Thursday, December 9, 2010

9th December Jean de Brunhoff (1899 - 1937) Jennifer Beck (1939)

Jean de Brunhoff is the French writer and illustrator responsible for the beloved green elephant, Babar. His wife, Cecile told a story to their second son, Mathieu when he was sick and Jean took it and turned it into a book. It was considered radical in 1932 when it was published. He went on to write five more Babar stories before dying a very early death in 1937 aged only 37. His older son Laurent then continued the Babar series of books. Some of the Babar stories have been in print ever since, their cursive writing and unique storytelling either being loved or considered controversial. The television series have helped to popularise Babar with modern children.

Jennifer Beck is a New Zealand author who has worked as both a teacher and a psychologist. She has written many books worth exploring, but three that I have used this year are The Bantam and the Soldier, a story I often give to children who have really enjoyed In Flanders Fields, as it too looks at the human side of war and how soldiers feel about things other than fighting. It won the NZ picture book of the year award in 1997. A good read for now is The Christmas Caravan. It is about Simon, a boy who lives in a caravan park. The local council is hosting a competition for the best decorated house. Simon decorates the caravan using found objects as his mother cannot afford to buy decorations. This is a lovely Christmas story because it emphasises how Christmas is about more than material possessions. And
lastly, a more recent book, Stefania's Dancing Slippers which is a beautiful multi-layered book about Stefania, a Polish orphan who is sent to NZ in 1944. It is illustrated by Lindy Fisher.

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