A Blog of Children's Literature

Tupelo Rides the Rails February 13, 2011

Tupelo Rides the RailsTupelo Rides the Rails by Melissa Sweet
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Tupelo Rides the Rails by Melissa Sweet (2008)

Picture Book, 34 pages with 3 foldout pages

Tupelo has something for dog lovers and astronomers alike. Sweet does an outstanding job weaving literary elements of allusion, alliteration and other wordplay into a dog’s tale full of stars and stinky stuff. With very detailed mixed-media illustrations and longer text on each page, it may be a difficult read for a large group at story time. Then again, there is so much to look at on every page, little eyes will be able to absorb the images as little ears listen to Tupelo’s quest to find her place in the world. 4 or 5-year-olds will love following Tupelo’s tail on this journey full of hopes and dreams.


Dog and Bear: Three to Get Ready

Dog and Bear: Three to Get ReadyDog and Bear: Three to Get Ready by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dog and Bear: Three to Get Ready by Laura Vaccaro Seeger (2009)

Picture Book, 32 pages

As adorable best pals, Dog and Bear share domestic adventures of friendship and folly in three comic-like vignettes. Only an adult would notice that Dog’s sock monkey is just a chew toy, and Bear, an obvious descendent of the teddy clan, is a walking talking animal full of stuffing, color, and character. Throughout the book, the pair revels in the mischief of tight situations, grand imaginations, and most importantly, friendship. Vaccaro Seeger’s writing style, text, and illustrations all work fluidly to create a unique and whimsical friendship. With its clear text and comical illustrations, Dog and Bear: Three to Get Ready would be an excellent read for story time with pre-readers or beginning readers.


And Tango Makes Three

And Tango Makes ThreeAnd Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

And Tango Makes Three by Juston Richardson and Peter Parnell and illustrated by Henry Cole (2005)

Picture Book, 32 pages

Based on true events at the Central Park Zoo, And Tango Makes Three portrays a unique group of penguins who show that love and families come in all shapes and sizes. Paired with beautiful illustrations by Henry Cole, Richardson and Parnell’s narrative is a beautiful uncomplicated story of penguins Roy and Silo, two male penguins, who are best friends that desire to build a family together. Their lucky day arrives, and Tango is born into their lives, completing their small family. The book encourages more than just tolerance; it accepts all forms of love and all living creatures’ innate desires to love and be loved in return. Why teach hate, when you could teach children to accept one another?


Today and Today

Today And TodayToday And Today by Kobayashi Issa
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Today and Today by Issa Kobayashi and illustrated by G. Brian Karas (2008)

Picture Book, 33 pages

In Today and Today, G. Brian Karas takes on the complex task of compiling and illustrating various haiku from master poet Issa Kobayashi to form a collection of experiences during life’s seasons. Representative of the vast emotions and events in a lifetime, Karas creates snapshots of moments in one year of a family’s story. Younger children will delight in the colorful representations and simplicity of Kobayashi’s insightful lines, as more observant children and adults will savor the opportunity to close their eyes to hear or see Kobayashi’s profound lines take shape in their imaginations. Today and Today would also be a great way to help young poets begin to understand haiku and how few words can translate into so much more. This is a great book to help us all slow down and remember the deeper meanings in life’s simpler things.


The Heart and the Bottle

The Heart and the BottleThe Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers (2010)

Picture Book, 32 pages

The Heart and the Bottle truly captures the human experience and our fragility as temporary inhabitants of this lifetime. Using an extended metaphor to explore the stages of loss and heartache, the book shares the brilliance of a child’s passionate curiosity and its ability to heal all of us. Dealing with the pain of losing her father, a girl grows up with her heart locked safe within a bottle around her neck to avoid painful memories. However, this action leaves her even emptier without her father until she decides to do something to change it. With its deep storyline and unconventional illustrations, the book takes a unique approach to a topic that people of all ages have trouble dealing with. While the text may be simplistic and smaller readers may miss the deeper meaning, it may be just the read that enables a young one to open his or her heart to the world. I would suggest the book to a parent of a child who is having difficulty coping with a loss or who just needs an emotional pick-me-up.


Garmann’s Summer

Garmann's SummerGarmann’s Summer by Stian Hole
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Garmann’s Summer by Stian Hole (2008)

Picture Book, 41 pages

With its quirky graphics and poetic storyline, Garmann’s Summer is an interesting find. Hole’s graphics are reminiscent of mixed media collage art found in a contemporary art museum and on popular stationary sets. The narrative shares Garmann’s discussions with family members and their fears, as well as his 6-year-old interpretations of their adult idioms and expressions. With its longer text and busy images, I hesitate to read this book to a larger group at the library. However, I delight in the book’s presentation and how it challenges the stereotype of children’s literature. Garmann’s Summer will definitely be one of those books that children either love or hate, and I would recommend it to children ages 5 or older. There must be an enjoyment in the peculiar and unique to appreciate this work of art.


Fred Stays with Me

Fred Stays With Me!Fred Stays With Me! by Nancy Coffelt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fred Stays with Me! by Nancy Coffelt and illustrated by Trica Tusa (2007)

Picture Book, 32 pages

Living at each parent’s respective home, the protagonist in Fred Stays with Me! gets picked up and dropped off between divorced parents. Her adjustment to the lifestyle and separation seems to be going well because of Fred, her constant dog companion who shares her travels, while creating a disaster in his wake at both parents’ homes. As parents fight over who has to take Fred, the main character confidently interrupts her parents to remind them, “Excuse me! Fred stays with ME!” This book can work as an aid for children with newly separated parents but is also a reminder for parents, reinforcing consistency during this often difficult change in a child’s life. In a book more about regularity and companionship, Coffelt introduces another type of family in a matter-of-fact manner, while Tusa uses warm colors and welcoming illustrations to help young readers adjust to the concept. With its design and careful wording, Fred Stays with Me! would be a great book to share with a group.