We’ve had Labour Day weekend and now we’re rounding the corner back to school. It’s funny how that Means Something even in families like mine: my husband’s still working the same job, I’m maintaining the same schedule, and my daughter’s continuing her daycare program just the same. Nothing is changing, and yet… and yet…
And so my little family decided to heed that little voice of the turning year and turning seasons, and we took a little trip to Northampton to visit the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, just as a way to say, “Yes, the seasons are changing and we’re going to mark that transition.” If you’re a little family like mine, a family of tremendous book dorks, this is the museum for you. If you ever walk around a bit diffidently with your small child, worried about letting her run free in a very adult world, this museum is for you. If your idea of fun is watching your child’s face light up when she sees a giant Very Hungry Caterpillar bench, this museum is for you.
Basically, this is a great place for families to visit: it’s aimed at children, but has plenty to engage adult visitors, too. There’s an art studio for children to explore new techniques (e.g. making patterns with crayon and painting over them with watercolours). There’s an auditorium to watch videos of storybooks (when we were there it was a wonderful Ezra Jack Keats film from Weston Woods). There are also traditional exhibits with lots of good, yet engaging, information about illustrators. The ones we saw were on Robert McCloskey, Louis Darling, and Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?
It was particularly special for me to visit a museum pitched exactly towards my interests both as a parent and as a person with a passion for children’s literature, and turned out to be exactly suited to the season: I found out that my daughter is a bit older and a bit more mature than I expected. Maybe she’s getting ready for a preschool program, I don’t know… but in celebration of transitions, here are three books we’ve recently talked about on the blog, each about transitions in one way or another.
Will’s Words: What greater transition is there than the transition of the whole English language? This book is about both the fluidity and the staying power of language: it tells us all about how Shakespeare’s world worked, and how his language emanated from his world. At the same time, it emphasizes elements which endured, how phrases like “dead as a doornail,” which originated with Shakespeare, can’t apply to him as long as his contributions to the English language endure.
This Is Not a Picture Book!: Another great transition is, of course, from admiring the illustrations in a book to seeing the book as a whole– to accepting the words in it. A child might not see that whole process clearly at first, but a parent watches for it. And that’s why this book is so perfect for both parents and children. It draws children into seeing the book as a physical object: beautiful illustrations, fitting words, fly-leaves and end-papers and all. It draws parents into the story of watching their children grow to love those books, end-papers and fly-leaves and all. It’s hard to find a book more suited to the transition of children into readers than this one.
Shackleton’s Journey: What’s more transitional than an actual journey? This book, in documenting the journey Shackleton took across Antarctica, also documents the characteristics necessary to make it through a journey, or transition, of any magnitude: patience, courage, and endurance. It’s not just a painstakingly careful and beautiful documentation of Shackleton’s heroic and honourable exploration of the Antarctic, although it is that; it’s also a strong and beautiful account of the qualities that go to make Shackleton a hero– his honesty and courage and patience. It focuses quite as much on the courage and patience of the men as of their leader, and is altogether an excellent manual of how to endure tough journeys– and transitions!
Thus much for our little spotlights. Here are all of the books we looked at in the last month:
- King of Shadows: A short novel, good for middle school and above, possibly even younger. Readers will identify with the young protagonist and fully immerse themselves in his experiences.
- Shackleton’s Journey: Good for early readers and above. If you don’t already love nonfiction, this will get you to love it.
- Bob the Artist: Toddlers and above. An engaging read about discovering who you really are and how to assert your identity.
- This Is Not a Picture Book!: Toddlers and above. What is a book and what does it mean? This book can tell all of us, children and adults, about that.
- The Great Journey: Toddlers and above. A book about imagination, perceptions, and what really might be out there, if you had but eyes to see…
- Little Red Writing: Early readers and above. An exciting story about how to write a story and the perils you might encounter on the way.
- Will’s Words: For early readers and above. Who is this Shakespeare and why should we care? This is an engaging book read about his world and language and why you might have more in common than you thought.
That’s it for this month! Unless– do you want to know what the Changeling is reading now? Well, of course you do: we’re once again back to Little Bear.