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 winner The 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
Title: The Lion & the Mouse
Author: Jerry Pinkney
Age Category: 3 to 5 years +
Genre: Picture Books
The Lion and the Mouse Book
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
Title: The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Author: Brian Selznick
Age Category: 9 to 12 years +
Genre: Picture Book
The Invention of Hugo Cabret: Summary
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