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[Monday Reading] Love for Anthony Browne – Zoo plus Me and You

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 Review and Miscellany Posts

Here are a few of the reviews we have done last week. We are also inviting everyone to join our Award-Winning-Books Reading Challenge. We hosted the AWB Challenge last year and we are thrilled to be able to host it again. Do sign up if you are looking for exciting reading challenges with monthly book prizes. Click on the titles/images below to be taken to our reviews last week.

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Photo Journal/ A-Z Photo Challenge: N is for Nature

Arts Corner: The Freudian Side of Danny Castillones Sillada’s Art

BHE 47: Moers, Gorey, ‘My Tattooed Dad’, and Douglas Adams – a mashup of the spectacular, the weird, the odd

Wonderful widget crafted by the extremely talented Iphigene.

Until the end of this month, we will be sharing tales of oddballs and misfits, the surreal and the peculiar, and beautiful strangenesses. I am excited to finally be featuring Anthony Browne and immensely glad that I found these two books from the library. I hope to review more of my own books by Browne in the coming weeks.

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Story and Illustrations By: Anthony Browne
Publisher: Red Fox, 1994
Book borrowed from the public library. Book photos taken by me.

I first learned about Anthony Browne when I attended the Asian Festival of Children’s Content for the first time in 2010. It was John McKenzie’s session on postmodern picture books that made me borrow most of Anthony Browne’s books that I can find from our libraries. It took me quite awhile to really get to most of them and since our bimonthly theme highlights the surreal and the peculiar, now is the best time as any to feature most of Browne’s works here.

The narrative appears fairly simple enough with a family of four (mother, father, two brothers) spending the day at the zoo on a Sunday. Yet Browne managed to include layers of complexity to the story through his borderline-bizarre images that tell a story of their own. Not only is Browne the craftsman of the peculiar, he is also a master of subtlety – the strange images bring a more textured awareness of what the children may have experienced during this supposedly-exciting and promising family day.

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The father struck me as a boorish kind of man who demands obedience from his entire family – just because. He is depicted to be quite the insufferable fellow who tells atrocious jokes that only he finds to be funny. Mother, on the other hand, is characterized to be a quiet, unassuming woman who is overshadowed by this gorilla of a man who, as can be seen in the book cover, takes up most of the frame in the picture. The boys, on the other hand, are shown to be scampering, climbing, restless little tykes who would continually pick on each other. The eldest boy is the narrator of the story.

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Just check out these images and the way that Browne played with the clouds and the tree trunks.

What was especially powerful to me, however, was how the animals were portrayed vis-a-vis the human beings. You wouldn’t find anything didactic in this picture book about the atrocity of people in keeping these creatures in a cage or the presumptuousness of humans in even thinking that they are on top of the food chain, commanders and patriarchs, veritable masters of the universe.

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Rather, it makes the reader reflect about the nature of humanity and what it means to be an animal and the cages that keep our atavistic urges in check. I would recommend pairing this picture book with the film Planet of the Apes for older readers. For teachers who wish to use this in their classroom, here is a Teachers’s Notes (a downloadable pdf link) created by Scholastic that you may wish to check out.

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Story and Illustrations by: Anthony Browne
Publisher: Doubleday, 2009
Book borrowed from the public library. Book photos were taken by me.

I have what you would call a special affinity with fractured fairy tales. We even had it as our bimonthly theme two years back. Me and You has been described as a retelling of the classic Goldilocks and the Three Bears with an urban, modern, haunting twist (Wall Street Journal, Kirkus).

There are two parallel stories going on. There is the text-narrative as told from Baby Bear’s perspective. It rings true and familiar with the bear family going out for a walk as their meal (naturally it has to be porridge) cools down. They come home to find their house broken into, Baby Bear’s porridge eaten up, the chairs messed with, and the bed occupied by a golden-haired girl.

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Then there is the story in the left hand side of the page – absolutely wordless, mostly in monochrome (except for the little girl’s hair). It is the story of a little child who got lost as she follows a balloon trailing away into a deserted alley, bringing her to Baby Bear’s world. I found it infinitely curious and interesting that it was only a few pages later that the reader realizes that the kid (who was wearing a hood) is actually a girl – with golden locks no less.

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This book challenges the reader to revisit and reimagine a familiar and well-loved tale, as Browne spins a classic story, turning it over in its head – and transforming it into a moving sepia-toned bespectacled Goldilocks lost in an urban jungle. For teachers who wish to use this in the classroom, here is a downloadable .doc file created by southwarkheads.org which contains suggested activities for independent reading of students and possible student responses to the story.

YA Read: Fire Spell (aka Splendours and Glooms) by Laura Amy Schlitz

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I already finished reading Laura Amy Schlitz’ Fire Spell (Splendours and Glooms). It may be a challenging book to reluctant readers, but I could understand how it won the Newbery Honor. Absolutely riveting book edged in dark magic. Adult readers may want to pair this with Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus. While there is a taste of the sinister with a cursed witch controlled and enraptured by her own stolen power and dreams of burning fire, and a cruel and heartless puppet master who is not averse to using his own beauty and charm to manipulate the people around him – there is also deliverance and surprising vulnerability in the face of evil. There is a distinct after taste of the macabre that is just right – not too overwhelming for a young reader, but enough for them to sink their teeth into it without being poisoned.

Currently Reading…

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 I have also finished reading Ascending Peculiarity: Gorey on Gorey as edited by Karen Wilkin and will do a Nonfiction review of this one. Nearly done with A Sound of Thunder and plodding through a few of the stories from the exceedingly-thick Bradbury’s 100 stories.

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

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Me and You is a CCBC Choice (Univ. of WI), Capitol Choices Noteworthy Titles for Children and Teens

Zoo won the Kate Greenaway Award in 1993

Fire Spell won the Newbery Honor.

AWB Reading Challenge Update:  22, 23, 24 of 35

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75, 76, 77 of 150

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18 comments on “[Monday Reading] Love for Anthony Browne – Zoo plus Me and You

  1. Oh. My. Gosh. I love the Pout Pout Fish. Incredible artwork and a fun story. LOVE it!

    Happy reading this week :)
    What are you reading this week @ the Brunette Librarian’s Blog and feel free to enter to win a gift card at A Guest Post by Samantha Hunter

  2. I have used Anthony Browne’s book Zoo with my class as a writing model where they had to model their sentences on some of his. Great book.

  3. The Pout Pout Fish comes with an audio cd? How did I not know this? I am such a fan of that brilliant little book.

  4. Firespell sounds like something my daughter would enjoy, I will have to look for it

    Have a fab reading week!
    Shelleyrae @ Book’d Out

  5. Someone donated a copy of The Night Library, and it was really, really creepy. I’m not sure how I feel about this one!

  6. I love how you took your own pictures and posted them here. That’s what I’m experimenting with now.

    Here’s my It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?.

  7. Love hearing about the Anthony Brown books, Myra. They seem usable like Shaun Tan’s books, for the older reader with much discussion ensuing. I loved Splendors and Glooms, but it too is for a more sophisticated reader I think. I know some students who would love it. Thanks also for the “Pout Pout Fish”. I guess others know it, but it is new to me. I’ll find it! Thanks for all, always a pleasure to see what you’re sharing!

  8. Ooh…haven’t see The Night Bookmobile! Adding to the list. I find I have to have lots of time to digest Anthony Browne’s books. I just get so lost in weaving the words and the illustrations’ meanings together…which I think is his goal. He’s a master!

    The Pout Pout Fish is just plain fun to read! I had no idea it came with an audio. I’ll be looking for that!

    Happy Reading!

  9. I would love to pick up a copy of Firespell! It looks deliciously eerie! I love it!

  10. Wow! Great post! A lot of new books for me. I’m especially intrigued by The Night Bookmobile. Here’s what I’m reading this week: http://hollymueller.blogspot.com/2013/04/its-monday-what-are-you-reading_8.html

  11. Your picture books look great. I started Splendors and Glooms, but put it aside for a while. Hope to go back someday when I am in the mood for something dark.

  12. I am also intrigued by the comments about The Night Bookmobile. Thank you for featuring the Anthony Browne books as well. I really like peculiar books.

  13. I absolutely adore Anthony Browne! Lovely post as usual.

  14. [...] Monday, we shared his Zoo and Me and You. This morning, I will be sharing two books from his Willy [...]

  15. Loved your review of Fire Spell and the pairing that you did. It’s so cool when you can create a theme with what you’re reading. I’ve missed reading your blog and I may just need to take a day to catch up on what I’ve missed!

    • Oh, and, I have read Oliver Jeffers’ The Incredible Book Eating Book and that was my first book I’ve read of his. I’ll probably finish my Oliver Jeffers reading challenge by the end of next week.

  16. […] it online. I am a huge fan of Browne and featured his Willy’s Pictures, Willy the Dreamer, Zoo, and Me and You during our Oddballs and Misfits, The Surreal and the Peculiar bimonthly […]

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