“Once Upon An Alphabet” by Oliver Jeffers

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If you think it is just another ABC book, you are up for a surprise. After all, it is written by the world’s favorite storyteller. If Oliver Jeffers is the author, it must be a book with a unique story. Or 26 masterful stories. One for each letter.

From a story about Edmund, the astronaut who wanted to explore space but was afraid of heights, to a story about a cup who had a fatal dream of leaving the cupboard a little tale about Hellen living in half a house, until she woke up on the wrong side of bed, Jemima and her jelly door, or an owl who just kept moving onward, the readers are up for something unpredictable, hilarious and totally ingenious, letter by letter. And then add to it Jeffers’s inimitable, minimalist and humorous pictures! “Once upon an Alphabet” is definitely a  reading treat for the little readers (and their parents alike).

 

 

 

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“The Day the Crayons Quit” by Drew Daywalt

One could write a book about reading books and a dictionary on a language, but with the writing time as ‘vast’ as mine, one post per week is all I can scribble away. If I’m lucky. In other words, I’d better move on to another topic. Just to remind you, this fall I’ve been focusing on the picture books illustrating various skills that our children learn during their early schooling. The books are meant to reassure our little learners or provide teaching tools for us, parents, or teachers. So far, I’ve covered the basics of math and the first steps into the language arts. Today and in the weeks to follow, I’d like to add an artistic spin to the theme. After all, art classes are a part of every curriculum, and for a reason. Coloring, painting, drawing or sculpting are a great way to develop so many vital skills: From mastering the fine motor skills, to enhancing creativity, dabbing at art does your child lots of good. Unfortunately, many parents undermine the role of artistic exercises in their children’s education. They deem art is not serious  and not effective enough, or worry that the artsy nonsense will push children away from the more practical academics. I couldn’t disagree more.  Art is a wonderful learning/teaching medium, even though the art-based curricula are less apparent and the results harder to measure. Children love hands-on activities and pushing the limits of their imagination. Not all children will become the next Picasso and choose art as their profession (thanks goodness!), but I don’t know a child who does not engage in art-based activity. My son, for example, treats it as a scientific experiment. What will happen when two colors of paint will be mixed?  Some children use drawing to relax, some others to focus. Many children can illustrate concepts or emotions they can’t express verbally.  

“The Day the Crayons Quit” is not only an outrageously amusing book that I wish I had written. It is also an ode to drawing within the lines while thinking outside the box- a gift every child has and a skill that many grown-ups have lost for good. The book is written in a very inventive format  that helps the story to promote thinking creatively.

One day, Duncan’s crayons simply had enough. They were fed up with the way Duncan was using them and they expressed their grudges in writing. The gray crayon was tired of coloring giant animals, like whales and elephants, all by himself. The red crayon felt abused for working on holidays, coloring Santa and Valentine hearts.  The yellow and orange crayons were confused which one of them is the real color of the sun, as Duncan used both of them. The peach crayon wanted to know why he had been deprived of his wrap.  Now he was naked and stuck in the crayon box. And then the pink crayon pressed some charges against sexism. Is pink a girl color only?! Luckily, smart Duncan found a solution that pleased his loyal coloring crew greatly. What’s more, his art teacher rewarded Duncan’s creativity with A+. 

I hope other teachers and parents will follow!

179. “Stuck” by Oliver Jeffers

It all began with a little package that my son got from his aunt, Magda, a couple of days ago. It contained two books. We immediately decided to bite into our new treat, and that’s how we got stuck.

We got stuck on “Stuck”. We got stuck like Floyd’s kite on a tree, with which it all began… Would throwing Floyd’s favorite shoes help to retrieve the kite? Not really. Now the question was how to recover the shoes. Perhaps with a ladder? This one got stuck too. And so did a kitchen sink and a family car? At this point my son exploded with the loudest giggles I have recently heard coming from his little body.  And that was not the end. One by one, Floyd kept throwing new things on the tree hoping to knock down the stuff that had got stuck earlier, but nothing helped. Not even the brave firemen passing by.   Until… Eureka! Floyd got a breakthrough idea. How about a saw?

Now you probably think he is going to cut the tree, right? Hmm…

Oliver Jeffers is a genius! What he did to this seemingly simple story needs more than my scope of words to describe it. You need to experience it this story telling phenomenon. The hyper absurd plot mixed with super-comic pictures are one of a kind.

Should my children’s stories ever get to see a publisher’s desk, and should Oliver Jeffers agree to illustrate them, I would be in heaven!