Tag Archives: friendship

Dreamers and doers

reboundare your choices still bronze, not quite perfect but trying?

when you leap for an apple, do your fingers touch air?


do you smile at a challenge, at the roxies and cjs?

do you trust too much, when your voice isn’t clear?


strong women, strong men

they make up a family

you are part of that, too

young charlie, chuck bell

In honor of National Poetry Month, and Rebound, Kwame Alexander’s stellar new novel in verse.


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Good surprises.

prince dressmakerLooking at the cover, I was not so sure if we were leaning towards traditional fairy tale or girl power story with this one.  But what the heck?  It’s a graphic novel, I thought.  It won’t be long, and I can always bail on it if it’s too sappy, I thought.

Then BOOM, several pages in I find myself thinking, “Welllllll, I was not expecting that.”  That might apply to a lot of things, but definitely fits this book.  It probably reveals some privilege and/or bias on my part that I was surprised, but that was quickly followed by thinking what an excellent story it really is.  There’s friendship, love, secrets, family drama.  This book has it all, along with some painful moments and realizations about growing up and becoming who we are meant to be.  They do live happily ever after, though, which is maybe the thing we should focus on and hope for, right?

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

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That whole big world outside your window

frances pauleyFrances Pauley, a.k.a. Figgrotten, mostly lives in a world of her own, although she moves through what passes for the real world.  She’s created a rocky living room outside her house, and she prefers to be there – rain, snow, or shine – over most other places in the world, even though she’s got a loving family and an awesome teacher and all.  Well, most of her family is loving.  Teenaged sisters can be wild cards when they live in an uncharted swirl of anger and drama.  Figgrotten also has a best friend, her bus driver, who makes her think about things in new ways and exposes her to a kinder way of interacting in the world.

Reality has a way of intruding on routines, though, and when things start to upend Figgrotten’s life in uncomfortable ways, it’s stressful and sad and upsetting.  Recognizing the good around her might bring her some awareness, some peace, something new to think about.

This is a wonderful book about a quiet and thoughtful kid.

Recently, there’s been a bit of an uproar in northwestern Iowa over some folks who’d like to have more control over what’s accessible to everyone at their public library.  They seem to think that removing or labeling the materials that fall under their umbrella of someone else’s agenda will make it better for everyone because they think they know what’s better for everyone.  They apparently haven’t read the Library Bill of Rights.

This book is an example of what they might want to label or remove.  Why?  Because it mentions a male teacher maybe having a boyfriend or husband.  It’s one conversation towards the end of the book, and it actually shows the character’s growing empathy for others.  She wants her teacher to have love in his life, like most of us want for our friends and families and teachers.

We all live in the same world, people.  You can live your life.  I can live mine.  If you don’t want your kid to read that book, you’re the parent.  Parent.  I don’t believe stopping your kids from seeing it will make it not exist,  It won’t mean they don’t seek it out on their own later, but go for it.  That’s your right as a parent.  It’s not your right to make that choice for me or my kid or anyone else, however.

And by the way, you’d be missing out on a whole lot of wonderful lessons about community and caring and family if you missed this book.  That’s what I want my kid to learn.  Sigh.  Rant over.

The Heart and Mind of Frances Pauley by April Stevens

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Dive in

love hateMaya’s life is full of all the usual teenage stuff – figuring out who you are and what you want to do with your life, navigating changes in your family, friends, and romantic life, and dealing with jerks who range from stupid to mean to dangerous.  And she’s got some added challenges in her immigrant parents who want her to stay close to home for college (while she dreams of New York) and are already planning to marry her off to a suitable boy.  And she’s Muslim, too, in a predominantly white community, with some people who are quick to label people who are “different” terrorists.

Love, Hate & Other Filters diverges a bit from similar stories by adding a window into the mind of the terrorist who’s planning an attack which might upend Maya’s life.  His thoughts break into the flow of Maya’s busy life, poisoning the happiest moments a little, but doing it in a way that reminds us all of how fragile life and love really are.

There are many windows into lives here, and many reminders that whatever the choices in front of us, there’s a whole history spreading behind us, too.  Does it weigh us down so much that we can’t keep moving forward?  Do we let it change us, or do we choose to leave it behind?  Can we forge a different path?

Love, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

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A totally brilliant pastry-maker with a secret

somewhere elseGeorge Laurent finds a lot of ways NOT to go south or north or any other direction.  He is a master of the éclair and the strudel, but he is possibly a homebody kind of a bird.  Perhaps he’s just too busy with yoga classes to visit the Alaskan tundra like his friends?

Oh my, well, there’s a story here.  Fortunately, George Laurent and Pascal Lombard get to talking one day, and the truth about George Laurent’s missed flying lessons comes out.  A good friend like Pascal Lombard might just be able to help – with training or an engineering project or something.

This is a wonderful story about overcoming or moving past the things you are bad at, making friends, and taking risks. It is also a completely delightful visual experience, with funny little realistic touches.  It’s probably a bit too detailed for most of my storytime listeners, but one-on-one, it’s a treat!

Somewhere Else by Gus Gordon

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Play and joy and fighting and forgiving

draw the lineI love a good wordless picture book – so many possible uses!  Whether you’re working with language learners or young writers or kids who are learning how stories work, they are so amazing for starting conversations and thinking through how things work.  And if they’re blessed with amazing art, that is awesome, too.

Draw the Line gives us a lot to work with.  Two boys drawing lines, a little imagination, some struggle, and suddenly they’ve created a canyon between them.  Will they be able to bridge this divide?  Yes, of course.  They’ll also give you an opportunity to talk about what happens when you fight, how you make up and move forward, and how much fun it is to play with new friends.  Also, you can use it as an excuse to revisit Harold and the Purple Crayon or the Journey series by Aaron Becker.

Draw the Line by Kathryn Otoshi

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Opening your eyes to the possibilities around you

Today we meet a bear, a sheep and an inventor-explorer—what could be better?

Mostly, Bunnybear’s a bear, but while there are a lot of great things about being a bear, Bunnybear also feels like a bunny – bouncy, light, happy.  The other bears find this a little weird, to say the least, and then when real rabbits actually appear, they don’t seem to appreciate the bunny in Bunnybear, either.  Well, phooey.  Then Grizzlybun shows up.  It turns out that the larger world of bunnies have some preconceived notions that don’t include loud and burly, so Bunnybear and Grizzlybun have something in common.  Finding each other means they have a friend and a path to a less limiting world of bunnies and bears.  Nice.

Lily Wool is whimsical in the same way Bunnybear is, although she bucks the conventions of sheep-dom by skipping through meadows, becoming a gymnast, learning to lasso, and playing Cupid.  The other sheep, however, are not so happy with Lily’s explorations into creativity with wool.  Does Lily give up?  She does not.  She even uses her new skills to open a business.  So there, boring sheep!

Norton and Alpha are inventors and explorers, always on the search for something new to repurpose or investigate.  When they come across a mysterious object, they pluck it from the ground, study it, and even x-ray it, but this thing doesn’t seem like anything they recognize.  And it has these funny roundish objects that fall out of it, too.  Hmmm.  Days pass, rain falls, things heat up, and by the time Norton and Alpha go out to collect again, a whole field of flowers has appeared.  Wonderful!

All would work nicely with younger kids who are starting to see how most everyone doesn’t fit into the expectations their world sometimes has for them.  Be who you are, they say, and don’t be afraid to be different or find something new to love.

Norton and Alpha by Kristyna Litten

Lily Wool by Paula Vásquez

BunnyBear by Andrea J. Loney and Carmen Saldaña

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Another valentine for words

F&F_Words&YourHeart_JKT.inddWords can fill us with joy, but sometimes, words make us sad.

That’s all you need to know about this book.  It’s a way into a conversation with kids about choosing their words carefully and remembering that words can harm or heal.  Our hearts can be strong and fragile at the same time, and mean words hurt.

Words and Your Heart by Kate Jane Neal

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Recipe for friendship

bear and chicken

“Chicken simmered in suspicion.”

Wow.  It’s so hard for bears who want to make friends with other animals.  Even black bears (which are mostly vegetarian, as you’ll find out if you read this book closely) can be lonely.  Sharp teeth and a talent with knives don’t really create a warm and fuzzy vibe, however, so you can understand why Chicken might be a little worried.

Then again, chickens have their own host of stereotypes to overcome—running around aimlessly, being a little skittish about everything.

Once in a while, a bear will save a chicken, warm it up by the fire, and invite it to lunch without planning to eat it.  It’s not a revolutionary concept to make something silly out of the predator and prey relationship, right?  Kids’ books have played with this idea before – Wolf’s Chicken Stew, That is Not a Good Idea, Wolfie the Bunny.  And Bear and Chicken will be a nice one to add to the stack.

Bear and Chicken by Jannie Ho

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When your shadow goes all rogue on you

I’m sure many someones have already written many a dissertation on the way our reflections disappoint us. But has anyone thought to take a look at our shadows?  What if they buck the system, refuse to follow us around, or ask for a snack?  What if they tire of our boring behavior and decide to strike out on their own?  Will they come back? What if they decide they don’t like us?  Will we be happy or lonely?

So much to consider!  And apparently, some picture book authors and artists have been considering the same questions.  Smoot‘s got a shadow on the run — equipped with moonlight, shade and some underpants — off to wonderful adventures with other bold and daring shadows.  George and his Shadow is quirky and a bit silly, but it’s a fun combination of styles and colors.  Hortense and the Shadow has captivating art of a different kind, but the amount of detail adds to rather than distracting from the story.

No worries, kids.  Friendship between the shadows and their humans wins in the end.  And if you find yourself looking for green plaid suits in your size or imagining what your own shadow might do in its free time, do not be surprised.

Hortense and the Shadow by Natalia and Lauren O’Hara

George and his Shadow by Davide Cali and Serge Bloch

Smoot, A Rebellious Shadow by Michelle Cuevas and Sydney Smith

Note:  I wrote this blog some time ago and never quite got it posted.  In the meantime, the New York Times Book Review also noticed this trend and had an article on the same theme here: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/15/books/review/smoot-smith-cuevas-shadows-kids.html





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