1. Skip to Menu
  2. Skip to Content
  3. Skip to Footer>

Features

Good books, old friends: Three books for the little people

I am channeling my inner-children's librarian this month. Here are three picture books to share with the little people in your life.

If You'll Be My Valentine (HarperCollins, 2005, $14.99) encourages us to celebrate all types of love on Valentine's Day. In fact, it makes no mention at all of that mushy, gushy romantic stuff for which the holiday was created.

Its breezy, rhyming text is provided by award-winning children's author Cynthia Rylant. Its vibrant, Crayola color box illustrations are done by Fumi Kosaka.

In place of a story, Rylant and Kosaka substitute the personalized greetings a little boy has carefully crafted for family members and friends. The astonishingly thoughtful child remembers virtually every creature and person of significance to him. These range from the bird singing outside his window to his grandmother far away.

In several succeeding pairings, we see the message and cover design of each card on one page and the delight of each corresponding recipient on the opposite.

The unknown Kosaka's simple but eloquent artwork is more than a match for veteran Rylant's polished verses. It is hard to choose, but my favorite illustration shows the boy hugging a tree on which he has hung a single paper red heart in appreciation of his natural surroundings.

Prominent in the exquisitely composed foreground to this picture are a cheerful-looking snowman, big fluffy snowflakes and the budding conservationist's determined footprints on a snow-covered hill.

Also nice is the final scene. As the boy is tucked into bed by his loving parents, a glittery heart-shaped constellation beams its light approvingly through not yet drawn curtains.

Before you open the action-packed winter fantasy Snow Dude (Hyperion Books for Children, 2004, $16.99), take this advice — read it in a really boring, monotone voice. Otherwise, your audience will want to hear it as many times as the eponymous snow dude repeats his addictive signature refrain: "I'm a snow dude, as wild as wild can be. Run as fast as you can run — you won't catch up with me!"

Author and illustrator Daniel Kirk imagined this brilliant homage to the classic tale of the runaway gingerbread boy in all its variant forms.

Kirk makes the archetypal plot pattern his own by putting his characters in hot pursuit of the ultimately hip and happening snowman instead of a cookie.

"Be careful what you say," the wind warns elementary-school-aged brother and sister Nick and Kara Candlewick. The "mischief in the chilly air" just might grant their wish for their newly built snowman to come to life.

" ‘We could chase him,' Kara said, ‘and have a lot of fun!'"

And, an instant later, the stunned siblings are doing just that.

Almost every resident of the Candlewicks' town, including the animals in the zoo, joins their quest for the magical creature. When they finally capture him in a park, my namesake sagely suggests everyone build snow dudes of their own. An impromptu winter carnival results and all who participate are "just as happy as could be."

Kirk's busy illustrations are as enchanting as his rhyming text is clever. The former are filled with verve and vitality as is befitting of the frantic snowman hunt they portray.

With their soft, sun-infused color palette, Kirk's renderings also remind us of how much fun it is to play in the snow. That is as long as the temperature is hovering just below freezing and the winds are from the south.

As you well know, you should not judge a book by its cover. Nevertheless, you will be utterly entranced by the cover for Ellington Was Not A Street (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2004, $15.95).

It is graced by the intriguing image of a young African-American girl carefully displaying a shiny black vinyl disc. The prized possession is a record which, according to its RCA Victor label, features Duke Ellington and his Famous Orchestra playing "Mood Indigo."

Fingers and palms touching only its little more than paper-thin edge, the girl handles the treasured recording with as much reverence as she would a treasured family heirloom.

The girl's attire, a robin's egg blue dress with short and pleated skirt and sleeves, is playful enough. It is made even more so by her pigtail braids held by white ribbons cut and tied to match her white-winged collar.

But the expression on the face between those braids is as solemn and grave as the hushed, hunter green background it is set against.

Her incongruously wise-beyond-her-years demeanor, not her typical-for-her-age costume, sets the tone for the haunting journey into the past this impassioned early jazz fan takes us on.

African-American artist Kadir Nelson received a Coretta Scott King medal for this depiction and the other equally striking illustrations he lends to this remarkable offering.

The text is a poem first published by renowned African-American author and scholar Ntozake Shange in 1983. Not surprisingly the title of her four-stanza rhyme is the same as the popular Ellington piece on the book cover, "Mood Indigo." In it, Shange pays tribute to the home and community in which she grew up and the influential African Americans who were her parents' friends.

Her voice quiet and reflective, Shange explains through her autobiographical ode to a bygone era who Ellington and her other childhood heroes were. By implication, she also hearkens younger generations to seek role models in whom they too can take pride.

Palpable in each line is Shange's sadness and regret for a world that no longer exists, for a time when people knew Ellington as more than the name of a street.

In addition to giving faces to the names Shange lists, Nelson very effectively echoes the poet's somber mood in his museum quality oil paintings.

Not to worry. Nelson depicts lots of genuinely warm and happy intermingling between Shange's family and friends and their esteemed visitors.

But the subdued green of the cover is a recurring motif. As is the girl in the blue dress whose smile is one of restraint rather than joy.

Together these devices make us all too aware of a way of life that somehow through the march of time has been lost. As poignantly and provocatively as Shange, they inform us of both a heritage and a legacy that deserve remembrance and respect.

If you are a history buff, you will rejoice in the many nostalgic touches Nelson employs to bring Shange's childhood home and neighborhood fully to life.

But before you even open the book to mine your own meanings from Shange's words and Nelson's brush strokes, compare the back cover to the front.

Marvel if you will in Nelson's ironic juxtaposition. On the front is the girl, Shange, who is all seriousness. On the back is the man, Ellington, who can barely suppress laughter behind his trademark twinkling eyes and mischievous grin.

 

Kvasnicka, a former East Village Magazine news editor, has been the magazine's contributing editor and research consultant since 1989. She is the librarian at the Genesee District Library's Goodrich Branch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Share
Visitors
15
Articles
2658
Articles View Hits
2773963

Fast Links

Notices

Average hits a day on stories in last 30 days: 2,707.

Average hits a day on web site in last 30 days: 679.


Hits on stories Jan. 15, 2010 to Dec. 12, 2013: 6,676,049.

Hits on web site Jan. 15, 2010 to Dec. 12, 2013: 1,535,763.

 



Hits on stories Dec. 13  to Jan. 12: 32,660

Hits on web site Dec. 13  to Jan. 12:  10,887

 

Hits on stories Nov. 13  to Dec. 12: 19,236

Hits on web site Nov. 13  to Dec. 12:  6,412

 

Hits on stories Oct. 13  to Nov. 12: 49,387

Hits on web site Oct. 13 to Nov. 12:  16,462

Hits on stories Sept. 13  to Oct. 12: 65,084.

Hits on web site Sept. 13 to Oct. 12:  21,695.

Hits on stories Aug. 13  to Sept. 12: 60,139.

Hits on web site Aug. 13 to Sept. 12:  20,046.

 

Hits on stories July 13  to Aug. 12: 66,870.

Hits on web site July 13 to Aug. 12: 22,290.

 

Hits on stories June 13  to July 12: 58,424.

Hits on web site June 13 to July 12: 19,304.

 

Hits on stories May 13  to June 12: 59,629.

Hits on web site May 13 to June 12: 20,095.

 

Hits on stories April 13  to May 12: 57,218.

Hits on web site April 13 to May 12: 19,073.

 

Hits on stories March 13  to April 12: 60,182.

Hits on web site March 13 to April 12: 19,082.

 

Hits on stories Feb. 13  to March 12: 67,293.

Hits on web site Feb. 13 to March 12: 14,788.

 

Hits on stories Jan. 13  to Feb. 12: 54,538.

Hits on web site Jan. 13 to Feb. 12: 18,198

 

Hits on stories Dec. 13 to Jan. 12: 71,290.

Hits on web site Dec. 13 to Jan. 12: 15,870.

 

Hits on stories Nov. 13 to Dec. 12: 113,197

Hits on web site Nov. 13 to Dec.. 12: 16,849

_______________________________________________

Hits on stories Oct. 13 to Nov. 12: 132,525

Hits on web site Oct. 13 to Nov. 12: 16,570.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Hits on stories Sept. 13 to Oct. 12: 113,654

Hits on web site Sept. 13 to Oct. 12: 15,448


Hits on stories Aug. 13 to Sept. 12: 91,003

Hits on web site Aug. 13 to Sept. 12: 9,869


Hits on stories July 13 to Aug.12: 59,238

Hits on web site July 13  to Aug. 12: 6,804


Hits on stories June 13 to July 12: 48,151

Hits on web site June 13 to July 12: 6,589


Hits on stories May 13 to June 12: 45,956

Hits on web site May 13 to June 12: 7,209


Hits on stories April 13 to May 12: 38,676

Hits on web site April 13 to May 12: 3,857


Hits on stories March 13 to April 12: 45,240

Hits on web site March 13 to April 12: 3,907


Hits on stories Feb. 13 to March 12: 25,114

Hits on web site Feb. 13 to March 12: 4,081


Hits on stories Jan. 13 to Feb. 12: 12,400

Hits on web site Jan. 13 to Feb. 12: 6,491


Hits on stories Dec. 13 to Jan. 12: 12,400

Hits on web site Dec. 13 to now: 6,524


Hits on stories Nov. 13 to Dec. 12: 12,800

Hits on web site Nov. 13 to Dec. 12: 7,044


Hits on stories Oct. 13 to Nov. 12: 12,000

Hits on web site Oct. 13 to Nov. 12: 6,524


Hits on stories Sept. 13 to Oct. 12: 12,000

Hits on web site Sept. 13 to Oct. 12: 6,359


Hits on stories Aug. 13 to Sept. 12: 12,800

Hits on web site Aug. 13 to Sept. 12: 6,107

–––––––––––––––––––––––––

Hits on stories July 13 to Aug. 12: 17,800

Hits on web site to July 13 to Aug. 12: 6,407

–––––––––––––––––––––––––

Hits on stories June 13 to July 12: 20,400

Hits on web site June 13  to July 12: 6,784

 

–––––––––––––––––––––––––

Hits on stories May 13 to June 12: 22,800

Hits on web site May 13 to June 12: 6,229

 

–––––––––––––––––––––––––

Hits on stories April 13 to May 12: 18,800

Hits on web site April 13 to May 12: 3,469

–––––––––––––––––––––––––

Hits on stories March 13 to April 12: 21,220

Hits on web site March 13 to April 12: 3,699

–––––––––––––––––––––––––

Hits on stories Feb. 13 to March 12: 25,420

Hits on web site Feb. 13 to March 12: 3,005

 

–––––––––––––––––––––––––

Hits on stories Jan. 13 to Feb. 12: 24,636

Hits on web site Jan. 13 to Feb. 12: 3,508

 

–––––––––––––––––––––––––

Hits on stories Dec. 13 to Jan. 12: 22,600

Hits on web site Dec. 13 to Jan 12: 2,937

 

–––––––––––––––––––––––––

Hits on stories Nov. 13 to Dec. 12: 17,280

Hits on web site Nov. 13 to Dec. 12: 2,372

–––––––––––––––––––––––––

Hits on stories Oct. 13 to Nov. 12: 9,752

Hits on web site  Oct. 13 to Nov. 13: 2,596

–––––––––––––––––––––––––

Hits on stories Sept. 13 to Oct. 12: 16,700

Hits on web site Sept. 13 to Oct. 12: 1,898

–––––––––––––––––––––––––

Hits on stories Aug. 13 to Sept. 12: 14,572

Hits on web site Aug. 13 to Sept. 12: 1,760

–––––––––––––––––––––––––

Hits on stories July 13 to Aug. 12: 6,072

Hits on web site July 13 to Aug. 12: 1,442

–––––––––––––––––––––––––

Hits on stories June 13 to July 12: 2,905

Hits on web site June 13 to July 12: 1,205

–––––––––––––––––––––––––

Hits on stories May 13 to June 12: 4,005

Hits on web site May 13 to June 12: 1,481

–––––––––––––––––––––––––

Hits on stories April 13 to May 12: 3,003

Hits on web site April 13 to May 12: 1,467

–––––––––––––––––––––––––

Hits on stories March 13 to April 12: 2,229

Hits on web site March 13 to April 12: 1,538

–––––––––––––––––––––––––

Hits on stories Feb. 13 to March 12: 1,991

Hits on the web site Feb. 13 to March 12: 1,485

–––––––––––––––––––––––––

Hits on stories Jan. 15 to Feb. 12: 2,378

Hits on web site Jan. 15 to Feb. 12: 1,839

 

Hits on stories Nov.13 to Dec. 12: 113,197

Hits on web site Nov. 13 to Dec.. 12: 16,849

 

 

 

See pictures in the Photo Gallery for information about these pictures as captions become available.

 

Sloan618eRamsdell619a

FirstPres619b

FIA619 c

 Dotson619a

 Remaxa

McFarlanVoluntersa596Whaleya

 

 

 allinger593aa

 

 

 


promoweb565contribute566aad564atemple563