1990 Caldecott Medal: Lon Po Po

Lon Po Po is (as it is subtitled) a Red-Riding Hood story from China. It tells the story of three sisters, left at home alone, when their mother goes to visit their sick grandmother. That night a wolf knocks on the door and pretends to be the grandmother. Although the younger sisters hurry to let in their beloved grandmother, the oldest sister, Shang, is suspicious and eventually figures out how to trick the wolf into leaving their house (without eating anyone).

Ed Young both wrote and illustrated Lon Po Po. Young was born in China in 1931 and came to the U.S. 20 years later to study architecture. He soon discovered his true love was art and switched his major! The first children’s book Young illustrated, The Mean Mouse and Other Mean Stories written by Janice May Udry, was published in 1962. More than 80 more followed! In addition to his win in 1990 for Lon Po Po, Young had Caldecott Honor Books in 1967 (The Emperor and the Kite) and 1992 (Seven Blind Mice).

His illustrations are based in the philosophy of Chinese painting. In Lon Po Po, Young used pastels and watercolors to create beautiful, shadowy illustrations showing how children might mistake a wolf for a grandmother. The illustrations are split into panels, with text appearing in just a small part of the page.

I love reading fairy tales from other cultures (Cinderella stories from around the world are a particular favorite, which means I’ll definitely have to check out Yeh-Shen which is a Chinese Cinderella tale that Young illustrated). The wolf is a menacing presence in this version of Red Riding Hood, but never gets to the “eat you up” point, which actually made my 4-year-old daughter confused about why then they tricked the wolf outside and killed it. May be a little more appropriate for slightly older kids.

One of my Life List goals is to read all of the Caldecott winners. This is my ninth post about a Caldecott book. You can read the other Caldecott posts here.

1990 Caldecott Medal: Lon Po Po

Read This! Molly, by Golly!

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Kids are so often firefighter obsessed and I was thrilled to find this female-centric firefighting tale when Frances was a baby. We check it out of library on a regular basis! Dianne Ochiltree subtitles this book “The Legend of Molly Williams, America’s First Female Firefighter.” Molly Williams was a real person – the African-American servant of one of the volunteer firefighters with New York City’s Fire Company Number 11. Ochiltree did extensive research for this book, and this story is the one often told about Molly – how when, in the early 1800s, there was a fire call during a snowstorm & flu epidemic, Molly joined the male volunteers with the company to fight the fire. There is so much awesomeness in this book – a look at how fires were fought 200 years ago, a strong woman to cheer for, and a portrayal of an African-American woman during the early days of our country who was not a slave. Pick this one up!

Read This! Molly, by Golly!

Read Harder 2016: Food Memoirs

A baker’s dozen of recommendations for Task 22 of the 2016 Read Harder Challenge.

Burnt Bread and Chutney by Carmit Delman (2002).

One of the things that I love about food memoirs is that they are such a great window into other cultures and Delman’s childhood was an interesting mix of two – her mother is from the Bene Israel community of Jews in Western India, her father an American Jew of Eastern European descent. If you ever though Shabbat dinners needed more curry, this is the book for you. I loved the food, the history of the Bene Israel, and Delman’s writing about growing up biracial and bicultural.

Climbing the Mango Trees: A Memoir of a Childhood in India by Madhur Jaffrey (2005).

It’s probably not surprising that acclaimed food writer Jaffrey has written a compelling, food-infused memoir of her childhood. Born in Delhi in 1933, Jaffrey’s childhood spanned a tumultuous time in India’s history, but good food and a close, loving family are a constant in her early years. It’s no wonder she grew up to write amazing cookbooks!

Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love, and War by Annia Ciezadlo (2011).

American journalist, Ciezadlo spent a decade in the Middle East, reporting on politics and civilian life. Her memoir frames her time in Baghdad and Beirut through food – humanizing life in a war zone in a way that more straightforward reporting struggles with.

An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace by Tamar Adler (2011).

An Everlasting Meal is sort of a contemplation on home cooking. Tamar Adler has cooked at various restaurants (including Chez Panisse), but this book is really focused on making food at home with a goal making home cooking seem doable – not with any tricks, just by saying, food doesn’t have be complicated, here is how you make basic things. Here is what to do if things go wrong. There is even a whole chapter about what she does when she doesn’t feel like cooking. I liked this book a lot (although I’m not sure it would be at all helpful if you don’t cook at all and are looking for a place to start). It seem perfectly focused for me – the home cook who follows a lot of recipes, but could use some help figuring out how to cook efficiently, not waste food and who needs things to be not too time consuming. A great book to reinvigoration of your relationship with cooking.

Fresh Off the Boat: A Memoir by Eddie Huang (2013).

Huang writes about growing up in the South as the child of Chinese immigrants (not that easy, as you may imagine). He was a kind of wild kid, and the book definitely has a Bildungsroman quality, which I loved. I really appreciated how direct Huang was in his discussion of race, especially about racism again Asian Americans, which I feel like you virtually never hear discussed. Our life experiences are very different – I’m sure I missed a lot of the Hip Hop references and I only know who a few of the basketball players that Huang discussed are, but his desire to learn and to figure things out definitely resonated with me. Fresh Off the Boat has been adapted into a series on ABC, but I’ve never watched it, so I can’t say how it compares!

Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise by Ruth Reichl (2005).

I love all of Reichl’s memoirs, but this is a great one to start with. It combines great descriptions of food, with the challenge of finding and championing great new restaurants without being recognized during her period as food critic for the New York Times. Start here – but keep reading, Comfort Me With Apples and Tender at the Bone are also great.

Hungry Monkey: A Food-Loving Father’s Quest to Raise an Adventurous Eater by Matthew Amster-Burton (2009).

I recommend this book to all parents of solids-eating kids, because if Amster-Burton who is an excellent cook with a flexible work schedule as a freelance food writer has a kid who goes through a “will only eat 6 things” phase, then we can probably let ourselves all off the hook. A fun look at introducing your kid to one of life’s great joys: FOOD.

The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken: A Search for Food and Family by Laura Schenone (2007).

A perfect mix of food and family history, Schenone traces her family’s recipes back to coast of Liguria in Italy. This remains one of my favorite food memoirs EVER – just such a lovely mix of research and family and delicious sounding food and travel adventures.

Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking: A Memoir of Food and Longing by Anya Von Bremzen (2013).

Such an excellent memoir and look at Soviet history through the lens of food. Von Bremzen and her mother emigrated from Moscow to Philadelphia when she was 9, and she is now a cookbook-writer by profession. She goes through the Soviet Union by the decade – describing the food common to the era. This is much better than your average food memoir. Well worth picking up.

My Berlin Kitchen: A Love Story (with Recipes) by Luisa Weiss (2013).

A love story to both traditional romance (Weiss’ with her husband) and to Germany – the food and the people from Weiss’ childhood who she reintegrates when she moves back to Berlin after many years in the United States. As someone who was an exchange student in Germany, this totally fed my love and nostalgia for that time in my life.

A Tiger in the Kitchen: A Memoir of Food and Family by Cheryl Lu-lien Tan (2011).

This is the book *I* read for Read Harder’s Task 22. Tan is from Singapore, which has a particularly strong food culture, so it was interesting and mouthwatering to read about all the dishes she learned to cook from her various family members.

Trail of Crumbs: Hunger, Love, and the Search for Home by Kim Sunee (2008).

This was a interesting memoir that touched on adoption, food, relationships, and expatriate life, among other topics. Kim Sunee was adopted from South Korea by an American couple and raised in New Orleans. This book focuses on her post-college life in France, however, and her search for a place where she “belongs”.

Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelson (2012).

Samuelsson was born in Ethiopia, adopted by a Swedish family, and became a chef as a young man, eventually landing in New York City, so you can imagine that he has a pretty interesting life story to tell – and he tells it well. A great look at the process of interning and growing through the restaurant business and at family and belonging in a transracial adoptive family.

Read Harder 2016: Food Memoirs

Read This! The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes

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First published in 1939, The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes was a staple of my childhood and I’m working to make it a staple of Frances’. Sometimes when you reread books from your childhood, it’s this horrifying experience in which you realize how racist/sexist/awful the book actually is, but I’m here to tell you that The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes is the opposite. It is more right on than you remember! A little country girl bunny dreams of growing up to be one of the five Easter bunnies, but the big white bunnies who live in fine houses and the long-legged Jack Rabbits all laugh at her. Sure enough, she grows up, gets married, has 21 babies (surprise!) and thinks her Easter bunny dreams will never cover true. But when one of the Easter bunnies retires, she takes her children to watch the younger, larger male bunnies compete. Pretty soon, the Country Bunny has proven to Grandfather Rabbit that she is wise, kind, fast and clever – just what he needs in an Easter Bunny. Not only is this a girl-power kind of tale, but it’s one of the only picture books I can think of that not only features, but totally celebrates a working mother.

Read This! The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes

Books for Queer Families: The Purim Superhero

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It’s Purim and Nate is trying to figure out what costume he wants to wear. He loves aliens, but all the other boys at his Hebrew school are dressing up as superheroes and he wants to fit in! With the help of his Daddy and his Abba, Nate finds a creative solution to his costume dilemma.

Pros: Loved the totally normalized presence about two dads. This is very much a book about a kid trying to figure out how to be true to himself and not in any way about the “problem” of having two dads. Totally fits my goal of finding books where kids happen to have two dads or two moms, but the books isn’t ABOUT that. And the illustrations are cute.

Cons: If you are hoping to learn more about Purim, this isn’t the book for you. Judging by reviews on Amazon, lots of folks bought this book hoping to get a Purim story, and here Purim is really more a plot device than the point.

This isn’t really a con, but I do find it interesting that this book (and the other two dads book I’ve reviewed) is written by a woman. I would love to see more #ownvoices in books about two mom and two dad families.

The Bottom Line: Cute! Normalizing! Nice to have a picture book about a Jewish family with same-sex parents. Would recommend for purchase or library check out.

Books for Queer Families: The Purim Superhero

Read This! Ah Ha!

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One of our favorite, almost wordless books (the only words that appear in the book are: Ah Ha! Aahh! and Ha Ha!). Jeff Mack both writes and illustrates this fun tale of a frog who only wants to relax and its narrow escape from a kid, turtle, alligator, and flamingo. Kids will be amused by how the frog outsmarts them all in the end! The kid in the book is drawn in a gender neutral way and could be read as a boy or a girl depending on what sort of protagonist you are looking for in your house. Warning: this books lends itself to loud, excited reading!

Read This! Ah Ha!

Read This! Jingle Dancer

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In this lovely story by Cynthia Leitich Smith, Jenna, a Muscogee (Creek)/Ojibway (Chippewa/Anishinabe) girl in Oklahoma wants to dance at the upcoming powwow like her grandmother. To do so, she needs a jingle dress – but there isn’t enough time to order the tins to make the jingles. Luckily through the power of community, Jenna is able gather enough jingles for her dress. The warm watercolor illustrations of Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu are gorgeous and bring beautiful life to the wonderful relationship Jenna has with the important adult women in her life.

Read This! Jingle Dancer