Maybelle, Bunny of the North

Maybelle, Bunny of the North by Keith Patterson

Maybelle is a little bunny who lives in Homer, Alaska.  The book follows her through some of the things she does there.  She does many things that most children do: plays in the snow, watches the night sky, plays in the park, takes a bath, and is read to at bedtime.  But some of the things she does are uniquely Alaskan: watching the float planes take off from the lake and looking for moose in the fireweed.  The book illustrations have a hand-painted feel to them and are filled with blue skies, red flowers, and the sheltering mountains.

This is a short, gentle story that allows small children to see that people who live in different parts of the world and even the US itself have both commonalities and differences.  It would be an interesting discussion to talk with children about what makes their area of the world unique.  What do they consider every day things that others may be surprised and delighted by? 

Patterson has created a story with a nice pacing.  It is firmly grounded in Homer, Alaska and it is a pleasure to read a picture book for very young children with such a strong sense of place.  The progression through the day will be very familiar to all children, and the surprises of the uniquely Alaskan moments will be enjoyed by all as well.

Appropriate for ages 2-4, this book is simple and satisfying.

My Japan

My Japan by Etsuko Watanabe

This book provides a fascinating look into the life of a 7-year-old Japanese girl named Yumi.  Readers get to see her house, her room, what school is like, the public bath, and the holidays she celebrates.  There are so many things that are similar to our lives in the United States and so many that differ.  The illustrations are friendly and offer the reader additional information.  Personally, I am intrigued by the trapdoor in the kitchen floor that opens to an extra storage area.  Children will find their own things to be intrigued about, ask questions about and explore.  Most American children will be amazed by the concept of the public bath.

Watanabe does an excellent job of showing how similar we are and yet allowing readers to really see the differences in the societies we live in.  The illustrations are done in a very welcoming style that invites readers to look closely at the details.   This is a very nice introduction to Japan and its modern culture through the eyes of a child.

Recommended for children studying Japan or Japanese as well as children who are interested in other cultures.  With its friendly, inviting style, this book is a welcome addition to any library.