Title: The Egg Tree
Author: Katherine Milhous
Age Category: 3 to 5 years +
Genre: Easter picture books
Easter is coming, and so I’ve been planning to review some Easter picture books. However, when I started looking around online and in the library for good titles, it seemed there really weren’t that many. Either I found a lot of “cute” but shallow books about eggs and bunnies—which I liken to marshmallow Peeps: sweet but not very nourishing—or I found illustrated versions of the New Testament text. Now, don’t get me wrong: marshmallow Peeps and the New Testament have their place; my kids will likely get a dose of both this Easter. However, in my view, neither make for particularly good picture books.
Now, thankfully there are a few good picture books for Easter out there, two of which I’ll share with you in this and the next post. The first one—1951 Caldecott Medal winnerThe Egg Tree by Katherine Milhous—is only loosely connected with the biblical Easter tradition, as I will describe. In the next post I will review Petook: An Easter Story by Caryll Houselander and Tomie dePaola, which has a more direct connection with the traditional Easter story.
The Egg Tree, by Katherine Milhous: Summary
The Egg Tree by Katherine Milhous is set in the Red Hills of Pennsylvania, in a rural Pennsylvania Dutch community. The picture book opens with two young children—Katy and Carl—spending their first Easter on their grandmother’s farm, along with four of their cousins. The children wake up early for an Easter egg hunt, but Katy can’t seem to find any eggs in her unfamiliar surroundings. Feeling discouraged, she makes her way up into the attic and, to her surprise, Continue reading →
Jerry Pinkney’s 2010 Caldecott Medal-winning picture book, The Lion & the Mouse, is a retelling—or, rather a re-showing—of Aesop’s traditional fable by the same name.
As the story is traditionally told, a mouse is caught by a lion and pleads for her life by arguing that one day the lion might need her help. Although the lion scoffs at the thought that a tiny mouse could ever help such a mighty beast as a lion, he releases the mouse. However, the lion subsequently gets caught in a hunter’s net, and the mouse—hearing the lion’s distressed roar—ends up freeing the lion by nibbling a hole in the net. The traditional moral: “Little friends may prove great friends.” Traditionally, then, the story is meant to embolden the meek (“You may be a great friend one day!”) and to encourage the proud to look out for the little guy.
However, in Pinkney’s picture book, the moral is not so tightly constrained, largely because the only words Pinkney uses are onomatopoeias—i.e., words that Continue reading →
In this post I will highlight the work of one of my favorite children’s authors, Ezra Jack Keats. In particular, I will focus on a six-book series of multicultural children’s books by Keats that features a single character—a boy named Peter—and that includes two of Keats’s most celebrated books, The Snowy Day and Whistle for Willie. All six of these multicultural children’s books are appropriate for 3-to-5-year-olds.
Title: The Snowy Day
Author: Ezra Jack Keats
Age Category: 3 to 5 years
Genre: Picture Books
Life of Ezra Jack Keats: Multicultural Children’s Books Author
“Ezra Jack Keats was born on March 11, 1916, to impoverished Polish immigrants of Jewish descent in East New York, which was then the Jewish quarter of Brooklyn, New York. He was the third child of Benjamin Katz and Augusta Podgainy, and was then known as Jacob (Jack) Ezra Katz.”
From early on it was evident that Keats was gifted as an artist. He won several awards for his art in junior high and high school, including a national contest run by the Scholastic Publishing Company.
“Keats entered the service of the United States Army on April 13, 1943…After World War II, he returned to New York… Two years after the war, Jack, in reaction to the anti-Semitic prejudices of the time, Continue reading →
“The Caldecott Medal was named in honor of nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.” Continue reading →
Title: Martin’s Big Words
Author: Doreen Rappaport Age Category: 6 to 8 years Genre: Historical picture books Our Rating (out of 5):
In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day—coming up on January 18th—we will be featuring some children’s books about Dr. King and others who have contributed to the long and continuing fight for the equality of African-Americans in the United States. The first book is Martin’s Big Words, the Caldecott honor and Coretta Scott King award-winning book by Doreen Rappaport (illustrations by Bryan Collier). The book tells the story of Dr. King’s life and work in a brief accessible format.
Martin Luther King Children’s Book: Subjective Appeal
This compelling children’s book about Martin Luther King Jr. will appeal to kids in several ways. First, the moral themes of justice, equality, and love on which the book focuses connect with the process of moral formation occurring in 6-to-8-year-olds. Children at this age are developing instincts about right and wrong, and good and bad, and Martin’s Big Words will engage children in this part of their experience.
Second, the simple disarming style of the book draws the young reader into the story. Although the themes that Dr. King’s life and work evoke (e.g., rights, freedom, justice, equality, etc.) can be somewhat abstract for children, Martin’s Big Words portrays them in an accessible way. For example, this children’s book opens with the following line: “Everywhere in Martin’s hometown Continue reading →
Brian Selznick’s 2008 Caldecott Medal winning book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, introduces Hugo Cabret, an orphan boy who secretly maintains the clocks at a Paris railway station. Hugo’s father—once an horologist—died in a fire while repairing an automaton, a highly complex machine designed to look and to write like a human being. Hugo has salvaged the remains of the automaton, now hidden in Hugo’s room in the walls of the train station, and he steals mechanical parts in his attempt to finish his father’s project of restoring it. Hugo is convinced that, once restored, the automaton will convey a message to him from his deceased father.
However, when Hugo’s path intersects with Isabelle, another orphan, and her godfather Papa Georges—the toymaker in the railway station from whom Hugo has been stealing parts for the automaton—Hugo’s plan to restore the automaton yields unexpected results. The restored automaton indeed has a kind of message from Hugo’s father, but it turns out the message is also connected to Papa Georges. As the mysterious story unfolds, Hugo is slowly transformed Continue reading →