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.
I have also updated our Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Bookshelf – which I invite you all to check out. Over a thousand multicultural/ international picturebook titles for you to see, and 500 titles in the Social Awareness Bookshelf alone.
These three picturebooks are not strictly about love, but they all speak of the love for adventure, and what it means to leave one’s home to find answers to questions, to escape from the dreariness of everyday existence, or to seek an elusive wonderflower that brings joy.
Written and Illustrated by: Benjamin Flouw
Published by: Little Gestalten (2018)
ISBN: 3899558022 (ISBN13: 9783899558029). Review copy provided by publisher. Book photos taken by me.
In this story, the reader is introduced to a plant-loving Fox who reads botany books in his spare time. In one of his many botany texts, he came across a section about a “golden wonderflower” that is so rare and elusive that not a single image of it exists. And so, bringing the barest essentials (consisting of a torch, compass, map, snacks, raincoat, small tent, etc), he set off into the mountains in search of a wonderflower adventure.
I keep on thinking what about this story appealed to me so. It must have been the presence of animal characters who read (see the fox above and the goat below)…
… or it could simply be the quiet, unassuming, gentle nature of Fox the adventurer who set out on an expedition to find something that others have missed; or the single-minded pursuit of beauty armed with the courage and the quiet knowledge that it will be found somewhere up high in the mountains:
Whether or not Fox finds his golden wonderflower, I shall leave for you to discover. I do hope that this book finds you too, and read it as the sun sets on your own personal wonderflower.
Written and Illustrated by: Sassafras De Bruyn
Published by: Clavis, 2016
ISBN: 1605372633 (ISBN13: 9781605372631). Book was borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.
This story simply called out to me from the library shelves. From the moment I set eyes on it, I knew it was European. As I was drafting this post, I am glad to discover that I am right.
Originally published in Belgium and the Netherlands, this lovely book is about a girl named Cleo, who wanted to be far from where she is, away from the drab monotony of daily existence, filled with people who make fun of her or do not truly see her.
And so in her mind, she is in a boat, sailing quite far away, to magical cities, where stars can be picked from the skies, and mermaid caves exist.
Eventually, a young boy joins in her adventures, and they sail together to see the rest of the world. I like how this story shows how one’s bleak and drab reality can be transformed into something otherworldly, with the aid of one’s imagination, and a friend by one’s side.
Written by: Dashka Slater Illustrated by: The Fan Brothers
Published by: Beach Lane Books, 2017
ISBN: 148145160X (ISBN13: 9781481451604). Book was borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.
I have to admit that among all the three picturebooks here, this one happens to be my favourite. It was the book that made me gasp aloud and made me want to read it to people I know who could resonate with it. Similar to The Mystery of the Goldenflower, this one features a fox protagonist who also happens to be a deep thinker. This particular fox, Marco, is not really a botanist, but is quite the philosopher. Marco raises a lot of questions about the world, and the things that he observes around him:
Sadly for him everyone else is oblivious to the burning questions that plague him. And so when an antlered ship came where he lived, he decided to join the crew consisting of three deers and a flock of pigeons. He wanted to go someplace where his questions can be answered, where meaning can be found.
As all adventures go, this crew of unlikely creatures – who can not really be described as ‘seaworthy’ – encountered quite a number of difficulties along the way: from being lost, to being caught in a storm, to battling pirates who are out to get them.
I like how most of the animals second-guessed themselves when the going literally got rough. They wondered if it would have been better for them to stay put where they were, rather than go on this expedition that entailed a great amount of risk and unexpected challenges. Marco, however, remained steadfast:
“We should have stayed in the woods,” Sylvia said. “Deer aren’t supposed to go to sea.”
“We should have stayed in the park,” added Victor. “Pigeons aren’t supposed to do hard labor.”
Marco eyed the deer and the pigeons. “Foxes aren’t supposed to be vegetarian,” he said. “Still, we must do the best we can.”
At the heart of the story, is something that speaks to any one of us trying to find some semblance of direction, a quest for answers, the yearning for some place – any place – where we feel we belong – and the courage and steadfastness to do something about it:
That image above was the one that made me gasp aloud. If I didn’t adore The Fan Brothers in The Night Gardener (thing is I already do – see my review here), I do now, even more so, I suppose. It is not just the technical craftsmanship of their art, but the way that the images evoked such deeply-felt emotions within me – from that of being cooped up, trapped belowdeck, waiting for something bad to happen – to the sensation of being free and being one with the sea.
I like how the entire narrative is not about finding the answers to thoughtful questions, ultimately; but as Rilke would have it, living the questions that find us. For those who are undecided, take the antlered ship. Allow it to take you where it leads.
#LitWorld2018GB Update: 19 of 40 – Sassafras De Bruyn is from Belgium
Benjamin Flouw is from France, Dashka Slater/Fan Brothers are from the US.