Tag Archive: courage


scaredy squirrel goes camping

Scaredy Squirrel Goes Camping by Melanie Watt

Scaredy Squirrel is back!  This time he wants to stay far away from camping outside, much happier to watch a TV show ABOUT camping.  Unfortunately though, he needs to plug his TV in for it to work.  So he has to find an electrical outlet which means heading outside and into the campground.  As always, Scaredy plans his trip carefully.  He lists what he is scared of, packs important survival supplies, picks out a wilderness outfit to keep himself safe from things like nasty odors and bugs, and has a map of his mission timed to the minute.  But things do not go as planned, showing Scaredy that sometimes it’s not about the plan itself but the journey on which it takes you.

Watt has a wonderful comedic timing that she displays in all of her Scaredy Squirrel and Chester books.  It is all about those moments of hesitation that make the humor all the more funny.  Scaredy is a great character with his obsessive planning and worrying.  Many children will see themselves in Scaredy and also be able to see the humor as well.  As always, the illustrations are clear, clean and add to the fun.

Another great book in a strong series, this one is perfectly timed for spring and summer camp outs.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Kids Can Press.

everyone can learn to ride a bicycle

Everyone Can Learn to Ride a Bicycle by Chris Raschka

The two-time Caldecott Medalist returns with another exceptional picture book.  In this book, a little girl learns to ride a bike.  She first picks out the bike she wants to try, then watches other people ride their bikes.  The training wheels are very helpful, keeping her upright and they steadily are moved upward so that she can start to balance on her own.  Training wheels off, she tries riding in the grass but when she heads down a small hill, she tips over.  It takes a lot of courage to get back on again and again and again after tumbling off.  But then, suddenly and incredibly, she learns to ride a bicycle on her own!

Written in second-person, the book really allows readers to see themselves as the one riding the bicycle.  Raschka’s text is simple and effective, encouraging readers to give it a try.  When the tumbling begins, Raschka starts talking about courage, sure to inspire young readers to see that quality in themselves both in learning to ride a bicycle and in other endeavors too.  As always, the art is the key with Raschka’s picture books.  His style is loose and flowing, capturing movement and wobbles with easy watercolor strokes. 

A great pick for spring when children are sure to be longing to be out playing in the warmer weather, this book is a quietly inspiring read.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

mouse and lion

Mouse & Lion by Rand Burkert, illustrated by Nancy Ekholm Burkert

This classic Aesop fable is told with exceptional ease.  The story focuses more on Mouse than other versions, even giving him top billing in the title.  Mouse scampers right over Lion before he even realizes he is not a mountain.  And as the tale goes, Lion grants Mouse a reprieve from being eaten and sends him on his way.  In this story, Lion is captured in a hunter’s net and Mouse gnaws him free.  Set in Africa, this story features a four-striped African grass mouse rather than the expected little brown mouse.  Combined with the baobab trees, it all works to evoke Africa completely. 

Burkert’s text is beautifully done.  At first blush, his writing reads aloud so well that it seems simple.  But instead it is just written by a storyteller, who realizes exactly how words play and how to create a mood.  When Lion has captured Mouse, there is a gorgeous moment when Burkert leaves Mouse literally dangling:

Mouse spun slowly as he dangled.  He dangled as he spun.  He squinted into Lion’s mouth, feeling his warm breath, noting his yellowed teeth.

This is just one of many such times when the writing sings, the moment stretches, and the story is illuminated. 

Add to this skilled writing, the illustrations and you have quite the book.  The illustrations are strong at the same time they are delicate.  Done with fine lines, each hair on the animals is individual.  Mouse’s nose and whiskers seem to twitch.  Lion seems to snore.  There is life here in these illustrations, life that moves and breathes.  The illustrations are captivating.

Who would think that after last year’s Caldecott Award winner, libraries would want another version of Aesop’s fable.  They definitely should get this one with its beautiful combination of writing and illustration.  It too is a winner.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Scholastic.

Also reviewed by Cracking the Cover.

bravest woman in america

The Bravest Woman in America by Marissa Moss, illustrated by Andrea U’Ren

Ida Lewis loved the sea, from the crash of the waves to the bite of the ocean air.  When her father got a job as a lighthouse keeper, she was thrilled.  He had to cross back and forth twice a day to check the light, and he took Ida with him, teaching her how to row.  He also taught her to care for the lamp and how to rescue people without capsizing herself.  When Ida turned 15, her family moved out to live next to the lighthouse.  Ida dreamed of becoming the keeper herself one day.  That day came early when her father got ill and could no longer care for the lighthouse.  So Ida helped more and more.  Though she had never rescued anyone, she rowed out to save some boys in a sailboat that capsized.  It took all of her determination and strength to save them, but she did.

This book works on so many levels.  It is a true story about a real hero who defied what society expected of her and became what she dreamed of.  Additionally, it is the story of a girl who was strong, brave and amazing.  A girl who relied on her own strength and wits to save others rather than to be rescued herself.  Beautiful. 

Moss writes the story with drama and action, yet is never heavy handed.  She builds up to the accident nicely, showing it happen and then building to the climax of the rescue.  This is an rescue story that will have readers cheering.

U’Ren’s art is done in watercolor, ink and acrylic.  The colors are deep and lovely, from the changing colors of the sky to the blues and greens of the water that change with the storm.  Ida Lewis is always shown as a young lady, never masculinized at all.  It adds to the charm and drama of the story.

Highly recommended, this is a great book choice for women’s history units or for any child to learn that girls are heroes too.  Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from copy received from Tricycle Press.

ifineverforever

If I Never Forever Endeavor by Holly Meade

Capturing the tension of a fledgling about to leave the nest, this picture book celebrates taking chances and testing your wings.  A small yellow bird muses on what would happen if they just stay in the safety of their nest, because though there would be new things to see, there is also plenty to fear.  Of course, if they stay, then there is no flying, no soaring, and no making a new friend to share the air with.  This book will speak to anyone looking to make a change, try something new, or just test the wind a bit.

Meade’s writing her is a poem that is spare yet gentle, a poem that stirs, lifts and soars.  She does not shy away from words like “endeavor” or “scallop” which I really appreciate.  This is a book that will have children and their vocabulary reaching forward too. 

Her art is done in collage, combining watercolor painting with linoleum block printing.  The result is a book that has strong patterns and lines yet also the softness of a watercolor sky to play against.  The play of the graphic against the soft adds a very dynamic feel to the book.

Ideal for the end of the school year as teachers send their students on to the next grade, it would also make a lovely graduation gift.  I’m keeping it in mind for any children’s librarian heading to a new job.  What a treat to have it tucked under one wing.  Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from copy received from Candlewick.

Also reviewed by Classroom Connections and Kiss the Book.

Blindsided

Blindsided by Priscilla Cummings

Natalie has been losing her sight since she was eight.  She is still able to see in a tunneled form, but then receives the news that she will lose her sight completely in a short period of time.  Natalie is sent to a school for the blind to learn the skills she will need to have when she is blind.  She is taught Braille and how to walk with a cane. But she doesn’t consider herself in the same situation as the other teens at the school.  They are blind and she is not.  She does learn the skills, but inwardly refuses to accept the situation, hoping for a miracle to happen.  Eventually her sight does leave completely and now Natalie has to choose between using the skills she learned and becoming independent or remaining scared and protected at home.

This book is a mix of positive and negative for me.  Natalie was a fine character with intelligence, lots of doubts, and complex reactions to her situation.  She was well drawn and interesting.  The information on the school for the blind and her skills were also interesting, though they could have been woven more into the story itself so that they read more effortlessly. 

Unfortunately, the book suffered from heavy-handed writing that was often didactic in tone.  There was a sense that the author had a lot to say about overcoming obstacles and disabilities.  Her need to inform others intruded on the story itself, which would have been much stronger without the tone.  Additionally, there were often moments when Natalie grew to new understanding which the author underlined and pointed out, lessening their impact instead of strengthening it as intended.

I must also quibble with the foreshadowing of the action-filled ending, which would have been surprising except that it was built into the story too clearly with events leading directly to it.  Again, a more even-handed writing style would have raised it to another level.

Appropriate for ages 13-16.

Reviewed from copy received from Dutton.

Ladybug Girl at the Beach by David Soman and Jacky Davis

The latest Ladybug Girl book explores what courage means.  Ladybug Girl and her family head to the beach in the book, and it’s Lulu’s first time on a beach.  She is sure she is going to love it.  But when she sees the huge waves and hears the roar of the surf, she is afraid to get into the water.  Lulu and her dog Bingo spend a lot of time avoiding the water.  They build a sandcastle, fly a kite, go for ice cream, and plays on the shore.  It isn’t until the emergency of her bucket floating away gets her into the water that she realizes that she was right!  She does love the beach!  And even better, she’s not afraid any more.

Soman and Davis have once again captured the emotions of childhood with humor and honesty.  Lulu continues to be true to the character she was in the first Ladybug Girl book, still wearing her antennae and her wings.  It’s great to see a character who is so self-assured be scared and overcome it.  Soman’s art is wonderful.  He uses lines to capture emotions with such skill.  Even background characters have great body language and facial expressions.  His use of large washes of color for the beach, sea and sky add to the summery, sunshine, sand feel of the title.

Recommended for any library where Ladybug Girl is popular, this book stands just fine on its own and will have new families and children asking for the other titles.  A perfect summer beach read for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Dial Books.

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