Review: A Bus Called Heaven by Bob Graham

bus called heaven

A Bus Called Heaven by Bob Graham

It all started when the bus with a sign that said “heaven” was abandoned on Stella’s street.  Traffic slowed, people gathered, and Stella took her thumb out of her mouth and suggested that the abandoned bus could be “ours.”  So everyone helped move it out of the street and into Stella’s front yard.  It stuck out a bit into the sidewalk and took up the entire yard.  The next morning when Stella looked out her window, things had changed again.  Now there were people sitting on their front wall, children wrestling in the grassy shade under the bus.  The adults began cleaning things up.  When some boys spray painted the side of the bus one night, they were invited back to paint one of Stella’s designs instead.  The bus had become a hub of activity for the entire community.  But then one Saturday morning things changed again, when a tow truck arrived.  What will happen next to the bus called heaven?

Graham creates books that have a special sort of feel to them, a sense of place and community, but that are also infused with a wonder and magic all their own.  Here he takes one abandoned bus and creates that community in our modern world where it is lacking.  This is not a statement about the problems of our society, but rather a look at what it could be if we were only willing. 

The illustrations are done in his signature style that has lots of details, fine lines, and soft colors that manage to be bright too.  He plays with color here, making Stella almost ghostlike in her paleness.  When she gets excited two dots of pink appear, but she does not ever fully become colored like the other characters.  She is a pale but very solid young character.

This is an uplifting read about the little changes that create a community and the little children that can lead us there.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Brothers at Bat by Audrey Vernick

brothers at bat

Brothers at Bat by Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Steven Salerno

In one family from New Jersey, there were 12 baseball-playing brothers: the Acerra brothers.  All of the brothers played high school baseball and their high school had an Acerra on it 22 years in a row!  In 1938, the oldest nine brothers formed their own semi-pro baseball team.  Their father coached the team and they played on dirt fields that were littered in rocks.   Each of the brothers had a different skill set than the others.  Some were slow runners but great players, others posed for the cameras naturally, one was a great pitcher that people still talk about today.  But all of them supported one another.  Then came World War II and the team disbanded as six of the brothers headed off to war.  Happily, all six brothers returned from war.  The brothers played their last game together as a team in 1952.  By that time, they were the longest-playing all-brother baseball team ever.  In 1997, the brothers were honored by the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Vernick shares this story of brothers who played together for most of their lives with a real sense of wonder and amazement at what they achieved.  The story celebrates their strong brotherhood and sense of family as well as the love of baseball.  Vernick offers all sorts of details that really create a vivid picture of the family dynamic and their lives. 

Salerno uses a vintage style for the illustrations that firmly roots this picture book in the time period.  They are colorful and action filled. 

A great non-fiction picture book for baseball fans, brothers, or people who enjoy a little sports with their history.  Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from library copy.