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Question Song

Question Song

by Kaethe Zemach

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publishers Weekly
Zemach (The Character in the Book) finds inspiration in a 19th-century decorative art technique to illustrate a series of situational vignettes highlighting how one family smoothes the many bumps in their preschoolers' day. Employing hundreds of hand-cut stencils to paint oils on velveteen, Zemach creates pictures with a soft, almost airbrushed surface that also suggests depth. No melody is provided for this call-and-response-style "song," though the rhythm is quite musical. A mixed-race brother and sister (and sometimes their parents) take turns asking, "What are we going to do?" about problems they encounter. Family members then offer a rhyming reply. " `My shoe came off and fell on the ground! What are we going to do?...' `We'll pick up your shoe and put it on tight./ Then you can swing with all your might!/ That's what we will do!' " In each spread, the text on the left page curves around a circular illustration of the predicament, while vignettes of the solution enclosed in a rectangular border appear on the facing page. Delicate motifs punctuate the ribbony, rainbow-hued borders (for example, a tiny umbrella and storm cloud appear in the border of a scene of the brother moaning, "It's raining! It's pouring! What are we going to do?"). While the message is upbeat, the art is what makes this book worth a good look. Both nostalgic in their glow yet contemporary in their composition, Zemach's illustrations enfold readers in her characters' domestic dramas. Ages 3-6. (July) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
What a great way to approach day to day problems and communicating with kids! This book has the children posing a problem, "I fell down and hurt my knee! What are we going to do?" and the parent singing in response, "We'll rest until you feel fine. Then I'll hold your hand, and you'll hold mine! That's what we will do!" Every thing is simple and simply solved in a warm, loving manner. There is no music included, so I'm assuming that you make up your own. A song book that you can sing with and add to with your children. 2003, Megan Tingley Books/Little Brown and Company, Ages 3 to 6.
—Sharon Levin
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 1-When a boy cries out, "My train is broken! What are we going to do? My train is broken! What are we going to do?" his mother replies, "We'll fix your train and make it strong. Then off you go, chugging along! That's what we will do!" Juice spilled on the floor? "We'll pick up the cup and wipe the floor. Then start again and pour you some more!" Following this pattern, the book tackles various childhood accidents and dilemmas, with a calm adult always there to soothe a frustrated youngster and suggest a reasonable solution. Zemach uses a traditional folk-art style called "theorem painting," which involves oil paint and hand-cut stencils applied to velvet. The soft, blurred lines, combined with the suggestion of a multicultural family, give the book an old-fashioned yet timely look. The rhyme scheme takes some practice to read aloud comfortably, but it's a worthwhile investment of time given the book's useful theme of helping children find productive alternatives to total meltdowns.-Anna DeWind Walls, Milwaukee Public Library Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The daughter and granddaughter of artists offers a very agreeable rhymed verse with a large comfort quotient. Each spread begins with a repeated line about a common domestic tragedy: "My juice is spilling on the floor! What are we going to do?" "I can't find my bunny! What are we going to do?" A couplet responds, "We'll pick up the cup / and wipe the floor. / Then start again and / pour you some more!" and each ends with "That's what we will do!" Zemach uses an unusual 19th-century painting technique involving stencils, transfers, oil paint, and velvet; the result is soft and expressive edges, lively colors, and charming use of pattern. The couplet sits inside a circular framed image on the left side of each spread and on the right a rectangle frames the response and two or three images that resolve the problem. The parents have strawberry-blonde and fuzzy dark hair; the brother and sister combine these traits. Families will make up their own music (and their own mishaps) to continue this rollicking tale of cleanup and comfort. (Picture book. 3-6)

Product Details

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
10.31(w) x 10.31(h) x 0.42(d)
Age Range:
3 - 6 Years

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