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Pam: May 2010 Archives

Pam

Thursday Three: Asian Picture Books

Posted by Pam on May 27, 2010 at 1:14 AM in Picture BooksRecommendations
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Minji’s Salon
by Eun-hee Choung

Minji's SalonThis book comes to Kane/Miller publishing from South Korea, but it could just as easily be set in any of the bustling Korean neighborhoods in America. While her mother is getting her hair colored and styled, Minji follows suit with her own customer — a black dog — and in her own way. The child’s desire to do grown-up things is universal, and is captured well in this simply worded picture book. The illustrations are engaging, especially when capturing the expressions of Minji and her mom. Enjoyable, lovely book.

If Not for the Calico Cat,
by Mary Blount Christian, illustrated by Sebastià Serra

If Not for the Calico CatA ship’s crew believes that a calico cat will bring them good luck on their sea journey. They load the silks, rice, tea, fans, vases, jade... and of course, a calico cat from the pier. But they may have picked the wrong cat. This fluffy pet just wants to find a nice place to rest, even if it means inadvertently causing chaos. There was a moment toward the conclusion of the book when I felt that it was going kind of dark, but all was okay in the end. At least for the cat. An interesting book on sea journeys and kitties with a little old Japanese flair thrown in for good measure.

The Silk Princess,
by Charles Santore

The Silk PrincessThe Chinese legend of the discovery of silk is expanded in this picture book. A child sees a silkworm cocoon fall in hot tea and begin to unwind. She takes one end and walks away from her mother to see how far it stretches. She walks and walks and soon gets worn out and lies down. She continues her adventure, running away from a dragon and then meeting an old man who teaches her the way to use the silk. She takes the story — or dream — back to her mother and silk is introduced in China. The illustrations are beautiful and very detailed. There’s a lot of text, so a better story for older preschool or early school-age kids.

Pam

Thursday Three: Beginning Bookshelves

Posted by Pam on May 20, 2010 at 2:10 PM in Recommendations
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In March, I listed ideas for Thrifty Reading with ideas for finding books on a budget. Last week, Susan offered ideas on ways to build your child's library in an economical way with her post Have I Got a Deal for You! Then Monday, Terry took the idea towards what titles should be in that library with Bookworm Basics And now I'm coming back to the concept with three types of books to look for in filling the bookshelves.

1. Classics
Curious GeorgeThere are really two kinds of classics: the ones that you read as a child and the new classics that have come out in the intervening years. Your child's bookshelf should have some of both. Reading the books that you grew up on gives you a chance to share that connection with your child. Maybe these books don't honor the faster pace of today's child or use the latest research on teaching to the developing brain of a toddler. But they mean something to you, and that's important. Many also have a place as cultural reference that continues through generations. (Hello Man in the Yellow Hat.) Such books like Curious George; Madeline; Goodnight Moon, Corduroy, Where the Wild Things Are, Bread and Jam for Frances, and The Cat in the Hat belong on every child's bookshelf. You may have some books from your own childhood that are special to you that you should also share. New Classics are ones that you'll see featured at any bookstore, like Chicka Chicka Boom Boom; The Hungry Caterpillar, Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!; Clifford the Big Red Dog; Guess How Much I Love You; and Fancy Nancy. Here's a hint on finding the New Classics: they often have a line of related merchandise. I'm not condoning it, I'm just saying'.

2. Mulitcultural/Diverse
How Do You Wokka-Wokka?Reading is one of the first ways that we see the greater world around us, so take the opportunity to widen that exposure with books that are diverse and multicultural. In looking for books featuring children of color, I've become fond of the illustrator Randy Cecil who used a great cast of characters in Looking for a Moose and How Do You Wokka-Wokka? (written by Phyllis Root and Elizabeth Bluemie, respectively). Kadir Nelson brings his art to life in every book he illustrates, but young readers will especially enjoy Please, Puppy, Please. Grace Lin incorporates Asian children and themes in the many, picture books she has written and illustrated - like in Kite Flying and you'll find Hispanic themes in the works of Pat Mora and Tony Johnson, among many others.

You and Me TogetherExplore the world without leaving home in the wonderful picture books of Barbara Kerley, with photos from National Geographic - like You and Me Together. Start even younger with the board books like Global Babies or broaden the concept with If the World Were a Village. Think about different kinds of families with The Family Book by Todd Parr (speaking of children of color, you'll see all the colors of rainbow represented here - literally) or And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell which tells the story of two male penguins who raise an egg together.

3. Art
Metropolitan Museum seriesIf you're stuck on buying a book, look for the one with great art. I don't mean books with classic artwork in them - though I am fond of the Metropolitan Museum series - but instead books that have amazing illustrations. Step into the art of Steve Jenkins in books like Actual Size or the surreal world of David Wiesner in Flotsam or the perfect spareness of Peter Reynolds in Ish. Investigate the soft tone of Jon Muth or the lively colors of David Diaz. Compare the watercolors of E. B. Lewis to the scratchboard work of Beth Krommes. Find books that are illustrated with beauty, style, and creativity and you'll likely find yourself in possession of very, very good books.

Links to books in this post are affiliate links for the Amazon Associates program, for which the site MotherReader.com may receive a referral fee.

Pam

Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical

Posted by Pam on May 13, 2010 at 10:01 AM in Book Events
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When the folks at the Kennedy Center had an idea to do a show based on the award-winning book Knuffle Bunny, Mo Willems didn't hesitate. Okay, maybe he hesitated, but he certainly accepted the challenge to write the script and lyrics of Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical. For over two years he worked with more than thirty people to turn the picture book into a one-hour family musical.

KKTBD_KnuffleBunnyACautionaryMusical_138.jpgWith Grammy Award winning composer Michael Silversher taking on the music, Mo worked most closely on the script with dramaturge Megan Alrutz. As he notes on his blog, "If you ever get the chance to get your own Dramaturge, do it! They're awesome. The thought of losing my Dramaturge to other dramaturgically needy projects in the future fills me with dread. And, as long as you're getting a Dramaturge, get Megan. She rocks." Workshops and rehearsals with the cast and crew helped to further shape the musical with even additional tweaking even on the Friday before the performance. 

The musical certainly feels like a Mo Willems production. Fans will instantly recognize the background projected on the stage and even the clothes the characters are wearing as being from the book. The plot is the same, the father takes his young daughter to the laundromat and misplaces her beloved Knuffle Bunny, causing a toddler meltdown of miscommunication and complete frustration.

For the musical, the part of Trixie is played by Stephanie D'Abruzzo, an old pal from Mo's Sesame Street and Sheep in the Big City days. She dives into the tough role, portraying Trixie's garbled speech and active imagination with a childlike enthusiasm. Michael John Casey gives the audience a fantastic Dad, who is ready to take on anything and make it fun. Erika Rose is the knowing Mom, and Matthew McGloin and Gia Mora handle the other characters as Puppeteers.

The children in the audience laughed during the show, and there is much for adults to appreciate as well. Trixie's inability to communicate creates much of the humor of the book and the musical, and yet it's also a real source of frustration and helplessness for both father and daughter. The musical gave an opportunity to explore this deeper connection to our own feelings of inadequacy as parents. That point when we recognize that our child has ideas and an individually that we can't always comprehend or even recognize.

This theme is evident as the father sings about all the things that he will teach his daughter, while not noticing her already intense fascination with the world around her. In fact as she expresses delight in a friendly pigeon - yes, that pigeon - her father scares the bird away as a "dirty rat with wings." As poor Trixie sings a sad song of toddler gibberish - complete with boa and spotlight - about the loss of her stuffed friend, her father is lost in misunderstanding. And yet as he feels that frustration of not getting it and not doing it right, he still is able to tap into what is most important - the love that he feels for his little girl. Of course, it all turns out fine at the end.

29760_390435789173_15853939173_3841347_5754780_n.jpgOverall, Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical is a fun show for kids and their adults, with catchy music and lots of laughs along with a sentimental spirit. And what struck Mo Willems as a member of the audience? " I loved holding my daughter's hand during the song "Really, Really Love You." Best moment by far."

The show travels for eighteen months or so before returning to Kennedy Center next year, so look to catch a performance at a theater near you. If you're excited about the possibility of another Mo musical, be encouraged that he's talking about ways to work together more with the group, having enjoyed this experience so much. Whatever it is or may be, count me in the audience. Or crashing the premiere party as I may or may not have done this time. Read all about my personal experience at the musical over at MotherReader.

Pam

Thursday Three: Mothers

Posted by Pam on May 6, 2010 at 3:25 PM in Picture BooksRecommendations
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It's time again to focus on Mom with cards, flowers, and... picture books starting with baby, moving to preschooler and ending with a story of a little girl all-grown-up.

Before You Were Here, Mi Amor
by Samantha R. Vamos, illustrated by Santiago Cohen

Before You Were Here, Mi AmorAn Hispanic mother talks to her baby about all the loving thoughts, wishes, and preparations in the time before he or she was born. Filled with Spanish words that flow seamlessly within the text, the book brings a fresh take to the mommy-love category of picture books. The illustrations make the translations clear, though a glossary is included at the end. For example, the picture of the little girl with her ear on mommy's tummy with "Before you were here, tu hermana placed her face against mi barriguita and whispered, "¬°Hola, bebe!" Oh, and before we drift too far from illustrations - or fresh takes for that matter - the artwork with its bright colors and bold lines is a nice change from the usual pastels that tend to dominate these books about a mother's love. Definitely a keeper, and if you don't believe me, you can check out the universal five-star ratings at Amazon's reviews.


Just Like Mama
by Leslea Newman, illustrated by Julia Gorton

Just Like MamaAs a mommy and daughter share a regular day, the little girl recounts all the wonderful things a great mom can do. The glowing testimony to a mother's love starts in the morning, "with a whirl and twirl across the fuzzy purple rug, she swoops down on my bed and scoops me up into a hug. Nobody wakes me up just like mama." At the end, it becomes a love letter right back, "Nobody loves mama just like me!" This sweet book will remind you of all the little things that us moms do right. Things that are sometimes perfect in their very ordinary nature - like brushing hair - or ordinary things that can be made special with an extra touch - like whipped cream in the cocoa. Simply delightful for young readers.


In Our Mothers' House
by Patricia Polacco

In Our Mothers' HouseA grown-up daughter tells the story of her and her siblings' years in their mothers' house. And note that apostrophe, because this is a book about two mothers and their adopted kids. The topic is handled in a nonchalant manner, except for occasional reference to a neighbor who "just plain didn't like us." Okay, and one page where the neighbor spits out her hatred of the two moms. But after that, it's back to the block party, and making dresses and growing up. Regular life. Polocco's illustrations are always special, and here they capture the love of this beautiful family. The amount of text and meandering story would make it a better choice for older picture book readers or younger ones with longer attention spans. Overall, a wonderful view into family, love, and acceptance.


Links to books in this post are affiliate links for the Amazon Associates program, for which the site MotherReader.com may receive a referral fee.

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