November 15, 2019

Sky Color by Peter Reynolds

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 5:14 pm by suebe2

Sky Color
by Peter Reynolds
Candlewick Press

Marisol has turned the family refrigerator into her own art gallery and she loves to share her art with her friends.  So she is beyond excited when her teacher announces that the class is painting a mural for the library.

Together they sketched the long drawing and one by one her classmates announce which part they want to paint – fish and ocean.  Marisol gladly accepts the broad expanse of the sky, but then she realizes that there is no blue paint left for her to use.

On the way home from school, she stares out the bus window.  The sun approached the horizon.  At home, she watched the sky as day turned to night.  The next morning she smiled into the drizzle.  She was fully ready to paint in sky color.

You definitely have to see Reynold’s art work to see how Marisol works this out.  You can find the book read on Youtube but I hope you will read it yourself.

For those of you who have yet to experience a book written and illustrated by Reynolds, this one is a must read.  Sure, Marisol could have talked to her classmates about sharing the blue paint.  Or she could have asked her teacher for more. But that isn’t the story that Reynolds chooses to share.  Yet again, Reynolds has created a story about creativity and thinking outside the boxes that we create for ourselves.

This book is a short read – only 305 words but it tells a powerful story.  Reynolds art work begins with pen and ink to which he adds watercolor and even tea.  Share this book in your classroom or at reading time.  It is sure to inspire both discussion and also art work. But it would also make a good quiet read to share one on one.

Marisol is a character who truly sees.  Then she finds a way to share her vision with her friends.  But should we be surprised?  Probably not.  Because as Reynolds already told us.  Marisol is an artist.

–SueBE

November 6, 2019

Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 8:32 pm by suebe2

Patron Saints of Nothing
by Randy Ribay
Kokila

For years Jay and his cousin Jun wrote each other — not e-mails, not texts but real paper letters.  Jay was born in the Philippines but raised in the US while Jun remained in the island nation, growing up in an exclusive gated community.

Jay has started to hear back from colleges when he learns that his cousin has been killed.  Although his Filipino father refuses to tell him anything, his mother reveals that Jun had been using drugs.  His death was one of many sanctioned by Philippine President Duterte in the nation’s war against drugs.

Jay knows this can’t be true.  Jun was ridiculously smart and often at odds with his father, a high ranking police official who rules the family with an iron fist.  Jay decides to give up his spring break to travel to the Philippines and find out what really happened.

I’m not going to spoil the plot. If you want to know what happened, you will have to read the book. Suffice it to say that Jay’s eyes are opened when he returns to the country of his birth.

Author Randy Ribay has done an excellent job in creating a complex situation that is not as simple or straight forward as many people would believe.  In Jay, he has also created a character that defies stereotype.  Readers will realize just how little they know about the Philippines, both historically and in terms of the geography and culture.

What authority does Ribay have to write this book?  Like his character, he was born in the Philippines but grew up in the Midwest.

One thing that would have helped me was a Tagalog glossary since phrases in this Filipino language pepper the text.  Then again, the omission of a glossary may have been intentional since its absence left my floundering alongside the main character.

While mature middle school readers could deal with the content, I’m not sure they would find Jay’s concern about his college applications interesting or relatable.   This book is definitely worth sharing in the classroom as it is sure to spark discussions on diversity, media, and more.   An excellent choice for book club reading.

–SueBE

October 30, 2019

Zombie in Love by Kelly DiPucchio, picture by Scott Campbell

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 8:05 pm by suebe2

Zombie in Love
by Kelly DiPucchio
Illustratrated by Scott Campbell

Do zombies sound too gruesome for a Halloween picture book?  Then you need to pick up Zombie in Love and see how author Kelly DiPucchio handles her topic.

Mortimer is just a regular guy and with Cupid’s Ball coming home he’s ready for a change.  He wants someone special in his life.  But the girls just don’t appreciate his best qualities – his winning smile, his can-do attitude and his willingness to put himself out there.

In a final attempt to find true love, Mortimer places an ad in the newspaper (this is in there for the adult reader).  “If you like taking walks in the graveyard, and falling down in the rain. If you’re not into cooking, if you have half a brain…”

At the ball, Mortimer sits beside the punch bowl where he can see the whole room.  No one wants any punch but Mortimer watches friends laughing together and couples dancing.  As people start to leave, Mortimer hears a crash as someone knew arrives and, judging by the way she’s falling apart, she’s a bit nervous.

This story works for early grade school readers because the text taken alone has almost no creep factor.  It takes pairing the text with the illustrations to make it a true zombie story.  But since the watercolor illustrations are cartoony and silly it doesn’t become overwhelming gruesome.

If you have a young reader in your life who wants to get in on zombies but isn’t ready for the big screen version, read through this book.  My son and niece both would have loved it, but it wouldnt’ have been right for every young readers I’ve known.  Still, the right young reader will want to spend some time with the book, pointing out the silly-creepy details in the illustrations.

–SueBE

October 26, 2019

A Friend for Henry by Jenn Bailey, illustrated by Mika Song

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 1:42 am by suebe2

A Friend for Henry
by Jenn Bailey
illustrated by Mika Song
Chronicle Books

Like the other children in Classroom Six, Henry hopes for a friend.  Samuel is wildly energetic and Henry finds him a little scary.  Vivianne is a tangle of colors and Henry finds it hard to navigate her rules about the world.  Why is it okay for Vivianne’s Mommy to paint on her fingernails but wrong when Henry paints on her shoes?  He too created a rainbow?

Henry finds it difficult to connect with others.  Their rules confuse him and when his attempts at friendship are often misinterpreted.  But he still wants a friend.  Fortunately Katie is also in his class.

They both love to build with blocks and she doesn’t care that he doesn’t like triangles.  After all, it doesn’t bother him that she doesn’t like broccoli.  They both love the swings and he’s willing to wait at the bottom when she climbs up the ladder to the tall slide.  Free time, playground time, and reading time.  The two find a way to share.

It is one thing to be told how amazing a book is and I’d heard a lot of good things about A Friend for Henry.  Hearing about it and reading it are like hearing about chocolate and then getting to experience it for yourself.  Or broccoli if that’s more your thing.

Sing’s ink and watercolor illustrations help Henry express himself from the apprehension on his face when Samuel turns up the volume to the small smile when he and Katie build a tower and the huge grin when they swing.

Many readers will recognize in Henry a boy much like themselves or someone they know.  Henry is on the autism spectrum.  He is very contained until he is overwhelmed.  He wants to connect but often finds it safer to simply step back.  He tries to reach out and doesn’t understand when people don’t listen.

Pick up a copy of this book for your classroom and your home bookshelf.  It is a great jumping off point for discussions on autism, empathy and friendship.

–SueBE

October 9, 2019

Where Are You From? by Yamile Saied Mendez, illustrated by Jaime Kim

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 5:35 pm by suebe2

Where Are You From?
by Yamile Saied Mendez,
illustrated by Jaime Kim
Harper

This story is about a little girl who doesn’t look like everyone around her. Because of this, children and adults alike assume she is from somewhere else.

Where are you from? they ask.

Is your mom from here?

Is your dad from there? they ask.

This is a book that could quickly become a sermon, or a protest sign, but Mendez gives our young narrator a problem that resonates in today’s world and an abuelo. When he could lecture, abuelo spins a story about the many lands their ancestors called home.  He talks about guacho and the pampas, condors and mountains and far off lands.  But what he’s really telling her about is family.

Jaime Kim’s illustrations bring this story to life.  She creates a diverse variety of characters, children and adults, who pose these questions to the young narrator.  Then she creates a smiling abuelo who spins a story of exotic seeming locals that are in some ways very familiar – they are full of families. The story ends as abuelo and our character return home, to a place full of a wide variety of people.

Kim combines watercolors and digital techniques to create the illustrations for this book.  I think my favorite illustration is the one of the Andes and the condors or maybe it is when the pair are on horseback on the pampas.

If you haven’t read this picture book, I’d definitely recommend it for a great way to teach without preaching.  It is subtle, sweet and relatable.  Give it a place on the bookshelf in your classroom, office and home.  It will act as a great jumping off place for readers young and adult to discuss identity and their understanding of others as well as self-acceptance.

–SueBE

October 2, 2019

New Kid by Jerry Craft

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 4:35 pm by suebe2

New Kid
by Jerry Craft
Harpercollins 2019

Jordan Banks is wild about his art.  He draws pictures of the world around him and longs to study art in school. But his parents send him to a posh private high school known for academics, not art.  From day one, Jordan feels like he doesn’t belong.

Sure, there are the normal new kid problems.  He has to navigate from one building to another.  He has to learn how each teacher works.

But there’s more.  He’s also one of the few students of color.

One teacher always calls him the wrong name.  He suspects he’s imagining it until he realizes she can’t keep the African-American students straight.  She even tosses in the names of students who are no longer there.  And really there aren’t so many that this should be difficult.

Then there is the fact that he’s a scholarship student.  Most people are okay with it but there is still that one teacher.  She means well but always says something racist while thinking she is being supportive and understanding.

Then she finds his art notebook.  He’s mad that she went through it and she’s “disappointed” because she thinks his comics show a bad attitude.  Never mind that it is a spot on middle school attitude and that these rich white people really are clueless, it isn’t what she wants to see from someone who should be grateful to be where he is.

Slowly but surely Jordan finds a place at his new school as he makes friends with Drew and Liam.  Liam may be white and rich like most of the students but he also feels isolated.  He doesn’t want his parents’ wealth to be an issue but he feels awkward that he is so much more than Jordan.

One of the funniest series of jokes in the book is between Jordan and Drew who is also African American. He too is often called by the wrong name.  The two confuse their fellow students and more than a few teachers by constantly calling each other made up names.  “Bye, D’aren!” “Bye, Jaylen!”

Craft’s book fills a need in children’s publishing for stories not only about African American students but about students who aren’t in gangs and come from loving, supportive families.  The stereotype that African American students are gang-banging thugs is also addressed in the book.

Sounds serious, doesn’t it?  And the issues are serious but Craft manages to address them with humor and it is the type of humor that will appeal to students who have dealt with the casual, clueless racism that is so prevalent in our society.

This book should definitely be in school libraries and on reading lists. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to pop over to the library and see what else they have by Craft.

–SueBE

August 15, 2019

Seashells: More than a Home by Melissa Stewart, illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 4:54 pm by suebe2

Seashells: 
More than a Home
by Melissa Stewart
illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen
Charlesbridge

There are jars of seashells on the dresser in our family room.  One is full of shells from Myrtle Beach.  Another from Pensacola.  Sea shells have always fascinated me so I Stewart’s book was a must read.

Stewart explains that there are so many different looking shells because they do so many different jobs.  The nautilus can rise and dive like a submarine. The spirals on a turritella act like an anchor, holding the animal fast to the sea floor.  The chiton even has flexible plates so that the animal can roll up in a protective ball.

I think my favorite was when I learned something new about a shell I have seen.  Abalone shells have a row of holes. It is through these ports that the waste escapes.  I had always wondered why those holes were there.

Brannen’s watercolor illustrations bring these creatures to life.  In the back matter, she confesses that shells are tricky to draw but she’s done a top notch job.  She brings the varied colors and textures of these shells to life.  My favorite illustrations may be the inset drawings that help explain certain features.  These illustrated sidebars look like a spiral field notebook.

Don’t be afraid to pick this book up even if your child has read numerous books about sea animals. As much as I love scientific programming and reading, I still learned a lot. The endpapers, the pages inside the front and back cover, include maps that show young readers where in the world these various animals live.

This book is a must read for any young ocean enthusiast or animal lover.  Share it with your classroom for a jumping off point when discussing ecological diversity and ecosystems. For more information on this topic, flip to the back of the book where the author and illustrator both share books they used in their research.  There are also additional titles listed for young readers.

Science lovers and sea shell lovers alike will want to read this book.

–SueBE

August 8, 2019

There’s a Dragon in Your Book by Tom Fletcher, illustrated by Greg Abbot

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 7:49 pm by suebe2

There’s a Dragon in Your Book
by Tom Fletcher
illustrated by Greg Abbot
Random House

“Oh, look!
There’s an egg in your book!
It looks ready to hatch.
Whatever you do, don’t turn the page….”

From this text on the first page, author Tom Fletcher invites young readers directly into this story of a hatching dragon egg and a little dragon who doesn’t quite have fire control down to an art.  From patting the book to flapping it like dragon wings, readers are directed to undertake certain action.

Greg Abbot’s illustrations bring this cute little dragon to life.  With rounded lines and big eyes, she is definitely cute and not scary.

Would this book make a good bedtime story?  I guess it depends just how hard you want to work to put an excited young reader to bed.  It is actually much more suitable as a read aloud but be prepared for roaring and flapping as your listeners join in the story.

This technique, with the narrator speaking directly to the reader, is called breaking the fourth wall.  The fourth wall is the invisible wall between the audience and the stage or the reader and the story inside the book.  Some young readers love these stories and because of this Abbot’s books are popular with active, wiggly kids who may have troubles sitting still during a story.

If this sounds familiar or you think you recognize the art work, you may have read There’s a Monster in Your Book. Fletcher is a song writer and popular You-Tuber with active kids of his own.   I suspect that my own son would have loved this as much as he loved No, David!  

–SueBE

 

August 6, 2019

Smile: How Young Charlie Chaplin Taught the World to Laugh (and Cry!) by Gary Golio, illustrated by Ed Young

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , at 4:07 pm by suebe2

Smile:
How Young Charlie Chaplin Taught the World to Laugh (and Cry!) 
by Gary Golio
illustrated by Ed Young

How do you bring a silent movie star to life for young readers today?  Check out Smile and you will see!

Charlie Chaplin’s mother and father were both actors although his father had left.  Charlie lived with his mother and older brother Sydney.  But times were good because his mother was a talented actress and singer.  Charlie wore a velvet suit and his mother called him The King.

But when her singing voice gave out, she earned less and soon her money was gone.  Charlie picked up a few coins wherever he could, singing and dancing outside of pubs.

I don’t want to give a blow by blow recital of the book because you want to read it yourself.  Golio traces the development of Chaplin’s career and style.  He shows young readers without being preachy how laughter and tears are emotionally linked and how Chaplin adapted his character, the tramp, from a sad derilict of a man he had known growing up.  The emotions in this book will resonate with young readers.

Young’s mixed media collage compliments the story well and presents another duality.  He uses subdued tans and black in various textures, echoing the limited colorscape of Chaplin’s earliest films and the dull dreary world of poverty.  But throughout are clippings of color and pattern – a rich woman’s gown, a curtain at the theater, and brightly colored tumbling characters.  These characters echo the bright sparks of laughter that Chaplin’s clowning and pratfalls brought audiences.

Young artists will love reading about how Chaplin’s early life shapes and colors his performances and career.  Older fans of Chaplin’s work will be pulled into a book that shows them a different side of his character.  Check it out and share it with someone today!

–SueBE

August 2, 2019

A Penguin Named Patience: A Hurrican Katrina Rescue Story, by Suzanne Lewis, illustrated by Lisa Anchin

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 1:00 am by suebe2

A Penguin Named Patience:
A Hurrican Katrina Rescue Story
by Suzanne Lewis,
illustrated by Lisa Anchin
Sleeping Bear Press

Patience was an African penguin so she was used to warmer weather than many of her penguin kin. But it was too hot and muggy at the Audubon Aquarium in New Orleans.  That’s because the power was out because of Hurricane Katrina. The power was out and it was getting dangerously hot for the penguins.

Patience is having troubles being patient when their keeper, Tom, finally shows up.  He tells them that he is working on moving them but he doesn’t know where.  When the Monterey Bay Aquarium agrees to take them in, he loads all nineteen penguins into carriers and takes them to the airport.

Tom sees them to their temporary home where the penguins settle in and enjoy the cool water. It was nine months before the penguins could be returned to their New Orleans home.

This is a true story so it is shelved in nonfiction.  That said, the reader also sees things through Patience’s perspective and reads her thoughts.  Thus the penguins have been anthropomorphized although the story is real.

An author’s note at the back of the book expands on the story.  Here Lewis explains that, in spite of the dedicated efforts of the staff, not all of the animals that lived at the aquarium could be saved. This information might be too harsh for some younger readers but tucked back in the author’s note it isn’t part of the main story.

Lisa Anchin’s illustrations continue to anthropomorphize Patience and her fellow penguins, giving them facial expressions to help readers interpret their emotions.  The soft colors show the penguins and their world clearly while keeping the turmoil at a bit of a distance, essential for some sensitive young readers.  This story illustrates the great lengths that zoos and their staff go to for the animals in their care.

–SueBE

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