The Apple Doll

The Apple Doll by Elisa Kleven.

Lizzy had a special relationship with her apple tree, so when school was starting and she was worried about making friends, she found the perfect apple in the tree.  She made the apple a twig body and it became her friend who came with her to school.  Her teacher made her put away the apple but at lunch time, Lizzy brings her apple doll out again and the other children chat with Lizzie about her doll.  But it wasn’t that easy to make friends.  Lizzy continues to be lonely at school and her doll starts to look worse and worse.  Lizzy’s mother suggests drying the doll, and so the apple doll is preserved and Lizzy finds a new way to connect with her classmates.

The story of this picture book has depth and interest.  The relationship between Lizzy and her older sister is complex and honest.  Lizzy’s love for the apple is also complicated, and Kleven as an author allows it to be so, much to her credit.  Equally wonderful is the fact that Lizzy has to try several times to make connections with her classmates and still manages to connect in her own personal, introverted way.  Adding to the pleasure of this book are the illustrations, also by Kleven.  She has captured a vibrant world filled with deep, bright colors, activity and animals.  The pictures simply look like childhood with their bright and whimsical take on life. 

Recommended as a read-aloud for story times dealing with fall or returning to school.  Children ages 5-7 will enjoy it, especially if you have apples ready to be carved into apple dolls. 

The Guardian Shortlist

The Guardian Prize for children’s fiction has announced its shortlist:

Mr. Gum and the Biscuit Billionaire
by Andy Stanton

The Truth Sayer by Sally Prue

The Falconer’s Knot by Mary Hoffman

Finding Violet Park by Jenny Valentine

I haven’t read a single one of them.  Anyone else have any reactions?

The award winner will be announced on October 5th.

Starring Miss Darlene

Starring Miss Darlene by Amy Schwartz.

Darlene, a hippopotamus, wanted to be famous, so she signed up for theater classes.  SheUn auditioned and got the part of the Flood in the Noah’s Ark performance.  Her part was so simple, she didn’t need to be part of the rehearsals.  Unfortunately, it turns out it wasn’t so easy after all.  But Darlene got rave reviews in spite of her mistake on stage.  In the next performance, Darlene got thirteen lines!  But she also got stage fright.  Messing up again in front of the audience, she again got rave reviews.  And finally, Darlene got the part of Sleeping Beauty.  She was a sleeping beauty who really slept.  Snored even.  And guess what, rave reviews.

This is a great book for all sorts of children.  Children interested in plays and acting will love it.  Children afraid of making mistakes will also relate happily to the story.  And also children who just love twists and turns in their books will appreciate this one.  Schwartz’s writing is simple, clear and inviting.  Children are led up to the emotions but not told what to think, which is very refreshing in a picture book.  In fact, the children will fret much more than Miss Darlene ever does about her mistakes.   Expect a lot of laughter with the Sleeping Beauty ending.

Recommended reading for children ages 5-7.  This will work well as classroom reading before a school performance or concert. 

Shark and Lobster's Amazing Undersea Adventure

Shark and Lobster’s Amazing Undersea Adventure by Viviane Schwarz, colored by Joel Stewart.

Huge and toothy Shark admits to his friend Lobster that he is terrified of tigers.  They decide to build a fortress to protect them from the striped threat of tigers.  As they build it, more and more sea creatures start helping and start fearing tigers.  Deciding that the fortress doesn’t offer enough protection, they all dive deep down into the sea to find a sea monster to guard the fortress.  And in the process they find the courage to face their fear of tigers.

This is silly, silly fun.  The illustrations are done in a comic book style that is friendly and inviting, until the sea monster is introduced with its alarming strangeness is stark contrast to the friendly Shark and Lobster.  A wonderful contrast in style that makes the monster all the more effective and spectacular in its huge oddity.   There are very funny touches throughout the book, including the tiny cuttlefish who offers his help with building the fortress and is very effective much to Shark’s and the readers’ surprise. 

Children of all ages will immediately get the humor of a shark being scared of tigers and children all the way to age 8 will love the cartoon feel and silly spirit of the book.  Not recommended for reading at a story time, this book is much better suited to small groups or one-on-one sharing.  Good choice for guaranteed giggles.