A Different Pond
by Bao Phi, illustrated by Thi Bui
Capstone Young Readers, 2017
2018 Caldecott Honor Book
A touching story of a Vietnamese refugee and his family surviving in America. Working two jobs, he also takes his son fishing to ensure they have dinner. Written in brief, poetic snippets, the reader learns of how it felt to have been in the war and how it feels to speak with a heavy accent:
A kid at my school said
my dad’s English sounds like
a thick, dirty river.
But to me his English
sounds like gentle rain.
When the boy wants to help, but feels uncomfortable hooking a minnow, the dad smiles and respects his son’s decision. A poignant glimpse inside a refugee’s family’s experience. Backmatter provides more details on the family’s entry into America.
Written in free verse poetry this was my introduction to Ms. Hamer, the spirit of the civil rights movement. I had not heard her story, but the riveting poems brought me into her world and shed light on a person instrumental in both building the movement and holding it together.
Born in 1917, her mother was paid $50 by the plantation owner for producing a future field hand; the money helped them get through the winter as sharecroppers. Fannie Lou was six when she started picking cotton. As a child, she never understood why black people were poor and whites were not. She married, adopted two girls, and when the battle over voting began, took the ‘literacy’ test. After that, she had to go on the run. She sustained a severe beating that was to affect her the rest of her life. Figuring she had nothing to lose, she continued speaking up and singing to inspire others to stand up for themselves.
A well written and inspiring, as well as educational, book.
by Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, illustrated by Bryan Collier
Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2015 2016 Caldecott Honor Book, Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Award Winner
A great celebration of a great musician, written by the musician! Trombone Shorty played music way before he had an instrument. When he found an old beat-up trombone, twice the size of him, he played it everywhere he went. Raised in New Orleans, he was born to play music. While in the audience of a Bo Didley concert, he started playing his trombone. The show stopped. Bo asked who was playing the trombone. He was so short, his mother had to raise him up so Bo could see him. Trombone Shorty was passed up to the stage and played with Bo Didley at a young age. Soon after he formed his first band, The 5 O’Clock Band, as that’s when the practiced after they completed their homework.
Readers can feel the joy of music, the love of rhythms, and the passion Trombone Shorty has for his music. Bryan Collier’s illustrations further enhance the story bringing color and passion to each page. A wonderful introduction to music, the Mardi-Gras, and following your passion. An afterward includes more details of the musician’s life
by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Peter Brown
Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2014 Caldecott Honor Book
Jasper Rabbit loves carrots and eats them every chance he gets. But one day the carrots start to follow him. He sees them in his bathroom. He finds them in the shed. He’s certain they are in his bedroom. His parents don’t believe him, so Jasper is forced to take things into his own hands. He builds a formidable fence around the carrots so they can’t get him and he is safe from the ‘creepy carrots’. But the last page tells another story when the carrots cheer for at last getting rid of the pesky rabbit who’s been invading their carrot patch! A hilarious ending.
The illustrations tell much of the story, when Artist Peter Brown exaggerates Jasper’s fears and personifies the carrots. A visual delight!
“He was born on an island far away where imaginary friends were created. Here, they lived and played, each eagerly waiting to be imagined by a real child.” How creative! These opening lines of Beekle open wide a child’s imagination of what could be.
But alas, after waiting and waiting, no one imagines Beekle. Beekle, ready to find his child, does the unimaginable—he journeys to the real world! Things are indeed strange in the real world, but he soon finds a place where other imaginary friends visit and feels comfortable. But still, no one takes him as an imaginary friend. He sits at the top of an autumn tree, until a little girl calls out to him; the wind blew her drawing into the tree. Beekle returns the picture to the little girl—and there in her picture was Beekle! Very shy at first, they get to know each other, until one day they do the unimaginable….
Extraordinarily wonderful! I love how this books opens one’s imagination. Beautifully rendered in pencil, crayon, watercolor, ink and Adobe Photoshop, with hand-lettered text.
Sleep Like A Tiger
by Mary Logue, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012 Caldecott Honor Book
A clever bedtime story where the parents agree with the child who says she’s “not tired.” “They nodded their heads and said she didn’t have to go to sleep. But she had to put her pajamas on.” And she did. She learned that, yes, everyone slept. Her dog slept, her cat slept, her whale, snail and bat slept. And she learned the tiger slept the most so he could be strong. After she learned of many animals slept, one by one, she copied each animal. She snuggled deep like a bear, she folded her arms like a bat, and she curled up like a snail. And finally she slept like a tiger. A gentle way to go to sleep.
The illuminous illustrations by Caldecott award-winner Pamela Zagarenski complete the book with patterns, textures, and wheels moving the listener to sleep. They make the book an art piece and a pleasure to study. A comforting, nurturing story for bedtime.
Henry’s mother asks him, “Do you see those leaves blowing in the wind? They are torn from the trees like slave children are torn from their families.” And so Henry is soon taken from his mother. In time he marries and has children, but one day they are sold. Henry can no longer live this way and creates a plan to mail himself to a free state. A white man who thought slavery was wrong made the arrangements. As an excuse to stay home from work and cover his absence giving him enough time to get out of the city, Henry poured vitriol (sulfuric acid) on his hand. In the early morning he was hammered into a box and sent to Philadelphia. While traveling on a steamboat, he was upside down and very hot, until a couple men rolled him on his side and then rolled him in an upright position. He was transferred to a railroad car and eventually delivered to supporters in Philadelphia.
This richly written story helps young readers begin to understand the pain and risks people in slavery took to become free. Henry succeeded. Award-winning illustrator Kadir Nelson beautifully shows the emotions people in slavery felt when with family and when treated like objects.
When I picked up Song of the Water Boatman, I knew I had something special. The exquisite art lured me in with its intriguing perspectives of a common, yet unknown world. Then I discovered it wasn’t a story, it was a book of poetry about pond animals and insects. I was fascinated. Where was this taking me? The first page was an open page with no words, featuring the pond. I turned the page again for the first poem. Its first stanza had me.
Listen for Me
Listen for me on a spring night,
on a wet night,
on a rainy night.
Listen for me on a still night,
for in the night, I sing.
Each tightly-written poem and detailed illustration introduced me to a new pond creature. Then, to expand my experience, a short paragraph was written on each creature capturing its unique qualities. I felt grateful to receive a brief education of this wonderful creature I just learned about. I discovered wood ducks in Spring Splashdown, and greedy diving beetles, or “water tigers”, fierce hunters of the pond. Each page-turn had an up-close illustration of a new creature. For awhile, I went to another world, learning how pond creatures live. Some pages I had to study carefully to fully understand each creature. Then, as the illustrator brought me into the book, the illustrator led me away. I sat with a new understanding of ponds swirling within me. I could not move. I actually began to tear up. The whole experience was breath-taking. Sometimes I wonder why certain Caldecott Medal winners are chosen, but this one I understood. Illustrator Beckie Prange is a printmaker and naturalist with a graduate certificate in natural science illustration. This book is perfect for any child to expand their experience of the world.
Beautifully illustrated in watercolors and collage, this book takes you back in time. Dave was a rare slave who worked as a potter. Written in a poetic voice, the author helps readers feel the rhythms of throwing clay and spinning a wheel. Little is known of the artist, but from a few remaining pots we know he was able to make large pots, requiring great strength and skill. A bio after the story, shares what little is known, including that when Dave was in his 30’s, he lost his leg. Another slave spun the wheel for him, while Dave did his work. Readers also learn of how African’s influenced today’s art. Very beautifully rendered and inspiring.
This is one of those quiet stories that goes straight to the heart; it sold well beyond original expectations.
The story is about Amos McGee, a zookeeper, and the animals he cares for. Some animals are shy, some are afraid of the dark and some like to read, all characters in which a child can find him or herself. One day Amos stays home sick. After waiting and waiting for Amos, the animals bus to his house—yes the elephant and rhinoceros, too! They come in and spend their day with Amos. After a cup of tea and bed time story, they pile in Amos’ room and all go to sleep. A perfect book to quiet a child, a perfect book for a sick child.
The illustrations match the book’s tone and humor and won the Caldecott Medal and Best Illustrated Children’s Book Award.