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Monday Reading: Around the World with Picture Books (and Bradbury and Moers)

It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen and Kellee from Teach Mentor Texts (and brainchild of Sheila at BookJourney). Two of our blogging friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have inspired us to join this vibrant meme.

Last Week’s Reviews and Miscellany Posts

Iphigene and I thought that instead of posting monthly round-ups of our activities here in GatheringBooks (which can be quite tedious and time-consuming, I must tell you), we thought that it would be more meaningful to share with fellow Monday-Reading-enthusiasts our previous week’s reviews, in the event that you may be interested to pay a visit. Click on the image (or link) to be taken to the review of the book or our miscellany posts.

Book Reviews

Miscellany Posts: Photography, Illustrator’s Sketchpad, Blog Events, GatheringReaders

A-Z Photo Challenge: S is for Sunset

GatheringReaders Virtual Discussion: Picture Books!

Illustrator Sketchpad: Jomike Tejido’s Banig (Hand-Woven Mat) Artwork

Happy Birthday Paper Tigers!

An Exclusive Interview with Singer-Songwriter turned Picture Book Author Noel Cabangon

Book Hunting Expedition (26): Graphic Novels Galore and Book Bargains

Award-winning Children’s Books from Epigram Books

When I agreed to review these lovely picture books from Epigram Books, I didn’t realize just how much I would grow to love and enjoy these titles. I was not surprised in the least when I discovered that most of these books are actually award-winning stories from Spain, France, Korea, and Italy – and are only now made available in the English language for more kids to discover and enjoy them.

Why Cats Don’t Wear Hats

Story By: Victoria Pérez Escrivá
Illustrated by: Ester García
Translated from the Spanish bySilvia Hagge de Crespin
Publisher: Epigram Books, Singapore, 2012
Review copy provided by publisher.

While the title of the book may be a tad reminiscent of Dr. Seuss’ beloved The Cat in the Hat, this posh and stylish book translated from the Spanish manages to stand alone on its own, bringing glitz, glamour and a vibe of sophistication in the minimalist-yet-glowing artwork and the fun and original narrative. Each page has an average of two lines of text matched with glorious illustrations.

Apart from running the risk of bumping into things if a cat wore a hat, the story goes that it is highly likely that soon the cat would need glasses, then a jacket, then trousers, then maybe a pair of shoes to match as well, and so on. Young children would adore the silliness of seemingly-incongruous objects that are linked together in the story, while older people may be able to resonate with a different layer of understanding as it might also speak deeply about materialism and how one thing may lead to another and another and another. How the cat is ultimately transformed and why it’s absolutely essential for cats not to wear hats – I will leave for you to discover on your own.

Blanket Travel

Story and Illustrations By: Kim Da-Jeong
PublisherEpigram Books, Singapore, 2012
Review copy provided by the publisher.

This book is Kim Da-Jeong’s first children’s book with the artwork exhibited at the 2012 Bologna Book Fair. The story is a celebration of imagination and nighttime journeys with their beloved pink blanket being transformed from a submarine to an igloo to a kangaroo pouch as sleep continues to elude these three children – with only their bright minds and each other for company. I find this book refreshing in so many ways as it shows how simple things like flights of fancies and melodies of twinkle-little-star as a sibling goes to the potty in the middle of the night can prove to be wondrous company as compared to say, an iPad, iPhone, android, tivo or other gadgets that seem to preoccupy children’s thumbs and minds these days. It is a celebration of sibling bond that is ageless and simple and oh-so-true.

The King and the Frog

Story By: Alain Chiche
Illustrated by: Sylvain Diez
Translated from the French by: Kevin J M Keane
Publisher: Epigram Books, Singapore, 2012
Review Copy provided by the publisher.

Now this book has made me laugh out loud with its surprising twists and turns that it easily became one of my favorites in this collection. I have a special affinity with fractured fairy tales which may be one of the reasons why I took to this book greatly. For one, our dear frog here is not a prince, no, but the fairy Caramel: “A jealous and cruel witch put a spell on me” while our “sprightly and charming young king” is the picture of boredom – he has seen it all (yawn) and has done most everything (twice). And so when the “common batrachian” in the form of our frog-fairy offered “love, money, glory or beauty, treasures, banquets” in return for a kiss – she was in for a surprise as this arrogant King noted: “Gracious me, don’t you see that I am a rich, modern king who has everything he wants? Who just has to snap his fingers to get anything he doesn’t already have.”

The repartee between the frog-fairy and the not-so-easily-amused-royalty is priceless – bursting with so much wit, wisecrack, and wordplay, it positively begs to be read in two voices! While this story may have been told a thousand (and one) times, the author has skillfully managed to turn the narrative over on its head, adding refreshing twist to a beloved tale. Whether the story ends happily-ever-after, I shall leave for you to find out.

I Love Chocolate

Story By: Davide Calì
Illustrated by: Evelyn Daviddi
Publisher: Epigram Books, Singapore, 2012
Review copy provided by the publisher.

I had to save the best for last. I am a huge chocolate-lover and the book cover alone is enough to leave me hyperventilating. As this little boy noted: “There are many flavours: nougat, coffee, macaroon, orange, and also with cherry, with nuts, and with cream!” Are you salivating now, dear friends? I know I am.

Then of course, there has to be a celebration of the various colors of chocolate – dark brown, light brown, white and the various shades of delectable yumminess. I especially liked it when our boy with the great taste described moments when a bite is all you need to forget your troubles (“when grown-ups quarrel… when the girl you like doesn’t even notice you…”) and those times when a piece of chocolate is best shared with a friend. My absolute favorite though is the demonstration of various ways of eating chocolate. My daughter claimed that mine falls under “the well-mannered way” (very true, especially when I’m eating my favorite Royce coffee chocolate) while she describes her own style to be more of “the melting way.” If you wish to find out why, exactly, chocolate is sooo good, then you’d have to pick up your own copy of the book to find out.

Currently Reading…

I am about to finish this lovely book and I can easily pick out a few of my favorite short stories by now. I had hoped to finish this last month, but as life would have it… you know the rest.

Finally, I found the time to open the first few pages of this lovely book by Walter Moers: The Alchemaster’s Apprentice. It promises to be another riveting read. I hope I can find his Rumo as well in our public libraries.

How about you, dear friends, what have you been reading this week?

I Love Chocolate is the Winner of the Eurochcolate Award for Best Editorial Production

AWB Reading Challenge Update: 115 (35)

Picture Book Challenge Update: 126-129 (120)

Translated Works: 8 (7)

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14 comments on “Monday Reading: Around the World with Picture Books (and Bradbury and Moers)

  1. Those look like some interesting and fun books. I have Fahrenheit 451 waiting on Audio. I haven’t read Bradbury in years. Have a fun reading week!

  2. I Am the Book sounds wonderful. Fahrenheit 451 is one of the few required readings back in high school that I really enjoyed. I should try it again. I wonder what some 10+ years perspective would add?

  3. Missing May – one of my all time favorites. No one does deceptively simple but incredibly wise like Cynthia Rylant. That cat and hat book sounds special…I shall have to hunt for it, Myra.

  4. I may have said this to you before… but you really do find the most interesting books! I Love Chocolate sounds like a possible title for my autobiography if I ever wrote one, ha ha.I keep meaning to read more Ray Bradbury.

  5. I loved Fahrenheit 451 when I read it in high school. I really need to pick up a copy of it and I really should try his other works.

  6. Looks like a fun week. Happy Reading!

  7. Missing May is a terrific book, no doubt. Myra, I love the picture books that you have featured. I have two cats and I know that they do not mix with hats unless they chew them! Thank you for sharing.

  8. I Am the Book is new to me. Now I’m off to seek it out. Thank you!

    Here’s my It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?! I hope you will stop by!

  9. Myra, thank you for all your previous reviews-always great, plus those new titles that are hard to hear about here in the US. Each of the four sounds terrific. I hope I’ll be able to find them, especially the one titled Blanket Travel. Kids do drag their blankets around just as the book describes!

  10. Your Epigram picture books all look great–thanks for sharing them. I read Missing May to my oldest a few years ago and I think it went way over her head. I however, loved it. Rylant is amazing.

  11. I am very intrigued by many of these picture books you shared! Hoping I can locate some of them – the illustrations look amazing. Thank you!

  12. I adore Bradbury! I have a picture book version of “Homecoming” that is amazing. I need to find some of his other books to reread in the near future.

  13. Hi Myra! Oh, I can’t wait to get my hands on “I Love Chocolate” with that enticing cover. I love chocolate, too! And what a great idea to demonstrate the various ways of eating chocolate. My kids have noted that I’m a “leave chocolate in the corners of my mouth” type.

  14. [...] became one of my favorites in this collection”, begins Myra Garces-Bacsal’s recent review on Gathering Books of Alain Chiche’s The King and the Frog, beautifully illustrated by Sylvain Diez and [...]

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