Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Voyage of the Frog by Gary Paulsen

Gary Paulsen, the three-time Newbery Honor book author, takes his readers on the adventure of their life! 

David Alspeth, a fourteen-year old kid, just suffered a tramatic loss.  Owen, his uncle, died from cancer.  Right before dieing Owen asked to see David alone.  His parents had already had their alone time with Owen, and now it was David's turn.  Thinking he only had two weeks of life left, Owen made a last request to David.  It was to spread his ashes in the ocean someplace where you could no longer see land.  So, David decides that he will do everything in his power to see that Owen's wish gets fulfilled. On May 15th, Owen died. 

By himself, David takes Owen's sailboat, the Frog, out into the Pacific Ocean just off the coast of California.

After a time at sea, the swells began to look strange.  David had never seem anything like it.  What was happening?  He discovered the answer quick enough, wind!  "A wild wind- a wind stronger thatn anything he'd ever seen or heard of, a wind without warning out of the northeast."  David tried everything in his power to get the sail down, get the hatch open, but the wind kept picking up and thrashing him about.  The full force of the wind hit the Frog like a giant sledgehammer.  The rail slammed across the boat like a sweeping saber and caught David full on in the center of the top of his head. 

When David realized he wasn't dead, although he felt like it, he saw that the boat was in shambles.  David and the Frog must have traveled hundreds of miles off the coast, and now he was stranded.  Food everywhere, fear the Frog was going to sink, David was scared.  At one time he even tried to was down a tanker, but noone saw him.  He felt defeated.  Days passed.

David did not give up.  He made a makeshift sail and finally wind began to pick up. 

David was finally found about halfway down the coast of Baja.  Maybe two hundread and fifty miles south of San Diego.  Captain Henry Pierce asked David to come aboard his vessel.  But, David wandered about the Frog.  Could they tow it?  The captain told him it would never work, but David did not want to leave the thing that he became apart of....the Frog.  David decided he would instead sail 'er home himself.

Gary Paulsen had me on the edge of my seat.  Easy read because you couldn't put it down!

Publishers Weekly: "Three-time Newbery Honor author Paulsen provides another action-filled survival story, as a storm strands 14-year-old David when he attempts to fulfill his late uncle's last wish by piloting his sailboat. Ages 10-14."
School Library Journal: "Paulsen's spare prose offers an affecting blend of the boy's inner thoughts and keen observations of the power of nature to destroy and to heal."
I agree!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Clarice Bean: Guess Who's Babysitting by Lauren Child

Clairce Bean Guess Who's Babysitting was written for children in grades 1 - 4 (Candlewick Press, 2001).  I read this book to students in the 6th grade.  I thought the subject of the book, the creative way in which the author arranged the words over the pages (in circles, in ladder format , in a variety of fonts), the dialogue between the characters, and the illustrations that combined sketchy drawings with collages of pictures were all effective and appropriate for 6th grade students (ages 9 - 11).     
This book definitely appeals to children.  The fun pictures, the silly little conversations set in the background between Clarice and her little brother as her older sister Marcie chats on the phone to her friends (her conversations depict that of a true teenager) is something that children relate to and find amusing.  This story definitely falls under the category of “Guidelines for Selecting Children’s Literature” (Johnson, 2009, p. 7) “The target audience should be able to identify with the protagonist, who may share similar characteristics such as age.” (Johnson, 2009, p. 7) “Books for younger children include engaging pictures, fast-paced action that is presented in a straight forward manner, a single setting, and a satisfying ending.” (Johnson, 2009, p. 7)  This book incorporates all of these characteristics.  The more I read this book the more I enjoyed it.  Each time I read it I found something new (a picture, an amusing quote from Clarice Bean, or a subtle picture the author/illustrator placed on the page to enhance the meaning of the story.  This book was written for children, but adults can enjoy it as well.
The story takes place in Clarice Bean’s house, at the emergency room (her brother was knocked out by a soccer ball), and in the back yard of her home (as they looked for Albert, the guinea pig).  The story opens with Clarice Bean’s mom talking on the telephone.  She is in her pajama’s and slippers.  The next page is a full-bleed page filled with Clarice’s family sitting at the dining table during breakfast.   A coffee cup is on the table, toast and orange juice were placed on the table for someone to eat, and Clarice’s dad is dressed for work.  The setting moves to the emergency room and the author adds a picture of Clarice’s brother, Minal, stretched out on a gurney as a nurse takes notes on his status.  And then, the story moves to Clarice’s backyard as the Clarice, Minal, and Uncle Ted search for Albert.  The author/illustrator provides a great visual of Minal getting his head caught in the fence and of the entire fire department in the backyard as her mother tries to relax.
The characters are well developed.  Clarice’s brother, Minal, was described by the author on the inside cover as being “pesky.” (Child, 2000)  The author immediately brings this to light by showing him standing on a chair at the breakfast table trying to join the conversation.  Clarice is often bothered by her brother as the author shows how she lassoed her brother (and how Clarice’s imagines that she really lassoed him to a cactus).  Another depiction of Minal’s character illustrates him getting knocked out by a soccer ball and getting his head caught in the fence. 
Clarice’s older sister is a typical teenage girl who is constantly on the telephone chatting with her friends.  The author/illustrator defines this character on the first couple of pages as Clarice’s mother lays down Rule Number 5 to Uncle Ted, “Don’t let Marcie take the phone into her bedroom.” (Child, 2000, p. 10)  The picture that the author provides to the reader is Marcie lying on her bed talking on the phone, with the words “Chat, Chat, Chat, Chat,….” (Child, 2000, p. 13) written many times, and again when Uncle Ted looks for the telephone so that he can call the fire station, but he can’t find the phone.  A great illustration shows Marcie sitting on her bed continuing her conversation on the telephone.  In addition, the author builds the character of the older sister, who most definitely is bothered by her younger sister and brother, Clarice, as she exclaims, “I would rather look after newts from Neptune than be left with Clarice Bean and Minal Cricket.”  (Child, 2000, p. 6) And this was written in bold letters. 
The author/illustrator creates Kurt, Clarice’s brother, a teenage boy who prefers to be by himself instead around others.  For instance, as Clarice’s mom attempts to find a babysitter Kurt remarks, “Don’t look at me, I’m going to my room and probably won’t be down for supper.” (Child, 2000, p. 6)  Once again, as Clarice’s mom goes over the rules for Uncle Ted, she says, “Make sure Kurt sees daylight a least once every 24 hours (Rule Number 4).” (Child, p. 6) Kurt says the sunlight is too bright.
Grandfather is depicted in illustration as an older gentleman who may not be thinking clearly in his old age.  As he is sitting at the breakfast table with his family he comments outloud in response to the information about Clarice’s Uncle Ernie’s unfortunate accident with a donut, “I haven’t had a doughnut since I was a boy.” (Child, 2000, p. 6)  The illustration shows him with a bird sitting on his head (maybe this means “bird brain”).  His eyes glasses are crooked, he appears to be a little scruffy, and it also seems as if no one in his family is paying much attention to him.  In fact, mom’s Rule Number 6 is “Keep an eye on granddad.  He tends to wander off.” (Child, 2000, p. 11) Futhermore, granddad comes up missing and ends up being found in a neighbor’s house (Mrs. Stampney’s house – Rule Number 3 – Don’t drive Mrs. Stampney at Number 9 wacko), comfortably watching television.  Granddad’s only comment was, “All houses look the same when you get to my age.” (Child, p. 11)
Clarice’s mom’s character was developed just as the reader opened the first page.  She was the one on the phone with the nurse finding out what had happened to her brother, Ernie.  She was the one to find a babysitter.  She was the one who sits Uncle Ted down to go over all of the house rules.  And as the story develops, you see how in-tune she is with her family’s needs and shortcomings.  Some of the looks that she gives to Uncle Ted (because she knows he’s a carefree spirit that can’t truly be trusted 100% with her children) are priceless.  And finally, the last page illustrating her sitting in her backyard while chaos is all around her, she just looks at her brother, Uncle Ted, as if to say….”This is par for the course.”
Clarice’s character is also developed over the course of the story.  She is just a young girl who adores her Uncle Ted, and although the reason behind him babysitting was a serious matter, she only cares that her strong, fun-loving, and adventurous Uncle is coming to have take care of her.  She is illustrated as a free spirit, too…much like Uncle Ted.  She likes the westerns on television and she has a great imagination (as she lassoes her brother and pictures him lassoed to a cactus).  She is aware of her family’s craziness as she appreciates how well things went for the first two days under the care of her Uncle Ted.  She has spunk and can take care of herself, as she addresses the neighbor friend, Robert Granger, when Robert found Clarice’s guinea pig and tries to pull it off as his own, “That’s not your guinea pig.  You better give him back.  That’s school property and you will be in big trouble with the police.” (Child, 2000, p. 21) Robert lets it go.  Clarice is also shown on the last page looking up at a firefighter with a smile on her face.  With all that had happened, she had a wonderful time.
Race and gender was avoided in this story, but stereotypes were not avoided.  The family stereotypical attributes were related throughout the story.  The older teenage sister on the telephone all the time, a pesky younger brother, and a grumpy neighbor (most people can relate to).  I believe the author purposively created such characters for children to immediately relate to instead of coming up with out-of-the-ordinary characters and circumstances.
The quality of the language is evident in the author’s choice of words and meaning throughout the book.  The use of personification is used frequently providing the reader with a number of ways to learn about language development.  For instance, Clarice’s father says (when he is talking on the phone), “I’ll be with you in two shakes.” (Childs, 2000, p. 7)  example is when the nurse asks if Clarice’s mom could “get out to New York City on the double.” (Childs, 2000, p. 5)  Or when Uncle Ted is listening to Clarice’s mom, the author states, “Uncle Ted looked sheepish.” (Childs, 2000, p. 9) Another example is when Clarice says, “I am beside myself.” (Childs, 2000)  What better way to teach children the beauty of writing and reading than through this visual style of writing.
The theme is developed beginning on the first page with an accident (Uncle Ernie slipped on a donut) and Clarice’s mom receives a phone call from the nurse stating that she needed to fly to New York City in order to help.  The mother is faced with who will take care of the family in her absence.  This problem is similar to problems that many families (and children) have faced from time to time.   From rules being broken (of the six that Clarice’s mom had left for the babysitter, Uncle Ted, to follow), to the ends in and outs of getting along with your siblings, to the everyday happenings of a family, children can relate and be entertained all at the same time.  Since “Blame” is such a large word in a child’s vocabulary it makes sense that this word be one of the themes of the book.  In fact, every time the word is used it is in bold type font.  When mom couldn’t initially find a babysitter, dad says, “Who can BLAME them?” (Childs, 2000, p. 7) and when Uncle Ted says to Clarice’s mom, “Don’t Blame me,” as the entire fire department shows up in her backyard are two examples of this common word we all hate to have placed on us when trouble arises. (Child, 2000, p. 27)
The illustrations captured the movement of the story.  The full page illustrations, the colors used (pastel yellows, blues, greens, and orange), the saturation of these colors were bright reflecting the mood of happy, light, and fun.  Not only are there words placed on the page vertically, but they are also horizontal, in circles (around donuts), zigzags (as if in a thought process (when mom is receiving the information about her hurt brother and probably trying to think about what to do about her family), and words written in pretty cursive (used when mom is speaking) probably to depict the persons beauty.  It seems that every picture and every word has been thoughtfully placed on each page to develop and enhance the story.
As stated above, the illustrations help to create the meaning of the text in so many ways.  Clarice’s Uncle Ted is the apple in her eye.  He is bigger than life and very cool, and the author/illustrator portrays this “superman” by illustrating him on a page as a very tall strong man.  He has two children (Clarice and Minal) draped over him like they weigh next to nothing.  The author also shows Uncle Ted beside these large skyscrapers (which are on fire and slanting to the right), but again the mere size that the illustrator portrays Uncle Ted shows that it is no job for him to easily put these fires out.  The illustrations also represent Clarice’s mother as a serious individual juggling many balls (her children, her brothers, her household, her aging father, and the everyday happenings of each day).  She has a serious look on her face, her arms are crossed, and she stands very straight as if to possess strength.  The author/illustrator, Lauren Child, arranges random pictures, photography, and cartoon-like characters throughout the entire story.  Lauren Child uses this illustration style in many of her stories, “I get inspiration for my artwork from all kinds of things – fabrics, architecture, photography.  I began to work in collage partly because I found it difficult to plan my illustrations.” () This is true for this picture book, too. Clarice is here and she’s there and she’s running and she’s watching television and she’s lassoing her little brother and she is searching for her guinea pig, and she is questioning authority.  The illustrations help create this energy.  There is the suggestion of movement on every single page. The pages are either full-bleed or the pages go from one scene to the next (always intersecting with words or the next thought).  For instance, the breakfast table stretches across the two pages showing how large the family is and how many things are going on at one time.  This full-bleed affect takes one’s eyes across the entirety of the two pages. Another example is of another full-bleed picture of Clarice sitting on a couch beside her Uncle Ted watching television (westerns) eating eggs and beans.  The backdrop is of the desert, maybe a canyon, and your eye takes you to the right where Minal is lassoed to a cactus.  Such a great effect because you can actually see into Clarice’s imagination.  Out of the fifteen pages that make up this story eight of them are full-bleed. 
The pictures are an integral part of the story because half of the story is told through the characters eyes.  Clarice’s mom always has a serious squint and her mouth is perched.  You can tell, without words, that she is in charge and constantly thinking about each situation.  Clarice’s mood and thoughts are evident in her face.  She becomes wide-eyed when she looks up to her Uncle in pure awe (he is her idol).  Clarice’s dad is dressed in a business suit with his hand in the air (as he talks on the phone) as if to say, “Shhhhhh. I’m having a business call.”  (Child, 2000, p. 7) Without the illustration, you wouldn’t be able to tell that he is “all business” and no play.  The pictures bring life to the story and the action associated with the story.  The illustrations help you become Clarice for the moment.  You understand when she talks about how her family was for the first two days her parents were gone, “One of those families on television who always say things like please and thank you and sorry….” (Child, 2000, p. 12)  The full-bleed page is of a television with her family playing the part of the characters.  Everything about the illustrations is bigger than life.  Sometimes you only see arms (you know they are her Uncle Ted’s), and sometimes you only see a foot after it kicked the soccer ball and it hit Minal in the head (again, it’s her Uncle Ted’s).  Uncle Ted is the “beloved” babysitter, but he is not the main character so he is usually shown only part way.  I believe the author used this to show his on-going presence but the attention is still on the kids.
The illustrations extend the text by adding more meaning to the actual words.  For instance, Clarice is at the emergency room looking up at the nurse.  She mentions that her brother should have stitches.  She mentions that “unfortunately the nurse doesn’t agree.” The nurse is looking down at Clarice, crossly.  The illustration adds to the text that the nurse not only doesn’t agree, but that she is also becoming bothered by Clarice’s attempts to assist.  Other examples of this include Clarice’s teenage sister’s obsession with the telephone.  Without the author showing Clarice’s sister in many scenes chatting nonstop the reader would forget about her character all together.  And another example is when Clarice’s mom provides Uncle Ted with six rules he needed to see didn’t get broken.  Illustrations of each rule was provide (#1 No breakages – a picture of a broken lamp is given; #2 No lassoing – a picture of a lassoe;), and these pictures provide clues to the action of the story by foreshadowing the upcoming events.  It gives the reader something to anticipate as the action begins.  The reader begins to wonder, “Is something going to be broken?, Will Clarice lassoe her brother again? Who is going to bother Mrs. Stampney?”
Medium and Style of Illustrations
The author has chosen to use both Painterly Media and Graphic Media in this picture book.  The use of montage was used on all of the pages by cutting out pieces of paper that have been water-colored to create a translucent image and outlined with ink to create the actual shape before cutting. The author also included photography throughout the book to provide another variable to the illustrations. The author seems to use this style in many of her books, “I began to work in collage partly because I found it difficult to plan my illustrations.  Cutting things out means I can move things around and change my mind.  It also means I could incorporate different textures, photographs and fabric.” (web ) “Lauren Child’s humorous illustrations contain many different mediums including magazine cuttings, collage, material and photography as well as traditional watercolors.” (O’Reilly, 2007)
Lauren Child has used straight lines that are dark and rough.  She also uses vertical lines and curves.  The lines that separate scenes are vertical.  In most of those scenes the chaos has stopped and the calm has begun.  For example, mom returns home and the scenes on the page showed mom returning and what did to fix a few matters at home (getting Minal’s head out of the fence and sitting in the backyard with a cup of tea).  In this book she uses bright colors (blues, greens, oranges, and yellows) to capture the high spirit and fun this book brings to the reader.  The whole book is full of fun, light-hearted shapes.  From the size and shape of the television that extends through two pages (showing the family resembling a sweet television family), to the shapes that encapsulate the rules that the mother provided to Uncle Ted (even these strict rules made you laugh because they are so typical of a mother’s request). 
The style of the illustrations is fun and energy-provoking, and they have a strong comic element.  The textures of the illustrations are that of a layering effect.  I keep trying to feel the seams because they look like they are really protruding off the page.  The style is perfect for the story because it captures the intended audience (children).
Lauren Child uses this style of illustration in many of her stories.  Clarice Bean, Charlie and Lola, Hubert Horatio, Who Wants to Be a Poodle, I Don’t, and many more are illustrated in her zany comic fun-loving, texturous depictions of characters that come alive on the pages.  “The endearing quality of the illustrations is enhanced by Child’s perceptive detail, particularly with regard to facial expressions. The result – a juxtaposition of traditional children’s illustrations and contemporary artistic styles.” (O’Reilly, 2007).
To create the rhythm and movement of the illustrations, Lauren Child uses a lot of scratchy pen and translucent watercolors.  The material used for the cutouts isn’t done to perfection giving the reader a sense of flow.  Because the author/illustrator uses so many forms of art in her illustrations the reader is constantly looking at the pages searching for more meaning (Why are the socks on the ground? Why is there a photograph of a real guinea pig? Why is there a cartoon picture of grandpa watching a real photograph of a horse race?).  This coupled with the text enables the reader to read this book many times over and get something new out of it each time.
Lauren Child has created balance in composition by staying true to the color scheme, ensuring that backgrounds (using the full-bleed effect) are throughout the book and not just on one page, and the character’s size always stays true to one another from page to page (no one is bigger than life).  The book stays constant from the time you open to the first page to the time you finish the story.
Overall Evaluation
The author has created many books that are similar in style and mediums (as mentioned above).  All of Lauren Child’s books have that fun loving, mix media flare (varying collages, watercolor, pen/ink, and material).  Even her Charlie and Lola book series, that is a children’s television show, is televised in this style.
 Reviewers love this book. 
“Lauren Child’s wacky, wonderful book is full of boisterous color and scattered text.” (Amazon.Com) 
“Bright and braxy, this youngster will win over readers in a split second and will leave them hopin for more of her trials and tribulations.” (Publishers Weekly)
“Readers won’t forget Lauren Child’s unusual and tremendously appealing cut-paper and photographic collages.  Her text wends its way around the illustrations, spiraling if need be, and growing or shrinking as appropriate.” (Amazon.com)
“The crazy antics throughout the book will keep the children entertained.  This is simply a hilarious book.” (Plach, para.4)
“The illustrations are a unique combination of cartoons and real photographs, adding more quirkiness to complement Clarice Bean’s character.” (Belanger, 2010, para.1)

I definitely agree with the reviews.  I had fun reading this book to myself and then again to students.  I knew it was a hit when they asked if I’d pass it around so they could see the pages.

The Tiger and the Rabbit told by Pura Belpre

The Tiger and the Rabbit, by Pura Belpre, is a collection of 18 folktales from the Island of Puerto Rico.  The Tiger and the Rabbit was first published in 1946, and now being published again with illustrations.  In Puerto Rico, it is told that no one ever went to bed without being told bedtime stories.

"The stories in The Tiger and the Rabbit were first told by a library storyteller, Pura Belpre, and many children were introduced to Spanish-American culture through Senor Rabbit, Senor Tiger, as well as Juan Bobo.  They laughed as they recognized the similarities between the African story, "How Mr. Elephant Got a New Hind End" and the Puerto Rican story, "The  Dance of the Animals."

A few of my favorite fables in this book were The Bed and The Gluttonous Wife.  The Bed was about a woman who brought her little boy up under a bed.  But the bed squeeked.  Each time the bed squeeked the little boy cried, "Booh, Booh."  The old woman would say, "Don't cry little boy. It is only the sound fo this old-fashioned bed." When each time the bed squeeked the dog bark, the cat Miaowed, the pig screamed, and the mouse squeaked.  And each time the old woman would say, "Don't cry, it's just an old fashioned bed."  Until the old man came home and laid across the bed.  It squeeked and then broke to the floor.  The woman just sat on the floor and laughed until she shook.

The Gluttonous Wife was about a woman who was hungry all the time.  The husband would go off to work, and she would stay at home and eat.  By the time her husband got home she was again hungry and after she made salad for her husband for dinner she was still hungry.  Finally, the husband said he was going to go to work.  Instead, he snuck under the house and watched his very fat wife eat all day long.  When it was time for him to go home he walked in the door.  The wife said she was very hungry and the husband made her feel guilty about all of the food she had eaten throughout the day.  She swore to never eat without him again.  The two got fat together.

Kay Peterson Parker, the illustrator, used pen and ink to create the few illustrations this book offered.


I read this book back in high school, but reading it again in my later years (under much less stress) was a little more insightful.  Following the fall of Troy, Odysseu, is on his way home.

Odysseus is the only Greek survivor of the Trojan War.  He was captured and held by the bewitching nymph.  The Poseidon, god of the sea has blinded his son Polyphemus the Cyclops.  Athena convinces her father, Zeus, to let Odysseus go. 

Reputation is a on-going theme in this book.  Odysseus is always look to as holding good morals and character by the gods.

Athena continues to stop war throughout the epic.  She succeeds for the most part.

The Odyssey is a major part of ancient history.  "The "Odyssey" is a magnificient piece of literature that we find absolutely spectacular in the fact of its potential for helping us understand pre-history of many ancient cultures, and because of the fact that it is so well written and perhaps one of the first "books" (epics) ever written down." http://library.thinkquest.org/19300/data/homer.htm

Homer is the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and he is known as the greatest ancient Greek epic poet. His stories have had a significance influence on American Literature.  These stories date back to the 8th century BC.  The Iliad is the oldest work of Western literature.

Life's Little Fable by Patricia Cornwell

Patricia Cornwell, a well-know author of many adult literature detective books, writes Life's Little Fable for children.  Just with a glance I never would have guessed that the entire book rhymed.  I loved that feature.  It didn't look like poetry, but the words flowed as if it were.

Jarrod enjoys running, climbling trees, swinging from branches and being daring.  But he has been told not to go to the pond because his father was entranced by the pond and was taken from his family.  As most children can resist the temptation of going near something that they are told not to, Jarrod defied his mother's request and leans over the pond.  He hears a mystical voice drawing him closer and closer.  The birds are all singing about the beauty of the pond and what wonders it will share.  All of a sudden an alligator jumps out after Jarrod.  Jarrod is lucky enough to have a stick in his had that he prys the beast's mouth open in an effort to get away.  The beast retreats and Jarrod is no longer fooled.

This fable is one that we've heard.  Beautiful lands reminds the reader of a Garden of Eden and all of the temptations it has to offer.  But, we all know the drawbacks to all temptations

 In Patricia Cornwell's Own Words:"I wanted to write something for children, so we (my company) produced this book ourselves, at my expense. I used to write stories for children when I was a babysitter. Fable is also my gift to literacy. So far, every penny it has earned has gone to the Virginia Literacy Foundation and Reading Is Fundamental. The book is meant to be read to children. Hopefully, it will lead to meaningful conversations about good and evil and the truths and values the Scarpetta books are meant to instill in us. I learned about values and to care about reading because my mother read to me and told me stories when I was a child. In fact, Fable is dedicated to her." http://www.digitalmedia1.com/pc/lifes_little_fable.html

The illustrator, Barbara Leonard Gibson, used pen and ink to create her colorful depictions of Jarrod and his adventurous life.  She has illustrated more than three dozen books.  She specializes in horse, wildlife and nature illustrations.

Miss Maggie by Cynthia Rylant

Cynthia Rylant does it again with her book Miss Maggie.  Miss Maggie is an old lady living in an old log house close to the property of Nat, on the edge of  Crawford Pasture.  Nat's grandmother would send Nat over to deliver a jug of buttermilk or a kettle of beans to Miss Maggie.  Nat would try to get a glimpse inside Miss Maggie's house by peeking in the window.  He wanted to see the old black snake that people spoke about which hung from the rafters of Miss Maggie's house.  The snake was said to eat the mice that came inside.  Nat would usually kick the bottom of the old screen door to get Miss Maggie's attention.  Miss Maggie would always come to the door to accept her delivery. 

One day Nat looked over the snow covered field that lay between his home and Miss Maggie's and realized that her chimney wasn't smoking.  Although his feet didn't want to go, his heart told him to see if she was okay.  He kicked the door as he usually did but didn't get a response.  He let himself in her house only to see that she was sitting on the cold floor.  Nat walked up to her and called her name.  She did not responed.  He did it again, this time bending down and Miss Maggie turned to him and handed him a cloth.  She responded, "Henry."  Nat corrected her and said, "It's Nat, not Henry."  Then he realized that whatever was in the cloth must be named Henry.  He thought of the snake.  But, when he unwrapped it he discovered a dead bird.  Poor Miss Maggie, thought Nat.  Nat ended up taking Miss Maggie back to his home so that his parents could tend to her.

From that day one Nat and Miss Maggie became close.  She always saved her coffee cans for him to collect bugs and such, and he even decorated one for her (so that she had a proper place to spit her tobacco).

The illustrator, Thomas DiGrazia, captures the sadness of the story by using black and white and giving the idea of a dream (because the illustrations a kinda fussy).  However, this provided just enough imagination to change your mind about the relationship between the two.  The illustrations appeared to be charcoal and blotted out.

What a perfect book for children to learn empathy.  This is one of the character traits that is so difficult to teach children, and books with these lessons make it much more enjoyable to learn rather than listening to adults give a lecture.

But Excuse Me That is My Book by Lauren Child

Lauren Child, the author, illustrator, and creator of Charlie and Lola, has found a way to children's heart by opening up to the way children think and play.  Her creative illustrations contain many different media including magazine cutting, collage, material and photography, and watercolors.  Along with the storyline, no one can resist the eye candy that her books contain.

Charlie and Lola, But excuse me that is my book, is about their trip to the library.  All Lola can do is think about getting her favorite book Beetles, Bugs, and Butterflys "it is the best book in the whole world," says Lola.  Charlie tries to explain to her that there are a ton of other books in the library to choose from and that she doesn't have to choose the same book everytime they go.  But, Lola is determined to get the book about Beetles, Bugs, and Butterflys and she is almost as determined to convince Charlie that it is infact the best book in the world.  Unfortunately, she looks up and and see's another girl about to check out her book.  What is she to do?  Finally, Charlie shows her a book about cheetas and chimpanzees.  She loves it!  She exclaims that "the chimpanzees are very cheeky."

I love the english accent that is even portrayed in the book.....cheeky.