Author: Don Freeman
My rating: 4.5 of 5
In a big department store, a small stuffed bear named Corduroy sits on the shelf waiting for someone to take him home. One day, a customer points out that he’s missing a button, prompting a midnight expedition through the store in search of said button. Corduroy finds lots of interesting things that night. But the next morning, he finds something even better–a home and a new friend.
Over 50 years old, this picture book is just as charming and engaging as it was when it was originally published. Corduroy is just a very cute story, with a nice sprinkling of adventure and humor and a satisfying “happy ending.” I appreciate the way the author expresses Corduroy’s opinions of his experiences–“I guess I’ve always wanted to” or “I think I’ve always wanted to” for all the adventures in the store, but “I know I’ve always wanted” when it comes to a friend and a home. It’s a nice way of using repetition with variation that I like to see in kids’ books. Fair warning that this book is a bit text heavy when compared to other picture books; at age two-and-a-half, my niece is just now able to sit still for and enjoy reading the text in its entirety, but before that, I had to do some summarizing. (It’s recommended for ages 3-8, technically). As for the art itself, it’s got a charming old-school feel to it, one that both captures the flavor of when it was written back in the 1940’s but that is still enjoyable and approachable today. Corduroy is definitely a classic, and a picture book that I would recommend for just about any younger child.
Author: Richard Peck
Illustrator: Don Freeman
My rating: 4 of 5
Toby loves being at Grandma’s house during the day; every day is an adventure there. But at night, things are different. At night, in the dark, the monster comes and Grandma sleeps so far away, completely unawares. It seems like the best thing to do is to hide under the covers and hope the monster doesn’t notice him. But Toby can’t hide forever, and eventually he makes a very brave choice: he’s going to chase the monster right out of the house!
Monster Night at Grandma’s House is unique in that it is, to my knowledge, the only picture book Richard Peck has ever written. But while the writing style is necessarily different for this sort of genre, there are distinct traces of Peck’s style throughout. This is, in some ways, your typical “don’t be scared of the dark” sort of book, the sort you read to little kids who can’t go to sleep because of the “monsters” hiding under their beds. Only, this one doesn’t coddle kids and reassure them that “there aren’t any monsters; monsters aren’t real.” Rather–although it never shows any monsters, and an observant adult can see that Toby’s monsters are most likely the cat and his own shadow–this book never denies the reality of the monsters in Toby’s mind. It shows him having the courage to face his fears, however real or imagined they may be. And I think this is something that a lot of children would benefit from hearing. In addition to being a great story, Monster Night has some incredible ink and watercolor illustrations by Don Freeman which superbly accent the spooky, undefined atmosphere that Toby experiences in the story. I would definitely recommend Monster Night at Grandma’s House, particularly as a read-aloud for younger children (3-5 or thereabouts).