Jam & Honey: Natural Sweetness

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Jam & Honey by Melita Morales, illustrated by Laura J. Bryant

This quiet, gentle book tells the story of a visit to an urban berry patch from two points of view, a girl and a bee.  The girl is headed to the berry patch to pick berry to make into jam.  Her big worry is running into bees, which she does.  But she remembers what her mother told her about staying still and that the bee was interested in nectar not in her.  The bee is heading to the berry patch for nectar to make into honey.  He is worried about running into a human there, which he does.  But he remembers that humans are interested in the berries, so he just flies past.  This parallel story offers a glimpse of urban gardening and emphasizes the importance of our food and other creatures.

Morales has written the book in a verse format that has enough rhyme to make it friendly and bouncy.  There is a rather jaunty tone to the book, making the encounter with the bee less scary than it could have been.  The emphasis is on making food, whether it is by the girl or the bee.  The two halves of the book are written in very similar verse, often repeating patterns from the earlier one.  This ties the two stories together even more firmly.

Bryant’s art makes sure that the reader knows that the book is set in an urban setting without covering it in graffiti or garbage.  Instead, we see a warm friendly neighborhood filled with flowers, pigeons, and bees.  She imbues the illustrations with a natural feel, always having the reader look past greenery and through plants. 

A great pick for insect units or story times or ones about food.  It could also happily be used as a late summer story when the berries are plump and ripe.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Random House.

I’m Not: Funny Friendship

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I’m Not by Pam Smallcomb, illustrated by Robert Weinstock

Evelyn is everything that the narrator is not.  Evelyn is not ordinary.  She is fast, jumping, fashionable, artistic, and imaginative.  Our narrator is not.  But when Evelyn slows down, our quiet narrator discovers that there are things that she herself is good at and Evelyn is not.  Evelyn cannot spell well; she can’t do karate; she’s scared of the dark.  And what Evelyn needs most is a best friend.  Now that is something that our narrator definitely IS.

Smallcomb has captured the tension of friendship between an outgoing person and a quieter person.  I appreciated that Evelyn is not a pushy person or a bully.  Rather she is loud, gregarious and fun.  Our narrator could be read as shy or as quiet, which many children will relate to.  Smallcomb writes with a clever voice, allowing readers to really experience Evelyn with the wonder and thrill that our narrator feels.  Readers will happily take away the lesson that we all have something to offer, whether we are in the spotlight or not.

Weinstock’s illustrations add to the humor of the book.  His style is similar to the beloved James Marshall of George and Martha fame.  Thanks to the illustrations and writing style, this book has a timeless feel that will welcome young readers.

Highly recommended, this is a perfect addition to friendship units or story times.  It will read aloud well and young readers will connect with the characters easily.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Schwartz & Wade Books.

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