My regular readers will have noticed that there wasn’t a picture recommendation for October. The reason for this is simple: we didn’t read a single good picture book in all of October. We did read a really great piece of children’s nonfiction but non-fiction doesn’t really fall under the heading of “picture book.” So a special bonus non-fiction edition of “Picture Book Recommendations” will be coming soon.
Cat’s Pajamas by Wallace Edwards is all about idioms. We all know that learning/understanding a language’s idioms are the hardest part of learning a language. On each page of Cat’s, Mr. Edwards has concentrated on a different idiom. He has beautifully illustrated a literal interpretation of a correctly used idiom. For example, a rabbit (who is wearing a jacket and standing on his back legs) has his ears pierced liberally with earrings for “having ringing in his ears.” Each illustration is finely, perhaps even majestically, drawn with an incredible attention to detail and realism. Yet,a playful quality, due to the anthropomorphic nature of the drawings and the “hidden cats” that can be found in each illustration, is not lost. The final page in this book clinched Cat’s Pajamas‘ place on our recommendation list. This page contains a “translation” or meaning explanation for the featured idioms. Until we read this translation page we hemmed and hawed about whether this was a really good book or not. My husband (two pages from the end) had commented that this would be a great book for J.T., his supervisor. English is not J.T.’s first language and idioms pass right over his head. I disagreed. I thought (two pages form the end) that the literal interpretations in the pictures would cause more confusion. But when we saw the translation page, we were both sold. This book would make an excellent and beautiful welcome gift to anyone learning function or conversational English.
Three Little Dassies
Jan Brett has produced another interesting and beautiful re-interpretation of a classic children’s tale. In her version of The Three Little Pigs, we are transported to Namibia and meet dassies. Correctly called rock hyraxes, dassies are a medium-sized terrestrial mammal that live in Africa. They are the only extant member of the genus Procavia and one of only four extant species in the order Hyracoidea. They grow to about 50 cm and approximately 4 kg. They have very unusual incisors. Surprisingly, they are the African elephant’s closest living relative and these odd teeth are actually tusk remnants.
In Brett‘s story Mimbi, Timbi and Pimbi leave home to find somewhere new to live. Their names are a very cool little detail because pimbi is the Swahili word for dassie. They build (predictability) houses made of grasses, wood and stone. But they are seen by the Eagle! The Eagle does success in bringing two of the Little Dassies to his nest, but they escape with the help of the local Agawa lizard. The third Little Dassie, who had built a house out of rocks, was able to avoid the Eagle. When the Eagle saw that the other dassies had escaped, he dove down the chimney of the stone house. He was dyed black by the soot and smoke from the fire. In real life, dassies are hunted by black eagles and do live amoung lizards in rock caves. These details give the story a Just So Story kind of feel. Thank you, Wikipedia and Kruger Park for the above information and pictures regarding dassies.