I fell in love with Jeannie Baker’s cleverly constructed new book, Mirror, the moment I opened it up and saw two separately bound stories facing me: the one on the left side began with English text, the one on the right with Arabic. In straightforward language, the first page explains the premise of this ingenious book: “There are two boys and two families in this book. One family lives in a city in Australia and one lives in Morocco, North Africa. The lives of the two boys and their families look very different from each other and they are different. But some things connect them… ”
I’m Not.by Pam Smallcomb, illustrated by Robert Weinstock, is a sweet story with a humorously embedded message about appreciating people’s different abilities and strengths. As she looks at her friend, who is blasting off into outer space in a rocket ship (a.k.a. a garbage can), an unnamed alligator-resembling narrator says: “Sometimes I wonder if my friend Evelyn is from Mars.”
I’m blown away by Flora’s Very Windy Day (written by Jeanne Birdsall, illustrated by Matt Phelan). It’s a story about a young girl who is torn between wanting to get rid of an annoying little brother and wanting to protect him as only a big sister can. In her first picture book for young children, Birdsall, the National Book Award-winning author of The Penderwicks, gets an older sibling’s conflicting emotions just right—the anger, annoyance, and irritation; the protective urge, caring, and love underneath it all.
There are many wonderful children’s stories about dogs, cats, bunnies, mice, and bears, but if you’re in the mood for something different—a different animal, that is—how about a little moose reading? Featuring an elusive moose or two or three, these two engaging picture books (both published in 2006) will entertain preschoolers and kindergartners. They may even spark moose mania in your kids!
Perfect reading for Martin Luther King Jr. Day and actually any day of the year, The Other Side and Freedom Summer are powerful stories about children’s friendships during a time of blatant racial inequality and prejudice in our nation’s history. Told through the eyes of innocent young narrators who see similarities more than differences, these two outstanding books (for about ages 6 to 8) raise thoughtful questions about what keeps people apart and what it must have felt like to have been a white or black child around the time of the Civil Rights Movement.
Where I live, we are deep in snow—real and imagined. At preschool, my 3-year-old is making a snowflake mobile. At home, this past weekend, we made crunchy footprints and a small, smiling snowman in the backyard. After watching the flakes fall from the kitchen window, we also enjoyed looking at the snow falling in the marvelous illustrations in Snow by Uri Shulevitz.
Just as there are an infinite variety of snowflakes, there seems to be an infinite variety of bear bedtime tales. The most recent one being (can you guess the title?) Bedtime for Bear by Brett Helquist. But wait…before you yawn and pass on by, do take a look.
I have only one New Year’s Resolution for 2011—but it’s a doozy. I’m resolved to take better care of myself so that I can take better care of my loved ones. In other words, I aim to sleep more, eat better, carve out more me-time, and squeeze in some exercise. That last to-do is going to be especially tough for me—come winter, I go into hibernation mode; I’d much prefer to stay in and be cozy than to run around in the cold. Thank goodness, little kids have the opposite reaction.
Today (December 27) is Visit the Zoo Day—and I’m reminded of A Sick Day for Amos McGee, a charming picture book published earlier this year. About an elderly zookeeper and his loyal animal friends, this book, written by Philip C. Stead and illustrated by Erin E. Stead, has been getting great word of mouth.