Friday, July 27, 2012
I picked this book off the shelves to review because I wanted to give it as a gift to a friend expecting her first child. The book, which takes its reader on a journey through five different regions of the world, is beautifully made, with a thick, sturdy cover, double-thick pages made of cardstock-weight paper, brightly colored art, sliding panels, and simple text that seemed perfect for bedtime read-alouds.
The story introduces the reader to five different children: Kendé, Kamanga, Melisse, Siiku, and Machiko. Each child is featured on a one page spread, with sliding panels on the right-side page that pull out to reveal a secondary picture and text. Each page follows the same pattern: “At night, Kendé falls asleep on a woolen carpet. By day...[pull out picture panels]...he marches through the desert, in step with the camels.” For each new region, the background and font changes to reflect traditional ethnic patterns.
I have two major concens with this book. First, the pages don't mention the actual location of that child. For example, Machiko sleeps on a futon, and by day, lets the wind steal her kite. As an adult, I know the author intended her to be from Japan. But some of the others are more ambiguous. Secondly, I would be concerned that, as young readers get older, this book might reinfornce traditional stereotypes about people in faraway cultures. The seemingly Inuit Siiku, for example, sleeps inside an igloo, hugged by a polar bear. While this makes for a pretty picture, it's not at all the lifestyle of modern Inuit people. In fact, I can't imagine they EVER slept with live polar bears!
That being said, I will still give the book as a baby gift. The pictures are pretty and the pull-out tabs are a great way for young children to interact with a text they can't yet read. It's sturdy enough to withstand the rough play of a baby or toddler. I can easily foresee this being a fun way to create a bedtime “community” of characters – all of whom bunker down at night without a fuss.
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
“Why do I have to make my bed?” whines the modern little boy to his mother. After all, he already did the dishes and straightened up his video games. And besides, a bed is just going to get messed up again. “That reminds me of a story about your grandmother,” says the boy’s mom. The grandmother asked the same question and listed off the chores of her generation. And in answer to the grandmother as a child, HER mother says, “That reminds me of a story…” This conceit continues through the entire book, all the way back to prehistoric times.
Each generation is accompanied by illustrations of the historic chores being done – from dusting the loom to patching Father Viking’s war wounds – and the various beds being ignored – from quilts to caribou hide. The illustrations are colorful and cartoonish, with the same amusing “chores are boring” face on generations of children. The illustrations depict little details that color each era, like the metal spinning top and the old Victrola in 1911, or the patchwork quilt and ragdoll in the pioneer section.
It’s interesting to read about the chores throughout centuries – there’s even a list at the end of the book that goes into further description of ancient chores through present day. The book is overall a brief, fun, and colorful history lesson for young readers. It’s a charming concept, but the repetition of “that reminds me of a story” becomes a little tiresome, and the apparently timeless reason for making a bed (“because mom said so”) is not necessarily a convincing one.
Or maybe that just didn’t work on me. I still don’t make my bed. I mean, I’m just going to mess it up again anyway.
Monday, July 23, 2012
It all begins with a pale blue egg just starting to crack open. Except If establishes that an egg is not a baby bird, but it will become one, except if it becomes something else. Perhaps the egg will hatch a snake, or perhaps a baby lizard, or maybe even a dinosaur. After this point, the story comes full circle as we imagine that not only might the egg turn into a dinosaur, it might turn into a fossilized dinosaur. This fossilized dinosaur’s jaws eventually form a craggy cliff, which might house a soft nest, which in spring just might hold a pale blue egg, “which will not necessarily become a baby bird—except if it does.”
Jim Averbeck’s book is a playful and colorful diversion into an “except if“ world of imagination. The words “except if” are written in bold letters and fill several alternating pages as the story moves into its next evolution. The illustrations are colorful but not garishly bright. One of my favorite illustrations was the baby lizard scurrying up a wall on sticky feet to eat flies. The most enjoyable illustration, however, is the red little bedraggled bird that shows that a pale blue egg will not necessarily become a baby bird except if it does.