Saturday, March 27, 2010

Book Review: Night of the Moon by Hena Khan

Book: Night of the Moon
Author: Hena Khan
Illustrator: Julie Paschkis
Published: 2008
Source: Local Library

Yasmeen is very excited, because her favorite holiday is starting. Her family is getting ready for a month of feasting, community events, and togetherness, also known as Ramadan.


If non-Muslim kids know about Ramadan at all, they know it as that time when you're not allowed to eat during the day. Night of the Moon brings a very important Muslim holiday to joyous life by focusing on the family and community aspects of the celebration. Yasmeen's family move from dinner at home to parties at the mosque to food for the hungry to barbeque parties--all after sunset, of course, but if anything they are more meaningful because they've been delayed.

Paschkis weaves motifs from Islamic countries throughout her richly colored illustrations. Borders reflect traditional tile or plaster patterns in Moorish, Egyptian, Persian, African and other traditions. Elements within the illustrations pick up the same style.

My favorite part of this whole warm, lovely book was that the illustrations represented a wide range of ethnicities. Yasmeen's community includes faces that are brown and pink and every shade in between, reflecting the diversity of Islam in America. There's even a range of devotion shown--some women wear the hijab, or head-scarf, and some don't. A short author's note after the story gives a few more details and definitions, but nothing overwhelming.

What an awesome book to share with your kids, either to teach them about a holiday that their friends might be celebrating or to affirm their own experiences.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Book Review: Something to Do by David Lucas

Book: Something to Do
Author: David Lucas
Illustrator: David Lucas
Published: 2008
Source: Local Library

Two bears, one big and one little, moan, "There's nothing to do!" They wander around in search of occupation, until they find . . . a stick. With the stick, they draw a line, which turns into a ladder, which turns into an adventure.

I talked about this one with a picture-book-loving friend, and to my astonishment, she hated it. She hated it with a fiery burning passion that no amount of Preparation H could ever douse. For her, it was way too much like Harold and the Purple Crayon. Which, okay, point granted. It's definitely very close in theme and feel. Yet I fell in love with it, even having read and loved Harold all through childhood. I guess your reaction will vary. For me, the really special part was how two characters share their imagined world. Their relationship is never defined, so they could be parent and child (of either gender), siblings, or simply friends. The world of your imagination is a wonderful one, but when you can find someone to share that world with, it's even better.

Like those of Antoinette Portis or Mo Willems, the beauty of these illustrations lie in their simplicity. Using mainly two colors of crayon in childlike line drawings, Lucas creates a world of dreams to swim in. When he adds a few more colors in a starscape, the effect is more magical than if he'd been working in full colors the whole way through.

I read it in a toddler storytime and was a little worried that they wouldn't get it, but the simple, charming images and short monologue-like text caught their attention and held it. This would work equally well as a read-aloud or a bedtime story.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Reading Roundup February 2010

By the Numbers
Picture Books: 19
Early Readers: 4

Library: 22

Writing: The Little Bit Scary People by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Alexandra Boiger
Even the scariest people can be wonderful if you scratch the surface.
Illustration: Through the Animals' Eyes by Christopher Wormell
Bold woodcuts combined with actual Middle Eastern animals make this Nativity story a unique one.
Overall: TIE There Are Cats in This Book by Vivian Schwarz AND Cat the Cat, Who is That? by Mo Willems
Something about the cats this month. The first is a delightfully interactive tale of cats, in a book. The second is about confident Cat the Cat running into a stranger, whose very strangeness oversets her, but just for a moment.

Because I Want To Awards
Why Does This Book Make Me Crave Chocolate Frogs?: Lucia and the Light, by Phyllis Root, illustrated by Mary Grandpre
That's a First: Mercy Watson Thinks Like a Pig, by Kate diCamillo, illustrated by Chris Van Dusen
Perfect Reading for Future Snowpocalypses: Red Truck by Kersten Hamilton, illustrated by Valeria Petrone