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The Picture-Book Club > July 2018: Boston Globe-Horn Book Award Winners 1991-1999

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message 1: by Kathryn, The Princess of Picture-Books (new)

Kathryn | 6276 comments Mod
In July, we continue our discussion of the Boston Globe-Horn Book PB Award Winners by rounding out the 1990s:

1991: The Tale of the Mandarin Ducks
1992: Seven Blind Mice
1993: The Fortune-Tellers
1994: Grandfather's Journey
1995: John Henry
1996: In the Rain with Baby Duck
1997: The Adventures of Sparrowboy
1998: And If the Moon Could Talk
1999: Red-eyed Tree Frog

Please join us in July! :-)

message 2: by Kathryn, The Princess of Picture-Books (last edited Jul 02, 2018 03:40PM) (new)

Kathryn | 6276 comments Mod
I've read two of these previously. I'm able to get most of the others through the library though most are coming from other branches and with the holiday I may not be able to get them until next week.

Here are my reviews of the two I've read:

The Fortune-Tellers

I had high hopes for this one since it was born of the creative talents of two of children's literature's most gifted. It lived up to my expectations in that the illustrations are absolutely stunningly fabulous and so full of atmosphere and the story is told well. I am not sure how satisfactory the story would be for those of us seeking a "moral" to the story, though, based on the fates of the two "fortune tellers." This was a bit annoying for me, but then again perhaps it simply meant to reveal the unpredictability of life and certainly that's something children can explore with their parents. ... The original "fortune-teller" falls off the balcony and is carried away on a crazy adventure with animals trying to attack him before he is lost in the river. The young man who is mistaken for the lost "fortune-teller" takes over for him and ends up getting everything his heart desires. Neither one of the fortune tellers really sees any sort of future, they simply say things like "You will be rich... if you earn enough money." "You will live a long life... if you avoid illness and accident." Which is quite clever, in it's way, but I'm not sure the "moral of the story" if one man triumphs by telling people this and another man meets his doom...? Maybe someone else will see a facet I missed on my initial reading?

Grandfather's Journey (this one has popped up in our club reads before)
A poignant story that will probably be better appreciated by adults than children, this is the touching and bittersweet story of Say's grandfather, a loving tribute to the man who had a wanderlust and who loved both his hometown in Japan and his new home in California and who was never completely satisfied in either place because part of him longed to be in the other. A beautiful story that children and adults of two worlds will probably respond to, it is also a testament to how young children love their grandparents, but when the children grow up and become adults themselves, they come to understand their grandparents through shared experiences.

message 3: by Cheryl , Newbery Club host (new)

Cheryl  (cherylllr) | 6849 comments Mod
I always give Seven Blind Mice 5 stars:

This has been one of my favorites since it was quite new, when my older sons were reading it in school. I found the cover enchanting, with the contrast between the black silhouettes, the mottled earthy background, and the rainbow in the title. And the first few pages, with the rainbow grass stem shaped forms marching across, quite literally thrill me.

Then the structure of the story, which can be used to teach counting, colors, days of the week, ordinal numbers, and of course the theme as stated in the moral... oh, almost a perfect book. Imo, the only thing that could be improved is if the text was more rhythmically repetitive, instead of the fresh syntax for each exploration.

And what a wonderful theme it is, to look at the whole of something before making a judgement. I'm very glad I got this chance to reread the book and see how well it's held up. I'm giving it five stars, even though it's not absolutely perfect, because I love it and because I do think everyone would enjoy it and/or should read it.

message 4: by Cheryl , Newbery Club host (new)

Cheryl  (cherylllr) | 6849 comments Mod
It took me quite a while to catch on to the pattern of And If the Moon Could Talk. Nice concept of relating the homely touches of the child's context to what the moon has seen around the world.

But I, personally, do not care for the art. Especially that awful red and orange comforter featured on the cover. I found the art so distracting that I don't even know if I like the text.

message 5: by Cheryl , Newbery Club host (new)

Cheryl  (cherylllr) | 6849 comments Mod
Red-eyed Tree Frog is neat, a non-fiction narrative for the very youngest rugrats. I normally don't choose this kind of book so I gotta ask, are there very many science books for the youngest children, or is this extra-special?

I appreciate the photos a lot. I mean, I've never seen a katydid in that presentation before, and I never thought it would look cute!

I also appreciate the note at the end. A bibliography or 'further reading' would be nice, but the intended audience probably got all it could from this book itself and will only want more when they're older.

message 6: by Manybooks (last edited Jul 02, 2018 06:29PM) (new)

Manybooks | 8829 comments Mod
I have only managed to get one of the books from the library, Red-eyed Tree Frog, and have read three of the books previously. I tried to obtain cheap copies of the remaining books, but they were all too expensive to consider for picture books I might not even end up enjoying all that much. Too bad that ILL usually takes way too long, sigh (I really do not want to wait more than a month).

message 7: by Manybooks (new)

Manybooks | 8829 comments Mod
Red-eyed Tree Frog

Although I have indeed visually and aesthetically much enjoyed Nic Bishop's interesting and colourful accompanying photographs (that little red-eyed tree frog is really in many ways massively cute, albeit I do have to admit that personally I would consider the picture of the snake quite in your face, even somewhat majorly creepily freaky) and while I have also very much appreciated Joy Cowley's Red-Eyed Tree Frog as a decent and basic introduction to Central American rain forests and its fauna and flora for young children (and not just to the red-eyed tree frog of the title, but also to rain forest iguanas, caterpillars, snakes, macaws etc.) I do indeed rather wish that there were a bit more actual text, a bit more descriptiveness and presented narrational information. For even though the supplemental details at the back of Red-Eyed Tree Frog are informative and very much appreciated, I for one would and indeed also do require considerably more thematic meat and details so to speak within the text proper and not just relegated to the back of the book almost like something of an afterthought.

And therefore, whilst Red-Eyed Tree Frog has definitely been a worthwhile reading experience to and for me, I also have not in any way been even remotely wowed by especially Joy Cowley's printed words, and this, combined with the to and for me always annoying frustration that with Red-Eyed Tree Frog there is yet another non fiction, science, zoology based picture book for young children that (although there is actually quite a bit of information presented, especially within the supplemental notes) does neither cite sources nor provide any type of bibliography whatsoever for further reading and study, makes me (and with my apologies to those readers who have really enjoyed, who truly love Red-Eyed Tree Frog) only consider a high two star ranking at best, as even considering that Nic Bishop's photographs are most definitely wonderful, the textual shortcomings and that there are no bibliographical details at all included in Red-Eyed Tree Frog really does rub me the wrong proverbial way (as I am increasingly getting more and more impatient and massively annoyed that even with comparatively recent non fiction picture books that clearly would and should need bibliographies, they are still oh very often not included, which I consider both sad but also and more importantly intellectually, academically problematic).

message 8: by Manybooks (last edited Jul 03, 2018 04:40AM) (new)

Manybooks | 8829 comments Mod
Seven Blind Mice

Both very much fun and also engagingly informative, Ed Young's Seven Blind Mice is in my opinion most perfectly suited for joyful and engaging entertainment but it also contains a seeming multitude of important teachable. And while the main message promoted with and in Seven Blind Mice is of course that one needs to know and understand the various parts to understand and appreciate the whole and vice versa, Seven Blind Mice might also be used to familiarise young children with basic colours, the days of the week, and the numbers form one to seven. Highly recommended and truly in many ways, a perfect marriage of text and images! And while from a personal and an aesthetic point of view, I would not really consider Ed Young's illustrations as favourites, his pictorial rendering are indeed a wonderful mirror of both the narrative and the learning-based units presented (for example, how each of the seven blind mice's skin colour seems to correspond to the part of the unknown object, to the elephant, that is being studied each day, except for the last and completely white mouse which then also realises that when combined, the parts actually do make an elephant).

message 9: by Manybooks (new)

Manybooks | 8829 comments Mod
Grandfather's Journey

Allen Say's Caldecott Medal winning Grandfather's Journey as a story, as an account, reads sweetly and generally quite pleasantly, but also with much thought-provoking potential emotionality, and even a palpable bit of potential sadness (especially to and for those of us who are immigrants or emigrants ourselves and have personally experienced what the text shows and oh so very clearly presents, namely equal amounts of love and passion for both our countries of origin and the countries to which we have immigrated, often not really knowing exactly who we are, or where we belong, straddling worlds, languages, cultures). And with tenderness, with graceful understanding, Allen Say's exquisitely lyrical voice evocatively demonstrates that some if not even a rather goodly number of immigrants (like his own grandfather, like the personal subject of Grandfather's Journey) can and do often end up quite homesick for their birthplaces (but however, if they should choose to return to their erstwhile homelands, they conversely are then frequently homesick for the countries to which they had immigrated, passionate about both, loving both, but also not really willing or even able to make a choice between either). And if like with the USA and Japan, the two countries then happen to become enemies or even engage in war, this feeling of dichotomy, of being torn between two cultures, between two worlds, can become a real and even dangerously insurmountable dilemma and obstacle (for in Grandfather's Journey, although he often much desired to return to California, World War II happened, and Allen Say's grandfather was in fact never able to return to the USA, to California, but always he continued to be homesick and yearning for it).

Now while the above described sentiments most definitely ring emotionally and personally true with me and for me (as a German immigrant to Canada with rather similar experiences and considerations, and one of the main reasons why Grandfather's Journey has proven such an emotional and in some ways wrenching read for me), I do have to wonder whether the grandfather's dual homesickness, his equal love for America and Japan, might be potentially a bit difficult for especially younger children who have never experienced this kind of dichotomy to all that easily fathom (and particularly if the parents or caregivers reading Grandfather's Journey with or to them might also have no experience or concept of this and thus might themselves have issues explaining or even appreciating the grandfather's dilemma of feeling torn between cultures and worlds, of feeling homesick for Japan in the USA and homesick for the USA in Japan). For while Allen Say's narrative tugs at one's heartstrings, there indeed might also easily be possible questions that arise, there might even be potential critical considerations raised that warrant discussion and debate (for example, there sometimes is a definite and yes also rather unfortunate, uncomfortable attitude shown that immigrants should only and ever be grateful and one hundred percent appreciative of and for their new lives and new countries and that any manner of homesickness, culture shock, and even any perceived praise of and for their erstwhile homelands can be at best perceived as problematic and at worst seen as selfish, ungrateful, even possibly politically suspicious, if not actually treasonous).

Finally, with regard to the accompanying illustrations (and Allen Say functions as both author and illustrator of Grandfather's Journey), while they are definitely and indeed minutely, lovingly detailed and descriptive, they are also (and according to my own tastes and considerations) somewhat lacking in depth, in emotionality and warmth, their Caldecott Medal designation notwithstanding (and especially when compared to the intensity of the passions and feelings contained in the printed words, seen within the text itself). And thus, while Allen Say's displayed and rendered pictures do more than somewhat evoke his grandfather's sense of being torn with regard to California and Japan, of being homesick for both and attached to both, there is also and always somewhat of a sense of emotional stagnation and dissonance present that is not altogether visually pleasant (or rather, I should say, that there is a visual sense of emotional distance present in the accompanying illustrations for Grandfather's Journey that I have personally not found all that aesthetically agreeable).

message 10: by Manybooks (new)

Manybooks | 8829 comments Mod
John Henry

With regard to Julius Lester's 1994 John Henry, it is in particular illustrator Jerry Pinkney's 1995 Caldecott Honour winning accompanying illustrations which I have always found (and ever since first reading the book as a library copy a couple of years ago) very much personally and visually impressive (expressive). For although Pinkney's pictorial renderings are at times perhaps almost a trifle too overly busy for my eyes and attention span (and sometimes do seem to obtain even some modern anachronisms), their minute details are indeed both lushly rendered and also very much and successfully mirror Julius Lester's printed words (his retelling of the John Henry Tall Tale tradition), a richly nuanced narrative, chock full of delightfully evocative metaphors, similes, literary allusions (and as such, Julius Lester's text is most definitely very much as verbally dense and as full as Jerry Pinkney's pictorial renderings and vice versa, a truly and in many ways lovely and stunning marriage of text and images).

However, as much as I have appreciated Julius Lester's retelling, and as much as I have indeed even much loved his included author's note on American Tall Tales (as well as of course the presented information on the genesis of the John Henry tradition in particular) I also cannot say that I have found Lester's John Henry all that much to my personal and folkloric liking (to my tastes). For I just do not and cannot see Julius Lester's John Henry as being all that much of a potentially positive role model, as the sense of him actually doing something worthwhile and for the good of everyone is kind of majorly missing and lost at least in that last and ultimately fatal to and for him contest. For sorry, but John Henry's last bet, it sure seems to and for me to be just a wager for a its own sake, man against machine, and basically a rather majorly and sadly silly reason to kill oneself for in my opinion (and something that in other renditions of John Henry is actually not ever as prominently featured as being simply a contest for the sake of winning, as while there is still that battle between man and machine, with John Henry winning but at the cost of his life, unlike in Julius Lester's John Henry, with other versions of the tale I have read, there is also a distinct reason shown as to why John Henry would even decide on the contest, namely because the machine against which he decides to measure himself will be putting a lot of his railroading friends and acquaintances permanently out of work, but with Julius Lester, that particular and in my opinion very much important aspect of John Henry's desire to enter into said and his last contest never really comes through all that well, all that much, and you are left, or at least I am left with a rather uncomfortable feeling that John Henry basically just sacrifices himself for nothing more than a supremely silly wager and contest against a machine, that he really ends up dying in vain).

message 11: by Beverly, Miscellaneous Club host (new)

Beverly (bjbixlerhotmailcom) | 2601 comments Mod
The Tale of the Mandarin Ducks
I first read this many years ago, and have read it a couple of times since then, including this time. The blurb was most helpful in describing the artwork as watercolor and pastel paintings that are done in the style ukiyo-e Japanese woodcuts, and IMO, are simply gorgeous and outstanding. I also loved the story of the mandarin ducks repaying the kindness of Shozo and Yasuko. But, I was disappointed that Paterson did not include a source for her telling of this popular Japanese folktale (according to the blurb).

message 12: by Beverly, Miscellaneous Club host (new)

Beverly (bjbixlerhotmailcom) | 2601 comments Mod
The Adventures of Sparrowboy
This story is presented partly in double- and single-page spreads, and partly in comic strip panels, as a young paperboy is zapped with sparrow power and defends his neighborhood against bullies--human and animal. The illustrations were rendered in scratchboard, transparent dyes, and gouache. They are energetic and do a great job of moving this humorous and satisfying story forward.

message 13: by Beverly, Miscellaneous Club host (new)

Beverly (bjbixlerhotmailcom) | 2601 comments Mod
And If the Moon Could Talk
A little girl's bedtime routine is interspersed with scenes the moon sees in such places as the desert, the mountains, etc. Finally the moon also sees the little girl sleeping. The impressionistic oil paintings were serene and calm, and captured well the bedtime feeling. However, not my favorite style of artwork.

message 14: by Beverly, Miscellaneous Club host (last edited Jul 03, 2018 07:32PM) (new)

Beverly (bjbixlerhotmailcom) | 2601 comments Mod
Red-Eyed Tree Frog
I love this book, and have read it several times. The photos are magnificent, and capture small details perfectly. The text has just enough information to satisfy a small child's curiosity. As this is a book primarily aimed at pre-school children, and not intended for scholarly research, I wouldn't expect it to have a bibliography, or index, etc.

message 15: by Beverly, Miscellaneous Club host (new)

Beverly (bjbixlerhotmailcom) | 2601 comments Mod
Grandfather's Journey
Here is my review for this book, which we also read as a Caldecott award:
This lovely book reminds me somewhat of a family photo album, since on many of the pages, the people seem to be posing for a photo. The watercolor paintings are beautiful and somewhat static, whether depicting scenery or people. I loved the sweet and heartfelt story of the man who loved two countries, and when he was in one, he missed the other and vice versa. And Allen Say, his grandson, grew up to have the same dilemma.

message 16: by Beverly, Miscellaneous Club host (new)

Beverly (bjbixlerhotmailcom) | 2601 comments Mod
The Fortune-Tellers
Hilarious story, showcasing Alexander's sly wit, which is evident in every book that he wrote, whether picture book or chapter book. Alexander did not intend this to be a morality tale, but a humorous tale, poking gentle fun at "fortune-tellers" who really cannot foretell the future. The wonderful and richly detailed illustrations, rendered in ink, acrylic, and crayon, feature the people and culture of the West African country of Cameroon.

message 17: by Beverly, Miscellaneous Club host (last edited Jul 05, 2018 09:32PM) (new)

Beverly (bjbixlerhotmailcom) | 2601 comments Mod
Seven Blind Mice
I concur with Cheryl's and Manybooks' reviews: this book is practically perfect in every way. It is based on an ancient fable called "The Blind Men and the Elephant." The paper collage illustrations are magnificent, and teaching potential tremendous. I have used this book successfully in several story time sessions.

message 18: by Beverly, Miscellaneous Club host (new)

Beverly (bjbixlerhotmailcom) | 2601 comments Mod
In the Rain with Baby Duck
I really liked the large size of this book, with its large pencil and watercolor paintings, that would work well in a group setting. The story is so sweet! Only Grandpa understands Baby Duck's aversion to rain and mud. And only he is able to help her find fun in the rain. I also like the little songs that Baby Duck made up for herself. I was glad to revisit this book, which I haven't looked at in a long time.

message 19: by Beverly, Miscellaneous Club host (new)

Beverly (bjbixlerhotmailcom) | 2601 comments Mod
John Henry
This book is beautifully illustrated in colored pencils and watercolors. Gundula makes a good point about John Henry doing the competition for the sake of the men who would be put out of work, but the only folk song that I am familiar with says that John Henry didn't want the steam drill "to beat me down."
So, I always thought the John Henry simply wanted to prove that men were better than machines, even though it cost him his life (and this seems to me a very male ego thing to do). I am not familiar with any of the other versions that Gundula mentions. Regardless of what readers think of the wager, the story is well-told and the illustrations spot on.

message 20: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer (JenIsNotaBookSnob) (jenisnotabooksnob) | 170 comments The only one I couldn't get was The Fortune-Tellers. I've finally gotten to read them all.
I enjoyed Tale of the Mandarin Ducks, but, felt like the lack of source material was sort of a bummer. That's when a book starts to feel like exploitation. Otherwise I liked it.
Seven Blind Mice is amazing- can't remember if it credited the original tale or not, but, such a good perspective book.
LOVED John Henry- they couldn't have picked anyone better than Pinkney to illustrate it. Did not mind that he was just beating the steam train 'because' rather than for any particular purpose. I understand that. I've tried to do all kinds of stupid things 'just because'.
I liked Grandfather's Journey when I read it, but, didn't bother to reread it this month.
I was surprised that I liked In the Rain with Baby Duck. That one caught me off guard, I started out thinking it was just stupid, but, it grows on you.
I wasn't that wild about Sparrowboy, Red-eyed Treefrog of If the Moon Could talk. None of them were bad, but, they were all sort of disappointing in their own ways. Sparrowboy was nicely illustrated, but, the story wasn't that great. Red-eyed Treefrog had excellent text, but, I prefer paint or pencil drawings over photographs for picture books. If the Moon Could Talk just wasn't much fun, too sedate.

message 21: by Cheryl , Newbery Club host (new)

Cheryl  (cherylllr) | 6849 comments Mod
The Fortune-Tellers is, of course, beautifully illustrated. Child-me would have spent hours examing the pictures, trying to copy details from them.

The story fits the genre... nonetheless, I just don't care for fables in which the hero wins his fortune by luck, or, worse, fraud, instead of hard work or kind deeds.

(Sorry can't articulate better right now, off to haul furniture into our new home!)

message 22: by Manybooks (new)

Manybooks | 8829 comments Mod
Cheryl wrote: "The Fortune-Tellers is, of course, beautifully illustrated. Child-me would have spent hours examing the pictures, trying to copy details from them.

The story fits the genre... nonet..."

I hope you have someone helping you with moving your furniture!!

message 23: by Kathryn, The Princess of Picture-Books (new)

Kathryn | 6276 comments Mod
Best wishes with the moving-in, Cheryl. Hope you are feeling settled and enjoying your new area :-)

It's been a very hectic few weeks here and I never made it to the library in time to pick up my holds :-( I may try again but it just depends how busy the rest of the month is. Otherwise, I will try to get back to this when things settle down as I'm curious about the books I've not yet read. I think my two-year-old would definitely love In the Rain with Baby Duck :-)

message 24: by Cheryl , Newbery Club host (new)

Cheryl  (cherylllr) | 6849 comments Mod
Of course The Tale of the Mandarin Ducks is beautiful. We here all know how talented the Dillons are. and how honored. And Katherine Paterson does know Japan, and has written several other enjoyable & acclaimed books. Notably, she's the author of The Master Puppeteer, a historical fiction children's novel that I've read 3-4 times and enjoyed more with each read.

Unfortunately, there's no note confirming that this is a traditional tale. It does, however, read like one. And I do, personally, think it worth the acclaim, and worthy of reading with today's children, nonetheless. The themes of honor, courage, and compassion are universal and timeless, imo.

message 25: by Cheryl , Newbery Club host (new)

Cheryl  (cherylllr) | 6849 comments Mod
Grandfather's Journey is a true classic for all ages. Profound enough for youngsters to cut their philosophical teeth on, historical enough for teachers, and simple enough for too-busy parents. And beautiful.

message 26: by Manybooks (new)

Manybooks | 8829 comments Mod
Cheryl wrote: "Grandfather's Journey is a true classic for all ages. Profound enough for youngsters to cut their philosophical teeth on, historical enough for teachers, and simple enough for too-bus..."

And for those of us who are immigrants also very relatable, as I have certainly felt the same with regard to Europe and North America.

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