Book Reviews: Picture Books by the Lobels

We have finished our stack of Arnold Lobel books, and this is our final Lobel review. To end it, we’ve got a quartet of Lobel picture books: The Turnaround Wind, On Market Street, Ming Ho Moves the Mountain, and The Great Blueness and Other Predicaments. As I’ve come to expect, some of Lobel’s books are awesome, and some of them are just weird and mediocre. You have the usual mix, here.

turnaround-windThe Turnaround Wind began with a great idea that you might think a great illustrator could pull off, but I just don’t think the standards were high enough, here. I believe this was published posthumously, which might be why the illustrations are both “sketchy” (in the literal sense), pale and half-baked/not quite realized. And this book is all about the illustrations. It’s built that way. However, the text also could have been less scripted (like to explain the illustrations). Not recommended, unless you are a brilliant children’s illustrator who is going to take this book to the next level and a tribute to Lobel.

on-market-streetOn Market Street is a Lobel classic, which he made in cahoots with his wife, who was also an illustrator. Despite it’s plaudits, it’s not my favorite. The idea, I think, is better than the execution, and not because Anita’s illustrations aren’t enjoyable, but more because Arnold could have given her better text and word choices to work with. On the other hand, it is a unique book, and the illustrations are worth snuggling up with and taking a slow walk through with your kids. Once.

ming-lo-moves-the-moutainMing Ho Moves the Mountain might be my favorite of the four books here. This and the next book are more standard picture books, with soft illustrations and a straightforward plot. This one reads like a Chinese fable, although I am not at all sure if the story came from somewhere older than Lobel. I am mystified by all the reviews out there from people who either didn’t understand the book or were confused until the “surprise” ending. The kids and I just slid along with the plot, familiar with other stories like it. Yes, the peasant man and his wife end up being the fools (unbeknownst to them), but they are also the villains (or the complainers). In the end, the moral is for the more virtuous readers, who should learn a lesson in contentment and gratitude from a somewhat silly story. I would recommend the book.

the-great-bluenessThe Great Blueness and Other Predicaments is another winner. While teaching a few different morals and primary and secondary colors, the kids will be entertained and your literary sensibilities will remain unoffended. In an original fable where a wizard discovers color in a black-and-white world, both the story and illustrations are quality and engaging.


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