Room for Bear by Ciara Gavin (In InfoSoup)
Bear visited the Duck family one spring and then never left. He fit in perfectly in many ways, except for their house which was not designed for someone Bear’s size. So Bear set off in search of a perfect space for all of them. But it was hard to find a place that worked. Places that fit Bear perfectly did not work for the Ducks. Where the Ducks were happy, Bear was not. Then Bear thought that maybe it was because HE did not fit in with the Ducks after all, so he went away to find a home just for him. The Ducks missed Bear horribly, and Bear missed the Ducks. Finally, Bear found just the right huge cave for himself and then came up with a clever Duck-sized solution that would let them all live together happily.
This picture book is about families and what makes a family. Told from the point of view of animals, it speaks beyond cultures and skin color to a feeling where differences in general are embraced and honored. At the same time, the book honors the feeling a person can have of fitting in just fine sometimes and in other situations feeling that they are an outsider. These complex feelings are caught on the page without over dramatizing them. The result is a book the embraces adoptive and blended families of all sorts without making the picture too rosy and uncomplicated.
Gavin’s illustrations are done with a whimsical sense of humor. From Bear trying to fit into a tiny and tippy Duck boat as a home to the unhappy Ducks sitting around the table forlornly missing Bear, she captures emotions clearly on the page as well as the dilemmas of differences. The illustrations are softly painted with fine ink lines that allow both the big bear and small ducks to have personality galore.
A winning read that speaks to all families and particularly adoptive and blended families. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
Monday, Wednesday, and Every Other Weekend by Karen Stanton
Henry and his dog, Pomegranate, live in two different houses. On Mondays, Wednesdays and every other weekend, he lives with his mother on Flower Street. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and every other weekend, he lives with his father two blocks away on Woolsey Avenue. The two houses are very different. They smell different, look different, sound different and even taste different. Pomegranate though is never truly happy at either house. He wants to be somewhere else. Then one day, Pomegranate gets out and runs away. Henry and his father head to Flower Street to see if he is with Henry’s mother, but no Pomegranate. Then Henry realizes where Pomegranate must be and heads straight to the house where his family used to live all together. Now a little girl lives there and she has Pomegranate with her!
This book has such a strong heart. Stanton clearly shows the differences between the two homes that Henry lives in. The different neighborhoods, the different foods, the different sounds. Both homes are beautiful, both are filled with love for Henry. Stanton’s clever use of Pomegranate as the expression of the emotions involved in a divorce is well done. She manages to allow Henry to be well adjusted and happy while still dealing with the complex emotions that divorce elicits.
The art is charming and wonderfully loud. Done in collage mixed with painting, the colors shine on the page. She makes sure to show the elements that make up life in each house, showing again the differences but also the similarities in the homes.
A memorable book on divorce for children, even children who have not experienced divorce themselves will enjoy this engaging title. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Feiwel & Friends.
Baby Bear by Kadir Nelson
Nelson returns with a picture book about a lost baby bear that showcases his luminous art work. Baby Bear is lost and can’t find his way back home. So he asks different animals about how to find his home again. Mountain Lion suggests that he figure out how he got here. Frog is rather busy, but tells Baby Bear not to be frightened. The Squirrels suggest that he hug a tree. Moose tells Baby Bear to listen to his heart. Owl reassures him and Ram encourages him to climb high and keep walking. Finally, Salmon leads him across the river and Baby Bear is home.
Nelson writes with the tone of a folktale, a measured pace and a strong structure of questions and answers. Told entirely in dialogue between the animals, the setting and action is left to the gorgeous illustrations to explain. My favorite moment is the ending of the book where there is no family to meet Baby Bear, no structure of “home” for him to return to, just an understanding and a pure moment of realization that he IS home.
Nelson’s art is stunningly lovely. He uses light and perspective to really show the story. We see Baby Bear from different angles, one amazing double-page spread just has a close up of his eyes with the moon reflected in them. Each page is a treat visually, each building to that moment of already being home.
Shimmering and lush, this picture book will open discussions about what home is, mindfulness and following one’s heart. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
Living with Mom and Living with Dad by Melanie Walsh
This picture book takes a look at divorce in a way that is appropriate for very young children. It focuses on living in two separate homes and what happens to the things a child holds dear and to their family. Using flaps to invite young listeners to participate in the story, children will be able to explore the differences, including different nightlights, changes in how a child is picked up from school, and trips with each parent. Nicely, the book also explores what happens for special events and birthdays and how the parents attend but separately. There is no negative emotion here, just a matter-of-fact book that answers the questions that children will have about their every day life.
Walsh has created a book that will be of particular help in both families going through a divorce and for children who have questions in general about divorce. The lack of emotion gives the book some distance from the situation, yet it manages to answer all of the nuts and bolts details that children fret about.
Walsh’s art is flat and friendly. The book is populated by bright colors, cheery flaps and a friendly outlook. All of this in a book about divorce. And it manages to work and work well.
A good choice for the youngest of children who are thinking about divorce, this book is a welcome addition to library shelves. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.