The elephant was staying in the shadows, not speaking or engaging with anyone. The other animals decide to try to cheer him up. First, the monkey told the funniest joke he knew, but the elephant didn’t even smile. The ostrich sisters did a dance, but elephant didn’t even move. The crocodile brought him a treat of acacia leaves, but the elephant just sighed. Then a small white mouse came up out of breath and asked to rest near the elephant. The elephant asked if the mouse was there to tell a story, but she just wanted to rest. So the two of them sat quietly together. The mouse eventually shared part of her story, making the elephant cry. The mouse cried too. Finally, when they were done crying, the elephant felt lighter and was able to stand up. The two headed off to find the mouse’s home together.
Translated from the French, this picture book about emotions and sadness shows how separate these blue emotions can make us feel. The elephant remains in the shadows, silent and sad, not even able to weep. Then the smallest of creatures with the simplest of gestures shows empathy. It’s that shared experience, the silence together, the moments taken, not to distract but to be with one another. The power of that, shown in such simple ways, resonates throughout the book.
The illustrations are full of contrasts. The pages with the elephant glow with blues and lurk with dark shadows. The elephant is almost a mountain at night, large and unmoving. The other animals are bright and colorful, the sky a beaming blue and the ground a neon yellow-green. The mouse arrives as the sun is lowering in the sky, creating a synergy between her side of the page and the elephant’s that shows their growing connection as well.
A deep look at sadness and the power of empathy to overcome it. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Bear and Smile spent all their time together doing all sorts of things. Smile was always there when Bear woke up in the morning. They both liked the same breakfast and to explore the forest together. They also both would do anything for some honey. But then one morning, Bear woke up and Smile wasn’t there. Bear called for Smile but they never came. Breakfast didn’t taste the same. Rabbit suggests that Bear look for Smile in their favorite places. But even eating honey doesn’t bring Smile back. Bird comes and sits close to Bear not saying a word. Then Bird started to sing and Bear hummed along. Soon Bear started to feel something deep inside. There was Smile!
Tarlow explores emotions in this picture book, allowing all emotional states to be treated with compassion and empathy. Bear is usually very happy but some days can be blue ones, where it’s impossible to smile. Treating Smile as its own character makes the book really work well. Readers will understand immediately and enjoy seeing what will bring Smile back. They will likely expect the honey to work, and when it doesn’t that’s a great moment where only quiet empathy will work to find Smile again.
The illustrations are done in watercolor, gouache and acrylics. They create an entire world for Bear and Smile to explore and live in together. From Bear’s cozy home to the waterfalls and forests of their habitat. The landscapes are filled with bright colors of water, flowers and leaves. When Bear gets sad though, he changes from his deep warm brown to a cool blue and stays that way until Smile returns.
An empathetic look at emotions and sadness. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Beach Lane Books.
This poetic picture book takes a deep look at emotions that hide inside. The emotions wait there, until the boy has the strength to look. Inside, he finds a mix of emotions, positive and negative. There is joy and happiness that “shines delight on everything I see.” There is sorrow like a watery grave for those who have been killed. There is fear that wakes him up at night. There is anger and fury. There is a hunger to be free. There is a pride in being a Black American. There is also peace, compassion, hope and love to carry him forward in making a difference.
Elliott’s poetry is marvelous, using imagery that children will understand to express all of these complex emotions, laying them clear and bare. The complicated mix of negative and positive allows readers to see their own emotions not as contradictory but as valid and important in the world that we live in. The clear use of Black Lives Matter throughout the book and the focus on race makes this an ideal read for our time.
Denmon’s illustrations are vibrant and powerful. Focused on the emotions, they convey those particularly well with body language and movement. They also capture critical moments in our modern times, including protests, police officers, murders. At the same time, they also show the beauty of an urban neighborhood filled with murals, people and homes.
Strong poetry that calls for social justice while exploring valid emotions. Appropriate for ages 5-7/
Reviewed from copy provided by Farrar Straus Giroux.
Why Do We Cry? by Fran Pintadera, illustrated by Ana Sender (9781525304774)
After a quiet morning, Mario asked his mother why we cry. His mother explained that people cry for many different reasons. Sometimes crying is due to sadness that can’t be contained. Other times we cry because of the anger we feel like a storm cloud raining and feeling lighter afterwards. Sometimes we are confused and searching for answers. Crying helps us grow and keeps us from turning to stone. Tears can be the best medicine when we are feeling pain inside and out. And then of course, there are times when we cry for happiness.
Pintadera beautifully explores the emotions that we all feel and how they can be expressed through our tears. This is such a heartfelt book, framed by a mother talking to her son about crying. It’s so critical that boys feel that they can express emotion and cry rather than feeling emotions as rage. This book not only supports that but explains the complexity of emotions and how they change and develop.
Sender’s illustrations are gorgeously emotional. She captures the feelings of isolation, loneliness, anger and confusion with real skill, moving from one color palette to another to convey each type of emotion.
A marvelous book about emotions and emotional intelligence. Appropriate for ages 3-6.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Kids Can Press.
Hungry Jim by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Chuck Groenink (9781452149875)
Jim wakes up one morning not feeling quite himself, after all he doesn’t usually have a tail to swish. His mother calls that she’s made pancakes for breakfast, but Jim isn’t in the mood for pancakes. He’s feeling beastly, so he heads downstairs for something delicious to eat, his mother! Jim is still hungry after that and heads out into the small town, munching on person after person. It’s not until he meets a hungry bear in the woods and Jim himself may be eaten that he manages to stop. On the way back, he spits out each of the people he ate. But he may not quite be done devouring things after all.
Everyone has some beasty part of their nature. This picture book captures that with a great sense of humor. It has connections to classic stories of gorging, but doesn’t end in quite the expected way, which is delightful. The creators mention Maurice Sendak in their dedication, and one immediately can connect this story with his. There is a great moment towards the end of the book where Jim returns to being human, but not entirely. It’s a reminder that even if we appear human, that beast still lingers and is hungry.
The art by Groenink has a distinct Sendak feel in its lines and color palette. The woods takes on a Wild Things vibe in its drama. The devouring is done in a very fairy tale style with no gore, just gulping, which takes the scariness away and also ties this nicely to classic stories like Little Red Riding Hood.
A book that is sure to appeal to your little beast. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Harpreet loves to express himself through the colors he wears, particularly the colors of his patka. Yellow was for when he felt sunny, pink for celebrating, red for courage, and blue for when he was nervous. When Harpreet moved across the country to a snowy city, he stopped wearing his colors. Instead, day after day, he wore white to match the cold outdoors and to be invisible. His parents tried to get him to wear different colors again, but he refused. Then one day, he discovered one of his classmate’s yellow hat in the snow and returned it to her. He loved the yellow and the smiley face on it. She loved his patka too. Steadily, Harpreet started to wear colors again, this time to celebrate a new friend.
Kelkar beautifully depicts the power of color in a little boy’s life while celebrating his Sikh religion at the same time. She takes the time to show what each color represents, along with the illustrations depicting what bravery, joy and nerves mean to him personally. The story is tightly written, focused on the nerves and loneliness of moving and finding your way. This focus makes the discovery of a new friend all the more powerful.
Marley’s illustrations show the range of colors that Harpreet has for his patka along with their matching outfits. Harpreet’s emotions, both joyous and sad, are clearly depicted in facial expressions and in body language. It is a huge relief when Harpreet’s world starts to be multicolored again.
Diverse and colorful, this picture book is anything but dull. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Sweep by Louise Greig, illustrated by Julia Sarda (9781534439085)
Ed was in a bad mood. It was a raging bad mood that hit him like a storm. It swept him up and carried him along with it. Ed started pushing leaves before him, sweeping animals and other things along the way. He piled up bicycles and even cars. But still he could not stop himself though he knew he had gone far enough. He stormed on ignoring the lovely things around him, caught up in his own mood. He swept and swept until darkness fell and everything was piled high. He sat down and considered stopping entirely but that might have been impossible without a shift in the wind that cleared the air and got him looking up again. It wiped out his bad mood entirely, or did it?
Greig’s writing will sweep readers away on Ed’s bad mood. Her pacing is gleefully great grabbing readers up and taking them across the pages at a breakneck pace. Until the reader is reminded to look up, and then later when darkness falls there is another wonderful pause. The mood of the book matches Ed’s cleverly, slowing at the end to enjoy the bright freshness of a good mood.
Sarda’s illustrations are filled with breezes and autumnal colors. The pages fill with leaves piling up and forming the glue that holds vehicles, animals and people. Entire mountains form eventually taking over the city. It’s wonderfully audacious and over the top.
Let this one sweep away your bad mood. Appropriate for ages 3-6.
Hank is a very prickly cactus sitting in a window and overlooking the emptiness of the desert. Occasionally others intrude on his blissful quiet, and he doesn’t respond in a very friendly way. When Rosie the tumbleweed rolls past, Hank ignores her entirely. Hank yells at a tortoise so loudly that the tortoise hides in his shell. Other animals and people pass too, each greeted rudely by Hank. Someone suggests that he needs a hug, but no one wants to hug a prickly cactus. The next morning though, Hank is less angry and more lonely. But what is a grumpy cactus to do? Hank may have a new and friendly idea.
Goodrich has created quite the character in Hank. Hank moves beyond just being rather ferocious and cranky into something more closely approaching sadness and isolation. That shift is the key to this book, one that allows readers to truly start to feel for Hank and his predicament. The use of being “prickly” meaning both personality and having sharp needles is clever handled and not overplayed in the text. The book is engaging and funny with a brisk pace despite being centered on a plant.
The art is done in a desert color palette with sand, rich blue skies at night, and changing clouds and weather. Hank himself is full of personality, grumpy as can be at times while being rather morose at others. Goodrich uses plenty of humor in the illustrations too, particularly with Hank himself.
A great pick for grumpy days when you might be feeling a bit prickly yourself. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy provided by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.
When it’s time for the caterpillars to make their cocoons and metamorphosize, one caterpillar isn’t clear what is actually going on. To make matters worse, he’s also quite impatient about the entire process. Once he starts his metamorphosis, he just can’t wait the entire time and pops out before he has changed at all. He rebuilds his cocoon, but continues to complain the entire time and ask whether it’s time to emerge yet. Happily, the second time, he does become a butterfly but his impatience isn’t cured quite yet.
Burach writes this picture book entirely in dialogue, showing both the impatience of the main character and the exasperation of those around him. Thanks to a high level of humor in the book, the main character is more funny than troublesome. Children will see their own impatience in him. I also deeply appreciated that he didn’t change at all by the end of the book, even after changing into a butterfly. The art is big and bold, filled with bright colors and lots of energy. It is ideal to share with a group.
A great mix of humor and STEM. Appropriate for ages 2-4.