Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Children's Books and Animation - Not So Dissimilar

The semester officially comes to a close next week, so I've been busy with finishing up projects, getting ready for finals, and other fun stuff. I've also got a close friend's wedding this weekend, which should be fun, but a very full four days in Tahoe, and I've been stressing out a bit over getting ready for it.

A couple of weekends ago, my sisters and I followed our mom's Mother's Day wish, which was for us to go through the storage unit we've had for many, many years (long story, but the short of it is my family is extremely bad at getting rid of "family treasures"). We've slowly been working our way through it, but it's not easy and it's not much fun for the most part.

What was fun this time around was that all four of us sisters were there, and we were sorting through children's books that we had to have all four of us around to divvy up. Luckily, we all enjoy being around each other, and are very respectful of dividing up these family treasures - sometimes too much so: "If you really want it, you can have it." "No, you said you love it, so you should have it." And on and on.

You may have noticed from previous posts that books were and are important and cherished in our family. The children's books were especially so. Our parents would often read them to us before bed, or we would read to them as we got older. Or there were the cherished times of sharing the big comfy chair with mom or dad in their bedroom, sitting in the afternoon sun, getting the treat of a one-on-one storytime.

Going through our favorites again, I realized an interesting correlation between children's books and animated films. What is it that we all loved from these books that would hold up, even 30 years later? Appealing visuals, relatable characters, and a great story. Doesn't sound that complicated, does it?

And yet, how many animated films can you say follow those seemingly simple rules? One studio consistently comes to mind. There are others as well, but so often the story gets lost in the land of "wouldn't that look cool?" - like this whole 3D movies "new" fascination.

With that said, there are some excellent children's books out there, but too often others fall flat in either the illustrations or story. Kids don't pull their punches - if they don't like something, they either tell you so, or they get bored in the middle and won't even make it to the end. Let's not underestimate our audience here, and that's including the parents who have to escort the little kiddies to the movie theater or read them that precious book, or watch that DVD over and over.

Just a sample of some of our favorite authors from that box we went through that weekend:

- Maurice Sendak (of course!)
- Leo Lionni ("Swimmy", "Fish Is Fish", "Tico", "Frederick", "Alexander", and "Little Blue and Little Yellow" - this idea seems to have reappeared in the new Fritos ad - are some of our favorites)
- Karen Gunthorp, Ill. Attilio Canellini ("Fish for Breakfast", although we've just discovered there were a number of this "A Little Animal Book" books, with just as endearing illustrations, that are unfortunately now out of print)
- Virginia Kahl, "The Duchess Bakes a Cake"
- John Vernon Lord and Janet Burroway, "The Giant Jam Sandwich", a fun tale about a town infested by wasps who have to build a giant PB&J sandwich to catch them
Tomie De Paola, "Strega Nona" is the classic, but he has a number of great books
- Robert Bright, "Geo
rgie and the Robbers" - the ghost and drawings in this are adorable

I could go on, but those are a few to get started, and I didn't even start on the movies!

What are some of your favorite movies or books from childhood?

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