Wishing a Happy Book Birthday to the following authors and illustrators! Special thanks to Albert Whitman Publishing for sharing ARCs of their Spring 2021 picture books with my #bookexcursion group.
Way Past Sad by Hallee Adelmann Illustrated by Karen Hall (April 1, 2021)
James is sad when he finds out his best friend Sanj is moving and is leaving only a few days before his birthday. When Sanj hands James an early present, James feels the sad take over his body and runs home. Supportive mom gives James a hug which feels good but does not take away his sadness. Once James looks out his windows and sees Sanji looking unhappy , he realizes that spending time together will make them both feel better. They build a fort, play and most importantly, acknowledge that they will both miss each other. After Sanji moves away, the sadness remains but James agrees to bike ride with other friends and shows he is coping with the separation. On the last page, the illustration shows James’ birthday party and while Sanji could not attend in person, he is able to join via the computer.
Way Past Jealous by Hallee Adelmann Illustrated by Karen Hall (April 1, 2021)
Yaz is very proud of a drawing of her and her friend Debby, but when everyone in her class makes over Debby’s dog artwork, jealousy begins to set in. And when the teacher hangs Debby’s picture on the bulletin board, jealousy becomes more than just a feeling. Yaz distances herself from her friends especially Debby and when no one is looking, tears Debby’s drawing from the display. These actions though do not make Yaz feel any better about herself. After seeing Debby’s sadness, Yaz admits what she has done and says she is sorry. Debby is no longer sad; she is mad. The next day, Yaz apologizes to Debby again handing her the picture of the two of them. Will Debby be able to forgive and be friends again?
Like Way Past Mad and Way Past Worried in the Great Big Feelings series, Way Past Sad and Way Past Jealous are stories that can help children process their feelings. I love that Adelman writes her story in first person because children get to hear the inner conversation that both James and Yaz are having. Embedded in the stories are actions, both good and bad, that each character uses to cope with their emotions. It is important for kids to see the steps that both James and Yaz take to manage their feelings. Hall’s bold illustrations fill up the page and complement the text well showing both children’s journey to overcome their sadness and jealousy. I highly recommend the Great Big Feelings series as a teaching tool to support social emotional learning for young children. Check out the website, Way Past Books, for more information about the books in the series, videos, and fun and games!
Zoo-Mate Wanted by Korrie Lear (April 1, 2021)
Sisters Leah and Lilly share a room and a love for the zoo, but Lilly keeps her side neat and Leah’s side is untidy. Tired of the mess, Lilly and her toy monkey move out and Leah decides to advertise for a roommate or in fact, a zoo-mate. Lots of animals respond to the ad, but they all are not kind to her own dear stuffed monkey. As a result, Leah was willing to make some changes to her poster which persuaded Lilly to return and made both monkeys (and sisters) happy.
Zoo-Mate Wanted is an engaging and entertaining story about sibling relationships. I love that Leer chose to draw Leah and Lilly as identical sisters in features, but very different in dress, hairstyle, and personalities. When Lilly left, Leah seized the opportunity to find a roommate that was fine with noise, mess, snacking, painting, climbing, and best of all-no cleaning! After her applicants did not work out, Leah demonstrates she can compromise revising her ad to include words such as neatly and cleaning. And once the sisters are reunited, Leer shows that Leah and Lilly still have their struggles, but now their love for each other helps them work through any difficulties.
Goldilocks and The Three Engineers by Sue Fliess Illustrated by Petros Bouloubasis (April 1, 2021)
It’s a role reversal for Goldilocks and the Three Bears in this STEM retelling of the classic fairy tale. Creator Goldilocks is suffering from inventor’s block and takes a walk from her home to clear her head. Three bears are preparing for winter and on their travels to find honey, they see Goldilocks’ home and wonder if anyone lives there. Upon entering the unlocked house, they are amazed at all of Goldilocks’ inventions but after trying them out, discovers ways to improve them. For example, the chair would be better with wheels, the porridge tastier with honey, and the bed more stable with gears. When Goldilocks returns, she observes all the enhancements with delight. After formally meeting the bears who introduce themselves as engineers, Goldilocks realizes that four brains are better than one inviting them to join her team.
Goldilocks and the Three Engineers is a fun take on the the original and is a welcome addition to Fleiss and Bouloubasis’ other collaborations such as The Princess and the Petri Dish, Mary Had a Little Lab, and Little Red Rhyming Hood. Written in playful rhyme with detailed and quirky illustrations, the retelling shares a message of creativity, imagination, resourcefulness, and teamwork.
The Star Festival by Moni Ritchie Hadley Illustrated by Mizuho Fujisawa (April 1, 2021)
This narrative story teaches young readers about Tanabata Matsuri, also known as Japan’s Star Festival Young Keiko is excited to celebrate with her family dressing in her summer kimono, putting on her geta (shoes), and making a wish. As she prepares and they make their way to the festival, Oba (grandmother) tells the origin of the celebration, how two stars, Orihime and Hikoboshi, fell in love, but once married, neglected their work. As punishment, Orihime’s father only allowed his daughter to see Hikoboshi once a year after their work was done. As the family walks through town, Keiko’s enthusiasm is evident in both the text and the art as she admires the decorations and enjoys the games and food. In the crowds, she and her mother are separated from Oba. Sitting on top of her mother’s shoulders, Keiko spies Oba but a parade is between them similar to the river that Orihime and Hikoboshi had to cross on their first meeting. Like the stars, Keiko is determined to be reunited with Oba and when they are, the family celebrates with one of their wishes, shaved ice.
I love how Hadley wove the folktale and Keiko’s family’s story together and along with Fujisawa’s warm, expressive illustrations, The Star Festival celebrates not only a Japanese tradition but also the importance of sharing customs as a family. Back matter includes more information about the festival as well as food, decorations, and directions to make a tanzaku to share your own wish.
Shaped by Her Hands: Potter Maria Martinez by Anna Harber Freeman & Barbara Gonzales Illustrated by Aphelandra (April 1, 2021)
Maria Martinez was the most famous American Indian potter of her time. This biography shares her life story of learning the art of pottery under the guidance of her Aunt Nicolasa. Besides teaching her techniques, her aunt instilled in Maria the importance of thanking Mother Earth for the materials and sharing her clay knowledge with others. After attending boarding school, Maria returned to her pueblo, married, started a family and continued perfecting her craft. Because of her immense skills, an archeologist, Edgar Lee Hewitt, approached Maria asking her to replicate a pot based on an ancient sherd he found on a dig. Never having seen black pottery, Maria was determined to create it and after experimenting, she was successful. Her pottery intrigued Hewitt because it was a blend of both the old and new. Not long after, Maria’s pottery was being sold in Santa Fe and demand was high. Recalling her aunt’s words, Maria taught family and friends and even demonstrated pottery making across the country sharing her knowledge with others.
The backmatter includes more information about Maria Martinez, The Tewa People and the San Ildefonso Pueblo. I greatly appreciate the authors’ note, for I learned Gonzales is the great grandchild of Maria. Freeman, an art teacher, who learned about Maria Martinez from her grandmother, wished to teach her students about her work, but was unable to find books about her. Through their collaboration, Shaped by Her Hands was written. Aphelandra’s rich and earthy artwork brings the story to another level.
Listening to the Stars: Jocelyn Bell Burnell Discovers Pulsars by Jodie Parachini Illustrated by Alexandra Badiu
“If you open your mind, you can hear the universe.”
Irish born Jocelyn Bell always had a love for astronomy and while girls typically did not study science in the 1950’s, Jocelyn was determined to fulfill her dream of becoming an astronomer. Rather than stay up late to study the stars, Jocelyn had heard about a radio telescope which she could listen to during the day. It took two years to construct her own radio telescope, and in 1967, Jocelyn heard a scruffy sound as regular as a heartbeat. And unlike the professors who joked the sounds were from aliens, Jocelyn knew she discovered something important. And she was right, for Jocelyn’s sound waves were actually from a neutron star. She had discovered a pulsar star!
After her extraordinary discovery, Jocelyn continued her work even after marrying and having children, which was rare in the late 1960’s. In 1974, when the Nobel Prize was awarded to men who worked with her on the pulsar project, Jocelyn remained gracious, for she was happy that astronomy had been recognized for the first time ever. What I love about Listening to the Stars is how Jocelyn Bell Burnell was a pioneer in astronomy and this picture book biography will support and encourage young girls with an interest in science pave their own way.
Dylan’s Dragon by Annie Silvestro Illustrated by Ben Whitehouse (April 1, 2021)
Dylan is a doodler and daydreamer about dragons but as he gets older, his days are filled with lots of activities from karate, baseball, and swimming to homework, piano, and science club. So when Dragon unexpectedly appears at Dylan’s house wanting to play, Dylan is surprised but asks if he can play later. Dragon continues to return but Dylan’s schedule is so tight it seems he will never have time to play with Dragon. Finally, on Sunday morning, Dylan has nothing to do, but Dragon is draGONE. Dylan expresses his sadness to his mom who admits his schedule needs to be cut back. Will Dylan be able to find Dragon? With time to doodle and daydream, it doesn’t take long before Dragon pops back into Dylan’s life.
Dylan’s Dragon is a story that reminds us the importance of slowing down and enjoying the carefree, unscheduled moments in our lives. Silvestro’s text and Whitehouse’s illustrations work well together communicating Dylan’s hectic lifestyle and his frustration with never getting to play. I love that drawing and imagination is celebrated as a way to play and relax.
Bella’s Dog Pick of the Week
Wanting to spread the dog love, Beagles and Books has a weekly feature of highlighting a literary selection with a canine main character.
I’m a Gluten-Sniffing Service Dog by Michal Babay Illustrated by Ela Smietanka (April 1, 2021)
Chewie is training to be a service dog for a young girl named Alice who is living with celiac disease. His job is to detect gluten, for even a small amount of this protein can make Alice sick. When Chewie smells gluten, he alerts by running in a circle and sits down if it is gluten-free. Training is hard work for Chewie because it’s not easy to stay focused and ignore things like bugs, birds, and left over pizza on the ground. Knowing that Alice is depending on him is just the encouragement Chewie needs to buckle down and after a week of training working directly with Alice, Chewie graduates as an official service dog.
I have read stories about service dogs, but I’m a Gluten-Sniffing Service Dog is the first picture book I have read which shares how dogs can be trained to smell gluten. In the author’s note, Babay explains that the book is based on the true story of her daughter and her service dog. I love how Babay chose to tell the story from Chewie’s point of view because readers see his struggles and his triumphs and Smietanka’s playful illustrations show his love for his job and Alice.