Today, I am taking part in the It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? meme hosted by Jen of Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee of Unleashing Readers.
I read eight picture books this week, of which four are by Asian authors/illustrators, as part of my conscious efforts to read more works by Asian creators. Overall, the books ranged from so-so to funny-poignant to new favourites.
1) I’ll start with my rated so-so reads:
Dragon Love Tacos
By Adam Rubin, illustrated by Daniel Salmieri
Dial Books for Young Readers
4 years and up
Dragons Love Tacos, written in present tense 2nd person style, is about how dragons love tacos but not the spicy toppings. I liked the idea but beyond that, it didn’t do hook me.
D is for Dancing Dragon – A China Alphabet
Written by Carol Crane, illustrated by Zong-Zhou Wang
Sleeping Bear Press
6 years and up
I borrowed this because I liked the idea of a Chinese Alphabet. It turned out to be a serious non-fiction introduction to different facets of Chinese culture eg, B is for Beijing, C is for chopsticks etc. I guess it might be interesting to those wanting to learn more about the Chinese culture but its text-heavy small font sidebars didn’t make me want to read it. I also had expectations of a simpler book with a more text-light read so I didn’t get through this one.
2) Then, I had three fun reads:
Chengdu could not, would not fall asleep
3 years and up
This is a seriously cute book. I am amazed that the entire book is premised, and written very sparsely based on the title which pretty much says all the book is about.
and my favourite page in the book…
Michael Ian Black, Illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
3 years and up
I borrowed this book because the cover looked strangely like it was a story about my 3-year-old, right down to his hair and facial expression. When I opened the book, I had a sneaky feeling that these creators must have been outside my home and saw Caleb in action.
When I got to this page, I knew for sure that they had. After all, how else would anyone know that Caleb recently decided that the towel would be great as a cape in his repertoire of running stark staring naked out of the bathroom?
Oliver and his Alligator
3 years and up
“Oliver sometimes felt his brave wasn’t nearly as big as he needed it to be.”
This is a very sweet tale of a not-so-brave little boy on his first day of school. He picks up an alligator on the way to school to up his brave factor.
His alligator eats up everyone and everything that scares him.
I really love Paul Schmid’s whimsical artwork style with his use of pencil-like strokes .
3) I also had an unexpectedly poignant read. A book on my reserved list wasn’t ready but as I wanted to borrow my maximum quota of 8 books, I browsed the library shelves and stumbled on this.
The Third Gift
Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline
5 years and up
This is not a picture book that I would typically pick up because the artwork isn’t a style that appeals to me. But seeing Linda Sue Park as the author (and yes, my antenna is up for Asian creators), I decided to read it there and then to see if I would want to borrow it home. Which I did.
“My father collects tears. That is what they are called: the pearls of sap that seep out of a tree when the bark is cut. Maybe they are called tears because it seems as if the tree is crying.”
I found this a most fascinating read when I later learnt that these tears are actually used to produce myrrh. The extract, which comes from plants native to the Middle East, is used in ancient times as a medicinal herb, as an additive to wine, in incense and perfume. But its primary use is as an embalming oil and funerary incense.
The ending touched me and surprised me so I won’t spoil it by giving it away. But I will just say that the young narrator meets a few strangers who decide that myrrh would make a fitting third gift. This is the first Linda Sue Park book that I have read and I will be checking out her other titles for sure.
4) And lastly, I read two books which went right up to my Favourite Picture Books List:
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
3 years and up
The opening page was brilliant and the two sentences that nailed it for me was when Penguin said “I was hatched to fly.” and when reminded that penguins don’t fly, he replied “Undeniably…I But have the soul of an eagle.”
A flightless bird wanting to fly is a common theme. Yet Lita Judge gives it such a fresh spin. In page one, she sets up the problem and the character so brilliantly in just a few lines. I want to write like that when I grow up soon!
Identity, belonging, choices
Chih Yuan Chen
3 years and up
Originally published in Mandarin, Guji-Guji became a New York Times bestseller when the English edition was published. I was introduced to this book by author/illustrator Naomi Kojima’s Keynote Presentation at the Asian Festival of Children’s Content.
I love everything about this picture book, from the crisp text, brilliant illustrations and heartfelt story question that confronts Guji-Guji – “Do I have to behave like a crafty crocodile because I look like one?”
It starts when Guji-Guji’s egg rolls into a duck’s nest.
“Mother Duck didn’t notice. She was reading.”
Isn’t this the coolest Mother Duck?
“A rather odd duckling hatched from the fourth egg.”
“But no matter how quick they were, or what they looked like, Mother Duck loved all her ducklings the same.”
Again, the author gave the minor character so much character with this single line.
This is very much a story about family, belonging and acceptance even when the 4th duckling looks much like a crocodile. And when Guji-Guji finally meets some crafty crocodiles, he has to make his choice over his crocodile nature and his family’s nurture.
This book is a keeper. I’m still hanging onto my library copy for now but my own copy will be shipped in soon.
All round, it’s a satisfying picture book reading week!