Stories the Wind Blows Our Way
Pre-K Story Hour – Wednesday, March 14 at 10am
Children’s Book News
By Nancy Guist, Children’s Collection Coordinator
September 6th and 8th mark two observances that libraries are an integral part of. “Read a Book Day” lands on September 6, followed by “International Literacy Day” on September 8. The foundation for literacy begins with the spoken word – the language a child hears at home followed by his own gradual mastery of that language. Intertwined with this is a child’s exposure to storytelling and books shared by parents, caregivers, sisters, brothers, friends, teachers. A library is one way to bring those books into the home whether it be in Nairobi or Placitas. As I reflected on books that were part of my early exposure to literature as well as those of my children, I wondered as to the 100 Best Picture Books. The New York Library has a list, “100 Picture Books Everyone Should Know.” The School Library Journal has their own 100 picture book list with many commonalities but some differences as well. Today the quality and quantity of new picture books published each year is so amazing that sometimes we forget about some of the old standbys which are truly classics in their own right. They still provide the magic that comes with a tightly created and sensitive story along with artwork that brings the story to life. So I thought I’d revisit a few of these, hoping that some of these older books may jump off the shelf into a child’s hands along with all those irresistible new picture books. Look for the books below as well as other “classic” picture books displayed in the children’s area during September.
Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel
Story and Pictures by Virginia Lee Burton, copyright 1939
Suggested ages: 4 – 7 years
This classic definitely fits its historical time with a steam shovel, milkman, horse-drawn fire engine – a perfect history lesson as to technological changes in our way of life. But the gist of the story is timeless, centering around pride in one’s work along with a happy determination to accomplish one’s goals. Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel, Mary Anne, are irresistible role models! The illustrations are filled with details that reflect movement and energy. Even the arrangement of the printed narrative often mirrors the shape of Mary Anne’s shovel. And the flyleaf boosts a marvelous diagram of a steam shovel and its moving parts. Any young engineer won’t be able to resist this tale.
Blueberries For Sal
Written and illustrated by Robert McCloskey,
Copyright 1948, Caldecott Honor Book
Suggested ages: 3 – 7 years
I will admit a partiality to this picture book as it brings forth my memories of picking blueberries as a child on a mountain in New Hampshire. How I remember that “kuplink” sound as I dropped the berries in a shiny tin pail and the satisfied feeling I would get when there was no “kuplink” which meant I had picked enough berries to cover the bottom! Success even with eating my own share! However, there are no bears in my childhood story! McCloskey’s tale, in all its innocence, is truly endearing. Focusing on similarities between Little Bear and Little Sal show the delightful connections young animals and children have. Though the illustrations are all in blueberry blue, the spunkiness and curiosity of the young ones, cub or child, comes through.
Written and illustrated by Leo Lionni,
Copyright 1963, Caldecott Honor Book
Suggested ages: 3 – 7 years
The artwork itself is reason enough to revisit this special picture book. Using a variety of cut paper, even doilies, Lionni stamped ethereal ocean scenes. Gliding among the seaweed and fish is Swimmy, a little black fish who explores the ocean on his own after his red fish companions are swallowed by a large tuna. When Swimmy at last finds another school of fish he can join, he doesn’t cower behind a rock but thinks of a clever plan to prevent his newfound friends from being a meal to a giant fish. And so children see that in working together amazing results can come about.
Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters, an African Tale
Written and illustrated by John Steptoe, Copyright 1987, Caldecott Honor Book
Suggested ages: 4 – 8 years
Familiar threads of the Cinderella tale are found in this story from Zimbabwe. In this case, it is Mufaro of a small African village who has two beautiful daughters, one bad- tempered and self-centered, the other gentle and kind. When the Great King seeks a wife, both daughters react in divergent fashion to seek his favor. As in Cinderella, goodness and generosity are rewarded. Steptoe’s artwork is striking. Character emotions are skillfully reflected and the jungle backdrop of lush greenery and colorful flowers add to stunning illustrations.
Abuela is a book filled with joy! Rosalba accompanies her abuela, grandma, to a New York City park. They share its beauty, especially being entranced by the birds. Then Rosalba’s imagination takes off as she pictures herself flying over the wonders of the city. Abuela leaps up to join her, and together they look down on the city’s fascinating world – apartment buildings, factories, parks, trains, the harbor. They soar above the Statue of Liberty which once greeted Abuela when she first came to this country. When their imaginative journey ends, Rosalba realizes that one of the things she loves about her abuela is her love for adventure, as they step into a paddleboat for a ride across the park’s lake – their next adventure! Rosalba’s childlike narrative is accompanied by colorful, intricate illustrations that reflect the fascinating city that is New York with all its diversity and wonder. With each revisiting, child and adult alike are bound to discover new sights in this happy book.