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.