We interrupt this unintentional (and completely unplanned) bloggy break to announce. . .
I’m wrestling now with just getting the bare minimum done, and I’m losing. (Ever seen a 38 week pregnant woman wrestle? It ain’t pretty.:-) ) It seems like life is happening faster now than I can keep up, and several things have conspired together lately that have made blogging time practically nonexistent, and at least so far down on the list of priorities that it falls off every day. I try to catch up a little on the weekends, but this past weekend was particularly busy, with the girls participating in a music event that lasted much of the day on Saturday. Plus, we celebrated Steady Eddie’s birthday this weekend, and there is this little thing going on in our house called finding room in our three-bedroom rancher for another little body. Anyway, we have been reading, and life has been ticking along at quite a pace. It looks like I might just give birth within the next couple of weeks, too. I’ll try to keep you all posted.
I pay a lot more attention now to illustrations than I did, say, ten years ago. I think part of it has to do with the fact that I have a highly visual, art-loving child, and I like to provide inspiration for her whenever I can. These two are winners for both their stories and their illustrations.
Spike, the Mixed-Up Monster by Susan Hood is actually not a book I was drawn to on first notice. However, when I saw that Melissa Sweet is responsible for its illustrations, I had to bring it home. Melissa Sweet just happens to be one of my favorite illustrators, having both written and illustrated Balloons Over Broadway, which I love, and having illustrated this year’s Cybils winning nonfiction picture book, Mrs. Harkness and the Panda. It turns out that I warmed up to the story, too, despite initial misgivings that the characters (all animals) in the story are more anthropomorphized than I like. It’s the story of an axolotl named Spike who fails at being a monster because he’s “no bigger than a lily pad.” The story is turned on its ear when Spike “saves” his animal friends from a scary Gila monster simply by smiling at him, something the poor Gila monster has never experienced before. So–smiling axolotls and lonely Gila monsters. Okay. However, I have to say that the fact that this story is chock full of Spanish words and phrases redeems it for me a good bit, and then the addendum at the end–”More About Spike and His Amigos”–that details all kinds of interesting facts about the animals (some unusual, some common) in the book moves the book up several notches for me. It’s one of those “catch them with the story line and then give them the hard, cold facts” tricks that I happen to like in this story. (I don’t always like it, to be honest, but it works here.) Melissa Sweet‘s illustrations in this story are less collage-like than I have come to expect from her work, but still whimsical and winning. Animal loving kids or parents wishing to inject a bit of language study into their read-alouds will enjoy this one. (Simon & Schuster, 2012)
Sleep Like a Tiger by Mary Logue gets high marks right off the bat because it won a 2013 Caldecott honor thanks to Pamela Zagarenski‘s illustrations. I didn’t even know that Pamela Zagarenski was the illustrator when I requested this book from my library. When Steady Eddie brought it home yesterday afternoon and I realized that she is also the illustrator of one of my favorite poetry books, Red Sings from Treetops (also a Caldecott honor book), I was sold. (Truly–I like Red Sings from Treetops so much that I wrote about it again here.) The story of Sleep Like a Tiger is gentle and quiet, a perfect bedtime story. It’s about a little girl who doesn’t want to go to bed. After completing her bedtime routine, she asks her parents if everything in the world goes to sleep. Her parents then begin recounting how many different animals sleep: whales “swim slowly around and around in a large circle and in the ocean and sleep”; snails “curl up like a cinnamon roll inside their shell.” In the end, of course, the little girl grows sleepy, and the story ends with the girl subtly being compared to all the animals her parents have just told her about. It’s cozy and warm and just altogether lovely. Pamela Zagarenski’s illustrations are saturated, whimsical, and unusual. Like the people in Red Sings from Treetops, the people in Sleep Like a Tiger all wear crowns on their heads. Obviously, this is a motif that Zagarenski uses frequently, and like many of the details of her illustrations, there’s probably more there than meets the eye. You can read more about Zagarenski and her creative process (and see loads of illustrations from a few years ago) in this interview at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast blog. Really, I feel ill qualified to say much about her illustrations, other than to say that I like them a lot and that hers and Melissa Sweet’s seem similar to me, with Zagarenski’s being a bit darker and more symbolic. Check out Sleep Like a Tiger and tell me what you think! (Houghton Mifflin, 2012)
So this week it’s all about award-winning illustrators at RAT. We are reading other things, too, and I hope to have another chapter book to share next week. If my blogging seems spotty for the next little bit, though, you’ll know why. I hope to at least get my RAT posts prepped in advance, but we shall see.
What are you reading aloud? This week, please just leave your link in the comments. It appears that the account I usually use for my linky list has expired, and I need to do a bit of investigating before I decide how to proceed.
Have a terrific Thursday, friends!