Wednesday, June 6, 2018

A Story About Being Transported

I remember coming home from the beach and dumping sand out of my shoes. I wanted to hold on to the sand as if the sand could keep the beach with me. No. I thought those tiny grains of sand could keep me at the beach forever. The beach, with its silence and wind, soothing waves and timelessness.

Grains of Sand, a picture book written and illustrated by Sibylle Delacroix is about a young girl who comes home from the beach, digging tools put away, and "blue as the sea".
She brightens up when she finds sand in her shoe and comes up with a unique way of solving her problem. She plants the grains. The next few pages show what she thinks the sand might grow into: a field of yellow umbrellas, perhaps?

Grains of Sand is a celebration of a child's imagination and of a very human need to hold on to the things that we love, the things that transport us. It is a good book to read to your child after coming home from the beach. Maybe you can help your child plant his/her grains of sand and imagine what they could become.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

A Story About You

My saint's day is Candelaria. Traditionally, this is the name my parents where supposed to give me at birth. Alternatively, I could have chosen it as my new name when I was confirmed at age 15. I didn't. I thought it was way too old-fashioned. Candelaria was old-fashioned. I has a long, rich history both in my family and as part of the centuries old celebration of Christmas in Mexico. My name, Alicia, didn't have much of a history.

Alma and How She Got Her Name, a picture book written and illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal, is about a little girl who is frustrated with the length of her name, Alma Sofia Esperanza Jose Pura Candela. It never fits when she tries to write it. Alma complains to her father who proceeds to explain to her the meaning of each of her names. Each name, Alma discovers, is an essential part of who she is.

We like to think of names as having meaning. You can google the meaning of just about any name under the sun. Alma celebrates meaning in a different way. Meaning in this picture book doesn't come from the mean of the word, rather from the lives and experiences of the people who came before her. Their good parts--their dreams, talents, and passions--find expression in a little girl who is their name sake.

Alma and How She Got Her Name is a lovely tribute to family and the love and possiblity that travels through generations.

You can watch an interview with Juana Martinez-Neal below:

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

A Story About Rolling with Life's Flow

Life has many twists and turns. Sometimes you find yourself in unexpected places or unforeseen situations. Albert Einstein said, "The measure of intelligence is the ability to change". Kids have a hard time with change. They need stability, but as they grow, perhaps sooner than later, they will face situations in which they have to adapt their attitudes of their view of themselves.

Petra, a picture book written and illustrated by Marianna Coppo, celebrates life situations in which a bit of reinvention might be called for. Petra, a rock, believes she is a mountain, an immovable, unchangeable behemoth that towers above the landscape and across time. Suddenly, a dog comes by that actually towers over her. The dog picks Petra up and sets up a chain of events in which Petra has to redefine her image of herself. Is she an egg, an island, a pet rock?

Circumstances put Petra in different situations, but Petra always believes in herself. Whatever she is, she strives to be the best at it that's a great attitude for kids to learn.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

A Story About Brotherhood

There are friends and then there are friends. We can always find a friend to have a good time with, but finding the kind of friend we can communicate with using one word or no words at all is a challenge. Finding one we can face mortal danger with and walk, or swim, away and enjoy an ice cream is...well...a thing of beauty.

Dude!, a picture book written by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Dan Santat, is about two friends who communicate like genuine bros. The bros, a beaver and a platypus, just want to go surfing. Unfortunately, their chosen surfing spot has a danger sign posted on the beach. The pair decide to go for it anyway and end up on an epic adventure.

The awesome thing about Dude! is that it only uses one written word, but there are volumes of unspoken words written between the lines and the drawings. Fear, laughter, terror, empathy, kindness, defeat, ingenuity, and FUN are communicated with the word "dude". Does the word embody so many things because of the rich history decades of brotherhood have imbued it with or did the brotherhood come before the word?  Who cares! Dude! is fun book to read and look at and an wonderful tool to teach inference. Enjoy it with your bro (or sister).

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

A Story About Heartache

I have said before that I think picture books are not just for kids. The messages they carry, delivered with such precision, soulfulness, and sometimes humor, are relevant at any age. Heartache is universal. To create is to risk loss. Not even children are immune. My selection for this week is a meditation on how kids, and adults, process their heartache.

The Rabbit Listened, a picture book written and illustrated by Cori Doerrfeld, starts out with Taylor building something new. Something he loved. Something he tragically lost. Taylor is left terribly sad. A series of animals notices and each one tries to console him the best way they know how. Chicken tries to get him to talk. Bear tries to get him to shout. Elephant tries to get him to remember the way things were. None of it works for Taylor. Only Rabbit knows what Taylor really needs.

I love the process Taylor goes through. I think that kids will see themselves in Taylor's experience. Taylor's feelings reflect their own and therefore can potentially give them the space they need to process heartache. Or maybe it will give them the tools to find their own Rabbit to help them through a tough time. There are no extra words in The Rabbit Listened, just quiet and the space to listen and heal.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

A Story About a Wunderkind

Have you ever met one of those people who is not only full of ideas but also somehow manages to make them all a reality. These wunderkinds can leave us scratching our heads wondering how they get it all done and where they get their inspiration. Are they given more that the 24 hours a day that we are allotted?

The picture book Lola Dutch, written and illustrated by Kenneth and Sarah Jane Wright, is named after the title character who is a "little too much". Lola is extremely creative and will stop at nothing to see her ideas come to life as perfectly as she imagines them. She insists on an elegant breakfast with crepes, pastries, hot chocolate, and grits. After spending hours at the library, Lola and her animal friends are inspired to paint. And bedtime just has to have a grand pillow fort. Watch the book trailer below

When you get to the end you will see that, even though Lola can be a bit too much sometimes, she is really just a kid. Kids have amazing creativity and imagination. Only a few adults retain these talents once the stress of life gets hold of them. Lola Dutch is a celebration of the wunderkind in every child.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

A Story About Misunderstandings

Anyone, anywhere who has ever struggled to be themselves while finding themselves surrounded by a million voices telling them they should be something else will relate to this book. Young children will benefit from this book if they can learn this lesson early and learn to love who they are not who other people have labelled them to be.

In Red, a picture book written and illustrated by Michael Hall, we meet a crayon labelled as red, but clearly to anyone without colorblindness, actually being blue. He tried being red. He tried drawing a fire truck, but he wasn't very good at it. He got lots of advice, modeling, partner work. Nothing helped. He couldn't get the hang of being something he wasn't.

I love this book about being true to yourself. It is easy to try to fit in, to make other people happy. It takes courage to express who you are in spite of the critics. It takes courage to defy your label. I think this book illustrates a universal concept in a way that young children will understand and appreciate.