Monday, February 18, 2013

A Celebration of Love and Friendship (FAMILY magazine reviews)

Get ready for Valentine’s Day by choosing from these unconventional titles to enjoy.  Pull out your scissors and glue; hunt up paper and pencil; turn up the music; and prepare your best and most thoughtful language – you and a lucky child in your life are invited into a unique opportunity.  These titles offer the perfect occasion to create an original and distinctive offering to share with ones you love.  Get busy and Have fun!!

A Giant Crush  
by Gennifer Choldenko
illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Putnam, $16.99, Ages 5-8
            Jackson has a secret crush on Cami, and anonymously gives her little gifts before Valentine’s Day.  But show-off Carter isn’t shy, and begins demonstrating his interest in Cami, too.  Jackson’s friend, Cooper, who narrates this sweet tale, urges his friend, “you have to at least tell her” you like her.
            Caldecott Honor illustrator Sweet accents this charming school story of bashful first love with watercolor, gouache and mixed media.  She uses reds and pinks judiciously, without overwhelming the greens and blues that represent the daily life of the rabbits who populate Newbery Honor author Choldenko’s lively and entertaining text.
Based on an incident in the author’s childhood, realistic dialog advances this gentle, authentic story with its cheerful illustrations and happy ending. 

Ten Things I Love About You 
by Daniel Kirk
 Penguin, $16.99, Ages 5-8
            Rabbit, who adores Pig, shows up on Pig’s doorstep to ask for help in making a list of all the things he loves about his best friend.  Back and forth several times when he runs out of ideas, Rabbit is encouraged to leave so Pig can finish what he is busy working on.
            Patient and kind, Pig is also complimentary, and always polite.  But even his usual good humor is stretched by Rabbit’s many interruptions.  Outlined in ink, the digitally colored paintings on paper and plywood deliver expressive faces, and vivid body language to accompany the breezy, animated text.
            In the final pages, we realize why the two are such good buddies -- Rabbit discovers, what readers may be already guessing, that Pig had the same idea. He’s been creating a list of his own about his good friend Rabbit.
            The two lists are included at the book’s end, suggesting an idea for young reader’s to generate their own lists of what they love about their own good friend.

I’m in Love with a Big Blue Frog  
by Leslie Braunstein
performed by Peter, Paul and Mary
illustrated by Joshua S. Brunet 
Charlesbridge, $17.95, Ages 4-10
            Neither a typical holiday nor love story, this newly illustrated folk song, made famous by the well-loved musical group, Peter, Paul and Mary, makes humorous use of clever lyrics and a peppy melody, becoming an endearing vehicle for strengthening an important message.  The book delivers a dynamic dose of optimism and tolerance, injecting a quirky measure of merriment into a “painful remnant of slavery days.”
            A girl announces her love for a six foot three blue frog, whose mother is from Philadelphia, and whose daddy was an enchanted prince.  Clearly a representation of African-Americans, the blue frog is loved by the girl, who symbolizes Americans committed to ending segregation. 
            Beginning with disapproving onlookers as they share a float in a soda shop, the bold illustrations supply readers a candid view of community censure of the loving couple.  The positive final double page spread shows a happy community sharing frog-shaped popsicles.  While welcome, this transformation remains unexplained by either text or illustration.
            Back matter includes both an Illustrator’s Note and a Performer’s Note.  A CD recording by Peter, Paul and Mary is enclosed.

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