What Is Given from the Heart by Patricia C. McKissack, illustrated by April Harrison (9780375936159)
After his father died, James Otis and his mother got even more poor than before. They lost their farm and had to move into a small house in the Bottoms. Things kept getting worse as his dog disappeared and everything flooded. Christmas was sparse but they made their way through until spring. That’s when their church gave out love boxes to those in need. This year, one family had lost everything in a fire. James Otis was encouraged to give something to the little girl in the family, but what could he give? He had a few possessions, but he didn’t think she would like any of them. Finally, he had an idea, something that would speak to her heart. At church on the Sunday before Valentine’s Day, James Otis gave her the book he had made for her, and she was delighted with it. When he returned home with his mother, they discovered that they too had been given a love box to help them through.
McKissack died over a year ago; it is a distinct treat to have another one of her picture books published. Here she focuses on resilience in the face of hardship and adversity as well as the power of giving to others. For the young character of James Otis, thinking of another lifts his spirits and when he creates something for her, you can feel his pride on the page. The text of the book is uplifting and powerful, calling for everyone to step forward and help one another from the heart.
Harrison’s illustrations are done in mixed media with acrylics and collage. They have a deep texture to them in places and in others the patterns are layered and beautifully subtle, almost like complex batik. The light in the images glows with a honeyed color, creating a warmth in the face of poverty and a hope that encases the entire book.
A beautiful final book for McKissack that calls for heartfelt help for those in need. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Schwartz & Wade.
One of the vital elements that we all have to keep hold of both in this holiday season and throughout the year is how to be generous. Money is of course part of this and so is attention and time. Here are some great books on giving back to the world around you:
A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams
Fandango Stew by David Davis, illustrated by Ben Galbraith
The Gardener by Sarah Stewart, illustrated by David Small
Give and Take by Chris Raschka
Listen to the Wind by Greg Mortenson, illustrated by Susan L. Roth
Miracle on 133rd Street by Sonia Manzano, illustrated by Marjorie Priceman
Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe
Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson, illustrated by Sydney Smith
Stone Soup by Jon J. Muth
Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts, illustrated by Noah Z. Jones
Give and Take by Chris Raschka
A farmer who grows apples discovers a strange little man out in his orchard just as his apples are ready to pick. The little man is named Take and he encourages the farmer to listen to him so that he can have a fine life. Though the farmer already has a fine life, Take promises to make it better. So the farmer goes through his day taking everything. He takes all of his neighbors pumpkins when she offers him some. He takes her advice to make pumpkin soup, and he takes a long hike. Left wishing he had some apples to eat, he kicks out Take the next morning. Then when he visits his orchard that morning, he meets another little man named Give. Give promises to make his life sweeter, so once again the farmer tries. He gives everything away, including his apples and all of his opinions. He is left hungry another night and kicks Give out. But in the morning, he discovers the two little men fighting with one another. Can a farmer outwit these two battling forces?
Raschka has written this picture book with the tone of a fable. Readers will immediately see Take as a selfish force and then think that Give is the angelic voice. But Raschka’s take is more nuanced than that, showing the harm in being too giving with everything in your life and how it can turn toxic and harmful too. He then goes about having his farmer propose a balance of giving and taking in life. The result is a book that has balance, a folkloric rhythm and tone, and is a great read aloud and opportunity for discussion.
Raschka’s illustrations are his trademark flowing and free style. He uses watercolors contained with thick black lines. The bright red of the farmer’s nose and the apples pop on the page along with the pink pig and the orange pumpkins. As always, his book is art, changing with each turn of the page as the story is told.
Perfect for discussions about balance, generosity and greed, this picture book is a great balance of art and folklore itself. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum.
Ivy Loves to Give by Freya Blackwood
Ivy is a little girl who loves to give gifts. She gives a snail a shoe, glasses to the dog, tea to the hen, and a pacifier to the cat. Wait, that doesn’t feel right. Sometimes she does get it all right. The baby gets his pacifier. Her mother gets her tea, now with an egg in the cup. Her grandmother gets the glasses. Her father gets his shoe. But there is one thing that Ivy doesn’t want to give away, even though it’s not hers to keep. But she has just the right gift to say thank you for something given to her.
Blackwood keeps this book short and very sweet. Her brief lines of text are ideal for toddlers who will understand both the love of gifting and the love of keeping all wrapped up together. While the concept of the book is simple and will have children laughing at the mix-ups, Blackwood nicely ties the end together with something a bit more complicated. Handled very successfully, the topic of giving and taking is secondary to the family relationships we see at work in the book.
Blackwood’s art is done in pencil and watercolor, giving it a beautiful softness. The layout of the book is done with attention to the way it will read, offering plenty of white space beyond that needed for the words themselves. This expansive feel makes the book feel welcoming and warm. Her colors are vibrant and work to create illustrations that will function well with a group.
A solid choice for toddlers, this book is appropriate for ages 1-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Scholastic.
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