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.

Llama Llama and the Bully Goat

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Title: Llama Llama and the Bully Goat

Author: Anna Dewdney

Illustrator: Anna Dewdney

Publishers and Year: First Scholastic Printing, 2013

Number of pages: 29

Genre: Fiction

Llama Llama and the Bully Goat is a book about bullying for young children. It tells the story of a billy goat that bullies his peers at school one day. The book continues to show the consequence and resolutions until it ends with them getting along as friends.

This book can serve as a mirror, window, or door for its readers. As we know, bullying continues to be more of a problem with each passing year in schools around the country. This book sheds light not only on bullying but also on responses to bullying. Therefore it acts as a mirror because it causes children to think about bullying as a whole and examine examples of bullying they may have experienced or participated in themselves. If they haven’t been victim or bully in a scenario before, it serves as a window to see those situations from another’s viewpoint. The most important thing, however, is that it acts as a door. Once the readers have looked in the mirror or through the window, they are now presented with options of how to respond. This book does a great job of showing children how to stand up for themselves in a healthy way. For example, one character tells the bully goat, “Gilroy, this is not Ok. Stop it, or we’ll go away.” In addition to this, readers are presented with a solution that says, “Being bullied is no fun! Walk away and tell someone!” Given that this book is for a younger audience, it provides practical, age-appropriate responses to bullying that can be helpful to a child in that situation. Along those same lines, it can help a bully to see (window) how their bullying affects others so that they can modify their behavior (door).

The text in this book is lively and rhymes on each page. It provided a light-hearted feel to a hard but important topic. I believe that helps introduce a concept to the children in a way that they can easily understand. Although the text is vital, the illustrations are not. They provide the reader with a nice visual of what is happening, but they don’t add much more than what the text has already given. Therefore, I think the text could easily stand alone in this story. Overall, this book is overflowing with lessons on bullying and responses to bullying. It introduces the topic in a way that is easily accessible to readers of a young age.

Harold and the Purple Crayon

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Title: Harold and the Purple Crayon

Author: Crockett Johnson

Illustrator: Crockett Johnson

Publishers and Year: Harper Collins Publishers, 1955

Number of pages: 63

Genre: Fiction

Harold and the Purple Crayon takes the reader on an adventure through the imagination of a young boy name Harold. Throughout the story, the reader witnesses Harold create an imaginary world full of adventure and peril with a single purple crayon. The story ends with Harold drawing his own bedroom around himself and falling asleep.

The story of Harold and his crayon acts as both a mirror and a door for its audience. It functions as a mirror in that it allows its audience to reflect on their own imaginative and creative tendencies. Every human has creative tendencies to one degree or another. The story of Harold fashioning an entire new world with a simple crayon has the power to awaken that within its readers. In addition to this, all people have a natural need for stability in their lives. As Harold searches for his home, the readers are able to connect with that desire and need, even if on a subconscious level. Not only does Harold’s tale function as a mirror, but it also functions as a door in that it activates and empowers its readers to boldly create and not be afraid to leave their mark on the world.

The illustrations in the book are spread across the entire page and unframed throughout the book. This invites the reader into the adventure Harold is having so that the reader might experience it alongside Harold. Also, the illustrations help to reinforce Harold as a character, as well. For example, the background is all 2-Dimensional while Harold himself is 3-Dimensional. This shows us that, despite living in a 2-Dimensional world, Harold is open-minded and less superficial. This just emphasizes Harold’s role as a creative being compared to the world around him. This is not the only way in which the illustration was intentional. One of the most consistent things about the illustrations is the purple horizon line that Harold draws as he drags his crayon across the page. However, the horizon line disappears multiple times throughout the book to alert the reader to upcoming danger.

The images in this story are a powerful addition to the text. The images show him boldly creating a world from scratch while the text depicts the adventure happening to him, as if it were something he simply stumbled upon. For example, the author uses phrases like “it turned out to be an apple tree.” This contrast shows the intentional split between being bold in our imagination and the surprise that can come when we allow ourselves to walk in such boldness and freedom of thought. Overall, this Harold’s journey offers its readers an opportunity to push the limits of their own creativity without fear of failure.

Rosie Revere, Engineer

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Title: Rosie Revere, Engineer

Author: Andrea Beaty

Illustrator: David Roberts

Publishers and Year: Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2003

Number of pages: 32

Genre: Fiction

Rosie Revere, Engineer is the story of one young girl who dreams of becoming an engineer. Her dreams all come crashing down the day her uncle laughs at her invention, however. After this she retreats into her own world, too afraid to share her inventions, until one experience with her aunt, a tribute to Rosie the Riveter, changes her view of failure forever.

This story serves as both a mirror and a door. It serves as a mirror because it unpacks emotions that children constantly face in their own lives. For example, Rosie’s excitement and pride towards her talent of inventing is replaced by embarrassment and fear of failure when one of her inventions is mocked. Similarly, children who have not learned and accepted failure as a normal part of learning tend to retreat or put up defense mechanisms that protect them from the embarrassment and hurt that can come from failing or falling short of their own or even other people’s expectations of them. Therefore, this book reflects emotions that most children face on a daily basis. That being said, however, this book also serves as a door. Not only does it reflect the emotions of a situation such as this, but it empowers them to push through failure to reach true success. Adults have learned that there is often little success without failures along the way. This book attempts to be a pathway for children to learn these important lessons as well and hopefully give themselves grace along the way.

While the text in this book could easily stand alone without loosing any of its meaning, the pictures help to add the extra layer of emotions with which the reader can connect. For each scene, the emotions on the faces of the characters are heightened to add to the plot in each moment. In addition to this, bright colors are used throughout the book to depict Rosie’s excitement for her gifting, and jagged lines are used in almost all of her inventions to represent the movement required to build and operate the machinery. Overall, Rosie Revere, Engineer is a fun, lively story that teaches children the hard lesson of never giving up. They are able to finally see the benefits that can come if we simply keep trying.

Sam & Dave Dig A Hole

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Title: Sam & Dave Dig A Hole

Author: Mac Barnett

Illustrator: Jon Klassen

Publishers and Year: Candlewick Press, 2014

Number of pages: 36

Genre: Fiction

In Sam & Dave Dig A Hole, two young boys decide, after digging a small hole, to continue digging until they find something spectacular. Throughout the story, the readers watch as the two young boys unknowingly pass up many hidden treasures. The story ends when the two boys, tired from a full day of digging, fall asleep. Their dog, after smelling a bone hidden beneath the surface, continues to dig until they are all falling and land back on solid ground.

This book serves as a door for its audience. Through the adventures and determination of Sam and Dave, the reader is able see the benefits of determination and perseverance. Both Sam and Dave would have missed out on an incredible adventure had they been willing to settle with their miniature hole. As they continued on, however, they passed diamonds and other treasures in the soil. This gives the reader a reminder of the benefits of remaining steadfast rather than giving up. This being said, however, neither Sam nor Dave was aware of the diamonds that they were passing. They were digging either straight down or over (once they split ways). The diamonds were so close but the readers were the only ones to have knowledge of them. I think that this speaks to the danger of tunnel vision as we pursue any endeavor. Although they were passionate in their pursuit of “something spectacular,” they missed many opportunities of such treasures along the way. Only when their dog got whiff of the hidden treasures did he break the mold and keep digging.

The images in this book also help portray the themes. The images start out light and get darker and darker as the book goes on (until the end). The children get dirtier and dirtier causing even their faces to appear darker.   This represents their inability to see the treasures that are all around them. As they get further and further into their tunnel vision, the pictures get darker and darker. It is interesting, however, that the treasures themselves are never tainted by such darkness. They remain bright and vividly displayed within the dirt. The illustrator does an amazing job of maintaining the integrity of the theme through the illustrations. They are equally as important in this story as the text. Without these images, the readers would be as lost to the treasures as the boys are themselves. Although the pictures are needed to complete the story, the structure of the text is not without its own merit. The dialogue is simple and the sentences are short, but it almost adds to the digging effect of the story. With each short, choppy sentence you feel as if you, too, are thrusting your shovel into the dirt to find something spectacular. Overall, this book sends children a very clear message masked with the sense of adventure: never give up. Although the boys continually seemed to fall short of their goal, there were always treasures just below the surface. That speaks a message of hope to anyone who is walking through a time or season of life that requires endurance.

The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses


Title: The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses

Author: Paul Goble

Illustrator: Paul Goble

Publishers and Year: Harper Collins Publisher, 2010

Number of pages: 25

Genre: Fiction

The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses is a tale about a young Native American girl who ran away with a band of wild horses. Many years later, upon returning to her native village she desperately wishes she were back with her true family, the horses. In the end she is reincarnated as the mate of her favorite horse.

This book serves as a literary window because it gives us an insight into a culture that may not be familiar to all readers. Throughout the story the readers pick up little pieces of Native American culture. For example, through the main character the readers are able to witness the appreciation of animals that is help in Native American circles. Although her story is fictional, it carries very real elements of their culture that serve as windows for children learning to value cultures that are different than their own.

The illustrations also do a good job of capturing the folklore of a tale passed down from generation to generation. The power is evenly distributed between the horses and the humans. This is portrayed in the way our human characters are close in size to the horses. This speaks of the unity in spirit the girl believed to have had with the horses.

The illustrations in this book perfectly speak to the freedom of spirit displayed by the main character. The illustrator used a lot of vibrant colors, which give us the boldness. There is also a lack of framing which allows us to step into the story with the characters. Overall, this book is about finding passions and following them, even if they are non-traditional. The young girl knew where her heart was and what she was passionate about. When she allowed her family to talk her out of it she was miserable. So this story speaks to children about doing what they love and pursuing their passions, no matter what they might be.

My Friend Rabbit


Title: My Friend Rabbit

Author: Eric Rohmann

Illustrator: Eric Rohmann

Publishers and Year: First Scholastic Printing, 2003

Number of pages: 30

Genre: Fiction

My Friend Rabbit tells the story of a rabbit’s attempt to help her friend mouse. The rabbit means well and tries incredibly hard to help her friend mouse. She enlists the help of many other animals (mostly against their will). However, no matter what rabbit does, trouble never seems to be far behind.

I view this book as a door because it models for children some of the core values of friendship. The story models what it looks like to walk through a mess with someone and love them through it. This concept provides an opportunity for children to take hold of this value for themselves and incorporate that into their own relationships, even if in small ways at first.

Power is distributed in this book in a number of ways. On the first few pages, rabbit looks huge when compared to mouse. This shows the increased power rabbit has over mouse. However, mouse is always higher than rabbit on the page, which shows us how highly he is esteemed. As the story goes on, rabbit struggles more and more to help his friend. As this happens, rabbit’s character appears smaller and smaller. The other animals appear very large and powerful, sometimes taking up more than one page.

The author also used very little text in the book creating space for the pictures to tell a story of their own. The pictures agree with and add to the story. The pictures show the hard work and movement of rabbit. Throughout the text, rabbit is continually moving towards the left of the page. In every page he makes more and more progress left which signals gaining security. Throughout the process he goes from ground level to standing on top of all of the animals in power and security. Eventually, however, trouble follows and rabbit is left at the bottom once again. The visual process of progression and power is very obvious, however, and seems very intentional.

The visual progression of rabbit in power and stature speaks volumes of his goal of helping a friend. The text plays a less important role in the story, since the majority of the story is told through the illustrations. Overall, children can learn much about friendship from this book. The story of rabbit and mouse teaches us what it looks like to go out of our way to serve a friend and to see someone else’s need as greater than our own. This is an excellent lesson for children and adults alike.