Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Picture Books from the Past: An Extraordinary Egg

Leo Lionni was originally from Holland; born in 1910. He is known in the children’s literature world for being an author and illustrator, but has also held jobs as a teacher, critic, editor, printmaker, sculptor and more. He has written and illustrated forty children’s books, four of which were Caldecott Honor Books (Inch by Inch, Swimmy, Frederick, and Alexander and the Windup Mouse). Many of his illustrations are done in a collage format, and influenced illustrators such as Eric Carle and Ezra Jack Keats. Lionni passed away in October of 1999, but he is still a much celebrated contributor to the world of children’s literature.

An Extraordinary Egg was originally published in 1994 by Random House Children’s Books. This book is significant because it was the last book Lionni published before his death in 1999. It is recommended for children ages 4 to 7 and is a fable about the meaning of friendship. As is the case in many of Lionni’s books, the characters are humanistic frogs – walking upright on back legs and talking. In the story, three frogs are living on Pebble Island, and one day Jessica (one of the frogs) finding an incredibly white and smooth pebble. Her friends quickly tell her that it is not a pebble, but a chicken egg. When the egg hatches, the reader realizes that it is not a chicken egg but an alligator egg, however the characters are not aware of this and continue referring to the newly-hatched creature as a chicken. Jessica and the “chicken” 
become great friends, and the “chicken even saves Jessica when she falls into the water. Later, the alligator and its mother are reunited and the frogs are quite confused as to why the mother calls the “chicken” her “sweet little alligator” and think is a very silly thing. This book teaches children the real meaning of friendship – that it doesn’t matter what your friends look like, but that friendship is about trust and compassion. 

If you want to learn more about Leo Lionni or An Extraordinary Egg, visit one of these websites:

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1 comment:

  1. Jennifer, I appreciated all of the background information on Leo Lionni and his work both within and outside of children's books. An Extraordinary Egg sounds like a cute story and one that children would get a kick out of - especially since they are calling the alligator a chicken.