Wednesday, September 12, 2018
By Claude Ponti
Translated by Alyson Waters
Published May 22, 2018
Why we chose this book:
I value stories from other cultures. I've always liked fairy tales, and when I had exhausted the Grimms' tales (the authentic, gory versions) as a kid, I moved on to my library's collections from other countries. With that as a foundation, and my travels as an adult, I've found that I really enjoy getting to know life in other countries, which in turn has led to some deep friendships. That is a door I want to open for T and enjoy with him. And if the fun he had with F in Berlin is any indication, he's enjoying stepping outside Worcester, MA, as well! (F speaks no English, and is a German little girl.) Second, I chose this book because we loved Ponti's My Valley, and T is really into monsters right now.
Both heartbreaking and uplifting, Hiznobyuti teaches the importance of treating oneself and others with love and respect.
Hiznobyuti is an unusual-looking creature who is not accepted by his family. When they forcibly separate him from themselves, he sets off with his only friend, Martin Clock, to learn the answers to all his questions. His adventure has its ups and down. He meets a witch by the name of Sissyfus Forest who sets him impossible tasks; he finds the strength to refuse her. He ventures into a forest of trees, where he learns various languages through patience and attentiveness; this allows him to learn the answers to the questions he has. Hiznobyuti also ventures to a dead planet where he provides help to someone in need; his worth is finally validated by someone outside of himself and his only friend. He eventually returns home to find his house in ruins and his family in turmoil. Ever since he left, everything had gone wrong; his family rejoices at his return and accepts him.
Beautiful artwork and fantastical creatures turn this statement on self-worth into a stunning fairytale. Hiznobyuti begins his life as a happy child, but quickly discovers that his family has little use for him. The negative impact on him is clear, but he rises above it with the support of a friend. He learns to trust and value himself and follow his own moral compass; he pursues his heart's desire, which is learning the answers to all his questions. Although his family accepts him at the end of the story, Hiznobyuti no longer depends on them for self-worth; we're happy to see them reconciled, for sure, but we're happier to see him in charge of his own contentment. Hiznobyuti decides to seek and marry the princess who awoke with the dead planet, but only if she wishes to marry him. The final line of the text sums up the lessons Hiznobyuti learns, namely to trust and value himself while respecting others' choices.
I noticed one peculiarity in this book that seemed distinctively different from the American children's books we read: the creatures are naked, and Hiznobyuti's mother is depicted with breasts. I could be reading into nothing, but I can't think of a single American picture book with naked anthropomorphized characters with noticeable breasts. I appreciated the naturalization, i.e. non-sexualization, of the body.
(Age: 3 and 1/2 years)
T and his dad read this together before I read it. This is what T had to tell me before I read it:
Son: Hiznobyuti makes himself a mask
Mom: What should I pay attention to?
Son: You should pay attention to looking at this little clock guy in each of the pictures. Like now he's walking on the rope.
Mom: Okay. I'll pay attention to the little clock guy. Is there anything else I should know before I read?
Son: No, but just so you know there's this tree monster.
Mom: Thank you.
Mom: What is this book about?
Son: It's about a little cute monster named Hiznobyuti.
Mom: And tell me about the book. How did it make you feel?
Son: I really liked it. Happy.
Mom: What parts are happy?
Son: Like...I'll show you. This part is happy [where he frees the elephant].
Mom: Are there any sad parts?
Son: Yes. Where the house falls apart.
Mom: Does he get along with his parents? What happens?
Son: No. His parents aren't loving to him.
Mom: What would you tell his parents if you could meet them?
Son: "Why are you angry with Hiznobyuti?" I have a question. Why are they angry at Hiznobyuti?
Mom: Why do you think they are angry with him?
Son: Because he does not look like them.
Mom: How does that make you feel? What do you think about that?
Son: A lot of feelings...I don't like that they're angry. I think it's bad that they were angry.
Mom: Would you want to meet Hiznobyuti? What would you say to him?
Son: Yes. "Why are your parents angry?"
Mom: Did you have a favorite part of this book?
Son: Yes, where the little monster fought the rope monster.
Mom: Why do you think the author wrote this story? Do you think you that the author might be trying to encourage people to do?
Son: Because we would like it. Treat people nice not mean.
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