Friday, September 24, 2010

Sometimes You Get What You Want

by Meredith Gary
ill. Lisa Brown

This simple book offers simple wisdom: Sometimes things go your way, sometimes they don't. Walking through a day to show a variety of scenarios, it repeats its point that yes, there are times that are open-ended, and times when there are requirements.

It's a message that I like, since it is something that children need to learn, and it is gently told here, an insistent but not harsh reminder that they do get their way sometimes, so they need to understand when they can't.

The illustrations are simple and have just a whiff of sweetness to them - enough to make the book feel loving, but not so much as to make it cloying.

It's not an easy lesson for kids, and one book is not likely to overcome the force of a child's frustration, but it works well as a reminder, and the words are just the right cadence to be adopted as a mantra for the times when reinforcing is necessary.

Dear Little Lamb,

by Christa Kempter & Frauke Weldin

This cautionary tale could be required reading for streetproofing and online safety lessons. In it, a wolf watches a young lamb in a meadow, and decides he simply must capture this lamb. Since he is not so young any more, he decides to use his wits and a little trickery, instead, and sits down to write a letter befriending the tender young thing. The lamb writes back innocently, and a correspondence springs up.

After some time, the wolf proposes that they meet, and Mama Sheep says that she must meet the penpal, first. Little Lamb isn't happy about it, but mama is suspicious, and goes to the meeting time, where she confronts him and forces him to write a goodbye letter to Little Lamb, ending the deception without hurting her child's feelings. As for the family, they felt they would be safer moving to Australia, where there are lots of sheep.

The book hammers home the point that not everyone is what they seem, that there is the potential for real danger, and that not everyone who says they are a friend really is - all without being so alarmist and scary that it will upset a young child. I like that it also shows the child communicating with the mother about the notes he receives and that even though he is not happy with the mother's decision, a child can see that she is protecting him from something harmful. Excellent.

The Sandwich Swap

by Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah
with Kelly DiPucchio
ill. Tricia Tusa

This books starts out with two best friends, who each come with the same kind of sandwich every day for lunch. Each one thinks the other's sandwich is kind of yucky, and one day, it comes out. Things get out of hand really quickly, and these two nice girls find themselves in big trouble. They are best friends, though, and in repairing their friendship, they make a discovery about their sandwiches - they are both delicious!

This is the point of the book, but they bring it to the rest of the school by asking the principal if they can arrange a sandwich day, where everyone brings something from their own heritage to share, so everyone can try.

The story is very reminiscent of Rosemary Wells' Yoko, but aimed at a slightly older audience, and focusing more on the friendship and opening up to each other, while Yoko pays more attention to the teasing that she suffers. The illustrations are a little cuter than I would expect for this story, but not so much that they don't work, and on the whole, it is a nice way to approach the topic of accepting other people and their differences.

Don't Lick the Dog:

Making Friends With Dogs

by Wendy Wahman

This cute, quirky picture book looks like fun, but comes with good, solid information, too.

The bold, colourful pictures and rhyming texts make this super kid-friendly and make the lessons about how to approach dogs easy to digest. From safety notes about initial contact, though using body language to draw out a shy dog and how to pet a dog, right up to how to react to dog behaviour that you don't like, this picture book is well-pitched and right on cue.

For a kid who loves dogs and would like to know how to act around them, or for a child who is fearful but comes in contact with them and needs some guidance on how to manage their interactions, this book is a winner.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Publisher Review: Rules for School

by Alec Greven

The young author of How to Talk to Girls is back with advice for kids, from a kid - this time, some guidelines for making your time in school work for you.

He tackles topics like getting started on your year, staying out of trouble, when/where to have fun, the different kids you may meet, and how to get the most out of all of it. A lot of this comes down to not worrying too much, being yourself, and trying to balance the fun and the work by taking responsibility, but letting loose when you can. Sensible advice, all of it, and Greven has a level-headed, straight-up approach. His voice is that of a kid telling it like it is, so while parts may sound simplistic to an adult, I think this really works.

Great for a kid who may have had a little bit of a bad year before and need a pep talk, or for kids who are nervous about heading into more serious school years.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Daddy, Papa, and Me

by Leslea Newman, ill. Carol Thompson

Too often, books written with a point or a message or far too earnest, and favour the point above a good story or even a cute snapshot in time. This board book about living with two dads is a delightful exception.

Being a board book, it is slight, as length is necessarily limited in this format. Still, it is a cute look at a day of playing with parents that ends in their exhaustion. We've seen this outline with more conventional families, and this pair of dads is treated no differently, which is what makes it a real winner. The focus is on the loving, the cuteness, and the fun, and the fact that the parents are of the same sex is not even mentioned. It will be, after all, totally normal to another child of a same-sex family, and doesn't need explaining. It's just quite simply nice to have a book that reflects their family.

This is just about the ideal, if you ask me.

My Travelin' Eye

by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw

Books on wearing glasses, I've seen. I even had one or two as a child, when I wore glasses myself. But a book on something as specific as strabismus, when one or both eyes are not aligned properly, is a new one. Like the author, I had both a misaligned eye and a lazy eye, so this book grabbed my interest at once, and I just had to see how she would treat the subject for kids.

She is pretty happy with her travelin' (wandering) eye, but acknowledges some teasing, as well as a teacher who mentioned to her mother that she might see an ophthalmologist. She covers that visit in detail, and is sent home with an eye patch, a constant companion of my childhood, as well. The goal of strengthening the weaker eye makes for some weird exercises and experiences, as she describes!

Her mom helps her navigate the eye patch fiasco admirably, and in her case, the strengthening really did work well enough for her to g ahead with only her glasses, and with eye apparently now working in tandem.

While I don't think books written to a purpose are always great, I do like this one for a child who is experiencing this. Partly because the voice is upbeat, partly because the author has in fact been there herself and clearly knows how some of this feels, and partly because her mom has some fun ideas, I kind of like it.

It doesn't cover what happens when your eye is more stubborn than hers, but I think that this book if only partly informational, and that it is awfully hard to write about eye surgery without freaking a kid out. As it stands, this book is reassuring and sympthatic, just enough to give the message that no child with strabismus is the only one.