Marcus, Leonard S. 1998. A CALDECOTT CELEBRATION. New York: Walker and
Company. ISBN: 0802786561.
A CALDECOTT CELEBRATION profiles six Caldecott winning authors and artists,
one from each decade beginning with the 1940s. The artists selected were: Robert McCloskey for MAKE WAY FOR DUCKLINGS,
Marcia Brown for CINDERELLA; OR, THE LITTLE GLASS SLIPPER, Maurice Sendak for WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE, William Steig for
SYLVESTER AND THE MAGIC PEBBLE, Chris Van Allsburg for JUMANJI, and David Wiesner for TUESDAY. Leonard Marcus provides
the reader with interesting information and background details of their lives, inspiration for their work, interaction with
their publishers, reactions to winning the Caldecott Medal, and how winning the medal changed their lives.
Marcus provides interesting details of how the artists created their
award winning stories. For instance, McCloskey kept several live ducks in his apartment for study and produced hundreds
of sketches of them before he drew the final pictures. The inspiration for the story was a real family of ducks that
had been described in a newspaper. Brown drew her characters out on tissue paper, cut them out and then arranged them
to form the scenes she would sketch. Sendak describes how he could visualize the illustrations and then had to draw them
quickly before the sketch obliterated the image in his head. Van Allsburg drew in black and white because
he had not studied color while in college. David Wiesner was inspired to write and illustrate his book after he illustrated
a cover for Cricket magazine.
I enjoyed reading how Maurice Sendak went through several versions of
WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE. At one point, Sendak had become discouraged with the story and had written ABANDON!!! at
the bottom of the notebook that he was writing the story in. Max was not the original character's name and the original
title was to have been WHERE THE WILD HORSES ARE.
Marcus has written a book that is sure to be an inspiration for
other aspiring artists. He describes, through the authors he has chosen, how rewarding illustrating children's picture
books can be.
Van Allsburg, Chris. 1985. THE POLAR EXPRESS. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company.
THE POLAR EXPRESS is a delightful picture book describing a young boy's experience
when his belief in Santa Claus begins to waver. As he lays awake on Christmas Eve, the Polar Express arrives to take
him and other children who are beginning to doubt there is a Santa Claus, to the North Pole where Santa will choose one of
them to receive the first gift of Christmas. Santa chooses the narrating boy who chooses a silver bell from Santa's
sleigh. Back on the train, he discovers the bell is missing and the next morning when he unwraps the last small box
under the tree, it is his bell with a note from Santa. His parents can not hear the tone of the bell and remark that
it is sad that it is broken. Only those who believe can hear the pure, sweet tone. He concludes the story by saying
that as the years went by most of his friends lost the ability to hear the bell, but he can still hear it.
The illustrations have a dark, fuzzy quality to help maintain the effect of the
story taking place at night. They also contain a mystical quality that adds to the story. In the train car, the
illustrations contain a yellow quality to indicate the artifical light from the lamps.
The author uses very descriptive phrases in telling the story. I particularly
liked the description of the train when he first sees it. "It was wrapped in an apron of steam." You can picture
the steam enveloping the train with this descriptive wording. Many phrases such as this help your imagination picture
Rohmann, Eric. 2002. MY FRIEND RABBIT. Brookfield, Conn: Roaring Book Press.
MY FRIEND RABBIT is an engaging story for young children. Mouse has received
a new toy airplane and his bigger friend, Rabbit, wants to play with it. As Mouse says, "My friend Rabbit means well.
But whatever he does, wherever he goes, trouble follows." The first line of the story sets the tone for the well meaning,
but disastrous results of Rabbit's ideas. Young children can relate to this situation, the idea sounds good, but it
does not exactly work out as planned. Rabbit flies Mouse's airplane into a tree and Rabbit's idea to get it down is
very humorous. Rabbit persuades animals to form animal building blocks and stand on top of each other, beginning with
an elephant, hippo, and rhinercerous, in order to reach the airplane. The book needs to be turned vertically to see
the animals stacked upon each other for Mouse to finally reach his airplane as they all start tumbling down. As Mouse
flies his airplane to the ground, the illustrations show the animals falling and they are not at all happy with Rabbit.
In the closing pages, Mouse forgives Rabbit and as the book ends, it is implied that more trouble will follow. The themes
of patience and loyalty are carried through on the hand colored relief prints done in bold, bright colors. The prints
are beautifully done and show the animals emotions very expressively.
Cronin, Doreen. 2004. DUCK FOR PRESIDENT. New York: Simon & Schuster Children's
Publishing Division. ISBN: 0689863772.
DUCK FOR PRESIDENT is a humorous story of Duck, who is tired of doing his chores
and decides to hold an election to see if the rest of the farm animals wish to replace Farmer Brown as well. After he
wins the election, Duck quickly realizes that running the farm is harder than he thought and so decides to run for governor.
Again, he decides the job requires too much work, so Duck runs for President. He quickly decides that executive office
is no fun at all and Duck retires to the farm where he is writing his autobiography on the computer. I thought it clever
the author has combined two themes, the grass is always greener on the other side and to put yourself in someone else's shoes.
Duck found out the hard way that it is not as easy as he thought. I enjoyed the author's introduction of math in the
story through posting the election results, finding the misplaced ballots and then finally the new election results.
I thought it very humorous that Duck had thrown the typewriter in the wastebasket which was sitting next to him as he
worked on the computer.
The illustrations are in watercolors with bold, black outlines and the colors red,
white, and blue are used frequently to go along with the election theme. Not only will young children be engaged by
the story and illustrations, adults will enjoy the humor in the story as well. I particularly liked the author's point
that you may think you can do the job better than someone else, but that does not necessarily make it true.