Review (Turtle Knows Your Name)

Bibliography: Bryan, Ashley. Turtle Knows Your Name. New York, New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 1989. ISBN-13: 978-0689315787.

Plot Summary: In an island village, a little boy is raised by his grandmother, who teaches him how to say his name. He learns to say that he is named Upsilimana Tumpalerado. The grandmother celebrates by dancing with him by the sea where a turtle learns it as well as the boy sings, “Upsilimana Tumpalerado/That’s my name/I took my time to learn it/ Won’t you do the same?” Unfortunately, the little boy’s friends will not remember his name. They call him Long Name without asking. His grandmother always reminds him to teach his name to others, stating, “… Remember, your name is long, but it’s not the longest.” The boy eventually meets the turtle who sings, “Upsilimana Tumpalerado/ I’m so glad you came/ Upsilimana Tumpalerado/ Turtle knows your name.” The boy asks how the turtle learned it, but the turtle swims away. When the boy returns home for dinner, his grandmother challenges him to tell her what her real name is if he wants dessert. She will not take “Granny” as an adequate answer. She tells him, “There are grannies all over the village. Every granny has a name…” The boy sets out for the rest of the story to find out what is her real name is. He looks to see who can help him. It is Turtle who reveals to him that Granny’s real name is Mapaseedo Jackalindy Eye Pie Tackarindy. He gets his dessert. Granny finds out who it is that revealed her name. At the end, Granny and the boy agree to give each other nicknames, affirm that they love their long names and each other.

Critical Analysis: This books carries a situation that many children go through, especially immigrants and children of color, where people will not want to practice saying their name if it is not one they are used to. They will even give them nicknames without their permission. His grandmother also reminds him when he goes out to “…teach your name to your playmates and do your best. Remember, your name is long, but it’s not the longest.” The boy gets frustrated that his playmates will not remember what he is called, so he decides to one day spend time with the animals. This is definitely a book to read to children, while singing certain lines and dancing to certain parts. The book is rife with rhythm and rhymes and even some onomatopoeia, such as when the boy travels and whistles “twee-twaa-twee.” When his grandmother serves dinner, they sing “Fungi rolled in a bowl/Till it’s round as a ball/ And as yellow as gold/ Is the best of all.” Ashley Bryan lovingly depicts the Caribbean world his story takes place in by depicting it all in pastels and bold lines, with different skin tones for all its villagers, giving almost a rainbow effect. Ultimately, this is a happy book with happy illustrations.

Review Excerpt and Awards won:

No awards are applied to this book, but the author has received many awards in his career, including the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal (2009) and the Virginia Hamilton Award (2012), which are two American Library Association career literary awards.

Following excerpt is from Kirkus Reviews, posted online on October 26, 2011 and originally written September 15, 1989: “Full of dancing rhythms and mild humor, the story’s message about the value of the inner lives of those we take for granted is quietly understated. Bryan’s lovely paintings, in light, bright island colors, swirl with joyous patterns; Granny and her boy are full of love and life. Fine for reading, telling, and sharing…”

Connections: This book will be a great way to teach children the importance of respecting other people’s names, especially by asking for permission if they want to be called by a nickname like Upsulimana Tumpalerado and his grandmother do at the end. It teaches them that names are a way for people to say who they are. Have the children write out their own names in big, block text and have them draw art within the letters that best represent who they are. For example, my name is Alison and I will draw cats in the letter A because I love cats. Another thing that can be done with this book is teaching children about the different foods that are mentioned in the text. Many children possibly do not know what plantains are, or what cornmeal coucou (called Fungi in the book is) and you can facilitate a conversation where children discuss what dishes represent their own cultures. Lastly, another connection for this book can be children learning how to create family trees. Upsulimana Tumpalerado learns that his grandmother was not always named Granny. Have the children learn what their parents/grandparents/guardians are named and make a family tree out of that.

Review (The Tale of Peter Rabbit)

Bibliography: Potter, Beatrix. The Tale of Peter Rabbit. London, United Kingdom: Warne, 2019. ISBN-13: 9780141377490

Plot Summary: A mother rabbit and her four children live underneath the root of a tree. The mother rabbit tells her children that while she is out, they are allowed to play in the fields or down the lane, but mustn’t go into Mr. McGregor’s garden. It was in Mr. McGregor’s garden that their father rabbit had died and became a pie! Three of the rabbits listen to their mother, but Peter Rabbit decides to sneak into Mr. McGregor’s garden to eat some of his vegetables. Unfortunately, Mr. McGregor catches him and Peter has to figure out a way to escape!

Critical Analysis: While all of Peter’s problems arise from not listening to his mother in the beginning, this story is not necessarily a fable. The moral is set in a way where it is not outright stated, but can be used to teach children to interpret stories and the messages they convey. There is more concentration on the adventure itself, where Peter tries to escape Mr. McGregor’s clutches. Peter Rabbit runs and loses his clothes, he hides in a filled watering can, and he even has to sneak past a cat by the pond. The illustrations are beautiful, and one can tell how much Beatrix Potter loved the countryside with her loving details to the wild life, which she does all in watercolor. She even names out certain plants and foods associated with English gardens, such as fir trees, radishes, parsley, and blackberries. In a way, Peter Rabbit is in an adventure type of story that is not too different from a Tom and Jerry cartoon, but Peter is not entirely mischievous. There are sweet vulnerable moments where he cries about wanting to go home, making him not a static character, but someone you can have some sympathy with. While the ending is where he happily reunites with his mother, Potter touches wry humor here and there by having Peter going to bed earlier than his siblings due getting sick. Not to mention, the book has Mr. McGregor use Peter’s discarded clothes to make a scarecrow. This book can make children appreciate nature, but also understand consequences to actions the way Peter Rabbit has learned!

Review Excerpt and Awards won:

Has not won any recent awards, but was #19 on School Library Journal’s Top 100 Picture Books and was listed as a book “to grow on” by the American Library Association-Children’s Book Council Joint Committee in April 2003.

Following excerpt is from Publishers Weekly, dated April 22, 2002 by Julia Eccleshare:

“The enduring qualities of the entire The World of Peter Rabbit empire lie in Potter’s original stories and pictures, proving the all-embracing power of a good storyteller with a keen sense of her audience. Beatrix Potter understood this absolutely…Potter continued to write illustrated letters to other children and once wrote to the mother of one, “It is much more satisfactory to address a real child. I often think that was the secret success of Peter Rabbit: it was written to a child, not made to order.'”

Connections: Gather and read the other 22 tales by Beatrix Potter such as The Tale of Tom Kitten and The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin. Use this book as a lesson to children as to why parents or guardians tell them what not to do and the consequences if they do not listen. Also use this book to discuss gardening and how it works to children.

Review (Draw! by Raúl Colón)

Bibliography: Colón, Raúl. Draw! New York, New York: Simon & Schuster, 2014. ISBN-13: 9781442494923

Plot Summary: In artwork that goes from pale watercolors and hatching lines to richer, softer colored pencils, this book is about a young boy fantasizing about going on a safari after reading his books about Africa. He admires the animals and desires to draw them all. He bonds with an elephant and its cattle egret, who takes him to visit all the animals. The boy only has his easel, pencil, notepad, and lunch bag. He draws lions from a safe distance, shares lunch (and his hat) with the gorillas, and learns to placate a rhino on his adventure, and so much more. With this fantasy coming to an end, the boy in real life draws it out to share with his classmates.

Critical Analysis: There are no words in the picture book. No dialogue. We do not even learn the main character’s name. It is up to the reader to figure out who he is based on the rumpled bed sheets, the safari hat on his bed, the pencils and notepad near him. This kid is a dreamer and an artist. What the book does effectively is depicting which is real life and which is fantasy by changing the art style. As mentioned earlier, the story begins in watercolors, ultra-thin lines, with some hatched here and there to depict shadows and folds. As the story moves into fantasy, the lines are no longer so stark. The colors are warmer, deeper, and, seemingly, Colón switches to colored pencils which gives off a world that is softer, almost velvety-looking. The boy bonds with an elephant, the elephant’s cattle bird tags along, adding an amusing touch to the illustrations as it sits on the elephant’s head or back. When the boy finally ends his traveling, the cattle bird hides its face in its wing, as if crying while saying good bye. The book does well in showing the beauty and different facets of nature. This book will make any child desire to search outside themselves. This book encourages readers to invest in their own creativity.

Review Excerpt and Awards won:

Awards and honors: 2015 Charlotte Huck Award for Outstanding Fiction for Children (Recommended); 2015 Star of the North Picture Book Award (Nominee); and 2016 Georgia Children’s Book Award-Picture Storybook (Finalist.)

Following excerpt is from The Horn Book, dated September 8, 2014 by Kathleen T. Horning:

“The story line is engaging and easy to follow, and, while it’s whimsical, the majesty of the animals comes through in both the boy’s sketches and the main illustrations. Colón’s pen-and-ink, watercolor, colored-pencil, and lithograph pencil pictures are nicely textured and tinged with golden hues.”

Connections: This book can teach children about analyzing images to decipher the story. Use it for an activity where children are to draw out a story without relying on words and to see how others interpret their work. This work can also connect children to learning about African landscapes and what animals live there.

Edited: 2/16/2020

Review (Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut)

Bibliography: Barnes, Derrick, and Gordon C. James. Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut. Evanston, Illinois: Agate Bolden, 2017. ISBN-13: 9781572842243

Plot Summary: Lush oil paintings depict an unnamed African-American boy that is excited to go see the local barber. As he takes his seat, the boy imagines how people will react to his haircut and how he will feel about it himself. He also observes and admires the African-American people around him and thinks of the possibilities of how they live their lives. Ultimately, when he goes to the barber shop, he feels empowered by the end.

Critical Analysis: While we do not learn the name of our protagonist, the reader finds a young boy brimming with happy confidence. He is also the sort of person that appreciates the art and labor a barber goes into doing his and other people’s hair. Near the end. he even proclaims, “Tip that man! Tip that man! It was worth it. It always is.” The boy narrates in a stylistic way that, while it does not rhyme, it does have a lyrical quality that will make anyone enjoy using this title for a read-aloud. Children will especially get joy as you can emphasize certain words and lines. While the plot seems simple enough: a young boy enjoying his haircut, there is a deeper meaning to the story. There has been much controversy surrounding schools demanding black children to wear their hair in certain ways only. Just recently, a boy was not allowed to walk for his high school graduation unless he cut off his locs. To see a young boy be proud of his hair, and to see him admire the hair of other men and a woman, announces two things: hair can be important to identity and black hair is beautiful in all its forms. The artist depicts African-American people by giving their skin almost a dewiness, and all are smiling confidently. The artist also depicts the diversity of skin tones, body types, and ages between everyone. This is clearly a book of love and empowerment for a community.

Review Excerpt and Awards won:

Awards and Honors: 2018 John Newbery Medal (Derrick Barnes); 2018 Caldecott Honor Book (Gordon C. James); 2018 Coretta Scott King Book Award Honor (Derrick Barnes); and 2018 Coretta Scott King Book Award Honor (Gordon C. James).

Following excerpt is from Publishers Weekly, dated August 28, 2017:

“Pride, confidence, and joy radiate from the pages, both in the black and brown faces of men, women, boys, and girls featured in James’s majestic paintings, and in writing that celebrates human worth with every syllable. Barbers included…”

Connections: Use this book to run an activity that teaches children about mixing colors with oil pastels. Because this book features oil paints made in different colors such as pinks and oranges and blues to depict the varying skin tones of its characters, have the children make self-portraits where they can use any color they want, whether it is to show what color best represents them or if they want to use colors to show what they feel. This text can also be used to teach about self-esteem and to connect with other books about being proud of one’s unique appearance and personality and other traits, such as Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell, The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi, and Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman.

Edited: 2/16/2020