Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson

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Woodson, JacquelineEach Kindness.  Nancy Paulsen Books, 2012.  $16.99, 32 pages.

Link to Author’s Website: http://www.jacquelinewoodson.com

Links to Interviews with Author:

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Reader’s Annotation: Chloe misses out on an opportunity to show kindness to a classmate.

Summary:

Maya is a new girl to Chloe’s class.  Each day she smiles at Chloe, Chloe turns away.  Each day she shows Chloe a toy or something from home and invites her to play, and each day Chloe rebuffs her.  Maya is different from the other students.  Her clothing looks funny, her lunch is weird, and she doesn’t have proper shoes for the winter snow.  The other children, including Chloe and her friends, whisper about Maya and call her Never New.  Eventually Maya stops approaching them, smiling at them, and asking them to play.  Ms. Albert, Chloe’s teacher, has a lesson about kindness.  Dropping a pebble into a bowl, she explains that each kind thing that someone does ripples out in the world like the pebble.  When Chloe cannot think of a kind thing she has done, she decides that she will smile back at Maya.  Except Maya never returns to school, and Ms. Albert tells the class that Maya’s family had to move away.

Evaluation:

Each Kindness is a simple story, but holds a powerful message.  Maya’s situation is never fully explained because Chloe never gets to know her, but there are clues that Maya and her family may be poor.  The story portrayed is unfortunately one that probably occurs in schools throughout the country throughout time.  The characters were realistically drawn, children reluctant to befriend the different, making up hurtful nicknames, ostracizing and excluding those that do not fit.  My heart went out to Maya, who reached out day after day, only to be rejected again and again.  In true to life fashion, Chloe misses out on the opportunity to show kindness to Maya when her family moves away.  Chloe is then left with regret and Maya was never shown any kindness.  Woodson leaves Chloe contemplating kindness shown and not shown and leaves the reader determined to avoid Chloe’s experience.

Rating Scale:

  • Popularity: 3
  • Quality: 4

Genre and Subgenre: realistic fiction

Appeal Factors: illustrations, real life situations, friendship, kindness

Readalike Titles or Authors:

  • Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts
  • Chair for My Mother by Vera Williams
  • Hope by Adam Einsenson

Awards Won and Book Lists:

  • Coretta Scott King Honor
  • Charlotte Zolotow Award

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Description of Maya
  • Maya’s nickname as Never New
  • The Kindness lesson

Book Discussion Questions or Ideas:

  • Will Maya experience kindness at her new school?
  • How can Chloe show kindness to others now that she missed her chance to show Maya kindness?
  • What does the author want you to do about kindness in the world?

Why I Chose This:

I chose this title because of its lesson in kindness.  It also won the Jane Addam’s Award for peace.  It would be a great book to use with students to teach and talk about kindness and compassion.

April and Esme, Tooth Fairies by Bob Graham

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Graham, Bob. April and Esme, Tooth Fairies. Candlewick Press, 2010.  $16.99, 40 pages.

Link to Author’s Website: http://www.walker.co.uk/contributors/Bob-Graham-3108.aspx

Links to Interviews with Author:

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Reader’s Annotation: April and Esme show their parents that they are grown up enough for tooth retrieval.

Summary:

Tooth fairy April Underhill receives a special request on her cell phone from Daniel’s grandmother for her and Esme to pick up a tooth.  The problem is that Daddy and Mommy do not think the young fairies are old enough to go by themselves.  April meticulously records the details of the pick up, and reassures both Daddy and Mommy with logic why she and Esme will be perfectly safe and are capable of the job.  Flying to Cornflower Terrace, the girls identify Daniel’s room by following a trail of toys.  April has to take a swim for the tooth that Daniel had put into a cup of water.  Just as April gets the tooth, Daniel wakes up!  April and Esme have to pull his eye lids shut and whisper that they were just a dream.  Before they head back to their waiting parents, the girls fly to Grandma’s room, where April shares their success and Esme wants to get Grandma’s dentures.  Upon their successful arrival at home, the girls are greeted with much love and pride in their accomplishments.

Evaluation:

Bob Graham’s April and Esme, Tooth Fairies is a lovely tale of growing up.  April articulates logically to her parents why she and Esme should be able to go get the tooth.  She is able to figure out where the tooth is, and to trouble shoot when the tooth is in a glass of water.  Graham creates an imaginary world that closely parallels the real world, so that readers can relate to the fairy girls’ dilemma of seemingly overprotective parents.  Fay (Mommy) recalls a time when “foxes still chased hares on the hill,” using the same argument that parents use about times changing and the past being safer for children.  The details included in the illustrations, as well as snuck into the plot, also create a world very similar to ours.  April has a cell phone, Mommy dries her hair with a hair dryer, the girls wear coats, Mommy tells the girls to text if there is trouble.  At the same time, there is the fanciful element, where Mommy bathes in a tea cup, Daddy has a desk chair made from a bottle cap, a giant daffodil (compared to the fairies) grows in the girls’ bedroom.  Overall, this story is a delightful and triumphant tale of parents letting children accomplish things on their own.

Rating Scale:

  • Popularity: 4
  • Quality: 3

Genre and Subgenre: fantasy

Appeal Factors: illustrations, fantastical elements, fairies, detailed world building, realistic elements, sisters, adventure

Readalike Titles or Authors:

  • The Moonlight Tooth Fairy by Lulu Frost
  • The Tooth Mouse by Susan Hood
  • Mabel the Tooth Fairy and How She Got Her Job by Katie Davis

Awards Won and Book Lists:

  • Charlotte Zolotow Award honor
  • Notable Children’s Book

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Convincing Mommy and Daddy that they can go
  • Last minute advice before they leave
  • Having to dive for the tooth

Book Discussion Questions or Ideas:

  • How is the tooth fairies’ world the same as ours?
  • What convinces Mommy that April and Esme are old enough to go?

Why I Chose This:

I chose this title because it was about tooth fairies.  The fanciful and magical elements of this story were enchanting.  I loved the way the illustrations created a world so like ours, but also with fantastical elements.

Strega Nona by Tomie de Paola

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de Paola, TomieStrega Nona.  Aladdin, 1979.  $7.99, 32 pages.

Link to Author’s Website: http://www.tomie.com/

Links to Interviews with Author:

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Reader’s Annotation:  What happens when Big Anthony is told not to touch Strega Nona’s magic pasta pot?  Of course, he touches it.

Summary:

Strega Nona is the friendly town “Grandma Witch” who is getting on in her years.  She hires on Big Anthony to help her with her daily chores.  One day Big Anthony sees Strega Nona making pasta in a magic pasta pot.  When he tells the other villages about this magical cooking instrument, they laugh at him.  When Strega Nona goes out of town, Big Anthony decides to redeem himself by showing off the magic pot.  Unfortunately, Big Anthony did not hear the complete spell, and the town is soon overrun with errant pasta that will not stop flowing from the magic pasta pot.  Luckily for Big Anthony, Strega Nona returns in time to save him and the town from the pasta.  And to set things right, Big Anthony must eat all the pasta so Strega Nona can sleep in her bed and the townspeople be appeased for his mistakes.

Evaluation:

Tomie de Paola takes an Italian folktale and transforms it into something magical in Strega Nona.  Accompanied by beautiful watercolor and ink drawings that give the story even more of a folksy feeling, Strega Nona is a classic story written in simple language.  Although magic is involved, the character must learn the age old lesson that curiosity killed the cat, or in this case, covered the town in pasta!  The plot is obviously fanciful with magic pasta pots and a “grandmother witch.”  Big Anthony is the archetypal brawns but no brains.  Strega Nona’s character is wise and just, meting out a punishment fitting the crime.  De Paola’s writing style weaves humor, magic, and folklore into a truly enjoyable read.

Rating Scale:

  • Popularity: 4
  • Quality: 4

Genre and Subgenre: fantasy, folklore

Appeal Factors: illustrations, magic

Readalike Titles or Authors:

  • Two of Everything by Lily Toy Hong
  • Big Anthony: His Story by Tomie de Paola
  • Strega Nona Does It Again! by Tomie de Paola

Awards Won and Book Lists:

  • Caldecott Honor

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Big Anthony’s characterization
  • Strega Nona’s magic pasta pot
  • The deluge of noodles

Book Discussion Questions or Ideas:

  • Why does Strega Nona choose Anthony to be her helper?
  • Will Strega Nona continue to let Anthony help her?

Why I Chose This:

I chose this title because of the magical elements in the story.  Tomie de Paola’s illustrations are also so lovely.

Not a Box by Antoinette Portis

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Portis, Antoinette. Not a Box.  Harper Collins Children’s Books, 2006.  $14.99, 32 pages.

Link to Author’s Website: http://www.antoinetteportis.com/

Links to Interviews with Author:

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Reader’s Annotation: For a bunny with an imagination, a box is so much more than a box.

Summary:

A bunny sitting in a box is plagued with questions from a pesky narrator.  First the narrator wants to know why it is sitting in a box.  Then the narrator wants to know why it is standing on the top of the box.  The narrator doesn’t understand why the bunny is squirting the box with a hose.  Or why he wears the box.  Finally, the bunny explains that it is not a box, but a Not-a-Box.

Evaluation:

Not a Box is a very simple picture book that beginner readers can enjoy.  The stark text against a single colored background and illustrated with simple drawings makes readers use their own imaginations.  The box has the potential to be many other things, a tall building, hot air balloon, race car, and much, much more.  Although simple in text and illustration, the message about the power of imagination is clear.  The anonymous narrator asking questions is disdainfully reproached by the imaginative bunny with a look of disbelief when he/she keeps asking about a box.  This delightful read has a powerful message wrapped in simple trappings.

Rating Scale:

  • Popularity: 4
  • Quality: 3

Genre and Subgenre: fiction

Appeal Factors: illustrations, use of imagination

Readalike Titles or Authors:

  • Brave Spaceboy by Dana Kessimakis Smith
  • Big Brown Box by Marisabina Russo

Awards Won and Book Lists:

  • Theodor Seuss Geisel Award honor

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Series of box as not a box picture

Book Discussion Questions or Ideas:

  • Why does the narrator keep asking the bunny about the box?
  • What other things can you imagine the box could be?

Why I Chose This:

I chose this title because of its simplicity.  From the drawings to the text, everything was very simple.  I liked how Portis was still able to tell an entertaining story with so little.

 

Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe

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Steptoe, John. Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters. Lothrop, 1987. $13, 29 pages.

Link to Author’s Website:  http://www.johnsteptoe.com/

Links to Interviews with Author:

Links to Reviews Available Online:

Reader’s Annotation:

Two beautiful daughters, a king in a great city looking for a wife, which sister will be chosen?

Summary:

Mufaro is blessed with two beautiful daughters.  Manyara is mean and spiteful, telling her sister that she would one day be her servant.  Nyasha, on the other hand, is classically good.  Hard-working and friendly to all, she is good natured and well-liked.  When the king announces that he is looking for a wife, and he will choose from the women who come before him in the great city, Mufaro decides both his daughters will go.  Along the way, Manyara leaves the party to go to the king on her own.  She then meets with a lost boy and an old woman, both of which she disregards on her way to the great city.  When faced with the same two, Nyasha stops to help and shows kindness to both.  Is it any surprise that the king, who magically posed as the boy, old woman, and little green snake, chooses Nyasha?

Evaluation:

A beautifully illustrated Cinderella-like African tale.  The two sisters fit the usual stereotypes of the good and bad daughter.  Even their names indicate their positive and negative qualities, with the good daughter’s name meaning “mercy” and the bad daughter’s name meaning “ashamed.”  Besides the illustrations, other elements of the story that demonstrate African culture are  the farming, the little green snake, the landscape, and the people.  The plot is predictable for those familiar with the Cinderella story, but with enough unique tweaks that the story remains its own.  The language is contemporary and easy to access for readers.  No outside or prior knowledge is needed to understand the story.  Its classic themes of good vs. evil and what true beauty is are easily identifiable.  It was an enjoyable cultural read.

Rating Scale:

  • Popularity:  3
  • Quality:  5

Genre and Subgenre:  fantasy, fairy tale

Appeal Factors: picture book, folk tale, fantasy, African culture, Cinderella story

Readalike Titles or Authors:

  • Swan Luka by Janet Berliner
  • The Rough-Face Girl by Rafe Martin
  • Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain by Verna Aardema

Awards Won and Book Lists:

  • Caldecott Award
  • Coretta Scott King Award
  • Boston Globe – Horn Book Award

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Nyoka the talking snake
  • Similarities to Cinderella
  • Manyara rushing out of the palace because there is a “monster”

Book Discussion Questions or Ideas:

  • What elements of the story showcase the African culture?
  • What characteristics make Nyasha beautiful?
  • “Nyasha” means “mercy” and “Manyara” means “ashamed.”  How do these names apply to the sisters?

Why I Chose This:

I initially chose this title because of the beautiful illustrations.  I also was interested in reading an African folktale.  I love reading fairy tales, so when I discovered this was similar to Cinderella, I enjoyed it even more.

Bink and Gollie by Kate Dicamillo

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DiCamillo, Kate & Alison McGhee.  Bink & Gollie.  Candlewick Press, 2010.  $15.99, 96 pages.

Link to Author’s Website:

Links to Interviews with Author:

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Reader’s Annotation:  Bink is short and spunky.  Gollie is tall and sophisticated.  Despite their obvious differences, the two are the very best of friends.

Summary:

Bink and Gollie is split into three short stories.  The first story features Bink and Gollie dealing with compromise over a pair of outrageously bright stripped socks that Bink purchases.  In the end, Gollie compromises by bringing Bink half a stack of pancakes, while Bink compromises by taking off one of her brightly colored socks to be flown as a flag.  The second story shows Gollie’s need for personal time to herself, with a sign on her door not to be bothered. As Gollie climbs to the top of the Andes mountains, Bink cannot believe that she does not want her come in.  Finally, Gollie has had enough time to herself, and invites Bink in to share in her adventures.  The third features Gollie’s jealousy of Bink’s pet fish Fred, who she fears is Bink’s new marvelous companion.  When Fred’s life is in peril because of a roller skating accident, Gollie saves Fred by throwing him in the pond.  Gollie and Bink’s friendship is reiterated, and six months later, Fred is seen following the two best friends under the ice they are skating on.

Evaluation:

A charming portrayal of two odd-ball friends Bink and Gollie.  From the illustrations that show them to be completely different, with Bink’s short and wild blonde frizz to Gollie’s straight tresses tamed with a red bow to the vocabulary words that Gollie uses that confuse Bink, these two girls are completely different.  What brings them and their stories together, however, are their love of roller skating, pancakes, adventure, and each other.  Although the three stories are not related, there are elements that bring a cohesiveness to the book as a whole.  The striped socks from the first story are brought back as a flag in the second, and what appears to be Bink’s scarf in the third.  Pancakes make a reappearance in the last story, and Bink and Gollie share a sandwich in the second.  The use of color also highlights different parts of the stories.  The setting and scenery appear mostly in black and white and gray.  The color comes with the girls and key objects like the pancakes, Fred the Fish, and the obscenely bright socks.  This underscores the idea of the two friends standing out and apart from the world around them.  They make the energy and life sparkle around them.  If not for each other, their lives would also be dark and gray.  Overall, Bink and Gollie tells the tales of two girls who, although very different, are the best of friends.

Rating Scale:

  • Popularity:1 – Would sit on shelves unread; 2 – May see the light of day as an assigned reading; 3 – Interesting to readers, may need marketing; 4 – Very appealing read, ; 5 – Need multiple copies, because it would always be checked out!
  • Quality: 1 – How was this book ever published?; 2 – Poor literary quality; 3 – Average literary quality, nothing stands out as exceptional; 4 – Overall high quality literary quality, with certain areas of exceptional literary quality; 5 – Well-crafted of the highest literary quality
  • Popularity: 4
  • Quality: 3

Genre and Subgenre:  Easy reader

Appeal Factors:  simple vocabulary, spunky characters, use of imagination, friendship, illustrations

Readalike Titles or Authors:

  • Pinky and Rex and the Perfect Pumpkin
  • Henry and Mudge and the Big Sleepover
  • Starring Jules (as Herself)

Awards Won and Book Lists:

  • 2011 Notable Children’s Books
  • Newbery Honor Book

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Bink’s atrocious socks
  • The sign left out on Gollie’s door when she wants to be left alone
  • Gollie grabbing Fred and stuffing him in her jacket pocket

Book Discussion Questions or Ideas:

  • What do you do when you want alone time?  How do you explain that to your friends?
  • Who do you relate more with: Bink or Gollie?
  • How do we know that Bink and Gollie are the very best of friends?

Why I Chose This:

I chose this title because of how differently the two girls are portrayed and yet they are still very good friends.  I also liked the world that they inhabit.  They are able to play and imagine and function without an adult hovering in the background.  Bink’s character is also adorable with her crazy hair and spunky attitude.

Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote by Duncan Tonatiuh

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Tonatiuh, Duncan.  Pancho Rabbbit and the Coyote.  Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2013.  $16.95,

Link to Author’s Website: http://www.duncantonatiuh.wordpress.com

Links to Interviews with Author:

Links to Reviews Available Online:

Reader’s Annotation:

When Papa Rabbit does not come home from his travels up north, Pancho decides to go looking for him himself.

Summary:

Life on the rancho is not providing enough for the rabbit family, so Papa Rabbit, Senor Ram and Senor Rooster head north to search for more opportunities.  The rabbit family prepares a welcome home fiesta complete with papel picado, mole, tortillas, and aquamiel.  However, Papa Rabbit does not arrive home when he is supposed to.  Pancho, his eldest son, decides to go looking for Papa.  He is “helped” by Coyote, who takes him on a perilous journey on a fast moving train, through a swirling river, a dark, narrow tunnel, a dizzying desert.  Each leg of this journey takes something from Pancho.  Finally, it is his life in danger when he runs out of things to give to Coyote and Coyote then threatens to eat him.  Fortunately, Pancho is saved by his father, Senor Ram and Senor Rooster, who had been delayed and waylaid by crows.  They return to the rancho, and although there is no guarantee of money or a future, the family vows to stay together.

Evaluation:

This portrayal of the migrant story is sadly true.  Tonatiuh’s portrayal of this migrant family’s experience, even though they are rabbits, serves to show children reasons for migration and the challenges in migration.  The fictionalized characters do not soften the often harsh realities that migrants must face.  From the Coyote, that ironically is the name of that is used by immigrant smugglers, to the crows who steal from Papa Rabbit and his friends, to the perilous journey Pancho Rabbit makes to find his father, these are all realistic obstacles and struggles that migrants face crossing the border, especially from Mexico to the United States.  Tonatiuh’s use of Spanish words makes the story seem even more true.  It is helpful that he includes a glossary at the end of the story, as well as a discussion of the issue of immigration, especially undocumented and illegal immigration.  The references and resources also provide readers with additional places to find out more information about immigration.

Rating Scale:

  • Popularity:1 – Would sit on shelves unread; 2 – May see the light of day as an assigned reading; 3 – Interesting to readers, may need marketing; 4 – Very appealing read, ; 5 – Need multiple copies, because it would always be checked out!
  • Quality: 1 – How was this book ever published?; 2 – Poor literary quality; 3 – Average literary quality, nothing stands out as exceptional; 4 – Overall high quality literary quality, with certain areas of exceptional literary quality; 5 – Well-crafted of the highest literary quality
  • Popularity: 3
  • Quality: 3

Genre and Subgenre:  realistic fiction

Appeal Factors:  migrant story, animal characters, Mexico

Readalike Titles or Authors:

  • My Shoes and I by Rene Colato Lainez
  • A Day’s Work by Eve Bunting

Awards Won and Book Lists:

  • 2014 Pura Belpre Honor Book
  • 2014 Notable Children’s Books

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Reason for Papa Rabbit to go north
  • Pancho’s decision to follow Papa Rabbit
  • Coyote turning on Pancho

Book Discussion Questions or Ideas:

  • Do you think Papa Rabbit should return north without his family?  Is it safe for his family to go with him?
  • What can the animals from the rancho do about Coyote and others like him?
  • Do you know of anyone who has had a similar story to the rabbit family?

Why I Chose This:

I chose this picture book because it was an illustrated and fictionalized version of the immigrant story that is very familiar here in Southern California.  I was interested in seeing how the story would be depicted if told as a fiction story about a rabbit family.