Dreaming with Robinson


For a lot of people a new year is full of possibilities, dreams and aspirations. So it was serendipitous that I stumbled upon Robinson by Peter Sís (Scholastic Press, 2017) at my library. Both this book and one’s aspirations are fueled by imagination.

Our imagination can provide fun play and inspire us, but as Peter knows (or discovers) when he’s faced with a gamut of negative emotions, imagination can protect us too. Based on the author’s own love of Robinson Crusoe as a child, this book is full of beautiful watercolors as vivid as dreams. Sís weaves a charming tale that takes us back and forth between reality and imagination and teaches us that it’s ok to play in both worlds.

From William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, is a quote, “We are such stuff as dreams are made on; and our little life is rounded with a sleep.” Robinson shows young readers and adults how much richer our lives are with a little imagination. I highly recommend starting the year with a cup of tea, a special small someone and a copy of Robinson. You won’t be sorry.


From Small to Big: It’s all about Perspective


Remember when you were small? Perhaps you cannot. It’s hard to remember our first few years, but Gina Perry reminds us in Small (little bee books, 2017). It can feel frustrating to be small, to feel small and overlooked, or left out or taken advantage of. Small is a sweet story of a young girl who comes to understand that small is just a word and she can change things up, by taking a different perspective. She can feel BIG.

This book helps young readers who may feel the same as the character in Small, since young children are often told their ‘too little’ …But the young girl’s approach can also be transferred to other feelings a reader may have: feeling happy instead of sad or confident instead of shy. Small empowers our young readers to take control of their feelings. And that’s no small feat to accomplish.


A Book for the Bats


Bat Count: A Citizen Science Story by Anna Forrester and illustrated by Susan Detwiler (Arbordale Publishing, 2017) is a delightful treatise for bats. In the main story we learn of bats’ life cycle and the problem they face with white-nose syndrome. In Arbordale’s signature back section called For Creative Minds, we learn about bat anatomy, ecological importance, details of white-nose syndrome and about citizen science. The information presented is vital to understanding the importance of helping bat populations recover.

What I love best about this book is how the information is presented. Forrester weaves the bat’s story with the story of the main character, Jojo, and her family. This parallel presentation is perfect for helping young readers see how humans are similar and different from other animal life, and also how our lives are connected. Without bats, there would be too many insects. Nature tries to keep a balance; humans tend to disrupt this balance. I am grateful for citizens who keep informed and try to help nature. I am grateful for people who not only want to do less harm to nature, but who want to learn about nature. And I am always grateful for anyone who has thrown away the ‘ew’ factor and embraced the role of each organism in nature.

Forrester has succeeded in giving young readers a gift of the ability to love and respect bats. I am pleased to see that many readers will have a chance to get this gift. Bat Count has been selected as a 2018 National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and Children Book Council’s (CBC) Outstanding Science Trade Books. I hope you too will give Bat Count and bats a chance.


Mama Africa: A Voice of Hope

mama africa

Yesterday I went to Over the Moon Bookstore in Crozet, Virginia to hear Kathryn Erskine talk about her new book The Incredible Magic of Being. I didn’t know I’d be treated to a double feature. Turns out Kathryn had two new books released on the same day! The second, a sweet surprise to me, is the picture book Mama Africa! illustrated by Charly Palmer (Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, 2017).

Mama Africa! is about Miriam Makeba’s life spreading the injustices of apartheid through her voice, through her songs. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about this brave, principled woman, but equally so, I enjoyed how Erskine told Miriam’s story: weaving actions and reactions with grace, pulling at the reader to roar with Miriam about the wrongs of racism and to root for her as we hear of her life’s challenges and successes. Erskine manages to tell of a serious, painful story in our history in a way approachable by young readers yet not belittling those young readers in the process.

I’ve never been to South Africa, but Palmer’s bold and colorful illustrations capture my imagination of the setting as well as fuel a spirit that also drove Miriam Makeba’s life work to end apartheid.

Mama Africa! is not a book I might have discovered myself since I am so caught up in the animal and plant world, but I am so glad to have met Kathryn Erskine and read Mama Africa! Both women* using their voice to fill our world with hope.




*Miriam Makeba died in 2008.


Little Pig’s Big Summer

Little Piggy

In Little Pig Saves the Ship by David Hyde Costello (Charlesbridge, 2017) Little Pig is disappointed that he’s still too little to join his siblings for their annual week at camp. What kid, or grown up, can’t relate to a time they’ve felt left out?

Little Pig is a good pig and he does his best to fill his time, but still his days seem long and lacking of the excitement his brothers and sisters are no doubt having. With the help of his Poppy, Little Pig creates his own summer fun in the stream with his toy ship. At the end of the week, an accident and a grand adventure ensue when his ship goes over a waterfall and out of reach. Little Pig does indeed save the ship; I won’t tell how.

That’s not really the point of the story. When Little Pig’s siblings return, it’s Little Pig’s exciting rescue story that makes his summer complete. His brothers and sisters relish his story and his stream play. The result being a summer of inclusion much grander, dare I say, than a week away at camp!

Little Pig Saves the Ship is a sweet story of making the best of disappointment and finding contentment in the process. It’s definitely a book to share.


Calling All Animal Lovers

It’s hard to read Can an aardvark Bark? by Melissa Stewart and illustrated by Steve Jenkins (Beach Lane Books, 2017) without wanting to join in with the howls, growls, bellows and laughs. I was reminded of the howler monkeys my kids loved to impersonate after hearing them at the Houston Zoo years ago.

Stewart leads with the title question of whether an aardvark can bark, and when we discover the sound it does make, she teaches us of other animals that make similar sounds. Then we are treated to animals that do bark. The book continues in a similar, but not monotonous way; there’s enough variation to keep the reader excited to turn the page. In total, Stewart portrays seven sounds and 35 animals, all delightfully illustrated with Jenkins characteristic cut-and-torn paper collage art.

This book makes a perfect inside chilly-weather read. Kids can act out their own zoo, complete with accurate sounds and do research on animals that pique their curiosity. I learned a lot about the different calls and sounds that animals make and can’t wait for the chance to read this with a young reader who will join me in some pretend play. What a symphony of sounds we will make!


Who’s Afraid of Lobsters


August is a perfect time to read There Might Be Lobsters by Carolyn Crimi and illustrated by Laurel Molk (Candlewick Press, 2017). I have fond memories of summer trips to Maine, which were made perfect by some dockside meals at lobster pots.

Of course, I never caught the lobsters myself. Maybe I’d be scared of them like Sukie, the dog character in There Might Be Lobsters. Sukie is afraid of many things: big stairs, beach balls, the big rough ocean, and especially lobsters. Sukie is always comforted by her stuffed monkey, Chunka Munka, and shown lots of patience by her owner, Eleanor.

We’ve all had times where we’ve had fears like Sukie. What will help Sukie be brave at the beach? I’m not going to spoil the story for you. This book is delightful and will leave you with a smile, cheering on Sukie, and maybe even chasing away some of your or your young reader’s own fears.