Category Archives: Trendy

Trendy Tuesday: Introducing Death and Dying to children

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Often times, adults are caught deciding whether or not to introduce young children to the topic of death and loss. The book Tim’s Goodbye by Steven Salerno explores themes of death, sadness, and how to say goodbye. This book narrates the story of a young girl, Margot, whose pet turtle Tim dies, and how her close friends help her to grieve his death and allow him to pass on from the earth. Margot has four friends that help her obtain all the materials necessary to provide her pet turtle a service: a French Horn for music, a box to serve as a coffin, balloons to carry Tim into the sky and sun, and flowers to send with him in his box.

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This children’s book does a great job of illustrating how someone feels after the death of someone close to you, the importance of community and support systems during the stages of grief, and hints at a life after death while maintaining a general position on afterlife. The aspect of time in this book is well written into the story line, as phrases such as “a long time” help the reader understand that the process of losing someone and grieving takes a while and does not happen overnight. The writing style of the book does a well job at creating a neutral tone where the reader receives hints of sadness throughout, but is not scared away by strong language or visuals.

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Throughout the book, the same color palette is used with overall yellow hues and hints of blue and white. The images are not distracting at all, and do not take away from the content of the book. The beginning third of the book only uses yellow hues, and it isn’t until Margot’s friend Vincent comes with the blue balloons that the color is introduced to the book. And little by little, more blue is introduced into the illustrations, especially when Roger and Vincent, two of Margot’s friends, bring a blue box to put Tim into. When Tim is released into the sky, a beautiful blue spread follows where the main color is now blue with hints of yellow showing Tim in a new place.

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Overall, this book is great for young readers as the text is not too complicated to read. This book should not scare adults from reading it to the children because of the gentleness it carries while developing the plot and development of characters in the story. A great read, and an even better book to engage with the topic of loss and death!

Maria Aguilera

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Trendy Tuesdays: Tidy by Kate Gravett

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“I did not have an intended theme, I just wanted to write the book about the badger.” says Emily Gravett, author of the post-modern fable “Tidy”. In it, Pete the Badger becomes increasingly distressed with how untidy the forest is and vows to clean it up. In his quest to sanitize nature, Pete bags up all the leaves in trash bags, digs up all the trees, and ends up destroying the forest, leaving it all concreted over and neutered. The anachronistic dust pans, mops, toothbrushes, and brooms throughout the pages offer a silly warning against imposing industrial cleanliness standards on our natural world.

The beauty of “Tidy” is that it’s didactic without being imposing. It doesn’t seek to shame it’s reader and it doesn’t force a reading as anything other than a fun, silly story about a badger. But it is, at heart, an environmental tale. We face huge repercussions when we misuse and neglect our environment, and while Gravett does caution that “if he succeeded is anyone’s guess”, it’s really a sobering thought that in real life we can’t just put trees back into their stumps. Gravett is making huge claims, but she’s not forcing them on anyone. Kids as young as 3 could enjoy the silliness of this book, but it can provoke thoughtful discussion at any age.

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It should also be noted that the illustrations are absolutely delightful, but we’d expect nothing less from a multiple-time Kate Greenaway Medal winner/nominee. I’d cheerfully recommend anything Ms. Gravett produces.

All in all, Tidy manages to be extremely fun and extremely thoughtful, and if you haven’t read it, I suggest you tidy up your bookshelf and make space for it, because it’s a keeper. Cheers!

-Josiah Pehrson

Trendy Tuesdays: The Importance of Black History Month and connections to literature

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In honor of Black History month, it is important to introduce our students to the lived experiences of Black Americans in the past and the present. The book I, Too, Am America by Langston Hughes and illustrated by Bryan Collier illustrates and brings to life the poem “I, Too, sing America” by Langston Hughes. This book takes apart the poem and, by adding illustrations to the words, gives the reader a modern-day interpretation of the poem. Focusing on the title change from “I, Too, sing America” to I, Too, Am America it is interesting to see the shift in power that both present. By changing “sing” to “am”, the illustrator of I, Too, Am America makes an explicit statement about being American despite the difference in skin color.

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Throughout the book, the illustrations take the reader on a journey through time. The illustrations begin depicting a train car and a Black man who is the server on the car. Over the image of the man in uniform, there is an American flag covering him. Based off interpretations of the poem, the reader can infer that the speaker feels smothered and silenced by America.

As the poem continues, the illustrations uplift the beauty of the poem and beautifully depict the strength and courage emitted from the speaker. The illustrations depict an image of freedom, liberty, and happiness. Also, as the poem continues, so do the illustrations begin to depict more modern times hinting at the progression of time.

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As the poem comes to an end, a young boy is with his mom in a subway train looking out the window. The same flag that was present over the young man in uniform at the beginning of the book is also present here, yet this time, the young boy is able to peer through the flag.

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This book would be great at a discussion on civil rights, or the history that follows Black Americans today. The illustrations and format of the book also make it very age friendly where students from a wide range of ages can access the content with the support of the illustrations. Overall, this read is a great reminder and introduction to a discussion about Black History Month, and its importance in our world today.

 

-Maria Aguilera

She Persisted

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She Persisted

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She Persisted spotlights 13 women who were game changers and trailblazers in different fields throughout American history. The book also discusses the adversity that girls face, even today. This book would be a valuable addition to any classroom as its characters are diverse in race, socioeconomic background, and influence, it depicts accurate historical experiences of women, and it is inspiring to young girls throughout our society to fight for their passions and to make a difference. Author Chelsea Clinton and illustrator Alexandra Boiger succeed in compiling beautiful, timely stories of women that need to be shared.

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The story begins by showing a young girl in a museum, which is exhibiting portraits of important women in American history (notice Hillary Clinton in the background). The book emphasizes that even though these women where often told “no”, they were able to persist and follow their dreams. This message shows the importance of celebrating strong females who may become important role models in the lives of young women.

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This story highlights both women who we often learn about in school and women who are less known and celebrated. For example, one featured woman is Virginia Agpar, who became a doctor despite her superiors discouraging her and created a critical test for infants. Each woman’s story is depicted with a stunning image showing their amazing feats and hinting at the time period in which they lived. In addition, the book features a powerful quote from every woman.

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My favorite section highlights Ruby Bridges because it shows that women do not need to be adults to make a difference. Ruby persisted when she was just a kindergartner, a pioneer for her educational rights. The other women featured in the book are: Harriet Tubman, Helen Keller, Clara Lemlich, Nellie Bly, Maria Tallchief, Claudette Covin, Margaret Chase Smith, Sally Ride, Florence Griffith Joyner, Oprah Winfrey, and Sonia Sotomayor.

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The story closes on a scene where 3 young girls have discovered a favorite pioneering woman and a call to action for the future female leaders of our nation and the world. Our society often puts women down and many times powerful female role models are not brought to the forefront in discussing history in the classroom. This is discouraging for young girls, but this book proves that women of all races and creeds have fought against this societal repression and have made huge strides that we are all thankful for, making it both an educationally and an inspirationally necessary work for children.

Rachel Platt

Rabbi Benjamin’s Buttons

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Rabbi Benjamin’s Buttons is a beautifully illustrated picture book with a unique topic that will bring diversity to any classroom’s library. Written by Alice B. McGinty, the book tells the story of a welcoming Jewish Rabbi who loves for his congregation to be happy.

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At the beginning of the story, the congregation gives Rabbi Benjamin a beautiful holiday vest that has four silver buttons. He is so excited to wear his new vest to all of the special holiday celebrations. The Rabbi eats the food that has been specially prepared, and he is excited to see the smiles on peoples’ faces as they watch him enjoy the food they have made. As the year goes on and more Jewish holidays come and go, Benjamin’s stomach begins to grow because of all the delicious food, and his vest gets tighter and tighter. One night, while he is celebrating Sukkot, one of the silver buttons pops off his vest! He is so worried that his congregation will notice, so when he goes home he fixes the vest with a pin. He continues to wear his vest to more holiday celebrations. Finally, the vest has had enough and all four of the buttons pop off and fly into the bowls of food on the table.

Screen Shot 2017-09-12 at 7.58.32 AMThe Rabbi is sad, but he has an idea! That summer, he helps a family plant a garden, picks apples, goes on a hike, and his stomach shrinks! He hopes that the vest will fit again, but when he puts it on it is saggy and ruined. The Rabbi worries about what his congregation will think when he shows up without his holiday vest! Thankfully, his doorbell rings and he finds his congregation on his porch. They hand him a box with a new holiday vest, featuring the same four shiny silver buttons.

Screen Shot 2017-09-12 at 7.58.57 AMI was excited to find this book, because it provides the opportunity to teach young students about the traditions of a religion that they may have never heard about. It can also serve as a mirror for Jewish students who might have struggled to find books that represent children like themselves. The end of this book contains short definitions of the Jewish holidays and foods featured in the story, as well as recipes of the food that the Rabbi eats. This provides a unique learning opportunity for students who have not experienced Jewish culture. In addition, the themes of service, joy, and helping others are featured prominently in this book, making it relatable and pertinent for all students to enjoy. Jennifer Black Reinhardt’s illustrations in this book are colorful, fun, and beautifully done. The families she drew in the congregation are diverse, with varying skin colors, hair styles, and ages. The story even says that the Rabbi “welcomed everyone who entered,” and on the first page he stands on the porch with his arms wide open and a smile on his face, portraying a message of acceptance. Screen Shot 2017-09-12 at 7.57.38 AMThis message is especially important for students to understand in the classroom to foster a safe and welcoming learning environment for all. It is critical to expose students to diversity through literature that offers positive representations of various cultures.

Teresa Heckman

 

 

Trendy Tuesday: If You Give A Mouse A Cookie

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It’s hard not to be cliché on Trendy Tuesday, but I couldn’t resist reviewing this classic picture book. If You Give A Mouse A Cookie is the first book of Laura Numeroff’s If You Give… series and was illustrated by Felicia Bond. The storyline (if by chance you’ve never read it or have forgotten over the years) is circular, where the mouse asks his owner for a cookie, then wants a glass of milk to go with it. Then he wants a mirror to check if he has a milk mustache, and the domino effect continues until he decides he wants another cookie.

The illustrations in this book are vibrant and full of color. They are done in colored pencil. There is also a lot of white space, which makes the illustrations smaller on the page and less distracting. Bond uses interesting perspectives in some of her drawings that exaggerate some parts of the story. You can see in this illustration the bright colors of the grass and the boy’s jeans, and then the depth used to show the sidewalk up to the house.
img_0416Some of the written text will end like a cliffhanger. This is a fun characteristic of the book because it leads the reader or listener to the next page in anticipation. It also makes the book a little more unpredictable, because some continuations of text are just small additions that tack a funny ending to the sentence.img_0417

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This book is very fun to read with children and not difficult to follow. It is definitely still a trendy tale, even if it was released over 30 years ago. I would read this story to any age level and there are so many fun classroom or at home activities that can be created from this book. There is even a board game on the back cover of the Special Edition that I looked at! If that’s not the cutest thing ever, I don’t know what is.

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Post by: Jenna Adamczak

Trendy Tuesdays: The Cat from Hunger Mountain

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The Cat from Hunger Mountain by Ed Young is a book about the greedy Lord Cat who has everything he could need. From the fanciest meals to the finest silk and gold clothing, Lord Cat’s life revolves around his possessions. He lives in a village that profits from rice paddies, and when a long drought strikes, everyone must move away. Lord Cat is able to stay with all of his riches up in his pagoda while everyone else flees the famine. “What would life be without all of his possessions?”

Eventually, Lord Cat runs out of food and is forced to leave his lavish home. His journey as a beggar teaches him the lesson that his possessions are not what is most important in life. 

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Ed Young grew up in Shanghai, China, and incorporates Chinese characters and patterns into his collages. He has an original style combining photographs, paper, and other textures to create his scenery and characters. On some pages, the collage is a mere suggestion of the figures and scenery. Although some illustrations are very abstract, the meaning is still clear. 

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Some collages are extremely detailed. Lord Cat’s face is composed of many different types of paper and photographs that work together to create one cohesive image. img_7491

 

The Cat from Hunger Mountain tells a unique legend from another culture. While the story communicates clear morals, it is not didactic. While the writing style is sophisticated, it is not too challenging for younger elementary schoolers. I would also recommend this book to teachers exploring fantasy and legends with their classes. The Cat from Hunger Mountain could be both a captivating teaching tool and a wonderful bedtime story. 

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Review by Charlotte Jeanne