Carrot & Pea by Morag Hood (9780544868427, Amazon)
Lee is a pea and all of his friends are peas too. Except for Colin. Colin is a carrot. Colin is very different from the peas. He’s not the same green color. He doesn’t roll around like they do. He can’t really bounce and he can’t play hide-and-seek. But Colin is good at other things. He can be a slide for the peas to roll down. He can serve as a tower or a bridge. It’s because he is different that Lee loves him and so do all the other peas.
Hood takes a look at differences here in her very simple prose and while she points them out there is no sense at any time that Colin the carrot is misunderstood or left out. Instead the differences are pointed out and then embraced by the entire group. This ends up being a celebration of our differences and a look at how by being unique people provide new ideas for their community.
The illustrations are collaged out of plastic grocery bags. They have a wonderful texture to them that is very similar to crepe paper and their vibrant color adds to the appeal. The rows and rows of peas look out from the page, sometimes expressionless and other times very playful.
Great for even the littlest of children, this simple book on differences is as delicious as peas and carrots. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
Paul and Antoinette by Kerascoët (InfoSoup)
Paul and Antoinette may be brother and sister, but they don’t enjoy doing the same things. Sometimes that works out perfectly, like after breakfast when Paul neatens up and Antoinette licks the knives and plates clean as she clears the table. Antoinette wants to spend the day outside in the mud but Paul has other plans, like working on his model ship. When Antoinette sees her chance, she drags him outside with her, even though she knows that Paul doesn’t like the outdoors that much. The two play just as differently outside with Paul picking flowers for Japanese flower arranging and Antoinette licking snails. When they return home, Paul has to clean up and Antoinette is covered in mud. At the very end of the day though, Antoinette makes the type of mess that even Paul can enjoy.
Kerascoët is from France and is a well-known and award-winning illustrator. This picture book has a distinct European vibe that is completely charming. The two siblings demonstrate that being different from one another works when you accept that you won’t be changing each other. While they don’t always get along, the two respect one another and play together for most of the day. This isn’t about sibling rivalry at all; it’s about sharing, loving and accepting one another.
Kerascoët’s art is warm and delightful. There is a sense of humor throughout as the two pigs show just how clean one can stay outside and just how dirty you can get in the same trip. The moment where Antoinette licks the snail is wonderful and squidgy, vividly depicted on the page. When she plays with a cobweb beard that she puts on her brother, it is wonderfully sticky and itchy.
A book sure to create laughter, gasps and delight. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from library copy.
Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
The author of One for the Murphys returns with a brilliant second novel. Ally hates school. She’d much rather spend her days drawing the vivid pictures in her head. Homework is almost impossible for her, since she has such trouble reading. To cover up her problems, she uses her disruptions and gets sent to the principal’s office often. When Ally gets a new teacher though, things start to change. Mr. Daniels can see who she is under the reading and writing problems, offering her compliments about the way she thinks and the way she draws. As Ally gets more confident, she just might be brave enough to ask for the help she needs rather than hiding and trying to be invisible.
Hunt writes with a light touch, never negating the powerful feelings that Ally is wrestling with and how serious her issues are. Yet it is that soft touch that allows the book to be so effective in its approach to dyslexia and the variations in the ways different brains think. Throughout the book, there is hope and readers will yearn to have Ally recognized as the bright and funny person they now her to be. Hunt also incorporates a bully who is intelligently drawn with just a glimpse as to why she is that way and who is just cruel and mean enough to be realistic.
Ally is a wonderful protagonist. She doesn’t hide her difficulties from herself at all, but works so hard to hide them from everyone else in her life, something she can achieve because she is so bright. Throughout Ally is immensely likable, someone who would make a tremendous friend. I love that she does not become this as the novel moves on, but she is already there, just waiting for others to discover her behind the barriers she puts up. The two characters who become her close friends are also strongly written and unique voices too, adding depth and diversity to the story.
An incredibly strong novel, this one belongs in every library and will be inspiring to students and teachers alike. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from library copy.
From There to Here by Laurel Croza, illustrated by Matt James
This sequel to the award-winning I Know Here continues the story of a little girl who has moved from Saskatchewan to Toronto. She now contrasts their life in the rural woods with that in a new city. So much of her days are different now. Her father no longer comes home for lunch. They live on a city street instead of a quiet gravel road. Here they lock their doors, there everyone kept their homes open. There you could see the stars in the sky at night, here there are only the lamps shining. There the children played all together and there wasn’t anyone her age. Here there is!
Croza deftly shows the differences between two places, drawing them each with an eye to the positive. Even as the little girl misses and even yearns for her nature-filled home, she starts to see what is good about the new place she lives. Any child who has undergone a move will see themselves in this book, yet Croza has also written a very personal story of one little girl.
James’ art is rich and layered. He uses sweeps of colors on the page to convey motion and change. At the same time, he also uses parallel images that show the similarities of the places at the same time examining the differences.
Another triumph of a picture book, children will enjoy this as a sequel but it also stands nicely on its own. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
Oliver’s Tree by Kit Chase
Oliver, Charlie and Lulu are three best friends who love to play together outside. When they play hide-and-seek though, Oliver doesn’t have as much fun as the others. Lulu is a bird who loves to hide in the trees and Charlie the rabbit does too. But Oliver is an elephant, and he doesn’t like trees at all, since he can’t climb them. So the three friends set out to find a tree that will work for Oliver. The low trees are too small for him. Trees with big branches are too tall. When they finally find a big low branch, Oliver is thrilled. But then the branch breaks. Oliver has had enough and runs off to be on his own. He settles down on a huge tree stump and dozes off. That’s when his friends have one great idea that saves the day and creates a tree that even an elephant can love!
Chase sets a pitch-perfect tone here for young children. It’s a pleasure to see three children playing together in a picture book that is not about jealousy. This instead is a book that celebrates differences and has children who work together to solve a problem in a creative way. The result is a jolly book that has a fast pace and a cheery personality.
Chase’s illustrations have the same bounce as the text of the book. They have a friendly quality that children will immediately respond to as well as a sweet humor that is cheerful.
It’s perfect tree climbing season right now, even if you are an elephant! Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Putnam.
Henny by Elizabeth Rose Stanton
Henny was born just a little different than all of the other chickens. She was born with arms instead of wings! Henny liked her arms sometimes like when they flapped when she ran. Other times, she didn’t like her arms. Sometimes she liked being different and other times it made her feel sad and lonely. Henny had to worry about different things than other chickens like gloves or mittens. She tried to fit in with the other chickens, but she was always different no matter what she did. Then one day, she caught a falling egg and started to see how many ways she could use her arms and hands.
Stanton has captured exactly what it feels like to be distinctly different from others and the transformation that can occur when you realize the good parts of being unique. The text of the book is simple. She uses humor throughout the book to make sure the spirit stays light, even during Henny’s darker moments of doubt.
The watercolor illustrations are also quite funny. I particularly love the image of Henny running with her arms flapping behind her and that being one of Henny’s favorite things about her arms. By the end of the book, you are almost surprised to see other chickens with wings since the arms suit Henny perfectly.
A great pick to start discussions about being different, the light touch here keeps the subject approachable. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.
Exclamation Mark by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld
The creators of Duck! Rabbit! return with another book filled with bold but simple illustrations. This book is about an exclamation point that is just trying to be like every other very stable period around him. He tries everything to be the same, but it just doesn’t work. He meets a question mark who is also very different, but he’s really bothered by all of her questions. So he yells at her to stop! Then he tries out other exclamations, realizing that he’s suddenly discovered exactly what he’s made for.
An immensely simple book, I really appreciated the occasional zing of puns that kept it from becoming stale. The illustrations are done on lined paper giving the entire book a cheery aspect. The message is not done heavy-handedly, rather it is delivered in a playful and light-hearted way.
This will be welcomed in classrooms as a witty and jolly way to discuss punctuation. Expect the exclamation mark kids in the class to find a kindred spirit! Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Scholastic.
No Two Alike by Keith Baker
Starting with the fact that no two snowflakes are alike, though they almost are, this book merrily explores the snowy woods. Things are found in pairs, and pointed out to be different from one another. No two nests are the same, no two tracks in the snow. Branches and leaves are all different from one another. Throughout nature it’s the same. Even the two very similar little red birds who accompany the reader on the trip through the snow are shown in the end to be different from one another, “Almost, almost… but not quite.”
Just right for toddlers, this book looks at things that may seem the same but upon closer inspection are actually different. Baker’s writing is simple and effortless, gliding through the story with just enough support to carry the book. The rhythm and structure of the book also help make it a great read aloud.
His illustrations are equally light and cheery. The two red birds are merry companions for young readers as they explore the snowy woods together. Readers can stop and take the time to see the differences between things for themselves.
This book could be used in several ways. It could be used to explore differences in objects or for walks in nature to explore how each object is different. It can also be used as a gentle way to enter conversations about how we as people are all different too in many ways.
This sweet, jolly book makes is worth a warm snuggle on a wintry day and a walk in the winter weather to look up close at nature. Appropriate for ages 1-3.
Reviewed from library copy.
Same, Same but Different by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw
Elliot and Kailash are new pen pals. As they share letters, they share the differences and similarities of their lives in Elliot’s America and Kailash’s India. Both boys like to climb trees. Their families are very different with Elliot living with his mother, father and baby sister and Kailash living with an extended family of 23. They both have pets, but the pets are different. Both boys take a bus to school, but the communities are very different except for the traffic. The boys discover that they can be friends despite their obvious differences by looking to see how much they are actually they same.
Kostecki-Shaw writes with a very positive tone here. Through the two boys, she demonstrates how we are all so much more similar than we may realize. At the same time, she rejoices in the differences between the two characters, allowing us to see the different cultures side-by-side.
Her art is very effective as well, rendering both cultures with bright colors, plenty of motion, and a natural energy that captures the eye. She makes the differences between the cultures quite compelling.
A perfect book to share in a class along with a pen pal unit, this book is also a good pick for sharing when discussing differences since it takes such a positive approach. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Reviewed from copy received from Henry Holt & Company.