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She’s learning and I didn’t even notice

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Elisa Kleven’s The Lion and the Little Red Bird is about a bird who wonders why a lion’s tail is different colors on different days (red, orange, blue, etc.). She asks him, but he doesn’t understand bird. They form a friendship despite the language barrier. A rainstorm ruins the bird’s nest and causes the lion to bring her inside his cave, where the reason for his ever-changing tail is revealed. When the bird finally finds out that he’s been painting with his tail she sings a beautiful song that the lion loves. It’s about inter-special friendship, the power of art and music to transcend cultural differences, and colors. One hardly notices the colors with everything else that is going on and I love that. My daughter also loves lions, so she’s happy. The rare books that trick one into learning are great — not because my daughter needs to be tricked, but because I enjoy reading books which don’t make me think “now I am reading about counting, now I am reading about coloring, she is learning about coloring now, she is learning about counting now” but instead have some sort of narrative.

There is a great Pimpa book (Pimpa va a casa di Nino) which, although not as subtle, manages to count from one to nine with a convincing (though slightly bizarre) narrative. The main trick is, I think, that completely different things are counted. So instead of say, just choosing a totally random example, one monkeys, two monkeys, three monkeys, etc. it is about a dog who gets in a canoe to visit her penguin friend Nino. [I used to have some stuff here about rainbows, but it proved too controversial and I revealed my lack of scientific rainbow knowledge.] I bet you are more interested in what happens at the end of this book than in the ten little monkeys jumping on the bed one, right? Armando gets a treat from the North Pole.

4 responses »

  1. The bird’s wing looks like a tissue box. 😉 I always wondered what that design was called. . . .

    Also, when you say Italian has two words for blue and English doesn’t, what about the very English “Roy G. Biv” rainbow? Indigo is a type of blue as far as I can tell!

    • I know indigo is officially part of the English rainbow, but most little kids (that I know, may be the kids I hang out with) don’t use indigo with the regularity that Italian kids use their two blues. I meant more what I find in kids books, but perhaps the American/British ones try to be “official” as well include indigo. Something to look into … I’ll get back to you!

  2. I love The Lion and the Little Red Bird, too! But I’m confused about the Italian rainbow… isn’t it rosso, arancione, giallo, verde, blu (o azzurro, but not both), viola, indaco? So basically the same as ours, I thought. I always considered indigo/indaco a shade of purple. It’s true that not a lot of American kids use the word indigo, but do a lot of Italian kids use ‘indaco’? Or were you talking about one of the other words for blu (azzurro, celeste)? I’m curious what that book presents as the rainbow in Italian.

    • it looks pretty blu azzurro to me, but i know all color perception is crazy and it probably officially indaco. they make a much bigger deal of the rainbow having seven colors in it than i have ever seen an american/british book doing — but to be honest i have not looked extensively into rainbows. you and avra have convinced me and i retract my above statements about colors.


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