Winter Dance by Marion Dane Bauer; illustrated by Richard Jones. 2017.Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Brief summary: A beautiful fox sees that winter is coming and asks the forest animals what to do. He learns that the woolly caterpillar will wrap itself in a chrysalis. The turtle tells him to bury himself in the mud. The fox continues asking the forest animals and realizes that he cannot do what they do. He comes across another fox as the snow begins to fall and learns what foxes do.
Comments: This is a beautiful, softly illustrated story that explains how the forest prepares for winter. This is a great addition for those season book collections teachers request.
Brave Jane Austen: Reader, Writer, Author, Rebel by Lisa Pliscou; illustrated by Jen Corace. 2018. Gouache, ink, acrylic, and pencil. Published by Henry Holt and Company.
Brief summary: Readers learn about Jane’s childhood in the 18th century including how children lived during that time; what they did; and the limitations of career choices especially with girls. Jane did not have the same dreams and did not follow the usual footsteps of women during that time period. Although she lived in a large house with many brothers and sister and students of her father’s, the family does have periods of poverty. We learn how difficult it was for Ms. Austen to have her stories published and how she was inspired to keep writing despite the odds against her.
Comments: This narrative nonfiction book does not have a glossary or index in the back. It does have these back sections: From the Pen of Jane Austen, Jane’s Admirers, and Learning More About Jane Austen. The biography does not go into deep detail of her life but does give readers an idea of what it was like to be raised as a female and the limited career options women had in the 18th/19th centuries. Students will learn that it was rebellious of Jane to not marry and write instead. It was not common for women to earn their own money.
The Word Collector by Peter H. Reynolds; illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds. 2018. Published by Orchard Books.
Brief summary: Jerome collects words like other children collect items for their hobbies. He collects words he hears, sees around him, or reads in a book. He writes them down on pieces of paper and puts them in scrapbooks. One day, he is carrying a huge stack of scrapbooks when they all fall to the ground emptying into themselves; creating words that string together like never before. Jerome starts to create poems and songs using the new combinations. He goes to the top of a hill and throws them into the wind where children in the valley below collect them.
Comments: This book could be read and compared to word walls that are in the classroom. How can we classify these words? By the first letter? By syllable count? By meaning? What if we put these three words together?
When Sophie Thinks She Can’t…by Molly Bang; illustrated by Molly Bang. 2018. Published by The Blue Sky Press.
Brief summary: Sophie is home trying to put puzzle pieces together to make a square, her sister walks by and quickly arranges them. The sister exists the rooms saying, “Too bad you’re not smart.” Sophie goes to school the next day where they learn what smart means and how they must exercise their brains to become stronger just like their muscles. Their teacher gives them a math problem to solve together in small groups. Sophie becomes frustrated and can’t figure it out. The teacher then teaches them another word–yet. She encourages her students to keep working on the problem. The students eventually get the correct answers. The teacher then adds “er” to smart.
Comments: Super example of fixed mindset and growth mindset. Teachers could use this book to demonstrate those mindsets but also the word “yet”. We have not found the answer YET.
Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller; illustrated by Jen Hill. 2018. Published by Roaring Brook Press.
Brief summary: Tanisha spills grape juice on her dress during lunch. Everyone laughs except for one girl who remembers her mother telling her to be kind. So, she walks over to Tanisha and say, “Purple is my favorite color,” hoping the Tanisha would smile but she runs away instead. The young girl wonders what it means to be kind. What could she have done? She thinks about ways she has been kind to others and figures out how to make Tanisha feel better.
Comments: I like that this book examines HOW to be kind. Children are often told to be kind but may not necessarily know examples to follow.
Waltz of the Snowflakes by Elly Mackay; illustrated by Elly Mackay. 2017. Published by RP Kids.
Brief summary: A young girl and her grandmother get ready to go in the cold and blustery December weather to the ballet. Once inside, the girl sees a boy sticking out his tongue to her. Coincidentally, they end up sitting next to one another in the balcony section. Once the orchestra starts, her attention goes to the stage where she experiences many emotions as she sees the story unfold. The shared aesthetic experience brings the two children closer together with her even offering him a candy.
Comments: This story without words captures the first time a young girl see The Nutcracker. The illustrations are dark and cold to match the mood of winter and the darkness of the auditorium. The colors are brilliant and full on the stage. The story is easy to follow with the paneling and action of the illustrations.
This is NOT a Valentine by Carter Higgins; illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins. 2017. Brush marker, gouache, graphite, colored pencil, crayon, ink, and charcoal. Published by Chronicle Books.
Brief summary: A young boy gives a girl he loves several simple personal gifts that he knows she will like instead of a Valentine card.
Comments: We know that the little girl likes his gifts by the expressions on her face. Refreshing to have a different perspective on how to express one’s love on Valentine’s Day. Not mushy.
How Does My Home Work? by Chris Butterworth; illustrated by Lucia Gaggiotti. 2017. Mixed media. Published by Candlewick Press.
Brief summary: The book shows an average house in an opened dollhouse sort of view so young readers can see all the rooms of the house. It explains where the different energies come from and what happens when they go in and out of the house.
Comments: Love this book! I wish I had this book with all of its diagrams, labels, and captions when I was growing up to understand how everything works in the house. A definite must for any library.
I plan to share this with my teachers and students when they are doing energy units.
The endpapers are full of household gadgets. There are suggested ideas of how to save energy in the back of the book along with an index.
The Book of Gold by Bob Staake; illustrated by Bob Staake. 2017. Digitally illustrated. Published by Schwartz & Wade Books.
Brief summary: Little boy Isaac Gutenberg is taken to the New York Public Library in 1935 where he sees the two lions, Patience and Fortitude. His parents love books and try to pass that love to their son who is bored in the library. His parents leave and walk into an antique store where Isaac sits in the middle of the floor waiting for them to find a gift for a relative. The storekeeper tries to entertain the boy but without success until he shares the legend of the Book of Gold.
Upon Isaac’s life quest to find the one book that answers all questions and is solid gold, he reads many books over the years learning about many wonderful facts. Towards the end of his life, old man Isaac Gutenberg is back in the New York Public Library sharing the legend of the book of gold with a youngster.
Comments: The end pages are rows of books. The words of this book have white lettering on a black background. This does have a lot of words for young readers, so I would suggest it as a read aloud in addition to one they could read alone. The illustrations are colorful and have action in them that shows the years passing by as the boy grows through the decades to an old man.
Days With Dad by Nari Hong; illustrated by Nari Hong. 2017. (Originally published in South Korea). Published by Enchanted Lion Books.
Brief summary: A young girl spends time with her Dad. Her father often apologies to his daughter about the things he cannot do with her, because he is in a wheelchair. The girl does not mind, as she focuses more on the things they can do together.
Comments: I love the perspective of the daughter focusing and loving the time she spends with her father and does not have concerns about the things he cannot do with her due to his disability.
This book is autobiographical of the author.
The colored pencil illustrations are bright and happy which helped set a happy tone for a book that could have been very serious and somber.