Children's Book Reviews
Reviews of 2009 Titles
Bella & Bean by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, illustrated by Aileen Leijten. Atheneum, 2009. 978-0-689-85616-7
is a poet. She
spends her days in a tiny brick house up the hill from Spoon Pond
delicious words and fashioning poems at her tiny desk near a window
view. Bella is also a mouse, as is her
best friend Bean. Unlike Bella, however,
Bean is a mouse actively alive in the wide world, a wearer of jingly
wiggler of cute little toes, a planter of flowing snow bushes. Bean tries to wrangle Bella’s attention away
from the words floating through her mind and onto paper to no avail.
Nevertheless, Bean’s interruptions drift their way into Bella’s
and onto the page. The two friends end
their day honoring Bean’s love of nature and Bella’s love of words by
a joint poem at the side of the pond, beneath the stars.
This charming picture book, illustrated in
graphite pencil drawings painted in Photoshop, is a testimony to the
of friendship between two souls whose response to the world is
different, but whose love and respect for each other is not diminished
differences. Read this in conjunction
with a friendship unit in schools or to launch poetry-writing
activities in the
classroom or library. Suggested Grades: PreK-Second
Crocodaddy by Kim
Norman, illustrated by David Walker.
Kim Norman is a master of the rhythmic rhymed
verse! I TRIED to read this book
silently, but failed. It absolutely begs
to be read aloud and so I did--many times--to whomever would listen. The conceit here is a game played by the
first person narrator and his daddy on a hot summer day at the pond. In the water, dear old dad morphs into
Crocodaddy, at least in the duo’s imagination, and there begins the fun
fearless son launches the hunt with the delightful challenge: “Crocodaddy,/
Crocodaddy,/ swim away fast./ This day’s swim/ could be your last!”
dock to the croc’s back to the deep waters of the pond, croc and boy
in splashing fun that is illustrated in large acrylic illustrations
sharing at storytime.Suggested Grades: PreK-Second
Martha Doesn’t Say
Sorry! by Samantha Berger,
illustrated by Bruce Whatley. Little, Brown, 2009.
There is not a single preschool, elementary, or public library that will not want a copy of this completely charming and utterly on-point picture book about the resistance to and need for apologies! Martha, an adorable otter clad in pink dress and headband, does many nice things such as giving hugs, sharing her snack, making presents, and reading stories. But Martha doesn’t say sorry—no matter how bad her behavior is (think kicking, throwing, and even direct attacks with pancake batter, paint, or excessively loud noises). Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective), Martha’s mother, father, and baby brother respond to her refusal to apologize by withholding cookies, piggyback rides, and hugs. Bingo! As it turns out, that adorable little otter does say sorry—loud and clear! The illustrations here are large and uncluttered, the font large, the text simple. You’ll find frequent uses for this book with young children and they are likely to pick it up on their own, as well. Very Highly Recommended. Suggested ages: 3-6.
Punctuation Celebration by Elsa Knight Bruno, illustrated by Jenny Whitehead. Holt, 2009. 978-0-8050-7973-9
Teaching punctuation will be easier, more creative, and enormously more fun once teachers have Punctuation Celebration in hand. A Punctuation Field Day is the frame story that introduces the various punctuation mark “players,” including period, question mark, exclamation point, comma, apostrophe, quotation marks, colon, semi-colon, parentheses, elipses, dash and hyphen. A double page spread dedicated to each punctuation mark includes a rhyming verse defining the mark and its use as well as a poem appropriately utilizing the mark multiple times. Bright illustrations in gouache and cut paper lend personality to the cast of characters, marks and silly humans alike. This clever book will be a welcome addition to every elementary classroom where teachers will want to post the explanatory poems--and perhaps challenge students to memorize them—and surely invite students to create their own usage poems. School libraries may want to consider purchasing two copies. Suggested Grades: K-Fifth
Wintergirls by Laurie Halse
Anderson. Viking, 2009.