Apr/May 2010 Reviews & Interviews

From a Mother's Bookshelf: Spring Titles for the Little Ones

Review by Tanya Tweete

Buy now from Amazon! If you want a compelling story about friendship and overcoming difficulties, this is your book. Goose's Story by Cari Best is beautifully written and perfectly depicts the compassion children can have. The story will captivate children from ages two through nine. My first grader described it best as a "circle story with a very happy ending".

Goose begins with the anticipation of the arrival of the Canadian geese. As the story develops, you befriend a hurt goose that loses a foot yet overcomes adversity with the encouragement of a little girl and her dog. As the animal regains the abilities to swim and eventually fly, thus returning to start a family, you find that you are no longer reading to tell your children a story, you are reading with anticipation of the ending. I enjoyed this story as much as they did.

The illustrations by Holly Meade perfectly accompany Goose's Story. They are whimsical and childlike with bold strokes and colors yet they do not overpower or distract from the text and convey the author's words for those children who are not yet reading. All in all this is a great story of sympathy and perseverance. The words are perfect for early readers (1st or 2nd grade) but the story will reach any age group and the emotions represented will be easily understandable by all ages.

With all the buzz lately about families reverting to "slow living", Applesauce Season will easily become a popular title and with good reason. While reading this quaint book, you can almost smell the apples cooking down in the oven. Author Eden Ross Lipson perfectly captures the essence of quality family time.

The narrator is a little boy who makes applesauce with his grandmother and mother every year. He describes the types of apples throughout the apple season and the sights and smells of making something from scratch. A bonus at the end is that he shares that experience as an adult with his own child. Thus through reading Applesauce Season children learn the process of making applesauce and the importance of family traditions. Oh, and you get a recipe for applesauce in the back!

Mordicai Gerstein's ink and colored pencil-like drawings are a nice throw back to gentler times. The color pallet is simple, with shades of red, green, yellow and blue. Used together, they create a complete picture that captures every color of apple. Somehow the illustrations depict the crispness of the apples and the sweetness of the sauce.

Even though this would be a great beginner reader, you'll want to read Applesauce Season to your kids while snuggled up in a favorite chair. It is the perfect way to usher in fall. My three children loved this book; they can't wait for us to spend a day making applesauce together.

Wow! Said the Owl by author/illustrator Tim Hopgood is a fantastic book about the world of colors. A curious little owl stays up all day to see what she's been missing in the world and discovers a world of color and beauty. Just when she feels sad for being a nocturnal animal, she rediscovers the beauty of the night.

This book is great for little children learning their colors and exploring their world. Older children are reminded to appreciate the beauty and take notice of things in a new way. The writing is geared toward toddlers and preschool age with the story short enough to hold their attention. Keeping the words simplistic and sweet, the author creates a great reading rhythm that aids in the pre-reading skills. A plus to this is that older children can enjoy reading it to younger siblings.

As a bonus, the illustrations are so creatively patterned they almost look like scrapbook paper. Using a mixture of pen, paint and what looks like chalk, the pictures are realistic in a childlike way. The colors stand out but it's not your typical color book where you get one flat example of that color. These pages are filled with a variety of shades that tell a story unto themselves. Wow! Said the Owl is just an adorable book and would make a perfect baby or toddler gift.

The Everything Machine, by Matt Novak is a delightful story written for all ages. In this cartoon book the people of the planet Quirk receive a machine that can do everything. The Quirkians go from being a simple people who are self sufficient and reliant to a people of leisure and laziness. (Are you hearing echoes of Wall-E yet?) It reaches the point where they don't even get out of bed. It's not until the machine breaks that they again learn the meaning of work and the value of doing something for yourself and thus this children's book is a bit of a euphemism for our society.

The Everything Machine, is perfect for elementary school children who can grasp the Novak's abstract concepts. After reading this with my six year old, it was fun to see him "get" that it feels better to do something for yourself, even if it's something that's hard to do. This is a great way to have children understand and appreciate all the things that get done for them. Earlier readers will enjoy the story even if they can't understand the bigger picture; to them it's still a fun and imaginative book.

Everyone will enjoy Novak's Seussian style of illustrations. The pictures are so vibrant, emotional and detailed, it will take you awhile to be able to turn the page because the kids will be finding all the little treasures in the artwork. The wild illustrations seamlessly match the out of this out-of-this-world title.

When You Meet a Bear on Broadway by Amy Hest on Broadway is a bit of Paddington Bear meets Madeline. In this sweet reliable tale a little girl encounters a lost bear and takes it upon herself to help him find his mother. She looks everywhere and uses smart questions to help him and by the end of her day, the little girl can't wait to run to her own mother to share her adventures.

Every child can relate to the idea of being lost or the scary feeling that a parent is not readily nearby. When You Meet a Bear on Broadway will help your child understand what to do in that situation by having the hero in the story be the little girl that helps find the little bear's mother. Young children love to feel in control and this story allows them to feel the sense of being lost through the bear yet allow them to be in control by identifying with the child. This is all accomplished while using whimsical words and cute introjections.

Illustrator Elivia Savadier uses ink and watercolor to depict the backdrop for the search. The simple yet descriptive drawings really keep the main characters in focus by using bolder colors. She brilliantly reveals the plot while giving emotion to the characters and providing so much backstory with the city scenes. You really feel like you are in New York searching for a bear mama reading this one; it's a sweetheart from start to finish.

Finally, while reading When I Wore my Sailor Suit you get to take an unusual journey into a child's imagination. This is a story about a little boy who enjoys spending time at a neighbor's house and playing with a toy boat. The adults play along allowing him to transform his world into a sea voyage. In the midst of play he sees a painting of a man whose eyes follow him wherever he plays. His imagination then runs away and great adventure ensues.

Award winning author and illustrator Uri Shulevitz easily captures the essence of childhood and play here. He brings the reader into the little boy's mind and makes you feel like these are your fantasies. The illustrations are both bold and dreamlike artfully blending reality and fantasy. Shulevitz draws the way kids see, using vivid colors and scary faces for characters like the pirate and man. He seamlessly shifts from real life objects to exotic islands with pirates and monkeys and does a beautiful job marrying pictures with words to allow the reader to experience the same emotions as the main character.

As a parent it's nice to remember how it was to be a child and the funny things that caught your attention. i>When I Wore my Sailor Suit so wonderfully brought me back to my own childhood and perceptions of people's decor while visiting other houses. While reading this one to my kids I could actually feel the way that I did when going to my Uncle's house who had a stuffed deer in the living room. I was always certain the eyes followed me just as this story's character can feel the man in the picture looking at him. My younger children were captivated and enjoyed the imaginative story. My elementary school child liked knowing that other children see things "differently" also. No matter what the age of child, this is a must read.


Applesauce Season
By Eden Ross Lipson
Illustrated Mordicai Gerstein
Roaring Brook Press 2009
ISBN: 978-1-59643-216-1

Goose's Story
By Cari Best
Illustrated Holly Meade
Douglas&McIntyre 2009
ISBN: 978-0-374-40032-3

Wow! Said the Owl
By Tim Hopgood
Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2009
ISBN-13: 978-0-374-38518-7

The Everything Machine
By Matt Novak
Roaring Brook Press 2009
ISBN: 978-1-59643-286-4

When You Meet a Bear on Broadway
By Amy Hest
Illustrated by Elivia Savadier
Melanie Kroupa Books 2009
ISBN: 978-0-374-40015-6

When I Wore my Sailor Suit
By Uri Shulevitz
Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2009
ISBN: 978-0-374-34749-9


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