Picture Book Reading Challenge: May 2016

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How Full Is Your Bucket? For Kids by Tom Rath and Mary Reckmeyer
Ah grandparents. You’re never quite sure as a kid how much of them to take seriously. When Felix’s grandpa tells him that he took some water from his little sister’s bucket, Felix is suspicious. The next morning, Felix indeed has a bucket above his head. As bad things happen his bucket empties one drop at a time; when something positive happens it begins to fill. After Felix has learned this dynamic he is sensitized to everyone else’s buckets, and he discovers that when he helps fill up someone else’s bucket he receives a drop as well. 

A good visual for teaching kids emotional intelligence and empathy. The bucket with water is easy to relate to and the examples throughout the story provide a clear correlation between how the nature of events during our day can deflate or inspire us – and how that then influences who we relate to those around us. Subtle metaphors can be beautiful, but often what my 5-year-old wants to see is something concrete and clear. This one is perfect.

Little Pea by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
This one is funny because it is so true. The Dad Pea tossing Little Pea into the air (catapulting him on a spoon no less, how fun would that be!), Mama Pea telling bedtime stories about when she was a little pea (I’ve done a lot of this too, they’re called “Baby Stories” in our house), and answering the question “How many bites do I have to eat so I can have dessert?”

What makes the book stand out as funny to children, who will also recognize these dinnertime scenarios, is that Little Pea doesn’t like to eat candy. And his dessert of choice: spinach!

A fun and clever twist on a common dilemma.

My Name is Elizabeth by Annika Dunklee
If you have a child who does not like nicknames, this book is for him/her. The young girl is Elizabeth, but she get’s called Lizzie and Beth and other variations by everyone and anyone. She repeats, “My name is Elizabeth.” No one listens so she reveals her full name (what a whopper!) and end with “But you may call me Elizabeth.”

I’ve used a similar line in my life, “My name is Rebecca.” Most nicknames don’t bother me, but I’d assert my full name if anyone tried “Becky.” That was my line. My eldest daughter has a list of pre-approved nicknames and no others are allowed. Meanwhile my youngest insists the only approved nickname for her is Boober-Goober-Snitzelfritz.

Swatch: The Girl Who Loved Color by Julia Denos
This one may go down as an all-time favorite. The illustrations are bold and expressive. The concept is a girl named Swatch who is a color-tamer. She starts to collect the colors in jars. Finally she goes to get the last color for her collection, but when the color refuses the life she offers she leaves it be. For that, the color takes her on a daring ride that reveals what necessity there is in being wild. While the illustrations are perfect, the writing is as well. The descriptions of each color and where the color tamer finds them are insightful and imaginative. For example, In-Between Gray lived on her kitten’s leg. There’s also Rumble-Tumble Pink that comes on the heels of thunderstorms. 

Love. Love. Love.

Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match by Monica Brown
Marisol McDonald doesn’t match – at least that’s what people tell her. She stands out in so many different, delightful ways from the clothes she wears, the languages she speaks, her sandwich of choice, how she spells her name, and others. One of her friends challenges her to match for one day, and she accepts. Everything is boring and mushy. Finally her teacher asks her why she was trying to match. Marisol McDonald could not think of one good reason. So the next day she went back to herself and announced that she doesn’t match because she doesn’t want to. 

The conclusion is a glimpse at the puppy Marisol picks for her own at the local pound – a mismatched, marvelous pooch. My two-year-old laughed every time at the name Marisol gave the puppy. 

Great message presented in a direct and amusing story.

The Sound of Colors by Jimmy Liao
This book is longer than the standard 32-page variety that are typically published, but the writing is sparse and clear. It is a book about a blind girl who travels through subway trains, through reality and imagination, through what she knows with her other senses and what she seeks with her heart. The use of subway trains to extend a sense of constant movement and change mirror the thoughts of the girl who continually shifts between her understanding of what she is doing in real-time to her imagination of what it could be or might become. 

And. Oh! The illustrations! What details! What clever characters on the trains! What colors!

And. Oh! The writing! Small sentences with powerful impact. Each page reveals another part of the girl in the book and without much ado we understand her confusion, curiosity, kindness, loneliness, patience, persistence, and beauty. That she is blind clearly outlines how she must approach her life, but it does not define her. She completes her journey by the end, but we are not overtaken by her blindness as we are by her humanity. There is no room for pity in this story or heroic acts of undefinable courage. It is the story of a girl who is looking for a friend. And by the end, you’ll want to be her friend.

Please Bring Balloons by Lindsay Ward
A magic polar bear on a carousel leaves a note for a little girl named Emma to bring a balloon. She finds this strange but obliges “just in case.” Then he requests more balloons. She brings more and then sits on his back. Together they go on a dreamy adventure to a polar bear rumpus. A great book of imagination. The girl has doubts both before and after the adventure which allows readers to experience the tension that imagination creates between suspicion and memory. A quiet sort of book that seems ideally suited for bedtime reading.

If you Lived Here: Houses of the World by Giles Laroche
This nonfiction book is not about a person. It’s not about animals. It’s about houses. Specifically, different types of houses around the world. Each spread introduced a different structure and talked about, “If you lived here your bedroom…” or “To get to the kitchen…” Each one also had a small box of other fun facts, but the primary writing on each page was several sentences of introduction of these houses through identifying areas that would be interesting from a child’s perspective. 

What a great idea and well done! The selection favors U.S. and European styles, but there is one noted from Africa, one from South America , and a couple in Asia. I’d love to see another edition that finds more examples on these other continents and maybe Australia and islands. Still, these houses were fascinating to read about with just the right amount of information for introducing them to children. Not for a preschool set perhaps, but first grade upwards could engage.

The Girl’s Like Spaghetti by Lynne Truss
This is an introduction to the importance of apostrophes for older readers. I’m older. I’m a reader. I love punctuation. So of course, I loved this book. Each page spread has a single sentence at the bottom. The apostrophe is the only thing that moves. The pictures explain the rest. What a significant little mark to be wrestled with. A fun introduction with silly examples that nevertheless make their point (or squiggle as the case may be).

Spy Guy: The Not-So-Secret Agent by Jessica Young
This poor little guy is a spy. But he’s not a very good one. Page after page he makes slight changes to his approach, directed by The Chief (dad), and receives clever instruction (“But if you seek to sneak, try not to speak.”). Still, success eludes him. The Chief promises Spy Guy that when at last he can sneak up on The Chief, he will know the answer to how to be a great spy. The story is great in and of itself. The message to keep trying is a bonus.

10 thoughts on “Picture Book Reading Challenge: May 2016

  1. That one called My Name is Elizabeth sounds hilarious to me. I’m an Elizabeth. I used that all through school until college when I stuck with the simpler form my parents used of Betsy. I got Liz, Lizzie, Lizardbreath, all that stuff. Once a college prof whom I’d never bothered to tell I go by Betsy, called my name while I was sitting in an empty hallway. He kept saying “Liz,” so I ignored him, not knowing he was talking to me, until he was right next to me. He was probably thinking, “No wonder she’s not doing well in my class. I need to make her sit up front.” JK. 🙂 He was my Shakespeare prof. To hear him go on a tirade about that Leonardo DiCaprio version of Romeo and Juliet was a highlight of his classes. 🙂

    1. I love stories like that! Some people just don’t worry about what they call people and forget if it’s not their name, they may not respond. It doesn’t seem often that the names are meant to be mean…maybe middle school is an exception…but the girl in this book fights for every syllable and wins 🙂 It was great to read 😂

    1. It is astonishing to me how many books are out there! Every month I think I’ll never find 10 more great books to share and every month new ones pop up! So much fun 🙂

  2. Hi Rebecca,
    When I wrote My Name Is Elizabeth, I also had Rebecca, as a viable alternative, but went with Elizabeth because there are more nicknames.
    I love the name Rebecca — it was my grandmother’s name 🙂 Thank you for featuring my book. Annika Dunklee

    1. Annika, thanks for leaving a comment. I love hearing the back stories for authorial decisions 🙂

      My name, before marriage, was Rebecca Elizabeth. Right next to a ridiculous last name to pronounce. I fully appreciated this book, and I’m glad to hear Rebecca got a nod in consideration 🙂 I’m looking forward to checking out your book Me, Too!

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