Oct 7, 2012

Mysteries of Life...and Death

Leaves turn, blaze, drop.
Birds flock, feed, migrate.
Animals store, burro, hibernate.

Life cycles.  Instincts.  Mysteries.

Curiosity about these begin early in life. The lucky ones among us never outgrow this curiosity, never cease to be amazed at these patterns and cycles, relishing opportunities to explore and investigate them with children.

Chronicle Books, 2011
A great place to start is with A BUTTERFLY IS PATIENT, written by Diana H. Aston and illustrated by Sylvia Long. Check out the Kirkus review, and read it the very first chance you get.

This gorgeous, poetic view of butterflies includes scientifically accurate illustrations, labels, and lyrically described facts as part of the highly acclaimed series of titles by this twosome. The original effort is AN EGG IS QUIET,  which earned awards and acclaim.  Science exploration links for An Egg Is Quiet are offered on many teaching sites. This was followed by  A SEED IS SLEEPY, another acclaimed title. The latest, A ROCK IS LIVELY, is a 2012 release.

Chronicle Books, 2006

Chronicle Books, 2007

Chronicle Books, 2012

Another cycle is evident at this time of year. Halloween pop-up stores fill strip malls, jumbo candy bags overflow on store shelves, and magazine covers feature peeled-grape eyeball snacks, all of which mean that kids will  clamor to share Halloween picture books. Blogs will feature titles from charming to silly to spooky to sentimental, but within a few weeks most will be relegated to closet shelves or holiday storage boxes while Thanksgiving and Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa books fill displays and blog lists.

Seasonal transitions in nature, especially the highly visible changes here in the midwest,  present perfect opportunities to explore and extend natural curiosity to life cycles, even birth and death. It's an ideal time to share titles like the ones above, titles that can sustain interest and relevance beyond the latest commercial sales push.

Holiday House, 2010
Here are two other titles that are worthy of space on bookshelves year around. THE DAY OF THE DEAD: A Bilingual Celebration, is written and illustrated by Bob Barner, translated by Teresa Mlawer. This is a simple bilingual description of the traditional Day of the Dead commemoration,  including numerous illustration homages to artist Jose Guadalupe Posada's iconic skeletons. The vibrant colors, minimal text, and celebratory images combine with the extended information in the back to make this an interesting and appealing cultural tradition for all readers, and shares Mexican traditions without waiting for Hispanic heritage month in May.
See Kirkus review here.
Chronicle Books, 2001

Every bookshelf should include GHOST WINGS, written by Wisconsin author Barbara Joosse, illustrated by Giselle Potter. As Barbara Joosse always does, she has created a powerful story embedded with rich cultural background. In this case a young girl's close relationship with her grandmother is portrayed in the first few pages. Then the girl deals with stages of grief across several seasons, tying  it all together with the science and tradition of Day of the Dead, monarch migration, and loving memories.  Back matter includes a cultural discussion (with  glossary), science details about monarch butterfly migration,  and a simple guide for adults to explore feelings and activities when reading this book.
Kirkus review here.

In the midst of Halloween sugar highs and strictly seasonal titles, "keepers" like these are the real treat to read,  discuss, reread, and return to throughout the year. After all, death is inevitable, for ourselves and for everyone we care about. Children will be better equipped to deal with the pain and specificity of personal loss when it occurs if they are familiar with the concepts in advance. What better place to find that familiarity than in nature and in books?

1 comment:

  1. I think my daughters will love these titles! Thank you!


Picture books are as versatile and diverse as the readers who enjoy them. Join me to explore the wacky, wonderful, challenging and changing world of picture books.