Review: Stella Brings the Family by Miriam B. Schiffer

stella brings the family

Stella Brings the Family by Miriam B. Schiffer, illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown

Stella’s class is going to be celebrating Mother’s Day and all of the kids know who they will bring as their special guest.  But Stella has two dads and no mother, so who can she invite? Stella worries and worries about who to bring, and the other kids in her class start to ask her how she manages without a mother to do so much. Stella’s dads take great care of her along with a big extended family who give lots of love and kisses. When Stella talks to her dads about who to bring, they come up with a perfect solution and soon Stella has the largest group at the Mother’s Day party even though none of them are her mother.

Perfect for families of all sorts who may not fit the traditional stereotypical family, this picture book shows how a loving family can create their own unique solutions and fill them with their own joy. Schiffer clearly conveys the worry and stress that a child can feel in this sort of situation, not minimizing the emotional impact. At the same time, she also demonstrates how that can be so easily eliminated by a family that listens to concerns and solves problems in positive ways. This is one empowering story that many families will relate to.

The illustrations are filled with children of all races and the story also includes a family with two mothers. On the day of the party, there are also grandmothers there, speaking to that issue of working parents who may not be able to be there either. The inclusive art has a warmth to it that is conveyed by the caring adults and the brightly hued illustrations.

All public libraries need more picture book that embrace gay families, so this is a great pick for strengthening those collections. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.

Review: Counting Crows by Kathi Appelt

counting crows

Counting Crows by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by Rob Dunlavey (InfoSoup)

This playful picture book comes from the author of The Underneath and other novels for older children. This counting book does not move from one to twelve, but instead starts at three and allows a merry amount of counting along the way. Throughout the action is led by the crows who climb around on trees, sit on lines and find all sorts of treats to eat, including spicy ants. The story moves forward with counting until there are twelve crows who then discover one cat!

Appelt proves that she can be a very successful writer for any age of child with her first picture book. Her rhyme reads aloud so well that it’s impossible to read it silently to yourself. It has a great rhythm and buoyancy to it, giving the book a really dynamic energy and feel. I also enjoy a book that has counting in it, but isn’t solely a counting book. This one tells a full story in a cheery way and allows you to share it either as a story book or a concept book.

The illustrations truly make the book unique. Using light drawings with touches of red, the book pops. Readers may notice the one scarf-wearing crow who appears in each scene and then they can see what happens to the scarf after the cat appears. It’s a nice touch that may have some readers turning back to trace the scarf from the beginning of the book.

Bouncy, rhyming, fun and jaunty, this picture book has its own unique tone and feel that readers will appreciate. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum Books for Young Readers.