Then, Jen of Teach Mentor Texts and Ricki and Kellee at Unleashing Readers started one with a children's focus. My book TBR list grows each week. It's wonderful discovering new great books! Thanks Sheila, Jen, Ricki and Kellee! And Happy Reading Everyone!
The following two books meets the challenge made by 2014Latin@s in Kid Lit (See the button on the right if you'd like to explore this terrific blog resource.)
Draw! – by Raúl Colon
I loved looking at this book, and while I didn't draw much when I was young, I did spend hours imagining stories everywhere. This time, Raúl Colon takes us into his childhood drawing world, sitting in his bed with a sketchbook, taking us into the world of a safari, moving along with sketchbook and supplies in hand. We enter what looks like a savannah, and there are the elephants, zebras and giraffes. From a tree, there are lounging lions. And in his imagination, there are a few frightening moments. Colon's drawings and imagination will take students into their own imagination, I hope, so they can draw! Beautiful double-page spreads that fill you up with color and action. I can't wait to share the book with students.
Dancing Home – written by Alma Flor Ida and Gabriel M. Zubizarreta
I am grateful to Alma Flor Ida for sending me numerous books that she has written, both picture books, chapter books, and cds of her reading some of them. I’ve shared many with our Spanish teacher who in turn has shared with students.
Margarita, one of the main characters, is about to have her life changed, and she believes it’s not for the better. Her cousin Lupe is coming to live with the family because her mother has remarried, and it’s a chance for Lupe to have a good education in the U.S. Margarita likes to be called Margie; she’s decided it’s more American, & she is American, born in Texas. Her own parents are immigrants, and Margie is a little embarrassed that they don’t always act like her classmates’ parents. She is also now worried that Lupe will embarrass her even more because she doesn’t speak English at all. This is a story of complications, immigrants trying to fit in, but still feeling proud of the country of their birth. It’s a story of being teased because one is different. And it’s a story of family love. The chapters alternate voices with Margarita telling part of the story, and Lupe telling the other. I enjoyed it very much, the sweet voices of these young girls wondering if things will ever be okay, and finally, through the help of a new friend, too, they do find a comfort in both their heritage and their new country. It would make a good read aloud to bring up so much illuminating conversations, to step into the shoes of others you might not know much about, or to hear the voice whose experience parallels yours.
Threatened – written by Eliot Schrefer
“Swaying palm fronds fringed the night sky like eyelashes. I watched them close and open their eyes. The moment the last sunshine disappeared, Prof shouted, ‘The light’s gone out!’”
Luc, a boy from Gabon tells his story, starting as a slave beholden to the evil shopkeeper Monsieur Tatagani “outside’ in the city, to an adventure “inside” with the Prof and then the chimps. Once reading, we the reader fall into the “inside” as well, feeling for Luc, respecting his intelligence, learning about those chimpanzees along with him, hoping for their well being. It’s not enough to say this story is a “page-turner”, but I’ve spent evenings working with the back of my mind always anticipating when I get to read more. And now I am saddened to finish such a great book, and perhaps there will be more? If not, I can still imagine Luc there with the chimps once in a while, wondering how they are, if Drummer finally has a child of his own, and how has Mango fared with a family too? Is Omar still alive, is Silver Stripes. This is the kind of book that stays, and now, as the quote above states: “The light’s gone out.”
Sugar Plum Ballerinas, Plum Fantastic – written by Whoopi Goldberg with Deborah Underwood,and illustrated by Maryn Roos.
Alexandrea Petrakova Johnson has just moved from Georgia to Harlem with her mom, hopefully so her mother can break into the theater costume business. In addition to missing her home and friends, she finds herself enrolled in a famous ballet school. She doesn't want to be a ballerina; she wants to be a speed skater! So the plot is set first with a family conflict, but there are more things to deal with for Alexandrea at ballet. I thought the plot seemed a little slow at first, but once other characters were developed and the challenge occurred, I became more interested to read on. I am not an expert in third grade book level, but am trying to read more so I can recommend them for appropriate students
Shh! We Have A Plan – written and illustrated by Chris Haughton
What “appears” to be a mama, papa, and two younger children (big & little) are off on a night adventure to catch a red bird. The littlest one keeps getting shushed, but his idea that finally comes out is successful, sort of. What happens during their ‘hunting’ attempts is funny, and more than one lesson is learned by the story’s end. Mostly in the dark, the illustrations invite anticipation with each page.
Gaston – words by Kelly DiPucchio and pictures by ChristianRobinson
Start with a group of darling puppies from Mrs. Poodle, who learn all the sweet ways of poodles, at least Gaston tries to. When they are old enough, they get a trip to the park where they meet Mrs. Bulldog and her rough-housing puppies, except one. Robinson’s pictures will bring the story of a problem out fast for young children who will laugh and point at the differences within the groups. A change is made, but not for the better. It’s a cute story about feeling right, not just looking right!
The Baby Tree – written and illustrated by Sophie Blackall
A young boy has just been told there’s going to be a new baby in the family, but he keeps asking where babies come from, and is confused. Different people give him different answers. The girl who walks him to school tells him there’s a baby tree, and his teacher says from the hospital. Finally, everything is explained more clearly, but there is a funny end too. The illustrations are both realistic and imaginative, especially that baby tree! There is a terrific end page suggesting the clear words to use when explaining the real answer to this question.
Vanilla Ice Cream – written and illustrated by Bob Graham
Wise words tell writers to write about the little moments, notice and create. Bob Graham tells the story of a small sparrow, a chance journey, and a surprise encounter with a little girl across the ocean. In that small interaction, something new enters her life. It’s a surprising and thoughtful story made even better with beautiful watercolor illustrations.
“We can learn from animals, my father says. About patience. About truth. About quiet.” These lines come toward the end of this beautiful story, from a young girl who perches, I imagine often, on a tree platform, with sketchbook and binoculars. We start in September with her watching, telling about seeing a fox, and it is “quiet, quiet” words we read about watching the fox more than once. Through the days as they become colder, through the months to late November, ‘winter is coming’, and we learn of other animals preparing, looking for food. The author and illustrator make us pause to savor what is seen. It is a gorgeous book to savor, to help children learn to look and look. Even the inside of the front and back covers tell a story. Don’t miss this book!
Just Started: The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Alison Levy, and Next: Three Guys In A Boat, by Daniel James Brown