Review: Ellen’s Broom by Kelly Starling Lyons

Ellens Broom

Ellen’s Broom by Kelly Starling Lyons, illustrated by Daniel Minter

After slavery ended, Ellen’s parents’ marriage would finally be recognized by law.  Until then, no slave marriages were seen as legal.  The broom had always hung over the fireplace mantel in their home and all of the children knew the story of their parents jumping the broom and becoming man and wife.  When the family set off to make the marriage legal, all four children came along and Ellen was honored to carry the broom.  As their parents were about to be married, Ellen and her sister ran outside and decorated the plain straw broom with flowers and her mother carried the broom as a bouquet.  When her parents were married, Ellen knew that the ceremony wasn’t complete until they had once again jumped the broom together as a couple. 

This lovely picture book looks at Reconstruction, a period not often featured in picture books.  The depiction of a loving family who have survived slavery and are rejoicing in their new rights and freedoms is the center of the book.  Lyons does not shy away from showing the lingering shadows and effects of slavery, though they are shown more as memories and concerns, making them appropriate for the young audience.

Minter’s illustrations have such a delicate line that at first they do not seem to be block prints, but they are.  The bright colors and play of light and shadow make for a vivid read.  The wood grain of the walls alone are a masterpiece of line and color.

This picture book embraces family, tradition and looks to the future.  It is a gorgeous book that addresses a time in history that is often overlooked for young readers.  Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from copy received from G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

Review: Little Dog Lost by Monica Carnesi

little dog lost

Little Dog Lost: The True Story of a Brave Dog Named Baltic by Monica Carnesi

Children along the banks of the Vistula River were the first to spot the little dog floating on the ice floes.  Firemen tried to help rescue the dog, but were unable to reach him before the river carried him away.  The river carried the dog into the Baltic sea where a ship arrived.  The crew members tried to rescue the dog, but it proved difficult.  At one point, the dog even slipped into the water but managed to pull itself back up onto the ice.  Finally, the crew managed to get a boat into the water and move close enough to the ice the dog was on and rescue him.  After warming up and getting dry, the dog was adopted by the crew and named “Baltic.”

This true story of a dog on the ice inspired the author to create a picture book demonstrating the heroism of both man and dog.  Unlike many nonfiction books, this is one that can be used with preschoolers and even toddlers.  The story is kept very simple, with only a few sentences on each page, making it move ahead quickly.  Add to that the drama of the floating dog and the fear that he will not survive and you have a picture book that is a real treat to read.

Carnesi’s artwork echoes that same child-friendly simplicity with its fuzzy dog.  The round-faced people are equally charming and inviting to young readers.  My favorite part was turning to the final page that tells more details about the rescue and recognizing the man holding Baltic from his depiction in the book. 

This entire work is charming, great fun to read, and also an inspiring story.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Nancy Paulsen Books.

Jan Berenstain Dies

Co-creator of The Berenstain Bears series, Jan Berenstain has died on February 24th at age 88.  The first Berenstain Bears book was published in 1962 and since that time more than 330 books have been published!   They have sold more than 260 million copies!

I know that I’ve checked out armloads myself for my sons who each went through a stage where they loved the familiarity of the stories and the fact that there were so many titles in the series.  It is a life well-led that has touched so many children.