The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs! by Jon Scieszka

Scieszka, Jon. 1989. The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs!. Ill. by Lane Smith. New York: Viking. ISBN 0670827592

The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs! as told by Jon Scieszka is an entertaining take on the traditional story told from the wolf’s point of view.  Instead of the wolf being big and bad, Alexander T. Wolf simply has a cold and is attempting to borrow a sup of sugar from some “not very smart” neighbors who just happened to be pigs.  The wolf sneezes, which is what knocks the first two houses down, and eats the pigs because, “It seemed like a shame to leave a perfectly good ham dinner lying there in the straw.”  When he reaches the third pig’s house, he is turned away rudely.  Just as he is preparing to leave, he sneezes and the pig insults his grandmother.  Of course the cops arrive while Alexander is reacting to what the pig said.  Al Wolf then blames the paper, saying the real story wasn’t exciting enough so he was framed instead and the journalists made him “Big and Bad.”

This “fractured fairy tale” version of “The Three Little Pigs” is not only funny to children who are familiar with the traditional version, but also a good example of how two people can have very different views of the same event.  It would probably work well alongside “The Blind Men and the Elephant” story.  Also, several of the headlines in Wolf’s newspaper lend themselves to further fractured tales that the kids could write themselves.

Smith’s artwork is memorable.  Not only does it seem to focus of brown overtones, but there is a gritty feel to it.  Alexander Wolf looks a like a slightly crazy professor with his bow-tie, vest and glasses , the pigs have disturbing body hair, and one of the police pigs has awfully sharp teeth on the page where Wolf gets arrested.  On the pages that are primarily white, at least one letter is made out of something else, like sausage links or straw.  This artwork along with the amusing storyline is what makes this version of “The Three Little Pigs” so memorable.

 

KIRKUS: “One of life’s more important lessons is that a second view of the same events may yield a story that is entirely different from another but equally ‘true’… Not for little children, but middle grades and up should be entertained while taking the point about the unreliability of witnesses”

 

SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL: “Smith’s dark tones and sometimes shadowy, indistinct shapes recall the distinctive illustrations he did for Merriam’s Halloween ABC (Macmillan, 1987); the bespectacled wolf moves with a rather sinister bonelessness, and his juicy sneezes tear like thunderbolts through a dim, grainy world. “

 

 

“The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka, Lane Smith.” Kirkus Review. Kirkus Reviews Issue:Aug. 15th, 1989. Review Posted Online:March 13th, 2012. https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/jon-scieszka/true-story-of-3-little-pigs/

Peters, JohnJones, Trevelyn E.Toth, LuannSuhr, Virginia M.J. 1989. “The True Story of the Three Little Pigs (Book).” School Library Journal 35, no. 14: 108. Teacher Reference Center, EBSCOhost (accessed September 25, 2013).

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Joha Makes a Wish: A Middle Eastern Tale by Eric Kimmel

Kimmel, Eric. 2010. Joha Makes a Wish: A Middle Eastern Tale. Ill. by Omar Rayyan. New York: Marshall Cavendish Children. ISBN 9780761455998.

Kimmel’s adaptation of Joha Makes a Wish is an entertaining story of a who, on his way to Baghdad, finds a wishing stick.  Upon reading the note that tells him what the object is, Joha immediately wishes for red leather sandals.  However, instead of the red leather sandals, his own ragged shoes disappear.  In fact, all of his wishes go awry including his wish for a donkey to carry him.  Instead, the sultan’s guards hear a different wish.  “‘Did you hear that?’ their leader said. ‘This fellow wishes he had a donkey to carry.'” When Joha, at the sultan’s command, tries to wish a wart off of the sultan’s nose and ends up causing the wart to multiply, Joha finds himself on the run.  He is saves by a shopkeeper who not only hides him from the guards, but also explains Joha’s problem with the stick.  Joha has been holding the wishing stick upside down.  Upon righting the stick, Joha agrees to fix the sultan’s nose because it is the right thing to do.  When he has cured the sultan, Joha is tricked out of the wishing stick.  The sultan does give him the donkey as a reward though.  Joha’s conversation with his donkey at the end is extremely satisfying to the adult reader.

“‘Donkey, do you think I should go back and tell the sultan he has to hold the stick the right way?’

‘Hee-haw!’ the donkey brayed.

‘I agree,’ said Joha.  ‘He can figure that out for himself.'”

Rayyan’s watercolor illustrations are beautiful.  All of the right hand illustrations have dynamic gold borders that the characters sometimes interact with, for example when the sultan’s guards first appear, Joha has climbed the border.  The pictures show a beautiful difference between the barefoot and patched Joha and the elaborately dressed sultan.  While the pictures do not give an accurate representation of the culture, they do give an entertaining one.

The shopkeeper’s message to Joha seems to be the overarching lesson of Joha Makes A Wish.  He says “‘This wishing stick is a wonderful thing if you know how to use it,’ said the old man.  ‘However, before you make any more wishes you need to go back to the sultan and fix his nose.  It is the right thing to do.'”  Even “wonderful” magic sticks come with instructions and should be used to do what is right.

It would be fun to let the kids make their own wishing sticks.  Ask them what they would wish for and what would happen if they wished for that while their stick was upside down.  After all, Joha made small wishes that went terribly wrong.  It is also an opportunity to teach kids to work for the big things in life as opposed to simply wishing.

FOREWORD: “‘Joha stories’ are a fixture of Arabic folklore; this particular rendition is filled with words and illustrations that will teach children about ancient Middle Eastern culture while surely making them laugh”
SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL: “Joha is a small man with large hands and feet and a long, thin, expressive face beneath a generous turban.  His frayed sandals and patched trousers contrast with the splendor of the robust sultan and his armored guards.  Joha’s misadventures and the trouble he causes the sultan depart liberally from their folklore and cultural roots but offer and enjoyable escapade demonstration that universal scheme of the unwitting little guy getting the better of those in power.”

Awards: Nominated for the Black-Eyed Susan Book Award

 

Belanger, Lydia. 2010. “Book Review: Joha Makes a Wish: A Middle Eastern Tale.” ForeWord Reviews. https://www.forewordreviews.com/reviews/joha-makes-a-wish/

Bush, Margaret. 2010. “Joha Makes a Wish: A Middle Eastern Tale.” School Library Journal 56, no. 4: 132. Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts, EBSCOhost (accessed September 25, 2013)

Joseph Had a Little Overcoat by Simms Taback

Taback, Simms. 1999. Joseph Had a Little Overcoat. New York: Viking. ISBN: 0670878553

Joseph Had a Little Overcoat by Simms Taback is a retelling of the Yiddish “something from nothing” tale.  There is an easily recognizable pattern.  Joseph has something old and worn that he turns into something else useful.  Even when he loses the final something, a button, Joseph can still tell the story, therefore he still has something.  I did find it rather random the things Joseph decided to do with his new clothes.  It makes sense to go to a fair because you have a new jacket, but I don’t think a handkerchief is required to drink hot tea with lemon.

Taback says that “the artwork was done using watercolor, Gouache, pencil, ink, and collage” (1999).  For me the art is both intriguing and off-putting.  On one hand, there are cutouts on every other page showing the transformation of the overcoat into the jacket, and then into a vest, and so on.  On the other hand, The people and animals have the quality of a child’s artwork.  The hands are blobs with five un-jointed appendages coming off of them.  While the animals are easily recognizable, the people are all near copies of each other.

The collage functions in two ways.  One way is through the inclusion of highly detailed objects, such as the vegetables, or the china, or the flowers on the bride’s hat.  The second way is more profound.  Somewhere on every page there are scraps of collage paper with Hebrew characters.  It took me a few times to realize just what they were.  They serve as additional clues to the nature of the tale.

This version of the tale is set in Poland.  Adults might be able to figure this out from the clothing or the Fiddler on the Roof references, but the most obvious references to Poland are the letters Joseph gets. The address is to “Joseph Kohn,Yehupetz, Poland” (1999).

Another fun thing in this version is the song at the end.  Not only does it come right after an explanation from Taback that this was his favorite song as a child, it also explains where the book came from.  It tells the story again and has a lot of “la la la”s which makes it easy to learn and relatively painless if someone forgets the words.  This is a great chance to get the music teacher involved in a school library.

PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY: “Taback works into his folk art a menagerie of wide-eyed animals witnessing the overcoat’s transformation, miniature photographs superimposed on paintings and some clever asides reproduced in small print (a wall hanging declares ‘Better to have an ugly patch than a beautiful hole’; a newspaper headline announces, ‘Fiddler on Roof Falls off Roof’).”

BOOKLIST: “Cut outs emphasize the use and reuse of the material and add to the general sense of fun.  When Joseph loses, he writes a story about it all, bringing children to the moral ‘You can always make something out of nothing.’”

Awards : 2000 Caldecott Winner

Arnold, Tim. 2000. Joseph Had a Little Overcoat, by Simms Taback. Booklist Online. http://www.booklistonline.com/Joseph-Had-a-Little-Overcoat-Simms-Taback/pid=1063941

Ludke, Linda. 2000. Joseph Had a Little Overcoat. School Library Journal.

Tomas and the Library Lady by Pat Mora

Mora, Pat. 1997. Tomas and the Library Lady. Ill. by Raul Colon. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. ISBN 0679804013

 

Tomas and the Library Lady is about Tomas, the son of migrant workers, and his discovery of the library.  When his family settles in Iowa to work for the summer, Tomas and his brother ask Papa Grande for stories.  Papa Grande tells Tomas about the library because Tomas already knows all of his stories.  He meets the librarian on the steps, and they develop a routine.  He comes inside and gets a drink of water while she pulls books for him.  All summer he goes into the library and reads new stories.  He also teaches the library lady words in Spanish.  In the end, his family returns to Texas, but the librarian gives Tomas a book as a parting gift.

As far as plot goes, it is straightforward and one that many children can relate to.  Tomas knows all of his grandfather’s stories and so his grandfather points him towards the library. Tomas views the library as the place where stories are kept.  However, Tomas becomes the family storyteller.  It isn’t that the new stories are better than the old, it is that they’re new.  Enrique most likely knew all of Papa Grande’s stories as well, but Tomas was the one who wanted more.

The illustrations are beautiful.  While the colors are all earth tones, each page looks like cloth.  There is texture and weave to the images that soften the lines and give the whole story a dreamlike quality.  The biggest problem I can see with the color scheme, is that from a distance, all of the colors start to blend together and the texture is lost.  The whole image isn’t lost, but the details are.

An interesting facet of the book was that some words and phrases were in Spanish.  Tomas was teaching the librarian Spanish as well.  This seems to make it a good book for children learning either language.  It provides reference points in the story.

Tomas and the Library Lady can be used as a lesson in friendship, but it would likely work well in a school setting before taking a class to the library for the first time.  Tomas is steered towards the books he likes by the librarian because he doesn’t know his way around the library on his own.  In the same way, kindergarteners and first graders will likely be lost in the library the first few times.  The librarian can help them find the stories they’re looking for.

 

 

Kay Thompson’s Eloise

Thompson, Kay. 1955. Eloise. Ill. Hilary Knight. New York: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers. ISBN 067122350X

Eloise is an entertaining tale of a six-year-old girl who lives in The Plaza Hotel.  Instead of following a standard plot, Eloise takes the reader through a potential day.  Eloise has a great imagination, but her ability to get into trouble is what makes her story enjoyable.

Reading Eloise as an adult, it is easy to get annoyed at her for being a brat and messing with the hotel staff.  However, she appeals to the mischievous side in a child.  Even if a child doesn’t know of the Plaza, they know that running down the hall dragging sticks along the walls to make noise isn’t polite to the people in the rooms.  Just because they know it is wrong doesn’t mean kids, and let’s be honest adults too, wouldn’t want drag sticks along the wall to let the world know they were having a bad day.

It’s clear that Eloise has heard certain phrases, “Charge it please” or “For Lord’s sake,” all her life.  However, she has no idea where they go in practice.

Knight uses only two colors for Eloise, black and pink.  Eloise’s bow, her knickers, her imagination, and the floor are some of the things that are pink.  Most of the images are ‘floating’ in negative space with nothing to ground them.  However, these floating pictures are often beside single word descriptions of the action, creating a line of motion.  A great example of this motion is on the page where Eloise throws her temper tantrum.  This happens over a two page spread where Knight slowly shows the “polite” Eloise turn into a wild angry mess before cleaning herself up and becoming proper again.

Eloise could be used as an example of what not to do, but kids don’t need to be preached at.  Instead, it would be easy to turn some of her misadventures into something fun.  For example, Eloise looks in the trash for a ribbon that she thinks is pretty.  It would be simple to have a few boxes of odds and ends, like fabric scraps or small stuffed animals, or little plastic figurines or just some shiny stars, and encourage the children to find a “treasure.”  Another option would be to do something similar to using paper cups to talk to Mars.  If paper cups can be used to talk to Mars, what can a hairbrush or a shoe be used for?

SJL (5/20/2012) “The plot, I have since learned, is basically just a six-year-old girl living in the fancy dancy Plaza, wreaking havoc and being sweet.”

Bird, Elizabeth. 2012. Top 100 Picture Books #77 Eloise by Kay Thompson. School Library Journal. http://blogs.slj.com/afuse8production/2012/05/21/top-100-picture-books-76-eloise-by-kay-thompson/. Accessed September11, 2013.

This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen

Klassen, Jon. 2012. This is Not My Hat. Ill. Jon Klassen. Somerville: Candlewick Press. ISBN 9780763655990.

Little Fish has stolen a hat and thinks he will get away with it.  After all, Big Fish was sleeping and won’t know where Little Fish is going.  Little Fish explains his reasoning, the hat didn’t fit Big Fish and the crab won’t tell Big Fish where Little Fish is going.  He thinks he gets away with it.  Then Big Fish swims away wearing his reclaimed hat.

This is Not My Hat is a dark picture book.  Not only is the book following the thief while showing the audience what the original hat owner is doing, the colors used are dark.  Instead of the water being blue or green, it is black, making the fish, seaweed, and crab more like negative space. The Horn Book calls it “Darkly Hilarious” (Smith, 2012).  Klassen’s artwork is very textured.  It is easiest to see on Big Fish, but all of the characters have an element of texture that contrasts the flat black background.  Klassen also does a beautiful job of showing the characters’ mentalities.  Big Fish glares in the direction Little Fish went.  Little Fish never looks back after the first page.  The crab’s eyes widen when he sees Big Fish coming.

This book does have the potential to frighten children.  I looked at Big Fish swimming out of the seaweed and couldn’t help but think Little Fish was lunch.  However, Little Fish’s fate is not established.  For all the reader knows, Little Fish fell asleep and Big Fish stole his hat back.  It is easy to appreciate Little Fish even if he is in the wrong.  After all, kids know from the first page that Little Fish was wrong.  He comes out and says he stole the hat.  It isn’t hard to see how this story can be used as a teaching moment.  You could teach sharing, asking politely,  or respecting others’ things.

Booklist Review (8/2012)

This follow-up is really only related in its hat-theft theme, animal characters, deadpan humor, and a suggestively dark conclusion…Who knew hat thievery was such a bottomless well?”

 

This is Not My Hat won the 2013 Caldecott.  It is also on the TEXAS 2X2 list.

 

This is Not My Hat Booklist Review. 2012. Booklist Online. http://www.booklistonline.com/ProductInfo.aspx?pid=5498353&AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1. Accessed September 10, 2013.

Smith, Robin. 2012. Review of This is Not My Hat. The Horn Book. http://www.hbook.com/2012/09/choosing-books/reviews/review-of-this-is-not-my-hat/. Accessed September 10, 2013.

 

Mic Test

Hello.  This is, for all intents and purposes a mic test.  While I am doing this for my Masters in Library Science through Texas Woman’s University, I hope to continue this blog in the future.  A few words I suppose.  I prefer to read children’s and young adult literature.  If it is aimed for people under the age of twenty, odds are I will at least give it a shot. 

I suppose I’ll end this post now.

 

Cara