Robert Sabuda‘s The Little Mermaid is a beautifully illustrated pop-up book based on the original Hans Christian Anderson tale. Poor Little Mermaid sells her voice for a chance to gain the love of a prince that never sees her for who she is. Instead, she does a lovely act of self-sacrifice (as do her sisters) and earns an eternal soul. Far from the fairy tales where happily ever after includes a marriage, this story is bittersweet. While the prince does get married, it isn’t to the little mermaid.
The illustrations pop out on every page, amazing everyone in my family, a true book for all ages.
Bob Staake’s Bluebird is a grand tale in pictures: a bluebird befriends a boy, and without a word, they share food, companionship and make new friends. They also run into bullies that shatter the earthly beauty of their friendship. The bluebird lives on in eternal clouds and sunshine and the boy shows us how to say good-bye.
Papa Bear settles in for hibernation while Little Bear chases a bee. Papa Bear chases after Little Bear, through the forest, into cabin country and finally smack dab in the middle of a city. We follow the bears inside an opera house where we see a cross-section of its attic to basement, Richard Scarry-esque. The ending lines sum it up: ”After all, hibernation is better with honey. And adventure is best enjoyed together.”
The Bear’s Song is a large book, perfect for fitting in all of French author/illustrator Benjamin Chaud‘s intricate drawings. Every page has so much to see, providing perfect conversation starters for parent and child.
In the mood for adventure? All The Earth, Thrown To The Sky will fulfill any gangster or road trip aspirations. Set in the 1930s Oklahoma Dust Bowl, Joe R. Lansdale touches on historical moments the way Forest Gump ended up in all the right spots.
Jack Catcher was having a hard enough time resisting the relentless dust storms on the farm, and then his mom died and his dad hung himself. When neighbors Jane and Tony show up, the three take a truck and head out of the dust. On their path to East Texas, they meet up with notorious bank robbers, hobos and carnival personalities. They jump trains, run away from gangsters and fall into indentured servitude. The Great Depression history is woven seamlessly into the story as each of the three make a new life in separate directions.
When Jane’s arm is amputated due to a shark attack, she has to negotiate new aspirations and friendships, along with learning how to button her pants and make scrambled eggs. In her poems, we feel the pain, the irritation, the longing to find happiness.
Jane was going to be an artist, but without her right hand, she can’t draw. At fifteen years old, she’s afraid of how people will look at her. She used to look twice at people with missing limbs too. And as Jane navigates the hospital, home and school with a missing arm, she also secretly begins to draw with her left hand.
Kelly Bingham‘s Shark Girl is a story of hope and persistence, but what is best about it is its tone. It’s never petulant, as one might expect. It is thoughtful, realistic and unexpected. Jane doesn’t feel like a strong person who is making through a tough situation that inspires others. She doesn’t act like it’s all going to be alright. Yet by the end, I did feel inspired in a quiet, assured way.
Xing Xing is trapped in a hard subservient life with her step-mother and step-sister during Ming China. Xing Xing’s strength never wavers; she works hard and saves her step-sister from a horrible infection by finding an ancient doctor several towns away. Near the end, the Cinderella tale becomes apparent and the beautiful final chapters show a modern relationship beginning between the prince and Xing Xing.
Equal parts historical fiction and fairy tale retelling, Bound refers to bondage both physical (the practice of binding feet) and psychological. Donna Jo Napoli gives us a strong female character worthy of Cinderella fame.
The National Book Award Winner for Young People’s Literature in 2013 was The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata. She also wrote the 2005 Newbery winner Kira, Kira.
Summer is in the midst of her unluckiest year ever when her parents have to go to Japan and she has to go on harvest with only her Japanese-American grandparents and younger brother. Harvest includes multi-state travel with a work crew to harvest the wheat in huge combines. Summer and her grandmother, Obaachon, were hired to cook all of the meals for their crew, and Jiichan, her grandfather, was a combine driver.
The harvest process is explained very well in this novel, as well as the intense pressure to do the job well and before bad weather hits. When Obaachon’s back seizes up and Jiichan gets sick, it’s up to Summer to keep their family employed.
The very best part of this novel is the oft cantankerous relationship between Summer and Obaachon. Their ongoing nitpicking manages to be both hilarious and endearing at once.
Ricardo Liners Siri has created a graphic novel for early readers. The Big Wet Balloon chronicles a rainy Saturday with sisters, one of whom is an eternal optimist. Sweet and filled with dialogue, readers who like Stella: Queen of the Snow, might like this too.