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July 2014

Great Interspecies Friendships in Children’s Literature

This summer, I’ve developed a fascination with animal-themed youtube videos and spent way too many Saturday afternoons just clicking one after another. Yes, I know that much of the population with internet access has been doing this for years and I’m only catching up. One of my favorite themes in these videos are the interspecies relationships – the distressed, orphaned elephant befriending a sheep, the bear, tiger and lion who now live together after being rescued together from an abusive owner, a female tiger nursing piglets. For nonhumans, they offer great examples for humanity on compassion, acceptance, and friendship.

This reminded me of how so much of children’s literature is populated with interspecies friendships and family relationships and the values those relationships can teach us. Here a few that come to mind:

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White: I hate spiders, but I would make an exception for Charlotte, the spider who befriends Wilbur, a lonely pig, and works tirelessly to spare him from being slaughtered. Their friendship becomes one that spans generations and the story is currently a much beloved children’s classic.

friends1Dog and Bear: Two Friends, Three Stories by Laura Vaccaro Seeger:  The simple vignettes of the two friends – a stuffed bear and a dog- portray a friendship of understanding, cooperation, and silly moments.

Good News, Bad News by Jeff Mack: It’s a great story about two best friends, the optimistic Rabbit and the pessimistic Mouse, who are trying to have a picnic. Things go wrong to the point where even the optimistic Rabbit gets upset. Seeing his friend so upset, the Mouse decides to put aside his natural pessimism for a moment to cheer up his friend.

The Jungle Book -“Mowlgli’s Brothers” – by Rudyard Kipling: Feral child, Mowgli, is adopted by a mother wolf and a father wolf. The bear, Baloo, and the black panther, Bhageera, become his protectors, friends, and mentors as he learns to live in the jungle.

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate:  Ivan, a silverback gorilla, is resigned to his life in a glass enclosure in a mall that was part circus. He doesn’t think much about returning to the wild. He has TV, crayons, and his friends, Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog.  With the arrival of Ruby, a baby elephant, and wanting a better life for her, Ivan begins to pursue a life outside of captivity.

friends2The Winnie the Pooh stories by A.A. Milne: A human, bear, tiger, 2 kangaroos, donkey, and piglet all hang out, have adventures together, and look out for each other. The stories of their friendships contributed to many touching quotes about friendship and life.

Xander’s Panda Party by Linda Sue Park: Xander decides to have a panda party. However, he realizes that he’s the only panda in the zoo and decides to to invite all the bears to his party. When that excludes the koala, he opens it up to all the mammals. Then to the birds (the rhino wants to bring his bird friend) and reptiles. In the end, the panda decides to invite everyone so no one would be excluded. Everyone has a great time and they all make new friends.

What are some of your favorite literary (or youtube!) interspecies friendships?

A Gourmet E-book


Eat like Don Quixote!

Writing for this blog has allowed me to explore many different instances of meals in books–but I am not the first (nor do I suspect, the last) to tackle this tasty literary project. Available as an E-book through the Wheelock library, The Literary Gourmet: Menus From Masterpieces takes on the task of creating menus based on passages in famous books, from the Bible, to Don Quixote, to The Importance of Being Earnest.

The author, Linda Wolfe, provides a brief synopsis of the story, then excerpts a scene from each book in which the selected food appears. She then creates a menu with the help of historical resources–relying on varied sources such as Biblical encyclopedias for the Red Pottage of Lentils, or two women’s conflicting chowder recipes from the 1800s to reflect New England Clam Chowder as it was known in the time of Moby Dick and as it is recognized now.

There are entrees, starters and desserts (who knew The Legend of Sleepy Hollow betrayed such a sweet tooth!) so you can create an entire meal spanning some of the world’s most famous works of literature. My only criticism of this book is that it could stand to broaden the diversity of authors to include women and people of color. Perhaps, inspired by this delicious text, one of you, readers, will take up that task!

In Memoriam

We are a little over halfway through 2014, but already we have lost several remarkable figures in the children’s literature community. These prolific authors and illustrators leave behind powerful legacies of unforgettable works through which we are able to celebrate their lives and dazzling contributions to the world of children’s literature.

Erik Blegvad (March 3, 1923 – January 14, 2014)

Erik Blegvad was a children’s book artist, known for his whimsical illustrations of over 100 books. A native to Denmark, Blegvad studied at the Copenhagen School of Arts and Crafts and worked as a commercial illustrator before developing a refined pen-and-ink style that was perfectly suited to children’s books. He collaborated with his wife, Lenore Blegvad, who wrote numerous children’s books that he illustrated until her death in 2008.

Among Blegvad’s best known works are the illustrations for Bed-Knob and Broomstick, Mud Pies and Other Recipes (J W738m), and Anna Banana & Me, along with his own translation of Hans Christian Andersen.

twelve tales    mudpies for dolls    anna banana


Dr. Maya Angelou (April 4, 1928 – May 28, 2014)

Christened “The People’s Poet” and celebrated author of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (920.7 An4i 2009), Dr. Maya Angelou was a renaissance woman and cultural pioneer, known for…well, just about everything from poems and lectures to stage performance and social activism to Hallmark cards and keynote speeches!  A little less well-known but no less poignant are Dr. Angelou’s children’s books that all capture the imagination of a child’s world and Dr. Angelou’s love of language and sound.

Written in the 1990s, Dr. Angelou’s children’s books include Life Doesn’t Frighten Me (J 811 An4l), My Painted House, My Friendly Chicken, and Me (J 704.042 An4m), and Kofi and His Magic. In 2004, she also published the Maya’s World series, which introduces a child from a different country with each installment.

kofi and magic    my painted house my friendly chicken and me     life doesn't frighten me


Eric Hill (September 7, 1927 – June 6, 2014)

While freelancing as a creative marketing designer, Eric Hill made a simple drawing of a puppy and began to tell stories about the pup’s mischievous antics to his three-year-old son. Today, that little dog is better known as Spot, and his stories have flourished into a popular series of children’s books that have sold more than 60 million copies. Hill’s first book, Where’s Spot? was an instant favorite of preschool children, who loved the bright colors and whimsical characters. Hill is also credited with one of the earliest uses of interactive flaps and pop-ups in his books that now are commonplace in books for young children today.

wheres spot    spots birthday      spot at home


Walter Dean Myers (August 12, 1937 – July 1, 2014)

Walter Dean Myers was a bestselling and terrifically prolific children’s author, who was a three-time National Book Award nominee and received five Coretta Scott King awards for African-American fiction. Widely respected in the literary community and a tireless advocate for diversity in children’s literature, Myers served as a National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature in 2012-13, a position created in part by the Library of Congress.

Myers completed more than 100 books in his lifetime—two notable works being Lockdown and Monster (J M99mon). Myers’ books are usually narrated by teenagers trying to make difficult right choices in the face of easy wrong ones, and he was the “rare author” to have a large following of middle-grade boys. His new, futuristic novel, On a Clear Day is scheduled to be released in September 2014.

lookinglike-me    jazz    monster

Using library content in your course

When getting ready to teach a class, have you ever found yourself scanning an article or book chapter, saving it in a giant file, then uploading it to your Moodle site?  There is an easier way!  You can simply share a link to the library’s vast collection of e-books, journals, and streaming video.

Linking to library resources has several benefits:

  • Linking to library content is copyright-compliant.  It also complies with licensing terms set by database providers and publishers.
  • Library content is paid for by the institution, so there is no fee to the user.
  • Online library content is available anytime, anywhere.  Your students can access our e-books, streaming videos and journal articles, from Boston, Worcester, or Singapore… even if it’s 3 a.m.

Find out how to do it in this quick tutorial:

Still not convinced?  Here are a few more reasons to link to library content:

  • We collect usage statistics for making subscription decisions, so every click is like a vote that a particular journal or database is important to the Wheelock community.
  • Linking to library content, rather than uploading your own PDFs, may give students access to versions of articles and e-books compatible with screen-reading software.

We understand that generating links to library content is not always the easiest process, and we’d be happy to answer any questions you may have.  And if you’re revising your reading list or creating a new syllabus, we’d love to help you find the right content for your course.  If you’d like to consult with a librarian, please get in touch!