[Monday Reading] The Wildness of The Natural Elements and Forest Animals in Akiko Miyakoshi’s picturebooks

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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.

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A week ago, we launched our new reading theme for September-October: Into the Wild – The Untamed, The Mischievous, Artists and Rebels in Literature. These two picturebooks feature the wildness of nature and the imagined tame-ness of forest animals. 😉

IMG_6621The Tea Party In The Woods

Written and Illustrated byAkiko Miyakoshi
Published by: Kids Can Press, 2015 ISBN: 1771381078 (ISBN13: 9781771381079) Book Awards: 2015 – Best Picture Books of 2015, Kirkus Reviews, Winner
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

I have been seeing this book shared so many times in the blogosphere that I immediately jumped on it the minute it became available in our public libraries. I am glad that it did not disappoint. It has a fairy-tale vibe to it with a young girl named Kikko rushing after her father who was on his way through the woods to help Grandmother “clear the walk” in their “winter wonderland” world. However, Father left the pie meant for Grandma and Kikko was determined to bring it to him.

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Reminiscent of Little Red Riding Hood (visual elements such as the occasional bright red in the girl’s clothing such as her cap and her skirt add to that vibe), and even Alice in Wonderland (is she joining the party in the woods), and even a little bit of Goldilocks and the Three Bears can be sensed in this picturebook that remains determinedly-unique despite all these allusions.

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So where is the “wildness” here? I thought long and hard and I realized that what I truly found so fascinating in this book is the hint of danger that is skirting around the edges. When the girl got lost in the forest (she was actually following a bear rather than her father), she chanced upon this strange house where apparently, a tea party was taking place.

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She could easily have been made the main course in this tea party in the woods with wild animals all around. What can you surmise from the expressions on these animals’ faces? Is that what is going to happen here? I shall leave it for you to discover. Needless to say, the art is what made me gasp out loud. Predominantly in shades of black and white (charcoal, probably), the splashes of colour make the reader pay closer attention to the visual details that are conscientiously interwoven throughout the narrative, adding a different dimension to the story altogether. Find it – unless you want to be late for the tea party.

The StormIMG_6626

Written and Illustrated by: Akiko Miyakoshi
Published by: Kids Can Press, 2016 ISBN: 1771385596 (ISBN13: 9781771385596)
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

A young boy was looking forward to a weekend spent at the beach with his parents when the teacher warned the class to head straight home since a storm is coming.

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As can be seen in the image above, the text is sparse – it is really the art that provides so many details here as the entire family looks out the window, their beach gear seemingly on standby as they wait out the storm.

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For all intents and purposes, the story is simple enough. But it is a subtle yet powerful reminder of how the natural world has a mind of its own – and that while we make our well-crafted plans, ultimately we are at the mercy of the wild elements. And that all we can do, really, is make adequate preparations and stay safe as dark clouds decide to rage on outdoors – see image below:

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I think what makes this picturebook work for me is how the young boy’s disappointment is depicted, the play in perspective (see below), and the spaces in between that convey foreboding, anxiety, dismay.

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While the ending seemed unlikely, it does happen on occasion, and I thought provided that much-awaited glorious colour depicting hope and light. I will be definitely be on the lookout for more of Miyakoshi’s works in the future.

Currently Reading…

I have read quite a number of books the past several weeks, and here are a few of them:

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I will post my thoughts about Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J. K. Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne very soon.

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Because my soul is in dire need of poetry right about now: Leading From Within – Poetry that Sustains the Courage to Lead by Sam M. Intrator and Megan Scribner.

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My Litsy photo shows that I have started reading Jeff Vandermeer’s Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction. By the way, are you on Litsy?? Let’s connect there too, if you are.

We are tasked to read a horror story for the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge, so I turn to Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes. And since I am a multi-tasker, I am reading while grilling. Happy long weekend everyone!

8 Comments on [Monday Reading] The Wildness of The Natural Elements and Forest Animals in Akiko Miyakoshi’s picturebooks

  1. I don’t really get Litsy. Is it bookstagram in one place? Snapchat for books? Is there any point on being on it if you don’t take pictures of your books?

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  2. I was able to read Tea Party via a digital copy from my public library right after reading your review. Isn’t that like magic? A bit creepy, although it does end well. And I think a lot of us had to order The Cursed Child– my daughter wanted it desperately.

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  3. Miyakoshi is new to me, but the photos you’ve shared make me very eager to get these books. Just gorgeous! I’ve got Wonderbook but haven’t read it yet–a couple of my students have borrowed and read, though, and loved. Must get to it!

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  4. Beautiful – I loved Tea Party in the Woods, I felt it had that blend of beauty and eeriness that classic children’s stories always seemed to have. Proof that children’s materials can actually be subtle, elegant and beautiful, and don’t always have to be goofy and technicoloured. 🙂

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  5. I just read The Tea Party this week as well. I think part of what I liked most about it was that at the end, the girl wasn’t frightened of the wild forest. I liked this one better than the storm, although both are stunning.

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  6. Ah, Myra – two more fabulous picture books for me to hunt down. 🙂

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  7. I’m not a big horror reader, but I can definitely relate to reading while cooking!

    Have a great week and enjoy your books!!

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  8. I really enjoyed The Tea Party In The Woods, but I haven’t read The Storm yet. I need to check that one out. Have an awesome week!

    Liked by 1 person

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