Leave Me Alone by Vera Brosgol (InfoSoup)
A grandmother is all set to start knitting for her very big family, but they just keep on interrupting her. The children love to play with her balls of yarn and she can’t seem to find a quiet place to work. So she packs up her knitting things and heads out the door, shouting “Leave me alone!” She finds a quiet place in the woods to knit, but soon she catches the interest of some hungry bears. She again has to pack up and leave, shouting “Leave me alone!” It doesn’t get any better when she climbs a mountain and finds a cave to work in. The mountain goats find her yarn delicious and even eat her scarf too. So the grandmother climbs up the mountain and onto the moon. Even there, the aliens won’t leave her alone. Where can one grumpy grandma go to knit? You will be surprised by the answer!
I applaud a picture book willing to take something that has a traditional folklore theme hearkening back to The Old Woman in the Shoe and then twists it into a modern and wild picture book that you never ever realized was even headed your way. It’s an impressive shift that happens in the story, leading back ultimately to an ended that restores the folkloric tradition but along the way takes it in a scientific and funny direction. Children will love the twist, adults will enjoy the surprise making this a great book to share aloud.
Brosgol’s illustrations are a hoot. With every new area that the grandmother attempts to quietly knit in, it seems like the perfect choice at first. Then slowly and with great pacing, the interruptions appear and then devolve into wild abandon. There are very clever moments in the illustrations: a goat perched on the mountain of yarn, the hungry bear who doesn’t scare the grandmother a whit, and the goat that wanders up to the moon too.
An outstanding read aloud with a very surprising twist, this picture book is a great example of mixing folklore and science. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
Baby Penguins Everywhere! by Melissa Guion
There was a penguin who was all alone on the ice floes. She liked the quiet, but sometimes it did get lonely. Then one day, she discovered a top hat floating in the water. Once the hat was on land, out popped a little penguin. And then another! The big penguin was very happy and no longer lonely. But then came another little penguin, and more, and more. Soon there were many, many little penguins everywhere. The big penguin was very busy and quite tired. She knew she just needed on little thing – a moment of quiet and solitude. But after that, she merrily joined in the fun with all of the other penguins again.
Guion frames her message about the need for quiet and solitude in a way that children will understand. The big penguin needs a little break, just like their parents sometimes do. The best part though, is that after that break, they are ready for more fun! The writing here is simple, making it just right for toddlers.
It is Guion’s art that really shines here. The delight of the first two little penguins is perfection and then the surprise of turning the page and realizing that they just keep on coming makes the book even more fun. Guion has her little penguins in constant motion, playfully coming up with new ideas and new toys. This is much more like a class than a family, so teachers may appreciate using this book as a way to explain their own need for some quiet time too.
A cheerful look at peace and quiet, this book is wonderfully rowdy too. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from ARC received from author.
May B. by Caroline Starr Rose
May has grown up living out on her family’s homestead on the Kansas prairie. When money gets tight, she is sent to become live-in help for other homesteaders, but just until Christmas. May finds herself in a small sod house fifteen miles away from her own. The young wife, who is almost May’s age, is unhappy on the prairie and runs away. The husband heads after her and neither return. May is left alone on the prairie where at first the days are lovely, sunny and warm and she enjoys the freedom. Then winter comes, and May is alone on the prairie with a dwindling food supply, just a little wood for heat, and only the prairie itself for company. This book written in verse is a look at the dangers, hardship and courage of homesteading.
Rose has written a book that pays homage to the Little House on the Prairie books and reads a lot like The Long Winter. At the same time, it also has a stark reality about it that makes it gripping. The format of a verse novel works particularly well here as most of the story is May’s reaction to her situation. What could have been lengthy treatises on loneliness instead are verses that speak to the harrowing nature of abandonment.
The book also deals with May’s dyslexia which makes her almost unable to read. She had one teacher, shown in flashbacks, who treated her with respect and worked with her. But after that, another teacher arrived who used shame to try to get May to learn to read. It is the story of an obviously bright and very resourceful girl with dyslexia. Her struggles to read strike a delicate balance in the book, showing an inner battle that plays against the external forces at work.
A taut, frightening novel of solitary confinement set in wide-open spaces, this book would work well with reluctant readers or as a classroom read. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from copy received from Schwartz & Wade Books.