Monthly Archives: March 2013

Exclamation Mark

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Written and illustrated by Amy Krouse Rosenthal & Tom Lichtenheld

“This is a story about an exclamation mark.  And this exclamation mark’s story is really everyone’s story.”

Exclamation Mark is an adorable story of self-discovery, told through the eyes of an exclamation mark who recognizes that he does not fit in with the periods that he knows.  The New York Times best-selling team that co-authored and illustrated Duck! Rabbit! and Wumbers have produced another story that is educational and humorous.  Readers of all ages will smile as the exclamation mark attempts various ways to fit in with his period friends.  Can he coil down the tall line that stands above his head? He doesn’t look so different when he lies on his side!  Despite all of these efforts, he realizes that he is just different and really can’t fit in.  The exclamation mark considers running away until a self-assured question mark approaches him.  The question mark understands his unique purpose: he has the special power to turn a statement into a question.  The two work together to help exclamation mark find his place and purpose.  Once he does…

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This is a journey that all readers, regardless of age, can relate to.  Young and pre-readers will benefit from a book that conveys simple conventions of text.  The pages are white dotted line paper and the handwriting-like font is simple and clearly demonstrates use of both upper and lowercase letters.  This book is an excellent choice to help teach pre-readers about conventions of text, children learning to write about punctuation, or a wonderful book for a young reader to read independently.  In addition to the academic purpose of Exclamation Mark, the story encourages discussion about fitting in, standing out, and all of us finding our unique purpose (especially with the help of friends)!

Reviewed by Emily Francis

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Unspoken: A Story from the Underground Railroad by Henry Cole

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ImageAfter taking the cows out to pasture, a young girl returns home to her family’s farm where she sees Confederate soldiers passing on horseback. When the girl enters the barn to feed the chickens, she realizes someone is hiding in the stack of corn stalks. The girl runs back to her house but does not tell her family what she has discovered. Pushing aside her fear and uncertainty, the girl sneaks food to the fugitive. What readers can see that the girl cannot is that different members of her family are doing the same thing. When the Confederate soldiers come looking for a runaway slave, the girl’s family protects the slave and sends the soldiers away. In the end, the runaway is gone but has left a gift behind for the girl in gratitude.

Amazingly, this entire story is told without the use of words. Henry Cole has beautifully and creatively illustrated the story of a courageous young girl with a wordless picture book. Using only charcoal pencils and paper, Cole has created detailed illustrations that transport readers back in time to the Civil War era. Wordlessly, Cole is able to set the time, place, and mood. This “silent” writing reflects the silence the girl and her family must keep to protect an innocent person. Cole’s story is both powerful and poignant and prompts readers to use their imagination.

Reviewed by Elisheva Gralnik

The Little Old Man Who Could Not Read by Irma Simonton Black, illustrated by Seymour Fleishman

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Illiteracy is an issue that is prevalent all over the world as well as the corner of the world we live in: the state of Tennessee. Many, many children do not know how to read, and this wonderful story emphasizes the importance of literacy with a non-pedantic sense of humor driven by a charming protagonist. 

Seymour Fleishman’s pencil-drawn illustrations are detailed and sharp. A unique aspect of the book is that every other page alternates from black and white to color. This interesting layout prodded me to keep turning the pages, as the old man comes to life in his Amelia Bedelia– type adventures.

Children who may feel unsure or embarrassed by their reading level will laugh as the old man picks out wax paper instead of spaghetti from the supermarket, and a can of coffee instead of spaghetti sauce. As the man realizes the importance of being able to read, he has a revelation that he should take the initiative to learn. He is a toymaker and children write letters to him, and he realizes that he wants to be able to read the letters.

“Then he learned to read the words for everything in the big store. And then he learned to read the words for everything in the world.”

Black gently yet consciously addresses a very important issue that resonates powerfully through Fleishman’s illustrations. The story expresses to children that yes, even adults may not be able to read, but one can ALWAYS learn. 

I will bring this book to my next hospital visit because it is cute, funny and well-illustrated, and I think it will reverberate with children as well as emphasize the importance of literacy and show that yes- books are fun and so is reading!

Recommended ages: The book should be read aloud to children who are not much younger than 7 or so, because children any younger will not be able to relate as well if they are not learning to read yet. If they are learning, however, this story is great for a read-aloud-together experience! 

Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Katherine Klockenkemper

 

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