June 30, 2017

Summer Birds: The Butterflies of Maria Merian by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Julie Paschkis

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , at 4:37 pm by suebe2

Summer Birds:
The Butterflies of Maria Merian
by Margarita Engle
illustrated by Julie Paschkis
Henry Holt and Company

Way back when, and no this isn’t fiction, people in Europe thought that insects were evil.  They believed that they spontaneously generated from mud as did frogs.

Maria Sibylla Merian was born in Germany in 1647.  By the time she was thirteen years old, she was well on her way to disproving this belief.  She loved to collect insects, especially summer birds, what we call butterflies. But she had to do it quietly so that her neighbors didn’t accuse her of being a witch.

Still, her parents encouraged her studies and her painting.  Maria studied how insects transformed from one form to another. She documented it carefully to show that this was a natural, not a magical, occurence.

Marian Merian is definitely a scientist that young readers need to know about.  She made her first discoveries before she was an adult.  And at a time when many women were sheltered by their families she and her daughter journeyed to South America to study and paint nature.  Why did I not know about this amazing woman?

Fortunately Engle has written a book that explains not only the beliefs common at the time that Merian lived but also what this woman did to push our knowledge and science to new levels.  The spare text is complimented by the art of Julie Paschkis. Her paintings reflect not only the history but also the natural world.  It can’t have been an easy balance to achieve yet she manages to pull it off using bright vibrant colors.

Add this book to your shelf for young readers who are interested in art and science.  Read it to anyone who is challenging the status quo.  Use it as a jumping off point for discussions regarding false beliefs, following ones dreams and making new discoveries.  This book is brief enough to read aloud but do have art supplies handy.  Once you are done, challenge your listeners to depict the world of nature as they see it.


June 28, 2017

Drum Dream Girl by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Rafael Lopez

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 3:32 am by suebe2

Drum Dream Girl
by Margarita Engle
illustrated by Rafael Lopez
Houghton Mifflin

Last week was bear week.  This week is biography week.

The first book for the week is about Millo Castro Zaldarriaga.  For those of you who haven’t heard of her, she is a female drummer from Cuba.  What makes her noteworthy is that she is the first female drummer from Cuba.

Growing up in the 1920s and 1930s, the message was clear.  It was okay to love music.  It was even okay to play music as long as she didn’t play the drums.  When her sisters first invited her to join their all-girl dance band, it was her father who put a stop to it.

So she continued to practice and play but always alone.  Finally her father recognized how important music was to his daughter.  Not only would he let her play, he would find a teacher who would be willing to take her on.

Her teacher was surprised by how much she knew but he taught her even more. Soon she was enchanting audiences who danced to the beat of her bongos.

Don’t know much about music in general or Cuban music in particular? That’s okay.  This book is about so much more than music.  It is about inspiration and living the dream.  It is about not giving up and inspiring those around you.  It is about what can be even when people are saying “it has never been done.”

Engle’s text isn’t flowery or complex.  That said is has a beat that pulls you forward from page to page.

The illustrations are bright and vibrant, acrylic paint on wood board.  They bring a lively, colorful tone and a sense of dreamlike magic to the story.

If you have a child who is a dreamer, this is the perfect book to inspire them and send them spiraling upward!


June 23, 2017

BunnyBear by Andrea J. Loney, illustrated by Carmen Saldana

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 1:02 am by suebe2

by Andrea J. Loney
illustrated by Carmen Saldana
Albert Whitman and Company

Obviously, it is bear week here at Bookshelf.  Why not?  If they can have shark week, we can have bear week.

Not that BunnyBear is typical.  Yes, he’s furry and shaggy and can be super loud.  But when he’s alone, he loves to bounce, wiggle his nose, and nibble on strawberries.The other bears didn’t understand.  They told him to catch fish and eat meat and act like a bear.

On the lookout for someplace he can truly belong, BunnyBear spots a bunny.  He follows the bunny down a rabbit hole and into the warren.  But it wasn’t exactly a flawless entrance and one of the adult bunnies sends him away.

But this time BunnyBear isn’t alone.  He’s being followed.  She may look like a bunny but she’s burly and loud and eats whatever she wants. To her surprise, BunnyBear immediately recognized that, yes, in spite of her cotton tail, she is a bear.  ‘You just look one way on the outside and feel another way on the inside. That’s okay,” he tells her.

Can I just say WOW.  There’s more to the story but even this much is so powerful.  It is a story about inclusivity without once mentioning . . . whatever.  It could be about religion or gender or culture or bunnies and bears.  Of course, it is just this inclusivity that will set some people free.  That said, this is a book that belong on every book shelf.

It is a top choice for the child who just doesn’t feel understood, who questions whether she belongs.  And, in truth, haven’t we all felt that way at one time or another?

Carmen Saldana’s illustrations are silly and cartoony without being too silly are cartoony.  They allow you to giggle as BunnyBear squeezes into the warren without making the whole thing utterly ridiculous.  Yet they aren’t too silly because they contribute perfectly to the sweet vibe of this story.

Share it with the readers in your life and be prepared for a conversation about acceptance, belonging and the assumptions that people make.


June 22, 2017

Horrible Bear written by Ame Dyckman, illustrated by Zachariah OHora

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 1:31 am by suebe2

Horrible Bear!
written by Ame Dyckman
illustrated by Zachariah OHora
Little, Brown and Company

When a little girl’s kite string breaks, her kite floats into a cave and lands on the belly of a sleeping bear.  Unfortunately, the bear rolls over and CRUNCH goes the kite. The girl is furious and she isn’t about to let him sleep through this disaster. “Horrible Bear!” The girl stomps down the mountain, across a meadow and all the way home.

As bear finally comes fully awake, he realizes how angry he is.  After all, he isn’t horrible.  It was an accident!   Bear practices being loud and obnoxious and when he has perfected his technique, he sets off to find the girl.

In the meantime, she’s still in an awful mood and storming around her own room.  Let’s just say that she realizes just a little too late how easily an accident can happen.

I’m not going to talk about the plot anymore because I don’t want to give it away but this is a great book for toddlers and preschoolers and anyone who is still working to master their temper.  Not that it is a prolonged tantrum.  There’s plenty in here to love with the girl apologizing and bear helping to cheer her up.

In fact a full range of emotions are depicted.  Thus it would be a great book to use in the classroom or at home to launch a discussion on kind words vs cruel words, as well as emotions and even oop-sidents, what my son always called those uh-oh moments when you OOPS break something.

This nuanced and layered story is complemented by OHora’s paintings which are painted in acrylic. The bright bold images offer another way to draw readers into the story but have art supplies ready so that you can challenge your young book lovers to create characters of their own showing an equally wide array of emotions.


June 15, 2017

Swatch, The Girl Who Loved Color by Julia Denos

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 4:48 pm by suebe2

Swatch, The Girl Who Loved Color
by Julia Denos
Balzer + Bray

It wasn’t hard to get me to pick up this book.  I may wear a lot of grey but I LOVE color.  Love it.  So I was eager to read a book about someone like me.  Isn’t that what we are told about how kids pick out books?

Swatch lives in a place where colors run wild.  But those colors had better look out because Swatch is even wilder than they are!  And she’s a color tamer.  She loved color so much that the colors also loved her and would come when she called.

That’s how she lured Just-Laid Blue into an old jam jar and caught it inside.  She added color after color to her collection, but she still didn’t have one.  Yellowest Yellow.

When she tried to coax Yellowest Yellow into the jar, but the color said “No thank you.”  Still, Swatch would have scooped it up if it hadn’t grown and bloomed across the sky.  Swatch looked up at the dragon of color and remembered something.

Colors are supposed to be wild.

Share this book with your young color lover.  Share it with your young nature lover as wild because the lesson is clear, wild things should remain wild.

Use this book in the classroom, in story time, or at home to launch many discussions and activities including finding colors in the wild and capturing them in a series of photos.  The images are wild and fun and will pull readers in, encouraging them to create their own artwork.  That said, it will probably be artwork that is big and just a little bit wild.

This would be a great book to read right before you mop the kitchen floor or when you can send them outside with sidewalk chalk!


June 1, 2017

Be a Friend by Salina Yoon

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 4:14 pm by suebe2

Be a Friend
by Salina Yoon

Dennis was a regular kid who expressed himself in unique ways.  He didn’t speak but he did act.  He could act out climbing stairs, riding a bike or tugging on a rope.  Since he dressed like a mime and acted like a mime, it isn’t surprising that the other kids called him Mime Boy.

That was when they paid attention to him at all.  Because Dennis was so quiet, he was easy to ignore.  He often felt invisible and because of this he was very lonely.

But then he met Joy.  Dennis had just kicked an imaginary ball when Joy mimed catching it.  Like Dennis Joy communicated through action, not speech.  But unlike Dennis she didn’t dress like a mime.  That was okay because two friends don’t have to be just alike to appreciate each other.

Yoon doesn’t preach about friendship or kindness.  She does mention that there was no wall between Dennis and Joy and that friends don’t need words but the message is much more complete and deeper than that.  Early in the story, there are three primary colors in Yoon’s art work.  Black, white and red for detail.  The spreads that depict other children have additional color but the spreads the focus on Dennis and Joy are more muted.  They colors are quieter just as they are quieter and the message is clear. That’s okay.

Still the reader wishes Dennis was happier.

As the friendship between Dennis and Joy grows, the pair become happier which attracts the other children.  The final spread is full color with the addition of larger amounts of blue and green and Dennis is clearly joy-filled.  Get it?

But that seems to be the way with Yoon’s books. Like her characters, she expresses a great deal with out words.  Looking for a book with diverse characters?  Here they are without a word being said.

I have to admit that I hesitated to pick this book up.  Mimes just don’t do much for me personally, but I love Yoon’s message and the way  that she uses illustration and design to further her message.  I will definitely be looking at my local library for more books by this author/illustrator.



%d bloggers like this: