Summer brings visions of blue skies, green fields, turquoise waters, and carefree days. Summer days are perfect for sharing poems that will bring the beauty of nature and animals home to us. These three picture books filled with poetry do just that.
“Little Yellow Truck” is by prolific and talented author Eve Bunting and illustrated by Kevin Zimmer with a bright cheerful palette. It’s the story of a red dump truck, a green flatbed truck, a blue concrete mixer, and a little yellow pickup truck, all working together to build a children’s park. Little Yellow waits impatiently as the other trucks carry away trash, mix concrete, and bring in lumber. Then Big Green brings in the swings and slides, benches and tables. What will there be left for Little Yellow to do? Don’t worry, Little Yellow has an important job to make the park just perfect! Zimmer manages to create great expressions on the vehicles and kids will love the story of the little guy, worrying and impatient, who finally gets to do his job. (Sleeping Bear Press)
It’s not too late to get books for the children on your shopping list. And there are many great children’s books available for every age and every interest. There’s a plethora of wonderful picture books for children who love to read or listen to books.
It’s back to school time and there are some fabulous picture books to read with young children to talk about school. You will enjoy reading them, your children will enjoy listening to them, and if you chose to donate them to your kid’s classroom, the whole class will read them!
“All Our Wild Wonder” is a small book, but the brilliant tangerine cover surrounds the rectangle containing the title and an illustration of a hand holding a dandelion that is releasing its seeds into the world. It’s a small package containing a powerful poem.
At the center of the poem is Mrs. Ribeiro, “an Indian woman the size of a nightlight,” who glided through the school so effortlessly that children thought she floated. This diminutive principal was so devoted to the students at her school that she would leave meetings whenever a child needed her — even just to read to, or to show a gold star, or to see a finished project.
What do you get when an award-winning author and an award-winning author/illustrator collaborate on a book about love? You get “Love” by Newbery Medal-winning Matt de la Peña and New York Times bestselling illustrator Loren Long.
There’s a new poet in town, and he’s going to give Jack Prelutsky a run for his money. Chris Harris’s “I’m Just No Good at Rhyming and Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-Ups” is filled with many poems and other miscellaneous nonsense (like a “How-are-these-two-pictures-different?” puzzle where — spoiler alert! — both pictures are the same!).
The poems are all filled with humor and are deftly illustrated by Lane Smith. Two pages are filled with the beginnings of poems and a running commentary by Smith about how the poems are too ridiculous and would Harris please try writing a different poem instead. After four no-gos, Smith suggests that Harris write a poem about a monster under the bed, which Harris writes, and which is fabulous (and illustrated).
There are three astonishingly beautiful picture books for children which should be considered for every school library or bookshelf.
“How to Heal a Broken Wing” by Bob Graham is the fictional account of a pigeon who flies into a skyscraper in the middle of a large city and falls to the sidewalk. People walk past, unseeing and uncaring, but when Will and his mother walk by, Will sees. Will cares. Will breaks away from his mother and goes back to the hurt bird. He gently picks it up and holds it out to his mother.
This touching story of one boy’s compassion for a bird many consider dirty and vermin-like is beautifully told and illustrated. The text is quite spare as are the illustrations. Both parents make identical gestures when they first see the bird — their hands on their heads as if to say, “Really?!” But both wholeheartedly join in the rescue attempt, the mother giving up her scarf to carefully wrap the bird for its trip to their house and the father going out to buy the injured bird a cage to recuperate in. And slowly — the author shows the passage of time through illustrations of the changing moon — the bird heals.
This is a story that will not soon be forgotten, and it might just be the book that changes a child’s life and view of those who are helpless, those whom others don’t notice, those who desperately need help. It’s a story that would certainly facilitate productive conversations about helping others and the value of life.
Quite different from the fictional story of one pigeon is the nonfiction book “Many: The Diversity of Life on Earth” by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Emily Sutton. In “Many,” the author presents the incredible diversity, the incredibly enormous numbers and types of plants and animals and even microbes that exist alongside of us on our planet. From two kinds of huge elephants (African and Asian) to more than 600 kinds of oak trees; from over 100,000 kinds of mushrooms to thousands of microbes in one teaspoon of dust, and from deserts to islands, from treetops to the bottom of the ocean, the author states:
“We have learned that every kind of living thing is part of a big, beautiful, complicated pattern.
The last part of the book warns about the danger of continuing to disrupt the beautiful, natural pattern that is life on Earth. “The trouble is, all over the world, human beings are destroying pieces of the pattern…” Examples are chemicals poisoning our air, rivers and oceans and fishing boats emptying the oceans and people cutting forests resulting in the extinction of animals and plants.
This book is perfect for starting a conversation or project about the environment and what we must do to protect it for our children and future generations.
Another nonfiction picture book is “Song of the Wild: A First Book of Animals” also by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Petr Horácek. This picture book is organized by “Big and Small,” “Color and Shapes,” Animal Homes,” “Animal Babies,” and “Animals in Action.”
The largest bird, the African ostrich, is compared to the tiniest, a hummingbird just bigger than a bee. It could fit inside the ostrich’s eye. The information is presented in rhyme, which makes this a lovely book to read aloud.
“The ostrich lives in Africa
in grasslands hot and dry,
the biggest bird in all the world —
in fact, too large to fly.”
There are giraffes and lions and elephants and ants. One sepia and taupe monochromatic page titled “What Am I?” presents information about mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, fish, and more. The next page begins “Colors and Shapes” and has brilliant color illustrations of beetles with the information that there are more than 300,000 kinds of beetles. Camel with their humps, zebras and tigers resplendent with stripes, and a panda grace the pages of this chapter.
This is not a picture book for a quick read. Rather, this is a picture book that youngsters will want to peruse slowly as they absorb all the information. They will learn that even a crocodile is tender when it comes to her babies.
“No one thinks of crocodiles as gentle;
tenderness is something for the doves.
But when baby crocodiles are hatching,
it’s hard to say they don’t get Mother’s love.”
Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover books provided by Candlewick Press for review purposes.
School has started, and there are many new picture books to get children excited about a year of reading and learning. From cats to mice, and princesses to inventors, there are books for every reading level and every interest. Even a book about dragons.
On the light side are two animal-themed books. “Papillon, Book One, The Very Fluffy Kitty” by A. N. Kang (Disney-Hyperion Books) is a charming story about a big white cat who is so fluffy that he floats. His owner thinks of clever ways to keep Papillon grounded, using hats and other accessories, but finally Papillon throws off the accoutrements and follows a new friend. Unfortunately, he floats out the window and away into the wild. How Papillon makes a new friend and finds his way home will have young readers demanding this as their nightly read.
Another book featuring a dare-devil animal is “I Am the Mountain Mouse (Four Furry Tales, One Crazy Mouse)” by Gianna Marino (Viking Books). There are four cautionary tales about the folly of being careless. And while the “mountain mouse” doesn’t get killed by the camel or the cat or the other dangers, the reader quickly gets the idea that being careful is a necessary characteristic if one wants to live a long, healthy life! Interestingly, Marino choses to make the main character a white mouse, while the three mouse companions are gray field mice. The main character gains a semblance of wisdom in the end (which the author clearly indicates may only be temporary). More adventures may follow.
Rating: 5 stars
A Dazzling Display of Dogs by Betsy Franco and illustrated by Michael Wertz is a humorous and clever collection of poems about dogs doing what dogs do: riding in the car, sleeping, usurping a favorite chair, snuggling with a teddy bear, escaping, running, barking.
The vibrant and vivid colors of the illustrations will draw children of all ages into the pages and the funny, well-thought-out rhymes will keep the reader turning the pages.
The poems are adorable, and the unusual juxtaposition of shapes and graphics take the words to a new level. Some of the poems are written in circles, some on the wings of gulls, one is on a tennis ball sitting wetly in the dog’s mouth, and others crawl diagonally across the page. Movement is everywhere–this is not a sedate collection of poetry but rather poetry that will make its readers laugh out loud.
The illustrator, Michael Wertz, adopted his dog from the Berkeley Animal Shelter. She is a pit mix called Miss Olive.
He says, “Olive showed up in a couple of spots in A Dazzling Display of Dogs – there’s the poem that Betsy Franco (the poet) wrote called “Miss Olive’s Teddy Bear,” but that’s also Miss Olive who modeled for “Circling Poem 2 : Coco Circling on the Rug”. When you live with a dog, you end up drawing (and photographing) her a lot, and that ends up in the artwork, even as details or facial expressions. I have a huge scrap file of dog images to draw from as well, but it’s always fun when Miss Olive makes a personal appearance.”
His love of dogs shines through on every page.
Because of the sophistication of the language and vocabulary in some poems, this book will be enjoyed by children from the age of seven on up through adulthood.
Teachers will love using this book to teach students that poetry can be — and perhaps should be — lots of fun.
A Dazzling Display of Dogs was a starred review in the School Library Journal.
The first book of animal poetry, A Curious Collection of Cats, is just as clever and beautifully illustrated. It won the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award Honor.