Tag Archives: friendship

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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Big hearts, big feet

little-bigfoot-big-city-9781481470773_lgIt’s kind of sweet that this book came out on Halloween, since several of the characters are putting on masks or wearing metaphorical disguises.  Those smartypants publishing folks were probably planning that whole connection, right?

Even if they had, it wouldn’t take away from this book.  Sequels and trilogies can be problematic – the characters don’t hold up with more observation, there’s a temptation to do too much, or you find yourself realizing that the future you imagined for a character after the first book is wildly different from the author’s.  Maybe, just maybe, you still think yours is better.

What’s nice about Little Bigfoot, Big City is that the characters do grow and change, and they do it in realistic ways that didn’t bug me.  There are challenges, moments of confusion, misunderstandings and many mistakes to be made.  Deep down, however, you believe that each one of the main characters wants to do what’s best and what’s right, even if that isn’t easy.  They might be on what look like opposite sides of an issue, but they are really trying.

And that’s all we can expect of ourselves some days.  Am I perfect?  No way.  But when I mess up, I try to make amends.  I try to see the other person’s point of view.  Does it matter if I’m Yare or human?  Maybe not.

Little Bigfoot, Big City by Jennifer Weiner

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Resistance is futile


Or not.  The pen is mightier than the sword, right?

What do we do in times of strife?  When neighbors and good people are being singled out for persecution or isolation or bullying?

Some writers write.  Katherine Applegate writes.

She’s written about cruelty to animals (The One and Only Ivan) and homelessness and hunger (Crenshaw).  Now Wishtree seems to be calling out to a moment troubled by anger and anti-Muslim sentiments, among other things.   Does it solve any problems?  No, not really.  Could it start some discussions?  Maybe.  In 211 pages, it manages to weave together a history of caring for each other with a tree, its residents, and the people of a neighborhood who might be on the edge of forgetting how we live together and care about each other.  It does this all quietly, with exactly the kind of stillness and humor you’d expect from a red oak.

Wishtree by Katherine Applegate


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Labyrinths, friends, being Bea

waytobeaMiddle school:  obstacle course or performance art?

It can be painful either way, right?  Bea is special and creative and perfect, but she doesn’t see that herself after she loses a friend over the summer before seventh grade.  She desperately wants to find a place for herself, but she questions everything.  These people can’t really like me!  No one will understand!  You almost wish you could jump ahead and know her as the really amazing young woman she’s going to turn out to be—the kind of friend who embraces the quirky in everyone and is kind and open-hearted and funny.

The Way to Bea is one of the best middle grade books I’ve read this year, because it finds such simultaneously light and deep moments in its middle school characters at such a confusing, awkward, and sometimes painful point in their lives.  Our daily lives are not all extraordinary, but we might just be extraordinary once in a while.  It’s also very, very nice to see supportive and equally quirky teachers who are looking out for kids and not part of the problem.  I know so many great teachers that I find it kind of upsetting to read fiction that paints them as unfeeling, annoying, demanding, checked out, or creepy – the kinds of teachers who will always believe a bully because his dad is rich or just do not want to get involved at all.  I don’t know teachers like that – really – so it bugs me when writers use them as an easy target.

So read this one, and then spend a few minutes with Bea creating your own haiku.  Mine?

mazes and labyrinths

blind alleys or peaceful still

which path will you choose?

The Way to Bea by Kat Yeh

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Normal is overrated

tumble and blueIf you’ve been looking for a trip into the land of quirky relatives with curses or gifts, you should take a look here. Also think about checking out Savvy, Scumble, and Switch by Ingrid Law, A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd, or A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff.

If you’ve been looking for a game-changing, mysterious, magical creature, also consider this one, and then read Kathi Appelt’s The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp or The Underneath if you’ve missed them before. (I might ask how that would even be possible, but not everyone out there is fangirling over Kathi Appelt like me.  Right.  Do something about that if it’s you.)

It’s the combination of these that makes Tumble and Blue such a nice escape from reality and such a wonderful follow-up for Circus Mirandus.  Tumble and Blue are strong characters (although they might not realize it) who become the deepest of friends in the most bizarre of situations.  You might think you’ve guessed the ending long before you get to it, but you might be wrong, and even if you’re right, the journey with Tumble and Blue is worth taking for all the wacky and quiet and human moments.

Tumble and Blue by Cassie Beasley

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Friendships, good and bad

real friendsThere are so many kinds of friends, aren’t there?  Sometimes you have a friend who begins to feel like all you need.  Then she moves.  Maybe you manage to end up in a bigger group of friends later on.  There will be a kind of unhappy, mean “friend” somewhere in there who’s more concerned with being first at being someone’s best friend than in being friends with everyone.  Or maybe they make fun of you because you’re different, even though they claim they’re only telling you to help you.

Friendship, like love, is so very complicated, which is why I liked this graphic novel/memoir so much.  It reminded me of many happy, silly afternoons as a child, playing in imaginary worlds with a friend.  It also reminded me of some uncomfortable and painful moments.  Both are important things to talk about with kids, since their lives are as complicated, if not more complicated than ours.

I, thank goodness, never had to navigate friendship by way of social media.  I screwed up a lot of things, but no one was saving screenshots of my mistakes.  Maybe there are damning pictures out there somewhere in a shoe box, but my biggest humiliations only take up space in my memory.

I prefer to remember the happier times: building forts under the picnic table, having dance contests at slumber parties, and lying in the shade of the big tree looking at the clouds shaped like turtles and whales.

Real Friends by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham


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Are Colette’s pants on fire? Or is she just blessed with an awesome imagination?

colettes lost petPerhaps a little of both.  Colette might be wanting a pet.  A LOT. Other neighborhood kids seem to be looking for something to do.  Clearly they don’t have 24/7 access to electronics, because so many of them are playing outside.  Before you know it, they rally to look for the pet, not even seeming especially bothered by the Colette’s announcement later on that her pet bird became so large it wouldn’t fit in the house anymore.

It might be an interesting book to read with a child who has a flimsy grasp on honesty.  How would they react to Colette’s story?  Or you might just like to read it for its whimsical and imaginative journey through an afternoon with some neighborhood kids.  It’s a sweet read either way.

Colette’s Lost Pet by Isabelle Arsenault

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Some of these are just for me

carrot and peaCarrot & Pea: an unlikely friendship is one of those incredibly sweet (not saccharine) picture books we could use to talk about tolerance and acceptance, how all of us have something to add to the world, no matter how different we look or seem to be.  And that is exactly what I thought when I read it last night.

And then I woke up this morning, wondering.  Why is the carrot a rectangular carrot stick and not a carrot with greens on top?  Or is it a carrot that’s been processed?  And all the peas are out of their pods, right?  So maybe these peas and carrots are in a vegetable processing plant, which makes the absence of other carrots suspicious.  Why is this carrot the only one?  What has happened to all of the other carrots?  Has there been some kind of epic disappearance?  A plague on carrots alone?

Ok, so maybe I think ridiculous things when I first wake up.  When I told my son about it, he said, “Well, obviously they’re all in a bag of frozen peas and carrots, and some human has eaten all the carrots but just can’t stand peas.  The carrot that’s left was just missed in the massacre.”

Well, at least I’m not the only one in the house with an imagination.

Read this one, though.  It’s a treat, as long as you can handle the suspense and sinking feeling that something is not quite right in Pealand.  Kidding.  Really.

Carrot & Pea: an unlikely friendship by Morag Hood

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