Larry bought a dozen new picture books that make a varied bookshelf of titles that are humourous or deal with tough topics. Nine of these titles were published in 2020.
A DROP OF THE SEA by Ingrid Chabbert; illus. Guridi (kindness) (2017)
Ali and his great-grandmother live in an desert. In her old age, great-mother is getting weaker. Ali asks ‘Have all of your dreams come true?’ and she expresses her wish to see the sea. The young boy is determined to fulfill her wishes and sets off to bring the sea to his grandmother. A beautiful story about strong family ties, loyalty, kindness and determination to do something to make someone’s dreams come true. What a beautiful beautiful picture book with simple narrative and simple but powerful visual images.
I LOVE MY PURSE by Belle Demont; illus. Sonja Wimmer (gender identity) (2017)
Charlie is enamoured with a bright red purse that was a gift from his grandmother. He has thrilled to be taking the purse with him to school, but he is confronted by his father, and schoolmates about his choice. Each person confronts Charlie on is choices (e.g., “You are a boy. Boys ride skateboards and read comic books.”). Like Morris Micklewhite and his adoration of a tangerine dress (Christine Baldacchino), this young boy is a hero this stroy challenges gender stereotypes and is a strong example of the need to be true to yourself.
*RACE CARS by Jenny Devenny (racism) (2016)
This is a book about white privilege designed to inspire tough conversations about race, privilege and oppression. Devenny tells the story of 2 best friends, a white car and a black car, that have different experiences and face different rules (“Bridge is for white cars only. All other cars must go around the river”) while entering the same race. Advice is given about talking about race with kids and discussion questions are provided to help frame the discussion. I wonder what questions the kids will have? I wonder how significant they will grasp the metaphorical story? I wonder what they will come to understand about white privilege? I am writing this blurb as CNN is reporting about the Black Lives Matters protests this week. How can we help children find answers to questions – and moreover, ask questions that can bring them to some kind of understanding. The intent of this book is very clear, very timely, and admittedly very important. I’m just not too sure about the didactic spirit of this book. I haven’t quite made my mind up about this title. I think I will have to share it with some young readers, one on one or gathered on the rug in a classroom
SMART GEORGE by Jules Feiffer
Oh, how i so loved BARK, GEORGE by this very important illustrator. It was good to revisit the character since first meeting him in 1999. In this book the rascally George is asked by his mother to solve some simple addition questions, but George world rather do dog things (eat, nap, go for a walk) than do arithmetic. Great to keep company with Feiffer and George again. Not sure if it has the same ‘read it again’ appeal as the original.
THE HAIRCUT by Theo Heras; illus. Renne Benoit
A father and son bond together on their first visit together to the barbershop. Simple text, with spot on details and large colourful illustrations. I’m sure many little ones (and parents) can relate to the experience.
NOT MY IDEA: A book about whiteness by Anastasia Higginbottom (racism)
When he watches TV, a white child witnesses coverage of a white police officer shooting a brown person whose hands were tied up. He turns to his mother and asks “Why?” and assures the child that he is safe. An activities section urges kids to grwo justicee and seek out and listen to the truth about racism and white supremacy.
GROSS AS A SNOT OTTER by Jess Keating; illus. David DeGrand
How could such a title not appeal to young readers, especially those who are curious about animal life? Jess Keating has presented a series of books entitled “The World of Weird Animals” (Pink is for Blobfish; Cute as an Axolotl). This book provides important facts and amazing details about gross animals (e.g., maggot, Zombie worm,hagfish, star-nosed mole, parrotfish). Each animal is featured on a double-page spread, one page being a close-up photo image, the other providing strange-but true details and a list of scientific facts that includes species name, sizediet, habitat, predators and threats. A terrific example of a nonfiction picture book. Hooray for you Mr. Keating. And hooray for snot otters. (This wrinkly creature looks like a rotting tongue with legs. It is known as the hellbender salamander, not covered in snot but covered in mucus which comes from glands in their skin which protects them against infections.) Fascinating!
WHAT IS GIVEN FROM THE HEART by Patricia C. McKissack; illus. April Harrison (poverty)
This is McKissack’s final picture book The award-winning author (Mirandy and Brother Wind) is a rich story with an important message about kindness and the joy of giving. Living off the mantra of Reverend Dennis, “What is given from the heart reaches the heart.” a mother and son, living in poverty, are determined to help out another destitute family. Beautiful. And I so loved the art work and expect to see more by The artist and designer April Harrison,
BENJAMIN’S BLUE FEET by Sue Macartney
A young booby bird eager to discover and develop one step at a time as he learns to fly, dive, sim and fish. Thinking that his beak is too long, his wings are too wide and his feet are too long (and blue), Benjamin learns about perseverance and self-acceptance. Marine life, the creatures of the Galapagos, fun illustrations and fun with font add to the appeal of this entertaining story.
TICKLED PINK: How Friendship Washes the World in Color by Andree Poulin; illus Lucile Danis Drouot (kindness)
Zoe is a black and white zebra. Pancho is a black and panda. Zoe and Pancho only want to play with black and white animals. Filippo, a pink flamingo wants to be make friends with Zoe and Pancho but they are having none of it. Filippo is determined to show others how pink is significant to the wold (cherry blossoms, bubble gum, sunsets) and along the way he gains confidence, self-acceptance and along the way helps others understand learn about tolerance, belonging and the power of pink!
THE BREAKING NEWS by Sarah Lynne Reul (kindness)
A family listens to breaking news on the TV and the news is bad (never identified). The young girl, disturbed by the reaction the news is causing in her home and community, is determined to help out in any way she can. and attempts to try to do just one thing small thing to raise everyone’s spirits. This is a story, with limited text, is about taking action, being optimistic and spreading kindness.
UNDOCUMENTED: A worker’s fight by Duncan Tonatuiuh (immigration)
Juan is an undocumented worker, who grew up in Mexico, working in the fields and who comes to the U.S> to become an undocumented worker. This is a story about a migrant workerrisks everything when he stands up for himself and his community. Details and narrative help readers to understand what it means to find a better life in the struggle to make a positive contribution to society. The accordian-fold format of this picture book adds power to the storytelling.