Picture books

There’s No Such Thing as a Dragon
{written and illustrated} by Jack Kent

It wasn’t until I sat down to read this with the Bwun that I recognized it as a book I read as a child. The illustrations are cute and simple in this story about a dragon who Isn’t. Definitely recommended.

Raccoon Tune
by Nancy Shaw / illustrated by Howard Fine

I’m not sure how I feel about books in rhyme. When well-written, they’re catchy and fun, but more often than not they turn out to be forced, clumsy rhymes with bad cadence. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I’m a terrible person and I don’t like poetry. Whatever the reason, Raccoon Tune was very nearly clever in its rhymes. The illustrations were fabulous – great paintings of raccoons causing mischief.

Gregory’s Shadow
{written and illustrated} by Don Freeman

I’m sorry to say that both the pictures and the story were unmemorable in this Groundhog Day-themed book by the author of Corduroy.

Seen Art?
by Jon Scieszka / illustrated by Lane Smith

What a great concept for a book: a kid is supposed to meet his friend, Art, but when he asks people if they’ve seen Art he ends up getting a tour of the MoMA, as everyone explains their interpretation of what art is. The book is filled with reproductions of actual artwork in the MoMA. I wasn’t a huge fan of the illustration style of the book itself, but it was quirky and actually worked well. I might even buy this!

Down to the Sea with Mr. Magee
{written and illustrated} by Chris Van Dusen

Another book in rhyme; this one seemed very Seussian. Again, I loved the illustrations but was underwhelmed by the story about a man and his dog taking a boating trip.

The Magic Porridge Pot
{written and illustrated} by Paul Galdone

I have a lot to say here. Brace yourself.

The story of The Magic Porridge Pot is as follows: a woman and her daughter live in poverty in a tiny cottage, and when they have no food the little girl goes looking for nuts and berries in the forest. One day she can’t find anything, so she sits down and cries; an old woman appears and pulls a magic pot out of her cloak, instructing the little girl to use the words “Boil, little pot, boil” to make porridge appear when the pot is placed on the fire. The woman also says to never forget the magic words “Stop, little pot, stop” to make the pot stop bubbling. Well, all goes well until one day the little girl is gone, the mother is hungry, and after she eats she can’t remember the magic words to turn off the pot. She tries saying halt, enough, cease, no more, etc., but the porridge overflows the house and fills the streets of the village. The little girl rushes home and says the magic words; the townspeople go eat up all the delicious porridge in the street; no one ever goes hungry – or forgets the magic words – again.

Ok, so it’s a stupid story. And the illustrations are hideous. Let’s look a little more closely, though. Who forgets the word “stop”? The mother is depicted, both visually and in words, as a simpleton. Maybe that’s why she isn’t the one going out looking for food. The little girl is clearly supposed to be a fair, admirable girl whose virtue shines through, and she therefore receives this gift from the old woman. But why make the magic words SO SIMPLE and then ask your audience to believe that the mother can shout halt, and cease, but not stop? My other comment is that the villagers are happy to help clean up the giant porridge mess, but have apparently never shared food with the little girl and her mother before. That doesn’t reflect too well on their society, if you ask me. Read this only if you want to delve into the unintentional implications of a really dumb folk tale. Also, the porridge looks really gross.

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4 Comments on “Picture books”

  1. Jennifer says:

    I adore “There’s No Such Thing as a Dragon.” The story about the porridge pot sounds like a terrible take on one of my all-time faves, “Strega Nona,” by Tomie de Paolo. If you haven’t read it, you should snag it the next time you are at the library.

  2. Deborah Simonds says:

    When does porridge not look gross? =)

  3. Jim Lewis says:

    Not liking poetry doesn’t make you a bad person. Very few people are ever exposed to really good poetry, and even a lot of what is supposed to be superb, classical, wow your socks off poetry doesn’t phase me either. I think you have a very good ability to tell what is good literature and what isn’t, and why. And you have a very entertaining style of explaining your opinions. What more could you ask?

  4. Katie H. says:

    I’m with Jennifer. The first thing I thought of when I read about the porridge pot, was “Strega Nona”. I remember loving “Strega Nona” as a kid, but I don’t remember much about the book. I think I read some other Tomie dePaola books and liked them as well.


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