WRB—Feb. 2023 Children’s Literature Supplement
Three remarkable artists, three colors, three books of planes
It is with great delight that Sarah wishes readers a very happy Presidents’ Day, happy that she finally remembered to check her calendar and got her holidays correct. Singles Awareness Day is over, Ash Wednesday looms large, and leprechauns have visited this author to demand their fair share of representation in next month’s supplement. They’ll have to wait their turn though, as we have plenty of February still to go.
Some subjects are worth being particular about, and picture-book art is undeniably one of those things. This month, Sarah brings three remarkable artists to your attention, hopes to infect everyone with her aviation obsession, and begs you to help your children fall in love with classical music.
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Art and the artist:
There are many different book awards, but two annual ones which are sometimes confused are the Caldecott Medal and the Newbery Award. While the Newbery focuses on “the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children,” the Caldecott concerns “the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.”
Named for nineteenth-century children’s literature illustrator Randolph Caldecott, the award has been around since 1937. But why look to a British artist for the name of this American award? Well, consider his contributions to the field. Also, if you’re doing a literary tour of America, check out Caldecott’s grave in St. Augustine.
In Sarah’s top seven Christmas picture-books list is The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree (1988), written by Gloria Houston and illustrated by Barbara Cooney. Ever since reading Miss Rumphius (1982) and Roxaboxen (1991), Sarah has been enthralled with the charming images put forward by Cooney. Imagine her delight when she discovered a whole world of Cooney’s work, ranging from the fantastical (Chanticleer and the Fox, 1958) to the biographical (Eleanor, 1996) to the heartwarming (The Story of Holly and Ivy, 1958)
Cooney is not to be confused with Tasha Tudor, an equally lovely artist whose pictures have drawn readers into the world of Frances Hodgson Burnett for years. Oh, and into Sarah’s favorite, the world of Corgiville Fair.
Rounding out our trio is Kay Nielsen, a Danish author of the 20th century. Sarah loves his work on her favorite fairytale, East of the Sun and West of the Moon (1914), but his catalog of works doesn’t end there. As Bethany Kern from Goldberry Arts says:
Nielsen’s use of negative space combined with elegant, patterned line work make for dramatic moments of narrative that pair well with the sorts of stories told by those who believe that children combat their fears by imagining themselves up against the monsters in exciting tales.
Is your child unable to get enough of planes? Does he yell “shark!” each time a commercial plane flies overhead? If so, here are some books to sate his curiosity.
The Big Book of Airplanes (2004, 2016) from DK Children
The Usborne Book of Cutaway Planes (1999) by Clive Gifford
The Encyclopedia of Aircraft of World War II (2004) by Paul Eden
Finally, if you’ve never heard of the Young Eagles program, it might be worth your time.
New reads for your February:
Meghan Cox Gurdon comes through yet again with a set of book recommendations. While Sarah is generally unimpressed with and suspicious of YA books, the one reviewed by Gurdon here is mildly intriguing and seems to pull from an old Irish folk tale for inspiration.
A picture book about Arthur Conan Doyle? Yes, please! This roundup from The Guardian also contains a link to Holocaust survivor Peter Lantos’s newest book (The Boy Who Didn’t Want to Die, January.
Deliciousness in the kitchen:
Cook books make for excellent reading, and an illustrated children’s cookbook based on beloved characters is even better.
Sourdough has been enjoying quite the moment. Accelerated (it would seem) by the pandemic, the trend has people experimenting with ratios, flour types, hydration levels, and decorative scoring techniques. Before sourdough was cool, however, Laura Ingalls was teaching Mrs. Boast the secrets of this handy bread-making skill:
“When you haven’t milk enough to have sour milk, however do you make such delicious biscuits, Laura?” she asked.
“Why, you just make sour dough,” Laura said.
Mrs. Boast had never made sour-dough biscuits! It was fun to show her. Laura measured out the cups of sour dough, put in the soda and salt and flour, and rolled out the biscuits on the board.
In the words of my choir director, “No, Laura, you don’t ‘just make sour dough.’” As someone who daily forgets to feed her starter, I agree with this sentiment, but it does showcase the cleverness and determination of those pioneers when it came to food. Even more so, it reminds us that good food and good literature often go hand in hand.
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