Herman and Rosie by Gus Gordon
Herman is a crocodile who lives in New York and finds it very lonely. He loves playing his oboe in his apartment. His job selling things on the telephone, makes his life less lonely because he can talk to people, but doesn’t make him very good at his job. Rosie lives in the building next door to Herman and she loves to sing. She has a job washing dishes but loves most of all her singing lessons and performing in a little jazz club on Thursday nights. The two are lonely but fairly happy because both of them hear great music floating into their windows from time to time. Then one day Herman loses his job and Rosie discovers that the jazz club is closing. The two of them head home and don’t make any music for a long time. Until they wake up one morning and things have changed. They are craving their favorite food and want to make music.
Gordon has written a picture book ode to big city living, particularly New York. He incorporates the potential loneliness of urban life but also praises the bustling, the music, the lifestyle. The characters are quirky and believable. They are the sort of characters who make perfect sense, whose actions are credible, reactions ring true, and they make the entire book work.
Gordon writes and illustrates with a playful tone. His illustrations are done in mixed media, including photographs, paint, and pencil. The different media are worked together so thoroughly that at times you never notice the photos mixed in. They are so cleverly done that it all forms one unified piece until something catches your eye.
Two musical souls in one big lonely city where they live next door to one another. It’s a combination just as exquisite as New York itself. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.
The Camel in the Sun by Griffin Ondaatje, illustrated by Linda Wolfsgruber
Based on a story from Sri Lanka and a traditional Muslim hadith, this book is the story of an aging camel. The camel has traveled the deserts carrying his owner and bundles of trade goods for years. One day the camel starts to cry with his misery, but his owner shows no compassion and simply climbs back on. The camel never showed his misery in the daylight again, but at night he started to escape and float like a boat on the water. Then they arrived in the city of Medina, where the Prophet was staying. The camel’s owner immediately goes to sleep in the shade, leaving his camel on a short lead, tied in place, and in the full heat of the sun. The Prophet sees the grief of the camel and shows the owner what the camel is feeling.
Beautifully told, this book pays deep homage to the traditions that it is based on. The origins of the story are clearly detailed in his author’s note. Ondaatje demonstrates the misery of the life of the camel and his sadness in detail, making sure that readers understand that this is deep sadness and a life of misery. He clearly explains compassion in a tangible way, showing readers what it means to learn how to be compassionate.
The illustrations are exceptional. They capture the grittiness of the desert with earth tones using different painting techniques combined with line drawings in various colors. Readers will notice that the Prophet is not depicted in the images, showing respect for the culture and beliefs.
A strong story about compassion, this book offers a glimpse at Muslim traditions as well as a beautiful story that everyone can enjoy and learn from. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Reviewed from library copy.
NPR has a very dynamic page for their best books list and it’s amazingly lovely. They have sections so you can just view the Kids’ Books or the Young Adult Books. Or feel free to browse them all!