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The contest Save the Picture Book has ended. Telling people about funny, informative, beautiful, or generally awesome picture books continues. I also share middle grade books, book apps, and educational apps that my kids and I like.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Picture Book Reviews...they're not just on Facebook anymore

Save Everything! (and the Picture Book) books are featured on Facebook @Author Bridget Heos throughout the month (along with other fun bookish stuff...and my thoughts about pro wrestling, which is kind of a long story.) Now, brief reviews will be compiled here each month, too.

Here are five of February's books, to start:

A Sick Day for Amos McGee, by Philip Stead, ill. by Erin Stead.
Roaring Brook Press, 2010
ISBN-13: 978-1596434028

Everyday, Amos rides the bus to the city zoo. There, he is not only a zookeeper but a friend to his animals. He plays cards with the elephant, sits quietly with the shy penguin, and races the tortoise. When he's sick one day, the tables turn, and the animals take the bus to visit him. This year's Caldecott Medal winner, it's illustrated beautifully with pencil and woodblock prints.

It would be fun for kids to compare and contrast this to Goodnight, Gorilla, by Peggy Rathman, a very different story about animals "visiting" their zookeeper at home. In that story, the zookeeper marches the animals back to the zoo when he realizes they have followed him. In this case, Amos is perhaps technically the animals' boss, but he's really more of a friend or caretaker. I love bosses like that!

String of Hearts, by Laura Malone Elliot, ill. by Lynn Munsinger
Katherine Tegen Books, 2010
ISBN-13: 978-0060000851

A kindergarten teacher was in our school library recently seeking a book about friendship for Valentine's Day. That's a popular theme in many classrooms this time of year. Here's a book that offers a story about friendship...and those little cards that school Valentine's Day parties are known for.

Sam has a crush on Tiffany. Before Valentine's Day, he tries to make a nice, personalized card for her with his friend Mary Ann's help. Unfortunately, the only thing he knows about Tiffany is that she's pretty. (Just to clarify, Tiffany is a cat, Sam is a bear, and Mary Ann, just her luck, is a squirrel.) He ends up making Tiffany a card, but she gets so many that she drops it on the floor. He pockets it. That's when he discovers the String of Hearts. Mary Ann has written something she likes about Sam on each heart! He goes home and makes Mary Ann a card, too.

It's a darling story. I'd like to see more stories about Valentine's Day cards. Some kids make them; others buy them. Some kids might get made fun of if their cards don't include candy (that happened to my friend's daughter this year.) Plus, there's always that one card--even in the store bought boxes-- that says a little more than the others. As a second grader, you wonder if your crush will give you the card that says "You're out of sight" or "You're out of this world." Because even a second grader knows that those don't say the same thing!

A Small Brown Dog with a Wet Pink Nose by Stephanie Bodeen, ill. by Linzie Hunter
Little Brown, 2010
ISBN-13: 978-0316058308

Amelia wants a small brown dog with a wet pink nose, but her parents don't think she would take care of it. So she creates an imaginary dog and does take good care of it. When her pretend dog goes missing, she convinces her parents to help her find it. The search leads straight to the pound, where, sure enough her small brown dog with a wet pink nose appears, looking surprisingly real.

This ruse never would have worked on my parents, and I think that's why I like this book so much! Plus the illustrations are really fun. Kids wanting pets is always a good topic because what kid doesn't want a pet (even if they already have a pet)? We have a dog. My son recently asked if he could have a fox. Of course, you can, son. You can have any wild animal you want! Just kidding. But let's read a book about that!

Cupcake by Charise Mericle Harper
Hyperion, 2010
ISBN-13: 978-1423118978

Comedians often talk about pitch meetings for off-the-wall T.V. shows. I love a good pitch: when the idea of the story alone brings a smile to your face. Then you tell other people and they're, "Okay, I'm with you. Yeah! Let's do this." It's like you've just had your own T.V. pitch meeting, even though you're really talking about a book that has already been made!

Cupcake is plain and vanilla. That means the fancier cupcakes get chosen before him. A plain candle is also left behind. Together, they try to come up with an exciting topping for Cupcake. By accident, Candle finds himself atop Cupcake and that's when he realizes...well, you'll have to see for yourself. It's not what you think!

The story includes a recipe for homemade cupcakes. Yum!

Benny's Chocolate Bunny by Janee Trasler
Scholastic, 2011
ISBN-13: 978-0545261272

I would like to start on a completely unbiased note and say that Janee Trasler has awesome taste in music: John Prine and Robert Earl Keen, which I found out through the magic of Facebook. If you are on Facebook, you really should follow Save Everything! @Author Bridget Heos. That's where this review was posted:

"Board books are the Haiku of picture books. Here, Janee Trasler tells a funny, sweet story in just 93 words. The other kids eat their Easter candy. Benny sees his as a friend. But Chocolate Bunny smells really good! I recently showed this to seventh graders as an example of a very young picture book...and they begged me to read it to them!"

Granted, I ran out of room on my status update before I could note that the seventh graders loved it. If you have big kids or teach big kids and can read them a picture book, it is the best thing. They are mesmerized. Just think, they're young enough to remember reading picture books, but they're old enough to have a whole new perspective.

Plus, they're now in the position to read picture books to the kids they babysit, and in that sense they can think of them critically for an audience other than themselves. Also, picture books are microcosms of all stories. They have problems, universal themes, and characters you love or hate (more so love in picture books). If you want to understand how stories work, read lots of picture books! Finally, "Bruised Orange (Chain of Sorrow)" by John Prine is a great song. (As long as I'm on a soap box, I might as well work that in.)

The reviews on Facebook are much shorter and perhaps reach a different audience, so it's probably a good idea to have them here and there. I'd love to know your thoughts on these books or picture books in general. Please feel free to join the conversation anytime here or on Facebook!

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