Review: Be a Friend


Be a Friend
by Salina Yoon
Published by Bloomsbury (January 5, 2016)
Ages 3-6

My Rating: 5 Stars

Review:
The cover of Be a Friend wears its heart on its sleeve, so to speak. The heart of the story is clearly about a friendship between a regular-looking girl and boy who is a little bit different. The intriguing part is that the boy is so outwardly offbeat. I couldn’t help but wonder how a mime would get along in the world of chatty children and rough-and-tumble play.

Dennis doesn’t speak. To express himself, he acts out scenes. While the other children show-and-tell, Dennis puts on his wordless show. When the other children climb a tree, Dennis stands tall and lets a bird rest on his branches. Because Dennis is silent and a bit different, the other children barely see him and he is lonely. One day, when Dennis kicks an imaginary ball, it is caught by a girl named Joy. Even though Joy talks to the other kids and likes to play in the tree like the other kids, she also understands Dennis and becomes his friend by miming with him. Eventually, Joy’s friendship and understanding opens the eyes of the other children – they see and play with Dennis, too.

Every time I read this book, I fall in love with the illustrations a little bit more. I love how Joy is quietly noticing Dennis all along. I love how the red heart Dennis wears on his black-and-white striped shirt suddenly appears pinned on Joy’s dress after a few spreads of them miming together. And, I love how the expressions on Dennis’ face are spot on.

There will always be children who are a bit different from their peers. They may not fit in as well because they’re quiet or they look different or they come from a different culture or economic background. While sometimes it’s not easy to understand others who are different, it is a great kindness to simply try – to look at another person and see their humanity inside.

Dennis isn’t a monster, he’s a regular boy with a different way of expressing himself. Because another child looked and accepted him for who he is, he was spared from loneliness and the rest of the world got to see and appreciate his uniqueness.

Be a Friend is a hopeful book. And, I hope it makes its way into the hands of many children.

FTC Required Disclosure: This blog features Amazon Associate links, including linked images. Purchases made through these affiliate links will result in a my receiving a small commission. This applies to all products purchased at Amazon through the link, regardless of whether or not I’ve mentioned the product on this blog.

Review: The Moon is Going to Addy’s House


The Moon is Going to Addy’s House
by Ida Pearle
Published by Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Group (July 7, 2015)
Ages 3-5

My Rating: 5 Stars

Review:
I have my sister to thank for leading me to The Moon is Going to Addy’s House by Ida Pearle. She e-mailed me about it a couple of weeks ago before the official release date of the book. The cover art and an investigation of Ida Pearle’s website were enough to convince me to pre-order a copy. I’m glad I did.

Addy and her family travel from a friend’s home in the city to their home in the country. Along the way, Addy and her sister wonder at and play hide-and-seek with the moon, which is always there, even when it’s hiding behind the landscape. As the sisters prepare to go to bed after the drive home, Addy concludes that the moon is her constant companion – it watches over her, always.

The Moon is Going to Addy’s House is visually striking. There are very few words to this story; only those that are needed. In fact, I had to read it several times before the words sunk in. The images really take over. Ida Pearle’s colorful cut-paper collage illustrations gorgeously tell the tale. With color, texture, sweeping spreads and ideally placed details, Ida Pearle has created a story that moves you from dusk to night and into a dreamy, comforted state of mind – perfect for a bedtime read.

On her website, Ida Pearle notes that the story is also a metaphor for parental love. There are subtle hints of this throughout the book, but it is very clear from the visual at the end of the story. Personally, I love a story with multiple meanings. Don’t you? A metaphor adds depth, especially when it touches a core emotion.

The emotional depth of The Moon is Going to Addy’s House, along with its stunning artwork, gives it a good chance of becoming a modern classic.

Have you read The Moon is Going to Addy’s House? Let me know what you think of the story in the comments section below.

FTC Required Disclosure: This blog features Amazon Associate links, including linked images. Purchases made through these affiliate links will result in a my receiving a small commission. This applies to all products purchased at Amazon through the link, regardless of whether or not I’ve mentioned the product on this blog. All reviews are my own opinion. I am not paid in any other form to write reviews.

Family Camp

tents

Here is a poem I wrote. It is inspired by the tent city that pops up each Independence Day at our family homestead. Happy 4th of July!

tentsil_570xN.97831249


Family Camp

Going to Grandma and Grandpa’s
Packed up in the car tight
We’ll be staying over
Two days and a warm summer night

Grandma greets us with kisses
Grandpa gives a high-five
We hear aunts in the kitchen
Hooray! Our cousins arrived

Night settles us in to camp
Together in tents on the lawn
At first light, we go swimming
We are wild with laughter and song

Grandpa tells us his stories
We help Grandma bake a pie
We don’t worry about anything
Until Mom says, “time for goodbye”

With a show of whimpers and shouts
We madly protest the end
“So long” dear cousins
Until we’re together again

© Sheryl Davis, 2015

What Are The 10 Best Things About Your Dad?

It’s almost Father’s Day, so naturally I was planning to create a list of great children’s books about dads. Every Friday by Dan Yaccarino and Owl Moon by Jane Yolen are two books that celebrate the special relationship between father and child. These two stand out for their award-winning illustration, and I certainly recommend them. But, when I was considering The 10 Best Things About My Dad by Christine Loomis for my list, I realized this post wasn’t going to be a list of books for Father’s Day. There are plenty of book lists out there already.

Instead, this post is about nurturing the bond between father and child and about letting our fathers know how much we love them.

Father’s Day is a great time to think about creating special rituals, like the one in Every Friday. Maybe you already have one, such as reading before bedtime or going to the park on Saturdays to throw a ball around. These moments that you give to your child create a sense of stability and strengthen your relationship. If you take a second to be in the present moment, you may see just how important these times are to you, too.

So, you’re still trying to think of a gift that your young child can give for Father’s Day? What better gift would there be for a father than a personal list from his child that mirrors the one in The 10 Best Things About My Dad? Golf clubs, you say? Sorry, this isn’t about material gifts. Dad needs to know he is loved, whether he admits it or not. And young children need ways of expressing themselves, just like adults. Why not help your child make a list, and then make one of your own for your dad?

For me, this Father’s Day is an oddly special one. It’s the first one without my dad, who passed away in January. In his honor, here is my list of the 10 best things about my dad.

  1. Dad loved his family. It was obvious that my parents loved each other. They treated each other with respect, and they treated their kids the same way. They had nine children, and we were lucky to have a father who made us feel like we were more important than anything else.
  2. Dad loved all children, not just his own. He believed in the potential of kids and, together with my mom, was involved in activities that were geared toward helping them grow, like the church youth group.
  3. Dad loved people. His kindness and generosity came across when he spoke to people. And he often thought and talked about others with empathy and a caring heart.
  4. Dad had a soothing voice. It was an understanding voice. More than one of us kids had a school friend or two that liked to come around to listen to him talk and to be around his fatherly presence.
  5. Dad loved to tell stories about his family history. He would talk about how his father came from Germany as a boy to work on a relative’s farm. He would tell of how his father ended up owning the farm where we all grew up. Hearing these stories always gave me a sense of connection to the people I came from.
  6. Dad loved music. His face would light up when he heard a favorite song. Johnny Cash, The Kingston Trio, Pavarotti, Alison Krauss. The list of his favorites is endless, because any good song brought him joy. It’s a feeling I share, and I always felt connected to him because of it.
  7. Dad worked hard. He was a farmer. That’s no nine-to-five job. That’s early mornings and late nights. It’s not only physical labor, but having the smarts and integrity to run your own business.
  8. Dad hung on to his sense of wonder. Late in life, after he retired, he took up gardening. Every winter he would start to peruse the seed catalogs, looking at all of the beautiful flowers and fun new vegetables. Planning out the garden was a way to make the dead of winter bearable. One of his favorite moments, though, was when the seedlings started to sprout up through the dirt. He saw it for the miracle that it is. Something that we, mere humans, have no control over, even though we do our best and do our part by planting the seeds and nurturing them.
  9. Dad was grateful for everything he was given. He rarely complained. He, like the rest of us, had stuff to grumble about, but he didn’t put those worries on us or anyone else. He chose to be positive and do his best when facing adversity, which is a lesson I still aspire to learn completely.
  10. Finally, for my number 10, I simply must steal the final line from The 10 Best Things About My Dad. “My dad is extra special – just because he’s mine!”

FTC Required Disclosure: This blog features Amazon Associate links, including linked images. Purchases made through these affiliate links will result in a my receiving a small commission. This applies to all products purchased at Amazon through the link, regardless of whether or not I’ve mentioned the product on this blog. All reviews are my own opinion. The commission that I make through Amazon helps me maintain this blog without other types of advertising. 


Every Friday
Written and Illustrated by Dan Yaccarino
Published by Square Fish (May 8, 2012)
2007 New York Times Book Review Best Illustrated Book of the Year


Owl Moon
Written by Jane Yolen
Illustrated by John Schoenherr
Published by Philomel Books (October 23, 1987)
Winner of the Caldecott Medal


The 10 Best Things About My Dad
Written by Christine Loomis
Illustrated by Jackie Urbanovic
Published by Cartwheel Books, an imprint of Scholastic (May 1, 2004)

Review: Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures

Flora & Ulysses


Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures
Written by Kate DiCamillo
Illustrated by K. G. Campbell
Published by Candlewick Press (2013)
Ages 8-12

My Rating: 5 Stars

Review:
I’d wanted to read something by Kate DiCamillo for a few months. Her name and face kept popping up all over the place. It makes sense, seeing as she was named the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature for 2014–2015. When it came down to choosing which book to read first, I simply couldn’t resist the one with a young girl and a flying squirrel on the cover.

Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures is a middle-grade novel about ten-year old Flora Belle Buckman, a self-described “natural-born cynic.” Her parents are divorced, and Flora feels alone in the world. She lives with her mother, a distracted romance novelist. Flora only sees her father on the weekends and misses the special bond they had reading comic books together. Flora’s favorite comic book, The Illuminated Adventures of the Amazing Incandesto!, helps her make sense of a seemingly crazy world. When a squirrel is surprisingly sucked up by the neighbor’s vacuum cleaner, Flora Belle runs to the rescue. What follows are a whole lot of “unanticipated occurrences” that change Flora and everyone around her. Would you find reasons to hope if your champion was a flying superhero squirrel who writes poetry? I sure would.

Kate DiCamillo has been called a master storyteller. It’s a well-deserved description. What makes Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures special is that it addresses tough issues, like loneliness and divorce, with a sense of humor.

There is so much love in this book. The way that Ulysses feels passionately about life after being born anew as a superhero squirrel is genuinely heartwarming. His love of poetry and love of Flora make it seem like anything is possible.

Another element that enriches the story is Flora’s discovery of friendship with William Spiver, a quirky kid who is in many ways a mirror for Flora’s loneliness. His quirks annoy her, but she can’t help but find comfort in his presence. He chips away at her cynicism, while the larger story elements propel her toward hope.

Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures is a journey of discovery. A young girl in a mixed-up world discovers that not everything is what it seems to be. She is loved, and sometimes, it’s okay to have hope.

The comic-book elements, illustrated by K.G. Campbell, are integral to the story – and they’re funny – making the book an excellent choice for younger or more reluctant readers.

Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures is the winner of the 2014 Newbery Medal.

FTC Required Disclosure: This blog features Amazon Associate links, including linked images. Purchases made through these affiliate links will result in a my receiving a small commission. This applies to all products purchased at Amazon through the link, regardless of whether or not I’ve mentioned the product on this blog. All reviews are my own opinion. I am not paid in any other form to write reviews.