Since I’m on a Marla Frazee kick, I have to recommend All the World, written by Liz Garton Scanlon and a Caldecott Honor book a few years back (Beach Lane, $17.99). The text is sparse and crisp — “Rock, stone, pebble, sand // Body, shoulder, arm, hand. A moat to dig // a shell to keep // All the world is wide and deep” — and verily dances across each page. It’s Frazee’s illustrations that really make this book, though. As usual, she captures the movement of play, from families at the beach to gardening, tree climbing, cooking, and running through the rain. The movement through the different times of the day, and even the different weather patterns of summer (yes it most certainly can be sunny enough to go to the beach in the morning and then start raining in the afternoon — at least where I live!) are a delightful homage to environmental cadences and rhythms. All the World is a nice snuggling, going to bed book for younger children, who will find comfort in the words and pictures.
Woo hoo! Sara Pennypacker’s latest book in the Clementine series is now available (Hyperion, $14.99)! These books, illustrated by the incomparable Marla Frazee, are my top recommendation for any early reader, who is ready for chapter books. Clementine and the Spring Trip is the 6th book in the series and there is due to be one final installment. Clementine, the first volume, is still my favorite, but this new one had me giggling all the way through. Clementine has the most delightful perspective on the world around her and I love love love that the adults in her life (parents, teachers, even the principal) recognize her uniqueness and support her, even when she’s challenging them. As many times as she has been sent to the principal’s office for not paying attention, the principal pays close attention to Clementine. Her parents encourage her to expend her energy in constructive venues (art, building projects, growing a garden) and never try to stifle her creativity. Her mother, the artist, and father, the building superintendent, have found happiness in their own lives and therefore are comfortable helping Clementine find her happiness. I admire the lack of DRAMA in these books, even as they are delightful to read and filled with clever stories and narratives. Pennypacker is excellent at recognizing the priorities of a third-grader (spring trip? great! but, not on bus 7, it smells!) and Frazee adds a tremendous amount of insight as well as humor into her illustrations: the image of the class gagging at the mere thought of riding bus 7 is perfect! Can’t wait for the final book. No! Stop! I don’t want this series to end!
The Seven Silly Eaters, by Mary Ann Hoberman and illustrated by Caldecott winner Marla Frazee, is one of my all-time favorite read alouds (HMH, $7.00). This book shouldn’t be read in any way but aloud.
Not so long ago, they say,
A mother lived—just like today.
Mrs. Peters was her name;
Her little boy was named the same.
Now Peter was a perfect son.
In every way—except for one.
Sure, sure. You get it. It rhymes. But, assuming you’re not going to make a tool of yourself in public, go back and read it out loud. Do you hear it? Can you feel the words tumbling off your tongue? The entire story is written in this alternating trochaic trimeter (reminiscent of Blake’s “The Tiger”) alternating with iambic tetrameter. The meter loops back and forth driving the narrative forward.
So what is Peter’s problem? He’s a picky eater. As are his subsequent siblings. Peter likes warm milk; his sister Lucy prefers pink lemonade, hand-squeezed. By the time Mrs. Peters makes applesauce for Jack, oatmeal for Mac, bread for Mary Lou, and eggs (poached and fried) for the twins Flo and Fran, she is exhausted. For her birthday, the group of persnickety foodies decide to make their own individual dishes of choice for their lovely mother. The results are a catastrophe. Until, they discover something very peculiar about their collective eating habits.