Pink by Nan Gregory and Luc Melanson.

Vivi desperately wants to be one of the pink girls who have pink backpacks, pink clothes, pink hair bands all in the perfect shade of pink.  She dreams of the perfect pink life so different from her own.  Vivi then discovers the perfect pink bride doll in the window of a fancy toy store.  She works hard to save money to purchase the doll, doing odd jobs in their apartment building.  But when she reveals to the Pinks at school that she is going to buy the doll, one of them gets there before her and she is devastated. 

This is a book that dances along just like life.  It is a vividly pink look at wishing, wanting, striving and disappointment, only to discover that there are special pink moments in her own life too.  Vivi is a wonderful character, especially for a picture book.  Her parents are equally interesting and their parenting is warm and supportive.  It is a treat to have a book where the parents are role models but the text is not didactic. 

The end of the book is buttoned by music, dance and sunsets, things that everyone can enjoy and share whether they can afford pink perfection or not.  The message of the book is strong but never crosses over into preaching.  The story is allowed to stand on its own strength through clear writing and bright illustrations.

Recommended to both boys and girls (despite the pink focus) ages 5-7.

Those Shoes

Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts, illustrated by Noah Z. Jones.

Jeremy desperately wants a pair of those black high tops with white stripes, but there is no extra money to get anything but new winter boots.  To make matters worse, Jeremy’s shoes wear out and he has to wear a pair that fits him taken from the box the guidance counselor keep for kids who need things.  And they are bright blue and Velcro, like ones for little kids.  Jeremy’s grandmother takes him shopping for boots and thinks about getting him the new shoes, but they are too expensive.  Then she willingly takes him to different thrift stores to see if they can find a pair.  And they do!  But the shoes are too small, even though Jeremy tries to curl his toes under his foot to make them fit.  He insists that they buy them, but finally admits that he can’t wear them.  Perhaps someone else can?

This story simply and clearly tells the story of a child who lives in a family where he can’t have everything he wants.  There is no shame here, no squalor, just a normal family where spending money has an impact and choices must be made.  The illustrations in the book show a rainbow of children going to school together.  Friendships are not racially divided and neither is the poverty line.  It is all nicely handled. 

This is one of those books that is important to share with all children of any means.  Children who don’t face choices like this must learn that there are families right in their communities who do, and children who live in homes where finances are tight will be happy to know that they are not the only ones.  We live in a society where items are glorified and children are caught up in having the latest gizmos, gadgets, toys and clothes.  This book puts it all into perspective.  And just might lead to new perspectives in children who get a chance to read it, hear it and talk about it.

Highly recommended for ages 5-8.  This would be a wonderful book to get conversations started in a classroom about money and choices and differences.

Horn Book Best of 2007

The Horn Book has once again created an amazing compilation of best books.  Their Best Books of 2007 include so many of my favorites of the year!  In picture books, they are all marvelous.  Fiction includes three of my all-time favorites of the year: Hugo Cabret, Red Spikes and Absolutely True Diary.  All marvelous!  What a great list and what a great year for books!