The Snowman by Raymond Briggs

Captain’s Log: Module 2

Port of Call: Briggs, R. (1978). The Snowman. New York, NY: Random House, Inc..

First Lines: n/a

Cover of The Snowman

Summary: This is a beautifully illustrated story told entirely in pictures. Drawn in what looks like colored pencil, each page is filled with panels of varying sizes that tell the story of a young boy and his snowman. Beginning with him waking up and discovering it’s snowing, the boy runs outside and builds a snowman. He dresses it, and when he goes to sleep, he can’t stop thinking about it. He gets up to go check on his snowman, who tips his hat very courteously. Greetings exchanged, the boy invites his snowman inside, and proceeds to give him a tour of the house and all the novelties inside that a snowman would never have seen before. The snowman then returns the favor, taking the boy by the hand and leaping into the sky to fly over the world until morning comes when they both return and the boy goes back to bed. When he wakes up the next morning, he runs outside to see the snowman again, only to discover that he has melted.

More than the story, the best part of this picture book is the illustrations. Some pages have 12 small panels, while others are full page spreads. It’s always easy to tell what’s going on in each picture, and the book reads smoothly and quickly. I think this book would be a great bedtime story, with its theme of adventures while you sleep. I also love that a child who can’t read will fully be able to enjoy this book. Finally, it’s a great wintertime story, and I bet children will want to make a snowman after finishing it!

First Impressions: I did not know that this book had to words, so the first couple of pages were amusing and surprising. I thought the comic book-style illustration strips were fun, and I flew through the book very quickly.

Suggestions for use: This is definitely a winter story, so reading it around that time of year – first snowfall – would be a great use. Also, this is somewhat a story about imaginary friends and dreams, so reading it to children can stimulate their imaginations or help them understand a dream they themselves had.

Reviews:

The boy and his snowman take off into the night sky

“Who needs words to tell a story? In Raymond Briggs’s charming tale, told with 175 softly hued, artfully composed frames, a little boy makes friends with a snowman. He wakes up on a snowy day, tells his mother he’s going outside, then begins a flurry of snowman-building. That night, he can’t sleep, so he opens the front door and lo! the snowman has come to life. The amiable yet frosty fellow enjoys his tour of the boy’s cozy home; he admires the cat, but is disturbed by the fire. The boy shows him other wonders–the TV and a lamp and running water. Predictably perhaps, he is disturbed by the stove, but likes ice cubes quite a bit. Soon it is the snowman’s turn to introduce the boy to his wintry world. They join hands, rise up into the blizzardy air–presumably over Russia and into the Middle East–and then safely back to home sweet home. The boy pops into bed before his parents get up… but when he wakes up the next morning he races outside only to find his new buddy’s melted remains, scattered with a few forlorn lumps of coal. Since the book is wordless, you can make up any ending you want… like “Then, in a puff of pink smoke, the snowman recomposed himself and went to live in the boy’s garage freezer.” Or you could just resign yourself to a peaceful “And that was that.” Raymond Briggs’s The Snowman won the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, and this wintertime classic continues to win the hearts of kids every year. (Preschool and older)” Karin Snelson

Snelson, K. (2001) Goodreads.com review of The Snowman. Retrieved September 6, 2010 from http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/489972.The_Snowman

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All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor

Captain’s Log: Module 2

Port of Call: Taylor, S. (1951). All of a Kind family. New York, NY: Follett Publishing Company.

First Lines:

“That slowpoke Sarah!” Henny cried. “She’s making us late!”

Mama’s girls were going to the library, and Henny was impatient.

“If it was Charlotte, I could understand,” said Ella, who was the eldest and very serious. “I’d know Charlotte was off dreaming in some corner. But what can be keeping Sarah?”

Summary: This is a story about a young Jewish family living in New York City at the beginning of the 20th century. Each chapter tells about a different adventure or even that happens in the lives of these five little girls, but there is also an overarching continuity that moves the story line through the book. In one chapter, the girls go to the beach to escape the summer heat and one gets separated from her family in the crowd. Another story talks about the girls’ trip to the library and the friendship they strike up with the new librarian there.

A family, father, mother, and five young girls are walking down a street in New York City, 1912.

Cover of All-of-a-Kind Family

My favorite chapters were the ones about the Jewish traditions the family celebrates in their homes. I do no know very much about these holidays and customs, so I thought they were a fascinating insight to that religious culture. We meet characters from outside the family too, Papa’s friends, particularly a young man named Charlie who brings the girls gifts frequently.

This was a very sweet book, and its 1950’s writing style lends the book a laid-back, homey feel of a century past. I was reminded of the Bobbsey Twins books I read as a child and enjoyed very much. For being a bit dated, it was never hard to read, and I think it was a very easy book to get wrapped up in.

First Impressions: I was not drawn in by the cover, but thought the setting looked historical and so I would give it a try. The first chapter didn’t really have much action, but was interesting enough that I decided to keep reading. Truthfully, I don’t think this book really hits its stride until chapter 3 or so. I think it’s because the first two chapters seem to have been written solely to introduce certain characters, but the real story doesn’t start rolling til later.

Suggestions for use: I would use this book to teach about an older era in American history, especially if children are interested in life at the beginning of the 1900’s or early New York City. It’s also a more ‘traditional’ story that might appeal to young girls who like Little House on the Prairie and other period books. Finally, this would be a story that could teach about Jewish holidays and traditions to both Jewish and non-Jewish children alike.

Reviews: (audiobook version)

School Library Journal:

“Gr 3-6-Five young sisters experience life in New York’s Lower East Side at the beginning of the 20th century in this reading of Sydney Taylor’s story (Follett, 1951). The close-knit group encounters everyday realities such as boring chores, missing library books, and trips to the Rivington Street market, as well as those details which bring the early 1900’s to life–scarlet fever, peddlers, and bathing at Coney Island. Woven into the story are the traditions and holidays of the Jewish religion. The girls celebrate the Sabbath with Hebrew prayers, and dress up for Purim so they can deliver baskets to friends and relatives. Suzanne Toren delivers flawless narration, using different accents to distinguish between characters of various cultures and backgrounds. Her intonations and pacing ably reflect the actions and emotions of the characters and fully convey the warmth and humor of the story. This excellent audiobook will find an eager audience in schools and public libraries which need materials reflecting the Jewish culture or serve children who enjoy family stories such as Little Women and Little House on the Prairie.” -Paula L. Setser, Deep Springs Elementary School, Lexington, KY

Setser, P. (2001) School Library Journal review of All-of-a-Kind Family. Retrieved September 6, 2010 from http://www.amazon.com/All-Kind-Family-Sydney-Taylor/dp/0385732953.

The Providence Journal:

“Here’s a book in which nothing much happens, over the course of four hours… and which absolutely charmed my kids on a recent family car trip.

It’s the story of a family on the Lower East Side of New York at the turn of the 20th century. There are five daughters, plus Mama and Papa, and their adventures are simple — they go to Coney Island on a hot day, or to the library or to the market. They dust the house and get sick.

But the market they go to is alive with sounds and smells of a different time, and when scarlet fever strikes there’s no simple trip to the doctor’s for a few antibiotics —the doctor comes to them and places the house under quarantine for weeks. There’s a plot involving two family friends and their problems with love, but it’s the least believable and sappiest part of the story. Much better are the moments when the family celebrates Jewish holidays, each described with loving care as it was celebrated a century ago.

Taylor wrote the book in 1951, based on her childhood memories and it was out of print for some years before being issued last year. The time between her experiences and the recounting of them undoubtedly colored the stories with sentimentality.

But this is a gentle tale of a very different time, and there’s value to that. Toren, a theater and TV actress, reads with an attention to accent that helps create characters from the daughters and those who surround them.” – Retrieved September 6, 2010 from http://search.barnesandnoble.com/All-of-A-Kind-Family/Sydney-Taylor/e/9780440400592