Ellie’s Dragon by Bob Graham; illustrated by Bob Graham. 2020. Watercolor and ink. Published by Candlewick Press.
Brief summary: Ellie finds a baby dragon and calls him Scratch. She makes a bed for him. When she asks her mother for some matches for him to eat, her mother can only see an empty matchbox and cotton balls. Ellie places Scratch in her dollhouse and cares for him by feeding him hot related foods. She takes him to preschool and shares him with everyone. When she attends kindergarten, she forgets to take him to school with her and misses Scratch’s first flight. As Ellie grows older, she spends less time with her dragon, missing his growing and important days until one day, he leaves. Once in a while, Ellie thinks she sees him. Does Scratch really exist?
Comments: Love the end pages that begin and end the story. So much better than blank white ones. Clever way of explaining how we outgrow things as we get older.
Brief summary: Readers learn about Mr. Roger as a talented boy who was shy and sometimes bullied. He grows up and has many jobs such as a minister, musician, and children’s television host. Young readers will learn how Mister Roger’s Neighborhood was developed.
Comments: This narrative nonfiction biography shows the gentle nature of Mr. Rogers and how The Neighborhood helped children viewers learn to be themselves. There are many wonderful and detailed watercolor illustrations.
The back pages had sections: About Fred Rogers, Visual Glossary, Mister Rogers and Me, and more. I appreciate the photos of in the back.
Be sure to check out this awesome KidLitTV interview with Matthew Cordell and his writing of Hello, Neighbor!
Liftby Minh Lê; illustrated by Dan Santat. 2020. Published by Hyperion.
Brief summary: Iris’s job is to push the lift’s button for her family every day until one time her little brother surprisingly does it. She does not like that. The next time the family stands in front of the elevator, Iris darts out front and pushes the button for it to arrive and then all of the buttons inside of the elevator. A few days later, she notices that the maintenance man is fixing a broken elevator and throwing away the button. Iris takes it and runs up to her room where she tapes it by her closet’s door and pushes it. It dings. She goes into another world and then another. Iris decides it would be more fun to share the adventures with her little brother.
Comments: I love that the end pages have the beginning and end of the story on them instead of being the usual white.
The story is mainly told with detailed graphic illustrations.
Be a Makerby Katey Howes; illustrated by Elizabet Vukovic. 2019. Watercolor, gouache, colored pencils, and Adobe Photoshop. Published by Carolrhoda Books.
Brief summary: A young girl wakes up wondering what she will make today using objects in her room until she goes outside in her spaceship and befriends a boy who also starts to make things with her throughout the day.
Comments: The span of the book is one day with the two children making messes, noise, art, a spaceship, a friend, lunch and so on as the day moves. What a great book to get young readers using their imaginations with materials around them.
Hum and Swishby Matt Myers; illustrated by Matt Myers. 2019. Acrylic and oil paint. Published by Neal Porter Books.
Brief summary: Jamie explores the beach randomly picking up things to make something in the sand but is unsure what that will be yet. The young girl is asked by several people what she is making but repeatedly answers, ” I don’t know”. Jamie hums as she creates. A painter with an easel sets up near her. They both create and coincide with one another throughout the day. They share their finished art projects with one another.
Comments: I like this quiet book of creating art. This would be a great book for an art teacher to share with the class before a lesson.
Robinson by Peter Sis; illustrated by Peter Sis. 2017. Pen, ink, and watercolor. Published by Scholastic Press.
Brief summary: As a boy, Peter Sis does not dress up like a pirate for the school costume party as all of his friends but instead, dresses up as his favorite adventurer, Robinson Crusoe. Excited to show everyone his great costume, he is let down by his friends’ teasing. He goes home to bed where he dreams of himself as Robinson stranded on an island. He awakens to his friends visiting with apologies and wanting to know more about Crusoe.
Comments: Good metaphor of the boy dreaming of being on an island alone without his friends just like Robinson. There is an author’s note in the back where Peter Sis shares his childhood story of him actually going to school dressed as Robinson Crusoe like the boy in his book.
The watercolors during his dream vibrantly fill the pages with several two-paged spreads.
There is a photo of Peter Sis dressed up as his favorite adventurer.
Walk With Meby Jairo Buitrago; illustrated by Rafael Yockteng. English translation–2017(originally printed in 2008). Pencil, scanned and redrawn/colored digitally. Published by Groundwood Books.
Brief summary: A girl requests a lion to keep her company while she walks through the city on her way home from school to pick her brother up from daycare and to the store where she buys food that she will make for dinner to be ready when her mother returns from working in a factory. The lion leaves to go back up in the hills at bedtime when all three sleep in the same bed next to a photo of the family minus the father.
Comments: This book’s illustrations tell so much of the story. We wonder what happened to the father in the photo shown at the end. He has a lot of yellow hair that looks similar to the lion’s mane. Is she imagining the lion as her father? This little girl must take on responsibilities beyond her age and maneuver through a busy and poor area of the city.
To help her mentally get through all of this, she imagines the lion walking with her. The store won’t give them any more credit. The lion is roaring in the background as the little brother crawls on the store’s floor. We see that the family is living in poverty by the cracks and deteriorating buildings. I want to know more about this story. What happened to the father?
Although this is a sad story, it is a necessary one that should be shared in order to remind us what some children go though once they leave school. We are reminded why they are unable to get their homework finished. No play dates. No soccer practice. They are too busy just getting by each day.
Happy Dreamerby Peter H. Reynolds; illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds. 2017. Digital illustrations with pastels; hand-lettered text. Published by Orchard Books
Brief summary: A young student tells how he dreams even when the world tells him to be still. He explains how he is a loud dreamer and a quiet dreamer and can dream wherever and whenever.
Comments: There is a two page fold out with all the ways to dream. This looks like another hit for Peter H. Reynolds. The illustrations are soft and smooth with pastels. The students and teachers love The Dot and Ish at my school. I can’t wait to read this one to them.