin and finished in Munich and Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend which I started reading enroute to Salzburg and also finished reading in Munich.
I am now starting to read the second book in the Neapolitan Series while on the way here to Prague, but didn’t get much chance to read in the evenings as we come home late after a full day of soaking in this enchanted city – Elena Ferrante’s The Story Of A New Name. Let’s hope I find a bit of time to read while in Vienna.