Title of book: Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear
Author & Illustrator: Lindsay Mattick; Sophie Blackall
Genre: picture book, informational
Publisher, place & date of publication: Little Brown and Company; NY; 2015
Awards: Caldecott 2016
Themes/Topics: children’s literature, animals, war
Summary: Years before Christoper Robin and Winnie-the-Pooh made their big debut on children’s books pages around the world, there was a kind veterinarian from Winnipeg named Harry Colebourn. He was off to join the war when he came across a young bear cub at a train station. He couldn’t let the bear grow up under a trapper’s care, so he parted with a small fortune to raise her as his own. Winnie, as the cub would be lovingly called, become the mascot of his brigade and reminder of their home, before coming to her starlight destiny at the London Zoo. The story of this famous bear will make any Winnie-the-Pooh lover return to their favorite memories.
Response: It was fascinating to learn the true story behind this beloved character. I had never known that Winnie was a real bear that first was in the care of an army veterinarian, or that she was held in the London Zoo. What was really interesting was that the real-life Christopher Robin was actually allowed to play in her enclosure, I can’t imagine that happening today, no matter how tame the animal! Also the fact that Harry’s colonel let him keep Winnie around. All these “larger-than-life” facts are what make this story so special, and even more so that it was written by the great-granddaughter of Captain Harry Colebourn. I am so glad that she shared this remarkable story with the world.
Title of book: Last Stop on Market Street
Author(s) & Illustrator(s): Matt de La Pena; Christian Robinson
Genre: picture books, realistic fiction
Publisher, place & date of publication: the Penguin Group; New York, NY; 2015
Awards: Caldecott Honor 2016
Themes/Topics: poverty, perception, family
Summary: CJ wants to know why he and his nana can’t be like his friends. How come they have to take the bus, wait in the rain, go to the soup chicken, and can’t have their own music players? His nana has answers for all of his questions that make him wonder why he hasn’t seen the obvious beauty and wonder during their adventure on the fire-breathing bus. He is glad that they have come.
Response: The value that was conveyed through this book is that beauty and positivity are all around us, but if we only see the glass as half-empty or are constantly comparing our lives to others’, we will miss all of the wonders of life. Nana and CJ are somewhat not-in-control of their circumstances, but nana uses her own positive outlook to help CJ see how fortunate they really are. Just like CJ, the reader gets his or her ideas of what we want in life turned upside down while they are traveling on Market Street.
Title of book: The Noisy Paint Box
Author(s) & Illustrator(s): Barb Rosenstock; Mary Grandpre
Genre: picture book, historical fiction
Publisher, place & date of publication: Random House Children’s Books; New York; 2014
Awards: Caldecott, 2015
Themes/Topics: art, painting, creativity
Summary: Vasya Kandinsky, or Vasily to his family, spends his childhood as a mini-adult. He plays piano to the metronome, practices math, and dressed up for fancy dinners. He is doomed for a lonely and boring existence, until his aunt gives him a paint box. This paint box seems magical, because he not only sees the beautiful colors, but can hear music with each stroke. He wants to paint all he can hear! Vasya grows up to be the artist who changes art into something you feel with his new kind of paintings called abstract art.
Response: The artwork in this book was excellent. The pictures were bright, colorful, and filled up the entire page. This helped me get a sense of what Vasya was experiencing when he was able to “hear” and “feel” the colors. It was also done with paints, which was fitting to the theme of painting and the subject, a famous painter. The beginning pages were especially enjoyable because the expression on young Vasya face during his obligations were clear that he was not having fun. Although the illustration depict abstract art, the depiction of the Vasya made the reader instantly empathize with him.
Title of book: This One Summer
Author(s) & Illustrator(s): Mariko Tamaki; Jillian Tamaki
Genre: realistic fiction
Publisher, place & date of publication: First Second; New York, NY; 2014
Awards: Caldecott honor 2015
Themes/Topics: coming-of-age, sexism
Summary: Rose and Windy are best summer-friends, having grown up spending their warmer vacationing months in neighboring cottages in the small beach town of Awago. In this place there is nothing to do but swim, sleep in late, and collect shells. This year, both Rose and Windy sense a difference in their feelings towards the sleepy beach town and the youths who call it their home. There is romance and drama. There are scary movies. This is going to be a summer that they will not forget.
Response: The setting of the beach town, Awago, was essential to the plot. It was a town with not much around, which resulted in the teenagers fooling around and getting into trouble, like many other small towns. In addition, the beach contributed to the storyline of Rose’s family, particularly with her mother. Her mother loved Awago, until she miscarried her child while swimming. For her, their haven turned into her nightmare and it wasn’t until the end that she finally got back into the water to save Jenny.
Title of book: Nana in the City
Author(s) & Illustrator(s): Lauren Castillo
Genre: picture books, realistic fiction
Publisher, place & date of publication: Clarion Books; New York, NY; 2014
Themes/Topics: geography, perspective
Summary: Cities are no place for a Nana to live! They are too loud, busy, and scary! At least that’s what one boy thinks when he goes to visit his grandmother. Maybe, after a day of exploring the city with his new cape that Nana made him, he will change his mind.
Response: The setting of this book was the city, which was essential to the plot line. At first, the city is the main problem for the main character. He is frightened by the crowded subway, the noisy traffic, and the beggars on the street. However, the next day, the city becomes exciting; the boy is delighted by the exciting park, talented street musicians, and all the friends he could meet along his way. He found that the city was the perfect place for his Nana.