Jacob’s New Dress

9780807563731_Jacob-e1394164297234You probably think this book is about a boy that identifies more as a “girl” than a boy, right? Well, it’s not that cut and dry. And if you’re a mom of a boy (like I am), you’ll get it.

I LOVE THIS BOOK. Here’s why…

Girls can be “tomboys” and run around in superhero gear and people think it’s cute and completely socially acceptable. But when your boy wants to wear pink? Or carry a doll around?  People (and, maybe, the kid’s Dad) start to get uncomfortable.

In Jacob’s New Dress, the author has perfectly captured the conundrum that parents of boys feel when their son wants to do something outside of the stereotypical gender roles. There’s a little jerk named Christopher in this book that makes fun of Jacob because he dresses up as a princess in the dress-up corner. When Jacob wants to wear a dress to school, his wonderful mother helps him make one. Christopher makes fun of him again. But Jacob’s a lucky kid. His Mom is smart. She reminds him, over and over:

“There are all kinds of ways to be a boy”

My son brings a doll from the Frozen movie (Elsa) to school with him. If a kid like Christopher made fun of him for this, I’d be tempted to slap him. But instead, I can read this book to my son, and remind him, that no matter what he wants to do in this world, I will always be here to support him. Because, after all, there are all kinds of ways to be a boy!



Top 50 Reflection

Slide1 Slide2 Slide3To compile my list of Top 50, I looked back at the covers of each of the 210+ award-winning books that I reviewed and poured over this summer.   What a wonderful, memorable and just plain delicious picture book summer I have had!  I have loved putting together this collection of picture books on my little corner of the Internet.

It seems as if each of these books has a memory for me; I can recall which parts made me smile, which made me (or my 3-year-old) laugh, which caused me to feel sentimental and so on. My criteria in choosing my top 50 picks were the books that stuck with me the longest after the reading was done.  Many of these are written so well that I found them poignant (Zen Shorts, The Dark, The Gardener, In Our Mother’s House, The Lonely Book, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore), many are pure silly fun with no real purpose other than to entertain (We Are in a Book, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great and Pete the Cat and his Four Groovy Buttons) , and others are just wonderfully educational (Me…Jane, On a Beam of Light, All the Water in the World, Down, Down Down, and Electric Ben). I expected to like many Caldecott books, but I found that not to always be the case.  Even a few oldies, but goodies are on the list for the sake of pure sentimentality (Goodnight Moon, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Where The Wild Things Are and Ferdinand). I found many illustrators and authors to love and to follow closely as they (hopefully) continue to publish more books in the coming years (Bob Shea, Kevin Henkes, Jon Klassen, Oliver Jeffers, Sarah Stewart, David Smalls and many others).  I even discovered some older books that I would probably never have picked up if it weren’t for my picture book course (Many Moons, The Little House, Swimmy and William’s Doll). Some books were chosen to my Top 50 list simply because the illustrations are so beautiful I want to hang them on my wall as art (Black Dog, Extra Yarn, The Dark, A Good Day, Crossing and Mermaid Queen). 

I purchased several of these books on my list just to have a home copy and others are on my wish list.

Top 50 (in no particular order) 

  1. Possum Magic
  2. Anna Hibiscus’ Song
  3. The Lonely Book
  4. Bear Despair
  5. All The Water in the World
  6. And Tango Makes Three
  7. Jangles
  8. Open This Little Book
  9. Zen Shorts
  10. The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
  11. Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of The Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade
  12. Me…Jane
  13. Mermaid Queen
  14. Down, Down, Down: A Journey to the Bottom of the Sea
  15. On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein
  16. Seven Blind Mice
  17. Sector 7
  18. Electric Ben
  19. A Good Day
  20. Crossing
  21. Tell Me The Day Backwards
  22. Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site
  23. Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great
  24. Dinosaur vs. Bedtime
  25. The Man Who Walked Between The Towers
  26. Many Moons
  27. The Day The Crayons Quit
  28. In Our Mother’s House
  29. Building Our House
  30. William’s Doll
  31. Black Dog
  32. One Cool Friend
  33. Extra Yarn
  34. Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale
  35. Swimmy
  36. Tops & Bottoms
  37. The Dark
  38. Swamp Angel
  39. The Gardener
  40. Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons
  41. Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus
  42. Little Mouse Gets Ready
  43. We Are in a Book
  44. Where the Wild Things Are
  45. Owen
  46. Kitten’s First Full Moon
  47. The Little House: Her Story
  48. The Story of Ferdinand
  49. Goodnight Moon
  50. The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Possum Magic

possum_magicby Mem Fox, illustrated by Julie Vivas. Gulliver Books (1983).

Summary: Grandma Poss uses her best magic to make Hush invisible. At first, it’s fun because Hush can slide down kangaroos and be safe from snakes! But when Hush longs to be able to see herself again, the two possums must make their way across Australia to find the magic food that will make Hush visible once more.

Uses: A great book to use for younger children who want to learn more about Australia. The “glossary of australian terms” in the back of the book includes a definition for each food that Hush eats (Anzac biscuits, mornay, minties, Vegemite, pavlova and lamington).

Awards:  NSW Premier’s Award-winner and Winner of the 1986 IBBY Diploma for Illustration. New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards for Ethel Turner Prize for Young People’s Literature (1984), Children’s Book Council of Australia Awards Nominee for Picture Book of the Year – Highly Commended (1984), Canberra’s Own Outstanding List (COOL) Awards for Section 1 Picture Storybooks (1994). Also has sold over 4 million copies.

Borrowed from the Knoxville Public Library.

The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq

imagesby Jeanette Winter, Harcourt (2005).

Summary: The true story of how a librarian saved 3,000 books in the Basra City Library when war was on the horizon by literally putting them in her house and the houses of her friends. This book puts a face on the struggles in Iraq in a non-political way.

Uses : This book gives teachers a positive opportunity to open up discussions of the Iraq war with older students. But tricky, as use of this book in schools has been challenged (see link).

Awards: Parent’s Choice Award, Middle East Book Award honorable mention.

Borrowed from the Knoxville Public Library

I love this quote on the first page of the book:

“In the Koran, the first thing God said to Muhammad was ‘Read.'”–Alia Muhammad Baker

Anna Hibiscus’ Song

6174PyfrxvL._SY300_by Atinuke and Lauren Tobia. Kane Miller Book Club (2012)

Summary: Written by a Nigerian storyteller, this book tells of little Anna Hibiscus, a girl that is so happy she can’t contain herself! The more Anna Hibiscus talks to her mother and father and grandfather and grandmother and aunties and cousins about how happy she is, the more her happiness grows! So there’s only one thing to do…Sing about it! Note: this book is first in a series of Anna Hibiscus picture book tales (she’s also in easy readers)). Love the bright and happy theme of this book, it’s so childlike and joyous.

Uses:  Wonderful for storytime and children could pick out on a map where Africa is. Also, the song that Anna makes up at the end can be sung to the tune of Row, Row, Row Your Boat, Mary Had a Little Lamb or Skip to my Lou. Or, just ask kids to make up their own happiness song!

Awards: CCBC Choices award and the Best Children’s Books of the Year Bank Street College award.

Borrowed from the Knoxville Public Library.

The Night Has Ears: African Proverbs

photo-1by Ashley Bryan, Atheneum Books for Young Readers (1999).

Summary: Striking full-page brightly colored illustrations accompany one sentence proverbs such as “a man with a cough cannot conceal himself,” “treat your guest as a guest for two days; on the third give him a hoe,” and “the goat is not big in a cow town.” Each page could be framed and put on the wall as be gorgeous art!

Uses: Proverbs lesson plans. Ask students to name the proverbs they know such as “don’t count your chickens before they hatch” then add this book to the lesson plan and see how many new ones they can learn!

Awards: We discussed this one in class, but I cannot find any mention of awards. The author has won the 2009 Laura Ingalls Wilder Award

Borrowed from the Knoxville Public Library.

The Rough-Face Girl

roughface-sby Rafe Martin, illustrated by David Shannon. G.P. Putnam’s Sons (1992)

Summary: In an Algonquin village by the shores of Lake Ontario, many young women have tried to win the affections of the rich and powerful Invisible Being who lives with his sister in a great wigwam near the forest. No one can do it because they cannot prove to his sister that they have seen him. Meanwhile ,the Rough-Faced girl (that way because she was forced to keep the fire by her mean sisters and has become scarred) sees him everywhere she looks. Will she succeed when she goes to prove herself to the Invisible Being’s sister?

Uses: A haunting and unusual take on Cinderella, this story would be a dynamic example to students how different fairy tales can be.

Awards: IRA Teacher’s Choice Award, Association of Booksellers for Children Booksellers’ Choice Award, Golden Sower Award

Borrowed from the Knoxville Public Library