Tag: community

3 Picture Books Filled with Empathy

These three picture books all look at empathy in different ways and all are worth exploring.

Come with Me by Holly M. McGhee

Come with Me by Holly M. McGhee, illustrated by Pascal Lamaitre (9781524739058)

Seeing the news about anger and hate in the world, a little girl wonders what she can do to help. So each of her parents take the little girl out in their diverse and urban community. They are kind to others on the subway. They greet their neighbors and shop at stores owned by people of different races and faiths. Then the little girl asks to walk the dog on her own. Will her parents be brave enough to let her leave fear behind and head into the world on her own?

Told simply and with great kindness, this picture book shows children and families exactly the small steps they can take to bring love and joy back into their lives during these stressful fear-filled times. The illustrations are simple, showing the diversity of the community with clarity. Families looking for ways to get beyond worry and fear will embrace this picture book. It is exactly what our world and our children need. (ARC received from Penguin.)

A Different Pond by Bao Phi

A Different Pond by Bao Phi, illustrated by Thi Bui (9781479597468)

Written and illustrated by two Vietnamese-Americans, this picture book captures the author’s experience as a child accompanying his father to a local fishing pond. The two of them are up early since his father has to head to second job that he just got. They stop at the bait shop and pick up minnows. Then head to the pond, where the boy’s father fishes and the boy builds a fire for them. It’s cool during this Minnesota dawn. The two share sandwiches, a small memory from Vietnam about fishing, and catch fish for dinner. When they return home, the extended family is there and that evening they all feast on the fish together.

Phi’s prose is filled with the skill of a poet. He stitches the past and present together into a richness that is poignant. He welcomes young readers into the life of a refugee family in Minnesota. The illustrations have a modern edge to them, sometimes framed like a graphic novel and other times soaring to the sides of the page. Bui uses her format skillfully and enlivens this quiet tale of fishing and new lives. Told with grace and strength, this picture book is wondrous. (Reviewed from library copy.)

King of the Sky by Nicola Davies

King of the Sky by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Laura Carlin (9781406348613)

A boy is now far from his Italian home and only one thing in this new place reminds him of Italy and where he used to live. It is Mr. Evans’s pigeons and their cooing that reminds the boy of Rome. The boy spends time with Mr. Evans and the pigeons. Mr. Evans gives him one as his own, a gray pigeon with a white head that the boy names “King of the Sky.” But the pigeon is slow to return home as the pigeons train, though Mr. Evans insists the bird will be a champion. Finally, the bird gets the perfect long distance race, flying back from Italy. But will he make it or will he stay in Italy like the boy would long to?

Davies is a masterful writer, inviting the reader into the pain of a boy who has left the country he loves and hasn’t found a place that feels right in his new country. It is a book about loneliness and finding your way forward. It’s a book about connection with your neighbors and community to find that way. The illustrations by Carlin are quirky and beautifully layered. They have a dreamlike quality to them, filled with soft edges and even softer light. This is a picture book that invites readers to understand what home really is. Appropriate for ages 5-8. (Reviewed from library copy.)

The One Day House by Julia Durango

The One Day House by Julia Durango

The One Day House by Julia Durango, illustrated by Bianca Diaz (9781580897099, Amazon)

Released August 15, 2017.

Wilson wishes that one day he will be able to help Gigi in many ways. He says that one day he will paint her house yellow like the sun, but Gigi assures him that he is all the sunshine she needs. Wilson wants to build a fence for her yard, fix her stairs so she can climb them again, fix her piano so it can be played once more. He wants to create a garden for her and fix her roof. There are so many things to fix and Wilson can’t do them by himself. Luckily though, Wilson asks for help and the community turns out to help Gigi and have Wilson’s wishes for her come true.

Inspired by an action day in the community the author lives in, this book shows the power of community to help the elderly and those with disabilities live in safe and functional homes. Details on this sort of community involvement is offered in the Author’s Note at the end of the book. The young character in the book discovers the program at the beginning and has to wait several months and seasons for the help to come. There is no quick fix here, it’s people coming together to make a difference.

The illustrations are rich and bright, showing Wilson’s own art as well as depicting the friendship between young and old vividly. Done in watercolor, gouache and acrylic, the art is filled with the bright colors of an urban setting, lit by a sunlit sky.

A call to communities to come together, this picture book is inspiring. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Charlesbridge.

Owl Bat Bat Owl by Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick

Owl Bat Bat Owl by Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick

Owl Bat Bat Owl by Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick (9780763691615, Amazon)

An owl family is contentedly sleeping on a sunny day on a branch high in a tree. Then a family of bats arrives to hang below them on the same branch. The owls are awakened and slide down to another part of the branch, the parent owl clearly upset. Meanwhile, one of the owlets and one of the baby bats start to make friends and the little owl hangs upside down with the bat family. Both parents disapprove and everyone settles back into their own families, until they are disturbed by a strong wind blowing in. Soon baby owls and bats are being flung off the branch and the adult bat and owl are panicking as they search for their children. This might just be what the families need to get along!

This wordless picture book is nicely done with clear facial expressions on the animals that help the story be easily related to. The connection between the youngest of the animals is also very helpful, showing how bridges can be built by the youngest in the world. While this book is simple, it speaks to the importance of integration, diversity and wider community.

Turn the book upside down for a bit of a bat perspective on the world! Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

Most People by Michael Leannah

Most People by Michael Leannah

Most People by Michael Leannah, illustrated by Jennifer E. Morris (9780884485544, Amazon)

Released August 15, 2017.

This reassuring picture book shows children that the world around them is filled with helpful and friendly people. It’s a strong response to the negativity so often seen in our world and absorbed by our children as frightening ideas and thoughts. The picture book is set in an urban and diverse neighborhood where accidents happen and neighbors help out. It’s a place where people are friendly, smile at babies, and watch out for one another. It’s a place where people in need are given assistance, where children are empowered to help. It’s the world where we all live right now, if we only can see it that way.

Leannah writes in very straight-forward prose. He states again and again the certainty that most people are good and that most people see the world exactly the way the reader does. That most people want to help and do good. It is a book that brings a sense of safety to the young reader or listener, one that can help see their community and their school in a different way. It’s also a book that will start conversations about what kind of person they are and what positive changes they want to see in their world.

The illustrations emphasize diversity and the friendly urban setting. The book follows the course of a day and ends with a beautiful city night and people seen through windows and on rooftops as a larger community.

A strong and positive book that is important for children of today. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley received from Netgalley and Tilbury House Publishers.

 

Along the River by Vanina Starkoff

Along the River by Vanina Starkoff

Along the River by Vanina Starkoff (9781554989775, Amazon)

The river is the way that everyone travels in Brazil. Crowded with boats, the river flows. There are two in a canoe, boats filled with potted plants and others that are bustling kitchens. Some boats are schools and others are stores. There are boats filled with shared music, while others sleep in the sun. Throughout there is a sense of community and happiness as life and the river flow by.

Starkoff uses only a few words per page. They invite readers to see the river as a place of connection and community. Readers will also enjoy the names of the various vessels that speak to the feeling of joy that pervades the entire book. The illustrations are vibrant and loud with the river and sky a zingy yellow that adds pizzazz to the images. Children will love following various characters through their day on the river and watching new friendships develop before their eyes.

An import from Brazil, this book has a low key vibe that is full of laid back joy. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

The Treasure Box by Margaret Wild

The Treasure Box by Margaret Wild

The Treasure Box by Margaret Wild, illustrated by Freya Blackwood (9780763690847, Amazon)

Nominated for the CBCA Picture Book of the Year, this picture book is exceptional. In a time of war, the library is burned and only one book survives. Peter’s father has that book and creates an iron box to keep it safe. When Peter and his father flee their town, they carry the book with them. Peter’s father dies on the journey and he continues to carry the book with him, even leaving behind his suitcase to manage it. Finally, Peter must leave the box behind, but he hides it safely first. Years later, Peter is able to return to the box and rescue the book, restoring it to his hometown and its library.

Wild’s lovely and simple text allows the drama of the story elements to speak for themselves, never injecting more horror into it. That approach allows the reader to feel deeply the loss and pain of losing one’s homeland. Even the death of Peter’s father is subtle and gentle, allowing the grief to permeate more fully. It makes the focus on the importance of the book all the more tangible and vital.

It is Blackwood’s illustrations that truly make this book amazing. She has created layered illustrations that have shadows and depth to them. Throughout the images, there are pages of books shown. They fall as scraps of paper with words of hope on them, dash across the page as rain, and form the smoke of the burning town. They create the landscape and the foundation beautifully.  Here is an image from the book and Blackwood’s blog:

Treasure Box Image

A war-torn book that speaks to the power of history and knowledge along with resistance and resilience. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Fresh-Picked Poetry by Michelle Schaub

Fresh-Picked Poetry by Michelle Schaub

Fresh-Picked Poetry: A Day at the Farmer’s Market by Michelle Schaub, illustrated by Amy Huntington (9781580895477, Amazon)

Through a series of poems, take a visit to the farmer’s market. From the early work done by farmers long before their customers are awake to the market itself, this book celebrates one of the joys of summer. There are poems about how markets transform empty parking lots, the displays of heaped produce, the friendly sharing of samples, tempting baked goods, and the feeling of community that markets bring. It’s also a collection that celebrates the food too, the freshness of the produce and the bounty that people bring home.

Schaub very successfully has captured the summer joy of farmer’s markets across the country. One can hear the bustle and busyness of the market, captured in her poetry. Throughout there is a sense of humor and immense pleasure at what the market provides beyond the food itself. The poetry has a lightness that reflects the feel of summer and sunshine.

Huntington’s illustrations are equally bright and sunny. She incorporates people of a wide variety of backgrounds and cultures in her images, making sure to fully celebrate communities in her images. She also cleverly weaves a story in her images with a loose dog who adds to the energy of the day.

A fresh and vibrant look at farmer’s markets that is perfect zest to a summer day. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from library copy.