Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Growing Up is Hard to Do: Knuffle Bunny Free

I've blogged about one of Mo Willems' books on here before. I'd like to blog about more of them (there are so many great ones) but I'm trying to limit my book reviews to one per author at the moment. However this one is worth mentioning now. Knuffle Bunny Free: An Unexpected Diversion (HarperCollins Publishers, Sept. 2010) is the third in a trilogy about Trixie and her favourite stuffed friend. All three books are charming and appealing to children who can identify with Trixie and her different stages of growth. In this one, Trixie begins to realise just how hard it is to grow up.

Trixie and her family travel to Holland to visit her grandparents. Somewhere along the way Knuffle Bunny is lost and Trixie doesn't know if she can manage without him. Her family tries to make her feel better. They try to comfort her with a new bunny and other distractions. The situation doesn't improve, however, until Trixie has a dream about Knuffle Bunny. She begins to realise she will be just fine without him and that perhaps Knuffle Bunny will be able to comfort other children now that she no longer needs him so much. I particularly like how Willems sensitively addresses a topic we all, as children and parents, deal with yet manages to incorporate his great sense of humour. I'd also like to mention how well we liked Willems' use of real photographs combined with superimposed character drawings. I had to explain to my daughters the picture of Knuffle Bunny passing through the x-ray machine before Trixie and her family boarded the plane. One of my girls also noted the difference in toilets in Holland while looking through the pictures.:) The realism of the photographs juxtaposed with the almost cartoonish quality of the story's characters makes for really fun and interesting art.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Kindness and Compassion: Alexander and the Wind-Up Mouse

Leo Lionni has been a favourite author of mine since my class and I discovered his stories and art back when I was teaching elementary school. His stories nearly always include a moral or an important life lesson but they aren't preachy. I introduced his collection of Frederick's Fables to my daughters a couple of weeks ago and they can't seem to get enough of it.

One of the best stories in the book is Caldecott Honor Book, Alexander and the Wind-Up Mouse (Random House Children's Books, Sept. 1974). It's an oldie but a goodie! But not that old...don't want to date myself!! Alexander is an ordinary mouse who encounters Willy, a toy mouse, mistaking him for real. He finds himself envying the other mouse who is a favourite toy of the children in the household. Alexander wishes he was special like Willy and that he was cared for. When Alexander is offered the chance to make a wish he initially decides he'd like to become a wind-up mouse like Willy. However, when Alexander finds Willy lying in a jumble of unwanted toys in a box to be thrown away Alexander makes a different choice. Instead, he wishes Willy would find another chance at happiness. Soon Alexander finds his wish has come true and the wind-up mouse has become his real, live friend.

Monday, November 1, 2010

One of a Kind: Spork

We picked up this newly released book from the library the other day and I have to say I was thrilled to find out it's Canadian. Always trying to make sure I get a little CanCon in. :)

(Kids Can Press Limited, 2010), by Kyo Maclear and Isabelle Arsenault, is a playful yet thoughtful story about a young spork who feels left out because he is different. This book is in a similar vein to the book Spoon. Both stories highlight the importance of being different. That we need to accept and celebrate differences and that the world would be a very boring place if we were all the same. However, I like how Spork imparts the idea that it is also important to recognise mixed identities. We need to embrace our cultural differences. A "multi-cutlery tale," indeed!

The artwork in this book is appealing and unique...contemporary yet retro. Instead of your typical brightly illustrated storybook filled with softly drawn images, Arsenault has used mixed media to create bold patterned pages full of interesting detail using hues of only red, black and white. A fun, thought provoking book!