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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

A couple more picture book reviews (we'll return to adolescent books next time -- I promise)

Greenfield, Eloise; Gilchrist, Jan Spivey (2011) The Great Migration;  Journey to the North  New York:  Amistad

This is the story of the great migration of African-Americans from the south to the north during the reconstruction years when Jim Crow laws made the South a difficult place to live.  Their stories (told here through their voices arranged as poetry and through beautiful illustrations that combine photography with color and realistic sketching) include hope, heartbreak, disillusion, determination, joy, fear, and fulfillment.  Some of the images are stunning.  My favorites include one of a train passing a cornfield (but if you look closely you can see people amid the stalks) and an image of the train tracks, with a part of a map of the united states between the rails, so that at the rails get smaller in the distance, the mat moves north to Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and beyond.)  This is a lot of history here -- and a lot of heart too.  Good for 2nd and third  on up (really, any older kid who isn't ashamed to be reading a picture book).

Konnecke, Ole  (2011) Anton can do Magic  Weillington, New Zeeland: Gecko Press

Anton has a magic hat -- a real one.  He cannot make a tree disappear (probably too big) but when he focuses on a little bird and closes his eyes for a minute, the little bird disappears.  When he makes his friend Luke disappear, though, Anton is not so happy anymore.  Throughout this book, the child reader knows more about the story (by looking at the images) than the narrator behind the text does  This gives the child a strong sense of knowing more than the storyteller does -- which is sure to make the book a delight (and if they ar learning a bit about irony in the bargain -- so much the better. The illustrations are in a style reminiscent of Charles Schulz's Peanuts comics (see above) and they work well with the story.  This book is probably best for first and second graders.
Padmanabhan, Manjula  (2011)  I am Different.  Can you find me?  Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge
This is a nonfiction book about languages.  Although it is pretty abstract (no actual story here), the book stays interesting because there are a lot of colors, shapes, and other items for readers to find.  Having said that, this would be a great book for a preschool, kindergarten, or first grade class in connection with a unit on languages.  It is hard to imagine a kid picking this up on his or her own and being enthralled by it (though little kids are pretty amazing, so I guess it is possible). 

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