Tag Archives: 2nd

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

yehshenYeh-Shen

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.)

Costume/Illustration:

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.

zhuangzu

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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The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp

truebluescoutsby Kathi Appelt

(narrated by Lyle Lovett for Audible)

This is what outstanding, distinguished, and thoroughly enjoyable children’s books should be!  And of course, I had the additional pleasure of listening to Appelt’s narrative voice brought to live by Lyle Lovett: folky, hilarious, tender, with just the right amount of controlled drama.  This environmental tall tale set in the swamp land, featuring anthropomorphized critters, caricatured villains, down home, real but also realer than life characters, and mythical beings is perfect for a family and classroom read aloud!  One of my favorite 2013 books for sure!

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Drawing from Memory

Drawing From Memoryby Allen Say (from galley)

I’m not sure that this is “graphic novel” treatment of Say’s personal life as many have categorized it.  It has text and it has graphics but it feels more like a scrapbook with clippings of thoughts and images (both photographs and drawings).  I probably would call this a picture book memoir.  It is brutally honest: I felt pained by the lack of tenderness and affection from family members that Say received as a child and a youth. But it also shows how one can make one’s own family from those who appreciate and spiritually and emotionally adopt one as a child or a sibling. I hope by making this book, Allen Say has made and found peace with his unhappy past.  This is definitely a title worth sharing with many.

One question though: how would a young reader (say, in 2nd or 3rd grade) perceive the Japan-America conflict of War World II by reading these lines:

page 10: Then a war began in 1941. When bombs started to fall on our city, Mother took us and fled to a village named Tabuse between Hiroshima and Iwakuni.

page 12: When the war ended four years later, everything was broken.

page 13: The American forces occupied Japan on my eighth birthday, August 28, 1945. Our house in Yokohama had been destroyed. Father went to the south island of Kyushu and found work in the city of Sasebo.

I must admit that as a Chinese person who grew up in Taiwan (which was a Chinese province colonized and occupied by Japan for 50 or so years until the conclusion of WWII) and whose mother lost her entire family due to the Japanese occupation of North Eastern China, when I read a Japanese author’s personal perspectives on these events or the time period, I had to forcefully remind myself that: this is a person who happened to have grown up in a country that invaded my own country and that Allen Say was not personally responsible for the atrocity (and yes, it IS an atrocity) that his mother land caused in my mother land way before I was born. And yet, I still wonder if there could have been other ways to make those statements that show clearly to any young reader that War did not come to Japan without Japan’s bringing it on to itself AND that instead of using the word “occupied,” although accurate, Say and his editor could have found a different word to describe the American Forces’ presence in Japan post WWII – especially since the young readers encountering this book most likely wouldn’t have had much background knowledge of the whole sequence of events that led to such occupation.

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Little Mouse’s Big Book of Fears

Little Mouse's Big Book of FearsAuthor: Emily Gravett
Rating:
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.

View all my goodreads reviews.

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That Book Woman

That Book WomanAuthor: Heather Henson, illus. by David Small
Rating:
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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