Throughout our lives we have opportunities to give of ourselves in order to help someone else. If only we could teach our young children that this is a trait every parent would love to bestow on their little ones. "Sophie's Masterpiece", by Eileen Spinelli, is a picture book that demonstrates this truly wonderful attribute in a simple and effective way. 

Young Sophie is a spider who is recognized by her peers for her beautifully spun webs. They know she will spin a masterpiece someday. The time comes when she must go out into the world and begin spinning. She ends up in a boarding house. The landlady, on the main floor, swats her with a dust rag because she doesn't want any spiders in her parlor. Unfortunately, the lady also doesn't notice that Sophie had just completed a beautifully woven curtain because she'd noticed that this lady didn't have one. So, Sophie crawls up the stairs to the tugboat captain's closet where she observes that his drab colored clothes needed some color. As she was spinning a sky blue sleeve and collar into his new suit, the captain caught sight of her and jumped out onto the roof. Well, she knew this captain didn't want her around, so she went down the hall to the cook's bedroom. She found that the cook's slippers were very worn and she began to repair them with her weaving. But, once again, the cook looked at her as she shook her out of the toe of the slipper, saying, "Yuck! "Look at that ugly, disgusting spider."

Well, Sophie is not only hurt, but something else is happening to her. She is growing old. Now, it's hard for her to crawl up to the 3rd floor. But what she finds there and what she ends up doing is the lesson every parent should read to their young - and not so young, children.  This tale brings out a discussion as to why the spider would do what she does. It could so easily be turned around to ask the same questions as to why we do what we do for others, rather it's for a neighbor, a friend, or for society in general. There are many chances during our lifetime, to give back the time, help, or effort that others have done for us. And this little picture book teaches youngsters all about this wonderful character trait.

The pictures, by the acclaimed Jane Dyer, are so richly drawn with beautiful detail, that both children and adults will enjoy looking at the pictures. Sophie is so cute as the spider with black tights on her eight legs and tiny shoes on each foot. But it's the detail of the boarding house, the people who live there and the incredible webs themselves that will leave you looking and re-looking. Also, the story and pictures fit together so perfectly that I only hope this dynamic duo will team up again soon. This book is perfect for young children through adult ages.

Jacqueline Woodson has just written another incredible book for young adults. "Hush" is about a young pre-teen girl who is having to leave the town she loves, the town where her best friend lives, the town where her grandmother lives, and leave suddenly, quickly and quietly. All because her father stood up for what was right and honest and lost the trust and respect of his fellow officers in the precinct. He was the only black police officer in his section, so when two white officers shot and killed an innocent black teen in cold blood, he knew they were lying when they said it was self-defense. He was there and he saw what happened. And what happened was they raised their guns and shot the boy because he "looked dangerous".  Now her father was being placed in the witness protection system to help protect her family because of the anger many of the officers felt towards Officer Green for snitching on their friends.

The story is told through Toswiah Green's eyes over a period of several years. Toswiah has to change her name, change where she lives, even change how she perceives her family. But, what the reader will find out as the story reaches the end is that once again the human spirit triumphs over even the most dyer of circumstances. The story is a very moving and incredible story for ten years and older.

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