Tag Archives: egg

Day 92 – An Extraordinary Egg

In honor of April Fool’s Day yesterday we read “An Extraordinary Egg” by Leo Lionni, an adorable story about friendship and childlike wonder. The book is easily recognizable as a Lionni creation, with his simple and vibrant combination of collage and pastel that I have always found charming. Oh, and the book also made us laugh out loud!

LionniJessica is a frog who is full of wonder. She spends her days wandering the far side of Pebble Island, and always seems to return home with something exciting – even if it’s just an ordinary pebble. The other two frogs on the island, Marilyn and August, are never very impressed – until one day Jessica brings home a large white “pebble” that is “as round as the full moon.”  Marilyn, who is a self-professed expert on all things, announces that Jessica has found a “chicken egg.” When the “chicken” hatches and looks – to the reader – very much like a baby alligator, Marilyn proclaims “I was right! It is a chicken.” They are impressed with how well their new chicken friend can swim, and they play in the water from “sunup to sundown” for days. When the chicken saves Jessica’s life one afternoon (she had gotten tangled in some weeds under the water), the two become inseparable friends. Then one day, a little bird alights and tells the chicken that her mother has been looking for her. Jessica and the chicken follow the bird for a day and a night until they find the “most extraordinary creature” either of them had ever seen: the chicken’s mother (who also looks remarkably like an alligator).

Throughout the book, we kept waiting for the frogs to have an epiphany, but they never do. Even when faced with overwhelming evidence of their error, it never occurs to them that their friend is anything but a chicken. That’s what made this book so funny to us. It’s like Leo Lionni is playing the “straight man” (in the comedic sense) while the rest of us can’t stop laughing. We loved how the frogs immediately welcome a new friend regardless of her very different physical appearance; it’s a complete non-issue. There is also something very zen and comforting about Jessica’s cheerful acceptance of the fact that her friend has to leave to be with her mother: “I’ll miss you very much, little chicken. Come visit us soon – and bring your mother too,” says Jessica…and then she moves on. By the time she gets back to the other frogs, she’s just excited to tell them about her experience, and about the silly mother chicken who called her own child an “alligator.”

We originally intended on reading a whole bundle of April Fools books specifically written for the holiday…but after acquiring them from the library, we were unimpressed. This Leo Lionni book was a last-minute substitute, and a wonderful one at that. In the end, keeping in mind the theme of the day, we had to wonder – were the frogs the April Fools for not recognizing the alligator in their midst, or were we the fools for not realizing that the joke was really on us?


Day 87 – Happy Easter!

It feels a little bit too early to be celebrating Easter before March is even over, but here we are! In honor of the holiday, we celebrated with some egg hunting, some paper crafts, and – of course – storybooks! It’s been a holiday-filled month, with several days that merited their own book bundles: Pi Day, St. Patrick’s Day, and National Quilting Day. For Easter, however, we went a step further. After sprinkling our reading list with rabbit and egg-themed books over the past week, today we read four books specifically about Easter.

The first book, “Easter” by Gillian Houghton, was a brief primer on the holiday in English and Spanish, providing some background regarding the religious significance of the day and some of the symbols and traditions that people associate with Easter. With that groundwork laid, we moved on to three charming picture books which were enjoyed by all.

Bunny’s Easter Egg by Anne Mortimer

bunny“Bunny’s Easter Egg” is a sweet and simple story about a tired little bunny looking for a quiet place to rest after a long night of hiding eggs. Too exhausted to do any more work, bunny puts one final egg in her own basket and settles in for a nice snooze…but the egg starts crackling and bumping! Seeking a more peaceful location for her well-deserved nap, bunny hops from one potential resting place to another – but whether due to noisy birds, a prickly hedgehog, squeaky mice, or any number of other disturbances, no location is quite as nice as her basket. Eventually, she returns home for a brief snooze before waking to find that the last egg has hatched her a brand new friend – a fluffy little duckling!

We liked Ms. Mortimer’s cute and fluffy illustrations. There is also some repetitive text in the book which is nice for beginning readers, and creates a fun way to interact when reading aloud with little ones. After reading it through a few times, you can ask little listeners to help you to fill in the blanks (for example: “oh no, I can’t sleep here, it’s far too…noisy, squeaky, busy, etc.”)

The Easter Egg by Jan Brett
easter egg“The Easter Egg” by Jan Brett is a charming parable about a little rabbit named Hoppi with big dreams and an even bigger heart. Every year the Easter Bunny selects the rabbit with the most amazing egg to help him hide eggs for the children to find on Easter morning. Seeking inspiration for his first egg, Hoppi hops from one house to the next observing how each rabbit applies his or her special talent to create spectacularly decorated eggs. Before Hoppi can decide how to start on his own project, however, he comes across an egg that has fallen from Mother Robin’s nest. Hoppi offers to keep Mother Robin’s egg safe and warm while she tends to her other eggs still in the nest, and he stays with it until it hatches into a little baby bird. When the Easter Bunny arrives to judge everyone’s creations he is impressed with all the beautifully decorated eggs. However, it is the empty blue shell of Hoppi’s egg that the Easter Bunny selects as the most special of all.

“The Easter Egg” is a beautiful book, richly adorned with Ms. Brett’s characteristically detailed and beautiful illustrations. As in other Jan Brett books we have read, we found stories taking place not only in the middle of the page but in the margins as well. We also appreciated how, with all of the artistic talent displayed by the other rabbits in the story, it is Hoppi’s kindness that makes his egg exceptional. It may be an inspirational message for some children to hear that attributes like a big heart or a kind soul can be “talents” just as much as skill at painting or woodworking.

The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes by Du Bose Heyward and illustrated by Marjorie Flack

Contry bunny“The Country Bunny” is a delightful book whose bright colors and vintage illustrations are particularly inviting. There is something about the look and feel of this book that just makes you want to pick it up and page through it; it has been a favorite selection in our house ever since we acquired a copy.

The story centers on Mrs. Cottontail (the “Country Bunny” of the title) and her childhood dream of one day becoming an Easter bunny. She grows up, gets married, and has twenty-one (!) children, and presumably lets go of her dream. Once her children are old enough and well trained enough to run the house on their own, however, Mrs. Cottontail is presented with an opportunity: one of the five Easter bunnies has grown too slow, and Grandfather Bunny must select a replacement. While she has no expectation of being chosen, and while there is no shortage of applicants who are swift enough for the job, it is only Mrs. Cottontail who is singled out by Grandfather Bunny as also being kind enough and wise enough. Eventually, Mrs. Cottontail also proves herself the bravest of the bunnies, earning Grandfather Bunny’s admiration and the golden shoes of the title.

Originally published in 1939, “The Country Bunny” has an endearing old-time feel, although the feminist theme that you can have it all as a woman – motherhood and a successful career – seems like a more modern concept. I found it to be a soothing, reassuring story – even if suspension of disbelief was a challenge at times (twenty-one children left home alone who keep the house spotless and tuck themselves into bed on time?). Most of all, however, I am glad we have the book because we all like to hold the book and look at it. Everyone in our house agreed that this one is our favorite.


Day 86 – P. Zonka Lays an Egg

“P. Zonka Lays an Egg” by Julie Paschkis is a delightful and playfully illustrated book that incorporates inspiring themes of staying true to yourself and avoiding mindless conformity. P. Zonka, a name taken from the word for a Ukranian Easter egg (“pysanka”), is a chicken living in a farmyard where the other hens lay eggs regularly. P. Zonka, in contrast, does not. She spends her days wandering about the yard and soaking in the natural beauty that surrounds her, while her yard mates gossip about her indolence. Eventually, when she does decide to give egg-laying a try, P. Zonka produces something spectacular: a single, amazing egg, adorned with all the vibrant colors and patterns she has been “collecting” on her farmyard strolls! From that day forward, P. Zonka continues to wander about the yard and to lay eggs only occasionally, but – as Ms. Paschkis assures us – when she does, they are worth the wait! P Zonka

Ms. Paschkis’ colorful and exuberant illustrations make it easy to understand P. Zonka’s sense of wonder as she strolls about the farmyard, and the book provides a compelling reminder to readers to take the time to appreciate the everyday beauty in their own lives. We also liked the fact that the gossipy chatter of the other chickens seems to have no impact on P. Zonka, although it does help make this a particularly fun book to read aloud. All-in-all, a great addition to our Easter week reading list.

 


Day 83 – Whose Egg?

Riddle me this: what could be more awesome than a lushly-decorated book with a touch of mystery that also increases your children’s understanding of nature? That same book with lift-the-flap – of course! Enter “Whose Egg” by Lynette Evans and illustrated by Guy Troughton, the second of our Easter-inspired selections this week.whose

Each two-page spread of “Whose Egg” presents a riddle with clues to help identify the animal hiding behind the flaps, and Mr. Troughton’s vibrant watercolor paintings provide additional hints for observant readers. There are eggs from reptiles, birds, insects, and even a certain duck-billed mammal – eight in total. We really enjoyed trying to guess each hidden animal. The only challenge for us was keeping our youngest from opening the flaps too quickly!

Like “An Egg is Quiet”, which we read yesterday, the production quality of this book is wonderful; if nothing else, it is just fun to hold and to look at. I can already tell that it is going to be well loved in our house…and I have a feeling I will be taping some of these flaps back on at some point in the near future!


Day 82 – An Egg is Quiet

I had a feeling just from looking at the cover of this evening’s storybook that we were in for a treat, and I was not disappointed. “An Egg is Quiet” by Dianna Aston and illustrated by Sylvia Long, is a beautiful combination of science, poetry, and art.quiet

The simple but elegant text introduces the reader to the wide variety of characteristics an egg can exhibit: not only can they be quiet, but they can also be “clever”, shapely, artistic, and fossilized…just to name a few. Each two-page spread presents a new characteristic complete with stunning watercolor illustrations that are well complemented by the choice in fonts; the production quality is excellent. There are notes scattered around each page providing additional information and letting the reader know what animal belongs to each of the eggs shown. One review I read had what I thought was a particularly apt description of the overall effect: it is like reading a naturalist’s journal.

We read the book through once to get a sense for the flow – the “big picture” if you will – before going back to soak in and discuss all the wonderful details. I really enjoyed being able to identify some of the more unusual eggs from the labels, and was fascinated to learn (for example) that seabird eggs are pointy on one end so that they “roll around in safe little circles, not off the cliff.”

We originally selected Ms. Aston’s book for this week because of the approaching Easter holiday. While not, strictly speaking, an Easter book, “An Egg is Quiet” still fits in nicely – presenting a natural variety and beauty to eggs that outshines the colorful plastic egg decorations we see everywhere this time of year. It seems like the kind of book that would be nice to have on the shelf for little ones to pull out periodically and pore over and I was happy to discover that Ms. Aston and Ms. Long appear to have published several similarly attractive collaborations. I expect we will be reading more of their work this year.