Haven't done this in a while!
The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School
This Gingerbread Man story adapted for a school story is funny, charming, and a good read aloud for a school-themed story time. After Class 23 finishes baking their gingerbread man, they leave the room to focus on other activities and to let him cool. Alarmed that his class has left him, The Gingerbread Man races from place to place in search of the students: "I'm the Gingerbread Man/And I'm trying to find/The children who made me/But left me behind." The school nurse, art teacher, and principal assist him on his way to the eventual reunion. Not only is it cute (the rhymes are occasionally a little forced, but no big deal), but it includes school officials not normally seen in school-related picture books (art teacher and school nurse).
I love this. I really, really, love this. If I were pressed to pick my favorite for the Caldecott, I think this would be it. Me...Jane is the story of a little girl who loved animals. She loved reading about animals, observing animals, and drawing animals. She also dreamed of going to Africa. Every night, she would tuck in her stuffed monkey, Jubilee and dream big dreams. Until one day, she woke up (we see an illustration of a grown up Jane awakening in a big tent) "to her dream come true" (we see a photograph of a young Jane Goodall reaching out to a small chimpanzee). Beautiful! The life of Dr. Goodall has been the subject of several picture books (several written by Goodall herself, who includes the education of children as a very important part of her work) but none nearly as beautiful and touching as this one.
Now We Can Have a Wedding!
I believe this came to our library through a donation, and I'm so pleased that we have it. Sallie's sister is getting married; as she visits her neighbors in her diverse apartment building, we are introduced to a variety of wedding food from different cultures. Yes! I'm a fan of cross-cultural books like this (Everybody Cooks Rice, which is similar, Bread, Bread, Bread, etc). The neighbors also teach Sallie the symbolism of the food and why they are prepared a specific way. An appendix identifies each food and its significance in its culture.
This is just so darn cute. Cute with a capital C. But not so cute that it's overbearing. Little Elephant, like the young of every species, is curious about everything. Mama Elephant has told Little Elephant to tweak twice on her tail if he/she has a question; of course, Little Elephant is full of questions about all the creatures that come into their path. No, Little Elephant cannot jump like a frog, but he/she can stomp his/her foot and make a big sound! Little Elephant cannot climb up the acacia tree like a monkey, but he/she can scratch against the tree. And so on and so on, until it's time to go home. Does Little Elephant remember the way home? Sure he/she does!
Although the majority of the text is dialogue, I'm planning to use this in an upcoming elephant-themed story time (I don't often use dialogue-heavy books for read alouds). The dialogue is distinct, captivating, and compact, making it a fine read aloud. I'm putting this on my Caldecott shortlist; don't expect it to win, but that Little Elephant is just too adorable to ignore.
Also on my Caldecott shortlist is The Crossing, which tells the Lewis and Clark Expedition through the eyes of Sacagawea's baby, Jean Baptiste. Jean Baptiste, strapped to his mother's back for months as she guided the men to and through the Pacific Northwest, narrates the perilous journey and the majestic scenery of this awe-inspiring territory. Donna Jo Napoli's text and Jim Madsen's illustrations evoke the grandeur of this unspoilt territory and the grand adventures of exploration.