Forest Has a Song

I’m ready for spring, and while I can’t move to a warmer climate or force my tulips to Forest Has a Song cover.pngbloom outside, I can read this lovely book of poems about the forest. Today I heard a pinecone fall (from “Invitation”) are the opening words of the first poem to a book not only inviting us to explore the forest, but to explore poetry in a variety of forms.

These poems are accessible in that lovely simple way that only an expert can create. Amy Ludwig Vanderwater is that poet (you can read many of her poems on The Poem Farm, a must-bookmark site for any elementary teacher because it’s an encyclopedic collection of all her poems) and Robbin Gourley watercolours us through the forest in all seasons.



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Dark Shimmer

9780385746557.jpegDark Shimmer, Donna Jo Napoli‘s newest reworked fairy tale, set in medieval Laguna Veneta, Italy, is the story of Snow White’s stepmother and how she came to be evil enough to attempt murder four times. Named Docle (Sweet) in this story, we learn everything, her up-bringing as an outcast, her relationship to her own mother, her obsession with mirrors and her complicated psyche that includes both good and evil intentions.

Bianca, the Snow White character, is less of a focus, but we still find out about the reason she ends up with seven dwarfs, the reason her coffin is glass and how she ends up with a prince (in this version, she knows him, so it’s not some stranger who “loves” her for her beauty alone).

The story starts quiet, and slowly builds and builds and builds to a complete and satisfying fairy tale, expecially if you’ve read many of the older Snow White versions.

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The Tiger Who Would Be King

What happens when a tiger wakes up and decides he wants to be king of the beasts? This 9781592701827.jpganti-war fable by James Thurber explores the worst-case scenario where animals fight until they aren’t quite sure what they are fighting about. “Moral: You can’t very well be king of beasts if there aren’t any.” JooHee Yoon illustrates The Tiger Who Would Be King in vivid greens and reds that show the futility of war beautifully.

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I first picked up Pool by JiHyeon Lee because it was The Original Art Gold Medal Winner, and yes, the illustrations are gorgeous. What I found sticking with me, though, is the story. “But it’s a wordless book,” some lee2.jpgmight say. I hear a lot about wordless books, and that people don’t know what to do with them. The beauty of this book’s story is that it’s about a quiet boy (the inside jacket says “shy”, but after reading Susan Cain‘s work, I prefer to call him quiet) who wants to swim, but it’s so crowded, he doesn’t know how to join in. The story is perfectly married to the wordless format, because the way the boy finds his way is under the crowd of swimmers, where the solemn and expansive space underwater is a journey all its own–a  quiet journey.

Wordlessly, this book invites us to contemplate what happens, and sometimes the contemplation can happen more easily when there are no words to get in the way. As JiHyeon Lee says, “This is a picturebook without words. I did not intend to leave out words from the beginning. It was just that as the story unfolded with images, I came to realise that the images were enough. The absence of words means the readers can make up their own stories, in any way they like.” (Picture Book Makers)


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True Believer

cvr9780689852886_9780689852886_lg.jpgTrue Believersecond in the Make Lemonade trilogy by Virginia Euwer Wolff, is an honest look at faith, friendship and romance as seen through the eyes of LaVaughn while she navigates high school. Determined to stay on track for college though the odds seem stacked against her, LaVaughn inspires us with her honesty.


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The Tea Party in the Woods

The Tea Party in the Woods by Akiko Miyakoshi is a Japanese tale of Little Red Riding Hood, translated into English. A girl in a red skirt and winter hat goes through the woods to bring Grandma a pie. She thinks she’s 9781771381079.jpgfollowing her father, but it turns out she’s following a bear in a suit and overcoat to a house in the woods where woodland animals invite her in to lunch and encourage her bravery of traveling alone. In the end, the animals replace her crushed pie with treats from their table and walk her to Grandma’s house, where her father and Grandma greet her. This animal and woods friendly tale is illustrated in charcoal and pencil, with spots of colour ink.

For those of us who want to discourage the notion of a deep, dark forest with scary predators laying in wait, read this alongside other ecological tales as well as other Little Red Riding Hood variations.


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Nerdy Birdy

9781626721272.jpgNerdy Birdy doesn’t fit in with the cool birds. He’s alone until he’s invited to join a whole flock of birdies just like him: book-lovers with glasses who like to play video games (World of Wormcraft, that is). When new bird Vulture flies into town, Nerdy Birdy welcomes her into the club, but the club doesn’t accept her. Nerdy Birdy makes a choice, and though he and Vulture are vastly different, they make good friends.

Nerdy Bird, written by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Matt Davies, is a great story about friendship, popularity and group dynamics.

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Strictly No Elephants

The title and cover alone had me itching to read this picture book–there he is, a boy and his pet elephant (both wearing red scarves!) at a closed door with the sign “Strictly No Elephants“. The boy and his elephant aremedium.jpg friends; they know what friends do: “never leave anyone behind”, “brave the scary things for you”, and “lift each other over the cracks”. The problem is that Pet Club won’t accept them.

Never fear, for the boy and his elephant find a tribe of their own where kids have pets such as skunk, giraffe and porcupine. All are welcome.

A beautiful story by Lisa Mantchev and Taeeun Yoo about acceptance, inclusion and bias.


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Me And You

Anthony Browne‘s “enchanting new take on the Goldilocks story” is a treat to read and me-and-youexplore. While the three bears go on a walk and let their porridge cool, we simultaneously see Goldilocks’s story unfolding in wordless panes. Why did Goldilocks go into the bears’ house in the first place? And where did she run off to? Me and You is an interesting read sprinkled with mystery.

Find more versions of Goldilocks and compare.

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Nuts to You

Nuts to You is a highly entertaining and wise account of squirrels rushing around the forest, wondering what the humans are doing cutting down trees along the buzz path. perkins_nuts-to-youWhen Jed, TsTs, Chai and Tchke figure this out, they are off to warn the others. Unfortunately, most squirrels can’t understand the complicated process, so they turn moving into a Game.

“Live for the moment,” said Jed. “But bury a lot of nuts.”

Written and illustrated by Lynn Rae PerkinsNuts to You is a story within a story that’s fun, environmental and wise.

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