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Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan

Source: Purchased
Hardcover, 56 pgs.
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Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan is a Newbery Honor Book, Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book, and Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book, and the author notes that he was inspired to write about the 11 slaves listed as property for the Fairchilds estate in 1828. The slave-related document only listed the slaves as “woman” and “boy”, etc., and no ages were given.  Bryan ascribed ages and names to these slaves and gave them jobs on the estate, and the stories he tells in a free-verse poetry format are telling.  My daughter and I read this together in February for Black History Month, but it is a book that has lessons that should be taught to kids everyday.

Bryan’s illustrations aim to breathe life into the dreams of these slaves, those who are bound to an estate with little hope of freedom, except in their minds.  They have skills praised by their owners, and any money they earn from the neighboring plantations enriches their owners.  It’s hard to see how this life could not make the slaves feel hopeless, but Bryan’s free verse poems recall the inner freedom their skills and accomplishments can bring — they have dreams of something more, if not for themselves, for others who they teach and mentor along the way.  From musicians to architects and doctors, these slaves had dreams that out shined their current situations.

Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan demonstrates the harsh realities of slavery, while still providing children with a glimmer of hope and joy.  It speaks to the resiliency of the human spirit, as well as the darker drive to control others and deem them less worthy for arbitrary reasons.  The illustrations are bright and dreamlike, and kids will be drawn in.  My only complaint is that the free-verse is very narrative, and less rhythmic than expected.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Ashley Bryan grew up to the sound of his mother singing from morning to night, and he has shared the joy of song with children ever since. A beloved illustrator, he has been the recipient of the Coretta Scott King—Virginia Hamilton Lifetime Achievement Award and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award; he has also been a May Hill Arbuthnot lecturer, a Coretta Scott King Award winner, and the recipient of countless other awards and recognitions. His books include Sail Away; Beautiful Blackbird; Beat the Story-Drum, Pum Pum; Let It Shine; Ashley Bryan’s Book of Puppets; and What a Wonderful World. He lives in Islesford, one of the Cranberry Isles off the coast of Maine.

A Tale of Two Beasts by Fiona Roberton

Source: Purchased
Hardcover, 32 pgs.
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A Tale of Two Beasts by Fiona Roberton is a colorfully illustrated story told from two perspectives — an exuberant young girl and a beast from the woods.  The young girl comes upon the beast in the woods and she decides to take him home and make him a pet.  Once home, the beast is dressed up, not allowed to leave, and shown off to all her friends, among other things.  Looking at the illustrations, kids should be able to tell that the beast is not very happy with the situation.  When the story is told from the perspective of the beast, we learn that the girl coming upon him and kidnapping him was a traumatic experience.  He doesn’t like being man-handled, etc., but later, both characters learn to set reasonable boundaries and a new friendship is born.

Parents can use this book to demonstrate empathy to their children, showing them that each story has two sides and that finding common ground is not as difficult as it may seem.  A Tale of Two Beasts by Fiona Roberton is a good story with lots of action and words that kids in Kindergarten could read on their own.

RATING: Quatrain

DC Super Friends: Girl Power!

Source: Public Library
Hardcover, 16 pgs.
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DC Super Friends: Girl Power! is a board book that introduces young readers to not only Super Girl and Wonder Woman, but also Catwoman and Poision Ivy. Catwoman has stolen jewelry in this one and the superheroes come together to find and bring her to justice. There are flaps to lift in every scene, and while my daughter enjoyed that part of it, it seemed a little young for her.

Each of the characters have a young fresh face, which makes them easy to relate to for young children.  The flaps will keep preschool and younger children engaged as their parents read the text to them.  But lest you think the male counterparts are not to be seen, the book also includes Superman, Green Lantern, Two-Face, and more.  They all work together to fight against injustice and crime, and at the end they celebrate together.  Meanwhile, Catwoman is foiled by a fellow villain, Cheetah — which further demonstrates that crime not only doesn’t pay but that there seems to be no loyalty and friendship in it.

DC Super Friends: Girl Power! is a good board book introduction for younger kids, but for those in Kindergarten, the story is a little all over the place and more about introducing characters than a fight against crime.

RATING: Tercet

The Secret Life of Lilykins by Max Goodman, illustrated by Erik Mace

Source: Smith Publicity
Paperback, 28 pgs.
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The Secret Life of Lilykins by Max Goodman, illustrated by Erik Mace, is a charming story about imagination, defeating boredom, and learning to enjoy siblings. Lily is a cat with two dads and a brother, but she also has a vivid imagination. Rather than merely wash her own fur, eat, and nap, Lilykins is a queen and a scuba diver, as well as a huntress.

The illustrations are colorful and kids will enjoy following this cat on her adventures, even if many of those adventures are in her mind. The book reads like poetry, with a gentle rhythm that will keep kids listening. There are context clues for the larger words used, so it also strives to expand kids’ vocabularies. Lilykins can be calm, but she also can be wildly crazy.

The Secret Life of Lilykins by Max Goodman, illustrated by Erik Mace, is an adorable children’s picture book about the power of imagination as a tool against boredom. It also strives to demonstrate that we can be anything. Our limitations are only as high as the skies and as narrow as our own imaginations.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Max Goodman lives in New York City with his husband and two very important cats. By day, he works as an advertising copywriter. The Secret Life of Lilykins is Max’s first book.

 

The Little Shop of Monsters by R.L. Stine and Marc Brown

Source: Purchased
Hardcover, 40 pgs.
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The Little Shop of Monsters by R.L. Stine and Marc Brown is a fun book that kids will love. It has monsters who are slimy, ones that smell, and more. The kids are asked not to feed the monsters and to not get too close. Some are hungry and others just say, “hi”, differently. The illustrations look like colored pencil drawings and each monster has its own unique look.

My daughter loved these monsters and their gross habits. Some sneezed all over you and others tickled you. It’s a great book to be interactive with. While your child is shopping for a monster of their own, they soon discover that the monsters are doing a little shopping too! The Little Shop of Monsters by R.L. Stine and Marc Brown is just a fun book, but beware, monsters might follow you home.

RATING: Cinquain

Trick or Treat! by Hayley Down, illustrated by Sarah Vince

Source: Purchased
Hardcover, 24 pgs.
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Trick or Treat! by Hayley Down, illustrated by Sarah Vince, comes with its own little, orange and black flashlight for children to use while reading. This book is best read in the dark as the hidden pictures are easier to see when the flashlight is the only light on the page. My daughter selected this from her school bookfair shortly before Halloween, and its tale came at the right time. The hidden ghouls, skeletons, and more, as the brother fears everything and the sister is scared of nothing that goes bump in the night.

Anyone who came to the house before Halloween or arrived on Halloween for Trick-or-Treating was given a peek at this gem. She pulled it out in the dark living room with her best buddy and her brother to show them what was inside. All us parents heard was ooos and ahhhsss. I assume the other kids liked this one as well.

Trick or Treat! by Hayley Down, illustrated by Sarah Vince, has a nice basic story about exploring the unknown and not letting fear rule your actions. Kids will take to the story and the flashlight fun easily.

RATING: Cinquain

Stuck on Fun! Play with Patterns, Sticker Tape, and More! by Jannie Ho

Source: QuartoKnows
Hardcover, 36 pgs.
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Stuck on Fun! Play with Patterns, Sticker Tape, and More! by Jannie Ho has stickers, pop-out characters to dress up, and patterned paper and stencils to create clothes and accessories. The paper patterns are mostly flowers and other embellishments, though there are a couple that are geometric or have animals. The stickers you can use to make belts and other accessories are a wider variety. The book also contains several scenes that kids can use to create their own stories, such as going to shopping or going on a trip to outer space.

Here’s some of the fun creations we made (she made them; I was just the assistant):

The book tells you what materials are available inside and what additional materials you’ll need, such as scissors and glue. You can also add your own pom poms and glitter if you have those on hand. There are other project ideas inside as well. This book could offer kids hours of fun, especially if they like to create their own characters. We really liked that there were a variety of characters, including an alien. One draw back for us was that you couldn’t remove the stencils from the book, unless you cut the cardboard to take them out. It makes it hard to trace the clothing patterns inside the book because of how many stencils are inside.

Stuck on Fun! Play with Patterns, Sticker Tape, and More! by Jannie Ho is a great book to use on a rainy or wintry day with kids. Have a blast; get creative.

RATING: Quatrain

Pizza and Other Stinky Poems illustrated by Amanda Haley

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 32 pgs.
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Pizza and Other Stinky Poems illustrated by Amanda Haley is reading level four (grades 3+; ages 8+), but when read together can be a fun book for kids and adults of all ages. My daughter and I read this during Readathon, and she laughed at the words and the pictures created by Haley. There’s even an old favorite in here that I remember from my own childhood, “Meatball,” and one we still use today “Ice Cream” (“I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Ice Cream”).

It’s been wonderful to see my daughter pick up books and want to read together, and it is even better when she reads to me. It amazes me how much she has learned in just half a year of Kindergarten. She has books now that she can read on her own, and I know that this poetry book will be a permanent part of her collection.

Pizza and Other Stinky Poems illustrated by Amanda Haley is delightful and plays to children’s interests in food, smells, and silliness.

RATING: Quatrain

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Poetry for Kids: Emily Dickinson edited by Susan Snively, PhD, illustrated by Christine Davenier

Source: QuartoKnows
Hardcover, 48 pgs.
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Poetry for Kids: Emily Dickinson edited by Susan Snively, PhD, and illustrated by Christine Davenier is ideally for ages 8-13, and the illustrations are gorgeous and can be appreciated by readers of any age. Davenier uses a watercolor technique to illustrate the 35 poems in this volume, which Snively curated. Some, if not all, of the poems included have been modified from the original poem. In some cases, the em dash is removed and replaced with other punctuation, and in other cases, words that she capitalized are not in these versions. Dickinson readers will notice these changes very easily, and if these changes bother you in a kids book, this is not the volume for you.

I loved how the poems were presented here, and although this is a little old for my daughter, she listened as I read. The terms she would not be familiar with are defined on the pages where the poems appear. She may not have understood everything I read, but the lines and words Dickinson used — especially as nature is front in center — are things that even younger kids can relate to. She really loved the colorful pictures. They’re wonderful.

Poetry for Kids: Emily Dickinson edited by Susan Snively, PhD, and illustrated by Christine Davenier breaks down the poems by season and in the back, there is a list of what Emily Dickinson might have been thinking at the time the poem was written. For the age group this book is curated for, it is well presented and could be a stepping stone for deeper discussion of Dickinson, her unconventional life and writing, and what she was “thinking” as she wrote.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Poet:

Emily Dickinson was an American poet who, despite the fact that less than a dozen of her nearly eighteen hundred poems were published during her lifetime, is widely considered one of the most original and influential poets of the 19th century.

About the Editor:

Susan Snively grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, and now lives in New England where she is a guide, discussion leader, and film script writer for the Emily Dickinson Museum. She was the founder and first director of the Writing Center at Amherst College, where she worked from 1981 until 2008. She taught courses in writing and autobiographies of women, and has published four collections of poems: From This Distance (1981), Voices in the House (1988), The Undertow (1998), and Skeptic Traveler (2005). View her complete bibliography. Susan Snively has received numerous Prizes and Awards for her writing, and continues to lecture and give readings.

About the Illustrator:

Christine Davenier is an author and illustrator of children’s books. She has illustrated a large number of books, the authors of which include Jack Prelutsky, Julie Andrews and her daughter Emma Walton Hamilton, Madeleine L’Engle and Juanita Havill, and has received critical acclaim.

I am NOT a Princess! by Bethany Burt, illustrated by Brenda McCallum

Source: Schiffer Publishing
Hardcover,
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I am NOT a Princess! by Bethany Burt, illustrated by Brenda McCallum, follows Eliza, a little girl who gets the idea that she wants to be a princess. She has everything she needs from the frilly pink dress and glass slippers to the beaded purse and gloves. From what she knows of princesses, Eliza turns down bike riding with her friend and going to the store with her mother because princesses have carriages and servants. After spending much of her day alone twirling and turning down other fun things to do, Eliza begins to realize that being a princess is boring.

While I liked the idea of this book and Eliza does realize that her perception of being a princess leaves her with little to do, she doesn’t come to the realization that princesses are more than frilly dresses and looking pretty. The author could have taken a moment for the mother to point out some other real-life princesses who did more than just look nice and order people around (i.e. Princess Diana).

I am NOT a Princess! by Bethany Burt, illustrated by Brenda McCallum, includes some great illustrations of Eliza and her escapades, but I wanted a bigger message here. Rather than Eliza realizing she likes to ride bikes and play ball with her brother and bake cakes and make messes, I wanted her to see that being a princess could be much bigger than the stereotype.

RATING: Tercet

Mabel and the Queen of Dreams by Henry, Joshua, & Harrison Herz, illustrated by Lisa Woods

Source: Schiffer Publishing
Hardcover, 32 pgs.
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Mabel and the Queen of Dreams by Henry, Joshua, and Harrison Herz, illustrated by Lisa Woods, is an adorable picture book that will help parents get their little ones to sleep. Parents know that children try their hardest to stay up the minute they are told it is time for bed. It’s as if they fear they are missing out on the fun, when in reality, their parents are merely sitting like zombies in front of the television.

In this book, Mabel is introduced as an expert on not going to sleep — something most children are at her age. As Mabel thinks up one more excuse — tell me a story — the mother replies that she cannot because the “Queen” will not visit until she’s closed her eyes. Her mother only begins the story about the fairy queen when Mabel has lied down and closed her eyes. Mabel begins to drift away with the sound of her mother’s voice, and by the end of the book, your children may be asleep as well — so long as they follow Mabel’s example.

The illustrations in Mabel and the Queen of Dreams are simple pencil drawings that are lightly colored, providing them a dreamlike quality. Mabel and the Queen of Dreams by Henry, Joshua, and Harrison Herz, illustrated by Lisa Woods, is a wonderful bedtime story to add to any collection.

Our daughter really liked this one and we’ve probably read it a few times since it arrived.

RATING: Quatrain

Raccoon on the Moon and Other Tales illustrated by David Semple

img_3746Source: Purchased from Usborne Books
Hardcover, 144 pgs.
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Raccoon on the Moon and Other Tales, illustrated by David Semple, is a set of stories in the Phonics Stories series for young readers.  With my daughter beginning Kindergarten this year, I wanted to get some more books focused on phonics, and this one looked cute, especially since my daughter loves animals and outer space.  Since this book arrived in the house, it has been part of the evening reading ritual before bed.

Each night she picks a story from the list, and we read it.  If we have time, she begs for a second story. The illustrations are clear, brightly colored, and fun!  Kids will love these stories and, after several readings, they will be reading along with you.  In the final pages of this collection of stories, there are puzzles for kids to complete — from finding which words rhyme or which words in the sentence are the wrong one given the context and image.

Our favorites in this collection are Raccoon on the Moon, Llamas in Pajamas, and Mole in a HoleRaccoon on the Moon and Other Tales, illustrated by David Semple, is a fun collection to help young readers learn new words, take adventures with fun animal characters, and read long with their parents.

RATING: Cinquain

***For those on Facebook, I’ll be having a book party for Usborne on Oct. 21. I can invite you if you are interested, though we have to be friends on Facebook***