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Fables by Arnold Lobel

Source: Public Library
Hardcover, 48 pgs.
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Fables by Arnold Lobel includes beautiful illustrations with one-page fables, some of which still apply today. There are a few fables that could use better messages for kids, which is why parents should carefully choose which fables to read their children. This book is a bit challenging to read for my daughter, but we’ve talked about each fable and parsed the story to find the meaning of each tale.

One of our favorites was the “The Poor Old Dog,” who has no home and a worn coat and shoes until one day he finds what he thinks is a magic ring. In this story, readers learn that wishes may not always come true immediately after making them and that patience is key in making wishes, as well as ensuring they come true. “The Ostrich in Love” is a tale my daughter thought was odd because the Ostrich never talks to the girl he loves, but he does all of these nice things for her. “Love is its own reward,” the tale says, but my daughter is not convinced — she’s still young yet.

“The Hen and the Apple Tree” is a tale with a wolf naturally and an inquisitive and skeptical hen — and well she should be. My daughter liked this one, even when we discussed how hard it is to be something we are not. Another favorite was “The Hippopotamus at Dinner,” which is appropriate considering this is the holiday season in which we all tend to overindulge a bit.

Fables by Arnold Lobel provides some unique stories for kids to read together or to have read to them. The illustrations are colorful and realistic, which makes the tales all the more real for kids. While some of the lessons are outdated and could be updated a bit for kids of the modern era, parents can take that extra time to explain those stories to children in a way that makes more sense.

RATING: Tercet

Bunjitsu Bunny vs. Bunjitsu Bunny by John Himmelman

Source: Library
Paperback, 120 pgs.
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Bunjitsu Bunny vs. Bunjitsu Bunny by John Himmelman is the fourth book in the series, and Isabel is making new friends, facing fears, and learning that you can never win if you stand in your own way. The book is chock full of drawings in black and white for the most part, except of course our intrepid hero, Bunjitsu Bunny. These are chapter books with pictures and have helped my daughter transition to books with longer chapters. It’s been a long road with reading, but this series has kept her going.

My daughter did not want this series to end, and she made me renew the book at the library several times before she would pick it up and start reading.

The title story comes very quickly in this book, and my daughter kept looking for another chapter in which Bunjitsu Bunny battles herself, but I think there is a subtlety she missed in some of the later chapters where Isabel must overcome her own hurdles. The last chapter finds out bunny getting a well deserved rest, but we’re hopeful that more adventures will come for this hero who uses her brains and savvy to overcome her opponents and help her friends — and sometimes strangers, too.

Bunjitsu Bunny vs. Bunjitsu Bunny by John Himmelman carefully weaves in zen teachings with the art of karate, etc., to teach kids to use more than might and anger to solve problems. A wonderful series for boys and girls alike.

RATING: Cinquain

Bunjitsu Bunny Jumps to the Moon by John Himmelman

Source: Public Library
Paperback, 144 pgs.
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Bunjitsu Bunny Jumps to the Moon by John Himmelman is the third book in the series, and as you probably guessed, my daughter loved this one too. She now has me acting out the scenes using her favorite stuffed animals.

Here, Bunjitsu Bunny continues to learn lessons in kindness and patience, as well as the value of practice. In the same zen-like manner, this bunny tackles the challenges she faces with calm thoughtfulness. One great lesson is to look in front of you for the answers you seek before running around everywhere else to find the answers.

In addition to the Bunjitsu Code, which is in every book, there is an interview with the author. Kids can learn about Himmelman’s favorite subject in school, which just happens to be my daughter’s favorite — art. I loved learning about the origin story for Bunjitsu Bunny, especially since this talented martial artist is based on a real young woman who had similar talent in martial arts.

Bunjitsu Bunny Jumps to the Moon by John Himmelman is another fantastic installment. Isabel is the best bunjitsu student, but she also has a big heart and is willing to help others and be responsible. There are so many wonderful lessons for children, and they can read these books to you.

RATING: Cinquain

Other Reviews:

Bunjitsu Bunny’s Best Move by John Himmelman

Source: Public Library
Paperback, 128 pgs.
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Bunjitsu Bunny’s Best Move by John Himmelman is the second book in the series and further explores how kids and bunnies can avoid fighting even when someone is determined to fight with you. The power of the mind and kindness are on full display in these adventures.

These are great beginning chapter books for kids. My daughter sometimes asks to read just one more chapter before bed, if she’s not really tired or really interested in what Bunjitsu Bunny is doing next. While many of these adventures just take one chapter from beginning to end, it gives kids a chance to see how longer chapter books continue a story with the same characters. It gives them an opportunity to see that longer books are not necessarily going to be too hard or boring.

One of my favorite adventures in this book teaches patience and the importance of practice. It involves a little bit of origami and even offers step-by-step instructions on how kids can make their own paper bunjitsu bunny. Bunjitsu Bunny’s Best Move by John Himmelman is wonderful second book that moves the series out into its own and away from revamped folk tales.

RATING: Cinquain

Other Reviews:

The Tales of Bunjitsu Bunny

Good Crooks: Missing Monkey! by Mary Amato and Ward Jenkins

Source: Public Library
Paperback, 128 pgs.
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Good Crooks: Missing Monkey! by Mary Amato and Ward Jenkins is a story about kids whose parents are thieves, but they have other plans. Billy and Jillian Crook are happy to do good deeds, but one good deed lands them in hot water when their parents assume they are at the zoo to steal a monkey. Complete with funny lists of what taking care of a monkey is like, these two Crooks are sure to have kids reacting out loud — whether that’s with loud EWWs or laughter.

My daughter has been reading all summer, which is a plus given that last summer she flat out refused. We’re now in a nighttime reading routine, which I hope to continue in the fall when school starts. With this one she read 2-3 chapters per night because she wanted to see what happened next. It took her a few chapters to get into the story, which is told from Billy’s point of view. Razzle the monkey made the story even more funny, since he liked to cause mischief.

Good Crooks: Missing Monkey! by Mary Amato and Ward Jenkins is a delightful story with adventure, humor, and gross stuff that kids will relate to. There are a number of harder words that kids will have to sound out, but it is well worth the effort. There’s also an underlying message about the power of doing good deeds not only for your own community, but for yourself too.

RATING: Quatrain

Wallace and Grace Take the Case by Heather Alexander and Laura Zarrin

Source: Public Library
Paperback, 80 pgs.
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Wallace and Grace Take the Case by Heather Alexander and Laura Zarrin is the second book in the series of early chapter books for young readers. Wallace and Grace are the best of friends. Wallace loves facts and often takes notes in his notebook when they are working on unraveling a mystery, while Grace loves to puzzle things out based on those facts. In this case, Edgar, the rabbit, says there is a ghost preventing him from eating the kale in his garden.

My daughter likes this series of mysteries, which are not overly complicated, but do get her thinking about things differently and deductively. One complaint she had was that Grace likes to use big words like courageous, which she finds difficult to pronounce. This may be the case now, but as she grows as a reader I hope that complaint will disappear. Regardless, this does not detract from her enjoyment in reading these aloud at bedtime, and she’s told me she wants to go to the bookstore to buy the series. (I think there are only 3 at present)

Wallace and Grace Take the Case by Heather Alexander and Laura Zarrin is a delightful mystery series with my daughter’s favorite kind of character — animals with personalities. She enjoys reading these at bedtime, and sometimes doesn’t want to stop at just one chapter because she knows she’s close to finding out what the mystery is.

RATING: Quatrain

The Tales of Bunjitsu Bunny by John Himmelman

Source: Public Library
Paperback, 128 pgs.
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The Tales of Bunjitsu Bunny by John Himmelman offers a variety of tales of Bunjitsu Bunny, who is a master of the arts. Isabel is a thinker, and she often finds a more peaceful solution to any challenge she faces. Although the Bunjitsu Code is at the end of the book, it is clear throughout the book that the code is Isabel’s guiding force. This early chapter book for young readers offers simple fables with a mix of Eastern philosophy and simple black and white drawings with red. These tales are a new twist on older stories like ‘Tortoise and the Hare.”

Isabel is the best in her class, but she rarely uses brute force to solve problems. My daughter has been looking for books to keep up with her reading this summer, but she initially balked at this story. She told me that she was not into ninjas, but she quickly changed her mind when she started reading. I think Isabel’s calm personality, intelligence, and ability to address problems without fighting interested her.

The Tales of Bunjitsu Bunny by John Himmelman is a delightful early chapter book for young readers. It has enough illustrations to illicit laughs and interest from young readers. She’s eager to get the next book in this series.

RATING: Cinquain

Wallace and Grace and the Cupcake Caper by Heather Alexander and Laura Zarrin

Source: Public Library
Paperback, 80 pgs.
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Wallace and Grace and the Cupcake Caper by Heather Alexander and Laura Zarrin is a cute chapter book that was easy for my daughter to read to me every night. As we’re trying to keep her on track for reading, this was a great choice since she seems to like animal main characters and mysteries. Wallace is a note taker during the case, and he makes sure that all the clues are captured. Grace is a thinker and puzzle solver. She loves to see all the pieces strewn about and ready for her to put together.

Monty the chipmunk’s cupcake is stolen, and he points the finger at the groundhog, Sal, but Sal insists he didn’t take it. He does admit to eating some of the frosting. As Wallace and Grace follow the clues, readers soon find that some other things are missing from the forest.

Wallace and Grace and the Cupcake Caper by Heather Alexander and Laura Zarrin is a great starter chapter book for early readers that still has enough illustrations to keep kids motivated and engaged. My daughter was excited about getting the next book in the series.

RATING: Quatrain

Pug Pals: Two’s a Crowd by Flora Ahn

Source: Public Library
Hardcover, 121 pgs.
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Pug Pals: Two’s a Crowd by Flora Ahn is a story about accepting change and learning to accept a new situation — and eventually come to enjoy it. Sunny is a pug who is spoiled by her owner, with a billion stuffed toys, run of the house, and lots of love. But when her owner brings her not another new toy but a little sister pug named Rosy, Sunny is less than pleased. She doesn’t like sharing at all, and she’s annoyed by Rosy’s antics all the time. She particularly hates how Rosy is always slobbering all over her ears.

Eventually, Sunny blows up angrily when Rosy loses Sunny’s favorite stuffed bunny. Sunny says some harsh things to Rosy. After cooling off, Sunny has to go out in search of her little sister and her missing stuffed toy.

This summer, my daughter and I have traveled to the library in search of more challenging books to read, so she doesn’t lose her skills over the summer. We’ve read this book together over the last week or so in between summer swim team activities. For the most part, the story was right up her alley with animals and a mystery. There were some harder words for her to sound out, which was good, but also a bit frustrating for her. But overall she enjoyed the adventure with these two pups.

Pug Pals: Two’s a Crowd by Flora Ahn is a good read for early readers looking for a challenge, but who also want some illustrations to help them visualize the story, too. There are about 10 chapters in this book, so we’re gearing up for longer chapter books. We’ll likely seek out book 2 in this series.

RATING: Quatrain

The Gingerbread Man and the Leprechaun Loose at School by Laura Murray, Mike Lowery

Source: School library
Hardcover, 32 pgs.
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The Gingerbread Man and the Leprechaun Loose at School by Laura Murray, illustrated by Mike Lowery, is a book from the series The Gingerbread Man on the Loose, and it pairs the resourceful gingerbread man’s wits with those of a mischievous leprechaun. The leprechaun is on the loose in the school and making big messes. The gingerbread man wants to help his classmates, so he goes on a search for the leprechaun mischief maker with the help of some witty, rhyming notes with clues as to his whereabouts.

My daughter had some challenging words to read in this book like “leprechaun” but for the most part, it was a fun easy read for her. She loved how the gingerbread man trapped the mischief-maker and made him cleanup all those messes. She’s on track to read another 400 minutes this month, and I think she’s getting better the more she practices.

The Gingerbread Man and the Leprechaun Loose at School by Laura Murray, illustrated by Mike Lowery, is just one book in a series, and I think my daughter should find more of these to read as she had so much fun with them.

RATING: Cinquain

I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy

Source: School library
Hardcover, 40 pgs.
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I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy, illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley, is currently the oldest U.S. Supreme Court justice, but she’s also a woman who understands what it is like to be told she cannot do something because she is female or because she is Jewish. Even as these moments must have been disheartening and made her sad, she persisted and resisted. These are phrases that are common in today’s world as many women are finding their voice and standing up for greater equality for all — men and women alike.

Imagine a time in history when women were told to find a husband instead of go to college or even law school. Imagine being one of 10 female students in law school where there were 500 men in one class. Imagine doing your best and there were still impediments to getting the job you wanted. These are the obstacles Ginsburg dealt with as a young woman and mother, but these are also the same obstacles that many minorities still face even in the 21st Century.

When reading this book with my daughter, she thought it was weird that Ginsburg was told she couldn’t be a lawyer because she was a mother and that she wouldn’t pay attention at work. She also thought it was mean that Jews were not allowed in certain places.  My daughter’s world is different in many ways, but in many ways still the same. I loved how Levy portrays Ginsburg’s tenacity without preaching and how she makes her relateable to elementary school kids, but does not talk down to them.

Ginsburg’s career and its law speak may be hard for some kids to understand, even the word “dissent” may need explanation. But this book will open a dialogue with children. I love that Levy has created a downloadable curriculum guide for classrooms, as well as the Glorious RBG Blog.

I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy, illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley, is a wonderful addition to my daughter’s library at school, and funny enough, I purchased her a copy for her upcoming birthday this week.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Debbie Levy writes books of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry for people of all ages, particularly young people. Before becoming an author, she was a newspaper editor with American Lawyer Media and Legal Times; and before that, Levy was a lawyer with the Washington, D.C. law firm of Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering (now called WilmerHale). She lives in Maryland with her husband, Rick Hoffman.

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Source: Public Library
Paperback, 52 pgs.
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We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, our book club pick for May 2018, is an adaptation of the author’s TEDxEuston talk in Africa. To talk about gender is often uncomfortable, and it is often met with platitudes, like things are so much better for women now and what’s the big deal if someone greeted the man you’re with but not you. These are statements of dismissal and an attempt to nullify the validity of the discussion about equal rights for all sexes/genders.

Adichie is from Nigeria, but the situations she speaks about are from all over the globe, including the United States.  These are situations in which women (through socialization) feel that they must dress or act a certain way when in the workplace in order to be respected.  However, assertive behaviors in male co-workers are still rewarded but not favorable in women of the same position.  Adichie uses examples from her own life and her interactions with friends to illustrate her points about culture and its need to evolve in order to meet the needs of modern society, as well as the needs of humanity as it continues to evolve.

“Culture does not make people. People make culture. If it is true that the full humanity of women is not our culture, then we can and must make it our culture.” (pg. 46)

Her discussion of how many American women strive to be “likeable” demonstrates how women are groomed over time to view their worth as only as a man would perceive them to be.  There are notions of pretending and how women often must pretend that they like something or act a certain way because marriage is the ultimate goal. Because what would women be without marriage? “The language of marriage is often a language of ownership, not a language of partnership.” (pg. 30)

While men and women are biologically different, Adichie explains that today’s society is not as it was when men hunted and women made the home — strength was necessary to lead. Intelligence, creativity, and more are needed in today’s society to keep productive, efficient, and creating a new world in which we can be happier and fulfilled.  When women thank their husbands for doing one chore after both have come home from work but a man does not thank his wife for all the housework she does daily, what does that signify? Shouldn’t we be grateful when either spouse shares the housework load and works a job outside the home? Shouldn’t we equally share the load in family life?

“But by far the worst thing we do to males – by making them feel they have to be hard – is that we leave them with very fragile egos. The harder a man feels compelled to be, the weaker his ego is.” (pg. 27)

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, our book club pick for May 2018, is thought-provoking and a conversation starter. We cannot pretend that gender discrimination and expectations do not exist any longer. It must be acknowledged before it can be fixed by teaching both boys and girls to be who they are and not to pretend to be a particularly “gender” assigned to them by an out-of-date culture and society.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Inspired by Nigerian history and tragedies all but forgotten by recent generations of westerners, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novels and stories are jewels in the crown of diasporan literature.