Thursday, January 24, 2008

Module 1: An Introduction to Children and Their Literature

LS 5613-20 Module 1: An Introduction to Children and Their Literature

Library Lion

Knudsen, Michelle. 2006. Library Lion. Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes. Cambridge: Candlewick Press.

Is there ever a good reason to break the rules? The loveable Library Lion laments his decision to do just that in Michelle Knudsen’s delightful picture book. Kevin Hawkes acrylic and pencil illustrations help convey the varied feelings and emotions of surprise, contentment, fear, sadness and joy found throughout the book. Much to the delight of the children, a book loving lion comes to the library where he attends story time and helps with odd jobs. As long as he is not breaking any rules the librarian allows him to stay. When the librarian falls and the lion runs to get help, he breaks the rules by roaring loudly and is ejected from the library. The library just isn’t the same without the lion. A new rule is established, “No roaring allowed, unless you have a very good reason—say, if you’re trying to help a friend who’s been hurt.” The lion returns to the library where it is noted that ‘sometimes there was a good reason to break the rules. Even in the library.” This book will appeal to children and adults, especially those who aren’t perfect and need to be reminded that sometimes we might break the rules and it is ok. The theme of friendship and devotion transcend the pages in this charming and beautifully illustrated picture book.

My Librarian is a Camel

Ruurs, Margriet. 2005. My Librarian is a Camel. Pennsylvania: Boyds Mills Press.

Inspired by an article about a camel in Kenya that was used to bring books to people in remote desert villages, Margriet Ruurs researched various ‘mobile libraries’ all over the world. Her account of thirteen unique and diverse library systems, arranged alphabetically by country, details interesting facts and trivia about the culture and the people dedicated to promoting literacy through whatever means possible. “Libraries are services, not buildings,” is a theme subtly repeated in each account. The two-page spreads in this picture book depict a country, complete with full color photographs showing libraries in action and children around the world enjoying and sharing books. In addition, Ruurs includes a map, flag and interesting facts about each country. Readers will enjoy the variety of settings where libraries may appear (such as the beach in England) and the assortment of creatures (like elephants in Thailand) involved in supporting the efforts of these community outreach programs. This innovative collection of libraries provides many opportunities for discussion and further research.

Green Eggs and Ham

Dr. Seuss. 1960. Green Eggs and Ham. New York: Random House

It just goes to show that you never know if you are going to like something until you try it. The persistent Sam in Dr. Seuss’ classic Green Eggs and Ham never gives up and keeps suggesting creative ways to eat the strange meal until the exhausted main character (we never know his name) finally agrees. “Sam! If you will let me be, I will try them. You will see.” Sure of his convictions, the main character is surprised to find he actually enjoys the green eggs and ham. Dr. Seuss’ trademark illustrations perfectly depict the weariness of the main character and the determination and optimism of Sam. The variety of settings and conditions suggested in which to consume the meal is revealed to the reader though Seuss’ whimsical cartoonish style. His larger than life, iconic drawings leap off the page and support the action in this simple story. Repetitive verse and rhyming text convey the nonsensical banter of conversation between the two characters. Although the level of text is geared for a beginning reader children of all ages will enjoy this poetic masterpiece for years to come.

Elijah of Buxton

Curtis, Christopher P. 2007. Elijah of Buxton. New York: Scholastic Press.

2008 Newbery Honor Book
2008 Coretta Scott King Book Award

Newbery Award winning author Christopher Paul Curtis has scored another hit with his humorous, often emotional, jarringly realistic Elijah of Buxton. Elijah Freeman is the first freeborn child of former slaves in the community of Buxton Settlement of Ontario, Canada. From the very beginnings of his life, he is destined for great things. Once held by the great Frederick Douglass, Elijah realizes his importance in his community when he takes it upon himself to help a family friend and put his own life in danger. Often described as gullible and ‘fra-gile’, the sensitive and caring Elijah struggles with the frustrations and confusions of growing up. He takes on a daring mission to help a friend and ends up saving a young slave child and rescuing her to freedom. Christopher Paul Curtis weaves a delightful, entertaining narrative complete with authentic and consistent dialog. He thrusts the reader front and center into the Settlement of Buxton with his accurate descriptions of this historic community. Elijah must tackle some serious, unpleasant aspects of humanity such as death, treachery, and the horrors of the slave trade, but he faces his challenges head on with courage and resolve. Curtis has crafted a strong, heroic character in Elijah that will be in inspiration of hope for readers young and old.

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