Posts tagged Newberry

Delight in the world of Poppleton.



Early Reader

Ages 4-7

By Cynthia Rylant

Illustrated by Mark Teague

56 pages

Blue Sky Press



Cynthia Rylant is a gifted writer and has written books for all ages. In 1993, she won the Newberry Award for her book Missing May. Another of her titles, Van Gogh Café, was one of the first books I reviewed here. Having penned multiple books for beginning readers, she’s no stranger to this age group. Young readers may be familiar with her books about Henry and Mudge or Mr. Putter and Tabby, two of her other beginning readers series.

Rylant’s text in Poppleton is simple and concise and the stories are filled with humor and warmth. There are three short chapters, each containing a separate story. As with Rylant’s other beginning reader series, the Poppleton books focus on the merits and importance of friendship.

Mark Teague is a prolific illustrator with a crisp, cartoonish style. His watercolor and pencil illustrations in Poppleton are lively and colorful.  Capturing the comical aspect of the text, Teague portrays that comedy adeptly in the facial expressions and body language of the characters.

Poppleton is a pig: he was a city pig but now he’s a country pig. He used to jog; now he gardens. Instead of taking taxis, he takes naps.

He’s learning to adjust to country life and he’s made some new friends. And though he enjoys the company of his new neighbor, Cherry Sue (a llama), her constant invitations are a bit intrusive.  If only he could find a way to say no without hurting her feelings.

When Cherry Sue beckons him again in her signature way, Poppleton can take no more, and he soaks her with the garden hose! He immediately feels remorse and explains to Cherry Sue that, sometimes, he just wants to be left alone. It’s then that Cherry Sue confesses, after all her neighborly invitations, she’d also been feeling obligated to continue the practice. She was trying to find her own way out of the situation! So Poppleton soaks himself with the hose, and the two become best friends.

Poppleton’s favorite day of the week is Monday; Monday is library day and Poppleton takes library day very seriously. To prepare, he packs his bag: eyeglasses for reading, book marker for holding his place, pocket watch for the slow parts, tissues for sad parts, and lip balm for the dry parts.

He heads to the library, picks a table all to himself and buries his nose in an adventure book.

At the end of the day, he thanks the librarian, packs his things and slowly walks home, “all dreamy from so much adventure.” Library day is the best day of all.

Fillmore (a goat) is sick in bed and needs to take a pill. Poppleton is trying to help his friend but Fillmore can only take his pill if it’s hidden in food—sweet and soft food, with raspberry filling, and chocolate on top.

Cherry Sue donates her Heavenly Cake to the cause. Filmore doesn’t want to know which piece of cake contains the hidden pill, but after eating nine pieces he knows it’s in the tenth and will eat no more.

Now he wants something lemony, with coconut; Poppleton starts to feel ill too. It takes three days and twenty-seven cakes before the two friends feel well again.

There are seven books in the Poppleton series and all seven are in my personal library. Each time I revisit them, I am reminded of their virtue and am left with a feeling of happiness and delight.

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The Hundred Dresses is a powerful book to read and share.

The Hundred Dresses


Middle Reader

Ages 5-12

By Eleanor Estes

Illustrated by Louis Slobodkin

96 pages



1945 Newberry Honor Winner


Eleanor Estes (1906-1988) was awarded the Newberry medal for Ginger Pie. Three of her other nineteen books—The Middle Moffat, Rufus M, and The Hundred Dresses—won Newberry Honors.

The Hundred Dresses has never been out of print. And don’t think that silver sticker has anything to do with it—no medal can save a book from going out of print. This book strikes a chord with children. Perhaps it was Estes’s background as a teacher and librarian that afforded her that ability. Besides being a story about the timeless topics of acceptance and kindness, it’s one that nearly everyone can relate to.

Estes’s writing is absolutely lovely. She’s created sympathetic characters, a familiar setting and uses clear language.

Louis Slobodkin (1903-1975) illustrated nearly ninety books. In 1944, he was awarded the Caledecott Medal for Many Moons, written by James Thurber (1894-1961). His art in The Hundred Dresses switches between black and white and color. His lines and colors are sparse giving you enough information, but allowing space and light to filter though.

This book is a wonderful read-aloud for younger children—at just ninety-six pages and widely illustrated—and something the whole family can share. This story provides such a fantastic opportunity for discussion that when giving this book to a child to read alone, I feel strongly that adults should read it first.

Peggy and Maddie are the first to notice Wanda Petronski’s absence because she’d made them late for school. They’d been waiting for her on their walk to “have fun with her.” They didn’t realize she’d already been absent for two days.

Wanda lived with her father and her brother Jake in Boggins Heights. As poor, Polish immigrants, the family was often teased for their “funny” name and obvious lack of means. Mostly, Wanda kept to herself. Mostly, the girls in class didn’t notice her: they noticed her outside of class, on the way to school, and in the yard during recess. All the girls talked to her, or at her, but Wanda didn’t have any friends.

It all started the day Cecile came to school in a brand new red dress, with socks and cap to match. It was a beautiful October day and all the girls had gathered around to admire and compliment her. Some discussed how they would be getting new dresses too, others talked about new dresses they already had at home. Everyone was in good spirits. Even Wanda, who rarely smiled, seemed happy; she whispered something to Peggy.

‘“What?” asked Peggy. For Wanda had spoken very softly. Wanda hesitated a moment and she repeated her words firmly. “I got a hundred dresses at home.”’

The girls had seen Wanda every day in the same faded, ill-fitting, blue dress. Surely a girl with a hundred dresses would not wear the same one every day! Thus began the laughing. And the teasing. From that point forward, Wanda faced daily taunts about her hundred dresses.

The students were abuzz over the drawing and coloring contest. The boys were to design motorboats, the girls designed dresses (remember, this was written in 1944). Peggy would probably win the girls medal since she drew better than anyone in the room.

Wanda was still absent the day of the contest. When the other children entered the classroom they were stunned. Drawings covered the walls, the blackboard, and the window ledges; one hundred different dresses, all drawn by Wanda Petronski, illuminated the room.

Wanda won the contest but she was not there to hear the applause; she was not there to receive the award. Miss Mason instructs the students to take their seats so she may read them a letter from Wanda’s father.

“Dear teacher: My Wanda will not come to your school anymore. Jake also. Now we move away to big city. No more holler Polack. No more ask why funny name. Plenty of funny names in the big city.”

The teacher, distressed by the letter, asks the children to think about the role they may have played in making Wanda, and the Petronski family, feel unwelcome and unaccepted.

Maddie takes this especially hard. She and Peggy go to the Petronski house hoping that perhaps the family has not yet left. Maybe they’ll see Wanda and tell her she won the contest! They want to tell her how beautiful her one hundred dresses are, and that they are sorry for their thoughtless behavior. Maddie vows to never stand by and allow another person to be teased again. Though she had never instigated the taunting, wasn’t she also to blame for not stopping it?

She and Peggy decide to write a letter to Wanda. They tell her about school, how much everyone liked her dresses and that she won the contest. They asked if she liked her new teacher, her new home, and they ended the letter with several X’s for love.

As Christmas approaches, the class receives a letter from Wanda. The children had mostly forgotten about her, including Peggy. Maddie, however, has been consoling herself to sleep each night by making speeches defending Wanda, putting a stop to the teasing.

Maddie cherishes her drawing. She takes it home, pins it to her bedroom wall and admires it. Tears in her eyes, feeling as though her behaviors may have been forgiven, she notices a resemblance in the drawing. The girl wearing the blue dress looks likes Maddie! When she rushes to Peggy’s house to tell her, the two girls notice that Peggy’s drawing looks like Peggy too.

The Hundred Dresses is powerful book to read and share. It’s always important to be kind, and sometimes necessary to remind children and adults how their words and actions can affect others. And while actions can never be reversed, it’s never too late to make a change.


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