Perfect Picture Book Friday: Marvelous Cornelius: Hurricane Katrina and the Spirit of New Orleans

I was looking through some of my books this week for Nonfiction Fest and came across one by Phil Bildner. The book is about a real person, but since there are embellishments, it is classified as fiction. In an Author’s Note, Phil Bildner explains that he came across an article about the subject and wanted to know more. He decided to write the book in the spirit of a folktale, incorporating such things as repetition and exaggeration. It is a wonderful book that can be used with children in and out of the classroom, so I chose for today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday.

Title: Marvelous Cornelius

Author: Phil Bildner

Illustrator: John Parra

Publisher: Chronicle Books, 2015 Fiction

Audience: Ages 5-10

Themes: Modern folktale, everyday heros

Opening lines: In the Quarter, there worked a man known as Marvelous Cornelius. “Mornin’.” He salutd the silver-haired man with the Times-Picayune tucked under his arm. “Greetings.” He waved to the couple with the baby on the balcony. “Ma’am.” He nodded to the woman shaking rugs out at her front window.

Synopsis: (from Amazon) In New Orleans, there lived a man who saw the streets as his calling, and he swept them clean. He danced up one avenue and down another and everyone danced along. The old ladies whistled and whirled. The old men hooted and hollered. The barbers, bead twirlers, and beignet bakers bounded behind that one-man parade. But then came the rising Mississippi—and a storm greater than anyone had seen before. In this heartwarming book about a real garbage man, Phil Bildner and John Parra tell the inspiring story of a humble man and the heroic difference he made in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Why I Like This Book: Here are just a few of the reasons I think this book is a standout:

  1. Following the title page, before the story starts, there is an inspiring quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. about the importance of doing a job well.
  2. The opening spreads set the scene and reveal the character.
  3. It contains marvelous language, especially verbs – sashayed, shimmied, strummed, whirled.
  4. Craft moves – onomatopoeia, alliteration, repetition, exaggeration
  5. Back matter in the form of an author’s note that explains more about folktales, the author’s personal connection, and a pronunciation guide.

For Susanna’s complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.

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6 Responses to Perfect Picture Book Friday: Marvelous Cornelius: Hurricane Katrina and the Spirit of New Orleans

  1. I love that the author told this story as a folktale. And the message at the back of the book from Martin Luther King Jr. about the importance of doing a job well will inspire.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I appreciate the author’s choice to tell this story like a tall tale. It gave him the freedom he needed to turn it into a story that will speak to kids in ways that are meaningful to them. Sometimes authors have to make that decision to move away from the facts in order to portray a very specific truth. Nice rec! Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love the beautiful and poetic narrative about Cornelius, as he dances up one street and down the next and the reaction from the community! A garbage man who appears to be so selfless and does remarkable acts of kindness during Hurrican Katrina. Telling this as a tall tale, if perfect. Beautiful pick today!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. For some reason, an error comes up when I try to tweet your review.


  5. This is a really fun way to do a “bibliography.” I too love the modern-fable aspect.

    Liked by 1 person

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