The poems are lovely. I love how Sidman uses a variety of poetic forms and free verse but manages to have the group of poems be so clearly a set, go tThe poems are lovely. I love how Sidman uses a variety of poetic forms and free verse but manages to have the group of poems be so clearly a set, go together so well. She is very good at using vocabulary that is descriptive and precise without being out of the grasp of a young audience.
Since I have the Caldecott on the brain, though, I'm thinking most about the illustrations right now.
The woodcuts are masterful.
I *know* this collection is about night time, so I hate making this comment, but I felt some of the illustrations were too dark. It was hard to see the colors, and with so much detail and without more color it was difficult to distinguish sometimes between the animals' fur, for example, and the leaves they were near.
I *know* it's hard to do that in the dark! I understand the illustrations are reflecting the theme of the book. And I do think the illustrations were darker in the middle of the night (and the book) and lighter and brighter at dusk and dawn (the beginning and end of the book).
I did like how every spread had a large block of illustration and smaller spot art on the facing page. I liked how the illustrations pushed out of their frames...you can't contain the night, and it is teeming with life.
I can't imagine the skill necessary to cut the wood so precisely, and to ink it and print the blocks so well.
But I still wish they were all a little lighter, like the illustrations of the spider, the moths, and the bats, for instance. ...more
OK, a totally subjective, non-critical review...no I am not even trying to bring my professional eye to this!
I don't want to spend time with the illuOK, a totally subjective, non-critical review...no I am not even trying to bring my professional eye to this!
I don't want to spend time with the illustrations, the models' faces give me the willies, the colors are dark and dank, and I don't particularly want to read a long story about a trash barge being harried down the coast by a dispatcher with a grating voice.
So please, let me know why this works for you; I'm genuinely curious! ...more
An enjoyable variant on the folklore quest tale. I liked so many of the little touches: such as Jack making a cake (as opposed to whittling a doodad,An enjoyable variant on the folklore quest tale. I liked so many of the little touches: such as Jack making a cake (as opposed to whittling a doodad, or whatever), and doing it quite well; the candle that appears instead of a lightbulb over his head when he has an idea; his glass-half-full attitude; the flower girl running around the throne room having the time of her life; some of the phrases; the way the little forest animals are all lined up at the edge of the page watching Jack go by himself into the forest; the hair tucked behind Jack's ears; the mix of traditional (troll, dark woods) and untraditional (crows, dancing bear) obstacles in his path.
The princess is a bit of a dip about her other birthday presents, but she *does* go off on a visit to Jack's house (in the endpapers) without getting her prissy knickers in a twist, so maybe she's okay after all. ...more
Maybe because I've been spending so much time in baby storytime the last few years, but I find myself really drawn lately to booWow, this is gorgeous!
Maybe because I've been spending so much time in baby storytime the last few years, but I find myself really drawn lately to books for the younger listeners. This one has a classic repetitive pattern to the text, yet has a satisfying ending, too. I think it's pretty hard to set up such a strong rhythm like that and still find a way out of the pattern in order to bring the text to an organic close. And of course it's a perfect book to share and talk about. "Where is Catkin?" leads itself naturally to "What else do you see?" and "What's going to happen next?"
The colors are so rich. I love that every square inch of each page is filled with detail, yet your eye is still nicely directed through each wonderfully-balanced spread. I had fun discovering the "extra" animals and bugs Paschkis added to every page, and I know kids will, too--in addition to discovering how the cricket, frog, mouse, snake and bird become part of the border. I like how the border moves from its spot on the top and bottom of the page when the pattern of the book shifts from Catkin chasing the animals to Catkin getting stuck in the tree...the border is in a different place on every page until the end, when it wraps up Amy and Catkin just like Amy wraps Catkin in her arms. And the colors! Did I mention the colors? ...more
These stars are the average of 4 stars for the illustrations and 2 stars for the text and zero stars for the theme.
The illustrations are gorgeous, wiThese stars are the average of 4 stars for the illustrations and 2 stars for the text and zero stars for the theme.
The illustrations are gorgeous, with the neat trick of appearing lively while echoing the more static feel of medieval woodcuts and illuminations. The text is fine; the rhymes themselves are not bad, the flow of the story works.
But I couldn't get past the book's implication that the discovery of colored inks was the result of a single person's inspiration and experimentation. In fact this felt so weird to me that I was waiting for an endnote to tell me that Brother Theophane was a real person who made critical advances in ink technology. (I'm a non-fiction and history geek; I am no longer surprised to discover unsung individuals like that.)
Instead I find out he's totally fictional. Well, I can handle and even appreciate a character who is a slightly squarer peg in the round-hole world of the monastery (though I kept waiting for him to twirl across the courtyard and bust into "The Hills Are Alive.")
But we already live in a sound-bite world that idolizes the Solitary Superhero Genius and downplays how the process of discovery relies on collaboration and sometimes generations of shared work. This phenomenon is exacerbated sometimes in children's biographies, which must leave out so many details in an effort to make the text accessible to young readers. There's often only room for a short, single thread: Edison invented the lightbulb! Ford invented the motorcar! Kids often walk away from biographies with one person associated with one achievement (Harriet Tubman = Underground Railroad! Martin Luther King Jr = Civil Rights Movement!) and the richer shared historical narrative is glossed over or missing altogether.*
While this approach gives some really fabulous people credit they genuinely deserve, I'm afraid that it also can keep kids--and adults--from envisioning themselves as meaningful contributors to the world they live in. We can't see ourselves as being the leader of the Civil Rights Movement, but we don't have a chance to see that we could have been one of hundreds of activists who registered African Americans for the vote.
The same thing happens in this book with the little poems that are presented as Brother Theophane's words, written on his manuscripts while he looks out the window and longs to be outside. It turns out they are real verses from several different monks, edited and translated and stitched together by the author. There are fascinating real individuals in those verses...how cool is that? But they are all smushed together for the sake of this invented persona.
I understand this book is taking poetic license. I understand the character of Brother Theophane makes for a really nice, easily-digested story. But I find I'm not really interested in that story.
*Of course, not always. Amazing non-fiction that is factual and respectful of its audience is published every week....more
I usually don't like "sweet" or "cute" books very much, because "sweet" and "cute" is often so bland and trite and uninteresting. But in this book, thI usually don't like "sweet" or "cute" books very much, because "sweet" and "cute" is often so bland and trite and uninteresting. But in this book, there's so much expression and movement in every line of every image, and Flora's exasperation of Crispin is balanced genuinely with her care of and care for him, that the round faces and soft outlines made me smile instead of roll my eyes. ...more
I am not capable of dealing with the whole verse non-fiction trend objectively, my dears. I don't get it, I never will! It's a factual book, it's SUPPI am not capable of dealing with the whole verse non-fiction trend objectively, my dears. I don't get it, I never will! It's a factual book, it's SUPPOSED to give us details and context, not make us guess at meaning with metaphor, simile and generic imagery.
I had a much more enjoyable time reading the historical notes at the back of the book and looking at the one photo of Dave the Potter's actual work than I did reading the poem itself. The poem text is mostly about the process ANY potter uses to throw a jar...it barely mentions that Dave was a slave or that he wrote poems on his work. This is a fascinating, important artist and we don't really learn enough about him to appreciate that until the notes?
If I were in charge, the historical notes would be the book and the poem would be the note at the back. AFTER we've learned about him, THEN we can maybe appreciate the poetic homage, understanding more of what's between the lines. (Although even as a poem I'm not that excited about it...why compare Dave to a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat? That's so lazy. Give me a simile that would have made sense to Dave himself, please. Besides, a magician is all about trickery and deception; an artist is about truth.)
I loved the saturated colors and the way the layout and design echoed Renaissance tapestry. I wish the author would have been more clear about the timI loved the saturated colors and the way the layout and design echoed Renaissance tapestry. I wish the author would have been more clear about the time period at the beginning; I think the "butterflies aren't evil" message wouldn't have sounded as odd to me if she had. Would have enjoyed seeing actual prints by Maria Merian added to the historical note in the back...I looked some up online and they are insane and amazing. But this is a nice introduction to a very cool historical figure. ...more