May 2015 BOB Picture Books


Lawson, Jon Arno. Sidewalk Flowers. Toronto: Groundwood Books, 2015. 978-1-55498-431-2. Unpaged. $16.95. Grades K-2.
One red-hooded girl on a city walk with her distracted father teaches us about acts of simple kindness, small gestures, and noticing the beauty around her in this brilliant wordless picture book. The message is noticeable in the colors and character faces of Sydney Smith’s gorgeous illustrations in watercolor and ink. As the girl collects flowers from various parts of the sidewalk, the reader can notice how small details can be bright and beautiful. Then, as she begins to distribute her small gifts, there are times to ponder deeper values and appreciate the variety of life around us. Her gifts to the dead bird and the homeless man struck me as good life lessons for our youngest readers. This story is so subtle and simple, yet eloquent and timeless. It deserves to be treasured and shared!
Picture Book; Wordless             Dustin Brackbill State College Area School District


Reagan, Jean. How to Surprise a Dad. 978-0-553-49836-3. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2015. 26p (unpaged). $16.99. Gr. PK-2.
Jean Reagan and illustrator Lee Wildish bring us another entertaining take on how kids can entertain the grownups they love, after their amusing How to Babysit a Grandpa (2012) and How to Babysit a Grandma (2012).  In this book the brother and sister learn that to surprise a dad you need to be super tricky, super sneaky, and creative. There are suggestions that will make adults and young listeners laugh such as “get his toothbrush ready” (with illustration of dad’s toothbrush piled high with messy toothpaste) and “reorganize his shoes and hats,” to seriously helpful suggestions, “help him with the grocery shopping,” and going on nature hunts. At the end the siblings are preparing a surprise party for dad for no particular occasion, but this read-aloud would be the perfect vehicle to get little ones excited about Father’s Day in June.
Picture Book     Kathie Jackson, Plymouth Meeting Friends School


Newman, Leslea. Heather Has Two Mommies. 978-0-7636-6631-6. Sommerville, MA: Candelwick, 2015. 32p (unnumbered). $16.99. Gr. PK-2.
This is a 25th anniversary re-issue of the classic from 1989, with appealing watercolor illustrations and a comforting message for children that is more relevant than ever today. Heather has a happy life with two of everything she loves: two arms, two legs, two eyes, two pets, and two mommies. She lives a blissful life of play in the grass and now she is excited to start school. When Heather volunteers that her mom is a doctor a classmate ask what her dad does. “I don’t have a daddy,” she shares and begins to wonder if she is the only one there without one. Her loving teacher Ms. Molly suggest the children all draw pictures of their families and Heather realizes they come in all different shapes and sizes. Ms. Molly beautifully sums it up: “The most important thing about a family is that all the people in it love each other.” I would use this in the library or classroom as a valuable discussion-starter to build empathy and awareness during units on types of families.
Picture Book     Kathie Jackson, Plymouth Meeting Friends School


Oldland, Micholas. Walk on the Wild Side. 978-1-77138-109-3. Tonawanda, NY: Kids Can Press, 2015. 32p (unnumbered). $16.95. Gr. PK-2.
Three friends, moose, bear and beaver, set out on a mountain hike.  They are all adventure lovers but we find out from the get-go that “sometimes their competitive natures got in the way of having fun.” To illustrate this, beaver suggests they turn their hike into a race, and predictably, several disasters ensue. In the end, friendship and ingenuity save the day, and the three agree that sometimes going slowly allows one to savor an experience. Readers and listeners alike will enjoy the full-bleed woodcut print illustrations and spare text. This entertainingly told and illustrated tale is the perfect salve for little ones who want to rush through everything and feel the need to be first in line. This is Oldland’s fifth installment featuring beaver, moose and bear in his “Life in the Wild” series of picture books.
Picture Book     Kathie Jackson, Plymouth Meeting Friends School

sweep up the sun

Frost, Helen. Sweep Up the Sun. 978-0-7636-6904-1. Sommerville, MA: Candlewick, 2015. 32p (unnumbered). $16.99. Gr. PK-2.
This breathtaking picture book has received a starred review from Kirkus and PW and I predict more accolades to follow. I admit to being prejudiced as a novice birder and bird enthusiast, but I cannot imagine any reader not being moved by these National Geographic-worthy, full-bleed color photographs of birds in motion, on the wing, and interacting. The enticing photos are accompanied by simple, poetic, inspirational verse: “Spread your feathers, sweep up the sun, ride the wind and explore.” But I believe what will captivate young readers most is the close-up and highly detailed photos of “every day” birds we glimpse at our backyard feeders: Goldfinch, Cardinal, Chickadee and Starling. Because these small creatures move so quickly we rarely get this close a view of truly how beautiful they are. Second-graders in my school are completing a year-long bird study and I cannot wait to share this book with them! A spread at the end of the book contains thumbnail photos and a paragraph identifying and detailing each bird featured. Highly recommended.
Picture Book     Kathie Jackson, Plymouth Meeting Friends School


Pennypacker, Sara. Meet the Dullards. 978-0-62198563. New York: Harper Collins, 2015.
The author of the lovely Clementine series brings us this hilarious tale of parents who are terrified of excitement – including books, “making things,” playing outside, and exclamation marks – and try mightily to keep their three children, Blanda, Borely, and Little Dud, away from any type of adventure. One day Mr. and Mrs. Dullard are shocked to find the children not just reading books, but reading books about the circus. So they “packed up their three dull children and all their dull things and moved.” The problem is, their new neighborhood is just as full of surprises: a neighbor shows up with a cake, and there is flowered wallpaper in one of the rooms that must be painted over immediately with custom-mixed dull paint the color of oatmeal. I laughed out loud at the illustrations – there are all sorts of clever additional things going on that young readers will notice – and the subtext, perfect for children who have ever claimed “I’m bored!” or suspected the grownups in their lives are determined to keep the excitement out of their life (and who hasn’t?).
Picture Book    Kathie Jackson, Plymouth Meeting Friends School


Golio, Gary. Bird & Diz. 978-0-7636-66606. Somerville, MA: Candlewick, 2015. 1 fold out page 22 x 25 cm. $19.99. Gr. K-3.
This is an absolutely gorgeous homage to Charlie “Bird” Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, told in chalk on thick, cardboard stock. While I love the beautiful illustrations and lyric text describing the spellbinding ways these two great talents worked together, the single, fold out page format, held together with a wrap-around magnetic clasp, may be impractical for most read-aloud situations and could become damaged after only a few readings unless kept under watch by a teacher or librarian; therefore I suggest it doesn’t circulate. Some ways this can be used instructionally: as part of a biography unit in library or the classroom where the read aloud can occur with students around a long table allowing for complete fold-out of the text; in a music class discussing jazz, Parker and Gillespie; or an art class discussing the forms and media used to tell a story. I’d recommend pairing reading of the book with an audio enjoyment of Parker and Bird music for full appreciation of the subject matter.  Inside back cover contains an afterward, sources for more information and a black and white photo of Parker and Gillespie.
Picture Book     Kathie Jackson, Plymouth Meeting Friends School

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