Book Reviews and More

Hi! This blog is for my classes at Texas Woman's University.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Reviews are in! Genre Three - Poetry

Hello everyone!

  I hope that y'all were anxiously awaiting the next round of reviews! For Genre 3 in the class, we are taking a look at the wonderful world of poetry.

  I chose to review the poetry anthology I Am the Book by Lee Bennett Hopkins, the verse novel Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai, and the poetry book Mirror Mirror by Marilyn Singer.

  I hope that you enjoy these reviews and it encourages you to take a look at poetry - especially if its been a while since you've opened a poetry book. There's a whole new world of words out there waiting for you!

  Enjoy! McCourt

Poetry - Genre Three Reviews

Review for I Am the Book by Lee Bennett Hopkins, Illustrated by Yayo

Hopkins, Lee Bennett. I Am the Book. Ill. by Yayo. New York: Holiday House, 2011. ISBN 9780823421190

     I Am the Book is a poetry anthology arranged by Lee Bennett Hopkins. The anthology features 13 poems that celebrate the love of reading. Books and stories are center stage as the topic of the poems. Each poet puts their own spin on the subject of books. One poem, “Paperback Plunder” by Michele Krueger is told from the point-of-view of a paperback novel left behind on the beach. The poem uses a lovely simile to compare the book to a giant conch shell saying “Lift me to my ear,/Hear the story I shall tell.” Other poems celebrate the excitement of getting lost in a story, such as “Don’t Need a Window Seat” by Kristine O’Connell George and “This Book” by Avis Harley. Both poems evoke lively images of the excitement a person can feel when they are lost in a story. In “Don’t Need a Window Seat”, the ride on the bus is compared to the ride in the imagination that a reader takes with the “Bus’s wheels are turning fast,/I’m starting Chapter One,” and “Riding my imagination/flying down city streets./Got this great new book to read-/who needs a window seat?” In “This Book”, avid readers can relate to the child who is captivated by a book through the whole day, from when they wake up, through school, then “I forgot I was hungry/I almost missed dinner” and onto the end of the day which they spend reading by flashlight to find out the ending of the book. This is an experience many readers will be able to picture in their minds, and begs the question – what books have you read lately that fill your mind throughout the day? Both of the poems have a quick-paced rhythm that would lend well to reading aloud. Other poems in the collection evoke a quieter, more reminiscent feel about reading. “Quiet Morning” by Karen B. Winnick and “Book” by Amy Ludwig Van Derwater both bring up the comforting emotions of snuggling up with a good book in bed or on a rainy day and the satisfaction that can come with that time. Any of the poems in this collection would make an excellent introduction to story time. Often, librarians use a little rhyme or song to help calm the kids down and prepare them to listen to a story. Perhaps one of the poems from I Am the Book could also be paired with that to help prepare children to fully engage into the wonder of a book.

     I Am a Book features illustrations for each poem in the collection by the artist Yayo created with acrylics on canvas.  Each poem receives a double page spread in the book, which allows the art to spread across the page and accents how the words and the pictures work together. The illustrator does an especially effective job for the poem “What Was That?” by Rebecca Kai Dotlich. The illustration of a whale with a book with for a tail is clever and pairs well with the words “What was that/that made me blink?/Made me wonder,/made me think?” Just as the poem points out how a book can make you wonder about fantastical things, the picture of the whale delves into the world of imagination. The rhyme scheme using short 3 and 4 syllable stanzas and an A-B-C-B pattern also flows nicely together with the mood and feel of the poem. Overall, the anthology flows smoothly from one poem to the next. I like how it begins with “Quiet Morning” and ends with “Book” which ends with the line “Closing the cover/I sigh - /Good-bye, friend.” It also cleverly breaks up the collection with “Poetry Time” by Hopkins himself in the middle saying “It’s poem o’clock./Time for a rhyme –“, which acts as a middle-of-the-day poetry break within the collection itself. The book also includes an information section about each of the contributing poets at the back of the anthology.

     I Am the Book was a California Reading Association’s Eureka! Picture Book Award Silver Honor book as well as a 2012 Chicago Public Library Best of the Best selection. It also was a 2011 Nerdies Book Award winner for Poetry. Anthologist Hopkins is the founder of the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry award, as well as a Christopher Award winner. Library Media Center reviews says the compilation “would be a great addition to any elementary media center… The illustrations have a whimsical and carefree feeling that all readers will enjoy.”
     Lee Bennett Hopkins is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most prolific anthologist for children with currently more than 120 anthologies to his credit, so there is no shortage of anthologies to explore by Hopkins, including the excellent Amazing Faces and easy reader collection Dizzy Dinosaurs: Silly Dino Poems. Poetry anthologies by other writers that feature a variety of classic and modern poets include A Family of Poems compiled by Caroline Kennedy, the National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry edited by J. Patrick Lewis (which features fabulous photographs), and The 20th Century Children’s Poetry Treasury selected by Jack Prelutsky. A Child’s Book of Poems illustrated by Gyo Fujikawa invites readers to pore over the engaging pictures, and an excellent collection for bedtime includes Poems and Prayers for the Very Young, selected and illustrated by Martha Alexander. Readers who enjoy this poetic celebration of books should also check out BookSpeak: Poems About Books by Laura Purdie Salas or perhaps pair one of these poems with picture books about books such as Wild About Books by Judy Sierra, Miss Brooks Loves Books (And I Don’t) by Barbara Bottner, Dog Loves Books by Louise Yates and The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce.
Quote from Lee Bennett Hopkins: “Guiness was a total shock. It was all due to Sylvia Vardell and one of her doctoral students, who initiated this and saw it through. I had nothing to do with it. It was a thrill and an honor.”
Hopkins, Lee Bennett. I Am the Book. New York: Holiday House, 2011.
"I Am the Book." Holiday House Book Page. (accessed February 24, 2014).
"Poetry Month 2013: ‘Good Books, Good Times!’ by Lee Bennett Hopkins." Renee LaTulippe No Water River. (accessed February 24, 2014).
Review for Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai
Lai, Thanhha. Inside Out & Back Again. New York: Harper, 2011. ISBN 978-0-06-196278-3

In Inside Out & Back Again, Thanhha Lai lyrically explores the experience of a young girl and her family’s journey from Saigon to Georgia during the Vietnam War.  Kim Hà is a ten-year-old girl living in Saigon in 1975. Her father left to fight in the war, and has been missing in action for nine years. Hà, her mother, and three older brothers are struggling to make it in the war-torn country. When Saigon falls, the family flees on a boat with thousands of other refugees. After almost a month on the ship, the refugees are rescued and allowed to choose a land for their new home. Hà’s mother chooses America, and Hà and her family end up in Georgia. But the family’s transition to America is not an easy one. At one point Hà poignantly says, “No one would believe me/but at times/I would choose/wartime in Saigon/over/peacetime in Alabama” (Lai 195). Despite the difficulties and prejudice they encounter, Hà and her family eventually begin to find their place in America.

Inside Out & Back Again is a beautifully written verse novel. One aspect that makes verse novels unique is that the narrative is revealed through poems that link to one another to tell the story. As Dr. Sylvia Vardell points out in Children’s Literature in Action, “The best verse novels are built on poems that are often lovely stand-alone works of poetry” (Vardell 116). Inside Out & Back Again does that remarkably well. As I was reading the novel, I often stopped and tried to imagine the page as a poem by itself. Even without the surrounding background of the novel, the verses evoke strong feelings. When you combine the verses along with the story of the novel, it creates a complimentary picture. In fact, this is one of the strengths of well-written novels in verse. The language, rhythm, and poetry combine with characters, settings, and context to bring out the best in both the novel and the verse.
The character of Hà rings true through her words describing the hardships she faces, both in school in Saigon,

“From now on
will be for
happy news.
No one has anything
to say” (Lai 18),

 as well as in America,

“Pink Boy keeps asking,
What are you?
By the end of school
he yells an answer:
She should be a pancake face.
She has a pancake face.
It doesn’t make sense
it does” (Lai 196).

 The book is a wonderful opportunity to allow readers to experience a life that is most likely very different from their own experience. It can allow children to empathize with the issues that face refugees. Through the story’s strong characterization, rich setting details and relatable family dynamics, readers can find themselves in 1975, living and empathizing with a memorable young girl’s experience.

     Inside Out & Back Again won the National Book Award in 2011 and was a 2012 Newbery Medal Honor Book. Kirkus Reviews gave it a starred review saying, “In her not-to-be-missed debut, Lai evokes a distinct time and place and presents a complex, realistic heroine whom readers will recognize, even if they haven’t found themselves in a strange new country.” School Library Journal blogger Elizabeth Bird states, “All told, Inside Out and Back Again has the brevity of a verse novel packed with a punch many times its size. It’s one of the lovelier books I’ve read in a long time…”

     This novel’s richness and multi-layered subject matter lend it to pair well with several different types of novels. Children who enjoy the novel in verse form may want to explore others written in this style, including Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse, The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, and May B. by Caroline Starr Rose. Inside Out & Back Again places readers in the 1970s, which would make this book a nice selection to pair with a social studies or history unit about the Vietnam War. Other books that may appeal to interest in this time period include The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt and Shooting the Moon by Frances O’Roark Dowell. For more about the refugee experience, the picture books How I Learned Geography by Uri Shulevitz, The Lotus Seed by Sherry Garland, or Brothers in Hope: The Story of the Lost Boys of the Sudan by Mary Williams may be a nice companion to the story, as well as the novel Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate, which is also written in verse. To further explore the theme of trying to find one’s place in new or unwanted situations, include books such as One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams Garcia, Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm, Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan, and Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool.

Quote from Thanhha Lai:
“I’m not so presumptuous as to think I could offer a voice to refugee children, but more of a sparkle to jump start their own stories. While writing I thought often of other 10-year-old refugees in the world.”

Bird, Elizabeth. "Review of the Day: Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai." A Fuse 8 Production. (accessed February 22, 2014).

"INSIDE OUT AND BACK AGAIN." Kirkus Reviews. (accessed February 22, 2014).

Lai, Thanhha. Inside out & Back Again. New York: Harper, 2011.

"Thanhha Lai, Inside Out and Back Again - National Book Award YPL Winner, The National Book Foundation." The National Book Foundation. (accessed February 22, 2014).

Vardell, Sylvia M. Children's Literature in Action: A Librarian's Guide. Westport, Conn.: Libraries Unlimited, 2008.

Review for Mirror Mirror by Marilyn Singer, Illustrated by Josée Masse

Singer, Marilyn. Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse. Ill. by Josée Masse. New York, N.Y.: Dutton Children's Books, 2010. ISBN 9780525479017.

     Mirror Mirror by Marilyn Singer is a collection of poems in reversible verse that can be read both forward and backward. Singer refers to this style as a reverso poem. She describes the style on the last page of the book saying, “When you read a reverse down, it is one poem. When you read it up, with changes allowed only in punctuation and capitalization it is a different poem.” What a clever and fun format! In this collection, Singer bases most of the poems on well-known fairy and folk tales, such as Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rumpelstiltskin, Rapunzel and many others. In “In the Hood”, we read the first poem from the perspective of Little Red Riding Hood, but when you reverse it, we get to hear the poem from the Big Bad Wolf. In “The Sleeping Beauty and the Wide-Awake Prince,” we hear from both the Sleeping Beauty and her knight in shining armor. With “Cinderella’s Double Life,” the reader gets to hear Cinderella’s perspective before and during the ball. The book includes 14 poem pairs, as well as an author’s description in the back of the book of how she came up with the idea of reverso poems – including her first one written about her cat.

     Despite the fairy tale subject manner, the poems themselves have a modern, even irreverent at times, tone about them. They pair nicely with the beautiful, colorful illustrations of Josée Masse, who adds a graphic design element that highlights the different sides of the poems. The poems themselves vary in readability, with some of the reverses reading more smoothly than others. Two of my favorites include “Have Another Chocolate” about Hansel and Gretel. In this reverse poem the stanzas flip very easily and “When you hold it out,/your finger/feels like/a bone./Fatten up./Don’t/keep her waiting…” becomes “Keep her waiting,/Don’t/Fatten up./A bone/feels like/your finger/when you hold it out.” In “The Doubtful Duckling” about the story of the ugly duckling, the reverse switches from “Someday/I’ll turn in to a swan./No way/I’ll stay/an ugly duckling” to “An ugly duckling/I’ll stay./No way/I’ll turn into a swam/someday.” While these poems are fun to read aloud, having a written copy of the poem makes the reader appreciate the clever switching of the stanzas even more, so having more than one copy of the book for kids to investigate further would be helpful. Another interesting thing to try is to read the poem on the right first, and then the left, instead of the usual left to right order. It just adds another flip to the reading, and helps the poems be seen and re-seen in a different light.

     Mirror Mirror was on the 2011-2012 Texas Bluebonnet list, the New York and Chicago Public Library Best Books of 2010, and the Washington Post’s Top 15 Books of 2010. Kirkus Reviews starred review states: “Masse’s gorgeous, stylized illustrations enhance the themes of duality and perspective by presenting images and landscapes that morph in delightful ways from one side of the page to the other. A mesmerizing and seamless celebration of language, imagery and perspective.” Booklist’s starred review says the book is “a must-purchase that will have readers marveling over a visual and verbal feast.”

     Marilyn Singer created another reverso poetry book called Follow Follow, which will definitely appeal to fans of Mirror Mirror. It includes more fairy tale based stories, along with an extended author’s note with summaries of the tales and further explanation of Singer’s reverse poetry style. These books just beg for a poetry lab or workshop to allow kids to attempt their own versions of reverso poetry – what a fun challenge! These poems would pair especially well with a study of fairy tales, folk tales and fractured fairy tales. Although most of the poems are based on familiar tales, a revisiting of the original tale would be beneficial to enhance the meanings of the poems. Since these poems offer a look into perspectives, stories such as The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Sciesczka or The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig by Eugene Trivias would make nice comparisons. Even modern movies such as Happily Never After, Hoodwinked, Shrek, or the classic Disney versions of some of the tales would be a fun way to round out a study into all of these forms. For more interactive poetry options, try Messing Around on the Monkey Bars by Betsy Franco, which encourages reading aloud from two voices. Another take on old classics includes Alan Katz’s books based on traditional songs, so try Take Me Out of the Bathtub or I’m Still Here in the Bathtub for another way to explore putting a new twist on old things. 

Quote from Marilyn Singer: “For what genre is as much about gorgeous, glorious, perfect words than poetry?”

"Marilyn Singer." Marilyn Singer: Author: Marilyn On Writing. (accessed February 26, 2014).

"MIRROR MIRROR." Kirkus Reviews. (accessed February 26, 2014).

Singer, Marilyn. Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse. New York, N.Y.: Dutton Children's Books, 2010.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Reviews are in! Genre Two - Traditional Tales

Hello everyone!

  This module's focus was Traditional Tales. I think this might be one of my favorite genres. It is so amazing how such classic tales can continue from so long ago, ready to be retold or re-imagined by authors and storytellers today.

  I chose to review The Story of the Milky Way: A Cherokee Tale, The Three Ninja Pigs, and Joseph Had a Little Overcoat. The reviews are listed below this post, as well as above under the LS 5603 tab.

  I hope you enjoy the reviews and they inspire you to check out some traditional tales of your own.

  Take care, McCourt

Traditional Tales - Genre Two Reviews

Review for The Story of The Milky Way: A Cherokee Tale by Joseph Bruchac and Gayle Ross, Illustrated by Virginia A. Stroud

Bruchac, Joseph, and Gayle Ross. The Story of The Milky Way: A Cherokee Tale. Ill. by Virginia A. Stroud. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 1995. ISBN 0803717377.

The Story of The Milky Way: A Cherokee Tale is a retelling of a Cherokee legend about how the Milky Way appeared in the night sky. In the story, an elderly couple discovers that some of their cornmeal has gone missing from their bin overnight. They are upset that someone has stolen from them, and their grandson decides to figure out the identity of the thief. He watches in the night and sees a mystical dog eating out of the bin. The village is unsure what to do, so they consult the wise old Beloved Woman. She says the creature must be a powerful spirit dog, and recommends they hide in the night, then make noises with their drums and rattles to scare it away. The plan works, and the spirit dog runs away dropping cornmeal in the sky as he escapes, which turn into the stars of the Milky Way.

This retelling of a classic Cherokee tale is an example of a pour quoi tale, because it explores the reason of why or how something is the way it is (Vardell 82). In this case, the story shares why there is the Milky Way, or as the Cherokees call it Gil’liutsun stanun’yi  - which means “where the dog ran” (Bruchac and Ross 32). The story is clearly set up as a folktale from its opening line, “This is what the old people told me when I was a child” (Bruchac and Ross 5). The story focuses on the young grandson and his determination to help his grandparents, and then on the wise elder woman of the tribe. These elements make it a positive representation of the relationship between the young and the elderly. As author Gayle Ross states, “Joe Bruchac and I felt it was important to identify the elder who provides the solution to the riddle of the theft… We added the character of the grandson to our version to represent the love children everywhere feel for their grandparents” (Bruchac and Ross 3). The appealing acrylic illustrations in this book incorporate vivid color with a traditional style. Elements such as the types of clothing the characters wear help establish the setting and provide rich cultural details, which enhance the folkloric feel of the book. The patterns, textures, and colors all work well together to draw the eye of the reader.

The Story of the Milky Way: A Cherokee Tale was the winner of the Scientific American Children’s Book Award. Author Joseph Bruchac was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas in 1999. Kirkus Reviews says “A simple, well-phrased text introduces ideas of respect for elders, cooperation, and reverence for the spirit world, without ever veering from the storyline.” Publishers’ Weekly states “Bruchac and Ross subtly underscore the role of tradition in shaping narrative.”

Bruchac’s books Between Earth and Sky: Legends of Native American Sacred Places and How Chipmunk Got His Stripes, and Ross’ book How Rabbit Tricked Otter: And Other Cherokee Trickster Stories are more examples of folk tales that would pair well with The Story of the Milky Way. Older children interested in native cultures and history may enjoy Bruchac’s novel Code Talker: A Story About the Navajo Marines of World War Two; which former Horn Book editor Anita Silvey says “stands as a testament to the power of language – and why all languages should be respected and kept alive” (Silvey 2011). Myths and fairy tales may also be paired with folk tales for a well-rounded look into traditional literature. Students may also enjoy Classic Myths to Read Aloud by William F. Russell or stories by Rachel Isadora such as Rapunzel or The Princess and the Pea

Quote from Joseph Bruchac:
"It is important to understand that there are many different ways of seeing the world and expressing the wisdom of Native belief... No one voice speaks for all voices..."

Bruchac, Joseph, and Gayle Ross. The Story of the Milky Way: a Cherokee tale. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 1995.

"Joseph Bruchac Home Page: Author biography, published works, performance schedule, multimedia videos, music and poetry." Joseph Bruchac Home Page: (accessed February 8, 2014).

Silvey, Anita. "Book-A-Day Almanac." BookADay Almanac. (accessed February 8, 2014).

"The Story of the Milky Way." Kirkus Reviews. (accessed February 8, 2014).

"The Story of the Milky Way: a Cherokee Tale." (accessed February 8, 2014).

Vardell, Sylvia M. Children's Literature in Action: A Librarian's Guide. Westport, Conn.: Libraries Unlimited, 2008.

Review for The Three Ninja Pigs by Corey Rosen Schwartz, Illustrated by Dan Santat 

Schwartz, Corey Rosen. The Three Ninja Pigs. Ill. by Dan Santat. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2012. ISBN 9780399255144

In this clever version of the "Three Little Pigs" tale, author Corey Rosen Schwartz places the pigs in the world of martial arts. The three pigs are being bullied by the big bad wolf and decide that ninja school is their best defense. The first pig studies aikido but only learns the basics; the second pig studies jujitsu but then leaves before making much progress; the third pig studies karate, and continues in her studies until earning the highest belt. When facing the wolf, the first two pigs discover their skills are no match, and rush to the third pig for help. The third pig shows the wolf her expertise, who quickly admits defeat and runs away. The first and second pigs decide to return to ninja school to improve their skills and the three pigs end up opening a dojo.

What a fun take on a classic tale, which completely updates the story while remaining true to the original premise. The book’s ninja angle will help this story appeal to all ages, both boys and girls, since two of the pigs are boys and the third is a girl. The story is done in rhyme, which is not an easy thing to do – especially with words such as aikido and jujitsu. Schwartz does a remarkable job and the words flow smoothly and rhythmically in an A, B, C, C, B pattern. If readers are uncertain about some of the martial arts terms, a glossary with pronunciation is provided in the back of the book. Artistically, Dan Santat uses a combination of full-page spreads and comic book styling to create fun, vibrant pages. Santat’s background as a television animator comes through on the page, creating a style that will be familiar and appealing to children.

The Three Ninja Pigs is a 2013 2 X 2 reading list selection (TLA), a Junior Library Guild Fall selection 2012, and a Los Angeles and Chicago Public Library Best of 2012 selection. Booklist says “Anyone who knows the original story will be well aware of what comes next, but this standout version has so much motion, action, and laughs, kids will feel like they’re hearing it for the first time.” The New York Times Book Review states “A fractured fairy tale to outcharm the original, The Three Ninja Pigs manages to one-up the well-worn story…” Kirkus Reviews also compliments the book calling it "A standout among fractured fairy tales, masterfully combining rollicking limerick verse with a solid story…”

This story would be great to include in an analysis of "Three Little Pigs" stories. Children could compare this version to David Wiesner’s Three Little Pigs, John Scieszka’s The True Story of the Three Little Pigs and a more traditional version such as Paul Galdone’s The Three Little Pigs. Other traditional stories, such as "The Three Bears" could also be analyzed in this way with such examples as Galdone’s The Three Bears, James Marshall’s Caldecott Honor version Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Goldie and the Three Bears by Diane Stanley, Mo Willems’ Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs, and Schwartz’s new book Goldi Rocks and the Three Bears. For more examples of excellent rhyme, try books by Liz Garton Scanlon such as A Sock is a Pocket for Your Toes or All the World. Children who enjoy Santat’s artwork may also like his work on Carnivores by Aaron Reynolds, and will be happy to find out that Schwartz and Santat will be teaming up again for Ninja Red Riding Hood, coming out in Summer 2014.

Quote from Dan Santat: 
“If every illustration you do is money driven and you constantly find that you’re asking yourself, ‘Can I sell this?’ then you’re not being true to yourself and your work is suffering because of it.”

Santat, Dan. "Dan Santat on Breaking Into The Business." The Animation Anomaly. (accessed February 11, 2014).

Schwartz, Corey Rosen. The Three Ninja Pigs. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2012.

"The Three Ninja Pigs by Corey Rosen Schwartz, illustrated by Dan Santat." Corey Rosen (accessed February 11, 2014).

Review for Joseph Had a Little Overcoat by Simms Taback 

Taback, Simms. Joseph Had a Little Overcoat. New York: Viking Press, 1999. ISBN 9780670878550

In Joseph Had a Little Overcoat, Simms Taback shares his version of a Yiddish folk song called “I Had a Little Overcoat” in picture book form. The story tells the tale of Joseph who proves to be very resourceful with his overcoat, turning it into a jacket, a vest, a scarf, a necktie, a handkerchief, and a button. In the end, he figures out how to make “something out of nothing” when he loses the button but turns the tale into a book.

The artistic design of the book is superb. Taback uses cutouts within the illustrations to depict the progression from overcoat to a button. The cutouts are cleverly hidden and then revealed within the pages. It is so much fun to try and predict how the next piece of clothing will look from the hidden cutout on the previous page, and so satisfying to see how it looks once the page is turned. Taback makes wonderful use of details so readers can spend a long time pouring over the pages, enjoying the way he uses collage to layer in extra meaning to the story. The colorful palate throughout the book adds vividness to the story and the depiction of the characters. My favorite spread is on pages 18-19, when Joseph goes to visit his “married sister in the city." Not only do I love the language of that page, but enjoy the detail in the looks of uncertainty on the faces of his nephew and niece over meeting their boisterous uncle. In contrast to the folklore style of the page, Taback includes a collage of modern photographs of faces in the windows of the background building – perhaps this is to emphasize Joseph is in the city, and away from his more traditional home.  The book is designed from cover to cover, with the book jacket, hard cover, and end pages all contributing to the theme of the story.

Joseph Had a Little Overcoat won the Caldecott medal in 2000. Barbara Z. Kiefer, chair of the 2000 Caldecott committee said of the book, "The patchwork layout of the pages, the two-dimensional paintings and the exaggerated perspectives, reminiscent of the folk art tradition, are the very fabric that turn this overcoat into a story" (Kiefer 2000). According to Publishers Weekly, with “its effective repetition and an abundance of visual humor, this is tailor-made for reading aloud.”

Pairing this book with Taback’s Caldecott Honor award-winning There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly would showcase the author’s talents and abilities. Other recommended interactive books featuring textural elements include Taback’s Safari Animals and City Animals, or Ten Little Ladybugs by Melanie Gerth or Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell. There is also an audiobook version of Joseph Had a Little Overcoat read by Taback himself. Teachers may also want to showcase different types of collage techniques, by pairing the Taback books with Eric Carle’s work or the recent Parrots Over Puerto Rico by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore. 

Quote from Simms Taback:
“You can always make something out of nothing.”

Kiefer, Barbara. "2000 Caldecott Medal and Honor Books." American Library Association. (accessed February 13, 2014).

Taback, Simms. Joseph Had a Little Overcoat. New York: Viking Press, 1999.

"This Is The Official Simms Taback Site." Simms Taback Site. (accessed February 13, 2014).