Publishing: Doubleday & Company, Garden City; New York, 1938
Awards: 1939 Caldecott Winner
Description: Mei Li’s family is busy preparing for New Year’s Eve, when the Kitchen God will come visit them. Her brother, San Yu gets to the go the fair, but girls do not get to go. She sneaks out of the house and begs him to take her, and he does. They spend the first part trying to out-do each other with things that only girls or only boys can do at the fair, and then Mei Li gets into her own fun, including a fortune teller who tells her she will be a beautiful princess and have her own kingdom. Soon she meets up again with her brother, who is joined by their uncle. The three of them ride camels back home in time to see the Kitchen God, who tells Mei Li that her kingdom is the household. She says that it will do, for now. Illustrations are black and white and were done using copper plates.
Programming: Have students compare and contrast the fair seen in the book with the fairs in the US. Same thing with the traditions for New Year’s Eve. This book might be somewhat outdated, however, and I’m not sure that I would use it much in a classroom.
Publishing: E.P. Dutton and Company, New York, 1972
Awards: Caldecott Winner, 1973
Description: The “funny little woman” is a Japanese woman who loves to make rice dumplings. When one rolls away she chases it down a hole and gets captured by a terrifying Oni who takes her back to his home and has her cook rice for all of the Oni using a magic paddle that causes one grain to multiply. She soon tires of the Oni and tries to escape, taking the paddle. It comes close, but she gets away and when she gets home uses the paddle to make more rice dumplings than ever and become rich selling them.
Programming: This has some references to Japanese culture, but it seems a little stereotypical to me and I’m not sure I’d be comfortable using it. Nevertheless, students might act out the story while or after reading it, or do some more research about Japanese culture, especially the Oni.
Publishing: Viking, New York, 1974
Awards: 1975 Caldecott Winner
Description: This Indian folk tale tells the story of a boy who was born of a maiden and the Lord of the Sun. The boy is rejected by the other boys in the pueblo and goes to search for his father. The arrow maker makes the boy into a special arrow and shoots him to the sun where he must go through four trials to prove he is the Lord of the Sun’s child.
Programming: Because there are several other Caldecott list titles about Native American culture, students might compare and contrast this tale with the others. They might also talk about the typical elements of a folk tale that are found in this story, such as a quest and a hero. Crafts might include some sort of indian art or home-made bows and arrows.
Publishing: Doubleday, New York, 1957 (originally 1939)
Awards: Caldecott Winner
Description: The authors tell the story of Abe Lincoln’s life, all the way from his birth to the end of the Civil War, not covering his death. The events are told in a narrative, doing more to establish the setting and Lincoln’s personality than covering many hard facts. Illustrations are pencil drawings. Some are black and white, some colored, some are drawings that form a border for a center block of text, some are full page illustrations, and some are character drawings in the middle of the page. The inside covers contain beautiful color maps of the area that Abe lived in.
Programming: Perfect for a unit about Lincoln or the Civil War. Even with its older publishing date this is a great text to introduce students to this American Leader. It would be good to read around President’s Day. Students might compare and contrast the life of Lincoln and Washington, or talk about what made Lincoln a good leader.
Publishing: Viking, New York, 1969 (original 1941)
Awards: Caldecott Winner
Description: A pair of Mallard ducks try to find a suitable place to raise ducklings, but the female vetoes any place that might have foxes, turtles, or lots of vehicles with wheels nearby. Finally, they settle up the river from a public park to have the ducklings. After they hatch, the male goes back down the river to the public park, and when the ducklings are old enough they and the mother follow. Only, they must get through tons of traffic in the city to do so. Luckily, they have the help of some policemen and make it there to a little island in the middle of the river where the father is already waiting. Illustrations are what seems to be brown crayon drawings, very detailed. Unlike Newberry, he focuses more on the illustrations than the text.
Programming: There are several other wonderful books on ducks that could be read with this story. Students might learn all about the duck-how his feathers are water resistant, what he eats, where he lives, etc.
*Retold by Ransome
Publishing: Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, New York, 1968
Description: A family has three sons. The oldest two are bright and clever, while the third is the Fool of the World. As such, his parents do not treat him well, but he doesn’t seem to complain. One day, the Czar sends out a decree saying that any man who can build a ship that flies through the air can marry his daughter. The two oldest brothers set out and the mother sends them off with a fanfare and plenty of food. The fool protests to go as well, and after much argument, she sends him off with a few breadcrusts and some water. Along the way the fool meets a wise old man, who turns his meager meal into more extravagant food. He tells the young fool to go into the forest and make the sign of the cross three times before the biggest tree he sees, hit it with his hatchet, and he will have a flying boat. The only caveat is that when he rides it to the Czar’s palace he must pick up anyone he meets along the way. The fool does as he is told and picks up a motley crew of characters who come to his aid when the Czar tries to test the fool and drive him away. Finally, however, the fool succeeds, married the Czar’s daughter, and becomes a very clever man after all.
Programming: I would review with students what a moral is and have them try to discern what they think the moral- or morals- of this tale are. This tale might be compared to other folk and fairy tales, or other works of Shulevitz, such as The Treasure.
Publishing: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, 1995
Description: Officer Buckle’s safety tips are going unnoticed until the police department buys a dog, Gloria, who accompanies Officer Buckle, and unbeknownst to him, makes his speeches a little more interesting. When he discovers that she is really the focus of attention, he vows not to give any more speeches, until an accident shows him just how much he is needed by his community. Adorable and heartwarming.
Programming: This would be good to read at the beginning of the year or when rules need to be reinforced or reminded to students. Have them draw up their own lists of rules (safety and otherwise) that they think would be good for the classroom. Share, and combine the lists into one.