Monday, June 18, 2007

library theme: fruit

Eliza wasn't full of ideas herself, but she happily approved of reading picture books featuring fruit. I immediately thought of Jamberry, Eating the Alphabet, and Blueberries for Sal, which we own, but searching the public library catalog for more ideas was mostly fruitless (no pun intended). Thanks go to Nina of Painted Rainbows and Chamomile Tea for several of these suggestions - she thought of books that were at my branch but didn't have a fruit keyword in the catalog. Ironically, I was so scatterbrained last week that I forgot to bring out the three fruit-themed books I mentioned above.

The Owl and the Pussycat
, Edward Lear (written), Jan Brett (illustrated)

An English-language classic, The Owl and the Pussycat is a familiar children's nonsense poem (see the poem here), but Jan Brett's illustrations do more than add pictures - they bring a story of their own.

I'm a fan of Brett's charming, minutely-detailed illustrations (something she has in common with Graeme Base, a favorite illustrator of mine), many of which are based on northern European folktales. The scenes are so rich that it takes multiple readings to take it all in. Brett's The Owl and the Pussycat illustrations set the scene among Caribbean islands. Besides illustrating the poem itself, Brett also tells a story along the borders of each page. Along the top edge are straw-woven patterns and tropical flowers, each right corner shows a different sea shell, and along the bottom edge, under the ocean, is a secondary plot of Brett's devising. A yellow tang is seen engaging the help of other sea creatures to find her or his piscine amour, which the pussycat brought aboard the pea-green boat in a fish bowl.

Eliza liked that the tuxedo-patterned pussycat looks strikingly like our Nikita. She even tried to tell Nikita about what she'd seen in the book, but our gentle companion registered a blank stare in her green-gold eyes.

What has all this to do with fruit? The pea-green boat contains a large basket of tropical fruit, including pineapple, bananas, and quince. Some of the fruit I couldn't quite identify, but they looked quite a lot like cherimoya and sapote, which coincidentally, we had in the house, so that's what I told her they were.

It's not too often we have the same favorite picture book of the week, but this week we both enjoyed this one the most. I'm considering trying to find a used copy so I don't have to deny it to other library patrons. Ages 2-5?

Lunch, Denise Fleming

This is a simple picture book about a hungry mouse that goes across the kitchen floor gobbling up fruits and vegetables (how did he know I forgot to sweep?). He sloppily eats his way through a white turnip, orange carrots, yellow corn, etc., adding a new color to his fur with every bite. The fruits in this book are blueberries, grapes, apples, and watermelon. He must have been taking lessons from Eliza, who managed to eat a quarter of a watermelon by herself this week, looking happy and serene as pink juice dribbles down her chin. Ages 1-2.

The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear, Don & Audrey Wood (written), Don Wood (illustrated)

This was a timely book as well because of the strawberries in our CSA box lately.

Mouse is beaming, about to pick the perfect red, ripe strawberry, but is there something she hasn't considered? An unidentified off-scene narrator informs mouse that there lurks a big, hungry bear that craves strawberries, which sends the mouse scrambling to hide the strawberry. Without revealing the clever ending, I'll just say that Eliza "got it" and was tickled pink. The story and illustrations were delightful, and I'm sure we'll check out this one again. Ages 2-4?

Mr. Putter and Tabby Pick the Pears, Cynthia Rylant (written), Arthur Howard (illustrated)

I see from the back flap that Rylant is the author of several other Mr. Putter and Tabby . . . books. This book is an easy reader and is divided into a few very short "chapters." Mr. Putter and his tabby cat have a problem. His garden is overflowing with ripe apples and tomatoes, but all he can think about are the pears on his tree, which he tries to knock down using a slingshot loaded with apples. The next day, his neighbor has a surprise for him, and Mr. Putter eventually learns the value of patience.

Fruit, Pascale de Bourgoing (written), P. M. Valet (illustrated), Christina Cramer & Louise Goldsen (translated)

This was the only nonfiction children's book of the bunch. Its translucent overlays remind me of an anatomy section in an encyclopedia my family had - each sheet added another layer (muscles, nervous system) on top of a bare skeleton. The effect is interesting enough, mostly showing the seeds and stones inside, but it's nothing you can't get by slicing open a piece of fruit. The various trees and vines that fruit grows on are shown for contrast, which is something Eliza usually doesn't get to see. It was worth checking out for the theme of the last couple weeks, but I wasn't thrilled with it overall.

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There is one last book called Cherries and Cherry Pits, but I can't find it at the moment. I'll update this when I do.


Jenny said...

I really like Jan Brett too, and I didn't know that she illustrated a version of The Owl and the Pussycat. We really enjoyed her telling of Noah's Ark, and we just took that one back. Perfect timing!

enviromama said...

I love the mouse and the strawberry book (too lazy to type it all out!); we own the Spanish version.

nina said...

I'm glad the fruit theme worked out! Your post is great.