Music Is…

musicis

Image Credit: Simon Kids (Simon & Schuster), Brandon Stosuy/Amy Martin

I’m not a big fan of music. I know that sounds weird. I mean, I enjoy listening to music. Of course there are songs that take me back; the memories connected to those songs are so vivid. I always dance and move to a good song or beat. I’m just not INTO music. Some people live and breathe it; they always have headphones on and bump it loud in their car. They talk music, they anticipate music, they live music.

That’s not me but I appreciate music and I love how happily this book celebrates it.

Music Is…has flowing text that begins simply, becomes more lyrical and ends reflectively. Contrasting words like quiet & loud, slow & fast, lo-fi & hi-fi lead to lines like “cymbals that splash and ba-da-ba bass and rat-a-tat-tat drums on a rumbling stage.” Stosuy’s words are great for reading aloud and invite discussion. “How is music happy?” “What is lo-fi?” “What does ‘Music is for everyone’ mean?” are just a few questions that children might ask when reading this book and for that reason, it’s a book for all ages! Music-loving parents will want this book to share with their children.

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Image Credit: Simon Kids (Simon & Schuster), Brandon Stosuy/Amy Martin

 

Amy Martin’s illustrations are bold, eye-catching and so diverse. I love how she uses colors that contrast and highlight. Her art shows children that indeed, music is for everyone. Her illustrations match the rhythm of Stosuy’s words and the cover of the book is so bright and inviting!

I hope you’ll check this one out. It’s a pretty cool board book to share and enjoy. 🙂

 

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Music, Music History, Diversity, Family, Emotions, Friendship, Relationships, Vocabulary, Humor
Book Info: Music Is… by Brandon Stosuy/Illustrated by Amy Martin, 2016 Little Simon (Simon & Schuster), ISBN: 9781481477024

My Blue is Happy

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Image Credit: Candlewick Press, Jessica Young/Catia Chien

My Blue is Happy is refreshing. It looks at how we connect colors to different emotions/experiences and how color carries different meaning for everyone. How the young girl in the story interprets her world isn’t so black and white. HER blue isn’t sad…it’s happy and joyful. She doesn’t see yellow as her mother does, cheerful and warm; her yellow is worried and frantic. She sees colors from a very rich perspective and they are special to her. As we follow the girl’s colorful daily life, we meet her family members too and get to see how they interpret color.

Jessica Young’s writing is pretty and visual. Good thing she was paired with Catia Chien whose warm acrylic illustrations work perfectly with the text. She uses scratchy, long streaks of color to create magical scenes. Chien is not afraid of color, she uses it confidently. This book has great potential in the classroom and home to spark creative thinking and lively discussion about color! It could also work well in therapy and counseling because it very vividly discusses emotion and feeling. I hope you’ll enjoy this one as much as I did!  🙂

 

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Emotions, Perspective, Personalities, Colors, Similes, Relationships, Family, Quiet Moments, Discussion, Animals
Book Info: My Blue is Happy by Jessica Young/Illustrated by Catia Chien, 2013 Candlewick Press, ISBN: 9780763651251

Silver Linings: It’s Tough to Lose Your Balloon & A Good Day

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Image Credit: Alfred A. Knopf (Penguin Random), Jarrett J Krosczka

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Image Credit: Greenwillow Books (HarperCollins), Kevin Henkes

Searching for the positive, for the silver lining, can be pretty rough. When you’re knee deep in sadness and frustration, it’s almost impossible to see the bright side. A big part of growing up is learning how to bounce back from these moments and A Good Day and It’s Tough to Lose Your Balloon beautifully & creatively discuss this topic for children.

In A Good Day, four young animals have a bad day; little yellow bird loses his favorite feather and the other animals also face frustrating situations. But then, things slowly get better for each of them and even a little girl’s day brightens. This small book packs a big punch; it’s about relationships, interconnectedness and perspective. Sometimes things don’t get better but usually they do. The story is lovely in its pacing, format and emotion. The art is, as usual for Henkes, strikingly simple. Children will enjoy looking at the bright watercolor animals. I love how he draws their furrowed brows!  Continue reading

Bernice Gets Carried Away

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Image Credit: Dial Books for Young Readers (Penguin Group), Hannah E. Harrison

 

In Bernice Gets Carried Away, Bernice gets carried away and gets carried away!

Bernice is in a bad mood and she’s not ashamed about it one bit! Even though she’s at a party, everything is going wrong for her; she doesn’t get a frosting rose on her cake slice, she gets a nasty warm soda and she doesn’t even get to hit the piñata before some big kid bursts it open. It’s just a bad day overall. Suddenly she spots the balloons and decides to make her day better by snatching them before anyone else can but they carry her up up and away! While dangling in the storm clouds, she realizes that it’s better to be nice and her generosity makes her a little lighter.

The illustrations in Bernice Gets Carried Away are gorgeous. Very detailed acrylic paintings accompany the story. From the whiskers on Fox’s face to the tiny details in Bernice’s annoyed expressions, the art is beautiful. Harrison’s use of color is also great; it ranges from gloomy gray hues to a bright, spring pastel palette. The lesson to take away from this book is, it’s okay to be grumpy sometimes (we all have our days) but it’s important to remember to care for others and not get carried away!

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Emotions, Discussion, Animals, Humor, Lessons, Party
Book Info: Bernice Gets Carried Away by Hannah E. Harrison, 2015 Dial Books for Young Readers (Penguin Group), ISBN: 9780803739161

The Only Child

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Image Credit: Schwartz & Wade Books (Random House Children’s Books), Guojing

 

Sweet and reflective. I must say that 2015 is producing some AMAZING wordless picture books and this one is no exception.

In the Author’s Note, Guojing tells us that this book is a reflection of her feelings of loneliness while growing up in China in the 80s under the one-child policy. A generation of lonely children, she says, was created by this policy and The Only Child definitely has a note of melancholy to it.

In this wordless story, a very young girl is left alone while her parents go to work. She finds a photo album, is reminded of her grandmother and sets out to visit her. Unfortunately, she falls asleep on the bus and wanders the woods alone, lost, afraid and crying. From behind a tree in the snowy woods comes a majestic stag who comforts her then whisks her away to the skies. In the sky world, she discovers more wonderful creatures that assuage her loneliness.

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Image Credit: Schwartz & Wade (Random House Children’s Books), Guojing

Guojing is a great storyteller. This is a rather long and complicated wordless book/graphic novel; each panel is well executed and the story flows effortlessly. Her pencil drawings are lovely. The young girl’s emotions are so well drawn and the stag has beauty, quiet power and strength. There is a magical feeling to her drawings and the gray of the pencil adds to the cold wintry mood of the book. This is a great one for a cold, winter evening with a cup of cocoa or tea. Enjoy!

 

Recommended for: All ages
Great for: Emotions, Friendship, Family, Whimsy, Winter, Storyboarding, Storytelling, Diversity, Cultural Diversity, China, One Child Policy
Book Info: The Only Child by Guojing, 2015 Schwartz & Wade (Random House Children’s Books), ISBN: 9780553497045

The Honest Truth

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Image Credit: Scholastic Press, Dan Gemeinhart

“Here’s what I don’t get: why anyone would try to stop me. All I wanted to do was die. That’s the truth.”

This is a tough book.

Mark, a twelve year old boy, takes his trusty dog Beau on the last adventure of his lifetime and on the way, discovers his inner strength. He’s been battling cancer for years and is emotionally and physically worn out. He finally decides that he’s had enough and runs away to climb Mt. Rainier to die.

The story is told from two perspectives; he tells his story in first person and then the story regularly switches to third person to tell the reader about the person who holds Mark’s biggest secret, his best friend Jess. The Honest Truth is as much about his journey as it is about her struggles, anguish and doubt. Ultimately though, we follow Mark’s emotions most closely, as we watch him switch between sadness, regret, determination, bitterness, love and relief.

This story is powerful; Gemeinhart really explores what it means to be human, to be alive, to look death in the eye and live fully. The relationship between Mark and Jess is amazing but the relationship between Mark and his dog Beau is also extremely remarkable; that little dog loves him to the end of the world! If you’re looking for a great read about the strength of the human spirit, try this one. You’ll be moved. That’s the honest truth.

P.S. Grab some tissues…ㅠ ㅠ

P.S.S. In celebration of a year since the release of his book, Dan Gemeinhart gave us Beau’s voice in a special “lost” chapter. Click here to enjoy! ❤

 

Recommended for: Ages 12 and up
Great for: Emotions, Inner Strength, Friendship, Determination, Growing Up, Cancer, Dogs, Love, Family, Power of Photography, Hope, Grab the Tissues
Book Info: The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart, 2015 Scholastic Press (Scholastic Inc.), ISBN: 9780545665735

 

The Fox and the Star

Image Credit: Penguin Books, Coralie Bickford-Smith

Image Credit: Penguin Books, Coralie Bickford-Smith

This beautifully illustrated and written fable has the potential to be a new classic. It is gorgeous and the story flows with steady confidence and a quiet voice.

Little fox lives alone and gains strength from the star he sees every night. The star is his friend, guides him through life and is his world. But one night his star disappears and everything changes; the poor fox is lost without his dear star. He burrows deep in his den and is almost overtaken by the creeping darkness but…overcomes it. He ventures out to explore the world again. At one point he rests and wakes to find his world changed again, but will he ever find his star?

Image Credit: Penguin Books, Coralie Bickford-Smith

Image Credit: Penguin Books, Coralie Bickford-Smith

The Fox and the Star’s illustrations are exquisite. As soon as you pick up the book, feel the cloth-bound cover and look at the intricate design, you know that you’re in for a treat. The story and the art are well suited. Coralie Bickford-Smith tells Fox’s story through careful words and detailed screen-printed illustrations. There are only a handful of colors used in the book but they make the images very striking. If you appreciate great storytelling and beautiful illustrations, add this book to your collection.

Recommended for: All ages
Great for: Discussion, Emotions, Inner Strength, Fable, Colors
Book Info: The Fox and the Star by Coralie Bickford-Smith, 2015 Penguin Books, ISBN: 9780143108672

Virgil and Owen

Image Credit: Bloomsbury  Children's Books, Paulette Bogan

Image Credit: Bloomsbury Children’s Books, Paulette Bogan

Virgil and Owen is a quirky and funny little book; definitely one of my favorites this year. Virgil the penguin has control issues. He’s very possessive when it comes to friendship and decides to keep a polar bear that he finds (without asking him how he feels about it of course). As Virgil leads the polar bear around, the polar bear has a great time playing with the terns and other animals but Virgil does NOT have fun. Virgil gets angrier and angrier and keeps pulling the bear away from the fun. Virgil reaches his boiling point when the polar bear has had enough! Luckily, Virgil learns his lesson and realizes that real friendship is about kindness.

Bogan’s illustrations are so sweet; the little penguins, terns and seals are adorable. She uses watercolors and pens to create a blustery arctic backdrop. Pay attention to how she draws expressions; they’re pretty hilarious! This story is great for discussing emotions and how to make friends. It’s also excellent for story time and learning animals. Remember…the next time you find a polar bear, be kind to him and you just might make a lasting friend!

Recommended for: Toddlers and up
Great for: Morals, Emotions, Friendship, Animals, Storytime, Humor
Book Info: Virgil and Owen by Paulette Bogan, 2015 Bloomsbury Children’s Books, ISBN: 9781619633728