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The Children's Bookshelf: Cornbread and Poppy - February 28, 2022


Cornbread and Poppy written and illustrated by Caldecott Award winner Matthew Cordell is an Early Reader Book. Beginning readers will be delighted to meet these little mouse friends and experience the fact that they live life from two very different points of view!

“It was winter. The first snowflake had fallen,” says the author on the first page and setting Cornbread into action. He’s shown doing an accounting of his pantry and then stocking up on cheese, fruit preserves and grains. His actions are responsible.

He reminds Poppy to also stock up for the winter, however, she’s in no rush. The reader sees her enjoying a day of hiking and then biking and finally having a lovely time swinging. Her actions are somewhat irresponsible. By the time she gets around to buying her needed items all the food is gone.

The mouse friends decide to climb Holler Mountain to find food---and they do. But getting the food home requires skis. At home Poppy who has learned about responsibility reminds Cornbread that the walk to his house needs to be cleared of snow. Cornbread, who wants to continue his new love of skiing, brings the story full circle by saying, “Nah, I’ll do it later.” Hopefully these friends will learn from each other that a good life includes both work and play.

Cornbread and Poppy, written and illustrated by Matthew Cordell is perfect for new readers 4-8 years of age. They will enjoy the great illustrations throughout including those of Old Larry, the town grump and Bernard, the vegetarian owl! (Little, Brown and Company 2022).

The Children’s Bookshelf is a production of WCMU. Links to the podcast and the Activity Questions are available at Children’s Bookshelf dot org.   

 Activity Questions for Cornbread and Poppy

If you needed to buy food for the entire winter what would your food storage areas contain? Think about it and remember that food storage areas can include refrigerators, bread boxes, pantries and all sorts of cupboards. Next, make a long list of what you would buy and store.

Look at the illustration of Ms. Ruthie’s food storage room. What do you think she has stored away on those shelves and in all those bags? Use your imagination----you don’t have to include only food preferred by a mouse. Then, draw a picture of her storage room showing what might be there if you unwrapped all the bags and opened all the containers.

For younger readers: Turn to the illustration of Cornbread and Poppy having tea with Ms. Ruthie and find the following items: a picture of Old Larry, the town grump, a teapot, three lightbulbs, a ponytail, a picture of Bernard the owl, a winter hat with white dots, snow, a picture of a tree and a pair of glasses. What is missing from this picture? Where is Ms. Ruthie’s walking cane? If you were to add the walking cane to this illustration where would you place it and why?

Sue Ann Martin is professor emerita of Communication and Dramatic Arts and the founding and past Dean of the College of Communication and Fine Arts at Central Michigan University, Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. She first became interested in children’s literature when she wrote her PhD thesis on the oral characteristics of the Caldecott Award-winning children’s books. Her PhD is in Speech and Interpretation with a cognate in Early Childhood Education. She went on to review children’s books for the Detroit Free Press, write three popular resource books for teachers regarding children’s books and the creative process. She also reviewed newly-published books for Arts Almanac specials on WCMU Public Radio. Her 2002 children’s books special for WCMU won a Merit Award in Special Interest Programming from the Michigan Association of Broadcasters.