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Archive for October 29th, 2018

 

by Sam Juliano

Eleanor Estes won a Newbery Honor in 1945 for a deeply poignant work about bullying, immigration, intolerance and forgiveness titled The Hundred Dresses.  The timeless classic, illustrated in striking minimalist watercolors by Louis Slobodkin is as relevant today as ever.  The book’s central character is a young Polish girl, Wanda Petronski, whose odd name, foreign accent and impoverishment make her the object of ridicule to the students in her small town Connecticut classroom.   Maddie, a fellow classmate realizes, too late, that she has been unkind to one of her fellow pupils. Led by Peggy, Maddie’s best friend and the most popular girl in school,  take acute aim at her preposterous mendacious claim that she possess one hundred beautiful dresses, when she wears the same tattered dress to the school everyday.   It is only when Wanda wins the class drawing contest, for her one hundred pictures of various beautiful dresses, that Maddie and Peggy realize what Wanda was talking about.  Though Wanda’s family moves her to the city because of the bad treatment she received, she wins a drawing contest and demonstrates generosity to her tormentors.  The Hundred Dresses suggests that bowing to peer pressure cab lead to profound regret and missed opportunities.  In the 1955 Caldecott Honor winning Crow Boy by Yaro Yashima a young boy is isolated from other children but is taken under the wings of his teacher Mr. Isobe, who brings out Chibi’s creativity and knowledge in their Japanese village schoolhouse.  Numerous other picture books and young adult novels have examined this theme, with a popular new millennium entry The Brand New Kid by Katie Couric and Marjorie Priceman a soulful study of tolerance in the case of a boy evincing physical and behavioral disparities.

A valuable lesson is achieved in one of the most distinguished picture books of 2018, Adrian Simcox Does Not Have a Horse by Marcy Campbell with illustrations by Corrina Luyken.  A boy wearing shoes with holes and securing free lunches at school is seen by his classmates as a teller of tall tales, a modern day counterpart of the perjurer Samantha in Eveline Ness’ 1966 Caldecott Medal winner Sam, Bangs and Moonshine, who declares she owns a pet kangaroo among other deceits.  Adrian waxes lyrical about his proud ownership of a horse, often elaborating in wildly descriptive terms, and quickly rallying to mitigate the feasibility of such a claim.  Yet, Campbell poses that Adrian’s innocuous contentions lead to inventiveness in this veiled tale about the power of the imagination that transcends it’s seeming insurmountable obstacles.  In mostly sedate, autumnal hues master artist Corinna Luyken, whose previous picture book debut The Book of Mistakes won a spate of starred reviews has brought astonishing and controlled resplendence to a minimalist narrative of mutual realization and budding friendship in a terrain where some will never in economic terms have what others do.  Young adult novelist S. E. Hinton would assert Adrian’s type comes from the “other side of the tracks” but Campbell and Luyken know well that inspiration can come from the most unlikely of places. (more…)

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