Tag: community

Be the Change by Arun Gandhi

be-the-change-by-arun-gandhi

Be the Change: A Grandfather Gandhi Story by Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus, illustrated by Evan Turk (InfoSoup)

Arun lives in a village with his grandfather. The purpose of life in the ashram was to work in service for one another. For Arun, that meant following his grandfather’s rules as well and the hardest for Arun was not to waste. One day, Arun grew tired of his vow not to waste and threw an almost worn out pencil away into the grass. When he asked for a new pencil that night, his grandfather said that he had had a fine pencil just that morning. He went on to explain that the thing of importance was not the pencil but Arun himself. So Arun set off after dark to find the pencil nub in the grass. Still, it would take more teachings from his grandfather for Arun to finally connect wasting nothing with nonviolence as Arun works to define what passive violence actually is.

In a lesson ideal for our time of large consumption and rude political discourse, this picture book is a gentle salve. It speaks of small moments of choice actually shaping our persona and our ideas. One small pencil nub is actually a decision to live without excess and without damaging others. The message is delivered through the curious eyes of a young boy who asks the questions that readers will also have. This is a lovely and accessible look at the teachings of Gandhi.

Turk’s illustrations are lush and patterned. He uses collage at times, fabric folds popping off the page. Gorgeous colors fill nature with purple trees, silver rimmed clouds, the glow of orange understanding after a darkness of shadow.

This second picture book about Grandfather Gandhi is a treat and offers opportunity for discussions about waste and care for others. Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum.

 

The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles by Michelle Cuevas

The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles by Michelle Cuevas

The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles by Michelle Cuevas, illustrated by Erin E. Stead (InfoSoup)

The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles lives in a small house on a hill near the sea where he watches for the glint of glass in the waves. It is his job to deliver any messages found in bottles to their rightful owner. Sometimes that means walking only a short distance and other times he must go on a long journey to deliver them. He wishes that one day he would find a message in a bottle that is meant for him, but he never does. One day though, he does find a message with no recipient mentioned. It is an invitation to a party on the beach. He heads into town and asks person after person if this is their message, but it doesn’t belong to any of them. He decides he must go to the party to apologize for not delivering the message to the right person. But what he finds there shows him that some messages are meant for him after all.

Cuevas writes with real poetry in this picture book. Her prose captures the essence of moments with gorgeous descriptions like, “Sometimes the messages were very old, crunchy like leaves in the fall.” The book celebrates the connection that letters bring each of us and takes readers back to a time when messages were written by hand, even if rarely placed in bottles. It is also a book that speaks to the importance of community and feeling like you belong, but also the vitality that can be found in taking the first step towards making that connection.

Stead’s illustrations are dreamy with their pastel colors and fine lined details. Some of them are almost like looking through a keyhole and watching while others encompass the page. There are pages filled with the water of the sea that show both the difficulty of the job and the loneliness of it too. Moments looking alone out of a window capture the isolation the Uncorker is feeling. The colors too add to the emotions of the images both during the isolation and later at the party.

A poetic and beautiful picture book that looks at letters, community and connections in a memorable way. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from ARC received from Dial Books.

 

All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor

All Rise for the Honorable Perry T Cook by Leslie Connor

All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor (InfoSoup)

Perry has lived in the Blue River Co-ed Correctional Facility for all eleven years of his life. His mother is incarcerated there and the warden has made it possible for them to be together. He sleeps in his own small room and makes the morning announcements out to the cell blocks. There are many people at the facility that he adores and who love his too, making up his family. He goes to school in the community nearby but obviously can’t invite his friends over to his house. As his mother’s parole date nears, a local DA discovers that Perry is living in the prison and has him removed. Perry is moved to live with the DA and his step daughter, who happens to be Perry’s best friend. There is also some question about whether Perry living at the prison will stop his mother’s parole. As the parole date is moved back, Perry works on a class project about how he came to live in the county and that means telling the stories of his prison family, particularly his mother’s.

Connor writes a piercingly honest book about the power of family and love, and the way that families don’t need to be nuclear to be functional and loving. Taking the unique perspective of a boy who grows up inside a facility, Connor demonstrates what a good prison looks like, how it can be a community and a home and how it can heal and allow for people to forgive themselves. The perspective of Perry’s mother is also shared in some chapters, giving the loving mother a voice as she tries to protect Perry from her own truth.

I must complain a bit about the title, which I continue to find confusing even after finishing the book. Add to that the cover which I also don’t relate closely to the book. It’s too bad, given the high quality of the writing and the story and I do hope that the paperback version does a better job of selling the real story inside.

A superb read that looks at prisons, families and the power of community. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from copy received from Katherine Tegen Books.

 

Review: Fire Engine No. 9 by Mike Austin

Fire Engine No 9 by Mike Austin

Fire Engine No. 9 by Mike Austin

Released September 22, 2015.

This picture book embraces the drama of responding to a fire, showing firefighters sliding down their pole, heading out to the fire, and then putting it out. Along the way, they hook the hose up to the fire hydrant, save a baby, and head directly into the burning building. The book is filled with sounds like alarms sounding, sirens blaring, smashing windows, and the water rushing out of the hose. Climactic and action-filled, this picture book is perfect for the youngest fire-fighting enthusiasts.

Short and filled with almost entirely words that relate to the sounds of a fire response, this book reads quickly and effortlessly. The pacing is frenetic but also systematic like the response itself. The entire book has the feel of excitement but also of an elite team that is prepared to help people.

The art is vibrant and filled with motion. When the fire engine is rushing to the fire, the entire vehicle leans forward with the speed. Dark smoke appears on the page as they reach the fire, billowing over the rest of the city. Bright reds are used very effectively as a background color to amp up the drama and imply the heat of the fire. One of the firefighters is revealed to be a woman at the end of the book, something got a cheer out of me.

Sirens, trucks, action and rescues make this simple book about fire fighters a dynamic pick for toddlers. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Random House Books for Young Readers and Edelweiss.

Review: If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson

if you plant a seed

If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson

Award-winning Nelson tells a story about the power of sharing in this simple and striking picture book. The story begins with a rabbit and a mouse planting a tomato seed, a carrot seed and a cabbage seed in their garden. Then the two wait through all kinds of weather for the seeds to sprout and grow. Until finally, they have three lovely plants and are able to feast on their bounty. Then the birds arrive and silently ask for the rabbit and mouse to share. But no sharing happens and instead there is a struggle and the plants are destroyed. One small red tomato survives and the mouse offers it to the birds. The birds in turn repay that kindness with seeds of their own which then sprout into a much larger and more diverse garden for them all to enjoy, along with even more animals.

Nelson’s writing here is simple but also to the point. He shows young readers what is happening in the story. Using the symbolism of the garden throughout, he explains the importance of sowing the seeds of kindness rather than selfishness and finally how beautiful it is in the end when you do that. There is little subtlety here and the symbolism is beautifully integrated into the story as a whole.

As always, Nelson’s illustrations are pure delight. His animals shine on the page, showing emotions clearly and beautifully both in their eyes and the positions of ears and tails. Other details bring the entire scene to life. Perhaps my favorite page is the birds silently watching the rabbit and mouse feast on the produce. It’s funny and yet the tension is clear too. The entire book is filled with small lovely moments like this told in images rather than words.

Community, sharing and kindness come together in this splendidly illustrated picture book that is sure to be enjoyed along with other spring gardening books. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: The Bus Ride by Marianne Dubuc

bus ride

The Bus Ride by Marianne Dubuc

Released March 1, 2015.

A little girl sets off on her first bus ride all by herself.  Her mother packed her a snack and her sweater too.  But this is not a normal bus, with its passengers of rabbits, a bear, a turtle, a mouse and a very sleepy sloth.  Stop by stop, the bus picks up and drops off more and more animals.  A family of wolves enters the bus at one point and the little girl shares her snack happily with the little wolf.  The bus goes through a dark tunnel and everything gets mixed around in the dark, but things are quickly sorted back into some sort of normal.  There is even a cunning fox thief that the little girl helps chase off the bus at the next stop.  This is one wonderful adventure for a little girl all on her own who has an amazing ride.

First published in France, this picture book celebrates a child traveling on their own.  Though the larger animals may seem threatening at first, those fears are quickly allayed by their actions.  Even the wolf family acts very appropriately on the bus.  There is the thief but again the little girl is empowered enough to put a stop to his shenanigans herself.  Children in the U.S. will be astonished at the freedom of this little girl and the trust she is given.  They will also love the Little Red Riding Hood ties that are evident in the story.

Dubuc’s illustrations are done in fine lines and subtle colors. That adds to the gentleness of the tale and the feeling that everything is nonthreatening and OK.  Subtle things change on each page and children will want time to look closely at the pictures, particularly after the tunnel switches things around.

Warm and confident, this picture book is a friendly introduction to bus rides even though real life ones aren’t likely to have bears, wolves and sloths as part of the community. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Netgalley and Kids Can Press.

Review: Beautiful Moon by Tonya Bolden

beautiful moon

Beautiful Moon: A Child’s Prayer by Tonya Bolden, illustrated by Eric Velasquez

On a moonlit night, a young boy realizes that he’s forgotten to say his prayers and hops out of bed to pray.  He notices the beauty of the yellow moon and begins to pray.  As the moon crosses the sky, it shines on the different people that the boy prays for.  He prays for people with no homes and the moon shines on a woman trying to sleep on a park bench.  He prays for wars to end and the moon shines on a man worried about his daughter who is a soldier.  He prays for the sick to be healed and the moon shines into a hospital room.  He prays that everyone has enough food and the moon shines on a family with empty cupboards and also into a food pantry.  He prays for his own family, even his pet turtle.  And back in his bed, he prays that the next night he will remember to pray.

Bolden manages to keep this book solely about prayer and the act of praying for others without defining what religion the boy is.  Her use of the moon as a unifying factor works well, creating a book that flows along in a natural way.  Bolden’s text is done in poetic form, capturing moments of people in need of prayers with a real clarity. 

Velasquez’s art is luminous.  He captures moonlit rooms and places with a cool but also rich light.  He celebrates diversity on the page, the people in the images a rich tapestry of color and ethnicities.  The little boy’s earnest face speaks volumes about the importance of prayer.

A nondenominational book about prayers, need and community support, this book celebrates the power of faith in a way that children will easily relate to.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Abrams Books for Young Readers.