One Shoe, Two Shoes by Caryl Hart, illustrated by Edward Underwood (9781547600946)
With a clear nod to Dr. Seuss and his iconic Red Fish, Blue Fish, this picture book celebrates rhymes, colors and footwear. The book begins with the dog having one shoe and the human having one shoe, then the two shoes are worn for a walk. There are different colored shoes, knotted laces, cowboy boots, and much more. Then a little mouse makes an appearance near the shoes. Could it be that the shoe is a house for a mouse? How many mice? The counting begins and eventually ends at ten. The dog investigates the mice for awhile but then heads out on another walk after fetching some shoes.
Hart’s text is simple with a bouncy rhyme that keeps the book merry. The pace is fast and jaunty, with plenty of action words along the way to make the book wonderfully playful. The concepts of colors and counting are nicely woven into the story. The circular feel of the book beginning and ending with shoes and walks makes for a book that feels complete.
The illustrations are done in a modern flat style in pencil, ink and collage done with computer assistance. The images are large enough to use with a group and guessing games could be played along the way, matching the shoes with their names, counting the mice (who tend to hide) and finding colors.
A happy book about counting and colors. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy provided by Bloomsbury Children’s Books.
A Slip of a Girl by Patricia Reilly Giff (9780823439553)
This verse novel tells the story of a girl surviving the Irish Land Wars between the English landowners and the Irish tenant farmers. Anna has grown up on their family farm, but their family struggles to make the required payments to stay. Around her, she sees other families being forced from their homes, the houses themselves knocked down to prevent them from staying. After her mother dies, Anna and her father sometimes have to poach fish to keep the family fed. Their potatoes are not thriving either due to too much rain. When an encounter with the English Lord’s rent collector turns violent, Anna and her father are arrested. Anna manages to escape, taking her baby sister with her to find her aunt in a distant town. Anna must draw on her own resilience and courage to save her entire family.
Giff’s verse is well-written and evocative. She brings the world of Ireland after the Great Famine to life. Giff stresses the dire problems facing the Irish farmers as they struggle to make enough from their farms to feed their families much less pay the landlord. By showing Anna as a member of a larger community, Giff is also able to show the various results of not paying rent. The use of historical photos is key, because one can hardly believe that they would use a battering ram to decimate a home rather than let it stand. The brutality of that act among others shows the merciless nature of the situation in rural Ireland in the 1890’s.
Anna herself is a dynamic heroine. Desperate to learn to read, she meets with the local school teacher in the evenings, reading the book she found outside as well as his books. She never sits idly by, always helping her family and trying to improve their lot. She even joins in with the Irish protests to secure their own land, another act of bravery and defiance.
A strong historical verse novel with a great Irish heroine. Appropriate for ages 8-12.
Reviewed from copy provided by Holiday House.