Archive for the ‘International literature’ Category


My Two Blankets, by Irena Kobald, illustrated by Freya Blackwood. HMH, 2015.

Originally published in Australia, this picture storybook is for all ages. A young person is introduced as happy in her country, a place pictured in warm tones of yellows, oranges, and soft browns. But she and her Auntie move to a new country in order to be safe. This country is shown in cool tones of blues, browns, grays, and greens. Everything is different and strange in the new country, including the language. “When I was at home,” she says, “I wrapped myself in a blanket of my own words and sounds.” She creates a metaphor for her original language–her old blanket, which is warm, soft, and comfortable– and the new language, which she calls a “cold waterfall.”  Yet she meets a friend, and begins to learn to the new language, “weaving a new blanket.”  She adds new words, so the new language is comfortable, too. “And now,” she states, “no matter which blanket I use, I will always be me.”

Use this book with anyone who is learning or teaching a new language.



The Bathing Costume: Or the Worst Vacation of My Life, by Charlotte Moundlic and illustrated by Olivier Tallec

The Bathing Costume: Or the Worst Vacation of My Life, by Charlotte Moundlic and illustrated by Olivier Tallec

OMG, to be in a place where it is warm enough to go swimming. **sigh** But we can read about almost-eight-year-old Ronnie’s first vacation away from his Mama, at the home of his grandparents in the country. And then he learns his cousins will be there . . . the cousins who make Ronnie the butt of their jokes! And the tradition is when you are eight, you jump off the 10-foot high diving board!! To make a bad situation even worse, Ronnie has to borrow a swimsuit that is too big!!! How to hold on to the swimsuit and jump off a terrifying diving board? Well, maybe there in a fail somewhere in that mix, but maybe there is a triumph also.

Set in France, this book is originally from France and is translated from the French. Written in journal format, this will be appealing to independent readers around 3rd grade or so who want a short “chapter” book. This book was selected as a 2014 Outstanding International Book by the United States Board on Books for Young People (USBBY).

Little Bird, by Germano Zullo and illustrated by Albertine

Little Bird, by Germano Zullo and illustrated by Albertine

It looks like a picture book for very young children, but don’t be fooled! Little Bird speaks to all ages. Embedded here is a quiet message about the little things that make life valuable. To appreciate the book most, take your time perusing the pages. Especially if you are feeling frazzled, this is the antidote to the “must do more” sense that drives us to exhaustion. The story is presented in spare text by Germano Zullo, and expressive but minimalist art by his wife, Albertine. Treat yourself to this emotional uplift.

Hello In There!  by Jo Witek and illustrated by Christine Roussey

Hello In There! By Jo Witek and illustrated by Christine Roussey

Sometimes it seems like waiting for babies to be born takes forever, so the big sister in this lift-the-flap book creates a connection with her new little sister while she’s still inside mama’s belly. She talks to the baby, and sings to her. She reassures the baby, explaining she will “chase away shadows” and that “surprises are waiting.” For each statement from the big sister, the reader can lift the flap to see the baby as big sister imagines her, complete with background such as wallpaper, nature, or whatever the big sister visualizes inside the expanding belly. Finally the big sister invites the baby to come out and play, the belly is conspicuously absent, and at the next page turn Big Sister is happily holding Baby.
This is a comforting book that will be chosen over and over by big sisters anticipating little sisters. Now we need a similar tale for big brothers waiting for their little brothers!

Happy, written and illustrated by Mies Van Hout

Happy, written and illustrated by Mies Van Hout

If you are having a dreary spring, Happy will provide a cure. This is a concept book of emotions, with 20 additional emotions from “curious” to “delighted,” and everything in between including “loving,” “proud,” “brave,” “afraid,” and yes, even “furious.”
The fishes exhibiting the emotions make this book engaging for all ages, beyond the pre-K audience for which it is intended. Each fish appears to be drawn in chalk on a black background, like the “happy” fish, providing a mesmerizing neon-like quality. Opposite each fish is the one-word emotion, also chalked, and perhaps on an appropriately-colored page; “sad” is on a blue page, “shocked” on fuschia, and so on.
Get happy with Happy, and then look for the next book by Mies Van Hout, the hot-off-the-press Friends in the same format, only this time with monsters.

Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, with artwork by Yayoi Kusama

The Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll, originally published Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in 1865. Dodgson himself sketched some illustrations for a manuscript of the story, and the first published edition was illustrated by John Tenniel. This tale has been selected by several artists over the years as a book to illustrate, such as Arthur Rackham, Salvador Dali, and many others, including a recent pop-up edition by Robert Sabuda.

Now there is yet another stunning edition of this classic work, illustrated by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. Kusama’s work as an artist is defined by polka dots, and these are evident on almost every page in the book, including the cover, endpapers, table of contents . . . everywhere. Full page illustrations, full-bleed double-page spreads, and spot art displaying Kusama’s repetitive patterns and dots also fill this children’s book/art book.

I recently saw a segment about Kusama–who became famous as an artist in New York in the late 1950s until 1973, and who influenced Andy Warhol–on the CBS Sunday Morning program (I saw this on September 16, 2012– you can see a gallery of images from Sunday Morning here). Kusama left New York in 1973, and now lives in her native Japan.

View images from Kusama’s version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland below, and also scroll down to find out more about her on YouTube (note: some of Kusama’s art as shown on the YouTube video might be considered “mature”).

No, not a suntan . . . Shaun Tan. I was immediately mesmerized by Shaun Tan’s The Arrival, his wordless book published in the U.S. in 2007, and it has been announced that The Bird King and Other Sketches, featuring Tan’s art and reflections, will be published by Scholastic/Levine in spring 2013. Tan is a native of Australia, and The Bird King was originally published there, as well as in Germany and the UK, so it will be a treat to have it accessible in the United States. Tan’s father was a Chinese immigrant to Australia, and The Arrival is a wordless fantasy, recommended for grades 7 and up, which speaks to immigration and the fears and trepidations as well as joys of such a significant experience. Shaun Tan has several other books, such as postmodern picture books and short stories (which he illustrated, of course), and now to have a peek into his sketchbook with The Bird King is certainly something to anticipate. His website, which can be found here, is also fascinating.

The Arrival, by Shaun Tan

The Bird King, by Shaun Tan