Elem. – Kodi

Cullum, Jared. Kodi. Top Shelf Productions. 2020. 978-1-603-09467-2. 176 p. $14.99. Grades 2-5.

While out on a walk near her grandmother’s Alaska summer house, comics-loving Katya encounters an enormous kodiak bear with its leg pinned under a fallen tree. Working together, Katya and “Meema” free the bear and mend his wounded paw. Katya and Kodi become fast friends (and an expert fishing team), so both are crestfallen when she must return to Seattle. When Kodi sees a tourist with a Seattle t-shirt, he realizes that stowing away on a cruise ship will deliver him to Katya. But finding a small girl in a big city requires some help; enter a fisherman named Joshua, who forms his own unique bond with the bear. Jared Cullum’s gorgeous watercolors portray a range of settings, emotions, and action with evocative style. Katya’s vulnerability is evident in her big eyes and slight build; her strength shows in her artwork and steadfastness. Kodi is both comically oversized and brawny, but gentle. Joshua, disabled in a previous fishing accident, is clever and kind. Readers who fly through the pages to find out what happens next will want to re-read, pausing to admire the mountain streams, city skylines, and ocean waves.

THOUGHTS: This beautifully illustrated graphic novel for young readers is also an homage to the power of friendship and creativity. Don’t miss this one!

Graphic Novel          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD

Elem. – Bears Make the Best Writing Buddies

Oliver, Carmen. Bears Make the Best Writing Buddies. Capstone Editions, 2020. 978-1-684-46081-6. 32 p. $17.95. Grades K-4. 

When Adelaide notices that her friend Theo is struggling during writing time, she decides to pass him a note of encouragement and enlists Bear to help Theo find his unique story. Bear is a comforting figure, full of tips about proper spacing and adding sensory details. Bear also helps Theo learn to “forage for new ideas” or take a break to regroup when writing isn’t easy. Leo learns about drafting and revision with Bear’s motto “rebuild, reimagine, rework.” By the end of the story, Theo is confidently writing with his classmates while Adelaide hints at a sequel. Brightly colored illustrations fill the pages with imaginary scenes of the trio fishing for new ideas, flying in hot air balloons, and hard at working writing. Diversity among characters is represented among the primary and secondary characters. Theo and teacher Mrs. Fitz-Pea are Black; Adelaide is white. Diversity is also depicted among their classmates with a two-page spread that shows children of various gender, ability and race holding up individualized heart artwork beneath the text “There’s nothing you can’t say when it comes from your heart. Because your voice is your voice – no two are the same.” This artwork is also beautifully replicated on the end pages.

THOUGHTS: This book is a thoughtful, positive introduction to the writing process for elementary students. Bear simultaneously empowers students to find, share and hone their individual writers’ voice while also modeling desirable writing buddy behavior. This book will make a fun engaging read aloud with plenty of opportunities to discuss writing with students.

808.02 Writing          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD
Picture Book