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.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

A Story About Impossible Things

Didn't everybody, at some point in their childhood, put together a pair of makeshift wings and try to fly. I did. The wings were cardboard. I tried different designs. I tried jumping off a tree branch. I was blissfully unaware of the fact that it was impossible because when you are a kid you believe in the impossible.

When Pigs Fly, a picture book written and illustrated by James Burks, takes the creativity and imagination of children and makes it into a funny story about doing something that has never been done before. Two pigs, a girl and a boy are playing with toys, and crafts, and cameras, when the boy announces he is going to fly. The girl explains that pigs can't fly, but the boy sees only possibilities not limitations. He makes a pair of wings out of cardboard and improvises with a kite and a "jetpack". I'll just say that he had better luck than I did.

The book is a great lesson on teamwork, perseverance, imagination, and creativity. The girl doesn't think the boy can do it, but she is still ready to help him try. In the end, it takes both of them working together to solve the problem. If you don't know something is impossible, maybe it isn't.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

My niece wants to be a ballerina and by ballerina I don't mean JUST wearing a pink tutu. I've never seen a 9 year old work so hard and have so much passion for something that would be hard for an adult to accomplish. She practices for up to five hours at a time and when it's over, she keeps dancing around the living room until bedtime. Some people know who they are at a young age.

In Bad Guy, a picture book by Hannah Barnaby, our hero knows at a very young age that he isn't exactly a hero. Not that he minds. He rather enjoys being bad. He announces it on the first page while surrounded by his bad guy accouterments: the white cat, a detonator, and an X on his target. He is a beginner, but he most definitely puts a lot of thought and effort into his villianous deeds -- like trapping superheroes in a cage with hungry lions or sailing the seven seas and keeping all of his treasure to himself. Bad Guy sticks to his no good plans, but he might be overlooking another bad guy right under his nose...

There are a lot of little details in the Bad Guy illustrations that add subversive humor to the story. The look on the cat's face is one, the license plate and book titles are a couple more. Bad Guy has just amount of charm and deviousness to qualify as a 007 villian in training.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

A Story About (Not) Belonging

Adults casually say "it's a small word" when they bump into someone they know from childhood or they strike up a conversation with someone who knows a friend of a friend of theirs. Casual or not, it is a small world, populated by people and creatures as different as Summer is from Winter.

Neither, a picture book by author/illustrator Airlie Anderson, shows us, with colors, bunnies, birdies, and something in between, two different ways we can choose to handle our differences. In the beginning, the world in the book is populated by "these" and "those". It works for them. They have an arrangement. They have a certain way they do things. To their utter consternation, a new thing hatches in the middle of their world. It calls itself "both", but This and That call it "neither" -- and they send it away. Neither just doesn't fit in. Neither flies away looking for "Somewhere Else"...I won't ruin the ending.

Neither is a celebration of diversity. The fact is that young children are growing up in a much more connected, inclusive world that previous generations. It is given that they will at some point come into contact with someone who is different than them. I love this book because it helps them see how cool that is and how much we all have to contribute.

It also looks very Easter-y so this is a good time of year to share Neither with your kids.

  • Age Range: 4 - 7 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 3
  • Hardcover: 40 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (February 13, 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316547697
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316547697

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

A Story About Words

I was attracted to this week's book selection for two reasons: 1) I'm a writer who spent a lot of time as a kid reading dictionaries and encyclopedias looking for new words to add to my repertoire. I understand the texture, emotion, and depth that lies within words and between them. 2) As a teacher, I know how important vocabulary building is to my students. A book that helps them see the wonder in collecting words is exciting.

The Word Collector by author/illustrator Peter H. Reynolds starts out by showing kids who have typical collections: stamps, rocks, coins, etc. Then, the author tells us, there is Jerome. What does he collect? Words. He collects words that catch his attention, words that jump out at him, words that pop off a page. He carefully organizes his collection by subject until one fateful day when he trips and his collection goes flying. I won't give away the ending, but it brings to mind a quote by Oscar Wilde: "What seems to us as bitter trials are often blessings in disguise."

I love what Jerome did with his words. I hope it inspires kids to express themselves in their own unique way. I hope it inspires them to communicate and believe in each other. I believe words, used in the right way, have the power to do just that.

Watch the book trailer below:

  • Age Range: 4 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 3
  • Lexile Measure: 490
  • Hardcover: 40 pages
  • Publisher: Orchard Books
  • Date Published: January 30, 2018
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0545865026
  • ISBN-13: 978-0545865029

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

A Story About Becoming

My favorite picture book of all time is The Velveteen Rabbit. I read it for the first time as an adult. I was attracted by the idea that a person becomes more real with every adversity they face. The more battle worn a person is, the more true, honest, kind, and compassionate they become.

The Book of Mistakes reminds me of The Velveteen Rabbit. It too is about becoming, although author/illustrator Corinna Luyken approaches the topic  in a different way. In her book, a character is being brought to life, but the illustrator makes a series of mistakes in the process. One eye is too big, her neck is too long, her elbows are a bit wonky. Some things are just right, but so many things are just plain wrong. In the end, however, all of the right things and the wrong things add up to truth. The character becomes...real.

I love that the first half of the book tells you what the author considers right or wrong, but the second half of the book leaves the decision up to the reader. There are yellow balloons and trees with climbers and parachutes and ladders. Each individual is...
You have to read the book.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A Story About Fear

Sometimes the thing we fear most turns out to be a paper tiger. We run away and hide to avoid having to confront it – until we have no choice. When the moment arrives, when we summon up the courage to stand up to the beast, it shrinks to nothing.

In The Giant Jumperee, a picture book written and illustrated by Julia Donaldson and Helen Oxenbury, Rabbit comes home one day and hears a loud, threatening voice coming from his burrow. “I’m the Giant Jumperee and I’m scary as can be!” the voice says. Rabbit runs to Cat for help, but the Giant Jumperee scares Cat as well. Even Bear and Elephant are too afraid to stand up to the Giant Jumperee.

Watch the author and illustrator discuss the book below:

You will have to read the book to find out who the Giant Jumperee is, but I love the reaction of the other animals when he/she/it is finally revealed. I hope we can all learn the lesson our paper tigers teach us with the same disarming laughter and relief.