Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Paging Through Picture Books: Edible Numbers (2015), Lola Plants a Garden (2014), Boat Book (1983), The Tiny Seed (1970), Lili at Ballet (1993), Dance in the Desert (1969), The Star-Spangled Banner (1973)

Here are some new picture reviews for the Picture Book Reading Challenge. These are my picks for #2 a counting book (Edible Numbers), #12 a book celebrating dance (Lili at Ballet), #20 Mother Goose related (Lola Plants a Garden), #22 a book by Gail Gibbons (Boat Book), #55 a book by Eric Carle (The Tiny Seed), #96 a book celebrating faith (Dance in the Desert), #91 a book about history or historical event (The Star-Spangled Banner).

Edible Numbers by Jennifer Vogel Bass


This clean-looking, fresh-feeling picture book reminds me a little bit of 1 Big Salad by Juana Medina, but with better execution. Each two-page spread shows a photo of a single fruit or vegetable on the left-hand side, labeled clearly with the number 1, and on the right-hand side a number of varieties of the same fruit or vegetable, labeled to show how many there are. Miss Muffet (age 3.5) loved seeing the many different types of familiar veggies like cucumbers and peppers, and because the numbers from 1 to 12 are interrupted on every spread by a return to the number 1, she also counts the number of objects on each page instead of just breezing through the numbers from memory. It's hard to find counting books that don't feel tedious, and this one, even after multiple readings, continues to appeal to me.

Lola Plants a Garden by Anna McQuinn

Inspired by her love of the "Mary, Mary Quite Contrary" nursery rhyme, book lover Lola decides to plan a garden. She borrows books about seeds from the library, enlists the help of her parents with the planting, and then, once everything has grown, invites her friends over to enjoy the garden along with her. I was familiar with the Lola books from reading them in story time, but they hadn't really made an impression on my own kids until Miss Muffet heard me read this at story time a few weeks ago. She wanted to hear it several more times at home, and she compared Lola's experience planting her garden to ours growing a bean in a plastic bag.

Boat Book by Gail Gibbons 

I borrowed this book from the library thinking it would appeal to Miss Muffet, who likes nonfiction, but it didn't impress her very much. We read through it once, and she liked looking at the illustrations but she hasn't asked to hear it again. Personally, I thought it was just okay. it's definitely a serviceable book for introducing a young child to boating vocabulary, but its not particular memorable, and it didn't feel as comprehensive as some of the other Gibbons books we've read (our favorite of which so far has been Emergency.)

The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle


I read this book at story time along with Lola Plants a Garden. It's not my favorite Carle book. While it provides good information about the path a seed takes before it lands in a place where it can germinate, it also personifies the seed in a way that feels forcedto me. I like the artwork, but the text is really wordy, and the number of words per page varies quite a bit. Without Carle's signature artwork, I think the mediocre quality of the text would become even more apparent.

Lili at Ballet by Rachel Isadora


I borrowed this book specifically for Little Miss Muffet and it has been very well received. In addition to the main text which describes a little girl going to ballet class, preparing for a recital, and dreaming of her future, there is also a lot of information written amongst the illustrations, giving the names of positions, steps, types of ballet slippers, etc. We had to ask my husband about correct French pronunciation, since I took Spanish, but Miss Muffet has been enamored of this book for weeks and she wants to hear every word of the main story as well as every caption over and over again. I know there are sequels, so we'll probably trade this one in for another on our next library visit.

Dance in the Desert by Madeleine L'Engle, illustrated by Symeon Shimin


This book shares a lot of the same problems that I have complained about in L'Engle's works in the past. The writing is beautiful (as are the illustrations), but the symbolism doesn't quite work. The common interpretation of this book seems to be that the child featured in the story is a young Jesus Christ and that his love and gentleness are so powerful that they tame even the wildest animal. All of this works fine, except that little Jesus is able to win over a snake. In Christianity, a snake only represents one thing: Satan. It doesn't make sense to use a symbol like a snake in a book that is so full of Christian allusions and then treat it like any other animal. L'Engle's theology always feels a little vague and touchy-feely to me, so I'm not necessarily surprised, but it is a very annoying mark on a book I otherwise really liked.

The Star-Spangled Banner by Peter Spier


This is an illustrated interpretation of the national anthem. I sang it to my girls on Memorial Day, and though the historical context is still too much for them to understand, they both liked it. My favorite part is actually the endpapers, which show flags from different points in American history as well as military flags. I look forward to using the book in our homeschool and to singing it to the girls again on the Fourth of July.

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