03 April 2010

It's been a while . . .

My last post was back at the beginning of February, almost exactly two months ago. I am not the world's most consistent blogger, but even I know that eight weeks of no activity is slacking. I would like to claim that I gave up blogging for lent, but, really, life just got the better of me these past two months and my blog took a back seat to, well, everything. But we have been reading and there are a couple of books that I have had in the back of my mind to write about when I had the time and energy to focus. So here goes . . .

One of the books that I bought on the last day of the AASL conference last November was No! That's Wrong by Zhaohua Ji and Cui Xu. It is published by Kane Miller, a publisher that only publishes childrens books from other countries. This book has many elements that appeal to boys: animals doing ridiculous things, pieces of clothing being worn in unusual ways, and, best of all, underwear!

The text is sparse, with some pages having none at all. On the first page all the reader sees is a pair of red, kind of frilly underwear, being blown off a clothesline. On the second page that same set of underwear ends up on rabbit's head. Having never seen underwear before, he assumes it is a hat, and a very nice hat he thinks it makes. The unseen narrator tells him that it is, in fact, not a hat, but rabbit does not listen. As he wanders through the forest and meets other animals, they all try on the hat, but it does not fit anyone as well as it fits rabbit. All the while the narrator is insisting that it is NOT a hat. Donkey is the only one who also knows it is not a hat and shows rabbit how the underwear are supposed to be worn. But they just do not fit his hind quarters as well as they do his head. On his head there are two holes for his ears, but as underwear there is not hole for his tail. And, of course, all of the other animals think rabbit looks ridiculous wearing his HAT on the wrong part of his body. So, back on his head they go and rabbit pushes the narrator out of the story and affirms that it is indeed a wonderful hat!

There is a message in this story about being true to yourself. The rabbit is happy and carefree when he has the underwear on his head, but confused and uncomfortable and even scared when wearing them "correctly." Then he is joyful at the end when he has decided to trust his instincts, even if it it means doing something "wrong." Coming from China, there are also cultural and political lessons in the story. You can discuss these themes, or just enjoy the story.

The text is repetitive and children will enjoy taking on the parts of different characters. The illustrations are watercolors, but they are not muted or faded. The colors are vibrant and help set the rabbit's mood. The end papers add an additional plot line to the story as the other animals, inspired by rabbit, seek out their own unusual hats.

Isaac enjoys this story and laughs at the animals antics, as I am sure many other boys will do. If boys must read about underwear, then this is a book to pass on to them.

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