Saturday, March 28, 2020

Sergio Makes a Splash! by Edel Rodriguez

Sergio the penguin loves water! He loves to sing in the rain, take cold baths, play soccer in puddles and drink lots and LOTS of water. The only problem is, he can't swim. Sergio's class takes a field trip to the ocean. Everyone is so excited to learn how to swim, but Sergio's not so sure. The ocean is big and deep and intimidating. But with a lot of floaties and a little encouragement, maybe he can make a splash after all!

This adorable book embodies the timid part of all of us when we are trying something new. My favorite page shows his train of thought in thought bubbles, each worry countered by positive self-talk. Details about Sergio, like his passion for soccer and fishies and his "curious smile" and "perky 'wings,'" bring him to life and endear him to the reader. A really great read for children who are afraid to try something that seems scary.

Lia (age 4) says: "It was about Sergio was dreaming of water. And he was drinking some ice. And they were driving the school bus down the mountain. And they were telling him about what he likes (puddles, rain, ice, and a drink). He says it's deep. They say 'Come in! Splash!' but he's not sure about it. Then he splashes in and goes under the sea and thinks it's dark under there. And he loved it.  They ask if he had a good time and he said 'Yes!' and he was brave like Merida."

Apple by Nikki McClure

Nikki McClure’s paper cut illustrations hold all the beautiful simplicity of the life of an apple. Each page contains a one word explanation of the apple’s journey from apple to snack to compost to seedling. The book begins with an apple falling from a tree and follows its travels and eventual return to the earth. The fallen apple is picked up and taken home where it was about to be prepared as an apple dish, but a little girl sneaks the apple and takes it to school as a snack. 

The illustrations are black and white paper cuts colored with red accents to draw attention to the apple on each page.  This charming book captures the attention of child and adult alike. It's a perfect introduction to the seasons of a fruit tree. The book also includes an explanation of how composting works on the last page. 


Lia (age 4) says she liked that “she sneaked up and took the apple and put it in her backpack and her backpack was her red secret.” 

Love is a Special Way of Feeling by Joan Walsh Anglund

Lia pulled a book off the shelf the other day and I dropped everything I was doing to sit down and read it to her. It was a book from my childhood; Love is a Special Way of Feeling by Joan Walsh Anglund. My copy was printed in 1960 so it’s a little tender. I thought I had put it on the high shelf, but when she brought it to me, I wasn’t even disappointed that she had scribbled “The End” in Liaese on the last page. I was just thrilled to share with her what this book taught me when I was a small child.

The illustrations are lovely. Anglund’s pen drawings capture the innocence and simplicity of a child’s mind. The soft colors add warmth and depth, leaving a lot of white space for the imagination. I remember reading and rereading this book at that critical stage of child development when I was becoming aware of my own emotions. The word love is used in so many contexts that it can become confusing to identify what it really means. This book hits it right on. Love means so much more than liking a person. It’s a deep and penetrating physical and emotional sensation, even for a child…especially for a child.

A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams

I was first introduced to A Chair for My Mother by the PBS television program Reading Rainbow with LaVar Burton. I felt so nostalgic reading it again, but this time with the eyes of a mother. After a fire destroys their home, a girl, her mother and her grandmother must start over in a small apartment with only a few pieces of hand-me-down furniture donated by their neighbors. They have no sofa or soft chairs, only a few hard kitchen table chairs. Her mother works long hours in a diner and longs for a place to rest and put her feet up with she gets home. She brings home a large jar and they begin collecting coins to save up for the perfect armchair for her mother.

When they finally have enough coins to fill the jar, they spend an entire day selecting the absolutely perfect chair. The girl learns the value of working hard to get something you want, and the joy of giving what little you have (her own hard-earned money) to someone you love.

As much about rebuilding a life and the gift of family ties as it is about the chair itself, the story is touching from beginning to end. Neighbors and family come together to help the trio in a time of crisis. Matriarchal bonds are strengthened and small things are more appreciated. The illustrations are truly beautiful, colorful with soft lines and warm faces. A Chair for My Mother has won many awards, including the Caldecott Honor Book 1983. Touching and uplifting, this is a great read for any child.

Mr. Zinger's Hat by Cary Fagan, Illustrated by Dusan Petricicis


Mr. Zinger's Hat by Cary Fagan, illustrated by Dusan Petricicis the story of a young boy, Leo, who happens to cross paths with an elderly writer, Mr. Zinger. When Leo accidentally knocks Mr. Zinger's hat off his head with a ball, Mr. Zinger suggests that perhaps there is something inside the hat, "a story trying to get out." Mr. Zinger starts to tell Leo the story inside the hat, but soon Leo is adding suggestions and creative solutions. Leo learns that he too has stories inside him, waiting to come out of his baseball cap.

I felt a little emotional about this book because it reminded me of my high school English teacher who inspired in me the love of creating a story. The illustrations are bright watercolor images for the majority of the book. However, the part of the book that describes the story they create is cartoony, on a slightly different color paper. It's a very creative way to differentiate between the two aspects of the book.

3 stars

Andrew Drew and Drew by Barney Saltzberg

I love finding little gems like this. Reminiscent of Harold and the Purple Crayon, this book is all about a boy, Andrew, and the world he creates with his pencil. "Andrew was a doodle boy." He creates drawings of things around him and things that he imagined. From a pig skateboarding on an alligator-shaped wave, to stairs that become a friendly dinosaur, there are surprises and magical discoveries at every turn.

The illustrations are simple pencil drawings but adorable. Many of the pages fold out to reveal the progress of Andrew's drawings, adding a feeling of experiencing the drawings as though he was just creating them. Truly charming and worth a re-read.

Madeline and the Bad Hat by Ludwig Bemelmans

Madeline and the Bad Hat by Ludwig Bemelmans is another in the series of beloved Madeline books. In a house full of well-behaved little girls, a mischievous neighbor boy seems quite the "bad hat." Madeline and her schoolmates are appalled by neighbor boy Pepito's teasing and raucous behavior. Son of the Spanish Ambassador, Pepito gets away with quite a bit of  bad behavior. He shoots rocks at them with his slingshot, drops water on passersby, and captures local animal for his menagerie. But  schoolmistress Miss Clavel insists he is a nice boy that just needs an outlet for his energy.

I love the Madeline books! In each book Madeline and her schoolmates learn something new. In this book the straight-laced girls learn to get along with a rowdy little boy. Plus, he gets a sour taste of his own medicine!

40 Uses for a Grandpa by Harriet Ziefert

40 Uses for a Grandpa by Harriet Ziefert and illustrated by Amanda Haley gives a laughable numerical list of suggested uses for a grandpa. From playful uses like "15. Dance Partner" and "23. Bug Catcher" to uses adults would appreciate like "4. Taxi" and "3. Cash Machine," this book is truly endearing. The grandpas this book describes are far from the grumpy couch dweller so many movies portray. These grandpas are active, outdoorsy, crafty, and above all, loving and engaged with their grandchildren. 

The illustrations are cartoony watercolor, which adds a comic but friendly feel to the book. In spite of the grandpas' vigor and youthfulness, the outfits are lovingly grandpaish (polka-dotted button-down shirt paired with red plaid pants, or yellow pants with red suspenders, for example). The grandchildren are a variety of age, race, gender and style, but all clearly feel loved and privileged to have their grandpa's full attention. 

Elliyah (age 4) says, "I like that he was taking care of her because she was sick. I like when they drive in a 'taxi' and that they have a play date and he takes care of his turtle. I like when they dance and when he snuggles her hands. I like when he helps his grandson make spaghetti with meatballs. I like when he helped his sweetie do golf. I like when he made a Red Riding Hood dress for her."

A great book for grandpas and grandchildren alike. Truly a tender appreciation for the role grandpas play in the heart of a child.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

In a Blue Room by Jim Averbeck, Illustrated by Tricia Tusa


In a Blue Room by Jim Averbeck is a perfect bedtime routine book. Alice, wide awake past bedtime, complains to her mother that she can only sleep in a blue room, and her room is pale yellow. Her mother coaxes her to use sensory experiences to calm herself and prepare for bed. She brings lilacs and lilywhites and Alice can imagine swirling in the scent in a blue room. Her mother offers her orange tea that makes Alice sleepy. Her red and green quilt feels snuggly and warm, and she imagines a cozy blue room. Soft windchimes sing to a now drowsy Alice. And finally, the light goes out and the moon casts a blue light on the room, and Alice can sleep soundly in her blue room.

Tricia Tusa's illustrations are soft and soothing. I loved the sensory descriptions as they might appear to a child. Children live in a sensory world, and this book captured the essence of a child's bedtime experience.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Gulliver Snip by Julia Kay


Bath time is a dangerous and exciting adventure for Gulliver Snip, the little boy who sails the world in his “clipper ship that his mother called the bathtub.” With a bathtub ship and a shower curtain for a sail, Gulliver is off on a grand adventure. He is caught in a tumultuous storm that, despite his courageous efforts, floods his ship and breaks the mast. He casts off with a packing trunk for a boat and the storm sends him off on a journey to a deserted island.

Gulliver has the blessing of imagination without awareness of the calamity he is causing to the house. Every piece of furniture is a part of his great adventure, every moment holds the thrill of imminent danger. In the end his mother rescues him from peril and asks him if he was responsible for the mess. The bathroom is flooded, the shower curtain torn and the lamp broken, but she patiently puts him to bed where he dreams of tomorrow’s adventures in his bathtub clipper ship.

The illustrations are colorful and fanciful. Images from Gulliver’s imagination are playfully juxtaposed with images of the chaos he is wreaking in the home, eliciting some giggles from Little Lia.

Lia (age 4) says: “It’s about that the boy climbs up the shower rod and puts his foot out and he is pretending his bathtub is the ship. He’s in the suitcase and wearing the pan on his head and pretending the chair is the island. He holds on to the lamp and then breaks it and the mama is so upset and asks if Gulliver did it. He said ‘Yes, sorry.’ He was grumpy and didn’t want his hair dried. And he fell asleep and dreamed about the moon and the ship was happy and the ground had water on it. And the bathtub floated away.”

She liked when he was grumpy and didn’t want his hair dried. She didn’t like that the mom was mad at him. Lia says kids should read this book.