Friday, March 25, 2011

Two Picture Books Illustrated By The Dillons: The Girl Who Spun Gold and Two Little Trains

The Girl Who Spun Gold

Written by Virginia Hamilton
Illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon
Ages 4 and up
"There be this tale told about a tiny fellow who could hide in a foot of shade amid old trees. All that most could see of him was the way he sparkled."
This is a West Indies inspired version of the tale of Rumpelstiltskin, called Lit'mahn in this story. The mother of a young village girl brags to the passing Big King about her daughter's ability to spin gold thread. Big King happily marries the girl, but "being young, he went too far." He tells her he will give her everything her heart desires, but in a year and a day she must start her spinning. You know how the story ends. Or do you?

I found this a refreshing take on the usual Grimm version. And it's fun to read aloud, once you get into the rhythm of the language. (Before you read the story aloud, be sure to first read it yourself to become familiar with the cadence of the words, because the sentence structure echoes the West Indian [Caribbean] dialect.) My girls liked it, too. They laughed in delight and oohed and aahed over the pictures.

And the pictures are stunning, with gold over-painted in strategic spots, beautifully reinforcing the story.

Illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon
Ages 3 and up

 "Two little trains went down the track,
Two little trains went west.
Puff, Puff, Puff and Chug, Chug, Chug,
Two little trains to the West." 

So begins this poem of two little trains, a "streamlined train" and a "little old train", "going west."
The marvelous pictures drive (pardon the pun) the story of two trains, one a sleek passenger train, the other a toy train. The movement of the real train is echoed in the imaginary scenarios featuring the toy train being played with at home. For example, when the "two little trains [come] to a hill, a mountainous hill to the West", the "streamlined train" passes through a tunnel in a hill and the toy train is shown passing through a tunnel formed by a book "mountain." 
Olivia (7) and Karina (6) liked the illustrations and liked pointing out the contrasting elements between the two trains. They have looked at the pictures more than once since we brought it home from the library, but were underwhelmed by the text. "Boring", was their response. Susanna (3) didn't "get" this book at all, and wandered away in the middle. None of them have asked me to re-read it.

That's not to say, of course, that it won't be loved by other children, which is one reason I'm featuring it here. And it was worth checking out for the pictures alone.

Both these books were borrowed from the library.

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