Tag Archives: 1st

A Picture Book for Newbery! Last Stop on Market Street

laststoponmarketstreetLast Stop on Market Street by Matt De La Peña
Illustrated by Christian Robinson

I jumped up and down when this book was announced at the Youth Media Awards press conference — after the initial “WHAT? Really?  A picture book text?” Then, it was, “YAY!  Finally.  A real picture book has won the Newbery!”  Great job.  Committee!

However, it was not until today, when I finally re-read the text, blocking out all the illustrations, just paying attention to the rhythm, the word choices, the imagery, the heart and soul of this seemingly simple text for the very young that I realized how marvelous a choice this book is for the award.

By recognizing the text, which allows for so much imagination and chances of deep discussions, especially literary ones, the Newbery Committee has affirmed the significant value of finely crafted text for young children.  I can still recite many passages from Margaret Wise Brown’s The Important Book because I read that book to my daughter when she was still in her crib.  Every night, for months, and no matter how many times I read it aloud, I found myself admiring the genius writing page after page.  I am quite certain that the reason my daughter appreciates poetry and what she calls “good writing” in the adult books she reads now that she’s 16 is her wide exposure to excellent texts like The Important Book,  So Said the Little Monkeys, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, Madeline, and many others.

I am ordering copies of Last Stop on Market Street for my Middle School Library and will encourage middle grade teachers to use the book to inspire students to interpret the text as they envision in their mind.  CJ could be anyone.  Nana could be anyone’s grandma.  The boys on the bus with something CJ envies do not have to share ear-buds on their iPod and the imagery of the large tree “drinking through a straw” was never depicted literally in the illustration anyway.  The students in a language arts class will simply bask in the glory of the text like “The outside air smelled like freedom,” and “rain, which freckled CJ’s shirt” and have a rigorous mental workout to understand the implied interactions and emotions.

And ample discussion opportunities for the ending, when Nana does not give her usual deep laugh… now what is that all about?

De La Peña sure wrote a distinguished book!

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Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman

fortunatemilkFortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman,
illustrated by Scottie Young

A fun and funny romp into the land of wild imagination with a warm, Where the Wild Things Are ending.  The father-children relationship is full of heart, too.  I can see it being read aloud in many classrooms as a way to insert entertaining moments during a stressful day.


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Investigating Yeh-Shen and the Chinese Cinderella Myth


Retold by Ai-Ling Louie
Illustrated by Ed Young

Original Pub. Date: 1982
Publisher: Putnam (HC); Puffin (PB)

Country of Origin: China

This title appears to be a fairly straightforward translation/retelling of the original text found in an old Chinese book. In the foreword, Louie states that the story can be traced back to 850 A.D., in the Tang Dynasty. This is widely regarded by the western and Chinese folklorists as accurate.

Although the actual 9th century text seems to be forever lost and the current tale was copied and compiled much later, in the 17th century. The story of Yeh-Shen is in volume one of the Appended text. The original text’s standard English title is You Yang Za Zu — Columbia University’s East Asian library rare book collection owns two editions of the 19th century reprints.

Even if this tale was originally recorded in the 9th century, whether it is the “original Cinderella story of the world” is still up for much debate in the academic world. I found a source that collects many different theories (unfortunately, all in Chinese) and one of the revelation is that Yeh-shen is a highly unusual name for a Chinese girl and it shares similar sound to the word “Aschen” which means ash, and Aschenputtel is the original Grimms fairy tale title for the better known Cinderella. This seems to indicate to some scholars that Yeh-shen was a retelling of a Western story, brought over to south west China by Arabic traders or via current day Vietnam.

Although Louie’s translation is fairly faithful, she chose to leave out the last part of the original story. Here’s the last part of the translation done by Arthur Waley, a famous East Asian scholar, although he never set foot in any Asian country in his lifetime. It’s published in Folk-lore, vol. 58 (London: The Folklore Society, 1947.):

The step-mother and step-sister were shortly afterwards struck by flying stones, and died. The cave people were sorry for them and buried them in a stone-pit, which was called the Tomb of the Distressed Women. The men of the cave made mating-offerings there; any girl they prayed for there, they got. The king if T’o-han, when he got back to his kingdom made Yeh-hsien his chief wife. The first year the king was very greedy and by his prayers to the fish-bones got treasures and jade without limit. Next year, there was no response, so the king buried the fish-bones on the sea-shore. He covered them with a hundred bushels of pearls and bordered them with gold. Later there was a mutiny of some soldiers who had been conscripted and their general opened (the hiding-place) in order to make better provision for his army. One night they (the bones) were washed away by the tide.

Cultural Analysis:

Cave: The Chinese word for Cave, DONG, could have meant also a small village. It seems that the Cave People might have been Villagers. Evidence of such terminology is prevalent in Korea today.

Worshiping the two dead women: It is not uncommon for many spirits of the deceased to be deified (taken as an object of worship/made a god/dess of.) It is unclear, though, from the original Chinese text whether the people were praying for girl friends, as Waley’s text states, or praying for birthing of baby-girls. The text only used one work — NU, female — (However, given the importance of boys over girls in most Chinese cultures, it might not be praying for baby-girls.)


Supposedly, the southern tribe in where Yeh-Shen came from was probably Zhuang Zu (壮族) — from the modern Guang Xi province. This image from a Chinese stamp shows the traditional outfits which echo Ed Young’s illustration.

It is important to keep in mind that this is a minority group and the traditional costume is not the same as the majority, Han, group.


Costume of the minority group (design found on a Chinese stamp)

(This was posted, by me, on another blog a few years back.  Reposted.)

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Little Mouse’s Big Book of Fears

Little Mouse's Big Book of FearsAuthor: Emily Gravett
Reading Level: K to 4

Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Edition: Hardcover, 2008

This is a fantastic offer from a truly creative mind, and I believe also, from a team of designers and editors who put in so much in carrying out all the ideas: from the nibbled cover and pages, to the flip-the-flap effects, to the completely black page (yes, I was fooled in thinking, ‘huh? this is the end of the book? No way…’ and found out, to my great delight, that there is still half of the book to go and plenty more of information to come!) And of course, Gravett’s talent in illustration is unparalleled! I just love that pencil, getting gnawed to a stub bit by bit.

It will appeal to those children who love words and love to collect the names of so many phobias. It will appeal to those children who love poring over pages with extra words and details quite a few times over. It will appeal to those who enjoy visual jokes (“I worry about having accidents.” page has Little Mouse … um… accidentally leaves something on the bottom of the page… — opposing the picture of a toilet.)

I love the page where all the feathers “have eyes” and “sharp teeth.” I love the page with the newspaper clipping about the farmer’s wife and the three mouse tails. I love the page with the fold-out map of the Isle of Fright. Actually.. I think I simply love all the pages, each for a different reason.

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That Book Woman

That Book WomanAuthor: Heather Henson, illus. by David Small
Reading Level: K – 2

Publisher: Atheneum
Edition: Hardcover, 2008

Even though I knew from page 2 that this is a little story on the power of books and libraries, and that this young boy narrator will become a reader in the end, I did not feel disappointed when all the prediction came true. This is due to the artistry of both the author and the illustrator. Henson’s text is folksy and true, with a wonderful lilting pace, while Small’s illustrations are gentle but at the same time with a quiet but majestic integrity. Of course, being a librarian, I am completely won over. (Just so you know, I am usually very suspicious of books glorifying Library Services and Librarians — oftentimes, I find those “books and reading are GREAT stories” corny and cringe-inducing.) I hope that others who are not in our profession will also find this fact-based story completely winning.

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Swords: An Artist’s Devotion

Swords: An Artist's DevotionAuthor: Ben Boos
Reading Level: for all readers

Pages: 96
Publisher: Candlewick
Edition: Hardcover, 2008

I couldn’t believe my eyes, flipping through page after page of beautifully rendered swords from many time periods and many cultures, how visually perfect this book is! No matter whom I showed this book to (HS students, MS kids, other adults) – the reaction was the same: an astounded delight at this Feast of the Artistry of Beautiful and Elegant Swords. I’m glad the inclusion of Asian and African swords and their histories (although would have like a more balanced proportion in treatment…)

This makes a great holiday gift for any child who enjoys this topic. The general and specific notes on various types, their usages, their histories, and those who used such and such swords are easy to read and absorb. But one definitely doesn’t need to read all the text to enjoy the book.

I am so happy of this book’s existence!

View all my reviews on Goodreads.


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A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams

A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos WilliamsAuthor: Jen Bryant; illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Reading Level: pre-k to 5th grade (depending on how the book is to be used)

Publisher: Eerdmans
Edition: Hardcover, 2008

Oh, how I absolutely
love this book
adore it
for its simple
informative text
admire it
for the collage and
water color illustrations

showing the time
the world and
the spirit of the poet
who was a doctor,
healed wounds,
delivered babies,
and soothed
our souls

View all my reviews on Goodreads.

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How to Heal a Broken Wing

Author: Bob Graham (illus.)
Reading Level: toddler to 3rd grade

Publisher: Candlewick
Edition:Hardcover, 2008

How to Heal a Broken Wing Since I am not one who usually loves books with strong and obvious messages, I surprised myself for really liking this one. Why? First and foremost, I think it is because that there is a real plot and emotional arc in the telling of this gentle and simple story of hope. Hope in healing the wounds of the world (a page with the TV screen showing the current War in contrast with the family’s loving care of the bird); hope in having our next generations to have compassion for the world around them; and hope for the inter-generational “collaboration” in finding ways to heal.

Graham’s cartoon illustrations do not reduce the emotional impact of the story — the varied composition, perspectives, page layouts, all contribute beautifully to accentuate the events and the interior motions of the characters. That one spread where you only see Will and the bird with broken wing (as an extreme close-up from the spot on the cover) is superb! The more and more closely I examine this work, the more I appreciate it. (So, just changed from 4 to 5 stars!)

View all my reviews on Goodreads.

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Wanda Gag: The Girl Who Lived to Draw

Author: Deboarh Kogan Ray (illus.)
Reading Level: K to 3rd Grade

Publisher: Viking
Edition: Hardcover, 2008

Wanda Gag: The Girl Who Lived to Draw I am profoundly moved by this picture book biography of an amazing artist. It’s partially because of my own belief in the power and importance of art in our world, but mostly, it’s because Deborah Kogan Ray’s candid text, capturing Wanda Gag’s spirit, and her oil paintings capturing Gag’s world and time. My eyes and heart were drawn to those little lighter/brighter outlines around some of the objects and figures in each painting. I don’t really know why, but they seem to be metaphorically significant: flashes of light (hope? human spirit?) peeking through even the darkest times. This is an outstanding biography, even for slightly older readers.

View all my reviews on Goodreads.

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The Black Book of Colors

Author: Menena Cotton, illus. by Rosana Faria
Reading Level:pre-k – 2nd (and all ages)

Publisher: Groundwood
Edition: 2008, Hardcover

The Black Book of ColorsWhat a unique and amazing book!!!! I am speechless and wish everyone could read/touch/experience it!

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LRBC01-A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever

written and illustrated by Marla Frazee
published by Harcourt, 2008
40 pages/picture book

This book has already been recognized by the Horn Book/Boston Globe Book Awards as an excellent title in the picture book category. (It’s an honor book.)

The two people chatting about this book are Roxanne and Lily Feldman.

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Bear’s Picture

Author: Daniel Pinkwater; illustrated by D.B. Johnson
Reading Level: pre-k, k, 1, 2

Pages: np
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Edition: Hardcover, 2008

Bear's PictureAbsolutely fabulous! The text is matter-of-fact; straightforward; and it conveys a great sentiment — the artist’s own interpretation is enough to make any artwork worthwhile. A bear can be a painter and he can paint whatever he feels like and see whatever there is in the picture without being told by others that he can’t paint or what his artwork means.

And the ART in this book is unusual, for sure. The contrast between the gray-scale color scheme of the three characters and the vibrant multi-colored painting keeps the readers’ focus on the “real” protagonist of the story: the painting, in progress and in its final state. I love how the bear’s scarf gets progressively messier, with more colors until it’s completely covered. And of course, the page where you must turn the book around to see the final picture from bear’s point of view of a bear that is embedded within the autumn honey tree, cool stream, hollow log, field of flowers, and the two gentlemen’s hats is such a beautiful and breathtaking moment! The color scheme reminds of of Kandinsky and Klee in their modern, abstract style. The final image of bear sleeping in the hollow log (his own creation) engulfed by the snow is the perfect and calm end note to a rigorous story.

View all my reviews on GoodReads.

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Garmann’s Summer

Author: Stian Hole
Reading Level: K to 3rd

Pages: n.p.
Publisher: Eerdmans
Edition: Hardcover, 2008

What an unusual book. At first glance, the images turned me off — from the cover to the first pages — with the weirdly proportioned heads/bodies done with photo-collages. Then.. I got sucked into this style and most importantly, I got mesmerized by the text and by the matter-of-fact tone of everyone’s answer to Garmann’s queries about death and fears. The illustrations eventually reminded me of Terry Gillian’s work for Monty Python’s Flying Circus with many pages featuring curving flower stems and vines and the unlikely pairings of objects: the ancient aunt on a skateboard above skyscrapers or the bus load of images of famous jazz and other musicians… So, this is a very strange experience: from “Ugh” to “Brilliant!!!”

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Grumpy Bird

Author:Jeremy Tankard (illustrator)
Reading Level: Pre-k to 2nd

Publisher: Scholastic Press
Edition: Hardcover, 2007

I LOVE the grumpiness of Bird and his host of 4-legged friends who totally are so clueless to his mood. The Wahaha-WOW ending is so unexpected and satisfying. There is a great momentum building through this seemingly simplistic picture book. Tankard‘s thick-black-outlined endearing group of animals and brush-painting trees, accompanied by bleached photo background is dexterously done. There is just so much to look at and such a joy to read aloud and to share!


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Duck at the Door

Author: Jackie Urbanovic (also the illustrator)
Reading Level: pre-k to 2nd

Publisher: HarperCollins
Edition: Hardcover, 2007

This is an absolute WINNER! The text is sparing and just right to convey the situations from page to page — I enjoyed the individual thoughts from the animals mixed in with the straightforward text.

Each animal in the house is distinctly designed and incredibly adorable/attractive/expressive. Their body language speaks volumes!

The surprising second-to-last spread made me *GASP* with horrified delight.

This whole package just WORKS!

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The Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County

Author: Janice Harrington
Illustrator: Shelley Jackson
Reading Level: Pre-K – 3rd

Publisher: FSG
Edition: Hardcover, 2007

I would have to say that this is one of the most joyful picture books I’ve read this year. I adore everything about it. It’s incredibly fun to read the text out loud and to hear it read. It is colorful and energetic, full of poetic inventions:

“wash away the dreaming and brush my teeth whiter than a biscuit”
“fast as a mosquito buzzing and quick as a fleabite”
and listen to the cadence and joy of these glorious lines:
“I think of all kinds of chicken thoughts so they won’t know I’m up to something.
Corn, I think, bright, shiny knuckles of yellow corn.
Eggs! Eggs! Eggs! Goldy-brown eggs all warm, warm warm.
Corn bread, corn bread! Crumb and crumble bread.
Worms, Slurms, swishy, swishy-mishy, ickly-tickly worms”

Oh… I’m having so much fun just looking at these words and lines.

And then, of course, there are these glorious illustrations — where the energy, the colorfulness, and sunshiny fun is captured and further expanded. The mixed media with real object collage illustrations convey the carefree high spirit of our heroine. The most effective compositions are the ones that explode outward:

The page with Pah-Quawkkkkk! and Quawkkkkkk exploding in the center of the spread.

And there are pages more subdued but no less pleasing. There is a great pacing of action verses internal thoughtfulness both in the text, and especially in the illustrations. This is just GLORIOUS! I said it a third time now :)

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Lily Reads: Funny Frank

Author: Dick King Smith
Reading Level: 1st and 2nd

fairrosa: So, how would you describe this book?
Lily: I would describe this book as funny, sarcastic, and cute.
fairrosa: Anything else you’d like to share?
Lily: Yep. I liked it because it was full of ideas that were cool.

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Lily Reads: All-of-a-Kind Family and More All-of-a-Kind Family

Author: Sidney Taylor
Reading Level: 1st to 3rd

fairrosa: Why do you like All-of-a-Kind Family?
Lily: I liked this book because it’s about five girls and they have adventures and it’s very exciting.
fairrosa: Do you have something to say about the second book?
Lily: Yes. It has a lot of tension.
fairrosa: How? What happened?
Lily: There was a disease going around and they didn’t want to catch it.

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Ramona Books

Author: Beverly Clearly
Reading Level: K-3rd

Publisher: William Morrow / Yearling / Dell
Edition: Mixed, 1955 onward

This has been a favorite bedtime story series for the last 3 months. I read it to Lily when we were in Taiwan and David has been reading it to her every night for the last 2 months. The titles in the series are

Beezus and Ramona (1955)
Ramona the Pest (1968)
Ramona the Brave (1975)
Ramona and Her Mother (1977)
Ramona and Her Father (1979)
Ramona Quimby, Age 8 (1981)
Ramona Forver (1984)
Ramona’s World (1999)

We have finished all but the last two. I’m constantly amazed and reminded of Cleary’s uncanny talent at capturing the inner workings of a small child as I listen to David’s affective reading and watch Lily’s complete emotional involvement with the story.

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Cam Jansen Series

Author: David Adler
Reading Level: K-2nd

Pages: around 60
Publisher: Viking / Puffin
Edition: Mixed

This is really Lily’s first series. She’s finished 24 of them and is now tackling the 25th Cam Jansen and the Valentine Babies Mystery.

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