I'd love to tell you about this quiet, classy picture book this week.
Except, I can't.
Because it isn't available at my library yet. So I searched for the next best alternative and found this:
The Tea Party in the Woods, Chinese edition ~ Hurrah! The original is in Japanese. Author-Illustrator Akiko Miyakoshi's artwork and storytelling senses are brilliant.
Here's what the story is about:
The snow has stopped. Kikko's father sets off to Grandma's house to shovel snow. But wait, he has forgotten to bring a pie meant for Grandma!
Kikko offers to bring it. She walks through the silent, wintry woods alone.
She sees a shadowy figure ahead. Father! In her haste, poor Kikko trips and the pie is ruined. Though she feels like crying, she picks up the pie and runs after the figure, following him to a big house.
Not Grandma's house.
Kikko peers through the window and discovers that the shadowy figure, who has now removed his hat, is not Father at all.
It's a big bear.
Before Kikko can react, she hears a gentle voice beside her. "Are you here for the tea party?"
She turns. It's a lamb in a coat, carrying a pretty handbag.
Read this, my lovelies. It'll take you somewhere wonderful, like back to the good, simple childhood days. Read this on your bad days. Read this on a gorgeous, quiet morning. Read this during your lunch or tea break (oh yes, tea breaks would be an ideal time for reading this picture book!).
Some reviewers, individuals and journals, have referred or connected this story to Little Red Riding Hood. While I respect different interpretations, which by the way makes Reading interesting, I didn't think the reference was necessary. The Tea Party in the Woods is an entirely different type of story, full of child-like wonder and imagination, and it stands perfectly on its own. It makes you curious, it makes you feel safe and happy among animals.
Who else is at this tea party? What happens to visiting Grandma now that the pie is ruined? Find out. Find out!
Do you like simple, happy, quiet picture books? Or do you prefer those with a bolder tone, more actions and a faster pace? (I recently also borrowed To the Sea, which is more of the latter, and my niece, Olive, likes that better than The Tea Party!)
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If you want to do it, you can do it. The question is: Do you want to do it?
Towards the end of the nineteenth century, the public, inspired by Jules Verne's AROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY DAYS, was thirsty for adventure. Many adored the idea of travelling around the world. Three indomitable spirits stepped up and made their individual, fascinating journeys.
THOMAS STEVENS, WHEELMAN, 1884
A young American miner, who was resolved to accomplish more in his life, made the decision to ride a bicycle across the United States. Stevens, despite having no experience in riding one, invested in a Columbia Standard bicycle (those vintage ones with an enormous front wheel and a much smaller back one). He set off from San Francisco. And rode, and fell, and got back up again. Stevens kept a journal and recorded his journey. When he completed it, he made another decision -- to ride around the world! Was that possible: a humble miner without much funding crossing the globe on a two-wheel invention?
NELLIE BLY, GIRL REPORTER, 1889
She proposed the trip to her editor at New York World. Phileas Fogg (protagonist of Verne's novel) made the journey in 80 days. Nellie said she'd do it in 74. Her proposal was only accepted a year later. Off she went, buying a dress that would stand constant wear for three months, a second dress, an ulster (a Victorian coat), and a bag. That was all she had. No luggage. On Thursday, November 14, 1889, at 9:40am, Nellie Bly boarded the ocean liner Augusta Victoria and began her journey. She travelled by steam ships and by train, always writing about her journey and cabling back whenever she could. Soon, her papers ran contests and the world was fixated on where she'd turn up next. Would it be Hong Kong? Or Singapore (she did show up here, as it turned out, and even bought a monkey as companion). Obstacles. Of course, there were several ~ sea sickness, gentlemen scoffing at her audacious claim to travel around the world, delayed ships, fog, another fierce competitor who challenged to finish her journey earlier than Nellie. But there were also folks rooting for her. Did Nellie keep her promise? Did she travel around the world in 74 days?
JOSHUA SLOCUM, MARINER, 1895
Here, I'll confess here: His story is the primary reason why I've saved shelf space for this book. (The copy I have beside me now is from the library. I'll buy one to keep this Christmas.) Stevens and Bly's journeys made me smile and I felt like I'd gone on their adventures with them, bruised thighs and sick gut and all. With Captain Slocum however, it was different. He set off on a rickety sailing boat he'd rebuilt without a commander or a crew or even a dog for company. His second wife declined going on the trip with him. Utterly alone. And I think he much preferred it this way. His journey dug into his past with his first wife. (I won't spoil it for you. Go read it for yourself.) The author-illustrator, Matt Phelan, did an admirable job telling his story. Most parts which involved Slocum's first wife were done with very little text, but the pictures, the frames, they showed so much ~ vast like the oceans embarked and crossed.
I'm not sure how, or rather who, to recommend this graphic novel to. Young children who love picture books? They might not enjoy this as much. Middle-graders looking for adventure? Maybe. But these three stories are separate stories, not a full adventure or thriller, and they don't carry much text (which isn't a problem for me but I know there are teachers and parents who'd prefer their kids read more words to power up their vocabulary. There are plenty of novels for this purpose. This graphic novel isn't produced for that.) So I'll recommend this to you, the wishful travellers, the would-be-might-be world travellers, the ones who aren't afraid to make solitary trips, and the ones who appreciate boldness and unwavering will.
* On another personal note, my major flat reconstruction is finally over! I'm very much enjoying the space in my home office (surrounded by walls the colours of the sea) and thoroughly glad to be back at work. Hope everyone has been well. I'll drop by your blogs very soon.
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It has been declared, many times, that Writing and Reading can take you places. Nearer locations you have stayed at and known for half a lifetime. Faraway places you've dreamed of, or can imagine, through the pictures in your head.
So here we have a boy.
In his room.
Reading a book about Africa.
He grabs a sketchbook and pencil, and draws and draws. He draws himself into Africa. First off, sketching out an elephant with an egret standing nearby.
The elephant is very pleased with the piece. He brings the boy and the egret to a zeal of zebras next.
The boy keeps drawing. He runs alongside giraffes, observes apes eating his sandwich and almost forgets to run when the rhinoceros charges at him.
See the world. Make new friends. What a safari this is! This wordless picture book is based on the artist's childhood memories. I haven't read other books illustrated by Raul Colon but will definitely keep an eye out for them. I mean, that spread with the boy running along with the giraffes is just stunning!
If you can draw (or write or read) yourself into a setting you haven't been before, where would you go? For me right now, it'll be either a Korean seaside or a Japanese countryside. What about you?
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Hey, I'm Claudine. Welcome!
Want to know what children's stories can inspire & lead to?
by Kate Hanney
Really enjoyed the honest voice of this narrator ~ a teenager let down by his mother and the foster care system, and almost-picked up through his involvement with a gang.