Thursday, November 15, 2012

Celebration of Paul Galdone - Folk Tales & Fairy Tales

The above picture is me, or so I feel some days. I confess that I live in a house similar to the barnyard where the little red hen lived.

I am a firm lover of folk tales and fairy tales. Many of these tales we know but don't have a great copy of a book to read with a child. Some books are beautiful and have the most breathtaking artwork, some have a wonderfully true telling of the story and lackluster art. Paul Galdone really has mastered both. His books are true to the originals and have artwork that captivates a child, yet doesn't bore or overwhelm.

Paul Galdone illustrated and wrote more than 300 children's books. He twice received the Caldecott Honor medal for two books he illustrated for Eve Titus:


Anatole and the Cat

 Anatole is a wonderful French mouse. He has a wonderful palette and really knows his cheese. I dislike mice, and even I don't have a problem with Anatole!

Paul Galdone really shines though in his versions of the traditional fok tales and fairy tales. His art is simple pen and ink washes. He often includes fun little things in the illustrations, such as a framed photo of Puss in Boots in the house that the three little kittens live in.

The Three Bears

I love how the littlest bear carries a stuffed teddy bear with him in each picture, it really becomes the four bears!


The Gingerbread Boy

One of my favorites:
The Little Red Hen

An illustration from The Little Red Hen that perfectly represents people in my household:

The Three Billy Goats Gruff

One of my nephew's favorite books. It has a very scary troll that lives under the bridge!


The real hero of this story is Foxy Loxy

I'm not a fan of Henny Penny, so I wasn't sad when I saw this
illustration chronicling Henny Penny's demise:

The Three Little Kittens


The Three Little Pigs

Jack and The Beanstalk

Puss in Boots

The Elves and the Shoemaker

Little Red Riding Hood


 The Hare and the Tortoise

Love this illustrations of the hare resting while racing the tortoise!


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

It Gets Better

I don't know if you have seen any of the public service ads titled "It Gets Better", they are aimed at youth contemplating suicide. I think they are primarily targeting gay youth, but the idea that "it gets better" is a positive one for all kids to be told.

I just finished reading the book, The Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.

This book is hot right now. It has been translated into more than thirty languages, and will soon be a film put out by Disney. It will only become more popular.

It is the story of a boy who receives a set of cassette tapes from a girl who recently committed suicide, and the tapes chronicle her thirteen reasons why she killed herself.  The story itself is interesting, albeit quite sad. I started reading the book and ending up reading it in one evening, I was quite captivated by the story and it is well written, and quite compelling. Kids love this book, teachers love it too, and recommend it to their kids. The kids easily read it because it is a 3rd grade reading level, containing extremely graphic content. (I so easily want to go off on a diatribe right now, but I will refrain myself).

Here is the thing about this story, and I bring this up so that you know what kind of things are "hot" books for kids - no one ever tells this girl in the book that "it gets better". The problem is that she doesn't really have a good reason out of the thirteen. Not there is ever a good reason, but hers are mostly incidents of kids being unkind, or other things, some of which she only witnesses happening to other people. The problem I have is that at the end of the book, the boy who listened to the tapes goes out of his way to be kind to a student at school who is on the fringe. Great. No problem with that, but there isn't anyone shouting at the child reading the book that this girl is DEAD and isn't coming back. I feel as though it has quite a romanticized view of suicide. The girl in the story retaliates against certain people in the story by killing herself. At no time does anyone again yell at the child reading that this is horrific, and that the person retaliated against is still alive, and the girl is DEAD. No coming back from that one.
I don't know if you spend much time with the average teen, but let me tell you that they are stupid, they make poor decisions, they look at things in the moment and rarely consider the future. This really is part of being a teenager. My concern is that someone would be angry and want to "get someone back" and not think about how all this works. I'd hate to see this story influence someone in a romanticized way about suicide. Plus it really does get better.

I know that some will look at it is a good platform for discussion and prevention of suicide, however I think these discussions can happen without the romanticized versions and graphic content.

Daily Dystopia

There is so much I want to write, but often don't find the time to do as many blog entries as I would like. I have been reading a tremendous amount of YA literature lately. Most of it is best selling YA lit, and titles popular in my school.

Here are a few titles in the dystopian genre. That seems to be the hottest genre currently, thankfully it means the vampires are going away (I wish).  Some titles leave me shaking my head with the implausibilities, but I don't want to dismiss it all, because there are some good books being written. I am a tad tired of everything published being part of a trilogy. Why can't a book just tell a story and be done? Oh right, they might sell it and make it into a movie. Money.

Last year I read The Hunger Games series. Add me to the list of those that liked the series. I really liked the second book and didn't want to put it down, but got a little confused with parts of the third book. I was less than thrilled though with the movie. Violence on screen is much more graphic and frankly more violent than I picture it while reading it. I'm not going to delve into The Hunger Games, there is already enough out there written on it.

Here is some other books for those that like the dystopian theme:

Matched by Ally Condie
Dystopian world where people trust the government to make their decisions, including being matched with their perfect mate. There are also strict rules on what to read, what to watch, and what to believe. Casia is shown her perfect match at the matching ceremony, and knows  he will be her ideal mate... but then a "glitch" causes her to see another familiar face flash for an instant too. Now what to do...

I liked this book, even though I just finished reading The Giver by Lois Lowry, and thought there were some big similarities in the worlds. The Giver is by far a better book, but the thing about this book is that it is rather bland. But not bad bland, bland in a way that you can pass it on to your nieces and not worry about the parts where the children violently kill each other, or where there are graphic murder or sex scenes. Bland in a good way. It has the popular dystopian world, mild and light romance, and the thing that I really enjoyed was that it had some very strong literature references. In fact the poem, "Do not go gentle into that good night" by Dylan Thomas plays a strong part of this book, and for that I am quite impressed. I have always loved that poem, and was excited to see that it played a part in a book for young adults.

This is the first in a trilogy, I have only read book 1, book 2 is sitting in the ever ready-to-topple stack of books by my bed, book 3 will be published sometime this month.

For good measure here is the entirety of the poem:

Do not go gentle into that good night

by Dylan Thomas
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.


I also read, and enjoyed
Divergent (Divergent, #1)
Divergent by Veronica Roth

Another dystopian world where society is divided into five factions. Each faction has a specific virtue attributed to it. At the age of sixteen, one selects in which faction they will thus devote their lives. Beatrice Prior must choose between staying with her family or following her own personal path.

This book was better, but it's not one I could pass along to the youngsters in my life. It is quite violent, and has some mild sexual scenes, enough that I wouldn't recommend it for parents with concerns for this in their child's book choice. It's a captivating story, and I liked it so much I bought the 2nd book on my Kindle (because yes, it is also a trilogy!).
Insurgent (Divergent, #2)
I faltered more with book 2, it gets a bit thick at times, and the ending is such a cliffhanger that I was annoyed. I realize series flow into each other, but I'm tired of feeling as though the last chapter wasn't printed in my copy. I also read this book feeling as though there were some questions that the author never thought to answer or to provide an explanation for that seemed integral to the book.

I also have several other Dystopian genre books to read. It is a hot genre in children's literature, and there is much being published to flood the market.

I still like, and recommend The Giver by Lois Lowry.

It is also the Newbery Medal winner for 1994.
Lois Lowry wrote 2 subsequent books as follow ups, and just recently released the fourth in the series,  Son.
Son (The Giver, #4)

Of course if you really want to point your child in the direction of really good dystopian literature, I still stick with my recommendation for Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.