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Your Storybook Suggestions
Tag Archives: zolotow
Has life got you down? Having trouble finding your happy place? Well, today’s book might just be right up your alley – assuming your happy place is a relaxing stroll along the beach! “The Seashore Book” by Charlotte Zolotow and illustrated by Wendell Minor is a quiet and comforting book about a mother describing a trip to the seashore for her son, who has never been. Filled with vivid, poetic prose and decorated with realistic watercolor renderings of the imaginary journey, “The Seashore Book” is just the kind of book that will have little listeners closing their eyes and drifting off to the seashore themselves.
The little boy in the book has lived in the mountains his whole life. When he asks his mother what the seashore is like, she replies by saying, “Let’s pretend, it is early morning at the seashore and it’s hard to tell where the sea stops and the sky begins.” Interrupted by the occasional question, the little boy’s mother continues to narrate their fictional stroll along the beach in similarly colorful and soothing fashion. She describes for her son how the sea water feels refreshing like peppermint on his skin, how the swish-swashing of the waves lulls him to sleep on the sand, and how the fishing pier is white as a snowfall with hundreds of crying gulls waiting for the fishing boats to come in at sunset. As one review I read online put it: “Zolotow’s words are so descriptive that the paintings seem almost redundant.” I thought that was a particularly apt characterization. The gentle way this book was written also reminded us of the nighttime meditation stories that our oldest used to listen to when she was little. It’s the kind of prose that is tailor made for bedtime.
This is not the first Charlotte Zolotow book we have enjoyed reading this year, and we hope it won’t be the last. We quite enjoyed “I Like to be Little”, as you will know if you’ve been following us. That book also centered on a conversation between mother and child, although the role of storyteller and listener are reversed. Either book is a great choice for read-aloud, but “The Seashore Book” in particular is a great choice for summertime, for reading about the beach, and for winding down and relaxing at bedtime.
Once there was a little girl. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” her mother asked. “I just want to stay little right now,” she said. “Why?” said her mother. “It’s nice to be grown up. Why do you want to be little?” “Because I am,” said the little girl, “and because when you are little you can do things you can’t when you grow up.”
So begins “I Like to be Little” by Charlotte Zolotow and illustrated by Erik Blegvad. It’s an endearing little book that does a wonderful job of reflecting how I think a child might choose to look at the world. In the process, it reminded us of some of the very best things about being small…while not forgetting to mention what I think is one of the very best things about growing up.
What are some of the things you get to do when you are little? Skip when you are glad, play under the dining room table, go barefoot in the summertime, draw with crayons, have birthday parties with cake and ice cream, jump in piles of leaves, eat snow as it falls from the sky, or sit and do nothing all day. Her mother asks questions to understand, and occasionally inserts observations, but mostly she listens patiently. Eventually, the mother informs her daughter that she knows something about being grown up that makes all those things happen again…you get to be the mother of a little girl of your own! “I know something as good as that,” the little girl says too her incredulous mother, “at night, after you kiss me and tuck me in, I can lie in bed and think of growing up to be like you…I like to know I’ll grow up some day. But right now, I like to be little.”
This is a really sweet and thoroughly delightful book. The way in which Ms. Zolotow’s little girl describes all the things which she likes about being little is charming, and reading it put a big smile on my face…that smile has appeared again as I think about it. It’s a great reminder to find the joy in little everyday events, and of the value of unstructured play. We also thought it was a particularly good selection for the Saturday before Mothers’ Day.
If you have ever been confounded by the challenge of finding the perfect present for someone important in your life, then perhaps you will identify with the heroine of this evening’s story book. Originally published in 1962, “Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Presents” tells the story of a little girl’s quest to find the right gift for her mother’s birthday, with the assistance of a well-intentioned Mr. Rabbit. The book is written by Charlotte Zolotow and illustrated by Maurice Sendak, whose Impressionistic watercolor artwork won the book a Caldecott Honor.
The little girl may be short on specific ideas at first, but she knows what colors her mother likes – red, yellow, green and blue. Working together, Mr. Rabbit and the girl brainstorm potential gifts for each color in turn and eventually end up with a fruit basket full of apples, bananas, pears and grapes – a lovely present indeed!
We originally added “Mr. Rabbit” to our list because Mr. Rabbit made the book seasonally appropriate, and because we loved the idea of making a colorful fruit basket for a gift. We also appreciated the fact that we were able to find both an English and a Spanish version at the local library; we like to take advantage of bilingual read aloud opportunities whenever we we can.
We weren’t sure about all of Mr. Rabbit’s suggestions to the little girl (red underpants?), and I can’t recall ever seeing blue grapes – but the characters’ brainstorming provides a nice introduction to colors for younger listeners. There is a repetition to the text that is beneficial for beginning readers, and the story promotes kindness to animals and healthy eating – two things we always value in a story book. Your children may actually enjoy an activity of putting together their own fruit basket after reading the book – especially if you have a birthday coming up at home!