Tuesday, September 14, 2010

15th September Robert McCloskey (1914 - 2003) Tomie dePaola (1934)

Robert McCloskey is the author of the children's book that has brought me the most pleasure during my thirty year teaching career. That book is Make Way For Ducklings which won the 1942 Caldecott Medal. I love sharing it with each new Kindergarten class, most of whom nowadays have not ever seen it. They comment upon the lack of colour in the illustrations and say that it is not a book that they would be interested in, but once I read it to them, there is total awe and the lack of colour seems irrelevant. The setting does not mean much to Australian children either, but they follow Mr and Mrs Mallard and their ducklings closely as you read. Many of the children make connections with Pamela Allen's Alexander's Outing and the Botanical Gardens in Sydney. The names of the ducklings roll off their tongues when they are retelling the story. Not many of McCloskey's other books have stood the test of time in Australia, probably because of their Maine setting. Last year I finally got to go to Boston as you can see from my photo and see Nancy Schon's wonderful bronze statues in the Public Garden. I was amazed at how many children were there squabbling over who was going to sit on which duckling. Obviously there are other readers out there who love them too.

The other pleasure I had while in Boston was a visit to the Eric Carle Museum and while I was there there was an exhibition of Tomie dePaola's work. What a bonus! I would have gone there no matter what was on display, but to see so much original Tomie dePaola was special. I particularly like his artwork and had seen him draw when he visited Australia a very long time ago. One of my treasured teaching resources is an autographed edition of his book Tomie dePaola's Mother Goose. Tomie dePaola has published so many books(about four a year) it is so hard to say which are my favourites, but I do enjoy reading The Legend of the Poinsettia and Tony's Bread at Christmas. These two books explain to children why poinsettias and panettones are popular during the festive season. There is a very interesting interview with him at Reading Rockets.

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