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:

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

A Story About Life

Life is joyful, mysterious, tragic and comic. It is also temporary and cyclical. It always begins again. In the picture book Du Iz Tak?, author/illustrator Carson Ellis manages to capture all of these themes in 47 pages.

In the beginning, winter is giving way to spring and a pair of damselflies discover a small green shoot unfurling out of the brown earth. They wonder, presumably because they speak in a made up bug language, just what this strange new arrival is. Next, a group of beetles investigate the newcomer. The beetles see potential in the new phenomenon, which is in fact a plant. They borrow a ladder from a friend and build a tree fort. A drama plays out, witnessed by the denizens of a tiny bug world, that mirrors the seasons and of life. The bugs form a familiar society. They work, play, and suffer loss together.

Watch the book trailer:

The book is a little like the little green shoot on the first page. At first you look at it sort of bemused and think, “what in the world?” but then it sucks you in. It speaks to the universality of the circumstances and the emotions depicted in the story that even though you don’t speak the language, you still understand.

Kids will have a great time using the illustrations to figure out the language. The illustrations are very simple. The basic scene is the same on almost every two-page spread. Only the details change. An entire world is built within those details. Your kids will want to return to this world again and again.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Every kid wants to fit in. I have soothed many broken hearts and dried many tears in my classroom when kids decide to exclude a classmate over an argument or a perceived difference in behavior or attitude. Belonging is a big deal, so kids might try to conform to fit in.

We’re All Wonders, a picture book by R. J. Palacio based on his middle grade novel Wonder, is about a boy who is different in a way that is very difficult to hide. He does ordinary things like ride a bike, eat ice cream, and play ball, but he doesn’t look like other kids. His mother says he is a wonder, but he still has to put up with the fear and cruelty from other people who do not understand. But he finds perspective in his own wonderful way and is able to assert his own worth as well as teach those around him the joy of not being ordinary.

We’re All Wonders is a great book for kids who might be feeling left out or different. It will show them through the story of one brave boy, that they don’t have to be like everybody else. Everyone in the world is different and it is our differences that create and enrich our shared experiences.