Sunday, November 4, 2012
Whistle for Willie by Ezra Jack Keats
Rating: 4 stars
We all know--possibly by heart--the wonderful Snowy Day. One of the best winter books of all time. But Ezra Jack Keats wrote a bunch of other books, too, that are worth checking out. One of my favorite things about his books is the different perspective he offers to kids who live in communities like ours. We live in a sweet house with a gigantic yard and woods surrounding us, where we can see our neighbors well only in the winter, when the leaves are off the trees. It is quite idyllic; I am quite fortunate.
Therefore, the idea of apartments and apartment living is, literally, a foreign concept to them. I love Keats' books because he incorporates apartment living in all of his books--a shared hallway, walking up the stairs to the door, playing on the sidewalk, sitting on the stoop. There is so much to city living that is really a different culture than that which they are experiencing now. I want our trio to understand that apartments exist and what they are like--and how fortunate we are to have all the space that we have.
Today we added a little to Keats' words and walked all around our old neighborhood in Arlington. We lived in a single family home there, but along our walk today we saw several apartment complexes, so I had the opportunity to add a visual to the words in this book and others. Lorelei and I noted how tall the buildings were (was it better to live on the top, middle or bottom? we mused) and how small the outdoor spaces were (what sort of garden could you have?). It was interesting, one of those moments you can see your child's mind stretched, if only just a little.
Anyway, Whistle for Willie is one of my favorite Keats books, aside from the wonderful Snowy Day. It's the next in line, a sequel to the classic, and Peter really really really wants to learn how to whistle so he can call his dog, Willie. In a day that is quite ordinary for him, Peter focuses on whistling with all his might. And for those of you out there with children who are trying to whistle, you've got to crack a smile at the image and sound of their plight! Peter is a likable little fellow, and every reader, big and small, will applaud his efforts and the real whistle that finally comes from his mouth at the end.
On a slightly different note, I'm happy to say that none of my kids can whistle. Yet. One of my nieces learned how to whistle about a year ago and MAN was there a lot of whistling at their house! She wanted to practice that new talent of hers at the breakfast table, while playing, during a show, after reading, at the dinner table...you name it, she was was whistling while doing it. I had to laugh, even at my exasperated sister's face. So we only check this book out only every now and then, because whistling isn't a skill that I encourage, for my own sanity's sake!