Thursday, October 27, 2011

Of stars & the moon - a Caldecott and a Newbery!

Title: Starry Messenger : Galileo Galilei
Author, Illustrator: Peter Sis
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

There are very few biographies of scientists written for children. Particularly not many in the picture book format. When a book you have stumbled upon happens to be a Caldecott Honor, what do you do? There is no looking further. And that's how Starry Messenger found its way home.

Replete with a rare and interesting mix of history, science and art, the book tells the story of Galileo Galilei - from childhood to his final days in prison. Every little detail in this book is carefully and gorgeously woven in. While the illustrations are nothing less than eye-candy, the prose targets a slightly higher age-group. I would say eight plus.

For a well-rounded perspective, it is important to point that some may object to the over-simplified historical context presented in the book. History is a rather difficult subject to present children. I found the book to be a great read-aloud as well as a teaching aid with my children. And hopefully, the conviction and persistence of a great scientist will leave an ever-lasting impact on young, impressionable minds.


Title: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
Author: Grace Lin

Multi-cultural themes hold a special place in the home-front. And here on Saffron Tree, always of course. Grace Lin's books centering around Chinese culture have been a hit with my kids, for many years in a row now.

Last CROCUS saw the review of Grace's Year of the Dog. This CROCUS, keeping in line with my admiration for the author's work, I couldn't resist the temptation to feature her folk-tale-fairy-tale-combo, now-framed-as-Newbery-Honor, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is a well-written modern fairytale with a Chinese backdrop. It follows the adventure of a little girl named Minli who yearns to relieve her family of all the misfortune they have been faced with. Minli leaves home to find the Old Man of the Moon. The only one who can change the destiny of people on earth.

With a dragon for a companion, Minli on her way meets a myriad of characters that share with her a host of mini-stories. Stories of painted dragons, greedy kings, and powerful gods. Cleverly inter-woven along with the main stories, these sub-stories serve as a seamless extension of the main story. The presentation leave the reader longing for more. They explore Chinese myths and legends and ways of life. Most importantly, goodness versus bad deeds.

Not often does one come across novels with colorfully illustrated pictures. The images depicting Chinese folklore are eye-candy. The illustrations aptly capture the imagery. And not to miss, they indicate that the stories within stories are stand-alone tales from the main narrative.

Authors who can illustrate their own work never cease to amaze me. Simplicity in writing and realistic-looking illustrations seem to be Grace Lin's forte. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon won the Newbery Honor Award in 2010. - a neat addition to Grace's repertoire.

Her work also includes several picture books, early readers and middle-grade novels. A quick-n-easy read, the book down the road, is bound to become sure-fire classic and be cherished for long. A must-read in the middle-reader those who love the idea of a fantasy-folk-fairy-tale combo meal!

Minli's friendship with Dragon is "sweet" according to my nine year old who loves realistic stories revolving around friendship and family. It was Pacy last year from Grace's earlier novel , Year of the Dog. Minli still remains alive in our hearts long after the book has been closed.


sathish said...

Minli looks like a great character. I did not know Grace Lin also illustrates her own books.

Choxbox said...

Wow. Will look out for these both - what with the Bangalore Book Fair coming up soon!

sandhya said...

So right- history is rather difficult to present to children. Like always, though, I find that telling the tale in a story form instead of presenting dry facts works wonders. Which is where we ST-ers come in!:):)

And Chinese myths are delicious- so familiar, yet very different in details.

Both sound like wonderful books, Prabha- will certainly look out for them. Chox, if you pick them up, I'm in line for borrowing them!

Allcaretips said...

Nice one dear..enjoyed your article..

Meera Sriram said...

We've enjoyed many of Grace Lin's picture books! And R is starting to enjoy fantasy, so this should be really nice! Thanks!

ranjani.sathish said...

P, I loved the review of both the books ! Neat and very crisply written. Very different kind of stories, but each seems very fascinating. Should see if I can get them.

Artnavy said...

We enjoyed this book P. Thanks for lending it. Very easy read and loved her incorporation of life lessons into the story.... Grace Lin has a couple more fans now....

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