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A blog written by the editor of Through the Looking Glass Book Review, a monthly online children's book review journal.
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We often like to think that there is only one side to a story, the side we know and believe in. This is rarely true, and into today's picture book we see how the same story can be very different depending on who is telling that story. Children will be amused by this tale, and hopefully they will also take something away with them after they have read it.
A tale of two beasts
Kane Miller, 2015, 978-1-61067-361-7
One day a little girl is walking home through the woods when she sees a peculiar little beast hanging from a tree. The little beast is “whining sadly,” so the little girl decides to “rescue” the little animal. She takes him home wrapped in her scarf, washes him, dresses him in a sweater and hat, and gives him a bowl of nuts to eat. She takes him for walks and shows him off to her friends. Then the little girl realizes that the little beast is not happy and soon after he runs away, returning to his home in the woods.
One day, a little beast is happily hanging from a tree singing when he is “AMBUSHED by a terrible beast!” The beast ties it up, takes it to her “secret lair” and then proceeds to do unspeakable things to the little beast, things like bathing it, dressing it, and giving is stupid squirrel food to eat. Eventually the little beast comes up with a “cunning plan” and it escapes into the woods before its cruel captor can get her hands on him again.
In this clever book the author tells us the same story from two points of view. First the little girl tells the story, and then the little beast tells the story. They both think the other is a “beast,” and they don’t think very highly of each other either. It is interesting to see how the little girl thinks she is saving the beast, whereas he thinks she is kidnapping, or rather beastnapping, him.
Both the stories are funny, and together they will help children to see that there are always at least two sides to every story. The wonderful thing about both stories is that in the end the two beasts come to an understanding. They see things from slightly different perspectives to be sure, but the end result is a good one for both of them.
Some children's poetry collections only really appeal, long term, to children. Some however, contain collections that adults also enjoy; they are books that can be shared and passed down from generation to generation. Today's poetry book is just such a title, and it would make a wonderful gift to a family.
Favorite Poems Old and New
Illustrated by Leonard Weisgard
Random House, 1957, 978-0-385-07696-8
Many years ago, when Helen Ferris and her brother Fred were little, their parents made poetry “as much a part of their children’s every day as getting up in the morning.” Helen and Fred absorbed poetry, learning many of the poems they heard by heart. Their poetry journey began with Mother Goose rhymes, and went on to include the poems of Alfred Tennyson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Shakespeare. Helen’s mother felt very strongly that even if her children “could not understand all the words,” they could still “enjoy the beautiful sound of them.” Helen and Fred and their parents moved several times, and their lives changed in many ways, but they never stopped enjoying poetry and sharing it with others.
Out of her love of poetry grew Helen’s wish to create a book that celebrated this form of writing, that brought together the writings of many, and the favorite poems of many more. In all there are over seven hundred poems in this collection, both classic and modern. The poems are divided up into eighteen categories, making it easy for young readers to find poems that suit their interests. The topics include “My Family and I,” “It’s fun to play,” “Animals, Pets and Otherwise,” and “Almost any time is laughing time.”
Many children will naturally gravitate to this latter section, for here they will find old favorites like The Walrus and the Carpenter
and The Owl and the Pussycat
. Here too is The Song of Mr. Toad,
which is the song that Mr. Toad sings in The Wind in the Willows
when he is feeling rather pleased with himself. Edward Lear and Ogden Nash’s nonsense poems are also here.
Poems with a patriotic feel appear in the “Sign of my nation, great and strong,” section. Here children will find Paul Revere’s Ride,
and The Gettysburg Address
, along with The Star-Spangled Banner
and America the Beautiful
This is the kind of collection that has something for everyone, no matter what the age of the reader. It is a book to grow old with, and a book to pass on to the next generation so that they too might grow up with a love of poetry, just as Helen Ferris did.
Some picture books have wonderful rich stories that catapult you into a different world and take you on a grand adventure. Other picture books are quieter, more contemplative, in nature. Today's picture book review title is just such a book. The story is a very simple one, and yet it is still meaningful and incredibly enriching.
Such a little mouse
Illustrated by Stephanie Yue
For ages 4 to 6
Scholastic, 2015, 978-0-545-64929-2
It is spring and a little mouse, who lives in a burrow in the middle of a meadow under a clump of dandelions, pops his head out of his hole and takes in the world around him. He explores, watching a snail and bees go about their business. He listens to the sound of a woodpecker hammering away at a tree. Next the little mouse looks at his reflection in a puddle and then he heads off home, a little seed in his mouth. He goes down a tunnel into his kitchen, down another tunnel to his bedroom, and then down yet another tunnel to his storeroom, where the shelves are mostly bare.
On a summer morning the little mouse “pops out of his hole” and heads out to check on his neighbors. He watches the beavers, who are busy working on their lodge in the pond, and then pops in to visit a toad who has set up house under an upside down flower pot. At the end of the day the mouse carries a sprig of watercress home and he puts it in his store room, which is starting to fill up.
When fall comes around, leaves lie on the ground and the mouse has a grand time tunneling through them. Everywhere he turns he sees and hears signs that winter is coming. Animals are on the move and there is a lot of work to be done. At the end of the day the mouse carries a big acorn back to his storeroom.
In this delightful and gently sweet picture book we go through the seasons with an industrious little mouse, whose days are full of visits, explorations, and food collecting work.
Throughout the book beautiful illustrations capture little mouse’s world to perfection. The pictures take us into his world, even down into his cunning little home, and we cannot help growing fond of our new little friend. We watch the seasons unfold in gorgeous color, and can appreciate how much joy is to be had from life’s little pleasures.
We humans invest a great deal in the food that we eat. We enjoy trying cuisines from around the world, spend hours cooking meals, and love going out to eat in restaurants and diners. Food is often at the center of our holidays and celebrations. In today's poetry title you will find poems that are deliciously "Biteable," and that celebrate food in many creative ways.
The Popcorn Astronauts and other Biteable Rhymes
Illustrated By Joan Rankin
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Simon and Schuster, 2015, 978-1-4424-6555-8
As spring shifts into summer, summer into fall and so on, we do, of course notice the changes in temperature and weather. We notice the changes in the flora and fauna around us, and enjoy the celebrations that come around as the year progresses. There is another thing that changes with the seasons, if we are lucky: our food. There are certain fruits, vegetables, and dishes that we look forward to all year because they taste best when they are enjoyed at a certain time of year.
In this rip-roaring poetical celebration of food, the author takes us through the seasons, and throughout the book we encounter wonderfully delicious foodie poems. For example, in spring we meet the strawberry queen in a poem of that name. We are told that we will “know her the minute she enters the room / by the first little whiff of her springtime perfume.”
Summer is when, if we are ants and we are lucky, we encounter a “Watermelon Lake!” We are invited to “jump right in” to enjoy this seasonal treat. The cool, sweet, pinkness is fantastic of course, but there are also “small black boats for summer fun” all over the watermelon lake to play on. Summer is also the time when, should you feel so inclined, you can make raisins. Fear not, for the recipe for making raisins can be found in this book. All you have to do is to hang grapes out to dry and leave them there until they look like “wrinkled rubber rocks” and have the taste of “well-worn pirate socks.”
Some of the poems talk about food items, such as brownies, apples, toast, and peaches. Others tell funny food-centric stories that will delight and amuse young readers. All the poems are accompanied by Joan Rankin’s amusing and expressive illustrations, which perfectly capture the delightful goofiness of Deborah Ruddell’s poetry creations.
Spring begins in just a few days time. Here in Ashland we have already had a grand display of spring blossoms that began when the almond trees starting blooming a few weeks ago. Now the cherries are displaying their pretty pink blooms, and soon the crab apples will be starting. Today's picture book takes readers into the beautiful world of blossoming trees in spring.
Illustrated by Leslie Evans
For ages 5 to 7
Charlesbridge, 2013, 978-1-58089-412-8
Spring is here and the trees are “dressed up for their yearly show.” Blossoms cover branches that not long ago were bare. Here is the dogwood wearing its “frosty crown” of white blossoms. The crab apple has white blossoms that are white too, but they are smaller and smell sweet. Magnolia trees produce flowers that are large and tulip shaped, which are quite different from those that you find on cherry trees that are small and “grow in bundles” so that they look like “small bouquets.”
Some trees are less showy and yet they too are beautiful in their own understated way. These include the white oak with its green male flowers and its small red female flowers. White pines have small yellow male flowers. Later in the year the female flowers, “tinged with red, like slender lips” appear.
Throughout this special book, beautiful illustrations are paired with rhyming verse to take young readers into a spring day that is full of beautiful blossoming trees. They will ‘meet’ ten different tree species, and at the back of the book there is further information about spring and the changes that come about in this lovely season.
Finding ways to present old material in a fresh new way is something that some children's book authors and illustrators do very well. Jane Dyer is just such a person. In today's poetry title she brings together wonderful nursery rhymes and other poems for little children and pairs them with her own lovely artwork to give us a book that will delight the young and old alike.
Animal Crackers: A Delectable Collection of Pictures, Poems, and Lullabies for the Very Young
Little Brown, 1996, 978-0316197663
Many little children are captivated by the rhythms and rhymes in poetry, which is why so many nursery rhymes and other little sing-song poems have been written for them. Often they learn their letters using a poem, and their numbers and colors as well. They learn little stories for the first time, and connect with characters such as Humpty Dumpty, Peter Piper and Little Jack Horner. They learn to empathize with the characters who have a hard time, and laugh at the silly situations that they get into.
In this charming picture book Jane Dyer pairs her warm, beautiful and often cozy paintings with some of the world’s most popular poetry for little children. There are poems for the nursery and the playroom, for bedtime and naptime, and for sick days and rainy days. The poems are divided into seven sections, and we begin with learning poems, such as One, Two Buckle my Shoe
and A Apple Pie
Then we move onto poems about the seasons. The poem The Months of the Year
takes us through the year with a series of rhyming stanzas, each one of which is paired with delightful little illustrations that capture the essence of that month. For example, we read about June, which “bring tulips, lilies and roses / Fills the children’s hands with posies,” and there, next to these two lines, is an illustration of three children, whose arms are overflowing with bouquets of flowers.
The third section looks at food and drink, and here we find old favorites such as Hot Cross Buns, Pease Porrige Hot
, and Polly Put the Kettle On,
which many children like to sing together accompanied by the clapping of hands.
We then go on to poems about animals, nursery rhymes, playtime, and finally wrap up with “Lullaby and Good Night” poems, all of which are perfect to share with a small tired child at the end of a day.
When I was sixteen I found a little poodle mix on the streets of the town where I lived. He followed me home, and soon after he became a member of the family. At first I talked to the dog in Greek because we were living in a Greek speaking country. He did not respond to me at all and I thought that he wasn't very bright. Then we spoke to him in English and it became clear that he came from an English speaking household. He knew how to sit and stay and he was a proper little gentleman. In today's book you will meet a dog whom people make assumptions about, and it turns out that they are as wrong about their dog as I was about mine.
Groundwood Books, 2014, 978-1-55498-322-3
One day a boy and his parents go to the animal shelter so that they can adopt a dog. When they get there they realize that choosing a dog is not going to be easy; there are so many dogs that desperately need homes. The boy decides that they should adopt the dog who has been at the shelter the longest, and so they end up taking home a brown-and-white dog with a little stumpy tail. The dog was a stray and his name is Norman. Norman is thrilled to be out of his cage. He is thrilled when they leave the shelter. In fact he is so happy that “his whole rump swung from side to side.”
When they get home the boy tries to teach Norman to sit, to come and to speak. He tries to teach Norman his own name, but the dog does not seem to understand a single thing the boy says and the boy starts to thing that Norman is a rather unintelligent animal. It does not really matter though, because the boy and his parents love Norman anyway.
Then one day Norman and his master go to the dog park where they meet a friendly black dog. The black dog’s owner calls out and both Norman and the black dog go to him. When the man speaks to the two dogs they do exactly what he tells them to. The boy can hardly believe his eyes. He goes over to the man and realizes that he is not speaking English. The man explains that Norman understands Chinese! It turns out that Norman is smarter than anyone thought.
In this charming picture book we meet a family that adopts a dog only to discover that their initial assessment of him was woefully incorrect. Their dog knows how to do all kind s of things and now they have to find a way to communicate with him. It is wonderful to see how hard they work to solve this problem and how things work out in the end.
Children love noise words and noise sounds because they are funny. For today's poetry title I have a book that is jam packed with noise words. It is the kind of book that children find amusing, and they will love having the poems read to them again and again.
Noisy Poems for a busy Day
Illustrated by Lori Joy Smith
Kids Can Press, 2012, 978-1-55453-706-8
The sun is rising and it is time to get up. With a “Riffle-rustle” a little boy jumps out of bed, his feet making a “down-pound” sound as they hit the wooden floor. Another day has “rolled around” and there are so many things to do.
In this sounds-filled book of poetry we join some children as they make their way through the day from sunrise to sunset. Every page gives young readers little poems that are full of sounds and onomatopoeic words, many of which children will love. For example, in the second poem, Off to Breakfast
, we encounter “sloppy slurp” and “Big Belch – BURP!” Later in the morning it is time to get dressed and we see a little boy “Twisty-Twiggle / Jump-up jiggle” as he gets his clothes on.
After getting dressed we venture outside where we play in the grass, get kissed by a dog, do somersaults, look at the clouds, and enjoy doing the kinds of things that children love to do. By the time we are ready to go back indoors we are filthy and need to “Twisty-twiggle” into clean clothes again.
Throughout this book the poems are accompanied by amusing illustrations that perfectly capture the ebullience of children as they make their way through the day having fun, playing, quarreling, and finally, resting.
When I was young I did not fully appreciate what true bravery meant. Then I saw a friend do something that terrified him. He was afraid of heights and yet he climbed a tree to retrieve a wayward kite for someone else. I never forgot his courage and compassion.
Today's book is about a beast who, though preferring a quiet life, goes into the frightening unknown to help others. This is a beast I would be happy to have as a friend.
The Brave Beast
Andersen Press USA, 2013, 978-1849395618
One day the Beast is having a relaxing bath in his lovely garden when he is interrupted by the arrival of a plane, which lands nearby. The pilot comes running up to the Beast and tells him that the people on his island need the Beast’s help. Apparently a loud and terrifying noise is coming from the middle of their island, and the residents are so frightened that they have left the island altogether. There must be “a truly ferocious monster” somewhere on the island and they want the Beast to help them get rid of it.
The Beast is very large and rather frightening looking himself, but he is actually a very gentle soul and the idea of facing a dangerous monster frankly scares him, but he is kind and wants to help out, so he goes with the pilot. They fly over the island, the Beast jumps out over the sea, and then he swims to land. Bravely he walks through the empty village to the middle of the island where there is a mountain. He makes his way through a twisty tunnel until he comes to the other side of the island. Then the Beast walks through a “spooky” forest, which in when he hears the noise, a noise that makes him run “round and round the forest in fright.”
Often we fear things that we don’t really understand because they seem overwhelmingly terrifying; but when we face them, we realize that they are not as bad as we thought. In this wonderfully amusing picture book, we see how the Beast, who is scared just like everyone else, finds the courage to face what frightens him, which is when he makes a rather surprising discovery.
This is the second book about the Beast, and just like the first, it will delight young children and their grownups.
I have always loved poetry anthologies, and the one I have reviewed for this poetry Friday is a wonderful collection of poems that children will be drawn to.
The Random House Book of Poetry for Children
Selected by Jack Prelutsky
Illustrated by Arnold Lobel
For ages 6 to 9
Random House, 1983, 978-0394850108
Some people call anthologies treasuries, which is an excellent name to use for books that are full of written treasures. This book is indeed a treasury, packed with no less than five hundred and seventy-two poetry treasures, each one of which is unique and special. The poems are categorized into fourteen sections, so that children can find poems that suit their mood. These categories include “The Four Seasons,” “The Ways of Living Things,” “Nonsense! Nonsense!” and “Where Goblins Dwell.”
Each section is introduced by a poem written by Jack Prelutsky, a poet who is also the person who selected the poems that are included in this collection. Jack Prelutsky has visited schools and libraries for years and he has noticed that though little children have a natural affinity for poetry and love their nursery rhymes, older children seem to “find poetry boring and irrelevant.”
Jack Prelutsky has worked hard to figure out which kinds of poems appeal to this more critical audience, and he has determined that poems that amuse or surprise, those that “paint pictures” and that “reawaken pleasure in the sounds and meanings of language,” are the ones that these children tend to like. Armed with this knowledge, Jack Prelutsky set about putting together this collection, which he feels best suits elementary school children. He focused on poems that are relevant today, which means that long narrative or “inspirational” poems that appealed to audiences in the past were not included.
The collection begins with poems about nature, and here we find poems of all kinds that capture the beauty found in nature. Some of them are gently humorous, while others have a more serious, contemplative feel. There are poems about plants and trees, the wind, rivers and the sea, snow and rain, and those that look at the night, the moon and the stars. The transition from subject to subject is smooth and has a flow all of its own.
In “The Four Seasons” we journey through the year looking at the months, holidays, and the weather as the year unfolds. We experience the joys of each season, and appreciate that each one has something special to offer.
Furry animals come next in “Dogs and cats and bears and bats.” Here we meet creatures great and small. Bears, mice, foxes, elephants, seals, and pigs all appear on these pages, and children will encounter story poems, descriptive poems and so much more. Insects, fish, reptiles, amphibians, and birds follow in “The ways of living things.”
The poets whose creations appear on these pages are both modern poets and poets whose work was written many years ago. For example, Lewis Carroll’s poetry rubs shoulders with verse written by Bobbi Katz. Many familiar names appear, names such as Roald Dahl, Edward Lear, Shel Silverstein, Jane Yolen and Russell Hoban, among others.
On every page, illustrations break up the columns of text to give the eye something new to look at, and the pictures beautiful complement the poems.
Most people are afraid of things that they are not familiar with, and they are willing to believe the frightening stories that they hear about those things. All too often the fears that we have can be confronted, if only we have the courage to do so. In today's picture book you will meet a little mouse girl who is afraid of a cat. but who still wants to see what it is like.
Jenny and Lorenzo
Illustrated by Eve Tharlet
Translated by Kathryn Bishop
For ages 5 to 7
Minedition, 2013, 978-988-8240-76-0
High up in the clouds, “close to nowhere in particular,” is the land of Howodo. In this land, behind a big duck pond and in a small house, lives a curious and very sweet little girl mouse called Jenny. Jenny constantly asks her parents’ questions, and she delights them with her funny ways.
Jenny’s mother tells Jenny all about Lorenzo, the cat who likes to eat “mouse on toast.” Not surprisingly, Jenny decides that she simply must go and see this cat for herself. Jenny is scared, but “since she always faced her fears and followed her curiosity,” Jenny sets off to find Lorenzo.
As she walks through the countryside Jenny encounters some ducks and three piglets. They all warn her about Lorenzo and tell her to go back home before it is too late, but Jenny will not give up and on she goes, until she comes face to face with Lorenzo himself.
The author of this delightful book builds up the suspense in a masterful way, making us worry on Jenny’s behalf, and making us think that perhaps Jenny should follow the pigs’ advice and go home. It turns out that Jenny has a secret weapon that, in the end, brings her adventure to a surprising close.
Throughout the book the text is written in both prose and in verse. It is accompanied by Eve Tharlet’s deliciously lovely illustrations, which capture the emotions of the characters perfectly and give the tale a whimsical feel.
Most of us are fascinated by stories of the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, giant squids and other mysterious creatures, though we may deny it vehemently. In today's poetry title you will meet these creatures and others, beasts that are bizarre and sometimes dangerous.
Bigfoot is missing!
J. Patrick Lewis and Kenn Nesbitt
Illustrated by Minalima
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Chronicle Books, 2015, 978-1-4521-1895-6
Cryptozoology is the study of animals that no one has definitively proven exist. People all over the world claim that they have seen these cryptids, but so far no one has provided us with evidence that proves, once and for all, that they are real. Of course, this does not stop many of us from having a great interest in cryptids, and in this book we get to meet eighteen of these creatures.
Some cryptids, like the Beast of Bodmin Moor for example, are not that bizarre looking and one is inclined to believe that they could exist. The Beast is a large black wildcat and we encounter it on these pages in a rather unusual way. A person is texting a neighbor to say that something in the neighbor’s garden is “disturbing the peace.” The friends text briefly about what the something might be, and then the neighbor hears that something is scratching at his or her door. We come to realize that this foolish person opened the door, and that this was not a good thing to have done.
Another not too outrageous creature is the Kraken, and we find out about it on the classified pages of a newspaper where there is an advertisement. Apparently someone who owns a ship is in need of sailors, “Call today!” because the last crew went missing. Anyone who applies must we willing to work hard with “No slackin’” and they also must be “prepared to work with Kraken.”
In the same classified section of the paper we see an ad for plastic Gambo life jackets. The Gambo is a toothy dolphin-like creature that is problematic to say the least. Mind you, it is not as bad as a Luscas, which is half octopus and half shark. According to another advertisement someone is eager to give baby Luscases away, “free to a good home.” We are told that they eat fish and ships, and that they “bite much worse than bark.”
Then there are the cryptids that are quite frightening, creatures like the chupacabra, the lizard man, and the dingonek. These are beasts that you would not want to meet under any circumstances.
In this delightfully original book, two Poet Laureates give us poems that are incredibly creative and unusual. The poems are paired with clever artwork so that they are incorporated into a text message conversation, a notice on a milk cartoon, classifieds, a sign, labels on plastic bottles, a book entry, a wanted poster and more.
At the back of the book readers will find further information about the cryptids that are mentioned in the poems.
Though Valentine's Day is passed, I could not resist reviewing this book and sharing it with you. I think what endears this book to me is the way in which the main characters use poems to communicate. Slugs that are wordsmiths! How perfectly perfect.
Slugs in Love
Illustrator: Kevin O'Malley
For ages 4 to 8
Marshall Cavendish, 2012, 978-0761453116
Marylou is a very shy slug who loves one thing more than anything else. Maylou loves Herbie, a slug whom she thinks is incredibly handsome and charming. Unfortunately Marylou cannot bring herself to tell Herbie how she feels. Instead she writes a poem describing her feelings on the side of a watering can. Herbie sees the poem and writes one back asking Marylou to come forward but Marylou does not see his message and poor Herbie is still in the dark as to who she is.
Back and forth the messages go between the lovelorn Marylou and the mystified Herbie. Maylou writes her loving verses and Herbie sees them. Herbie writes back but by sheer bad luck Marylou never sees his words. Is this a love that is doomed to die before it has had a chance to begin?
Children and their grownups will laugh out loud at this funny, often sweet, and very unlikely love story. There can be no doubt that Herbie and his Marylou deserve each other, and their wistful little poems say it all. Who says romance is dead?
A lot of people don't like pigeons, but I have to admit that I rather admire them. They thrive, even in places where the odds are against them and where so many people dislike them. Today's poetry picture book is a wonderful bouncy celebration of pigeons and their world.
City Beats: A Hip-Hoppy Pigeon Poem
S. Kelly Rammell
Illustrator: Jeanette Canyon
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Dawn Publications, 2006, 978-1584690771
If you have ever lived or stayed in a city you will know that there are often pigeons flying about in-between the tall buildings. You might see them roosting on a window sill or eating crumbs on a sidewalk. They are a part of city life and we are going to spend a day with them; we are going to explore their city world and see what the city looks, sounds, and smells like as they experience it.
Down on the ground pigeons see a forest of legs and all kinds of different shoes walk by as they nibble on stale doughnuts. Up above, from the air, they see trains rush past, trucks rumble across bridges, and great machines raise buildings from the ground in a cacophony of sound and steel.
They smell all the treats that street vendors sell: popcorn, ice cream, pizza and hot dogs. They find the parks and the gardens where flowers bloom and bees hum. They even hear the strains of music floating up from the streets, music halls, and clubs.
In this unique book, children will be able to experience the rhythms, sounds, sights, and smells that fill the streets of cities all over the world. A rhyming text flows from page to page, the words packed with noises and images that almost seem to dance with vitality.
With her extraordinary three dimensional polymer pictures Jeanette Canyon has created art which perfectly compliments the text. Vibrant colors and extraordinary details make this a book which readers will look at again and again
Personal stories are powerful things, and children in particular are drawn to them. When I was little I used to beg my aunt to tell me about what her life in India was like when she and my father were little, and the stories she told me help me to understand my father better. Today's picture book is about a dandelion who wants to share her story with others, and about a sparrow who wants to help her achieve this goal.
The Dandelion's Tale
Illustrated by Rob Dunlavey
Random House, 2014, 978-0-375-87032-3
One beautiful summer’s day Sparrow is out flying when he sees a dandelion growing in a meadow all by itself. He stops to rest on the branch of a nearby tree, which is when he hears that the dandelion is crying. Sparrow asks Dandelion what is wrong and she explains that she worries that one day, quite soon, “no one will know I was ever here.” Dandelion no longer has her yellow petals; instead, all she has are ten seed pods, and soon enough they will blow away. She wants someone to hear her stories, and yet there are no dandelions nearby to whom she can tell her tales.
Since Dandelion cannot move, Sparrow offers to write down all her stories in a patch of earth nearby and soon he is busily writing down all the things that Dandelion wants to share with others. She talks about how much she likes “the smell of the meadow after it rains,” and how much she enjoys “talking with the squirrels as they look for food in the morning.” Sparrow hears about all the things that Dandelion has “seen and loved.” Sparrow reads back what he has written down and Dandelion is very happy.
As evening falls Sparrow says goodbye, promising that he will come back the next day, but that night there is a big storm and when Sparrow returns to the meadow Dandelion is gone, blown away by the wind and rain. To make matters worse, Dandelion’s story, which Sparrow wrote in the earth, has also vanished. Poor Sparrow is heartbroken.
This beautifully written picture book celebrates the power of stories, which, when they are shared and told, keep the lives and experiences of others alive. Children will be delighted when they see how the story unfolds and how, after all, Sparrow is able to honor Dandelion just as she would have wished.
Finding poems that appeal to children is not easy. They have to be just the right length, have the right tone, and the right kind of rhyme. Thankfully, there are people out there who are willing to do what it takes to find out what works for children. One of these people is Bruce Lansky, and today I have a review of a book that he worked one, a book that is packed with poems that children chose.
Kids Pick the Funniest Poems
Illustrated by Stephen Carpenter
Meadowbrook, 1991, 978-0671747695
Most of the time the poems in poetry anthologies are chosen by adults. For this collection the editor, Bruce Lansky, asked children what their favorite poems were. He then read through all the poems that were chosen, twenty thousand in number, and then chose five hundred that he thought would best interest young readers. Bruce then presented these five hundred poems to a panel of three hundred elementary school children and they told him which of these they liked best. The interesting thing about this process is that all the poems that were chosen are funny. Some were written by famous poets such as Dr. Seuss and Ogden Nash, while others were written by wonderful poets who are not as well known.
The collection is divided into nine topic sections, each one of which focuses on one particular subject. The topics chosen include parents, siblings, friends, disasters and monsters, which are the kinds of subjects that children are interested in.
We begin with poems about “Me,” which are all written from the point of view of a child. In the first one the narrator is “glad that I am me.” Even though people stare at him when he behaves in ways that other people consider odd, he is determined that he is “not going to change and be someone I’m not.” In another me poem another child daydreams about all the things he would like to do and say to the grownups who inflict things on him. He’d like to “give the nurse the shot” and “send my mother to her room,” and best of all he dreams of being able to say “‘Cause I said so!”
The next topic in the book is one that all children will appreciate because it is about parents. It explores the ways in which parents curtail children’s activities and make them do things that they, naturally, think are very unreasonable; things like eating liver and learning good manners. Some of the poems tell deliciously funny stories about parents whose children somehow get the better of them.
The humor found in these poems is sometimes subtle, and sometimes it is just all out funny. Children will enjoy dipping into the book to find an amusing poem that lifts their spirits and that helps them to remember that though life has its trials, it is also full of good times, good books, and wonderful poetry.
Every so often I come across a picture book that lifts my heart because of the quality of the book's story, and because of the message it conveys. Today's review title is just such a picture book.
Sarah S. Brannen
For ages 5 to 7
Albert Whitman, 2014, 978-0-8075-4905-6
Madame Martine lives in Paris, in an apartment not far from the Eiffel Tower. Every day she walks the same route, and she does her shopping in the same shops. Every week her schedule is the same and this is how she likes things to be. Madame Martine has never been to the top of the Eiffel Tower, because she thinks that doing so would be a waste of time.
Then one Saturday, when she is out, she finds a small miserable looking dog hiding under a bush. When she offers the dog her hand it licks her and Madame Martine begins to think that maybe the dog “might be nice.” Then Madame Martine does something that is quite out of character. She picks up the dog and takes it home where she bathes it, feeds it, and gives is a name. The next day Madame Martine buys Max a collar, a leash, dog food, and a bowl and she takes him shopping with her.
One Saturday Madame Martine and Max are out walking near the Eiffel Tower when Max sees a squirrel. He pulls the leash out of Madame Martine’s hands and takes off up the stairs of the Eiffel Tower. Desperate to retrieve her dog, Madame Martine buys a ticket and starts climbing the stairs.
Many of us fall into a routine because it is easy and comfortable. We don’t like to do new things that will disrupt our schedule, and yet when we restrict ourselves by doing this we lose something. We don’t have the kinds of adventures that make our lives richer.
In this wonderful picture book we see how Madame Martine’s new companion teaches her a valuable lesson about the importance of having adventures and trying new things. Throughout the book gorgeous illustrations are perfectly paired with a timeless story to give readers a tale that is powerful and heartwarming.
Today's picture book is one of the funniest books I have read in a while. I literally laughed out loud as the story unfolded. The characters in the story are so delightful, and readers will find it impossible not to feel sorry for them AND laugh at them at the same time.
Mr. Squirrel and the Moon
For ages 4 to 6
North South, 2015, 978-0-7358-4156-7
One day a man who is transporting some big yellow cheeses in a cart stops to take a rest. While he is having a picnic meal with his little boy one of the cheeses rolls out of the cart and rolls down the hill. The little boy chases the cheese, but it is going so fast that he can’t catch it. Then the cheese flies off a cliff and is gone.
Down in the valley Mr. Squirrel is woken up when the moon (the wayward cheese) lands on the branch right outside his front door. Mr. Squirrel has no idea why the moon has left its place in the sky. Perhaps someone stole it and then lost it. Perhaps people will think he stole it, and then he will “be arrested and thrown into prison.” The idea is too terrible to contemplate. There is only one thing Mr. Squirrel can do. He has to get rid of the moon as quickly as possible. Using every ounce of strength he has, Mr. Squirrel pushes the moon off the branch ... and it lands on Mrs. Hedgehog, where it gets very very stuck. Now both Mr. Squirrel and Mrs. Hedgehog are both going to get arrested for stealing the moon. This is a disaster!
Readers of all ages are going to love this deliciously funny picture book. One cannot help sympathizing with Mr. Squirrel, but at the same time it is hard not to laugh at the mess he and his animal friends get into. As the story unfolds the situation gets worse and worse, and funnier and funnier. It is hard to be know how things are going to turn out.
Many children like to watch animals in zoos and on television. They like to read about real animals in books, and many picture book authors and illustrators use animals as their main characters because they know that their young readers are will be drawn to their creations. Poets too like to write about animals, and today's title is literally packed with animal poems of all kinds.
Book Of Animal Poetry
Edited by J. Patrick Lewis
National Geographic, 2012, 978-1-4263-1009-6
Many poets love to describe nature and animals in the poems that they write. Some like to go a step further and they “try to imagine the secret lives of animals.” What is it like to be an animal, and to see its world through the eyes of that creature?
In this remarkable collection of two hundred poems we encounter animals that have just come into the world, those that are big, those that are small, the winged ones, the ones that live in water, the strange ones, the noisy ones and the quiet ones. Some of the poems were written many decades ago and capture the feeling of a different time. Others are more modern and reflect a more contemporary approach to poetry writing. There are poems that rhyme and those that are written in blank verse. Some are funny and others are more completive.
What makes this collection so special is that the poets don’t only write about animals that are commonplace. They embrace the whole animal kingdom from big whales “always spouting fountains,” to little ladybugs, “Smaller/ than a button, / bigger than a spot.” We drift on the wings of “six geese / rowing across a full moon” and plunge deep into oceans with a seal who “swims / With a swerve and a twist, / a flip of the flipper, / a flick of the wrist.”
Some of the animals are strangely creepy, like the piranha who will consider “you’re meat” should you ever encounter it. Others are weird but funny, like the baby porcupine who, though it cannot yet climb trees can still raise its quills “and pirouette.” Then there is the armadillo which “From head to tail / It wears a scratchy coat of mail.” Meerkats, anteaters, frilled lizards, sting rays and other oddities also appear on the pages.
Throughout the book the poems are paired with stunning full-color photographs to give readers an extraordinary journey into the world of animals. The photos provide a wonderful backdrop for poems written by Jane Yolen, Robert Louis Stevenson, Robert Frost, Hilaire Belloc, Michael J. Rosen, Ogden Nash and others.
I really like my alone time. In fact, I need some alone time every day, otherwise I start to feel squirrely. In today's picture book you will meet a bear who is trying to have a little time alone, a little time when he can be quiet and calm. The problem is that his friend Goose does not really understand why Bear needs this.
Boys Mill Press, 2014, 978-1-62091-736-7
One day Fox and Goose are sitting together when Fox asks his friend where Bear is. Goose says that Bear is not far away sitting alone. Fox is surprised when he hears this and Goose has to explain that sometimes Bear like to be alone. Fox, who is a friendly little fellow, goes over to Bear and asks him if he is “sad” or “mad” or “lonely.” Bear is none of these things. He is just having “some quiet time.”
Fox says that he likes quiet time too, but it turns out that Fox’s quiet time is nothing like Bear’s quiet time. Fox hums, twirls, and whooses “like the wind,” and poor Bear is not at all happy. He just wants some quiet. Some real
Some people need quiet time on their own. They are not upset about anything, they just need some space to enjoy being with themselves. The problem is that other people don’t always understand why they need this time, and they don’t understand what quiet time means. In this sweet picture book Suzanne Bloom’s expressive and minimal illustrations are paired with a spare text to give young readers a story that explores how three very different characters find a way to be alone, and quiet, together.
Sharing stories with children is something many grownups do by reading aloud in libraries, classrooms, and at home. Doing this not only entertains children, but it also helps them to discover that the written word is a powerful thing. Today I have a review of a book packed full of poems that are perfect for reading aloud.
Read-Aloud Rhymes for the very young
Selected by Jack Prelutsky
Illustrated by Marc Brown
Random House, 1986, 978-0394872186
Babies, even before they come into the world, are attuned to rhythmic sounds. They hear the beat of their mother’s heart before they are born, and can also hear the rising and falling sound of her voice. They therefore come into the world with a natural inclination to listen to sounds. Rhythmic sounds such as the purr of a car engine and the rumble of a dryer send them to sleep, and bedtime lullabies make them feel loved and safe. Since songs are “nothing more than poetry set to music,” children have an affinity for poems and they enjoy having poems read to them, especially ones that have a lilting rhyme.
In this collection of two hundred short poems grownups will find verses that were written especially for little children. The poets have taken the short attention span of their audience into account, and they use language that will resonate with their young listeners.
Some of the poems tell little stories that will amuse children, others describe activities that children enjoy doing, things such as jumping, playing hide and seek, blowing bubbles, playing in that mud, and having a bath. There are also poems that describe animals, places and things that children encounter as they go about their day.
In addition there are poems that explore the ways in which children can use their imaginations to make their world magical and full of adventures. For example in Wild Beasts
a child talks about how “I will be a lion / And you shall be a bear.”
So often things seen through the eyes of a wondering child gain a depth and a significance that adults no longer know how to find. Many of these poems capture that wonder, and celebrate the marvelous in everyday things and situations. For example in Home
, a child describes how he or she collects shells and then goes home. There are only four lines in the poem and yet the scene and the child’s pleasure comes through loud and clear.
Throughout this splendid book, Marc Brown’s storytelling illustrations and sweet artwork vignettes are paired with the poems.
Some people like to think that it is easy being a small child, but there are so many mistakes that one can make when one is very young and inexperienced. In today's picture book you will meet a young dodo bird who is constantly putting his rather large feet into it, and we cannot help laughing at the mistakes he makes.
Boyds Mills Press, 2013, 978-1-59078-9259-2
Dodo is a little dodo bird who has very large yellow feet, a little feather dusterish white tail and a large beak. Today he and his Mama are going for a walk. Dodo’s feet, like the feet of many little birds, have a mind of their own. Dodo is so taken with how talented his toes are that he forgets to pay attention to what he is doing and he walks straight into his mother’s backside.
Dodo sings loudly for everyone to enjoy, only not everyone is pleased by the noise he is making. A mama bird who has chicks in her nest angrily shushes him. Next, Dodo decides to start a “funny-shaped rock collection.” He collects all kinds of rock like objects, including a knobbly green rock. Dodo soon discovers that the rock is not a rock at all. It is a tortoise who is not really interested in being part of any collection.
Just like so many little children, poor Dodo goes from one uh-oh moment to another as he follows his mother. Everything he does is well intentioned, but somehow things go wrong and Dodo ends up in some kind of pickle.
Young children are going to love the uh-ohs in this book, many of which are sweetly funny. They will easily connect with the little bird who tries to play with the wrong animal, hugs the wrong legs, and eventually wears himself out completely.
These days the news is full of stories that seem to indicate that in some places the divide between people of different cultural backgrounds is getting wider and wider. Too many of us are getting less tolerant and accepting of people who not like us. I find this trend to be both disturbing and very discouraging. One way to counter this trend is to help our children to understand and appreciate people who are culturally different from them. Books that celebrate diversity can help parents, teachers, and librarians to explore how our lives are made richer when our communities are heterogeneous. Today is Multicultural Children's Book Day and below you will find out why this event was created by two women who want to open hearts and minds one book at a time. Visit the Multicultural Children's Book Day website to find out more. Children’s reading and play advocates Valarie Budayr from Jump Into a Book and Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom have teamed up to create an ambitious (and much needed) national event. On January 27th, Jump into a Book and Pragmatic Mom will be presenting yet another Multicultural Children’s Book Day as a way of celebrating diversity in children’s books.
Despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content. Using the Multicultural Children’s Book Day, Mia and Valarie are on a mission to change all of that. Their mission is to not only raise awareness for the kid’s books that celebrate diversity, but to get more of these types of books into classrooms and libraries. Another goal of this exciting event is create a compilation of books and favorite reads that will provide not only a new reading list for the winter, but also a way to expose brilliant books to families, teachers, and libraries.
Multicultural Children’s Book Day will include book reviews from noted bloggers all over the world, giveaways and book-related activities for young readers of all ages. The MCCBD team will also be partnering with First Book
to create a Virtual Book Drive for the event, and with The Children’s Book Council
to offer readers quality resources along with fun and informative author visits.
Together the MCCBD team hopes to spread the word and raise awareness about the importance of diversity in children’s literature. Our young readers need to see themselves within the pages of a book and experience other cultures, languages, traditions and religions within the pages of a book. We encourage readers, parents, teachers, caregivers and librarians to follow along the fun book reviews, author visits, event details, multicultural children’s book linky and via our hashtag (#ReadYourWorld) on Twitter and other social media.
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One of the reasons why I love my work is because I love words and language. In today's picture book children will encounter a delicious collection of words and wonderful rhymes, which are presented in a clever alphabet book type format.
The Alphabet from A to Y with Bonus Letter Z
Illustrated by Roz Chast
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 5 to 8
Flying Dolphin Press, 2007 ISBN: 978-0385516624
Alphabet books are more varied today than they have ever been. Some are straightforward ABC books that use pictures and single words to help children to learn their alphabet. Others are packed with information about a variety of subjects. In this unique title the author and illustrator have chosen to entertain their audience while they show them that there is a wonderful world of words out there.
For every letter of the alphabet Steve Martin has created a funny nonsense rhyming couplet in which he introduces some characters who are doing things that are amusing, downright outrageous, or deliciously naughty. In each line of verse Martin uses plenty of words beginning with the letter of the alphabet that is features on that page. On the H page for example we meet Henrietta the hare who "wore a habit in heaven" and who had a "hairdo" which "hid hunchbacks: one hundred and seven."
Readers will laugh at loud when they read the descriptive couplets, and they will also discover that the accompanying illustrations are packed with things whose names begin with the letter being featured. Thus, on the L page we not only read that Lovely Lorraine is discovering that long Louie has Larry's locket, but in the artwork we see, among other things, a lamppost, a boy licking a lollipop, a loudhailer, and a lawyer.
As they turn the pages, children will have a wonderful time reading the rhymes out loud and searching the illustrations for hidden objects and words.