Tag Archives: waiting

Day 162 – if you want to see a whale

When you think about heading out to the beach, perhaps you imagine building a sand castle, splashing in the waves, or tossing a Frisbee on the sea breeze. These pursuits all seem fairly straightforward, and I’m not sure you need any special instructions for any of them. However, if you plan to set your sights a little higher, and what you really want to do at the beach is to see a whale…well, we may have found just the book for you! “if you want to see a whale” by Julie Fogliano and illustrated by Caldecott Medal winner Erin E. Stead is a whimsical and poetic how-to guide with just the right amount of silly to make it a thoroughly entertaining read aloud experience.

whaleThe book begins with the bare essentials required for whale spotting: a window…and an ocean…and time for wondering…AND time for realizing. You will need a not-so-comfy-chair and a not-too-cozy-blanket, because you can’t watch for whales when you are sleeping (me: good point!). While watching you must make sure NOT to notice certain other things that might be intriguing: the color pink, sweet roses, possible pirates on the horizon, perching pelicans, small inching things…and clouds. You must watch the sea and wait…wait…wait…
Eventually, after much waiting, payoff (in this book, at least)! A whale does appear, and we are left to playfully imagine all the many adventures a child and his dog will have (conversing? exploring? sitting quietly?) with their new-found whale…but this is not a book about what to do with whales – it is strictly a book about what to do if you want to see one.

We love the poetic prose, the childlike observations, and the humorous illustrations of a child and his dog waiting patiently and forgoing all other distractions in pursuit of their singular goal. We also got a kick out of the idea of a child sitting and waiting for something fun to happen…it’s a theme that we saw previously in another Fogliano-Stead collaboration: “and then its spring”…and we enjoyed it just as much here as we did there. As with the prior book, patience is eventually rewarded – but, goodness, that waiting is hard work!

Day 134 – Umbrella

After waiting (not so) patiently for the rain to stop in last night’s book, tonight we read a story about waiting (not so) patiently for the rain to START. “Umbrella” by Taro Yashima is a delightful take on the idea that a watched pot never boils…but give it some time and when opportunity meets preparation, the payoff can be sweet!umbrella

On her third birthday, little Momo (whose name means “peach” in Japanese) is given an umbrella and a pair of red rain boots as a gift. She is so pleased, she wakes up at midnight just to take another look at her new rain gear. Unfortunately for Momo, the weather is not feeling very cooperative. Every morning she asks her mother “Why the rain doesn’t fall?” and her mother replies “Wait, wait; it will come.”

Momo, however, is not content with waiting. One bright morning she suggests that she might need her umbrella to shield her eyes from the harsh sunlight. “You know you can enjoy the sunlight better without your umbrella,” her mother says, “Let’s keep it for a rainy day.” The very next morning, she suggests that she might need the umbrella to shield her eyes from the wind. “The wind might blow your umbrella away,” her mother replies,” Let’s keep it for a rainy day.”

It is not until many, many days later that Momo’s mother wakes her to say “Get up. Get up. What a surprise for you!”…it is raining at last! Terribly excited, Momo dons her rain gear and heads out for her nursery school with her mother. Along the way she reminds herself to walk straight like a “grown-up lady”, and she listens to the wonderful music of the raindrops falling on her umbrella…”pon pollo, pon pollo…” The rain continues to fall all day, and Momo hears the music again on her way home, when her father comes to pick her up. The book ends by telling the reader that Momo is grown now…and the narrator wonders aloud whether Momo remembers that this was the first time that she used her umbrella, and that this was the first time that she walked alone without holding her mother or her father’s hand.

This is a sweet story, and I really enjoyed the vintage feel of the illustrations in this Caldecott Honor book which was first published in 1958. In “Umbrella” Mr. Yashima succeeds at describing how I think a three year old child would react to receiving his or her first umbrella…from the increasingly restless anticipation of that first raindrop to the feeling that using your umbrella for the first time suddenly requires you to behave like a grown-up. I know our youngest continues to be fascinated with umbrellas (and splashing in puddles), and it made me smile imagining her in Momo’s shoes.


Day 133 – Rain

Around these parts it feels as though April showers have carried on…and on…and on. Frankly, I’m surprised our May flowers haven’t floated away by now. How appropriate, then, that today we should be reading “Rain” by Sam Usher – a colorful and wonderfully imaginative storybook that seeks to remind us that the very best things are always worth waiting for!

rainMr Usher’s protagonist is a precocious little red-headed boy, who wakes up one morning to a rainy day. He can’t wait to get outside, but his Grandad says they should stay indoors until the rain ends. “But I LIKE going out in the rain,” our hero pleads. In the rain you can look at things (reflected) upside down, catch raindrops, and splash in puddles. But Grandad is not persuaded, and so they wait.

The little boy reads sea stories, and the rain does not stop. What about a sea voyage with monsters, he suggests. No, better to wait. Sooooo, the little boy reads a book about Venice, and the rain does not stop. How about going out to see the floating city, with acrobats, carnivals, and musical boatmen, he proposes. And granddad, who has finally finished writing a letter, jumps up and says, “Quick…we have to catch the post!”

Time for a voyage at last (and what a voyage it is)! There are upside-down reflections, and chances to catch raindrops in your mouth, and musical boatmen, and sea monsters, and acrobats, and a general riot of activity. Upon returning home from the mailbox and after changing into some dry clothes, the boy and his Grandad sip hot chocolate, and agree: “The very best things are always worth waiting for.”

The message imparted in this book is a classic; so very true, but so very hard to remember in the moment (waiting: a potentially rewarding but infinitely challenging predicament…see here, here, and here for other books we love that have captured this theme). I particularly liked how the author foreshadowed the adventure to come with the little boy’s reading materials, and I loved the scribbly, playful watercolor illustrations, a style that I think adds to the helter-skelter carnival feel of the eventual voyage.

And, the very moment we closed the book, it started raining (again!) at our house…I guess I’ll sit here and wait for MY ship to come in.


Day 95 – When Spring Comes

Just released in February of this year, “When Spring Comes” is a delightful collaboration between author Kevin Henkes and his wife, illustrator Laura Dronzek. With vibrant illustrations and playfully repetitive text, the book reminds us of the old adage that good things come to those who wait: there may only be bare trees, brown grass, and snow as winter winds down…but if you wait, eventually you will see all manner of fascinating and beautiful signs of spring!

whenThe pages of the book are illustrated in a simple but compelling style reminiscent of Mr. Henkes’ own work, although Ms. Dronzek makes more liberal use of vibrant colors to fill out her drawings. Rich hues of deep blue, earthy brown, and emerald green dominate, and the pictures should easily grab the attention of young listeners. The text has repetition and alliteration that is fun to read aloud and is great for beginning readers: “Before spring comes…the trees look like black sticks against the sky, but if you wait…the grass is brown, but if you wait…the garden is just dirt and empty, but if you wait…” (emphasis mine). And, when spring is fully here, you will know it because there will be “buds, bees, boots, and bubbles…worms, wings, wind, and wheels.” Mr. Henkes also makes reference to how you will feel it, smell it, and hear it when Spring comes, which makes for a fun discussion of the senses and how they can perceive the changing seasons.

The text of the book is a fairly accurate representation of how I think a child might look at the changing seasons – waiting to be able to splash in the mud, waiting to play with kittens, waiting to romp in the flowers, waiting to blow bubbles, waiting to do all the things you are ready to do once you have grown tired of winter. I think waiting is a continual, and often frustrating, state of being for a child…which reminds me of a story (bear with me, it fits): when our oldest was maybe five or six, we took her to see a Tom Petty show. When Tom got to the refrain of his song “The Waiting” (“…the waiting is the hardest part…“), our daughter yelled out “I HATE WAITING, TOO!”. See what I mean?

Where was I? Oh, yes – that concept of continually (impatiently?) waiting for the next thing to happen is captured here in an entertaining and humorous way – much like it is in two other wonderful books we have read recently: “and then it’s spring” by Julie Fogliano and “Waiting” by Mr. Henkes himself. My favorite part of this book was actually right at the end where we are reminded that after spring has finally arrived, we aren’t finished waiting…for summer!


Day 80 – and then it’s spring

In honor of the first day of spring today we read a whimsical, wonderful book about a little boy and his animal friends waiting for the season to start. The story begins with the little boy, his scarf blowing in the wind and his nose red from the cold, looking into the distance across a barren brown landscape: “First you have brown, all around you have brown…” The text (“First you have…”), the boy’s distant gaze, and the expectant tilt of his dog’s head convey a sense of anticipation…something is coming.spring

Eager to help spring arrive as soon as possible, the boy plants seeds…and he waits. He inspects his handiwork…and he waits. He sits in his little red wagon and fears that his seeds have been devoured by fat little birds or stomped by clumsy bears…and he waits. He sets out bird feeders and hangs a tire swing…and he waits. Meanwhile, underground there is a riot of activity…a “greenish hum” which you can hear “if you put your ear to the ground and close your eyes.” And eventually, one day he walks out and all that brown isn’t around…instead “all around you have green.”

“and then it’s spring” by author Julie Fogliano and illustrator Erin E. Stead is a sweet and lovely book which we thoroughly enjoyed – in English and then in a Spanish translation as well. primaveraLike Kevin Henkes’ “Waiting”, “and then it’s spring” does a marvelous job of combining limited but well-chosen prose with beautifully detailed and subtly humorous artwork to effectively capture what I imagine waiting must feel like through the eyes of a child. We were particularly fond of Ms. Stead’s drawings: the little boy’s confident and determined posture as he pulls his wagon full of gardening supplies, the haphazard arrangement of seed mounds in the little boy’s garden, the little animal vignettes taking place all around him, and especially the small variations from page to page that hint of the coming change in seasons. I recommend reading the book once through to get the flow of Ms. Fogliano’s text first, followed by a slower second pass to truly savor all the fascinating and funny details Ms. Stead has managed to work into every page.

 

 


Day 70 – Waiting

Feel like standing around with a big, goofy grin on your face? Then I suggest you get your hands on Kevin Henkes’ Caldecott and Geisel Honor book, “Waiting”waiting. We read it together tonight, and my goofy grin is still plastered on my face as I write.

The story centers on five little toys and their life on the windowsill of what I assume is a small child’s room. Like many small children, these toys spend most of their lives waiting. However, these toys don’t show the same restlessness of a small child waiting…for a parent to read to them or take them to the park…for the weather to clear up…for Christmas morning to arrive…. The toys on the windowsill are waiting with a peaceful expectation – waiting to see what will happen next and knowing from experience that something always does. Other toys come and go from the sill, someone leaves them gifts (an acorn from the yard, a shell from the beach), they wait and watch, and sometimes they sleep. All the while, just outside the window are “…many wonderful, interesting things…”: changing seasons, colorful rainbows, dramatic thunder storms, sparkling fireworks, dazzling ice crystals, familiar shapes in the clouds, and the moon “…to keep them happy”.

“Waiting” is a sweet, simple book, and it’s no exaggeration to say that we absolutely adore it. The text and drawings are precise but poetic and remarkably expressive – hallmarks of Mr. Henkes’ style. There are several illustrations with no text, but enough of a story taking place on each that we may have spent more time discussing the pictures and expressions on the pages where there was no reading to be done. The way in which the toys are moved around, laid down, and presented with gifts reminded us of watching our youngest arrange and rearrange her own toy animals along shelves and windowsills at our house.

Perhaps the most grin-inspiring page comes close to the end of the book just after a matryoshka cat with patches joins our contented quintet. They look her over and ask themselves, what could she be waiting for? She doesn’t seem to be waiting for anything in particular…until you turn the page to find out “Oh, but she was!” – four nesting kittens have been hiding inside her. There is something about that “Oh, but she was!” that made us laugh out loud. We are dorks.

If you don’t believe me regarding the dork comment…let me tell you this: one of the reasons we decided to include this book on our list originally was the fact that…wait for it…the animals on the windowsill come in groupings of five! Grouping is a basic math concept and a key component of early math learning for young children. Not only are there five animals on the sill originally, but their new nesting friend adds another grouping of five – and the grouping concept is reinforced by the way in which the animals are positioned on the sill. The book ends with “Now, there were ten of them. And they were happy together, waiting to see what would happen next.”

(I told you. Dorks.)