Tag: picturebooks

#AtoZchallenge: “R” is for The Red Tree (2001) by Shaun Tan

If your day is particularly grey and colorless and you are in need of some bright color, I urge you to open up the book, The Red Tree, by Shaun Tan.


Here’s the GoodReads summary:

“When a child awakens with dark leaves drifting into her bedroom, she feels that ‘sometimes the day begins with nothing to look forward to, and things go from bad to worse.’

Feelings too complex for words are rendered into an imaginary landscape where the child wanders, oblivious to the glimmer of promise in the shape of a tiny red leaf.

Everything seems hopeless until the child returns to her room and sees the red tree. At that perfect moment of beauty and purity, the child smiles and her world stirs anew.

With sensitivity and wonder, Shaun Tan’s evocative images in The Red Tree open a window to our inexplicable emotions and tell a story about the power of hope, renewal and inspiration.”

This beautiful picturebook, though somber at first, and dark at times, illuminates hope and trusting in the promise of something good to come.

The text is simple and clear—the story alludes to a journey from insecurity, hope, and depression, to one of hope and expectation. Even a shred of hope can illuminate a dark story.

Like the protagonist in the story, you may find yourself searching for a red leaf in your own story, believing that a vibrant dream of hope is waiting for you. Somewhere, at one point, you’ll find it.

What Katie Read

Will You Remember You Once Were a Child?-Review: Once Upon a Memory (2013)

“Does a book remember it once was a word?”


Once Upon a Memory (2013) by Nina Laden, illustrated by

Renata Liwska

Suggested age range: 4 and up

(Little, Brown, & Company, 40 pages)

Rating: 5/5 stars

Genre: Picturebook, Fantasy

Source: Library

The Book: A feather floating through a window sets in motion a boy’s curiosity about the world. He wonders whether a cakes, book, garden, and island remember their beginnings. One page opens with a question, such as “Does a statue remember it once was… and the opposite page reads the answer: “stone?”  Laden’s verses leave gaps for the pictures to fill, and a sense of childlike wonder is reflected in both the text and images of Once Upon a Memory.

Liwska’s beautiful hand sketchings were inspired by her observation of animals in the natural world, and their antics throughout the story are enchanting and delightful. A textured feather graces one of the endpapers, and Liwska’s bears are expressive and perfect for the story. Here is a story that reminds us to step into childlike wonder and awe, and to reflect on love’s beginnings and the beauty of the natural world.

Spirituality in Once Upon a Memory: Maintaining a sense of wonder and awe at the world is a characteristic of spirituality, and the picturebook celebrates this attribute. Sometimes, marveling at the beauty of the natural world, or even pondering our origins can connect us to the Creator, and this story leaves open such possibility. It doesn’t matter that a young boy and bears are telling us this story visually; the book invites readers to consider a spiritual aspect of life—the importance of maintaining and nurturing a sense of wonder and awe at the world around us, as well as ourselves and our loved ones.

Exploring this Book with Readers: The book ends with a list of favorite things the author and illustrator remember. Items from the list include “eating grandma’s chocolate chip cookies,” “learning to speak French,” “sitting by the bonfire and listening to stories” and “getting letters and postcards from the mailbox.” The list ends with a question for the reader: “What are some of your favorite things to remember?” In addition to talking about these favorite things, readers might also draw some of their favorite memories. They could sing, dramatize, or dance their memories. In this way, readers have the opportunity to explore different literacies for expressing what is important to them. Even the part of the book asking, “Does an ocean remember it once was…rain?” represents an entire dance or drama that readers could create. A whole discussion could center on this notion of origins of the natural world. The book certainly reflects potential for a diversity of activities and curriculum to help readers enjoy and draw meaning from it.

The Final Word: I appreciated the rhyming verse in this story as well as the humorous and fantasy-filled pictures with their expressive bears, birds, and ducks. The cover of the book with the boy perched, reading in the tree with the owl and squirrel drew me to the story, as well as its title, reminiscent of fairy-tale beginnings. There are dinosaurs and even a raccoon. This is a delightful, warm, and reflective fantasy picturebook, perfect for a read-aloud, and perfect as a discussion starter for sharing memories and creating new ones. I love the double-page spread at the conclusion of the book, and think Liwska’s style is a fantastic match for Laden’s text.


What Katie Read

Picturebook Review: Anthony Browne’s Me and You

Me and You (2010) by Anthony Browne,

Suggested age range: 7 and up

(Farrar, Strauss, Giroux, 32 pages)

Rating: 5/5 stars

Source: Library


“The girl leaped out of bed and ran downstairs and out the door.

I wonder what happened to her.”

The Book: Anthony Browne has done it again! He has written and illustrated a thought-provoking picturebook that leaves multiple gaps for readers, and manages to open up profound and spiritual discussion about how people treat and perceive one another. He accomplishes this all with the well-known fairy tale, Goldilocks and the Three Bears. But that’s not the title of this story; this one is called Me and You. The book follows the story of the original fairy tale, but includes the perspective of both the girl, who becomes lost after chasing a balloon and finds her way into the bear’s unlocked house, as well as the bears. One page includes the text and more muted illustrations of the girl’s view and the opposite page features the colorful and pastel world of the bears.

Spirituality in Me & You: One attribute of spirituality in texts for young readers is a capacity to increase social sensitivity in readers. For example, does a reader walk away from a book with a desire to understand and reach out to others more? The concluding text in Me and You portrays the child of the bear household, gazing out the window at the girl, wondering where she is going. We, the readers, get to see the barbed wire and the graffiti on the wall the girl walks by. We know that she was separated from her mother early in the story, and that she may go hungry some days. Having this perspective of her character allow the reader to more fully understand the why behind her going into the bears’ sunny yellow house. Encouraging such open-mindedness is a characteristic of Browne’s books.

Exploring this Book with Readers: This picturebook might make its way into the classroom and serve as a whole class read aloud, a book for an individual reader, or even a book for several readers. Two readers might switch off “telling” the story aloud—one reader can take the girl’s story and one reader can tell the bears’ story. Students could add several pages to the end of the story, and communicate through the written word as well as the visual what happens after that last page. Finally, this book would pair nicely with Browne’s Voices in the Park as many themes are similar. This book should be shared with children who might be familiar with the Goldilocks tale, and basically, every reader should be exposed to Browne’s picturebooks!

The Final Word: I have never been disappointed with any of British illustrator, Anthony Browne’s books, and this one was no exception. Browne has taken what can be a sensitive issue, and has framed it within the pages of a story about a lonely girl who is trespassing on another family’s property. Like his Voices in the Park, this story highlights a child (baby bear) who wonders about another child (the girl), even though the parents might be disapproving. Both books position the child characters as (potentially) the more sensitive ones, who are not as quick to judge others based on their appearance.

Can you think of other re-visioned fairy tale picturebooks (recently published or older) that encourage social sensitivity in readers?

What Katie Read
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