Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Little Red Renditions

More Fractured Fairy Tales!!!

This time it's Little Red's turn. Little Red Riding Hood is one of the Brothers Grimm classics that children learn by heart. Variations on the tale come in all shapes and sizes. Here are some of my favorites:

Little Red Riding Hood (retold and illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman) - Winner of a Caldecott Honor, this gorgeous retelling is true to the original and a great place to start if you are looking for the classic version of the tale. Be aware: The Brothers Grimm did not shy away from gore or violence in their tales and this one is complete with huntsman and the wolf's pelt nailed to his door.

Petite Rouge: A Cajun Red Riding Hood (by Mike Artell; illustrated by Jim Harris) - What a fun read! I think I developed a Cajun accent by reading a text full of dialect masterfully rhymed by Mike Artell.  Check out the opening verse: "Back in de swamp/ where dat Spanish moss grow,/ I heard me a story/ from long time ago." An ol' gator named Claude stands in for the wolf in this tale set in the bayou. My boys loved his ridiculous grandma disguise, complete with tied on duck beak (Little Red is a duck in this version.) The clever ending is rendered in perfect Cajun fashion and involves hot sauce. I will not say anymore. If you can't get enough Cajun fairy tales, try Three Little Cajun Pigs by the same team.

Carmine: A Little More Red (by Melissa Sweet) - This elaborately layered retelling casts Carmine (a shade of red) in the roll of Little Red. She is an artist and this is an alphabet book highlighting the vocabulary that drives the story. With her trusty dog Rufus, Carmine sets off to join Granny for alphabet soup, but she stops to paint along the way. Yes, there is a wolf, but since nothing else is typical about the classic Little Red in this story, neither is the ending! A unique and colorful offering by artist Melissa Sweet (and the first book she has written AND illustrated!).

Auntie Tiger (by Laurence Yep; illustrated by Insu Lee) - Pair ancient China, sibling rivalry, and trickster tales and you've got Auntie Tiger. Two sisters constant fighting gets them in trouble when they invite a tiger disguised as Auntie into the house while their mother is out. But when the younger girl gets gobbled, the older sister realizes she should have done more to protect her. Using her wits, she outsmarts the tiger and finds a way to get her sister back.

Betsy Red Hoodie (by Gail Carson Levine; illustrated by Scott Nash) - Now here's a different take on the tale. Betsy is one of the shepherds of Bray Valley. And who is the other? Zimmo the wolf. Betsy has to take the sheep with her as she travels to grandma's house, but she tells Zimmo to stay home: "Wolves aren't good for grandmas." Zimmo begs to go, however, and Betsy gives in. This quirky tale moves along with a regular dose of pun-filled and sassy speech-bubbles from the sheep. As they get closer to grandma's, Zimmo runs off. Could Betsy have been wrong about him?

Little Red Hot (by Eric A. Kimmel; illustrated by Laura Huliska Beith) - A southwestern retelling complete with red hot chili pepper trickery. SeƱor Lobo doesn't stand a chance.

And here's one more from a previous post:

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Clara Ann Cookie duet

Oppositional behavior. This storm is fierce at my house. When I came across Harriet Ziefert's Clara Ann Cookie books, I thought she had been reading my mind. Written in a jaunty rhyming verse, Ziefert highlights two difficult times of day for young children (and their parents) - the beginning and the end.

In the first book, simply titled Clara Ann Cookie, she doesn't want to get dressed. When her mother helps make it into a game, it takes Clara Ann's mind off the task and makes this bothersome daily chore fun.

In Clara Ann Cookie, Go To Bed! (both illustrated by Emily Bolam), Clara Ann's mother is not as energetic or creative in dealing with her daughter's behavior. She leaves Clara Ann to go to bed on her own and Clara Ann acts out her frustration with bedtime in a role reversal as she puts her toys to bed. You'll have to read the story to see how she responds when Popcorn the bear refuses to go to bed!

Friday, June 14, 2013

PPBF: The Purple Balloon

TitleThe Purple Balloon
Author/Illustrator: Chris Raschka
Publisher/Date: Schwartz & Wade Books/2007
Genre/Audience: Fiction/All ages
Themes: death & dying, including child; community; support

"No one likes to talk about dying. It's hard work."

Synopsis: (From Publishers Weekly)

"Raschka (The Hello, Goodbye Window) broaches the topic of death in this solemn book, crafted for terminally ill and/or grieving children. Filmy balloons, potato-printed in muted watercolor on beige backgrounds, drift over the cover and endpapers; balloon heads, with facial features limned in dots of ink and string-lines for bodies, take on the roles of families, friends and professionals. The fragile but buoyant balloon image comes from art therapy, as an author's note explains: "When a child becomes aware of his or her pending death and is given the opportunity to 'draw your feelings,' he or she will often draw a blue or purple balloon, released and floating free." Raschka eases into his distressing subject by first depicting an old person's lined face, on a green balloon, and a child's face on a red balloon. When the elderly person dies, the green tint changes to lavender, the face becomes peaceful and the balloon's string curves and lifts to shape two open arms or angel wings. The predictable death sets up the second act: "There is only one thing/ harder to talk about than/ an old person dying—/ a young person dying." Concerned friends, therapists, doctors and relatives cluster around to support the sinking red-balloon child, whose eyes grow heavy. "Good help makes leaving easier," the text asserts, as the child's gently smiling face looks out from an ascendant lavender balloon. Without going into specifics, Raschka acknowledges pain and fear, and provides a "What You Can Do to Help" list. This evocative, nondenominational book strives to comfort those at hospices and hospitals."

Why I Love This Book
I have to admit, I had no idea what I was grabbing when I pulled this from the shelf and tucked it into my library bag. I am glad I read it before my kids. It is a beautiful, haunting, and incredibly simple depiction of death; first of an elderly person, then of a child. In straight-forward text and soft illustrations, Raschka emphasizes the importance of family, friends, and support. This book can be used as a springboard for discussing one of the most difficult subjects to talk about with children.

The final page of the book offers a "What You Can Do To Help" list for children who have sick friends.

Art therapy can be an outlet for all feelings. Draw your feelings when you are angry, sad, cheerful, grumpy, etc.

Children's Hospice International Resources

For more links to Perfect Picture Books, a collection of bloggers who contribute at Susanna Leonard Hill’s site, click here.

Friday, June 7, 2013

PPBF: Peanut & Fifi Have a Ball

TitlePeanut & Fifi Have a Ball
Author/Illustrator: Randall de Seve/ Paul Schmid
Publisher/Date: Dial Books for Young Readers/2013
Genre/Audience: Fiction/Ages 3-5
Themes: sharing, siblings, imagination

"Peanut had a ball. It was brand-new. It was bright blue. And it was special."

Synopsis: (From

"For every kid who has ever had trouble sharing a special toy.

Peanut has a new ball and her big sister, Fifi, wants to play with it. Peanut doesn't want to share, so Fifi tries to entice her with the many different imaginary games they could play with the ball--they could tell fortunes, or have a bakery, or let a seal balance the ball on its nose! Peanut is NOT convinced, until Fifi comes up with a spectacular imaginary adventure that Peanut can't refuse: a trip to space! But is it too late for her to join the game? 

Illustrated in bold graphics and bright colors by an illustrator Maurice Sendak calls "an artist with a superb eye for line and composition," here's a story where the older sibling doesn't always have the upper hand."

Why I Love This Book
The illustrations are sparse. The story is simple. But the theme is age-old. I can relate to Peanut's stubborn "mine" and the repeated attempts of Fifi to play with the toy. My boys show me examples of this story everyday! But Fifi goes further. Her imaginative ideas for how to play with the ball get more and more elaborate. Paul Schmid's terrific illustrations effectively show Fifi playing with the ball without actually possessing the ball. And this is the key. Fifi realizes that she doesn't need a toy to use her imagination. It is a sweet book that transforms sibling frustration into shared storytelling. A very satisfying read.

For more links to Perfect Picture Books, a collection of bloggers who contribute at Susanna Leonard Hill’s site, click here.