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.
So You Want to Be President? takes a humorous look at the lives, personalities, and commonalities among the first 42 presidents. A basic, non-fiction overview of the presidency, geared toward mid-to-late elementary schools.
The book was written by Judith St. George, who wrote over 40 books – both fiction and biographies for children focused on American History. She published her first book in 1970, and the last in 2009 – a forty year writing career! Judith St. George passed away in 2015 at the age of 84.
The illustrations in So You Want to Be President? are humorous, full of fun details. David Small is one of my favorite illustrators, and he has been nominated for the Caldecott Medal two other times – once for The Gardener (written by his wife, Sarah Small) in 1998 and then again in 2013 for One Cool Friend (written by Toni Buzzeo). He has illustrated over 30 books, 8 of which he also wrote. He has illustrated six books written by his wife, and I must admit those are my favorite.
So You Want to Be President? suffers from one common problem of historical surveys – it was almost immediately out of date. The line that “No person of color has ever been President” seems especially egregious. I wouldn’t choose it to read to a class or kids today for that reason – I’d rather have something up-to-date, or focused on just one historical President. But the illustrations don’t disappoint!
One of my Life List goals is to read all of the Caldecott winners. This is my eighth post about a Caldecott book. You can read the other Caldecott posts here.
Born on an island for imaginary friends, Beekle gets tired of waiting for child to claim him and sets off to the “real world” to find a child of his own. It takes a while, but he does meet his friend and then they go on to have adventures of imagination together. A simple, sweet tale.
The illustrations in The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend are colorful, whimsical, and friendly. There is a clear contrast between the imaginary creatures (bright! vibrant! full of color!) and the “real world” (grey and stark). It’s a joy to watch the color spread once Beekle meets his friend. All of Santat’s illustrations are just a joy for the eyes, I have to say.
Dan Santat has been illustrating picture books for other authors for about a decade now – including one of our favorites, Fire! Fuego! Brave Bomberos, and has both written and illustrated three books total (Beekle, The Guild of Geniuses, and a graphic novel, Sidekicks, which is where I first discovered Santat a few years ago!). Santat also does commercial illustration, and created the Disney Channel series, The Replacements.
Simple enough to appeal to younger toddlers, with enough visual interest to engage preschoolers, The Adventures of Beekle is a winner!
One of my Life List goals is to read all of the Caldecott winners. This is my seventh post about a Caldecott book. You can read the other Caldecott posts here.
Written and illustrated by Simms Taback, Joseph Had a Little Overcoat tells the tale of Joseph and his overcoat, which, as it wears out is turned into a progression of smaller and smaller items – the overcoat becomes a jacket which becomes a vest which becomes a scarf and on and on. It is, as my mother described it, “the ultimate tale of reuse”, which is a pretty great message to share. The book is based on a Yiddish song from Taback’s youth.
The illustrations in the book are full of saturated color. There is lots of detail (you could even call the pages busy) and some pages include collage elements. The main visual conceit of the book is the ever shrinking overcoat. Each time a transformation is made, it is done through a cut out – so that the new object is quite literally using the illustration of the old object for it’s substance. (You can see the outline cut-outs if you look closely at the scans at the end of the post). His illustration style is engaging and humorous. Perfect for kids!
Simms Taback started out at as a commercial illustrator and, in another claim to fame, he illustrated the first Happy Meal box (one of which resides in the Smithsonian). He wrote and/or illustrated over 40 children’s books. In addition to winning the medal in 2000, his version of There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly was a Caldecott Honor book in 1998.
Frances LOVED this book. Really appealing, colorful illustrations – and cut outs, which are a current favorite. What’s not to like?
One of my Life List goals is to read all of the Caldecott winners. This is my sixth post about a Caldecott book. You can read the other Caldecott posts here.
Hey, Al, written by Arthur Yorinks and illustrated by Richard Egielski, is the somewhat odd tale of a janitor (Al) and his dog (Eddie) who are taken by a large tropical bird to a lush island in the sky. At first this seems like a wonderful escape from their hum-drum life, but over time Al and Eddie begin to turn into birds and decide that they must escape.
Egielski’s illustrations are realistic and detailed. The drab browns of Al’s everyday life give way to the bright, tropical colors of the island. The visuals really make the story.
Richard Egielski has illustrated over 50 books, 8 of which he also wrote. He collaborated with Arthur Yorinks on 9 different children’s books, starting in 1976, but Hey, Al is his only Caldecott Medal (or Honor) book.
This book is probably most appropriate for elementary-aged readers, although the illustrations might be enough to capture slightly younger kids. Overall I find the tone of the book to be just plain weird, rather than charmingly quirky. Not my favorite of the Caldecotts I’ve read so far.
One of my Life List goals is to read all of the Caldecott winners. This is my fifth post about a Caldecott book. You can read the other Caldecott posts here.
A Tree is Nice was written by Janice May Udry and illustrated by Marc Simont. This is a pretty simple book – if you’ve read the title, you know what this book is about: trees and all their good qualities (Who can argue with that?). The book definitely grew on me though. It has a quiet charm. It was Udry’s first children’s book, quite the impressive debut!
The illustrations alternate between full-color and black and white. There are great details, but the drawings aren’t crowded. Simply lovely. The book is narrow and tall, which helps it stand out. There is a good mix of boys AND girls in and around those very nice trees.
Marc Simont’s illustration career spanned 6 decades. In addition to winning the medal in 1957, he had Caldecott Honor books in 1950 (The Happy Day by Ruth Krauss) and 2002 (The Stray Dog, which Simont both wrote and illustrated)! He illustrated over 100 children’s books, collaborating with many well-known authors. Simont just died in 2013. He had an interesting and illustrious life (he and the illustrator Robert McCloskey were once roommates!) His obituary in the New York Times is well worth a read.
This book is probably most appealing to early elementary school readers, but Frances enjoyed it too. It would be a perfect read-aloud for Arbor Day.
One of my Life List goals is to read all of the Caldecott winners. This is my fourth post about a Caldecott book. You can read the other Caldecott posts here.
A Sick Day for Amos McGee is the product of another husband and wife team. Philip C. Stead wrote the sweet tale of Amos McGee, an employee of the City Zoo who always has time for his friends (running races with the tortoise, reading bedtime stories to the owl, who is afraid of the dark.) One day Amos is too sick to make it to work – so his friends come to him!
Erin E. Stead is responsible for the charming illustrations, which were made by drawing on top of woodblock prints (You can read about her process here). The colors are muted (with some pops of red) and the images are delightful. The page showing Amos’ animal friends waiting of the bus is a particular favorite of mine.
Impressively, this is the first book Stead ever illustrated. Talk about starting on a high note! She has since illustrated 3 other books, each of which I love. Definitely worth checking out all of her work.
This is the first of the Caldecott books that Frances whole-heartedly embraced. It was a regular part of our bedtime story rotation while we had it out of the library.
One of my Life List goals is to read all of the Caldecott winners. This is my third post about a Caldecott book. You can read the other Caldecott posts here.