Bedtime for Frances


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Author: Russell Hoban

Illustrator: Garth Williams

Publisher/ Year: Harper Collins 1960

Number of Pages: 32

Genre: Fiction



It’s bedtime for Frances, but before she can fall asleep, she needs a glass of milk, a kiss from mom and dad, and reassurance that monsters are not in her room.

Many children can relate to this book. It is a mirror for children who have trouble falling asleep or who may try anything and everything to stay awake. Just as Frances asks for milk and later on, a piece of cake before she goes to bed, many times children also ask their parents for a snack or a glass of water/milk before they head on to bed. Another reason Frances can’t go to sleep is because she is scared that there is a monster in her room. Most children have told their parents at least one time that there was a monster hiding in the closet or underneath the bed. And just like all parents do, Frances’ parents look around the room to check for any monsters, tell her that there are not any monsters in the room, and tell her to go back asleep.

The text is almost always on the opposite side of the pictures and is written exactly how a child would think while trying to fall asleep. Frances sings the alphabet to herself, and then stops at a letter and starts to think about something that starts with that letter, then switches to thinking about something totally unrelated. Children’s minds are so full of imagination, they think about one thing one minute, and the next, they have moved on to something else.The pictures are not framed so the reader is inside the story. The pictures have some color, but get darker and then lighter, symbolizing the coming of night and then night turning into day.





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Author/Illustrator: Ludwig Bemelmans

Publisher/ Year: 1939

Number of Pages: 40

Genre: Fiction



Madeline, one of 12 little girls taken care of by Madame Clavel, is the littlest, but the bravest of the children. One night, Madeline wakes up screaming and crying because she has an appendicitis. She is rushed to the hospital and immediately taken to surgery. The rest of the girls come to visit her in the hospital. After seeing the toys and candy, that night all of the girls wake Madame Clavel because they want their appendixes out as well.

The color yellow is the most used color in the pictures. The color yellow can be used as a symbol for illness or sickness. This color could possibly foreshadow Madeline’s appendicitis.The little girls are always dressed in yellow as well, which could symbolize their happiness or optimism. Madame Clavel is seen dressed in a dark black or blue dress which symbolizes her authority and dignity as the guardian of the girls.

The text is in rhyme; it mirrors the images and is also underneath the pictures. The pictures do not have any frames around them as if the reader is inside the story. The story can be used as a window to teach children about a different culture and time period as this story is sent in France during what seems to be the 1920’s. The style of clothing has changed and the setting would not be familiar to them. It could also serve as a mirror to children who have had their appendix removed or have had some surgery.  Or, the story may help those who know someone who has had surgery.

This story can also be a lesson to those who want even more than what they already have. The other little girls wanted their appendixes taken out so that they could get different gifts and candy. But the story reinforces the idea that the children should be happy with what they already have.

Uncle Willie and the Soup Kitchen

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Author/Illustrator: Dyanne Disalvo-Ryan

Publisher/Year: Mulberry Books 1991

Number of Pages: 29

Genre: Fiction



 A boy learns to understand how to help those who are in need while he helps out one day with Uncle Willie at the soup kitchen.

This story is very informative. It is a window that teaches children about the functions of soup kitchens and how they help feed many homeless people or those who can’t afford to eat.Many children have not ever seen a homeless person up close before and might have questions about them. This story, told through the eyes of the boy, shows children how to help those who might be in need. The soup kitchen is open to anyone who is hungry and the boy learns a little more about those who are homeless. He learns that some people do not have homes to go to after work, and some don’t even have jobs. He also learns that most people come to the soup kitchen because they cant afford to buy food to feed themselves or their families. This story could also be a mirror to kids who might know someone who is homeless, or even themselves be homeless. Or it could be a mirror to kids who have helped those who are homeless, whether it be working in a soup kitchen or helping those in need in different ways.

The pictures are not framed so the reader is engaged with the boy, being in on the action as he works in the soup kitchen and understands more about it and those who come in and eat. The text is very important, leaving many inspiring quotes for young readers to remember. “Sometimes people need help” is a great introduction quote to start a conversation with children who might not fully understand what a soup kitchen is for.

Fiona’s Lace

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Author/Illustrator: Patricia Polacco

Publisher/Year: Simon and Schuster 2014

Number of Pages: 36

Genre: Historical Fiction



 Fiona, her sister Ailish, mother, and Da all live in Ireland. After the mill in the village closes, Fiona and her family set their sights for America. They decided to leave their beloved Ireland and immigrate to Chicago, Illinois. They all must find work to make money, so Fiona, having been taught by her mum, makes fine white lace for the richer folks to buy.

Green and white are important colors throughout the book. First of all, the colors green and white appear on the Irish flag. Green symbolizes nationalism and white symbolizes peace. Regarding the book, green can symbolize rebirth as the family leaves behind the only life they know to travel and move to another country, creating a new life for themselves. White is a universal symbol for purity. Fiona’s white lace that she creates symbolizes her innocence and that fact that she is still a child. But as a fire breaks out, she leaves her lace behind in pieces so her parents are able to find her and Ailish. After Fiona and Ailish are reunited with their parents, the lace is covered in black soot. The black soot covering the white lace could symbolize the end of Fiona’s innocence because the fire marks her lace as well as her understanding of her world.

The illustrations are not framed so the reader is involved with the story, unlike an outsider looking in. In the beginning of the story, there are more colors present, but as the book progresses, the author uses fewer and fewer colors. The text could stand alone without the pictures, but most children wouldn’t know what Ireland or Chicago looked like, so the pictures do help to give an idea of the setting.

This book can act as a window for children to learn about families who have immigrated from other countries to America. It shows the stereotypical flaming red Irish hair and freckles as well as popular Irish names.  In the end, children see a different culture from their own.


Bug in a Vacuum

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Author/Illustrator: Melanie Watt

Publisher/Date: Tundra Books 2015

Number of pages: 45

Genre: Fiction



A fly is accidentally sucked into a vacuum and goes through the five stages of grief. After he experiences the final stage, which is acceptance, his luck changes, and he finds a way out of the vacuum.

This book is an informative piece on the different stages that people go through when they experience loss or a traumatic event in their life. This book can serve as a mirror for children who may be experiencing the same feelings as the fly. It also serves as a door to lead children to learn how to cope with these feelings that they might face in the future. Moreover, the book is a window for those who may not have experienced a loss or upsetting event but may know someone who has. It can teach children to understand how another person may be feeling, therefore, helping that person cope with his/her struggle(s).

The illustrations are not framed, so the reader is in on the action as the story progresses.The colors in the pictures are mostly shades of green. The color green can symbolize many thoughts or ideas, but in this particular story, green could symbolize growth. As the story progresses, the fly goes through different stages in the vacuum, and as he is trapped, he finally learns to accept things the way they are; therefore, growing and maturing. Green is also seen as the color for rebirth (associated with nature). Since green is so heavily used in the pictures, it almost foreshadows the fly’s fate as he is “reborn” with a different perspective on life.

Gingerbread Baby

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Author/Illustrator: Jan Brett

Publisher/Date: Scholastic Inc. 1999

Number of pages: 31

Genre: Fiction



 A little boy named Matti makes a piece of gingerbread into the shape of a boy. The cooking directions specifically say NOT to peek in the oven as the gingerbread is baking. But Matti can’t help himself and takes a tiny peek.  The next thing Matti sees is a gingerbread baby popping out of the oven and running away. Matti and the rest of the villagers must find a way to catch him!

Jan Brett is known for taking classic stories, mostly folklores, and twisting the story just a bit to show her own ideas. The pages of the book are framed so readers are outsiders looking in as the story is told. On the left and right of the pages, there are pictures in the shape of a gingerbread baby that show what has happened or what will happen next. The text could stand alone without the pictures, but it is nice to see the “sneak peak” of what is about to happen. The images are colorful, expressing freedom, at least for the gingerbread baby. The gingerbread baby is always running to the right, as if to keep the story moving forward.

The characters are dressed in what looks to be traditional period clothing from Germany (i.e., lederhosen). This dress acts as a window for children to learn about the past as well as a different culture. The story can also teach a lesson to children to follow directions and/ or to be patient.  If not, something unexpected can happen. The story can act as a mirror for children who might see themselves as Matti, very curious and sometimes impatient but full of imagination and creativity. Overall, the book is just a fun and entertaining read for children.



The Carrot Seed

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Title: The Carrot Seed

Author: Ruth Krauss

Illustrator: Crockett Johnson

Publishers and Year: Scholastic, 1945

Number of pages: 65

Genre: Fiction

The Carrot Seed tells the story of one little boy with determination to grow a carrot. After planting a small carrot seed, the boy is told over and over that it won’t come up. Nevertheless, he weeds and waters his seed daily. Eventually a carrot grows “just as he knew it would.”

This book serves as a mirror and a door for its audience. Each person has goals, dreams, and/or vision for their life, whether big or small. Many times people face obstacles that tell them it isn’t possible or it won’t work out. Sometimes other people even speak into dreams, like the boy’s parents, to give their opinion of how much it won’t work out. This is reflected in the story. However, this book acts as a door because it reveals to the reader what is possible if they continue to believe in themselves. The young boy in this story is not swayed by other people’s lack of belief in his vision of the carrot. He remains steadfast on his goal because he believes. He is proactive to water his seed daily and uproot any weeds that try to choke it out. In a similar fashion, the reader is empowered to believe in themselves and take practical steps to protect their vision. In the end, the carrot is so big that it requires a wheelbarrow to be carried away. That is not insignificant.

The illustrations in this book are as powerful as the words. Initially they don’t seem important in the fact that they simply mirror the emotions and actions displayed in the text. However, towards the end the illustrations are vital in helping the reader to realize the benefits of believing in themselves. Without the illustrations, one might assume that a normal sized carrot was grown. However, the reader is impacted in a much greater way as they see the magnitude of the carrot the young boy grew. In addition to this, the illustrations are drawn on a bright yellow background. This symbolizes the hope that the boy displayed despite the constant criticism and disbelief of those around him. Overall, this underlying theme of hope is an important reminder for readers. The readers are taught through this story to believe in themselves against all odds and to continue working towards their dreams, even if it seems impossible.



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Title: Chrysanthemum

Author: Kevin Henkes

Illustrator: Kevin Henkes

Publishers and Year: Greenwillow Books, 1991

Number of pages: 30

Genre: Fiction

Chrysanthemum is a story of a young mouse girl who loves her name. Upon arriving to school, however, all of the children in her class repeatedly make fun of her name, causing Chrysanthemum to dread her own name. Only after being affirmed by her music teacher does Chrysanthemum learn to truly appreciate the name she was given.

This book serves as a mirror for its audience. Children, and sometimes adults, struggle with not only finding their true identity but also clinging to it in times of trial. In this book Chrysanthemum decided that she hates her name at the first sign of trouble. Children are very similar in that they, too, question their identity when it is picked apart by their peers. Watching Chrysanthemum realize the beauty in her own name, despite the fact that it is very different from that of her peers, teaches readers a valuable lesson: a person’s identity is not rooted in what other people say or do, and the true beauty of who someone is actually lies in their differences rather than their similarities.

The text in this book is very strong and could easily stand alone. However, the illustrations help to amplify the emotional turmoil that Chrysanthemum is experiencing. For example, all of the images are framed; revealing the confinement Chrysanthemum feels as she battles the confusion of her own identity. The illustrations also add to the text in other ways. For example, one page has a picture of each student in a yearbook style layout with their names written across the top. Each student’s name fits nicely across the top of the box, except Chrysanthemum. Her name extends outside the box in a dramatic fashion. In addition to this, each student has a cheerful expression, except for Chrysanthemum. The combination of these two helps exemplify the embarrassment and shame being felt by Chrysanthemum at the current situation. Overall, this book shares a very important theme with its readers: the best parts of a person’s identity are formed through their differences. Therefore, it challenges its readers to embrace their differences proudly and walk fully in their identity without fear of ridicule from others.

Margaret and Margarita

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Title: Margaret and Margarita/Margarita Y Margaret

Author: Lynn Reiser

Illustrator: Lynn Reiser

Publishers and Year: Harper Collins Publishing, 1996

Number of pages: 31

Genre: Fiction

Margaret and Margarita/Margarita Y Margaret tells the story of two young girls who meet at a park. One girl speaks only English and the other girl speaks on Spanish. However, a friendship blossoms despite the language barrier proving that friendship is more powerful than the barriers that try to stop it.

I think that this book serves as both a window and a door. It serves as a window because it sheds light on two different cultures and languages. Margaret only speaks English, and Margarita only speaks Spanish. Therefore, the book is written in two languages. One girl will ask a question in English and the other will answer in Spanish. While most bilingual books simply repeat the English phrases into Spanish, this book actually allows for the natural differences of a true dialogue. Therefore, whether a student is bilingual or learning a new language, it acts as a window through which they can peer as they expand their understanding. This book acts as a door because it bridges language barrier gap. These two girls do not speak the same language, yet they bonded as best they could. So often people do not even try to bridge the language barrier gap because only one language is known. This book shows the truth that language, while powerful, is not the only form of communication and connection.

The text and illustrations share an equal role in this story. The text helps to bridge the gap for language learners as they learn new, simple vocabulary. However, the illustrations add to this by narrowing in on the part of the text that might be difficult to comprehend. For example, when a new word was introduced in either language, such as smile, the illustrations were a framed picture showing a black and white face where the only pop of color was in the smile. This pattern was repeated with numerous new words that were introduced into the text. Not only are the illustrations colored in a way that emphasizes the words being learned, but the text is color-coded as well. All of the English words in the book are written in pink and all of the Spanish words are written in blue. The illustrator intentionally colored the native language text to be the same color as the dress of the opposite daughter’s mother. This simply furthers the connection between the two girls, signifying that the foreign language is a safe place, less scary than they might have initially thought.

Another interesting observation that readers will have regarding the illustrations is that everything in the story is in black and white except for the people. The park landscape is in black and white. The bench is in black and white. Even the flowers are illustrated in black and white. However, the mom, daughters, and stuffed animals are all drawn in vibrant color. This shows the reader the exhilaration and freedom that comes from human connection and interaction so that they might realize that it is worth the effort, despite the barriers to walk through that door.   Overall, this is much more than a book about learning a new language. This is a book that shows the importance and reward of bridging cultures and languages.


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Title: Madlenka

Author: Peter Sis

Illustrator: Peter Sis

Publishers and Year: South China Printing Company, 1988

Number of pages: 41

Genre: Fiction

Madlenka is the story of a young girl who goes on adventures to tell the people on her street block about her loose tooth. Each new person she encounters introduces the reader to a new culture. Eventually Madlenka comes home declaring that she has been out traveling the world.

This book is a window for the reader into a variety of different cultures. On each page Madlenka meets a new friend who is from a different part of the world. They greet her in their native language and we are provided with information about that person, on the other page, that highlights important aspects of their culture. For example, when she visits her friend Eduardo, from South America, the readers learn about the landscape of his native lands. Likewise when Madlenka meets her Mrs. Kham, her friend from China, the readers learn about the Great Wall of China, Buddhism, Silk, and different ethnic foods. Although each page is in no way a complete representation of any culture, it gives the reader an insight into a culture different than their own.

Although the text is great in that it provides culturally relevant information and exposure to various languages, the images add just as much, if not more, to the story. We are able to see drawings that further represent each culture as she meets each friend. In addition to this, the book is set up so that there is a square (sometimes circular) hole in each page. These are meant to represent windows in the shops. Through these windows the reader is able to see natural landscapes that represent the various parts of the world. As you turn the page, these windows strategically place Madlenka right into the world the reader is learning about. In addition to this, after the “window” has been turned, the full-page illustration can be seen revealing an even more in-depth drawing that depicts various parts of each culture. Overall, the illustrations in this book give a rich visual understanding of each culture represented and allows the reader to experience a piece of each culture. This models appreciation for different cultures and gets the readers excited to learn more.