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Mythology, Making Room, and Missing Mittens

By Lani Harac — December 22, 2004 2 min read

Many of this season’s picture books encourage the youngest readers (grades K-3) to look at themselves and the world in new ways. Ana Juan’s The Night Eater (Arthur A. Levine) is a contemporary myth about a whimsical creature that devours the darkness each evening, thus allowing daylight to return. In Making Room (Tundra), it seems that every time the sun rises, Annie Smith says to her husband, “John William, dear, I think we need ... ” and asks for a nursery, a proper kitchen, a bigger parlor. Joanne Taylor’s story, illustrated by Peter Rankin, is based on the lives of an early 19th century Nova Scotia couple who expanded their home to keep up with the needs of a growing family.

G. Francis Johnson takes on a modern-day challenge, this one in New York City. Helped by Dimitrea Tokunbo’s illustrations, Has Anybody Lost a Glove? (Boyds Mills) asks readers to use color, texture, fabric, and other clues to answer the title’s question. Ian Goobie, the main character of Pocket Rocks (Orca), has no problem employing his senses in everyday life—in fact, they often overlap because he has synesthesia, a condition that causes multiple sensory reactions at the same time. Sheree Fitch’s tale, illustrated by Helen Flook, offers a glimpse of Ian’s fanciful thoughts and how the rocks he collects keep him grounded.

Tomasito, on the other hand, is tired of having spina bifida, which confines him to a wheelchair. But he eventually learns to “fly” on the soccer field, using the chair to his advantage. Author Juan Felipe Herrera’s book, Featherless/ Desplumado (Children’s Book Press), is written in English and Spanish and illustrated by Ernesto Cuevas Jr. Another bilingual volume, My Name Is Celia/Me Llamo Celia (Luna Rising), is a colorful biography of the late Celia Cruz. Monica Brown and illustrator Rafael López recount the singer’s impoverished beginnings in Havana, Cuba, and her rise to fame as the Queen of Salsa after arriving in the United States.

In Ellison the Elephant (Kidwick), by Eric Drachman and illustrator James Muscarello, the young pachyderm of the title feels out of place because he can’t trumpet like the rest of the herd. He discovers, however, that he has something better—a “jazz trunk,” admired and emulated by all. The main character in Doggie in the Window (Groundwood) just wants to be admired by one person: Miss Madeleine. Elaine Arsenault and an illustrator simply known as Fanny tell the story of a pup determined to make the seamstress realize he’s more than just a cute pet, even if that means impersonating other animals.

Chih-Yuan Chen’s Guji Guji (Kane/Miller) takes even further the idea that we can be more than what others assume. Guji Guji, a crocodile mistakenly raised as a duckling, has a run-in with three reptilian creatures who look a lot like him—and who want his help trapping the ducks for dinner. But the clever croc decides that he’s not cut out to be a carnivore and endeavors to save his adoptive feathered family.