Marsha Diane Arnold starts by explaining Naming Day, when “each animal born the previous spring chooses its own name.” But there’s a catch: they only get to keep that name if everyone agrees that it is fair and honest.
“Four supposed he should name himself Smallest of All. But he was afraid if he named himself that, it would always be so.”
“In my heart I am bigger than what you see.”
He journeys into the jungle in search of himself, and calms back calm and confident, ready to claim his identity.
Ideally, won’t our kids do the same? Maybe not in a jungle, although that’s as good a place as any.
You have to go find yourself, discover yourself, without the influence of others.
And it’s a kitten.
Upon rereading, I don’t even know what to say about this one. I remember loving it, I remember loving the rough textured cover interrupted by a big circle seal in the center, but I don’t remember what it was about the story that I liked. Because it seems bizarre now.
Duncan joins us for story time!
In the Night Kitchen starts out pretty normal: a boy in bed at night, who hears a noise in the darkness. Then there’s an Alice in Wonderland scene where he falls down past lots of things, but for some reason he loses his clothes, and then he falls into a bowl of bread dough.
I suppose at this point, we realize that the boy is dreaming. And the story definitely has the strangeness of a dream: set on a kitchen countertop, cooks attempt to make him into a cake, but then he pops out, takes some bread dough and shapes it into a plane, and then flies away.
In case you forgot, he’s naked during the entire book, which apparently caused some controversy.
Of course, when I realize that the author/illustrator is Maurice Sendak, who also wrote Where the Wild Things Are, the strangeness of the story suddenly becomes more whimsical than weird.
P.S. Check out the links if you want to know more about the author, and his intentions with his books. He vowed not to write stories about sunshine and rainbows, because that’s not real life. He was also interviewed on Colbert. They talk about penises. (And here’s part two.)
Upon re-reading this book after graduating from the uber-liberal-and-socially-aware Evergreen State College, a small part of me started wondering if this book romanticizes the “native” way of living; if this book perpetuates the White Man Returns to Nature trope that plagues our movies, books, and shows. But, for the sake of childhood, I decided to ignore these feelings and just enjoy the book as I did when I was young.
Right, Pooh Bear? Let’s just stay in childhood forever.
Weslandia follows a young boy, an outcast, who is teased at school and doesn’t fit in. One summer, he decides to start a project that ends up blossoming into his own world.
It’s a story that encourages independence and initiative, as Wesley takes charge of his life and makes it into something he can enjoy. It’s like a blanket fort: his curiosity and imagination create a space all his own, a place where he is safe and happy, untouched by the outside world. He creates his own reality.
Industrious little fella.
And this is how Wesley finds friends, by first fully finding himself, and living without compromise.
It’s ridiculous how endearing this book can be with so few words. Chris Raschka gives Dr. Seuss a run for his money with this all-dialogue interaction between two kids that begins with the oh-so-simple “Yo! Yes?”
It’s almost a call-and-response. “Yo!” says the first kid. “Yes?” replies the second. “Hey!” “Who?” One is sassy, the other shy. “You!” “Me?” (Amazon describes this book as having two characters, “one black and one white,” which was weird to read, because it makes the story about race, and I never really read it that way. Sassy and shy was how I always identified them.)
Check out that hand on that hip! So sassy.
And the conversation continues from there, no more than three words per page, totaling 34 words all together. It’s sweet and straightforward, and yet so much fun. The drawings manage to express the emotions behind the dialogue. Kids learn to read not only the words, but also the body language of the characters. It’s an example of how reading is more than just words, of how tone and context affect the meaning.
It’s a lovely little book that captures how perfectly simple friendship can be.