Six Children’s Books To Celebrate International Women’s Day 2019
Friday March 8th marks International Women’s Day 2019. In celebration we’ve compiled together a list of six children’s books that honor and empower strong women.
Grace for President
Written by Kelly DiPucchio, Illustrated by LeUyen Pham
Grade Level: 1, 2, 3
Genre: Fiction, Hybrid
New York Times Bestseller
An introduction to the American electoral system, Grace for President tells the story of fourth grader Grace Campbell. Upon learning that America has never had a female president she decides to become the first, launching her political career by running in her school’s mock election.
She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World
Written by Chelsea Clinton, Illustrated by Alexandra Boiger
Grade Level: PreK, K, 1, 2, 3
Genre: Nonfiction, Biography
New York Times Bestseller
In She Persisted, Chelsea Clinton outlines 13 American women who have helped shape the country through hard work and persistence. Featured figures include Harriet Tubman, Helen Keller, and Oprah Winfrey. The success of She Persisted as a New York Times Bestseller spurred the creation of a second book: She Persisted Around the World. This companion book details the stories of 13 additional history-changing women from around the globe.
Malala’s Magic Pencil
Written by Malala Yousafzai, Illustrated by Kerascoet
Grade Level: PreK, K, 1, 2, 3
Genre: Nonfiction, Biography/Autobiography
As a child in Pakistan, Malala would often wish for a magic pencil, one that would help her create happiness, clean her city, and sleep an extra hour in the morning. But as Malala grew up, she saw the ways a magic pencil could truly be used to make the world a better place.
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai details her story for a younger audience in her first picture book, Malala’s Magic Pencil. She hopes to inspire children to think globally, and through hard work and determination, change their world.
Girls Who Code, Learn to Code and Change the World
Written by Reshma Saujani
Grade Level: 5, 6
Genre: Nonfiction, Science/Technology
New York Times Bestseller
Written by the founder of the Girls Who Code organization, Reshma Saujani aims to inspire a new generation of female coders. This novel incorporates eye-catching artwork, understandable explanations of basic coding principles, and the inspiring real life stories of women working for corporations like NASA and Pixar. Girls Who Code aims to show women how coding can help them reach their dreams, whatever they may be.
I Dissent, Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark
Written by Debbie Levy, Illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley
Grade Level: PreK, K, 1, 2, 3
Genre: Nonfiction, Biography
In I Dissent author Debbie Levy demonstrates the power of saying no and standing up for what you believe in. This biographical picture book details the life of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Ginsburg constantly says no, disagreeing when it matters the most. I Dissent outlines the stories of Ginsburg’s most famous dissents, and demonstrates to young readers “disagreeing doesn’t make you disagreeable”!
Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls
Written by Elena Favilli, Francesca Cavallo
Illustrated by 60 female artists from around the world
Grade Level: K, 1, 2, 3
Genre: Nonfiction, Biography
Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls tells the stories of 100 historical female figures, both past and present, in an accessible fairytale style. Each figure is given a one-page biography accompanied with an original work of art. The book aims to inspire children across a range of fields including science, politics, history, sports, technology, and the arts. Featured women include Elizabeth I, Serena Williams and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls broke records by becoming the most crowd funded children’s book in history, raising over half a million dollars from over 13 thousand backers on Kickstarter. The book’s success has inspired two volumes, a journal and a 12 episode podcast, all of which can be found on the official book website: https://www.rebelgirls.co/
Using “Seacoast: The Seasons of New Hampshire” Photographs by Bob McGrath - with children!
November is Family Literacy Month here at the Children's Museum of New Hampshire and we were very fortunate to get a large donation of a stunning photography book this fall, given to us by local artist (and the book’s author!) Bob McGrath. His beautiful book “Seacoast: The Seasons of New Hampshire” is a fabulous tool to use for facilitating conversations while reading with children.
Here are some ideas of how to use this lovely book with your little one:
1. This book focuses on the seasons of the year. As you flip through each season--chat about them!
- Which season is your favorite? Why?
- What is your favorite thing to do outside in (Autumn/Winter/Spring/Summer)?
- Which one of these places would you like to visit? Why?
- What items in these photographs are familiar to you? Are there any items that are new and unknown to you? Let’s chat about them!
2. Find picture books at your local library that match each of the seasons shown in this book.
- Look for scenes that are similar in the picture book and the photo book.
- Compare and contrast these images.
3. Get artsy!
- Pick a favorite photo in the book and paint/draw/color your own masterpiece inspired by the scenery or item in the photo. When you have finished, chat about how the images are alike or different.
4. Plan a road trip!
- Find a spot in the book that is close to where you live--or a little further away!
- Go on a road trip and find the scene in the photo shown. Take your own photos of the special spot!
More than anything else, simply looking through the book (or any other book!), chatting and spending time together reading as a family is the most beneficial thing you can do during Family Literacy Month and throughout the year.
Have a wonderful Family Literacy Month this November and enjoy this gorgeous photo book by Bob McGrath. We are so thankful for his generous donation and know it will become a beloved keepsake full of happy memories for museum families.
Thursday, March 2, 2017
How do you do?
Did you know that today,
is special for you?
It’s Dr. Seuss’s birthday!
So give him a cheer,
Because the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire
is inviting you to the party this year!
There’ll be crafts and activities
in the MUSE Studio
We’ll read your favorite books
like Oh, the Places You’ll Go!
A scavenger hunt
will put your wit to the test.
So put on your striped hat
for this amazing quest!
All these fun things
are included with the regular admission fee.
What a fun day of laughs
just come for yourself and see!
by Kelly Sorge,
CMNH Intern and Enthusiastic Student of Dr. Seuss
The Caldecott Medal in the 1970's
Welcome to Four & Twenty Blackbirds, CMNH's blog series on the history of the Caldecott Medal and the children's book illustrations that have been fortunate enough to be honored and awarded by the Caldecott committee.
We're now entering one of the most enigmatic decades of the 20th Century. The tumultuous events of the previous decade spiral into the beginning of the 1970's and form cultural rivulets leading to political and economic upheaval, a renaissance in American film and the ascendancy of disco, punk and progressive rock music. The bright eye-popping color palette of the previous decade falls away to the earthier tones of what became known as the "Me Decade." The 70's earned the "Me Decade" nickname due to the overwhelming impression that the younger generation, unlike the one before them, was more interested in their own lives than the world at large.
A quick glance at the Caldecott Honorees and Medal Winners from the decade couldn't paint a more different picture. Of the ten books whose illustrators won the Caldecott Medal for elevating the work to the status of, "most distinguished American picture book for children," seven of them directly dealt with other cultures, religions and ways of life far removed from the average American child that was the likely target audience for these stories when they were published. African folktales - with an extra emphasis on the Ashanti and Swahili cultures - popped up repeatedly among the honorees and winners throughout the decade, as did Jewish legends, Pueblo mythology, the Quaker movement, Japanese fairy tales and Native American life.
Let us now look at some books from the grand, misunderstood decade that was the 1970's. A book about amphibian friendship. A book about a donkey. And a book about a witch.
Who: Arnold Lobel (born in Los Angeles, CA, 1933)
Book: Frog and Toad are Friends / Harper & Row / 1970
Plot: This beloved children's book was Lobel's tenth published work and the first of the "Frog & Toad" books - the series that made Arnold Lobel a household name. Broken up into five short stories - "Spring", "The Story", "A Lost Button", "The Swim," and "The Letter" - take a look at the simple every day lives of the more adventurous Frog and his reserved, but stalwart, friend, Toad. Many children and parents used Frog and Toad are Friends as a jumping off point to talk further about subjects as diverse as forgetfulness ("The Lost Button"), sadness and happiness ("The Letter"), body image/changes and shyness ("The Swim"), restlessness ("Spring") and, expectedly, friendship ("The Story").
Misc: Frog and Toad are Friends was named as a runner-up for the Caldecott Medal when the honored list of books was announced in 1971. But Lobel had good company as Maurice Sendak's In the Night Kitchen and Blair Lent's The Angry Moon were his fellow runners-up. Gail E. Haley's A Story a Story was named the Caldecott Medal winner for the 1970 class of nominees. Lobel would again be named as a Caldecott runner-up the following year for 1971's Hildilid's Night and would finally win the prestigious award ten years after his first nomination for 1980's Fables. Lobel went on to write and illustrate three more Frog & Toad books: Frog and Toad Together, Frog and Toad All Year and Days with Frog and Toad. Years after Lobel's untimely death (he passed in 1987), his daughter Adrianne colored three uncolored manuscripts of his that were found in an estate sale and were released in 2009 as The Frogs and Toads All Sang and Odd Owls and Stout Pigs: A Book of Nonsense.
Many children who became acquainted with Frog and Toad in the 1970's and 80's may recall a series made by Churchill Films that adapted the first Frog and Toad books into 20 minute claymation shorts. The series was narrated by Lobel. A Year with Frog and Toad, a musical, premiered on Broadway in 2003. Commissioned by Adrianne - who also designed the set - the stage production was adapted by her husband, actor Mark Linn-Baker, who also went on to play Toad in the original cast. In 2012, the School Library Journal listed it at #15 on their list of the, "Top 100 Picture Books".
Availability: Frog and Toad are Friends, as well as the entire Frog and Toad series, is available in paperback, hardcover and digital formats as well as larger collected editions of the complete series.
Who: William Steig (born in Brooklyn, NY, 1907)
Book: Sylvester and the Magic Pebble / Windmilll Books / 1969
Plot: Sylvester is a donkey. Sylvester lives in the town of Oatsdale. One of Sylvester's favorite hobbies is collecting rocks, stones and pebbles. The more unusual and strange the rock, the more Sylvester wants it for his collection. One day, Sylvester comes across the strangest piece of sediment he's ever seen: a magic pebble! This pebble grants wishes and Sylvester can't wait to try it out. Unfortunately, a frightening lion crosses Sylvester's path before he can get to his wishes and in his scared state, Sylvester quickly wishes he was a rock in order to hide from the lion. *POOF* Sylvester's wish is granted. But in becoming a rock, Sylvester loses contact with the pebble. Without physically touching the pebble, he can't wish himself back to his donkey form. Will Sylvester be trapped as a rock forever? Will Sylvester's mom and dad ever find their son? And what will happen to the magic pebble?
Misc: You already know Steig even if you've never read Sylvester, which, in addition to winning the Caldecott Medal in 1970 was also a finalist for the National Book Award. And maybe you've never read The Amazing Bone, his Caldecott Honor book from 1976 or Doctor De Soto, a 1983 National Book Award winner (an award shared with multiple Caldecott winner Barbara Cooney for Miss Rumphius). His biggest contribution to the pop culture landscape, and what made him a household name eleven years after it was written, was a small book from 1990 titled Shrek!. Perhaps you've heard of it? And the four film franchise it spawned? Going on to win the inaugural Academy Award for Best Animated Feature? But while Shrek!, both the book and the films, have been generally well loved by the populace, Sylvester and the Magic Pebble ran across some controversy not long after it was published. Despite eventually being named as one of the "100 Best Books of the Century" by the National Education Association, upon its release Sylvester saw many school districts and organizations challenge the book due to the fact that police officers in the town of Oatsdale were portrayed as pigs. The popular defense of the book pointed out that several different professions in Oatsdale were represented by pig employees, but that still caused Sylvester to be seen as subversive for its time. Younger children (pre-K) may have some issues with the possibility that Sylvester and his parents may never reunite and the twist of magic gone wrong (the staple of oh-so-many fables) might cause anxiety in those that aren't used to this fairy tale trope. Regardless, a William Steig picture book is a necessity in any family library. Luckily, he wrote nearly three dozen books just for children - the majority of which are still in print.Availability: Sylvester and the Magic Pebble is available in hardcover, paperback and on CD (as well as audio cassette, if you rock the old school style).
Who: Tomie dePaola (born in Meriden, CT, 1934)
Book: Stegra Nona / Simon & Schuster / 1975
Plot: Strega Nona takes place in Calabria, in the southern region of Italy. Stega Nona (translated from Italian as "Witch Grandmother") is well known and well liked in her small village. Her special remedies are used by the villagers for everything from love connections to wart removal. Realizing she's not getting any younger, Strega Nona hires an assistant named Big Anthony to help her with household tasks. However, due to Big Anthony's inability to "pay attention" he incorrectly performs a spell while she is out of town. His attempt to provide pasta to the villagers works a little too well and soon the entire town is overrun with a plethora of pasta with no signs of stopping. Will Strega Nona return to the village in time to save everyone? Will the the magic pasta pot ever stop producing pasta? Will Anthony be punished? Will he learn his lesson? Respect, listening, consequences and kindness are all lessons learned through dePaola's recognizable and humorous illustrations and dialogue.
Misc: Only two books published in 1974 were honored in 1975. The winner, Arrow to the Sun by Gerald McDermott and the sole runner up Jambo Means Hello: A Swahili Alphabet Book by Tom Feelings. The 1976 list, which honored the crop of books published in '75 only increased the list to three. Strega Nona was named the runner-up along with Peter Parnall's The Desert is Theirs. The winners were husband and wife team Leo & Diane Dillon for Why Mosquitos Buzz in People's Ears, a book that translated several African legends. The Dillons would also be awarded the Caldecott in 1977 for their more in-depth look at those legends in Ashanti to Zulu: African Traditions. dePaola, who taught art at several institutes of higher learning including New England College and Colby-Sawyer College in New Hampshire before devoting himself full-time to children's books, has published over 120 works - 11 of which are Strega Nona stories (including Strega Nona Meets Her Match, Strega Nona Takes a Vacation and Strega Nona's Magic Lessons.) Though "Strega Nona" and the characters are wholly original characters created by dePaola, the general plot is an update of the Germanic fairytale, The Magic Porridge Pot. dePaola, who still resides in New London, NH, was honored by being named the U.S. nominee for the international Hans Christian Andersen award and was named the recipient of the Laura Ingalls Wilder award in 2011.
Availability: Strega Nona is available in hardcover, paperback, board book, digital and audio formats.
Greetings, my dear ladies, lords, and all my precious citizens of Wonderland!
It is I, your Queen of Hearts, and I thought it high time to address you again! It has been an awfully long time since we last had a chat, hasn’t it? Why, I don’t believe I’ve spoken to many of you since our little party last February! Ah, what can I say? A queen’s work is never done! If I’m not policing those good-for-nothing cards in their rose painting, then I’m having my croquet game interrupted by some other impertinence! But I do remember our time together fondly. There were so many types of tea, lovely cookies, enchanting flowers, a plethora of hearts, of course, and I welcomed so many new lords and ladies into the Royal Court of Wonderland! Such allegiances truly do our fair land credit.
In fact, I rather feel like doing it again! Don’t you? Now, I’d never say that you must come – I’d never say that it was absolutely mandatory for all citizens of Wonderland that they come and enjoy tea and cookies and crafting with their ever-so-magnanimous Queen – I mean, really! Does that sound like something I’d say? But all the same, I do hope you’ll attend. Oh, and if any of you happen to see a rather mysterious blonde girl of apparently varying size, do tell me of her whereabouts. I can’t have just anyone traipsing through Wonderland! We shall see if she dares to show up!
Please do say you’ll come to my tea party! I’d be ever so thrilled to see you!
Your dear and faithful Queen
The Caldecott Medal in the 1960's
Welcome to Four & Twenty Blackbirds, CMNH's blog series on the history of the Caldecott Medal and the children's book illustrations that have been fortunate enough to be honored and awarded by the Caldecott committee.
Let's look at a decade full of tumult, triumph and exploration. A decade just as easily defined with "Free Love" as "Endless War." Ferocious. Regimented. Freewheeling. These are not adjectives that one typically uses in concert to describe the same thing. They serve to describe the 1960's - politically, musically, sartorially - and the children's books published at the time were no different.
Who: Maurice Sendak (born in Brooklyn, NY, 1928)
Book: Where the Wild Things Are / Harper & Row / 1963
Plot: Max dresses up as a wolf. Max misbehaves. Max is sent to his room without supper. Max sees his bedroom transform into a jungle environment and grant him access to the land of the Wild Things. Max so impresses these wild beasts that he becomes their King. Will Max stay with the Wild Things and rule over them and their rambunctious ways? Will he ever return home?
Misc: Perhaps you're familiar with this book? It's quite likely, as it's sold over 20 million copies in the 52 years since it was first published. For those that haven't read the story for many years, it's easy to forget just how little text Sendak uses to tell the story of Max and his new WIld Thing co-horts. The amount of words used to describe the plot above is more than 20% of the words Sendak used for his entire story. The lighter reading requirements took a book that many critics found too scary and full of violent imagery that much more attractive to younger readers. According to Sendak, many libraries banned the book until, finally, by 1965, they realized that children continually asked for the book and its absence made them want to read this forbidden curiosity even more. The Caldecott committee awarding Wild Things the medal in 1964 likely helped to quicken the critical turnaround by librarians and critics alike.
Sendak felt that the book (in addition to 1970's In the Night Kitchen and 1981's Outside Over There) show, "how children master various feelings – danger, boredom, fear, frustration, jealousy – and manage to come to grips with the realities of their lives."
Short animated films were produced in 1973 and 1988. A children's opera was commissioned and first performed in London in 1984, followed by it's U.S. premiere in St. Paul, Minnesota the following year. Despite these pre-existing adaptations, the book was long considered to be "unfilmable". That didn't stop Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich, Her) from directing and Dave Eggers (A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius) from writing the screenplay for the 2009 big screen adaptation - all with Sendak's blessing; something that so many other potential Wild Things potential big-screen suitors could never seem to obtain.
Sendak was often asked about the potential for a sequel to his most famous work and he was consistently against it. Sendak remarked to Stephen Colbert that the thought a sequel to the tale of Max and his Wild Things would be, "the most boring idea imaginable!"
From 1954's A Very Special House through 1982's Outside Over There, Sendak was recognized by the Caldecott committee a staggering eight times - honored seven times and receiving the medal once, for Wild Things. Despite this enormous achievement, Sendak does not hold the record for most recognized by the Caldecotts. That honor belongs to Marcia Brown, honored six times and medaled thrice.Availability: The book - not to mention plush figures, t-shirts with Sendak quotes, the film soundtrack, posters, etc. - continue to be available both online and through your local bookseller/toy store.
Who: Ed Emberley (born in Malden, MA, 1931)
Book: Drummer Hoff / Prentice Hall / 1967
Writer: Barbara Emberley
Plot: Seven soldiers help assemble a cannon and, once assembled, fire it. (That's it. It's as simple as that. Or . . . is it?)
Misc: On the surface, the book written and drawn by the Emberleys is a simple semi-nursery rhyme. Ed Emberley has explained that Drummer was an adaptation of the early 19th Century rhyme "John Ball Shot Them All". The names of the soldiers have changed, but the conceit of rhyming their last names to their responsibility remains, e.g. "General Border gives the order, Sergeant Chowder brings the powder . . ." The illustrations, which are unmistakably Emberley, have been praised for somehow conveying the feel of American Colonial art and the more psychedelic tendencies of the late sixties. It's certainly two styles of art that don't seem to naturally intersect, and yet Emberley makes it seem like the most natural of marriages.
While many critics were quick to label Drummer Hoff as an anti-war poem/book, the Emberleys were always careful to never spell out an explicit message for the book. Ed Emberley, who had received a Caldecott honor for his previous collaboration with wife Barbara for the art on 1966's One Wide River to Cross, spelled out exactly what he thought the take away from Drummer Hoff would - or should - be, in his 1968 Caldecott Medal acceptance speech:
The book’s main theme is a simple one — a group of happy warriors build a cannon that goes “KAHBAHBLOOM.” But, there is more to find if you “read” the pictures. They show that men can fall in love with war and, imitating the birds, go to meet it dressed as if to meet their sweethearts. The pictures also show that men can return from war sometimes with medals, and sometimes with wooden legs . . . The book’s primary purpose is, as it should be, to entertain.
It's difficult to ignore, however, the final page of the book. After the eager soldiers happily build the royal cannon (affectionately named "SULTAN"), and after the aforementioned, and explosively illustrated, "KAHBAHBLOOM", comes that last page. Time has passed. The cannon is in ruins. But the scene is not one of desolation. In place of the medals and finery of the soldiers is grass, overgrown and winding over and around the cannon with wild, wayward orange and yellow flowers shooting up between the blades of grass. Life goes on and thrives in this future scene. A grasshopper and butterfly play on and near the weapon formerly known as SULTAN. A spider has spun his web atop the old armament and a mother and father bird have built their nest in the mouth of the cannon where the are shown feeding their baby birds. Emberley can profess all he wants that Drummer Hoff is meant simply, "to entertain", but the inclusion of the final image makes the story and its art a timeless book that can launch thoughtful discussions among readers of every age.Availability: Drummer Hoff can still easily be found in hardcover, paperback and as a board book at most local bookstores or online purveyors of books.
Who: Uri Shulevitz (born in Warsaw, Poland, 1935)
Book: The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship / Farrar, Straus and Giroux / 1968
Writer: Arthur Ransome
Plot: This adaptation of a Russian folktale sees a Czar announce that whoever in the Kingdom can bring him a flying ship will be given the hand of his daughter the Princess. A peasant family sends two of their three sons on a journey to complete a quest that will see them wed to the Princess. But they discount their third son, the titular "Fool" whose fantastical journey sees him deliver a flying ship to the Czar only to have the Czar continue to challenge his promise with more and more outlandish requests. Will the colorful cast of characters find that their outlandish abilities (the power to drink or eat unimaginable volumes, super vision, inhuman speed, etc.) are suddenly quite practical?
Misc: Why aren't more people familiar with the work of Uri Shulevitz? There's no easy answer for why a writer/illustrator of Shulevitz's immense talent isn't more of a household name. Shulevitz, currently living in New York City, celebrated his 80th year by releasing his 40th book, the transportation themed Troto and the Trucks. Shulevitz was first recognized by the Caldecott committee at the close of the 1960's with the Caldecott Medal for his work on Fool. He continued to change his style while capturing the eye of the committee with Caldecott honors for his work in the 1970's through the 1990's. On the fortieth anniversary of Shulevitz receiving his Caldecott Medal, he received a Caldecott Honor for his work on 2008's How I Learned Geography.
Cult film lovers will recognize pieces of Terry Gilliam's 1988 box office failure "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen" are almost directly adapted from some of Ransome/Shulevitz's adaptations.Availability: Hardcover and paperback versions of the book are still in print and are relatively easy to find.
The Caldecott Medal in the 1950's
We're taking a look back at the history of the Caldecott Medal. This series of blogs, titled "Four & Twenty Blackbirds", receives its name from one of the engravings on the actual prize Medal given out for the best children's book illustrations.
Join us now as we enter a decade where Live Comedy was King on (the suddenly ubiquitous) Television Set, Chevrolet was King of the Road and Elvis was just simply, "the King" . . .
Who: Atsushi Iwamatsu, under the pen name Taro Yashima (born in Nejima, Kimotsuki District, Kagashima, 1908)
Book: Umbrella / Viking Press / 1958
Plot: Momo is a Japanese girl, born in New York City, who desperately wants to bring her umbrella (and new red boots!) to school with her. Momo's mother says she cannot, as it has been a long, dry autumn and there is no need for an umbrella. Momo disagrees and insists the umbrella can still help to shield her from the bright sun and strong wind. Momo's mother still says she cannot bring her umbrella with her. But one day, the rains come. Will Momo be ready for them?
Misc: Umbrella was not Yashima's first recognition from the Caldecott committee and it would not be his last. In addition to the tale of Momo and her umbrella, Crow Boy (1955) was named as an Honor book as well as his later work Seashore Story (1967). There are various reasons why writers/illustrators use pen names, but Yashima had a very specific reason for not going by his birth name of Atsushi Iwamatsu. Yashima and his wife Tomoe had been harassed and briefly imprisoned during the 1930's for their opposition to the increasingly militaristic Japanese government. Yashima, who, after attending the Imperial Art Academy in Tokyo and achieving a degree of fame in Japan for his cartooning, fled the country with Tomoe in 1939 for the United States. Unfortunately, their son, Mako, had to be left behind. After Pearl Harbor, he joined the U.S. forces during WWII as an artist for the OSS and changed his name to Taro Yashima, fearful of what would happen to his family still in Japan if the Japanese government found out "Atsushi Iwamatsu" was fighting for the Allies instead of against them. Allowed to finally return to Japan and retrieve Mako in 1949, Yashima began to write and illustrate children's books after the war and decided to keep his adopted name for any published work he produced. Umbrella, despite taking place in New York City, was singled out for the strong influence of Yashima's Japanese culture in the illustrations as well as its strong use of color.Availability: Available online and from your local bookseller
Who: Marcia Brown (born in Rochester, NY, 1918)
Book: The Steadfast Tin Soldier / Atheneum Books / 1953
Writer: Hans Christian Andersen (adaptation)
Plot: A one-legged tin soldier falls in love with a beautiful paper ballerina. After being separated from her he faces many trials and tribulations in his quest to return to her, almost never in control of his journey but forced into new directions by the hands of other toys, animals and humans. Will he ever see his ballerina again? Will there be a happy ending?
Misc: Hans Christian Andersen is rightfully known as a magnificent writer of children's classics. Like his contemporaries, the Brothers Grimm, a multitude of his works have been adapted - often in the form of animation - since they were first published almost 200 years ago. Also like the Brothers Grimm, Andersen's tales were often far more bleak, dark and devoid of a happy ending than their Disney-fied versions. To say that a happy ending is not found by the conclusion of the Tin Soldier's story is putting it mildly. The capricious and fiery fate of the Tin Soldier and his true love makes the denouement of The Velveteen Rabbit look like The Three Little Pigs. There's no question that this story might be too emotionally difficult for early grade school children. There is no questioning, however, Brown's inclusion as a Caldecott Honor Book for her work depicting the tragic tale of the titular tin soldier. In fact, during the 1950's, Brown dominated the Caldecott awards in a way no illustrator had done before or since. From 1948's Stone Soup through 1983's Shadow, Marcia Brown, and her unmistakable line work, were recognized by the committee nine times. The Steadfast Tin Soldier was the sixth book of Brown's to receive the Caldecott honor, with her next three books that were recognized all walking away with the Caldecott Medal. Brown, a clear holder of several Caldecott records, also lays claim to the most Caldecott recognition in consecutive years, with one of her works selected for six straight years in a row from 1950 through 1955. Any conversation concerning the Caldecott Medal during the mid-20th Century - or in its entire history - is not complete without an understanding of Marcia Brown's incredible artwork. More than Seuss, more than Sendak, more than McCloskey - Marcia Brown is truly the King, ahem, Queen of the Caldecotts.Availability: Used library copies and online sources seem to be the easiest way to obtain this version of Tin Soldier, though it's always worth checking with your local bookseller.
The Caldecott Medal in the 1940's
In the first entry of our November Family Literacy Month series, we explored the origins of the Caldecott Medal (Why are there blackbirds on one side of the medal and a horse on the other? Who illustrated a medal for illustrators? Who sculpted said medal?) and shined the spotlight on two of the earliest illustrators, and their respective works, to be honored by the Caldecott Award committee. OUr hope is that readers will reacquaint themselves with illustrators and books that they once cherished while also finding new books to add to the rich fabric of their family's literary tapestry. Join us as we leave the dustbowl behind and jump into a decade where radio was still king, rubber was considered a luxury item, and Jeep, Frisbee and Tupperware all make their grand debut . . .
Who: Louis Slobodkin (born in Albany, NY, 1903)
Book: Many Moons / Harcourt, Brace & Company / 1943
Writer: James Thurber
Plot: A lonely Princess decides that she wants the moon. She must have the moon. Her father, the King, demands that his court acquire it for her. Understandably, there are difficulties with the young princess's demanding request. Can the lowly Court Jester succeed in helping the Princess where the Royal Wizards, the Lord High Chamberlin and the Court Mathematician could not?
Misc: In 1943, Slobodkin brought life to James Thurber's words in Many Moons, although that wasn't an area Thurber often needed help with. Thurber (The Secret Life of Walter Mitty) was a celebrated humorist, playwright, author, editor and cartoonist. Instead of using his own drawings for his tale of a forlorn Princess, Slobodkin's sparse, sketched out art was employed. Harcourt, Brace & Company clearly made the correct choice as it earned Thurber the Caldecott Medal the following year. After Many Moons, (also sold as The Princess that Wanted the Moon) Thurber went on to write numerous short stories as well as continue to contribute to The New Yorker alongside his friend and fellow writer E.B. White (who also knew a thing or two about children's books). Slobodkin went on to write and illustrate his own children's science fiction mini-franchise of books known as The Spaceship Under the Apple Tree series from 1952's eponymous first entry through 1972's final entry The Spaceship Returns to the Park.Availability: In a strange move, the publisher commissioned a new artist, Marc Simont, and re-released the book in the mid-90's. Re-illustrating a book, especially to gain more attention when it's reissued is commonplace in the publishing world (see the works of Roald Dahl and L. Frank Baum for two famous examples), but it's quite rare to replace the illustrations of a Caldecott-winner. Simont, however, was no slouch. A multiple Caldecott Honoree and Medal Winner, Simont had also illustrated Thurber's popular children's book The 13 Clocks in 1950 after being personally asked to do so by Thurber himself. Luckily, if you're interested in Slobodkin's vision of the lunar loving Princess, it's still readily available in book stores and online. Note: Does your family have any copies of Slobodkin's Spaceship entries? If so, you may want to protect them. Depending on the condition of these beloved, but sadly out-of-print books, used paperback copies often start around $100 online. That's right - used paperback copies. If you have any new copies that happen to be laying around, you may even be able to build your own spaceship, as they are listed at approximately $2,000 and up online.
Who: Theodor Geisel, a.k.a. - Dr. Seuss (born in Springfield, MA, 1904)
Book: McElligot's Pool / Random House / 1947
Plot: Young Marco has high hopes that he'll catch a fish in the local pond. But this isn't just any pond - oh, no, this is McElligot's Pool, which one of the locals reminds Marco is one of the most polluted, garbage-filled, fish-unfriendly bodies of water around. This summation of the cold, hard facts does not deter Marco. He is determined to catch a fish in McElligot's Pool. Be it goldfish, trout, or - fueled by his vivid imagination regarding not only the length and depth of McElligot's Pool but of its denizens - checkerboard patterned fish, a more equine-than-usual seahorse or a multi-headed eel.
Misc: Seuss published five books within three years of each other, from 1937's And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street through 1940's Horton Hatches the Egg. After this flurry of writing/publishing activity, Seuss didn't release his next book, McElligot's Pool, until seven years later. To be fair, most of the modern world was put on hold from 1940-1945 thanks to the war, and Seuss was no exception. He wrote and drew hundreds of political cartoons during World War II, many of which directly attacked foreign leaders including Hitler and Mussolini, while also saving room to lambaste former American hero Charles Lindbergh for his questionable views on the foreign policy future of the United States. McElligot marked the return of Seuss's earliest protagonist, Marco, from Mulberry Street. It also marked Seuss's first time using watercolors, opposed to his usual pen and ink method, to illustrate his story. Random House loved the new, multi-textured look with colors from each spot of the spectrum, but were wary of the costs involved in publishing a book of its length with full color watercolor prints. They compromised by alternating between black and white pages and fully painted pages. Instead of upsetting the balance of the book's beauty, the sharp, monochromatic pages only help in making the rich watercolors jump and swim off the page. Despite being considered one of the most beautifully rendered of all of the Seuss books, McElligot's Pool was a Caldecott Honoree but did not win the Medal, instead seeing it awarded to Roger Duvoisin for his work in White Snow, Bright Snow. Unlike many other works by Seuss, McElligot's Pool did not receive a major adaptation, though the basic language and text of the story was reproduced in 2000 though the song "It's Possible" from Act I of Seussical: The Musical. Veering from the narrative slightly, the musical recasts the role of Marco to a Who named JoJo. Remarkably, though two more Seuss books would go on to receive Caldecott Honors (1950's Bartholomew and the Oobleck and 1951's If I Ran the Zoo), Geisel was never awarded the Caldecott Medal.