Tag Archives: linguistics

Weslandia

Author: Paul Fleischmanweslandia

Illustrator: Kevin Hawkes

My rating: 5 of 5

Wesley’s always been, well, different. His parents worry about him; the other kids pick on him; he just doesn’t fit in anywhere . . . until one summer when everything changes. Wesley decides to work on a summer gardening project, but instead of growing carrots or tomatoes, he prepares the soil and leaves it open for whatever seeds happen to fall, refusing to pull up the shoots that appear to be weeds. And what plants they grow into! Wesley finds all sorts of uses for every single part of these incredible plants. But it’s more than that–he’s developing food, clothing, language, and eventually community and games–all because of this one summer project. In essence, he’s created his own miniature civilization. Pretty incredible!

Weslandia was an unexpected find, although I’ve always enjoyed Fleischman’s writing. It’s an incredible picture book–beautiful and imaginative–that doesn’t just bring a whimsical fantasy to life (although it does that with aplomb!) but also delves into the concepts of what really makes a civilization. Even better, it breaks the concepts down into pieces that even younger children can readily appreciate–without being didactic about it. It’s a story about creativity and ingenuity. Also a tale about being yourself, not giving in to peer pressure, and making friends your own way. All in all, pretty amazing. Not to mention, Hawkes’ art is, as always, charming. I would recommend Weslandia to readers of all ages–but I’d also note that it would make a great jumping off point for classroom discussions about building civilizations and suchlike. Either way, great fun!

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The Calder Game

the calder gameAuthor: Blue Balliett

Illustrator: Brett Helquist

My rating: 4 of 5

Prequels: Chasing Vermeer, The Wright 3

This volume is an inventive mystery combining elements of art, mathematics, word-studies, psychology, and many others into a fascinating story. In this book, Tommy, Petra, and Calder are introduced to the works of artist Alexander Calder, only to get caught up in a seeming crime involving one of his works. They are also challenged throughout the story to play the Calder Game, thinking of ideas in groups of five in ways that balance like a mobile. Seeing the individuals in the story change and grow, both individually and in their relationships, is a rewarding part of the story. I think one of the most fascinating aspects of Balliett’s work, however, is the way in which she clearly demonstrates that different people have different ways of thinking. This is something that, I think, most everyone “knows”, but that very few are actually aware of. Balliett’s writing makes it easier to really grasp how those differences in thinking alter our perceptions of the world around us. This is an excellent book for those who love art, enjoy a good mystery, and have a vibrant sense of discovery and adventure.

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