9.28.2012

Autumnal City: Applesauce Season

Applesauce Season 
Author: Eden Ross Lipson
Illustrator: Mordicai Gerstein
Pub. Date: 08/04/09
Pub.: Roaring Book Press

Fall is marching on, but it's not too late to make applesauce!

A boy looks forward every year to fall, when his entire family gathers to make applesauce. The young narrator takes us through the entire journey, from market to kitchen to table describing how the applesauce changes throughout the season, how his family eats the applesauce and even how he imagines he will eat applesauce when he is grown up.

What I like most about Applesauce Season is there is no trip to a rural apple farm and absolutely no sense that this is a cause for mourning. The book opens thus:
We live in the city. There are no apple trees, but there are farmers' markets where there are lots of apples. Sometimes my grandmother goes to the market, sometimes my mom and dad go, sometimes my big sisters. If I don't have soccer, I go, too.
Obtaining apples from the farmers' market, freshly picked for urban families, is presented as a perfectly legitimate and joyful event.   The title page illustration are of the characters looking out at the cityscape dreaming of apples in anticipation, the young narrator races out of school to meet his grandma and a beautiful two page spread of the market with the cityscape in the background is lively and complete with dogs straining at their leashes. Gerstein's reputation as an illustrator is firmly established and the overall impression from his sparkling watercolors is good, old-fashioned cheer. In almost every single tableau, the people are  smiling, and it's hard not to join them by the time you've finished reading this book.

Big Kid says: (Taking book away) Let me see all those kinds of apples...
Little Kid says: I like red apples best.

Want More?
Visit the illustrator's website.
Read about the author at the NY Times: Remambering Eden Ross Lipson (includes artwork from this book).
Read a review at the NY Times or Waking Brain Cells.

9.18.2012

Musical City: Max Found Two Sticks

Max Found Two Sticks
Author/Illustrator: Brian Pinkney
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publishing Date: 1994


When the wind blows two sticks in bored Max's direction one day, the young boy discovers they make wonderful drumsticks. Tapping the sticks on his thighs, boxes, trash cans and soda bottles, Max pounds out the rhythms of his neighborhood. When a marching band passes by, one of the band members sees Max's talent and tosses him a pair of real drumsticks. Max never misses a beat.

Pinkney's Max Found Two Sticks is an engaging story that should be on every child's reading list. Although Max stays in and around his brownstone stoop, Pinkey effectively captures the vibrancy of a neighborhood by merging the musical, natural and urban worlds with his energetic text and illustrations.

The text of the book reminded me of "call and response" songs. In this case, Max's response to everyone's question, "what are you doing with those sticks?" is to tap out a rhythm with his sticks. No doubt this book is used in music classes everywhere.

Want More?
Visit the author's website.
Miniature drummers might also enjoy Drum City.


9.17.2012

Fruit City: The Invisible Man

The Invisible Man by Arthur Yorinks review The Invisible Man by Arthur Yorinks.

At his corner stand, Sy sells fruit to cure every ailment,  but when he self-medicates with some prunes Sy wakes up to find himself growing increasingly paler. The now invisible Sy is shunned by society, and worse still becomes the scapegoat for all of the world's unfortunate and unexplainable incidents! After stints in various occupations and a bit of jail time, Sy finally takes on a job as a magician's assistant. When a disappointed audience responds to his failure on stage by pummeling him with produce, Sy's faith in the healing power of fruit is restored.

The Invisible Man is a fun story, though not as mischievously absurd as I would have expected a children's picture book about invisibility to be. Yorinks seems to have decided that the idea of fruit with magical healing properties was all the cleverness one picture book could handle. That's a bit disappointing but Doug Cushman's illustrations add a some extra liveliness. The city is primarily represented through silhouetted skylines behind Sy's greengrocer stand, though a clever illustration of the invisible Sy wrapped in his bathrobe scaring a pigeon off his apartment windowsill adds an alternative perspective.

Most children at some point in their youthful careers imagine what it might be like to be invisible and this is an enjoyable enough book to search it out at the library.

Want More?
Yorinks Theater Group did a collaborative theater project with The Greene Space based on H.G. Wells' The Invisible Man.
Visit the illustrator's website.


9.14.2012

Gigantic City: Wow! City!

Robert Neubecker's Wow! City! was an ALA Notable Book in 2004, but unfortunately is now out of print. This is too bad because it is a great book for toddlers who might be about to visit the city for the first time.

The book is huge, measuring 10 x 20 inches, when open. Although the illustrations are obviously inspired by New York City, the minimalist text is not city-specific. Each two page spread contains only two words:"Wow!" and whatever the featured sight is: "Wow! Taxi!" or Wow! Lights!", etc. Nuebecker's vibrant illustrations effectively convey the narrator's enthusiasm for the sights and sounds of her urban vacation. He varies the perspective from up close to far way and even through a car window.

Toddlers and preschoolers will love this one.

Want More?
Neubecker wrote a couple of other "Wow!" books, including Wow! Ocean! and Wow! America!
Watch an interview with the author.
Visit the author's website.
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