Book Reviews / Picture Books / Reading

Picture Book Reading Challenge: June 2016

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The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdös by Deborah Heiligman
This guy apparently is legendary in math circles. So much so that those in said circles have a Erdös Number (think six degrees to Kevin Bacon, same thing just using people who have studied or worked with Paul Erdös. The illustrations pair well with the mathematic theme of the book, but it is for me a good story of a man who loved math. He was eccentric and lived unusually but with openness, generosity, and enthusiasm for numbers. The book is appropriate for older readers. I plan on looking into a couple biographies that have been written about him for adults. Great storytelling of a fascinating individual in an often unapproachable field.

One Green Apple by Eve Bunting
If children learn by example, this is one story that provides a good example. A new girl, visibly different, is at her second day in a new school and it is a field trip. She is confused and uncertain but likewise perceptive and open. Two students in particular make efforts to include her. Using the metaphor of her little green apple, and buoyed by the two friendly children, the new girl bravely says her first “outside-myself” word. 

Yard Sale by Eve Bunting
Wow Eve Bunting can pack a punch in her stories. She has found the exactly perfect blend of honesty, kindness, and goodness to create powerful stories from challenging circumstances. This is the story of a family that is downsizing…significantly. All the little girl knows is that it’s something about money, and they have to move. Before they move they have a yard sale since they won’t have room for their stuff at the new place. Bunting moves readers, and the little girl, through confusion and despair and gut-wrenching heartbreak to a place of hope and solace.

The Sock Thief by Ana Crespo
Set in Brazil, this is a story of Felipe who trades mangoes for socks. He uses the socks to make a soccer ball for he and his friends to use at school. He thinks he’s managed his secret well – don’t all children – and the community is happy to continue draping socks out their windows and eating a fresh mango so the children can play soccer. This is a magical blend of good storytelling, cultural observations (how do dogs and parrots sound in Portuguese), and material for thematic conversations around community or poverty. Both issues are alluded to either directly or indirectly but the story is not trite or focused on either one – the story is about a boy who trades mangoes for socks. Love this one all around – and so did my girls.

Is There Really A Human Race? by Jamie Lee Curtis
The rhythm and illustrations in this book make a child’s misunderstanding of the “human race” concept into a marathon that the little tyke is trying to figure out. In his rhyming rambling questions he knocks into a problem: won’t we all eventually crash? If there is a human race, wouldn’t we be better to work together? That question seems to work well in either context.

The illustrations on each page are fun and funny – there’s something to talk about on each one, something related to the human race and something to talk about related to a race involving all humans.

Return of the Library Dragon by Carmen Agra Deedy
Miss Lotty is the librarian for Sunrise Elementary School, and she is retiring. Miss Lotty has high standards for the excellent care of her books and those who love to read the books so when she finds out that an IT guy has removed all her books in favor of e-books she…well….she turns into a dragon. It’s the children’s version of the adult faux-conundrum: e-readers or old-school books with paper pages. The children protest the invasion and give great reasons for wanting their books back, but when one child turns on a MePad it turns out that it is pretty cool, too. Maybe there is room for both options? Someone’s gotta get the dragon back to a librarian though…

Corduroy by Don Freeman
How did I miss this one? I think we even had a copy in my house growing up, but I don’t remember reading it. This is such a simple story of a teddy bear on a toy store shelf. It seems like he will be alone forever until a small girl notices him, goes home to count her money, and comes back to buy Corduroy. Simple on the surface, but the underlying notions of what we want versus what we get is beautifully woven into the storyline. Corduroy thinks he’s found a palace, but in the end he finds a home and that is what he understands to be abundantly sufficient and perfect.

Punctuation Takes a Vacation by Robin Pulver
Ha! I found another great book about punctuation! Appropriate for the older age-set. If your child is not yet learning about punctuation, they won’t understand this book. Punctuation takes a vacation because everyone is tired of dealing with them. They leave in a huff. They send back postcards in their unique styles. The children send back an urgent note requesting their return and apologizing for treating them so rudely. Their note is littered with misplaced commas, periods, apostrophes, and everything else. 

Who Put the Cookies in the Cookie Jar? by George Shannon
I didn’t particularly love this book, but I’m including it on this list because it covers a unique topic for picture books and in a manner that is relatable for children. One pair of hands can take a cookie out of the cookie jar, but how many hands go into putting cookies in the jar? The illustrations are well done (by Julie Paschkis), but the overall execution is a bit flat. At times the rhyming sounds forced, and in some instances the examples look antiquated. Guiding a plow behind a horse?

But! The idea that hands from around the world go into making our food and the supplies we use to make our food is communicated and wrapped up in the end. A good introduction of how many steps there are to making cookies to put in the cookie jar with a reasonable perspective on just how global that process is.

Bloom by Doreen Cronin
When a fairy, Bloom, that tracks dirt is unwelcome in the kingdom, she packs her bucket and heads to the forest. Gradually the kingdom falls into disrepair but without a clear idea why it is doing so. First the King, then the Queen, go to the forest to ask Bloom to help. She shows them her bucket of mud, and they are offended. So they send Genevieve, a servant, to approach the fairy. Genevieve is hesitant to follow the fairy’s directions but realizes it is the only way to save the kingdom. What she discovers is the hard work of making something, the delight in accomplishment, and the power of taking responsibility.

11 thoughts on “Picture Book Reading Challenge: June 2016

  1. Looks like a great selection of picture books. I knew Jamie Lee Curtis was writing children’s books, but I had never seen one. Is There Really a Human Race? sounds very clever!

  2. Hello Rebecca- Thank you so much for including The Sock Thief! I am glad you and the girls enjoyed it. Please, visit my website for free downloadable activities – http://www.anacrespobooks.com. You can make a sock ball, color the Brazilian flag, and learn how to pronounce the Portuguese words. Have fun! Ana

    • Oh how cool! Thanks! A great time to do it too with the Olympics right around the corner!! The sock ball is going to be a hit….and daddy’s sock drawer might get emptier a bit 😂

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