Newtons Book News

Childrens Book Reviews

This Week’s Column

Helpful Books for the Graduate

In upcoming reviews, I will be writing about some outstanding books to help inspire and give advice for both young and old graduates. The following are picture books and are good for ages four and up.

When I Grow Up, by Tim Minchin, and with lively paintings of playful expression by Steve Antony, lists the many possibilities once a group of children grow up. You can climb trees because you’ll be tall enough. You will be smart and know answers. But then childish desires take over with being able to eat sweets every day and go to bed late every night. This delightful picture book explores a few avenues when you grow up. The illustrations fill the open pages and entice a young mind with details of all that you can become.

One Fun Day with Lewis Carroll: A Celebration of Wordplay and a Girl Named Alice, by Kathleen Krull, and perfectly reflecting Carroll’s language with glorious illustrations by Julia Sarda, is truly a frolic and festival of words. This picture book is a quick but rich study of the famous author and his penchant for creating slightly different words that enhanced his stories and his most famous character: Alice. You will learn more about how he came up with these most enticing stores about his protagonist. Throughout the book, his clever made-up words jump out in red and the vibrant pictures seem to move along with the words. The back of the book has a glossary listing Carroll’s words and their meanings as well as more information about this ingenious man. A book like this can inspire us to enhance our language and become more fluid in our speech!

When Sophie Thinks She Can’t, by Molly Bang, is another great picture book that explores Sophie’s feelings. Sophie is the perfect character to help youngsters understand how they feel and help them navigate positively. Children can become frustrated and give up easily if they can’t seem to accomplish their goal. This extraordinarily boldly painted book points out that it is normal to feel frustrated. But it also points out that it’s good to persevere and not give up easily. The book opens discussions of the many ways to problem solve and to learn from mistakes. The illustrations perfectly reflect the feelings of Sophie. The author’s other picture books are also very helpful and should be on every family’s bookshelf: “When Sophie Gets Angry – Really, Really Angry” and “When Sophie’s Feelings Are Really, Really Hurt”.

Grin and Bear it: The Wit & Wisdom of Corduroy, based on the characters created by Don Freeman, and illustrated by Mr. Freeman and Jody Wheeler, this smallish sized book showcases encouraging words of advice based on the four classic stories published years ago. On one side of the open book page you see small Corduroy leaving the escalator and entering another department store floor. On the opposite page, you read “No matter how nervous you are, walk in like you own the place.” Another open book page, you see Corduroy looking at himself in the mirror. The opposite page reads “Love what you see in the mirror.” All of Mr. Freeman’s art is his trademark colorful scratchboard art.

Give THANK YOU a Try, by James Patterson, and illustrated by an assortment of artists, is an extension of Patterson’s successful book “Give Please a Chance”. This delightful book demonstrates the benefits of feeling good when showing appreciation. It also shows how being respectful by saying no thank you helps with being respectful and considerate and thinking of others. Each open page has Patterson’s text and the opposite page showing a youngster demonstrating in bright full color her/his thankful gesture. “Thank you for…miles and miles and miles of smiles and smiles and smiles.” The opposite page shows six children surrounding the entire page in colorful smiles.

Lola Dutch, by Kenneth Wright, and wonderfully painted with gouache and watercolor by Sarah Jane Wright, is an elegant example of going the extra mile with any task presented. Lola, surrounded by her dear friends Pig, Crane, Gator and Bear, is always ready for much more than expected. Breakfast is not just toast, but a feast of pastries, grits and crepes. The detail of the delightful illustrations will be poured over again and again. There’s even a cutout of Lola and Bear on the back jacket to create your own story from the reverse side of the book’s jacket.

Strega Nona’s Magic Ring, by Tomie DePaola, is ultimately about being careful about what you wish for. Big Anthony desires to have someone to dance with at the village celebration. So, when Strega Nona leaves for a visit, he borrows her magic ring. But his wish goes out of control and soon all he wants is to be what he used to be. Tomie DePaola is one of the most beloved children’s authors of our time and this story is another of his classic tales.

Sometimes You Fly, by Katherine Applegate, and beautifully illustrated with ink and watercolor by Jennifer Black Reinhardt, travels through a child’s young life. Growing and learning, “sometimes you fail, sometimes you fly.” It’s ok to fail because that’s when you learn and grow and “fly”. This picture book of encouragement has many pages that fill both sides of the open page and these pictures are richly drawn and painted.

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