Wednesday, May 17, 2017

A Story About Light

There is a song by Perry Como that goes “Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket, never let it fade away. Catch a falling star and put it In your pocket, save it for a rainy day”.  We all need a bit of light on a rainy day, but most importantly, we need to remember and hold on to the things that give our lives light every day.

Stars, a picture book written by Mary Lyn Ray and illustrated by Marla Frazee, reminds me of Perry Como’s song because it is all about holding on to the stars in our lives. We might not be able to literally catch a fallen star, but you can draw a star on a piece of shiny paper and put keep it in your pocket. A star holds its own unique magic. It can make you a sheriff or the bearer of a wand. You can give a star to a friend or feel as shiny as a star. Stars, like joy, are all around you if you only look.

I was attracted to this book because I liked the message that stars are a literal and metaphorical light in our lives. I also loved the idea posed on the last page that sometimes you have to wait for dark to see the light of the stars. I don’t know if the author meant what I got from it and I don’t think that a lot of kids will catch the subtext of the words, but it a beautiful thought for anyone who has seen some literal or metaphorical darkness in their lives.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

A Story About Determination

Sometimes it is wise to leave well enough alone. Like when you are the protagonist in a thriller and you finally escape that inescapable maze, but you decide to go back and find out what made that funny sound. The audience is screaming, “let it go”, but you don’t.

Plankton in Plankton Is Pushy, a picture book written and illustrated by Johnathan Fenske, is in a similar situation. He is a social kind of plankton. He believes in the rules of polite conversation. So when he bumps into Mussel, who refuses to follow said rules, he is a bit perturbed. Plankton explains to Mussel that Mussel is being rude. He tries to model the polite way of answering when someone says hello to you. He tries explaining s-l-o-w-l-y, but Mussel just won’t budge.

Personally, I think the look in Mussel’s eye should have warned Plankton to leave well enough alone. Plankton, however, is one of those fearless types who sets a goal and just doesn’t quit until he achieves it, no matter what the cost.

The ending is funny, if a bit dark. Younger kids might have questions about Plankton’s fate, but most will probably just laugh and have a good time.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

A Story About Journeys

So much ink has been dedicated to the idea of finding and valuing your own authentic self that it has become a little synonymous with an eye roll and a knowing lilt of the tongue. “She is finding herself,” people say as if she should be doing something much more productive and useful with her time, like paying taxes and doing laundry. I think however, that there is a reason for all of that ink and the blue songbird does an eloquent job of describing that reason.

The blue songbird, a picture book written and illustrated by Vern Kousky, is about a little blue bird who listens to her older sisters sing and laments the fact that she cannot sing as beautifully as them. When the little blue bird goes to her mother for help, her mother tells her that she can’t just sing any old notes, she has to go out and find a song that is all her own. Her mother’s advice sets the blue bird on a journey to find a song that is uniquely hers.

Adults will recognize the little blue songbird’s journey immediately. We search and we bump into dead ends. We keep searching until we find our own unique niche in the world. Children will find inspiration in the songbird. The courage it took to set out on a journey, the excitement of exploring the world and talking to different creatures—these are things that will spark a child’s imagination and make them dream of finding their own song.

I also found that the book explores the idea that travel and experiencing different people and different places can lead to personal discovery.

Whether you want to inspire your child to find their own voice or to recognize the value and excitement of travel, this book is perfect for you.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A Story About Being Exceptional

Everyone loves a little applause now and then. Even the shyest of the shy like the occasional compliment. Everyone reading this has practiced their Oscar or Grammy or Pulitzer speech at least once. No? The Nobel then?

The picture book A Horse Named Steve, written and illustrated by Kelly Collier, is about a horse who longs to be exceptional. He imagines himself standing proudly with a #1 ribbon attached to his chest. One day he finds, not a ribbon, but a beautiful gold horn just lying around in the grass. He investigates and then realizes he has discovered a way to be exceptional. He ties the horn onto his forehead and shows it off to his friends. Unfortunately for Steve, the horn gets lost. He is no longer exceptional. Will Steve find his horn? Will he be exceptional again?

I liked this book because of Steve’s unapologetic ambition to be unique and exceptional. He is the kid that sort of annoys everyone and amazes them at the same time. He knows what he wants and goes after it.

Steve will keep your kids in stitches as he searches for his horn and gets his friends involved in his mission to be special. Watch the book trailer here: