Tap the Magic Tree – Christie Matheson

Christopher’s Choice: Each week, C gets four or five books out of the library, and picks one as his favourite, and I review it. This is this week’s choice.

POINTS: 3 out of 10.

Bechdel: 0 points
Variety of characters: 0 points
Good story:  2 points
Discretionary ideological points: 1 point

 

There’s no real way to score this one, since the only “character” is the magic tree. It’s a really fun book though. It’s one of those interactive books where each page has an instruction that has an effect on the tree in question. Tapping it makes the leaves grow, rubbing the trunk makes it begin to flower, and so forth.

It takes you through a full seasonal cycle, green leaves transforming into blossoms, transforming into apples, then the leaves go red and fall off and the snow comes.

There is a squirrel and a little bird family, but this book kind of sits completely outside of what we’re doing here. It’s very simple, awesomely interactive, fun to read together.

So I don’t have a lot to say about it really. I still prefer Henri Tullet’s “Press Here”, but this is pretty cute.

C obviously loved it, because he picked it as his favourite (and it was a good week – there were at least three books seriously in the running), and as you probably know by now, I have a real love for interactive books.

So yeah, check it out. 🙂

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Lionheart – Richard Collingridge

Christopher’s Choice: Each week, C gets four or five books out of the library, and picks one as his favourite, and I review it. This is this week’s choice.

POINTS: 3 out of 10.

Bechdel: 0 points
Variety of characters: 0 points
Good story:  2 points
Discretionary ideological points: 1 point

 

The most striking thing about this book is how utterly beautiful it is. The illustrations are just totally lush and gorgeous. I will say, however, that I feel like the author read “Where the Wild Things Are” a lot. It definitely has elements in common with Sendak’s masterpiece: the voyage to the wild, the return to the childhood bedroom.

But at its heart, this is a story  about being brave, and how bravery is actually more often really scary, and consists of facing up to that fear rather than not being afraid at all. Richard is afraid of the monsters in his room, and he runs away from them, finding himself in a magical wilderness where his toy lion (Lionheart) is a real lion, and where he can befriend and explore with all the wild beings that live there.

The monster follows however, and eventually Richard has to face him. When this happens, of course, the monster disappears, helpless in the face of someone bravely standing their ground.

It’s not exactly a surprising tale – it’s pretty clear where it’s going from the start – but I think it’s very effectively pulled off. And like I said, oh my god so beautiful.

As far as our metrics go, the only human character is a young white boy-child, so there’s no diversity or feminism happening here. It’s pretty much a bog standard ‘default’. But there’s a lot to be said for a tale about facing your fears and being brave, and I am always a sucker for the message that bravery is just facing the darkness rather than being unafraid. So it gets points for that.

C and I both loved it though – he enjoyed the animals, and the simplicity of the tale, I was captivated by the imagery. Good stuff. Worth a read.

In – Nikki McClure

Christopher’s Choice: Each week, C gets four or five books out of the library, and picks one as his favourite, and I review it. This is this week’s choice.

POINTS: 3 out of 10.

Bechdel: 0 points
Variety of characters: 0 points
Good story:  2 points
Discretionary ideological points: 0 points

I was really glad he picked this book, because I wanted to recommend it to you! I really loved it.

This is a ridiculously simple book – the illustrations are bold and simple, the text is similarly bold and simple. And the concept is the most basic of “there and back again” stories.

The protagonist only wants to be “in”. He hides in baskets, puts things in other things, and stays in, in, in. But then it starts to rain, and he wants to be ‘in’ the rain. He ends up out, and wanting to stay out. He meets some owls. He gets wet and cold. And then he goes back home to be ‘in’ his nice warm house, in his nice warm bed.

There is a fold out page, so it ticks my interactive box, and even, at the end, a key for all the owls, so you can learn the different kinds of owls.

No dialogue really, so no Bechdel, and there’s only the one character, so it doesn’t get points for diversity.

I think the thing this book does so well is really capture the all encompassing nature of attention of children. If you’ve spent any time around small kids you’ll know how often their big feelings or wants pretty much fill their entire beings. This little boy, when he wants to be ‘in’, it is ALL HE WANTS. It is all encompassing. Similarly, when this switched to wanting to be ‘out’, and later back to ‘in’ again, it has a real sense of that absolute, all-encompassing need that small children seem to feel. The bold illustrations and the simple text emphasises this.

This book doesn’t score particularly high on our metric, but I loved it (and so did C, obviously). Well worth checking out.

Pigsty – Mark Teague

Christopher’s Choice: Each week, C gets four or five books out of the library, and picks one as his favourite, and I review it. This is this week’s choice.

POINTS: 3 out of 10.

Bechdel: 0 points
Variety of characters: 0 points
Good story:  2 points
Discretionary ideological points: 1 point

Honestly, I was a bit surprised he picked this one. When I asked him why he liked it, his reply was simply, “Pigs are funny”. So there you go. Five year old criteria. 😉

This is a simple tale of why you should tidy your room, basically. Wendell doesn’t want to tidy his room, and his mother’s response is basically that if he wants to live in a pigsty that’s his business. This takes a literal turn when two pigs move in. Over time as the room gets grosser and more dirty, more pigs arrive until eventually Wendell can’t stand it any more, and goes to his mother for help. To her credit, she just says that his room is his responsibility. So he enlists the pigs, and they clean it up and the pigs move out.

Yay, kid morality tale. No Bechdel pass – the only woman is his mother. No diversity. And one very obvious “message”. I mean, you know, I’m not averse to my kid digging a story about why you should tidy your room, though it doesn’t seem to have made him more inclined to do so. It is, I guess, a nice relateable dilemma – wanting to live in a clean space but not wanting to make it be that way.

I did like the responsibility thing. We have a lot of that in our household – things he is responsible for. I like that the Mom stood her ground on that. Teaching kids responsibility for themselves is always awesome. So I did give it a point for that.

It was cute. It wasn’t my favourite of the week, but it was okay. And apparently pigs are funny. So there’s that. 😉