Wee Gillis by Munro Leaf
Illustrated by Robert Lawson
Published by The New York Review Children's Collection
(1938) 2006 Edition
Wee Gillis lived in Scotland. "His real name was Alastair Roderic Craigellachie Dalhousie Gowan Donny bristle MacMac, but that took too long to say, so everybody just called him Wee Gillis." All his relatives on his mother's side lived in the valley raising long-haired cows. They were Lowlanders. All his relatives on his father's side lived in the hills and stalked stags. They were Highlanders. The Lowlanders and the Highlanders made fun of each other, thinking the other's livelihood to be a joke. And Wee Gillis didn't know which side he wanted to be on. So he spend half his time in the valley and half his time in the hills. In the valley he learned to shout loud enough for the cows to hear him, and in the hills he learn to hold his breath so no stag would hear him. This made his lungs incredible strong. When the time to decide whether to become a Highlander or Lowlander arrives, a surprising encounter with a bag piper gives Wee Gillis a new option to use his amazing lung strength.
Wee Gillis was awarded the Caldecott Medal in 1938. Leaf and Lawson, the same team that created one of my favorite books, The Story of Ferdinand, gave us with Wee Gillis a book that transports us to Scotland with a sense of humor and beauty. The illustrations by Lawson are wonderful, especially the facial expressions of Wee Gillis. And the story is captivating, with cadence and a great narrative.