June 23, 2017

BunnyBear by Andrea J. Loney, illustrated by Carmen Saldana

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

BunnyBear
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.

–SueBE

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.

–SueBE

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!

–SueBE

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
Bloomsbury

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.

–SueBE

 

May 25, 2017

Lighter than Air by Matthew Clark Smith, illustrated by Matt Tavares

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 10:39 pm by suebe2

Lighter than Air
by Matthew Clark Smith
illustrated by Matt Tavares
Candlewick Press

Sophie Blanchard was the first woman to pilot her own balloon.  When she was a girl in late 18th century France, “balloonomania” gripped the nation.  In 1783, the Montgolfier brothers had ridden their balloon high into the sky and above the roofs of Paris.  People were so crazy for balloons that women wore balloon shaped hats and balloon shaped bustles.  The plates that people ate dinner on were decorated with pictures of balloons.

The most famous balloonist was Jean-Pierre Blanchard.  He was a daredevil who ballooned across the English Channel.  He and his partner finished the journey so low that they tossed everything they didn’t need overboard, including their trousers!

Sophie read everything she could on Blanchard.  All of the balloonists were men. People believed that women were too weak to brave the cold temperatures and thin air faced by balloonists.  When she attended one of Blanchard’s events, he asked her if she liked the balloon.  She confidently informed him that she belonged in a balloon.  That was just the beginning and before long they were married and he taught her all he knew.

By 1805, Sophie was going up alone.  But flying could be dangerous and Jean-Pierre fell from his balloon when he had a heart attack.  It took some time before Sophie was up in the air but she became the first woman pilot. She was daring and often went up in a “basket” that was hardly bigger than a chair. She soared over the Alps and once went up so high that she fainted from lack of oxygen. Sophie’s balloon soared high above the people who would put limits on women.

Matt Tavares colored his ink drawing with watercolors to create images that are light and dreamy as a balloon flight but also detailed enough to pull the reader into the story.  They compliment Smith’s text which covers much of what is known about Blanchard.  Although her career as a balloonist appeared in the newspapers, her early life and motivations did not.

This book is long for the preschool set but grade school aged readers who are interested in flight or history will be hooked.  Share this book with any young reader who is pushing boundaries.   Be ready to look up images of modern balloons to compare with Tavares detailed depictions of historic balloons – much has changed over the years both in the creation of balloons and in those who fly them.

–SueBE

May 23, 2017

Rah, Rah, Radishes! A Vegetable Chant by April Pulley Sayre

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 9:14 pm by suebe2

Rah, Rah, Radishes! A Vegetable Chant
by April Pulley Sayre
Beach Lane Books

“Rah, rah, radishes!
Red and white!”

“Carrots are calling.
Take a bite.”

From radishes and carrots to squash and asparagus, the produce aisle gets treated to a rollicking fast paced rhyme in this picture book by nonfiction author and poet April Pulley Sayre.

Although most of the text is devoted to the vegies in question, Sayre also covers the importance of bees and sun.  An author’s note at the back of the book also discusses the definition of a “vegetable” in dietary terms, the importance of color to nutrition and veggies that didn’t make their way into the book.

Whether the topic is poetry, diet or colors, this book is an excellent choice.  Short enough to read aloud it is sure to engage young readers in discussion whether or not they are trying to figure out what is a radish or if carrots can be a color other than orange.

Young learners would have fun listing the many vegetables in the book, grouping them by color or shape or even in alphabetical order and coming up with ways they can be eaten.  A simple vegetable soup or salad would be an excellent classroom project as would a graph of what vegies each student has eaten within the last 24 hours.

Invite young learners to create their own vegetable poems with that poem is a chant like the one written by Sayre, list poem, or an acronym.  Another possibility would be to create a vegetable still life and have the students draw, paint or create collages based on what they see.

This book presents an almost endless array of possible activities.  Share it with your young learners and let them get creative!

–SueBE

 

May 19, 2017

Shh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 8:07 pm by suebe2

Shh! We Have a Plan
by Chris Haughton
Candlewick Press

A quartet of young explorers make their way through the wintry landscape in the dusky evening. What will they find?  When they see a bird, the smallest calls out.  “Hi, Birdie!”

“Shh! We have a plan,” his companions say.

Plan after plan fails as the bird flies away from their nets but the pattern is established.  Greet, shush, pounce again and again.

Finally, they come upon the smallest companion surrounded by birds because he is feeding them.  Unlike the quartet of explorers, depicted in blues with wide white eyes, the birds are a colorful crew, vibrant and lively in the dusky winter landscape. When the bigger kids try to net the birds, they get more than they bargained for and flee.

Then they see a squirrel.

Haughton uses digital illustrations that look a lot like collage to create the folky feel of that art style.  The illustrations are deceptively simple – looking blocky and basic but contributing to the sense of fun.  Paired with the simple text, it creates dreamy story that feels classic although it is new.

This would make an excellent read aloud with illustrations that are simple enough to be seen from the back row, while being expressive enough to help create the sense of fun calamity that befalls each attempt to capture the bird.  Furthermore, the repetition, “Shh! We have a plan,” forms a repeated refrain that is sure to pull  young book lovers into the story.

The same things that make it a strong story time book make it accessible to emergent readers who are still honing their skills.  The simple text is reinforced through both repetition and the illustrations.

Build on the text by providing the art supplies necessary for collage and let new stories grow.  Perhaps they will be stories of night-time adventures.  Perhaps woodland explorations.

–SueBE

 

May 17, 2017

Goldfish Ghost by Lemony Snickett, illustrated by Lisa Brown

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 8:25 pm by suebe2

Goldfish Ghost
by Lemony Snicket
illustrated by Lisa Brown
A Neal Porter Book/Roaring Brook Press

I have to admit that I had no clue what to expect from this book. I loved Lemony Snicket’s snarky sense of humor in the A Series of Unfortunate Events Books.  And, yes, I knew that he had already published another picture book.  But a book about a ghostly goldfish?  How was that going to work?

Quite well as it turns out.

“Goldfish Ghost was born
on the surface of the water
in a bowl on the dresser in
a boy’s room.”

Goldfish hangs out for a while but the bedroom is a pretty boring place for a ghost.  Goldfish drifts out the window and into town looking for a friend.  From sea gulls to a variety of people, there is a lot going on but no one notices Goldfish. Down at the beach, he finds even more people as well as a variety of ghostly sea creatures ranging from jelly fish to fish of all kinds, including a shark.  Goldfish finds it all interesting but the ocean just doesn’t feel like home so he drifts on with the breeze.

At last he drifts towards the old light house. It hasn’t been used for many years but inside he finds what he seeks, another ghost in search of company.  There’s more to the story but I’m going to make you read it yourself for the slightly sweet ending. Yes – slightly sweet from Lemony Snicket. Who’d have believed it?

Every parent of a fish owning child knows the stomach-tightening sensation of finding a floating fish.  Fortunately Brown’s sweet cartoony illustrations make this a non-issue.  India ink line drawings with water color make for a soft, dreamy story scape.

No, this picture book wouldn’t be for every child but then again no book is.  Still this book isn’t gruesome or scary and could easily serve to make an unknown space, the loss of a pet, just a bit warmer and more comfortable.

–SueBE

May 11, 2017

Trout, Trout, Trout! (A Fish Chant) by April Pulley Sayre, illustrated by Trip Park

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 1:03 am by suebe2

Trout, Trout, Trout! (A Fish Chant)
by April Pulley Sayre
illustrated by Trip Park

“Threespine Stickleback,
Freshwater Drum.
Lake Chub.
Creek Chub.
Chum.
Chum.
Chum.”

Page after page of this fishy chant are filled with the names of . . . can you guess it? . . . North American fish.

The chant itself is both rhythmic and rhyming and contains the names of a great many fish found throughout the United States and Canada. Most of the fish are native speicies.  A few were introduced, intentionally or otherwise, by man. Although the main text doesn’t give any additional information on the various fish, a bit on each fish listed can be found in the back matter.  Over forty fish are listed in the order in which they appear in the main text.

Trip Park’s digital illustrations are silly and fun but also give enough detail to tell one fish from another.  That said, these illustrations are far from scientific but definitely add to the fun with schooled fishing carrying backpacks, sunning fish in beach chairs and you definitely need to see how the Starhead Topminnow turn the tables on the Northern Pike.

This book would make a great addition to the classroom or home bookcase.  Read it as you discuss poetry and then challenge young readers to create their own chants using the names of family members, hobbies are favorite foods.  It would also make a top-notch Father’s Day or Mother’s Day gift for a parent or grandparent who enjoys fishing, especially if they share this hobby with a young reader.

The only things this book is lacking, in my own humble opinion, is a bit of information on writing a chant.  Still it is definitely a book that you should share with your poetry mad or fish crazy young reader.  Chum! Chum! Chum!

–SueBE

May 9, 2017

Some Writer! The Story of E.B. White by Melissa Sweet

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 7:44 pm by suebe2

Some Writer! The Story of E.B. White
by Melissa Sweet
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

What does it take to create a classic book like Stuart Little or Charlotte’s Web?  First things first, it takes Some Writer.  In this case, the writer is Elwyn White or, as his family and friends called him, Andy.

Andy grew up in New York state, not far from New York City. He and his family spent large amounts of time each and every summer in Maine.  Because of this, Andy knew both worlds – the hustle and bustle of the city as well as the slower pace of country life, paddling across the lake.  When he has a family of his own, the wanted them to know both worlds too.  He and his wife, Katharine, bought a farm in Maine and it was this farm that became the setting for Charlotte’s Web.

But before Andy wrote Charlotte’s Web, he wrote for adults.  He wrote essays.  He wrote short humorous pieces.  He published in magazines like The New Yorker where he met his wife who was an editor.

Stuart Little became a book because people had been encouraging (bugging) Andy to write for children.  He used to tell his son bed time stories about Stuart Little and decided that maybe people were right.  He should write for children and surely they would love Stuart as much as his son did.

I don’t want to give everything away so I’m not going to tell much more about what happened.  That said, I wasn’t surprised that his young readers loved Stuart.  I was surprised by how badly many adults disliked the book.  It was banned!   And described as frightening.  I kid you not.

Some Writer is an interesting read for anyone who is a fan of White’s work.  It shows how elements of his life appeared in his stories but also how he shaped both his life and is work.  This would definitely be something to read for discussing right after reading Charlotte’s Web or Stuart Little when young readers would have the stories fresh in their minds and be ready to discuss how readers would have reacted differently to some of the story possibilities that never came into being in these two books.

–SueBE

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