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Ama's Picture Books

My grandmother recently left me her entire collection of picture books and children's literature. The entire collection is comprised of over 300 books. I am attempting to read as many as possible in 2014.

Stone Soup

Stone Soup - Jon J. Muth

by Jon J Muth


I generally like Muth's books, and Stone Soup is no exception. He seems to respect Chinese culture* (actual respect, not cultural appropriation "respect"), and his illustrations are beautiful as always.


Still, it's a western tale retold in an Asian setting which isn't my favorite type of story. I did find it interesting how he tied in Chinese elements through the illustrations though.


*I say seems because I myself am very much an outsider to Chinese culture in many ways, especially that depicted in this book.

Knots on a Counting Rope

Knots on a Counting Rope (Reading Rainbow Books) - Bill Martin Jr., John Archambault, Ted Rand

written by Bill Martin Jr and John Archambault, illustrated by Ted Rand


Another problematic picture book about American Indians. Really disappointing 1. that there are so many out there and 2. that Ama bought so many. I really don't know what I'm going to do with these books.


To read more about the problematic aspects of this book, you can look here (just do a search for the title).

Beasts of the Tar Pit

Beasts of the Tar Pits: Tales of Ancient America - Written by W. W. Robinson

by WW Robinson and Irene B Robinson


This book was my uncle Bruce's. I'm pretty sure it's also one of the last books I shelved (besides the Christmas books which is why it's out of order). It was an interesting read. The book itself is pretty old (older than Page Museum), and there were a lot of times I was left wondering how scientists decided what an animal ate or how it ended up in the tar pits. So it was slightly unsatisfying on that front, but overall not a bad book. It would be interesting to read a newer book about the tar pits to see if anything has changed.

The Emperor and the Kite

The Emperor and the Kite - Jane Yolen, Ed Young

written by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Ed Young


The story is good, but the illustrations are AMAZING. I'm a sucker for paper art, and Ed Young's are fantastic.

Dear Katie, The Volcano Is a Girl

Dear Katie, the Volcano Is a Girl - Jean Craighead George, Daniel Powers

written by Jean Craighead George, illustrated by Daniel Powers


Most of the illustrations in this book deserve more than one star, but I'm not willing to go up because I hated the story so much.


It's informative, but why on earth are the two characters haole? I'm not here for a haole kid to go around telling me the story of Pele, thanks. George could have at least made the granddaughter Hawaiian.


Sumorella - Esther Szegedy, TAKAYAMA

written by Sandi Takayama, illustrated by Esther Szegedy


This book, along with Keaka and the Liliko'i Vine and The Three Little Hawaiian Pigs and the Magic Shark (both written by Donivee Martin Laird and illustrated by Carol Jossem) are Hawaiian retellings of Western fairy tales. They're all fun and enjoyable, but I'd rather read Hawaiian tales over Hawaiian retellings.

White Wave

White Wave: A Chinese Tale - Diane Wolkstein

retold by Diane Wolkstein, illustrated by Ed Young


My love affair with Ed Young continues. The pencil illustrations are lovely.


Fu-Dog - Rumer Godden

written by Rumer Godden, illustrated by Valerie Littlewood


Is Li-La a name that works as a Chinese given name? I've been googling for a little bit and can't seem to find any evidence that supports it as such.


This is my second picture book that I couldn't finish. I got about two pages in and then read about Li-La's slant eyes and yellow skin and was totally done. Skip this one.

The Legend of Lao Tzu and the Tao Te Ching

The Legend of Lao Tzu and the Tao Te Ching - Demi

by Demi


The more I read of Demi the less I like her. This book was difficult to read (literally, who thought it would be a good idea to print the story in gold ink?), and I could have done without the twenty verses of the Tao Te Ching in the middle (I skipped most of them and probably won't return to this book to finish them).

Old Turtle

Old Turtle - Douglas Wood, Cheng-Khee Chee

written by Douglas Wood, illustrated by Cheng-Khee Chee


The story was different from what I was expecting. It's very religious/spiritual and I was expecting an animal fable or something like that. The story's not bad (maybe a little pedantic at times), and the illustrations are beautiful (four stars to the illustrations).

Hiroshima no Pika

Hiroshima No Pika - Toshi Maruki

by Toshi Maruki


I've never seen this book before, and I don't know when Ama bought it. I'm curious if she owned it when I used to visit her and if she kept it in a different place so where I wouldn't find it. 


It's definitely not a book you can just hand to a child (well, you can, but some discussion would definitely go a long way). That said, I don't think it's inappropriate for a child either. It's a terrible part of history, but a part that deserves to be remembered nonetheless.

Yoko's Paper Cranes

Yoko's Paper Cranes - Rosemary Wells

by Rosemary Wells


I love the patterns in the illustrations in this book. One small note: the text says Yoko's card says "Soon I will come back to Japan, just like the cranes." But the card in the illustration says Happy Birthday, Grandma. That's probably supposed to be the outside and the message is inside the card, or so I'm guessing. Just something I noticed. It doesn't take away from the story at all though.

How the Moon Regained Her Shape

How the Moon Regained Her Shape - Janet Ruth Heller

written by Janet Ruth Heller, illustrated by Ben Hodson


Go here for good critiques on this story. My warning flags went up when I was reading the dust jacket copy (mentions of Native American folk tales with no specific tribes/nations mentioned anywhere in the book). I want to like this book because science, but I can't because of the terrible/disrespectful representation of American Indians. Skip this one.

The Princess Kaiulani

The Princess Kaiulani - Helen P. Hoyt

written by Helen P Hoyt, illustrated by Jackie Black


I had a different book about Princess Ka'iulani when I was a kid. I didn't like this one as much as I remember liking that one. The frame of a grandmother writing letters to her granddaughter wasn't interesting to me. Also, there were parts of the story that I found strange (like when the grandmother writes that Ka'iulani is being sent to England to learn to be a real princess).


Sadako - Eleanor Coerr, Ed Young

written by Eleanor Coerr, illustrated by Ed Young


Of all the books I read with Ama, Sadako is definitely one of the ones I most associate with our summers together (a few others are Harry Potter, The Giver, and Holes). After we read it, Ama taught me how to fold paper cranes and we made them out of everything (mostly old magazines) and kept them in a large paper grocery bag. 


I don't remember this edition that well. Probably because I had a different copy at home and only read this one at Ama's one summer. I enjoyed Ed Young's illustrations, but the definitive edition for me will always be the paperback.

Dumping Soup

Dumpling Soup - Jama Kim Rattigan

written by Jama Kim Rattigan, illustrated by Lillian Hsu-Flanders


This is a great New Year's story. It really highlights all the best parts of the holiday (mostly eating a ton of food and seeing family). Reading this book made me so hungry!