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Rise and shine (and read)
Can we read? No. 112
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Rise and Shine, Mariko-Chan! by Chiyoko Tomioka, illustrated by Yoshiharu Tsuchida (1986)
It wasn’t until I had children that I had any idea how appealing it is to them to read about the most mundane things in life: maybe when you’re learning how the world works and the ways in which your own life fits together, it’s comforting (not to mention helpful) to see how other people handle it all.
This is both the appeal and charm of Mariko-Chan, whom the reader accompanies on an ordinary morning as she dresses, breakfasts with her family, says goodbye to her two older sisters as they leave for school, sees her parents off as they commute together, and then waits impatiently with her grandmother for her own school bus to come. It’s very much a day-in-the-life story full of easy (though not perfect) family interactions and affection. Tsuchida’s illustrations are warm and gratifying and that’s exactly right: this is a warm and gratifying book.
Small World by Ishta Mercurio, illustrated by Jen Corace (2019)
“When Nanda was born, the whole of the world was wrapped in the circle of her mother’s arms: safe, warm, small.” As she grows, of course, her world grows too. She inhabits different circles and bigger realities — her loving family, the playground where she plays with her friends, as well as the world around her.
She gets older. She sees more, she travels more, eventually making it all the way to the moon, where she turns to see the world she left behind — “A circle called home: safe, and warm, and small.”
This is a gorgeous, poetic meditation — Corace’s illustrations, created with gouache, ink, and pencil, are especially lovely here — on the beauty of juxtaposition: our world and everything in it is sometimes small, sometimes big, but always valuable, if only we have the eyes to see it.
The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr (1968)
Don’t let the fact that this book is 55 years old deter you — some books age incredibly well and still others never grow out of favor, and both are true of this ever-delightful story.
One day Sophie and her mummy are having tea when a tiger rings the doorbell and invites himself in. They allow this, and, having excellent manners, offer him food and drink, which he consumes before requesting more — he is a tiger, after all. This goes on for quite some time, until the tiger has gobbled everything in the house, including all the water in the tap (so Sophie can’t have her bath), but mother and daughter handle this with charming aplomb — when Daddy comes home, they all go out to dinner and enjoy themselves, no harm done.
This is one of those cheerful, always-satisfying titles that captivates toddlers and preschoolers — that’s why it has held up so well for more than five decades. If you have a 2-5yo, I highly recommend this one.
Oh, What a Busy Day by Gyo Fujikawa (1976)
Speaking of books with evergreen appeal: file pioneer Gyo Fujikawa (whose contributions to children’s literature were groundbreaking enough to inspire an excellent picture book biography about her life, titled It Began With A Page: How Gyo Fujikawa Drew the Way, which I also recommend) under “an author whose work you should snap up anytime you see it if you have babies and toddlers.” I have never met a little one who wasn’t completely taken in by her adorable and charming illustrations of, well, babies and toddlers (see below).
Good thing she was also as skilled a writer as an illustrator, because the words in her work are just as delightful — like in this book, where she brings readers along through the course of a day, from morning until night, showcasing all the things (and a few lessons) little folks might say and do and think and learn, from rhymes to games to thoughts for daydreaming.
I might love this book because I love Fujikawa, but I don’t think so: it’s genuinely fascinating for the youngest among us and as such, is worthy of your time.
Whether you’re reading to the children in your life for five minutes a day or 50, you’re doing a great job — keep it up!