It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? was initiated by Sheila at Book Journey, and adapted by Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts with a children’s/YA focus – perfect for a children’s librarian like me. This weekly roundup is a great way to discover new blogs and bloggers, share recommended (or not so recommended….) titles, and add to your ever-growing to-read list.
Title: The Eleventh Hour – A Curious Mystery
Author/Illustrator: Graeme Base
Publication Date: 1988 (!)
Genre/Format: Fiction/Picture Book
Publisher’s Summary: When Horace the elephant turns eleven, he celebrates in style by inviting his exotic friends to a splendid costume party. But a mystery is afoot, for in the midst of the games, music, and revelry, someone has eaten the birthday feast. The rhyming text and lavish, detailed illustrations each provide clues, and it’s up to the reader to piece them together and decide whodunit!
My Two Cents: I’m going back into the vaults today to share with you this exceptionally beautiful picture book that enthralled me as a child, and still leaves me with a powerful sense of wonder today. Horace the elephant throws a giant party for his eleventh birthday, inviting his ten best friends to join him in playing eleven different games. To the animals’ horror, though, when the specified time for eating arrives (11:00, naturally), they discover that someone has already devoured the entire feast! It is up to the reader to solve the mystery of the mysterious party crasher. Intricate clues are hidden within the elaborate, full-colour illustrations on each spread, including codes, ciphers, and even musical clues.
Make no mistake, The Eleventh Hour is not for the faint of heart, and is an ideal picture book for older children (and adults!), who enjoy solving puzzles and figuring out riddles. I shared the story with my partner, a computer programmer who has always enjoyed solving puzzles, the more challenging the better. He was very impressed, and agreed that he would certainly have enjoyed solving this mystery as a child!
Still, like all great picture books, The Eleventh Hour can be enjoyed by readers of all ages and personalities (even impatient people like myself who just can’t be bothered to solve puzzles….) I remember being unable to solve the mystery as a child, and was still unable to solve it when I read it again last week! That didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the story, though – I was always far more interested in the stunningly detailed, densely-lush illustrations, which captured my imagination and drew me in to the story’s world completely.
Title: I Really Like Slop
Author/Illustrator: Mo Willems
Publication Date: 2015
Publisher’s Summary: In I Really Like Slop!, Piggie invites Gerald to try her favorite food . . . slop. But Gerald is not so sure he’s going to like it. At all.
My Two Cents: For two summers in college I worked at an international school language camp for kids and teens. One day, a very adorable and very earnest group of kids offered me a taste of their lunch, which they assured me was “very deeleeshus” (a popular expression among the kids at the summer camp). Not knowing much about Korean culture at the time, I eagerly took a big mouthful of a fragrant cabbage dish they called “kimchi”…. As you might imagine, I then struggled to smile and nod enthusiastically while gasping and choking, tears streaming down my face.
In I Really Like Slop, Piggie enthusiastically shares her favourite food, slop, with her best friend Gerald, who doesn’t quite share her enthusiasm. Stories about characters being initially repulsed by the food preferences of others abound in children’s literature. In most of these stories, however, the characters are eventually persuaded to try the ostensibly disgusting foods, only to discover that the strange dishes are actually delicious (The Sandwich Swap immediately comes to mind). Happiness and joy then abound as characters share their exotic yet uniformly delicious food with each other and learn valuable lessons about tolerance and intercultural understanding.
What makes I Really Like Slop so special is that when Gerald does eventually sample Piggie’s slop, he discovers that it tastes even more disgusting than it looks or smells! As someone who has never quite embraced kimchi can tell you, that’s just the way life goes. People have different food preferences, regardless of who they are or where they’re from, and we don’t all like the same things.
What Elephant and Piggie show is that just because you don’t share someone’s interests or preferences doesn’t mean you can’t respect and appreciate them all the same. Respecting and appreciating something you like and understand is easy, anyone can do that! But having those same feelings for something you don’t understand, don’t enjoy, or might even find repulsive, now that is the real challenge. As Gerald illustrates, you can find your best friend’s favourite foods disgusting, and still love your best friend all the same. Keep an open mind, try new things and leave yourself open to new experiences, but understand that it’s OK to be different, to like different things and have different opinions.
Isn’t it amazing how much a talented author/illustrator can convey with just a few well-chosen words and some expressive pictures?
Now tell me, what have you been reading this week?