Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Reader's Diary #34- Betsy James (Author), Paul Morin (Illustrator): The Mud Family

I've said this before, and it won't be the last time. A good children's book should have quality writing AND quality illustration. If one of these is compromised the whole book is compromised. And The Mud Family by Betsy James and illustrated by Paul Morin makes no compromises.

What a great book for a social studies class, history class, religion class or just plain enjoyment. It tells the story of Sosi, an Anasazi girl who feels more than a little rejected by her family as they stress over a drought. What I like most about the story is its universal appeal coming out of such a different culture than most of us are familiar with. What child doesn't feel ignored at some point? Especially when her family is going through a crisis. Furthermore, Sosi copes with her feelings through her imagination- again a universal idea. And the Anasazi people are such an interesting people to explore with child readers. On the one hand they can relate to Sosi's feelings and on the other hand be totally shocked by her way of life. Sosi's family relies almost entirely on nature and this is stressed on every page in some way- quite a contrast to the modern world of the Western hemisphere.

What I like about the artwork is its complement to the story itself. Morin uses mostly Earth tones for his oil paintings and these, coupled with the texture of the canvas itself, seem to mirror the drought imagery described in the story. Quite a book.

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