In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Guest Blogger: If I Had to Pick Just One...

Dear Aunt Debbie,

I love the image of you hovering over the computer to buy the winning books immediately, like a Springsteen fan with Ticketmaster on redial the moment the tour goes on sale.  Hope you did well!

I am enjoying my students' portfolios, thanks!  I'm lucky to have the freedom, in my Writers' Workshop course, to encourage a wide variety of writing styles and content.  These collections are full of my students' beliefs and wild ideas (and a whole lot of fantasy-influenced plotlines), and they're deeply personal.  I'm grateful to our guest bloggers for giving me a little more time to stay on my strict grading schedule.

Tonight's guest is Rachel, one of our most frequent commenters, who has just started a kids' book blog of her own: Even in Australia.  Here's her post.

Perhaps my very favorite children's book, if I had to pick just one, is
The Lion and the Little Red Bird
by Elisa Kleven,.  In fact, I chose this book for the picture book swap hosted by Playing by the Book.  It tells the story of a lion whose tail changes color every day and the desire of his friend, the little red bird, to know why.  Although she and the lion are unable to communicate, they have a true and deep friendship.  He rescues her from a thunderstorm; she pulls a thorn from his paw.  They love each other and take care of each other and simply enjoy each other's company.  And of course, at the end the little red bird learns the lion's secret.
I love nearly everything about this book.  The story is so gentle and heartwarming.  The language has such a delightful rhythm to it and the line breaks add to the poetic feeling.
"In the morning the lion came out,
swishing his tail -
which was no longer green, but orange as a flower,
orange as a butterfly,
orange as the setting sun.
'Lion, Lion!' the bird chirped, astonished.
'Why is your tail so orange?'
Again, the lion did not understand the bird."
Best of all are the illustrations, which are mixed media collages.  They are so detailed - I want to reach out and feel the lion's tightly curled mane and have a picnic in the field of orange flowers that he frolics in.  The only false note are the illustrations of children playing in the background.  I can't figure out if their primitive look is intentional, to convey playfulness or childlike-ness.  If so, they don't succeed, but this is such a minor complaint in the context of the entire book that I feel almost petty pointing it out.
I love finding books that mention other books (take a look at my post on the topic).  So I was excited when I discovered that this one appears in Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten by Joseph Slate (not one of my favorites but a big hit with my kids).  It appears among the books the ones the eponymous teacher is shelving.  It is lying on the floor, open, so you have to be familiar with it to spot it.  Sharp-eyed readers will also notice Robert McCloskey's classics, Make Way for Ducklings and Blueberries for Sal.
Happy reading! 

And happy long weekend to you!

Love, Annie

P.S. On the MLK Day weekend note, do you have any good suggestions for books about King?  I scanned a few they had out at our local library this week, and they all looked pretty bleah. 


  1. Rachel --
    Lovely post. Lovely book. I didn't know about it until a customer turned me on to it a little while ago.

    For MLK, I've become quite fond of Child of the Civil Rights Movement by Paula Young Shelton. Her father is Andrew Young, who was very close with MLK Jr. The book is a description of both public and private moments of the civil rights movement as observed by 4 year-old Paula. Illustrated by Raul Colon. Won't give you the big picture, but it feels very real and small child-friendly.

  2. Thanks for writing about this book. I've never heard of it, but it sounds lovely. I'm looking forward to finding it.

  3. Ah, a review about a book I haven't heard of. Sounds interesting! Thanks for the nice post and glad I came across you on the comment challenge:)