Saturday, December 31, 2011

Book Recommendations! Part One: Picture Books

SO I know it's been awhile since the last time I updated with book reviews, but I have the motherload right here! Some of you know that last summer I started a master's program at Simmon's College. Last semester I took a class on children's literature and had to make a reading journal, so here it is!

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (1963). 48 pages.
There is no doubt in my mind that Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are deserves
the popularity it has received over the past fifty years. Max, a “Wild Thing,” is sent to
bed without his supper, which grows into a forest that brings him on an adventure. While
the text is quite sparse, any more words would take away from Sendak’s imaginative
illustrations. This is the perfect type of book to read aloud to a group pretending to
be “wild things.” Anyone who is the parent of a wild child, or anyone who at one point
was a bit “wild” will appreciate this book,

Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson (1955). 64 pages.
Harold and the Purple Crayon is the perfect book to read with an imaginative child.
With sparse illustrations, a child is able to see what can be done with one simple purple
crayon. What is especially enjoyable is that while Harold is creating his adventure, not
even he knows where he is going to end up! As this is a small-sized book, it might be
difficult to read to a large group of children, but can be the perfect fit to read along with a
creative child with an open imagination.

Millions of Cats by Wanda Gag (1928). 32 pages.
This book is a classic for a reason! Wanda Gag’s simple illustrations beautifully
complement the story of an old man looking to find the perfect cat for his lonely wife.
This book is humorous; instead of just picking one cat for his wife, the old man is unable
to choose so brings home millions of cats. Then, still not knowing how to choose, he
leaves it up for the cats to decide, who all fight and end up eating each other. Well, all
except one, a scrawny kitten who did not think he was pretty enough. Although this tale
gets a little violent, Wanda Gag’s illustrations brings the reader away from the darker
side of the story and creates an enjoyable reading and looking experience.

Corduroy by Don Freeman (1968) 32 pages.
Corduroy is the sweet story of a stuffed bear just wanting a home and a little girl who
makes all of his dreams come true. It includes illustrations that have a simple palette—
using variations of reds and greens and browns, but not prime colors. This story really
resonates with a reader who has given a home for a special stuffed animal. Corduroy is
not perfect, he has been in the store for too long and he even has a missing button, but
Freeman shows that even “damaged goods” deserve love. My favorite part of this story
was the ending—a little girl who sees him brings all of her money to give him a home. It
is such a warm ending to a sad story that the reader ends with a good feeling.

Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans (1939). 48 pages.
Madeline is the bravest girl in the old house in Paris, until Miss Clavel wakes up to
her crying from a case of appendicitis. While the story is simple, this book deserves is
Caldecott Honor. The story is very enjoyable to read aloud – most pages have only a
few lines on them, which rhyme. The fact that there is such little text on the page leaves
plenty of space for Bemelmans’ fantastic illustrations. Some pages he only uses black,
white and yellow, which keep the illustrations simple yet recognizable. On other pages
he goes all out in his use of color. On those pages (most notably when Madeline takes an
ambulance to the hospital) one gets lost in the illustrations. Madeline is a fantastic book
that will continue to stay around for years to come.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick (2007). 523 pages.
Brian Selznick did an amazing job at seamlessly integrating text and illustrations. At times, I forgot whether I was reading or watching. What really enhanced his use of text and illustrations was that the story continued in illustrations, without the text describing what happens in the pictures. This would be a great book for reluctant readers. It is long yet not overwhelming, since many of the pages are illustrations. Finishing a book like this would be a big accomplishment to children who do not read much, and it could give them a boost in self-confidence to read more.

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