Something We Read: Rooster’s Off to See the World

Rooster's Off to See the World

Picture Book Month

November is Picture Book Month, a time to celebrate picture books for their importance in developing literacy, and the joy they bring us as readers. Bitsy and I enjoy picture books together every day. In celebration of Picture Book Month, I plan to do some extra posts about the children’s books we read. This week we read a book that is an excellent example of the great work that can be done by authors and illustrators in this format: Rooster’s Off to See the World, by Eric Carle.

Reading Together

This story is one adults can enjoy as much as children. Bitsy loves the different voices I do for all of the animal characters. The colorful illustrations are so appealing to little ones, and I love Eric Carle’s distinctive collage style.

rooster's illustrations

The story is so clever. A rooster awakes one morning and forms the notion he would like to travel. “So, right then and there, he set out to see the world.” As he walks along on his journey, the rooster meets other animals who accept his invitation to travel the world. Cats, frogs, turtles, and even fish swimming in a brook form the travel party.

rooster's travel party

Cocksure as one would expect a rooster to be, he made no plans or preparations for his bold endeavor at world travel. The animals soon feel the deprivations of an ill-prepared trip, and one by one each group of animals abandons the trip and returns home. The rooster ends up alone again, finds himself hungry and homesick, and returns to the comforts of home as well. In the end, he falls asleep and has “a wonderful happy dream–all about a trip around the world!” This is a good place to ask your little one what you think the rooster will do next: will he be satisfied with dreaming about seeing the world, or will he make real travel plans and try again?

Rooster's dream

While the book is good for teaching counting, addition, and subtraction, it does so in a very subtle way–the main focus is the story. The illustrations include a visual in the top corners showing the growing, then declining number of animals on the trip as each group of animals joins or leaves the party.

counting with rooster

One rooster is joined by two cats, then three frogs, four turtles, and five fish. The fish, then the turtles, followed by the frogs, and finally the cats take their leave of the rooster, until there is just one animal present again. The way this is done through illustrations shows just how important picture books are to early learning.

As you can see in several  other posts here, Bitsy and I love Eric Carle books. This is one of my favorites, though. I like the distinct personalities of the different animal characters, and the humorous tale. The rooster, with all of his colorful feathers, must have been a particularly fun animal for Carle to illustrate, and stands out to me as one of the most beautiful of his illustrations. I highly recommend this one for your child’s collection.

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Something We Read: Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson

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Last Stop On Market Street was the first book I put on Bitsy’s Amazon baby registry, and the first one I bought since I was too impatient to wait for someone to buy it for us. I was just so excited about having books for her, and this one in particular  I knew would be special. It received some of the most prestigious honors in children’s literature. It is a 2016 Caldecott Honor Book, the winner of the 2016 Newbery Medal, and a 2016 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor.

These awards speak well for the book, but what attracted me most was its content and message. After church, CJ and his grandmother take the bus to the soup kitchen where they volunteer each week. CJ sees his friends go home in their cars, and wonders why he can’t do the same. He feels a little sorry for himself, but his grandmother patiently, lovingly, and wisely shows him how fortunate they are, and how to find beauty all around them in this ordinary excursion. Who needs a car when “we got a bus that breathes fire?” CJ’s friends who get to go home after church will not get the chance to meet all the people CJ and his grandma see on the bus and at the soup kitchen. CJ doesn’t need a smartphone to hear music when the man across from him on the bus has a guitar, and plays a song for everyone. CJ closes his eyes to appreciate the music. It takes him out of the bus to an imaginary place of freedom, beauty, and magic.

After CJ and his grandmother exit the bus in the neighborhood of the soup kitchen where they volunteer, CJ looks around at the “crumbling sidewalks and broken-down doors, graffiti-tagged windows, and boarded-up stores.” He asks his grandmother why “it’s always so dirty over here.” She points out a rainbow and tells him that being “surrounded by dirt” can sometimes help you be “a better witness for what’s beautiful.” CJ then recognizes his grandmother’s gift for finding beauty, and looks around to find it himself in the street lights, stray cats, and shadows around him. When they approach the soup kitchen and see the people they serve every week, CJ tells his grandmother he is happy to be there.

There are so many messages in Last Stop on Market Street that I want to share with my daughter, and I’m glad I have this book to help me do that. I want her to be able to find joy and beauty in everyday settings, and be grateful for our many blessings. I want her to have close relationships with her grandparents, like CJ and his grandmother have. His grandmother is such a positive influence, teaching him some of the most important lessons for living a happy, meaningful, and useful life. The illustrations show diverse characters, something very important for every child to see in their books. Most of all, I love the sense of community CJ’s grandmother clearly has and is teaching him. She connects with the people all around her. She sees the bus as a valuable public space where people can interact and learn from one another. She smiles and wishes a good afternoon to all the other passengers, and has CJ do the same. The way she speaks of the people they serve at the soup kitchen shows that she does not condescend to the people she serves. She treats them not only as equals, but as wonderful people she and CJ are honored to know. I think the book conveys all of these messages without being preachy. I try to share these messages when I read it to Bitsy through my voice, expression, and pointing to the illustrations, delighting in all of the beauties CJ’s grandma points out to him. I’m so glad Bitsy has been enjoying this one. The message, as well as the condition of the book in its hardcover format, should hold up for her for years to come.

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