Monday, July 30, 2012

Happiness is...a good book (Summer Reading edition #26)

Most of the books that I read are those that come across my desk at work which means they’re usually new releases and current titles. Every once in a while we’ll get a re-release of something or a re-order that comes to my attention but those are few and far between. And because my TBR pile is more of a book itself these days (I think my Goodreads list is up to 700 books or so) I always feel mildly guilty re-reading anything. Luckily that guilt doesn’t transfer to picture books because they are so short. So, for the next couple of days I’ll be sharing with you some of my storytime standards. These often pack a more powerful punch than some of my own personal favorites; the colors tend to be a bit brighter, the storylines a bit simpler (my target group is 3-5 years old), the text brief yet carefully worded to get the most out of every syllable and often they are funny. That’s not to say that you can’t enjoy a quiet, lyric, wordy story with kids this age, you most definitely can and should! But when you’ve got a room of nearly 20 of them, often leaning towards the younger end of the spectrum, often the shorter the better (bonus if there are places for participation) wins out.

Edward the Emu
Author: Sheena Knowles
Illustrator: Rod Clement
Published: 1988
Pages: 32
Age Range: 2+
Genre: Fiction/Picture Book
Cover Score: ***
Overall Score: ****
Rating: G

First Sentence: Edward the emu was sick of the zoo, there was nowhere to go, there was nothing to do, and compared to the seals that lived right next door, well, being an emu was frankly a bore.

And there you have the premise. Poor Edward is tired of his life so each night while the zookeeper is sleeping he sneaks off to various cages trying out life as different animals; a seal, a lion, a snake. Overhearing the zoo’s visitors talk about their favorite animals gives Edward the inspiration for the next day’s adventures but one day someone brags that their favorite animal is the emu. Edward hurries back to his cage so as to not disappoint them but there’s someone else in his place!

The illustrations are done in colored pencil and are quite simple. The animals are realistic looking yet their facial expressions give them away (particularly Edward’s) as being anything but real. There’s a lot of white space, basically you’ve got just the animal with a simple prop (the seal’s ball, a tree for the lion to laze in, and the occasional fencing) but there is no horizon line, no sky, nothing else to detract from the animals themselves. And often they are shown close up, just heads, or in Edward’s case, just feet!

The text is well-paced rhyme and full of descriptors that beg to be acted out, various voices and Edward’s over-the-top reactions. The kids eat it up. Plus an emu’s not an overly popular animal so you get some great questions about what exactly Edward is. I’ve tied this in to zoo themes, Australian animals, animals in general, birds and self-esteem.

And if you like Edward you can re-visit him in the companion story...Edwina the Emu for more great fun!

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