Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Random Shelf: Picture Book

I've spent much of my reading time recently focusing on the advanced readers' copies I collected from ALA. I don't review books that aren't in the library's collection, so I haven't had much to review recently!

I like to create reading challenges on the blog, and my most recent one is "The Random Shelf." I will randomly pick a picture book, easy reader, chapter book, biography, nonfiction, or YF/YA book and read matter if I don't like the cover, subject, etc. I don't look at the title or author-just pick it from the shelf.

Yesterday, I randomly selected Garth Pig and the Ice Cream Lady by Mary Rayner. Fans of cute books about pigs, take note. This one is a charmer-and quite a clever one, too. Quite perfect for summer, as the main activity is buying ice cream from the ice cream man's truck. Remember those trucks? I think they were fading away when I was a kid. On the other hand, I did see an ice cream truck pull out in front of traffic on Rte. 29 several weeks ago, so I guess they're still chugging along.

A family of young pigs hears the unmistakable music of the ice cream truck. They immediately drop their play to beg Mama Pig for money. She acquiesces, but only one little pig is allowed to collect the ice cream.

How is the little pig chosen? If you're familiar with the more gruesome traditional schoolchildren's chants, you'll get a kick out of the "eeny meeny miney mo" method of choosing the ice cream collector:

Ham, bacon, pork chop
Out you must hop.

Mrs. Pig's reaction:

'Goodness me, where do they pick up such words? I am sure they have never heard them in this house.'

Of course, drama is a necessary component of literature, and drama comes in the form of a wolf (naturally) in the guise of an ice cream seller. Garth (the chosen pig) is lured into the ice cream truck, which motors away as soon as he steps in (Yikes! The stereotypical method of a kidnapper!).

Meanwhile, the other piggies are wondering where their ice cream is, and set out to find Garth. Need I tell you that Garth is eventually found, safe and secure, with a comic ending to the Wolf?

The back cover of the book informs us that Garth Pig and the Ice Cream Lady was a runner-up to the Kate Greenaway Medal, which is a British medal for children's literature. There are a few Britishisms in the story (Mrs. Pig tells the piggies to "mind" the floor) that add to the story's charm. While it may be a bit too long for a toddler read aloud, a preschooler should definitely enjoy the humor and drama of the story.

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