Saturday, March 31, 2018

Little Helpers


By Michéle Brummer Everett
Expected Publication: May 8, 2018

Why I chose this book:
I think it is important to accept and normalize different needs. Service animals are a part of that. When I saw this as an upcoming publication from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, I requested a review copy and received one.

Mom's Review

Various service animals are introduced.

From snakes that give a squeeze when it's time to take medicine, to ferrets who help children gain confidence when speaking in public, to familiar guide dogs, service animals are introduced to young readers. Each two-page spread depicts an animal helping a human (shown in yellow and shades of grey, as you see on the cover) and includes a few sentences about what the animal is doing. Back matter elaborates on how each animal assists. The vocabulary was age appropriate, and the content prompted discussion about different needs. I think this is a positive introduction to not only service animals themselves, but to the idea that we all need help and some people receive special help from animals. It was an easy message for T to understand; he needs help with lots of things, and he knows people for whom several of the service animals would be appropriate. This was, simply put, great.

I liked this book for its message and delivery, and also for its cover.  Under the dust jacket, the cover illustration is a paw reaching out toward a hand. An animal's face is drawn on the paw and a human's face is drawn on the hand. It is cute. It is friendly. And I do judge a book's cover.

Son's Review
(age 3)
While reading:
Mom: "Have you ever needed a helping hand?"

Son: I need help getting dressed.

Mom: Would ever want to talk to a horse if you had a problem?

Son: Yeah. I would want to ride that horse.

Mom: What would you think if you saw a tortoise on an airplane? Why?

Son: I would feel that was wacky, 'cuz tortoises aren't supposed to be on airplanes.

Mom: And this tortoise helps the boy to feel better on the airplane. After reading this, what would you think?

Son: I would feel better.

Mom: Can you think of anything else that the helper parrot could say?

Son: You are lovelier and lovelier.

Son: What are seizures? How does that doggie smell his low blood sugar? What is a nursing home?
(We had a whole conversation about these questions.)

After reading:
Mom: Are there some ways that you're a helper?

Son: I help by cleaning up.

Mom: Did you have a favorite animal?

Son: The pig looks cute...he's my favorite...he has a little smile.

Mom: Would you ever want help from an animal?

Son: The pig. The monkey.

Mom: What did you learn?

Son: I learned that there are helper animals.

Mom: Were any of the animals a surprise to you?

Son: The monkey can scratch someone's face if they have an itch. The snake gives a gentle squeeze. That means you can take some medicine.

Mom: When would it be a good time to read this book?

Son: When there are helper animals around.

About to go to sleep after this was his bedtime story:
Son, lifting head to turn and look at me: That's a nice little book.

Friday, March 30, 2018

The King's Fall


The King's Fall
By Patrick Rain
Published in 2017

Why I chose this book:
I enjoy epic fantasy, sword and sorcery fantasy, so when I learned that Patrick Rain's fantasy novel was being offered for review, I was interested. I received a copy of The King's Fall from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Review

When the Celestial King is close to death, a potential successor endeavors to earn the throne.

The King's Fall follows Kyle and his companions as they journey through Narilan. Kyle aims to be crowned and control everything; the Celestial King is both omniscient and omnipotent. This is accomplished through the use of mana, an energy found in everything that can be harnessed by those with a talent for doing so. (Think of the Force from Star Wars, but in a medieval setting, and you have the basic premise for the land of Narilan.) As Kyle journeys through the kingdom, he must perform different labors to be considered for the throne; he and his companions must also face various enemies.

Without spoiling anything, my favorite character for most of the story was Ellia, a supporter and companion of Kyle. Although she was timid at first, her confidence increased with each leg of their journey, concluding with a turn of events that surprised me, but was not unrealistic in the story's frame. Along with Ellia, Kyle's other companions have an air of mystery about them. The author does not overdo this mystery, however, and imparts information about them at a reasonable pace.

The pacing of the entire tale, not just character revelations, is well done - the storyline kept this reader interested and even wondering what happens to the characters after the story ends. In addition to the pacing and plot, I enjoyed the world created by Patrick Rain. While the concept of mana feels inspired by Star Wars' Force (I just saw the recent movie, so it's on my mind), my personal taste is fantasy, not sci-fi, so the setting appealed to me from the start.

Although I enjoyed the book, there were some detractors from that enjoyment. Typos interrupted the narrative flow for me, as did unexpected phrasing. For example, I think of cities crumbling, but Rain uses the phrase, "make the city crumple."  I acknowledge that typos and unfamiliar phrases can be minor; it was the frequency with which they occurred that detracted from my enjoyment of the book. The story is good, but I might say that the delivery needs a bit of polishing.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Story of Passover


Written by David A. Adler
Illustrated by Jill Weber
Published in 2014

Why we chose this book:
To help T understand Passover.

Mom's Review

The story of the Israelites in Egypt.

This retelling of Israelites in Egypt includes the serious topics of slavery, Moses's killing an Egyptian, and all the plagues, including the Angel of Death. These topics are addressed in an age-appropriate way, balancing matter-of-fact narration with images that should not frighten a young audience. T was already familiar with the the story of Moses, but his other books sugarcoat anything potentially disturbing. They have left me wondering what the point is of imparting such a watered down version of any faith tradition. The Story of Passover was an excellent fit for us. It was honest and explanatory. I would strongly recommend The Story of Passover to parents looking for an age-appropriate yet authentic explanation of Passover.

Son's Review
(age 3 years)
After reading the first time:
Son: I read a book about Egyptians that killed.

Mom: Why did they kill?

Son: Because they didn't know how to be nice.

Mom: I see. And did you learn what Passover is?

Son: I don't know.

Mom: Who celebrates Passover?

Son: God Jesus does.

Mom: Yes. Jesus did. It is a Jewish holiday, so Jewish people celebrate Passover. How did this book make you feel?

Son: Happy...so the Israelites could...the Israelites are good...so the Israelites could go!

Mom: What do you think you should learn from this book?

Son: That you should not kill.

After reading the second time:
Mom: Did you learn about Passover? Who celebrates it?

Son: Yeah. Jewish people.

Mom: What do they celebrate?

Son: Passover!

Mom: When they celebrate Passover, what are they celebrating?

Son: Freedom...from Egyptians!

Monday, March 26, 2018

The Big Umbrella


By Amy June Bates and Juniper Bates
Published in 2018

Why we chose this book:
This was a new acquisition at our library, and the cover looked intriguing.

Mom's Review

A message of inclusion.

As rain falls, a single child with an umbrella offers shelter to another child. Somehow, the big friendly umbrella stretches to fit everyone around. The final page states, "There is always room." The final illustration shows a park filled with diverse people, all happy to share a lovely day. The message is overt: there is room for all. I have found that books conveying morals run the risk of adopting a moralistic tone. This book, however, strikes just the right tone and allows the pictures to convey much of the message. The Big Umbrella depicts inclusive love beautifully.

Son's Review
(age 3)
T first read this with his father. When he and I were about to read it, this is what he said:
"You should read it. It is a good book."

I asked, "What is good about it?"

T responded, "You'll have to read and find out!"

While reading:
Son: The umbrella is smiling!

Mom: How is the umbrella helping here?

Son: Keeping the sun out of his face.

Mom, reading:"It doesn't matter if you are hairy."

Son: That's a little monster. I would like to hug him big time! Look, look, he's in there too!

After reading:
Son: Look! The big hairy monster. I'd like to hug him. I think he'd be a nice friend.

Mom: When is it a good time to read this book?

Son: When you have friends over to play.

Mom: What should we learn from the big umbrella?

Son: That I love you.

Friday, March 23, 2018

The Pink Hat


By Andrew Joyner
Published in 2018

Why we chose this book:
We first encountered this book at a Barnes and Noble storytime in January. T enjoyed it then, and we came across it again this month (Women's History Month). At the end of this story, the main character is shown marching in the Women's March. Our family will be participating in the March For Our Lives, so this has been a helpful tool in discussing political engagement with T.

Mom's Reveiw

A pink hat is propelled through a city until it is found by a girl who wears it in the Women's March.

The story is simple, focusing on the path of a pink hat through town: out a window, into a tree, through a park, and into a little girl's life. In the text, no mention of political activism is made. The little girl simply wears her new hat in many different situations. At the end, she wears it with many others adorned with similar hats; it is that final illustration that knowledgable readers will identify as the Women's March. We have been talking with T about the political system and how rules are made and changed. Seeing the little girl marching down the street with a crowd has hopefully helped him to conceptualize what he will be doing on Saturday.

We didn't review the book so much as talk about how it relates to us at this point in time. The conversation below took place after several readings of The Pink Hat this year, so he was already familiar with the storyline and its connection to our plans.

Son's Review
(age 3)

Before reading:
Mom: Why are we reading The Pink Hat right now?

Son: Because we are doing a march.

Mom: When are we marching?

Son: On Saturday.

Mom: And what does a march have to do with The Pink Hat?

Son: To show good rules.

Mom: Is there a march in The Pink Hat? Who marches?

Son: Yeah. The girl who wears the pink hat.

Mom: Are you excited to march? Do you remember why people march? Do they want to change something?

Son: Yeah...No....Rules!

Mom: How does marching change the rules?...Does it show someone you want rules changed?...Reeepreee..

Son: Presidents! Representatives! Representatives make laws!

After reading:
the last page

Mom: What are they all carrying?

Son: Signs. And the baby is carrying a sign too.

Mom: Do the signs have messages on them..Messages for whom?

Son: Yeah. The president

Mom: Did you like the book? Why?

Son: Yeah. Because we're going to do a march.

Mom: Who was your favorite the character?

Son: The baby who had the hat.

Mom: What did you learn from this book?

Son: That you should make good rules

Mom: When do you think it is a good time for reading this book?

Son: When you are doing a march.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

That's What Leprechauns Do


Written by Eve Bunting
Illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully
Published in 2006

Why we chose this book:
We read a number of stories about leprechauns and St. Patrick for St. Patrick's Day. After we reviewed Too Many Leprechauns, T wanted to do another leprechaun book review. So here it is.

Mom's Review

Three leprechauns get into mischief on their way to the end of a rainbow.

This humorous tale follows three leprechauns as they set out to complete an unnamed important duty. Although they say that they haven't time for mischief, they pause along the way to paint a cow's hooves, knot together the legs of pants hung out to dry, and place a tennis ball under a chicken. They eventually reach the end of the rainbow and put a pot of gold there, which the reader learns is the "more important duty." The good-natured little men are disappointed that no one finds the gold, but are happy to return to their pranks. That's What Leprechauns Do is lighthearted and was easy for T to understand. The pranks are in no way malicious, just silly and fun to read about.

Son's Review
(age 3 years)

Mom: So, what do leprechauns do?

Son: Leprechauns do mischief!

Mom: What would you do if you found a cow with red feet?

Son: I would ride him. I do phone stealing.

Mom: Is that your mischief?

Son: Yes!

Mom: Are you a leprechaun? What do you do that they do?

Son: No. They do mischief and I do mischief. That's funny!

Mom: Which of their tricks was your favorite?

Son: I like where they tied the the pants in a knot.

Mom: What would you do if you could do mischief?

Son: I would steal a phone. I would run away with the phone because I like phones.
(He likes to "find" our phones wherever we've set them down, but he doesn't run away. He usually brings us our phones, tells us that he found them, and asks if we need them. Much more on the sweet side than the mischief side of things.)

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Marmalade Murders


The Marmalade Murders
Written by Elizabeth J. Duncan
Expected publication: April 24, 2018

Why I chose this book:
I enjoy cozy mysteries, so when I saw this book on a Goodreads giveaway, I had to enter. I am excited to have won, as I really enjoyed this book!

Review

A spa owner and amateur detective solves a murder case at a Welsh agricultural show.

Competition is fierce between the women entering cakes and marmalades in a local agricultural show, and some of the entries of Penny Brannigan's friend disappear. When she starts to investigate their disappearance, she doesn't expect to find a body, but that is exactly what she finds. Set in a small town with landscape I could almost see and characters I'd love to get coffee with, this book drew me in quickly. The murder mystery had just enough twists to keep me reading late into the night (and that's saying something when one has an early-rising 3 year old!), but not so many that I couldn't theorize the murderer as I went. I don't wish to spoil anything, but I will say that I was in for a big surprise with my suspect, the Women's Guild secretary. This was not gruesome, despite involving a murder, but was exciting and cozy simultaneously. This is the first Penny Brannigan mystery that I have read (it is ninth in the series but can be read as a standalone), and I intend to start reading the others! If you enjoy cozy mysteries, then I would highly recommend this one!

Monday, March 19, 2018

Aiden the Soccer Star


Written by Suzan Johnson
Illustrated Sana Freeman
Published in 2016

Why we chose this book: 
As I've mentioned in past posts, we are trying to read books with T right now that will help him process difficult feelings (anger, disappoint, etc.). This story is about a boy facing disappointment, so I was eager to read it with T when the author offered us a copy for review.

Mom's Review

Aiden faces disappointment when he does not get to play his preferred position on the soccer field.

Aiden the Soccer Star follows a young boy's soccer experience during one season. Eager to join the team, Aiden is thrilled to be accepted. He soon faces disappointment, however, when he does not play at all during his first game. His reaction is understandable and realistic, and children experiencing disappointment can identify with his feelings. Instead of quitting, an impulse likely felt by some in his position, he determines to hone his skills so that the coach will put him in the next game. During subsequent games he still does not play, yet he perseveres. When Aiden finally has the chance to play, he is asked to play the goalie position, which he did not want. Aiden practices, his younger brother encourages him, and finds that he is well suited to this position.

When Aiden continues practicing and then decides to accept the goalie position, he sets a positive, healthy example for facing disappointment; although we cannot avoid disappointments, we can choose how we react and work toward achieving our goals. T and I talked extensively as we read (only part of our conversations is below), and I think that this book gave him a usable model for managing disappointment.

In short, I liked this book for several reasons:
1. Aiden is supported by his sibling.

2. Aiden's perseverance provides a positive model for facing disappointment and frustration.

3. Aiden overcomes his disappointment, but faces a second realistic disappointment.

4. Aiden is human, not animal.

5. Aiden reacts believably.

Son's Review
(age 3 years)

While reading:
Son: What does "anxious" mean?

Mom: It means he's worried.

Mom: Does Aiden look happy or unhappy?

Son: Unhappy. Why does he?

Mom: I don't know. Let's read and find out.

Mom, a bit later: So why is he sad?

Son: Because he doesn't get a chance to play in the game.

Mom, a bit later: He has to stop all the balls from hitting the net.

Son: That's hard for him.

reading about Aiden's first game:
Mom: What if someone called "The Shark" were running at you? What kind of player do you think he is?

Son: He must be a fast player. I'd run away because I don't like The Shark...But Eugenie thinks they're beautiful!
(Eugenie Clark from Shark Lady.)

Mom: Would you want to go to one of Aiden's soccer games? What would you want to do?

Son: Yeah. [I'd want to] catch the ball. Aiden would kick the ball, throw the ball.

Mom: Who was Aiden going to give the game ball to? Why? What did his brother say to him at night to encourage him?

Son: His brother! So he can play. He'll sleep with him and, "You're the best."

Mom: Whom would you give it to?

Son: Cousin G. That's the best. G is the best. G is the best.

After reading:
Mom: What was the best part?

Son: The best part was that he won.

Mom: What could you learn from Aiden if you don't get a turn?

Son: I could learn that I should wait my turn.

Mom: When would it be a good time to read this book?

Son: When you're scared of something.

Mom: Was the boy nervous?

Son: Yeah. He was nervous about "The Shark." "The Shark" is a scary name for the player.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Hygge


Hygge: The Danish Secrets of Happiness, How to be Happy and Healthy in Your Daily Life
Written by Maya Thoresen
Published in 2017

Why I chose this book:
I've been hearing a lot about Hygge and regularly coming across books on the topic. "They" say that exposure breeds affection, and because of all the exposure, I've been feeling compelled to read about the topic. When author Maya Thoresen offered her book for review, I was interested.

Review:

An interpretation of how to integrate principles of Danish happiness into an American life.

Why read a book on Danish happiness? Curiosity, unhappiness, a desire to know another culture? I read this out of curiosity, so my impression is likely much different from that of someone seeking a way to boost his/her own happiness. And I think this is the primary reason for my mixed reaction to the book.  

Thoresen outlines the principles of hygge (Danish coziness/happiness), explaining how to incorporate this feeling of coziness into one's daily routine. Focusing on the moment, ensuring physical comfort, and attending to loved ones are the essential aspects, and the author makes suggestions on how to accomplish them in various settings and relationships. (I found it worth noting that there is a disclaimer at the start of the book, stating that Thoresen is not an expert on hygge.) 

I had a mixed reaction to this book, likely due to my reason for reading. Some of the suggestions that the author makes assume a critical tone, for example: "When is the last time you...thanked [someone] for opening the door?" Or this one: "You should work hard together to remove the economic strife that causes problems in your marriage." Decluttering is also strongly advised, so that one will "not worry about stepping on something or having something fall on you." I do not have the impression of my life that these remarks imply. 

At times, the book reads as though it had been dictated rather than written. I could imagine listening to a friend with knowledge of hygge talking the way that the book sounds. Sometimes conversations with friends can stray too far down the hypothetical path, and a few of Thoresen's theories about the hygge lifestyle seemed a bit far fetched, such as avoiding a friend "who always freaks you out" with "immoral shenanigans," or creating a vision board with images of one's goals. Other suggestions seem nice at first, such as getting a dog or a new job, but not necessarily realistic or feasible.  And finally, the ebook I read had multiple typos, interrupting the flow of the narration.

From this book, I learned the basics of hygge, and I think that the author would heartily approve of the manner in which I read it: next to my husband on the couch, under a blanket, with candles flickering nearby, and snow falling outside.  It was also entertaining to read one author's personal take on living out hygge on a daily basis, not just adding a blanket and nixing the high heels, but also setting up a closet for comfort and planning a menu. I found the tone and the typos a bit challenging, in what was an otherwise enjoyable read on an appealing subject.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Too Many Leprechauns

Written by Stephen Krensky
Illustrated by Andreasen
Published in 2007

Why we chose this book:
We are reading Irish folktales and books about St. Patrick and leprechauns in honor of St. Patrick's Day.

Mom's Review

Bothersome leprechauns are tricked into leaving a town in peace; an explanation is given for the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.

I enjoy books where the tricksters are tricked, and this fits into that category. When the main character, Finn, returns to his hometown, he finds that leprechauns have been keeping everyone awake as they noisily create fairy shoes. Although Finn is warned that leprechauns are not to be trusted, he willingly incurs their ire. He hides their gold at the end of a rainbow, they agree to depart if he will reveal the gold's location. He does, they depart, but they decide to continue storing their gold at the end of the rainbow. Older readers may see through Finn's conniving, but will probably enjoy watching the leprechauns get hoodwinked even so. It was a fun read with T - he kept calling over to his dad, "This is all make believe," or, "This is pretend, Daddy," as we read.

Son's Review
(age 3 years)
T paged through this book on an unusually silent drive home from the library.

After reading:
Mom: If the leprechauns were keeping you awake, and you were really tired what would you do?

Son: I would play all day.

Mom: What if you were too tired and kept dropping your toys? How would you get rid of the leprechauns?

Son: I would use a sword and a shield. I would whap the sword on the shield. I think the leprechauns would think that is silly.

Mom: What would you do if you met Finn?

Son: I would climb a rock because I like rocks.

Mom: Are there any rocks in this story? Where?

Son: Yeah. When they find the gold.

Mom: Where would you hide leprechaun gold?

Son: I would hide it in my closet. I would hide it in Mommy and Daddy's closet and would say Don't go in there

Mom: Do you think the leprechauns would listen?

Son: No because the gold's in there and they want the gold!

Mom: Should anyone else get Too Many Leprechauns from their library?

Son: Cousin G!


Don't worry, I was a passenger
when I snapped this pic of T
on the drive home!

Friday, March 16, 2018

Jamie O'Rourke and The Big Potato


Written and Illustrated by Tomie dePaola
Published in 1992

Why we chose this book:
For St. Patrick's Day. And we love Tomie dePaola.

Mom's Review

The retelling of an Irish folktale about a man who grows a giant potato.

Jamie O'Rourke grows a big potato, as the title indicates. He comes to do so by catching a leprechaun who grants him a wish instead of giving him a pot of gold. Jamie shares the potato with his neighbors who become so tired of eating potatoes that they offer to feed him and his wife if he will only promise to not grow another potato. Tomie dePaola's ability to make characters come alive with the simplest of drawings is what makes his illustrations so captivating. DePaola pairs his artistic talent with his storytelling expertise to enchant a young audience with this Irish story. This was a hit in our household!

Son's Review
(age 3 years)

Mom: If you caught a leprechaun, what would you wish for?

Son: I would wish for freedom like the Genie [from Aladdin].
(T is really enjoying Aladdin right now, so that's where this comes from.)

Mom: If you saw a giant potato what would you think?

Son: I would climb it.

Mom: What would you do if you met Jamie?

Son: I would climb a big potato with him. He would supervise me.

Mom: How did this book make you feel? What made you feel that way?

Son: Happy. It made me happy because of Jamie O'Rourke made me happy where he met a leprechaun.

Mom: What would you do if you met a leprechaun? Why?

Son: I'd give him my coins because leprechauns like coins.

Mom: Is there anything else you want to say about the book?

Son: Jamie O'Rourke is the laziest man.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

How to Catch a Leprechaun


Written by Adam Wallace
Illustrated by Andy Elkerton
Published in 2016

Why we chose this book:
We are reading Irish folklore, leprechaun stories, and tales about Saint Patrick in preparation for St. Patrick's Day. I've seen a number of books about catching leprechauns, and this one was a New York Times bestseller, so we thought it might be a good choice.

Mom's Review

A wily leprechaun sneaks through various homes, evading traps and wreaking havoc.

There is not much to this book, but the leprechaun's antics are entertaining. The leprechaun makes all types of mischief, but is not caught in any of the children's creative traps. At the end, he says that one day a child will devise the perfect trap; the accompanying illustration depicts boys and girls engineering a new trap. Although I didn't think much of the book, it seems that it really got T thinking.  When I asked if he would catch a leprechaun, he excitedly answered and explained how. He was so eager to tell me his ideas that he could barely get his words out!

Son's Review
(age 3 years)

Mom: Do you think you would catch a leprechaun?

Son: Yeah, yeah, yeah.  And I, maybe I would catch a leprechaun in a coffee maker.

Mom: How would you catch him in the coffee maker?

Son: I would pick him up with pliers and tongs. And then I would drop him in the coffee maker.

Mom: What kind of mischief do you think a leprechaun might do in your house?

Son: Break toys...make a toys mess!

Mom: Did you have a favorite page in this book?

Son, pointing to a page with robots: Those robots are for protection.

Mom: How would you describe this book?

Son: I would describe it...it's a leprechaun dance party book.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

March Book Madness Champion


T and I may have had different selections along the way, but we both agree on the champion!

Final Matchup


T's top two picks.

Final Four


T's Final Four for March Book Madness.

Sweet Sixteen Winners



T's winners of the March Book Madness Sweet 16 round. 

Jabari Jumps


Written and Illustrated by Gaia Cornwall
Published in 2017

Why we chose this book:
For 2018 March Book Madness! It is up against Radiant Child.

Mom's Review

With the loving support of his father, Jabari jumps off the high dive.

Although it has been decades since I first jumped from the high dive, I can still recall the feeling of fear that first summer. Jabari Jumps resonated with me and will likely do so with children facing not just their first dive, but other new experiences as well. The understanding, gentle encouragement, and loving reassurance provided by Jabari's father can be a reminder to parents of an ideal response. Jabari arrived to the pool confident, then shows signs of anxiousness. Although T did not pick up on Jabari's excuses for not jumping, older children may. When Jabari's father shares how he confronts fear, Jabari gains confidence to finally jump.  Simple, meaningful, time well spent.

Son's Review
(age 3 years)

After reading:
Mom: Have you ever felt scared when you were going to try something new?

Son: At Franz Carl Weber, going down the big [tunnel] slide because it's so big.

Mom: And does anyone help you when you feel scared? How?

Son: Mommy and Daddy...saying, "It's okay."

Mom: Would you want to meet Jabari if he were real? What would you do?

Son: Yeah. Go swimming...go to Franz Carl Weber and go down the big slide?

Mom: Would you be scared?

Son: No because someone would be with me.

Mom: What if Jabari said he was scared?

Son: I'd tell him, "It's okay."

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Not Quite Narwhal


By Jessie Sima
Published in 2017

Why we chose this book:
It is competing with Unicorn Thinks He's Pretty Great in the 2018 March Book Madness.

Mom's Review

A unicorn who lives with narwhals discovers that he is a unicorn, not a narwhal.

Kelp is a unicorn who lives under the sea wearing some sort of helmet. He associates with narwhals and believes himself to be a different sort of narwhal. One day, however, goes ashore and meets unicorns. Torn between the sea and his newfound herd, he determines that he can be part of both communities. Essentially the same as Liz Wong's Quackers, just with a unicorn and narwhals instead of a cat with ducks. It was a cute story with cute illustrations. I do have some pressing questions, however. How does Kelp breathe? He wears a helmet, presumably filled with air, but how does the air get in? What happens to the air he exhales? Also, where are his parents? And how exactly did he get that helmet? All the narwhals knew he was a unicorn. How did he not know? Despite overthinking a story about a talking unicorn, I enjoyed reading it with T.

Son's Review
(age 3 years)

While reading:
about Kelp walking
Son: It's not easy for him. [He watched] the turtle!

about seeing unicorns
Son: They're unicorns!

After reading:
Mom: What's happening here [on the last page]?

Son: That unicorn's burying that unicorn with sand. This one's playing and this one's riding this one! That's silly.
(A unicorn was riding a narwhal.)

Mom: This reminds me of Quackers. What was that about? Is Kelp really a narwhal? It's kind of similar...

Son: A duck story. Quackers is really a cat...Kelp is a unicorn.

Mom: What's your favorite part?

Son, pointing to spooky forest: This page...I think they are eyes.

Unicorn Thinks He's Pretty Great


By Bob Shea
Published in 2013

Why we chose this book:
It is competing with Not Quite Narwhal in the 2018 March Book Madness.

Mom's Review

A goat sees past his jealousy to befriend a unicorn.

When a unicorn moves into a goat's community, the goat is jealous of the attention showered on the newcomer. The goat narrates how the unicorn outshines him, makes fun of the unicorn, and then meets the unicorn. The unicorn is impressed by the goat and invites him to play at the park, which they do.

I faced a couple of challenges when reading Unicorn Thinks He's Pretty Great to T. The story is conveyed in dialogue without speech bubbles or quotations, so I added, "said the goat," or, "the unicorn replied," to help T's understanding. T also did not understand the goat's mockery of the unicorn, and I didn't explain it to him. The depiction of the goat also changes color a few times, prompting T to ask, "Who's that?" and "Is that the goat too?" Overall, the book was not a great fit for a three-year-old.

Son's Review
(age 3 years)

Before reading:
Son: Do you like the endpaper? I do. Yum.

Mom: Yes, I do. Thanks for asking. Yum?
(Only after reading did I realize that the endpaper was cupcakes.)

While reading:
Mom: How does that unicorn look?

Son: Happy.

Mom: Um. He's supposed to look sad.

Mom: "This [goat] cheese is fantastic." Do you like goat cheese?

Son: Yeah!

Mom: What is the goat pointing to? What do you think of that?

Son: Doughnuts! I think that is yummy!

After reading:
Mom: Did you like it? Why?

Son: I just liked it. I liked the endpaper.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Nerdy Bird


Written by Aaron Reynolds
Illustrated by Matt Davies
Published in 2015

Why we chose this book:
This is up against Mr. Tiger Goes Wild  in the 2018 March Book Madness.

Mom's Review

A talking bird tries to find friendship.

I can appreciate that the intended message of this book is to not be swayed by peer pressure, but I did not enjoy the book because of its other implications. A small bird who wears glasses, likes video games, and has allergies tries to befriend the "cool" birds like the bald eagle and the cardinal. This works out as the reader might expect, but he is invited to join other "nerdy birds" with his same qualities. When he in turn invites a vulture to join the "nerdy birds," they reject her. Ultimately, the first nerdy bird befriends the vulture and is no longer swayed by his peers.

The implications that ruined this book for me are the portrayal of reading as abnormal and the portrayal of those with impaired vision or those with allergies as abnormal and nerdy. The cool birds are too cool to read. And food allergies preclude the nerdy bird from interacting with other birds. I don't think that these are ideas or stereotypes or messages that we need to be passing along. There are enough other books out there to help children be true to themselves that I'd advise skipping this one.

Son's Review
(age 3 years)
While reading:
Son, pointing to bald eagle: He wouldn't fit at the bird feeder! He's too big.

Mom: How do you think that the nerdy bird felt about being left behind?

Son: Sad.

Mom: How are those other nerdy birds treating the vulture? What about our nerdy bird?

Son: Mean....friendly.

Mom: How do you think the vulture feels?

Son: Sad...happy that he's being friendly.

Mom: What do you think about this?

Son: I think he should be friendly.

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild


Written and Illustrated by Peter Brown
Published in 2013

Why we chose this one:
This is part of 2018 March Book Madness, competing with Nerdy Bird.

Mom's Review

A civilized tiger embraces his animal nature.

Mr. Tiger looks to be part of a Victorian-era animal world, but he is unhappy with it. He decides to forsake propriety and act like the animal he is, and he is much happier for it. Drab gray illustrations contrast with bright, bold ones to evoke Mr. Tiger's weariness and exuberance, respectively.

As I write this, I am thinking that the illustrations remind me of My Teacher is a Monster! (No, I Am Not.), which we own and enjoy reading I just looked on Goodreads, and found that the creator is one and the same. I am not surprised, therefore, that I enjoyed reading Mr. Tiger Goes Wild with T. Not only do I enjoy Peter Brown's art, but I liked the idea that animals should not act like people. I acknowledge that I am probably in the minority with that thinking; it's likely I've just read a few too many of those lately.

Son's Review
(age 3 years)

Mom: What did the tiger do?

Son: Get naked!

Mom: Was that okay? How did he feel?

Son: Yeah. He liked it.

Mom: Do you ever like to run around wild, like Mr. Tiger?

Son, climbing on couch and doing stuntwork: Yeah. I just like to go wild. I like to run around.

Mom: Why do you think Mr. Tiger's friends are happy at the end?

Son: Because they are naked and they look like animals. And this one has a hat, and this one has a hat, and this one has a hat, and that's not normal. And this one doesn't have a hat. I think that's weird how the others have a hat and the tiger doesn't have a hat.

Mom: Do you like it when the animals act like animals or like people?

Son: When the animals act like animals.

Mom: Who might like this book?

Son: Children who like animals.

Mom: How did this book make you feel? Did it make you want to do anything?

Son: It made me want to run around.

Mom: Did you want to say anything else about this book?

Son, bouncing on the couch: That the tiger goed wild!

Saturday, March 10, 2018

The Most Magnificent Thing


By Ashley Spires
Published in 2014

Why we chose this book:
It is pitted against Shark Lady in 2018 March Book Madness.

Mom's Review

An inventive girl copes with frustration when her project does not turn out as envisioned.

The Most Magnificent Thing is a story about frustration and perseverance. The little girl and her dog, pictured on the cover, are strangers to failure when building, so she expects to encounter no trouble with her latest plan. She becomes increasingly frustrated as her plans go awry, then angry, and finally quits. After a cool-down walk, she returns to her creations and sees that components of each failed attempt could be combined to finally create "the most magnificent thing."

As I mentioned in my Hands are Not for Hitting post, we are trying to help T process anger in a healthy way; I have perused many lists of books on anger and hitting. This was not included in any that I saw, and I wish it had been. The little girl's anger is completely understandable and her way of handling it healthy. This is one that I am keeping for a while in our "anger" collection instead of returning to the library after March Book Madness.

Son's Review
(son age 3 years)

Before reading:
Mom: I think I'm going to like this one. She's going down the street collecting things. I wonder what she'll do.

Son: And the doggie's holding the wrench!

While reading:
Son: It doesn't have a villain.

Mom: No, it doesn't have a villain. It has a problem. Tell me what the problem is.

Son: How it [the invention] doesn't look right.

Mom: What do you think she's going to do?

Son: Do it right.

After reading:
Mom: What did you like about it?

Son: I like that she got angry because sometimes I get angry.



Shark Lady

Written by Jess Keating
Illustrated by Marta Alvarez Miguens
Published in 2017

Why we chose this book:
This was on our library's display for Women's History Month. With sharks, bright colors, and little text on each page, I hoped this would be a good fit for T.

Update: We just found out that this is part of March Book Madness! So we are reading it for that too! It is matched up against The Most Magnificent Thing.

Mom's Review

A biography of Eugenie Clark, shark researcher.

As a young girl, Eugenie was interested in sharks. This interest grew as she did, and despite frequent discouragement, she earned her doctoral degree in zoology. Dr. Clark researched sharks, discovered unknown sea creatures in the Red Sea, and scuba dived until she was 92. She died in February, 2015.

This was a really enjoyable book for both T and me. I like reading about strong women, as I mentioned in my Ada Twist, Scientist post. And here is a real person, which is exciting to me and T. When we looked at the timeline in the back, I noticed that T was born a little over a week before Dr. Clark passed away. I mentioned to him that he was born before she died, that he and she were both alive at the same time. I didn't realize how important this was to him until I overheard him telling his father about this book, emphasizing that the shark lady was alive when he was.

The narrative was easy enough for T to understand, and I did not repeat my mistake from The Doctor with an Eye on Eyes.  I discussed the content with T as we read, and helped him understand the illustrations (Eugenie's thoughts are depicted with sharks swimming through the air).

Son's Review
(age 3 years)

Mom: Did you like it? What was your favorite part?

Son: Yeah. When she stuck gum in her ears.

Mom: Why?

Son: She did it so water couldn't get in her ears.

Mom: Would you want to do anything Eugenie did?

Son: Swim.

Mom: What animal would you want to see?

Son: A fish.

Mom: If she were still alive, would you want to meet her? What would you say to her?

Son: Yeah. "I want to meet a fish."

Mom: What do you think she would tell you?

Son: "I want to meet a shark."


Friday, March 9, 2018

The Water Princess


Written by Susan Verde
Illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
Published in 2016

Why we chose this book: 
It is part of the 2018 March Book Madness, paired against Mother Bruce.

Mom's Review

Gie Gie spends her days walking miles for clean water.

Based on the childhood experience of a model, Georgie Badiel, this story recounts one girl's daily trek for water. Although Gie Gie has many strengths, she is unable to provide local clean water for her family. After a long day obtaining water, which her mother then boils for drinking, she asks her mother why there is no clean water for her village. Her mother has no answer, but encourages her to rectify the problem someday. This book successfully communicates the struggle of families without access to clean water.

Son's Review
(age 3 years)

T started reading this with his father, but finished reading it with me. When I picked up where his dad left off, T told me:
Son: The water princess is getting water 'cuz they need water.
Mom: Is it any good? Do you like her?
Son: Yeah...yeah.

After reading:
Mom: What would you do if you had no water?

Son: Drink clear water.

Mom: But there is no water. What could you drink?

Son: Nothing.

Mom: What if you had to walk for miles to get clean water? How would you feel? Why?

Son: Sad...I'd rather play.

Mom: Would you want to be friends with Gie Gie? What would you do together? Where do you think Gie Gie would most like to go if she visited you in Worcester?

Son: Yeah...play my new game [Don't Miss the Boat]! [We'd go] to the Ecotarium!
(The Ecotarium is our local science museum.)


Mother Bruce


By Ryan T. Higgins
Published in 2015

Why we chose this book:
For 2018 March Book Madness, this is up against The Water Princess.

Mom's Review

A grouchy bear reluctantly raises geese that hatch from the eggs he wanted to eat.

Somewhat reminiscent of Are You My Mother?, this more recent publication has a bear who gets his recipes form the internet and "supports" local businesses. When the bear, Bruce, tries to hard-boil some eggs, he inadvertently hatches them. The babies believe he is their mother, and he adopts the role. Comfortably predictable, Mother Bruce combines silliness and cuteness for a fun read.

Son's Review
(age 3 years)

While reading:
Mom, reading: He's a grump.

Son: What does that mean?

Mom: He's not very happy about things.

Mom: Do you think those bees are happy? What did he do to their beehive?

Son: No...took all the honey.

Son: Why does that one say, "Yuck!"?

Mom: That gosling doesn't like what Bruce is feeding him.

After reading:
Son, pointing to the final page: What does that one say?

Mom: "Mama." What do you think is going to happen in the next story?

Son: I don't know.

Mom: Well, what animal is this? And what is this one? And what is the turtle saying?

Son: A turtle...a goose... "Mama." The next book's going to be about a goose and a turtle.

Mom: Was this a silly book?

Son, laughing: Yeah!






Thursday, March 8, 2018

Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave


Written by Laban Carrick Hill
Illustrated by Bryan Collier
Published in 2010

Why we chose this book:
This is matched up against I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark in the 2018 March Book Madness.

Mom and Son's Review
(son age 3 years)

Dave, an artist, poet, and slave, crafts pottery and poetry.

Even for children who don't fully understand the context of Dave's work, this story of an artist can be captivating. The narrator compares "our" view of the world with Dave's - we see dirt, Dave sees a component of his next artistic creation. As T and I read, we discussed what we saw and what the text meant. He was particularly interested in Dave's tools, a potter's wheel and the clay covering his hands on a fold-out spread, and in Dave's creations. T asked many questions about what Dave was doing, such as, "What's a potter's wheel?" and "Is he wearing gloves?" (it was clay on Dave's hands). He was less interested in the poetry. Although T is not yet ready to comprehend the significance of Dave's story in the context of history, he still enjoyed reading about an artist and learning about pottery. I hope that we return to this book when T is old enough to have knowledge of US history.

For further knowledge about this man's life and impact, biographical data is included in the back of the book.

I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark


Written by Debbie Levy
Illustrated by Elizabeth Baddely
Published in 2016

Why we chose this book:
It is up against Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave in the 2018 March Book Madness.

Mom's Review

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's life is recounted.

As a girl, Ruth was encouraged to pursue her own education and interests; she fought against common prejudices and made her way into history on many counts. I Dissent combines a narrative, illustrations, and speech bubbles to convey Ruth's remarkable successes and contributions. Relatable, engaging, and informative.

I really, really liked it. For me. And for T. If your library has it, I'd recommend reading it.

Son's Review
(age 3 years)

There was a lot of discussion. Here is a bit of it.
While reading:

about discrimination
Mom: How would you feel if you were told no little boys allowed?
Son: Sad.
Mom: How do you think she felt when she saw a sign saying "No Jews allowed'? She's Jewish.
Son: Sad.

about Ruth's penmanship
Son: What does that mean?
Mom: Penmanship is writing your letters neatly. Does that answer your question?
Son: No it doesn't. Why does she do nice handwriting?
Mom: She could do all her letters. She could do them all nicely.
Son: Like 't'!

spontaneously
Son: When did she die?
Mom: She hasn't died yet. She's still alive. Let's see if there's a photo in the back...yep.
Son, pointing to each of several photos: Is that her?
Son, flipping to cover: And that's her too. She looks angry.
Mom: She was angry. She was angry because there were rules that were unfair.

about gender equality
Mom: What if someone told you that Mommy couldn't do something just because she's a woman? Is that fair?
Son: No. And what about me [doing a job]?
Mom: Well, you are three, so you are still too young. But when you are grown up you can do a job.
Mom: And what if someone said Daddy had to work and couldn't stay home to take care of you?
Son: I would feel sad...I like to play with Daddy.

repeatedly throughout
Son, pointing to Ruth's speech bubble: I dissent!

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Each Kindness


Written by Jacqueline Woodson
Illustrated by E. B. Lewis
Published in 2012

Why we chose this book:
This is up against It's Not Jack and the Beanstalk for 2018 March Book Madness.

Mom and Son's Review
(son age 3)

The narrator reflects on her having ostracized a classmate.

When a new student, Maya, arrives in the narrator's class wearing shabby clothing, the narrator shuns her. Although Maya makes repeated overtures of friendship to the narrator, she is repeatedly denied. At first, I expected this to follow the formula of similar books, where the children would befriend each other by the end. However, this does not follow the pattern and was painful to read once I realized that there would be no rectifying the narrator's coldness. The story ends with an impression of hope; the narrator regrets missing her opportunity to be kind to Maya. I think that we are meant to understand that she would endeavor to treat future classmates with kindness regardless of appearances. Each Kindness prompts readers' reflection on their own treatment of others.

This was a book that needed some explaining to T. He understood that Maya felt sad that her "friends" (his term) would not play with her. We talked a little bit about what they should have done ("play with her, " he told me), but did not delve very deeply into this, as he is too young yet to understand the narrator's actions.

Mom: What did you understand this to be about?

Son: kindness

Mom: Was the narrator kind to Maya?

Son: I don't know.

Mom: She wasn't kind. How do you think that made Maya feel?

Son: sad

Mom: If Maya invited you to play, would you play with her?

Son: Yeah

It's Not Jack and the Beanstalk


Written by Josh Funk
Illustrated by Edwardian Taylor
Published in 2017

Why we chose this book:
For 2018 March Book Madness - it's up against Each Kindness.

Mom's Review

Jack weighs in as a narrator retells the fairy tale.

In this comedic rendition, speech bubbles show characters' incredulity as the story unfolds. Imagine Jack giving the vegan giant tips on his rhymes, and an exasperated narrator who can't get his characters to behave as expected. Probably more smirk-inducing for parents; children without a complete grasp of the original version may miss the humor.

Son's Review
(age 3 years)

Mom: Was it a fun, silly book?

Son: No. It has a giant who wants to eat the boy.

Dad: In the end did the giant want to eat the boy? What did you think about that?

Son: They becomeded friends. I think that was neat.

Mom: What did they cook? They made a taco bowl? I know someone who makes those!

Son: T!

Mom: What would you do if you met the giant?

Son: Eat a taco bowl with him.


Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Thunder Boy, Jr.

Written by Sherman Alexie
Illustrated by Yuyi Morales
Published in 2016

Why we chose this book:
This is one of the books included in March Book Madness. It is up against Ada Twist, Scientist. We'll see who wins!

Mom's Review

A boy named after his father imagines new names for himself.

Thunder Boy, Jr. is named for his father, but is called "Little Thunder." He dislikes both his given name and his nickname because he wants a name all to himself, a feeling some children may identify with. Thunder Boy proceeds to reflect on his different interests and qualities, and what name he could derive from each. In the end, his father suggests that it is time for a new name, Lightning. The story and pictures convey a strong message of love between father and son, especially as the story concludes.

Son's Review
(age 3 years)

Mom: What was your favorite part? Do you want to find the page?

Son, turns to final page, "My dad and I will light up the sky."

Mom: Was there any question that you had about the book?

Son: Why will they light up the sky?

Mom: What kind of expression do you see on their faces?

Son: Happy

Mom: When we say that people light up, it means that they are smiling.
(There was more to this answer when we actually conversed.)

Mom: Thunder Boy didn't like his name at first...What do you think would be a good name for him? Why?

Son: Ball... because there he has a ball.

Mom: Would you want to be friends with him? What would you do together?

Son: Yes. [Go] to Franz Carl Weber. (a toy store)

Mom: If you could make up a name for yourself, what would it be?

Son shouts out own name!

Monday, March 5, 2018

The Doctor with an Eye for Eyes: The Story of Dr. Patricia Bath


Written by Julia Finley Mosca
Illustrated by Daniel Rieley
Published in 2017

Why we chose this book:
This was on our library's display for Women's History Month. T loves going with me to my eye doctor's office because they have an amazing children's waiting room overflowing with toys, so I thought this would have high appeal.

Mom and Son's Review
(son age 3 years)

A rhyming biography of Patricia Bath (eye doctor, laserphaco probe inventor, founder of the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness).

The first thing that caught my eye (haha) was the cover. With a close-up illustration of Bath's face, and an eye-chart-like title, the book looked cute. The narrative details Bath's life from birth until present day, noting her obstacles (racism and sexism), her successes, and encouraging readers to be inspired by her. My criticism is that the format does not quite match the vocabulary level. The rhyming and the illustrations are appropriate for younger children, but what preschooler will understand, "She came up with a plan, 'We must conquer this plight.'"?

T lost interest frequently the first time we read, but surprised me by asking to read it again. Initially, his reaction was only, "It's an eye doctor book?" We read more slowly the second time, discussing what different words or phrases meant and what the illustrations portrayed (he wanted to know about microphones, microscopes, and the laser probe), and I solicited T's questions. I thought this a valuable, albeit difficult read for T's level; much support was needed for his comprehension.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Hands are Not for Hitting


Written by Martine Agassi, Ph. D.
Illustrated by Marieka Heinlen
Published in 2000

Why we chose this book:
T learns from examples in books, and we have found it helpful to reference some of his favorite characters when dealing with difficult situations. Lately, he has been reacting to "no" by swinging his fists at his father and me. We want to encourage more positive reactions to anger and frustration, so I've requested several "no hitting" books to help us help him.

Mom's Review

Alternatives to hitting are recommended for expressing and processing one's feelings.

There are two editions of this book, one for children ages 0-3 and one for children ages 4-7. I selected the edition for older children, as the cover illustrations for the younger children's edition looked more babyish than T. The book describes what are good uses for hands and then explains why people might sometimes hit. Healthy alternatives to hitting are recommended, such as talking, listening to music, jumping up and down, or writing about one's feelings. Questions are also posed to the audience to help children process their feelings. T enjoyed the book, and even asked for it as his bedtime story. I thought it hit the target perfectly with tone and content, but could have effectively conveyed its message in half the time. I am attributing the length to the intended audience's age.

Son's Review
(age 3 years)

While reading:
Mom: It says "I can tell a story with my hands."

Son: I can draw a picture! I'm going to go draw a picture now!

Son, pointing to a boy pictured: What does he say?

Mom: He doesn't say anything, but look at his face. How do you think he feels?

Son: Angry.

Son, pointing to the hitting-alternative page: It's showing you can squeeze a pillow, or sing, or communicate.

Mom: How are they communicating?

Son: With their hands.

Mom, reading: How do you use your hands to play?

Son: Playmobil. Playmobil is my favorite.

Son, pointing to a boy with a thought bubble: What's he saying?

Mom: He's not saying anything. He's thinking about who can help him when his friends hit.

Dad: Do you know an older person who can help you?

Son: Uncle N!

Mom, reading: How are you handy? Being handy means being helpful.

Son: By doing what Mommy tells me!

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Over and Under the Snow


Written by Kate Messner
Illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal
Published in 2011

Why we chose this book:
T enjoyed another book by this author and illustrator duo, Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt. When this title appeared among our library's new acquisitions, I wanted to take a peek.

Mom's Review

Animals who are active aboveground during winter are contrasted with creatures below the snow.

As a boy cross-country skis, his father points out evidence of animals above ground and explains about how some animals are safe and warm below the snow. As they continue to ski, the boy narrates various animals he passes, from foxes to mice to bears to bees, and what they are each doing over or under the snow. The illustrations show the entire scene above and below ground.

I often see tracks in the snow in our yard and speculate with T what left them and what the animals were doing. This connects well to those conversations, and I hope it will spark T's curiosity and lead us to investigate more animal habits. There is an appendix in this book with facts about all of the animals, as well as recommendations for further reading.

Son's Review
(age 3 years)
While reading:
Son, pointing to a vole: What's that? I think it's a mouse.

Mom: Let's read and find out..it's a vole.

Son, authoritatively: It's a vole.

Son, pointing to fox: There's a wolf!

Mom: It does look a wolf. But it's red, so I think it's a....

Son: A fox!

Mom, pointing to the camouflaged rabbit: Here's the bunny. It's white.

Son: I would want to hug a white bunny.

After reading:
Mom: What was this book about?

Son: A little boy and his daddy.

Mom: I thought it was interesting that bees hibernate under the snow. I didn't know that.

Son: Bees did! They did that for their hiding. That is their hiding place.

Mom: What was your favorite animal?

Son: There was a red fox.

Mom: Did the book make you want to look in the snow for tracks? What animal?

Son: Yeah. Big [tracks].

Mom: What animal do you most want to know more about?

Son: Bunnies!

Friday, March 2, 2018

Myrtle the Purple Turtle


Written by Cynthia Reyes
Illustrated by Jo Robinson
Published in 2017

Why we chose this book:
When I was in grade school, I had to do a project on turtles. For a visual aid, my dad carved a soap turtle that we name Myrtle the Turtle. So, the title of this book caught my eye, and the description of a character accepting her difference appealed. The author offered us a copy of the book in exchange for a review.

Mom's Review

A talking purple turtle becomes self-conscious before accepting her coloring.

At the beginning of the book, Myrtle thinks nothing of her purple color. When another turtle teases her, however, she tries to dye herself green. Her thought-sequence is clearly explained, which could help a young audience process similar feelings. Mytle's friends respond to her identity crisis with love, she accepts herself, but there is no resolution with the teasing turtle.

Although T is not old enough to have experienced teasing, he understands that our actions can affect others' feelings; Myrtle the Purple Turtle was a good springboard for such a dialogue. In asking T questions for his portion of the review, I found that he didn't understand why one turtle would be mean. We then discussed why someone might be mean, and how we can respond to mean behavior, and how we should try to act even when we feel like being mean. Although T doesn't identify with the turtles, this was useful in discussing compassionate actions and reactions.

Son's Review
(age 3 years)

Mom: What was this turtle book about?

Son: Myrtle the Purple Turtle.

Mom: Was there a problem?

Son: That that other turtle was being mean to her.

Mom: How should the other turtle have been?

Son: Niiiice

Mom: How did you feel reading the book? Why?

Son: Bad because that turtle was being not nice to that turtle.

Mom: And did you feel sad for the whole book or did you ever feel happy?

Son: I feeled happy when she made herself green.

Mom: What would you do if you met Myrtle? Would you say anything to her?

Son: I would give her a big hug. I would say I have your own book now.

Mom: Did you learn anything from this book?

Son: I learned that you should be nice to animals.

Mom: What about people?

Son: You should be nice to people too.

Mom: Was there anything you didn't understand in the book?

Son: I didn't understand why that turtle was not being nice to Myrtle. Turtles be nice to other turtles but that turtle wasn't being nice to Myrtle the Purple Turtle. That was confusing to me.


Thursday, March 1, 2018

Ada Twist, Scientist


Written by Andrea Beaty
Illustrated by David Roberts
Published in 2016

Why we chose this book:
We have already read Iggy Peck, Architect and Rosie Revere, Engineer by the same author and illustrator and love them! This was on display at our local library, so we had to get it. It exceeded our expectations.

Mom's Review

A young girl's scientific inquiries are supported by her parents.

I need to begin by stating that I love seeing intellectually strong female characters in picture books. As a child I always gravitated toward books with strong female characters, and it seems like there are so many more positive depictions of independent girls now. I am conscious of the different representations T sees in his picture books, and I hope that by presenting him with a wide range of people and situations, he won't see anyone's potential reduced because of gender or race.

And this is just a fun read. The rhymes flow (I'm ornery when I stumble over phrases not in iambic pentameter), the illustrations give a glimpse of the characters' personalities (I wish I were as stylish as Ada's mom), and the parents react realistically but also optimally (they lose patience, but cool off and throw their full support behind their daughter). A stellar book for girls or boys, and an enjoyable one for this parent!

Son's Review
(age 3 years)

Before reading:
Son, pointing to Ada on the cover: Hey, I wore goggles like those! At the Ecotarium!
(This is science museum in Worcester.)

After reading:
Mom: Did you like the book? What was your favorite part?

Son: Yeah. When she got the stink.
(Ada investigated a stinky smell.)

Mom: What was neat in this book?

Son: That it was a scientist one.

Mom: Would you want to be friends with Ada? What would you do with her?

Son: Yeah. I'd want to show her her book...show her the terrariums...I want to go to Elm Park with her.

Mom: What might she like at Elm Park? Why?

Son: The swings...the open ones...I just think she would.

Mom: Who might want to read this book?

Son: I would!

Mom: You would want to read this again?

Son: Yeah!



The Odyssey

Retold from the Epic by Homer Illustrated by Manuela Adreani Published October 18, 2016 Why we chose this book/Mom's Review: T...