James Rumford’s Dog-of-the-Sea-Waves depicts early Hawaiian culture and manatees. With beautiful illustrations, we learn of how Hawaiians first encountered manatees, what they thought of these odd looking creatures and how they bonded with one. Yet manatees are not dogs and aren’t tailored to become pets so the story ends with a sad parting. This children books offers a poignant tale with lessons in culture and natural science. It’s be great in a primary classroom for a unit on the sea, culture, or animals. It’s also just a beautiful story to enjoy.
Written by Mark Reibstein and illustrated by Ed Young Wabi Sabi is a poetic book about Japan. Here Wabi Sabi is a cat, who’s puzzled by her name. She sets off to find someone wise enough to explain her inexplicable Japanese name.
The idea of a hero seeking answers to a perplexing question is nothing new in children’s literature. You see it in the The Wizard of Oz, Are You My Mother? and a slew of others. What I liked best in this journey was Reibstein’s inclusion of classic haiku like:
An old straw mat, rough
on cat’s paws, pricks and tickles . . .
hurts and feels good, too.
Young’s collages illustrate the book and do offer the messiness of wabi sabi, a cultural term that according to I wasn’t wild about the collages. Perhaps I’d have preferred water colors or another medium, which could include mistakes and thus illustrate the concept. Young does communicate wabi sabi, I just wasn’t a big fan of this style.
I’d definitely use this book in class and advise getting it from the library.
I’ve been told that wabi sabi refers to beauty that’s got imperfections such as age or wear.
Tomie diPaolo’s Mary, Mother of Jesus mainly uses scripture to tell the Mary’s life story. The book’s strength is diPaolo’s illustrations with their simple lines and soft colors. Like some of the other children’s books I’ve reviewed here, there are a couple words like Messiah that younger children will need explained. Still it’s a gentle telling of this illusive religious figure.
The cover promised influence from folk tales, but I didn’t notice any in the story. The story is a very traditional, orthodox tale.
The children’s book Off to Bethlehem! by Dandi Daley Mackall is a breezy, poetic telling of the story of the nativity has endearing illustrations by R.W. Alley, though I was surprised how much older Joseph looks than Mary. (I guess he looks like he’s 40 while she’s a teen. There’s nothing I know of in the Bible about their age difference. I’d be happier with a younger Joseph. How about 20?)
Off to Bethlehem! is a great introduction or reminder of the reason for the season.
By Liesbet Sleger, A Child in the Manger is a wonderful book to introduce young children (2 – 4 years old) to the story of Jesus’ birth. It’s a simple telling with few words that’ll need explanation.
The illustrations look almost like a child’s drawing with their bold outlines. The colors are cheerful as is the tone.
The Nutcracker, retold by Jean Richardson and illustrated by Francesca Crespi, is a beautiful retelling of of E.T.A. Hoffman’s tale. They simplify the story and it’s not as scary as the original.
It’s a good nighttime read to prepare a child for the ballet. The pictures are charming and the story can be read by a child.
S. D. Nelson’s children’s book Digging a Hole to Heaven: Coal Miner Boys will teach readers about the hardships of the children who had to work deep in the mines during the 19th century. The illustrations are well done and show a sharp contrast between the dark mines and the sunny lives lived above ground. Throughout the story of 12 year old Conall, his brother and miners, Nelson has inserted sidebars with facts about child labor, and mining in particular.
I enjoyed the book, but wish the characters had more depth and personality. Each one was standard cookie cutter. Yet I still recommend the book as an introduction to this aspect of history, that’s usually forgotten.