Thursday, March 10, 2016
Words + Imagination = Stories (especially stories in books!) FAMILY magazine reviews
A time for telling stories is also a great time for writing stories. Mix together the following important ingredients: begin with imagination, you’ll need at least two quarts, add a pint of problem solving, a liter of listening, and sprinkle with sharing. It also helps if you like to play with words and ideas, because you’ll need to whip and stir until the texture is just right. And don’t forget exploring – an adventure is almost always the way in to a terrific story. Let the story cook for at least fifteen minutes before removing from the heat. And then, of course, one must read . . . stories. Enjoy!
By Mouse and Frog by Deborah Freedman
Mouse wakes up one morning, “eager to write a brand-new story.” It’s a restful story until Frog literally jumps in with cake on his mind. And, a King who likes “elevendy-seven kinds of ice cream. And, a litany of loyal subjects who cheer, and play games, in a stream-of-conscious chaos of nursery rhymes, lines from children’s literature (are you my mother?, you monkeys, you, I think I can, hey diddle diddle), and even stinky cheese.
When Mouse screams, “STOP!” amid a rumpus of excitement, a dragon in pencil has arrived on a double page spread with crashing energy. There are colorful butterflies, and melting ice cream spilling across Mouse’s no longer white pages. His story is a mess.
Finally, Mouse and Frog talk about whose story it is. Frog starts to erase the King and Dragon. Yet, as Mouse begins second telling, Frog gets excited again. A reminder from Mouse about whose story it is, changes to a conversation about to which the story belongs.
The pencil, watercolor, and gouache illustrations open the story in mostly white, black and brown. But as the story bursts apart, so do the paintings. A colorful ice cream tower topples in a purple blast of dragon breath. Frog’s expression of delight contrasts sharply with Mouse, hiding under the table, with his eyes covered. Still, as the jubilant garden emerges, the two friends’ faces beam. Author-illustrator Freedman vividly helps her readers explore adventure, collaboration and creativity with passion.
Viking, $16.99 Interest Level: Junior Kindergarten – Grade 2
Use Your Imagination (But Be Careful What You Wish For!) by Nicola O’Byrne
Rabbit is bored. Wolf appears, claiming to be a librarian. “Use your imagination . . . words and pictures to create a story,” he tells Rabbit. However, when Rabbit wants to include space rockets, explosions and lots of bananas in the story, Wolf objects. “We need . . . a fairy tale . . . with a bad guy,” he says.
Rabbit imagines a mouse, and an elephant, both of which Wolf dismisses. But Wolf accepts, saying, “Now that’s a good idea,” when Rabbit asks, “What about you?”
They discuss a hero (Rabbit), a costume, a setting. And suddenly Wolf is chasing a panting rabbit. Several hints in the conversation invite readers to remember at least one other story with a wolf.
The mixed media illustrations accent the characters’ expressions, allowing them to stand out from the surrounding white space. An especially strong image begins the book: Wolf’s gray shadow, falls across Rabbit, who is propped up on elbows. Later in the story, brightly designed vertical rods, looking like colorful candy sticks; appear as tree trunks in an imagined forest.
Rabbit, as hero, however, stops running and takes control of the story, again using imagination. A lift-up page showing Wolf inside a red rocket with “BLAST OFF” in giant letters, folds out to show Rabbit’s good idea.
The final double page spread with Rabbit’s last words “Isn’t using your imagination a wonderful thing?” makes use of the back cover with a cutout parallelogram to suggest where the next phase of this story might go. “You never know where your imagination might lead you,” is both conclusion and invitation on the outside back cover.
Candlewick Press, $15.99 Interest Level: Pre-Kindergarten – Grade 2
Roger is Reading a Book by Koen Van Biesen, translated by Laura Watkinson
This zany storybook uses adroit repetition to tell a simple tale of Roger who is quietly reading. A book.
But Emily is playing. A game. It turns out to be a loud game.
The quiet doesn’t last. Emily is singing. A song. Loudly.
So “Roger knocks. Noisily.”
Van Biesen’s spare language is cleverly matched with line drawings, color and other mixed media. As language, sound and energy escalate, the content in the illustrations increases in complexity.
Not only does this add interest as readers watch the dog at Roger’s feet change from snoozing, to listening, to begging for a walk. But the level of noise elevates, as the level of annoyance keeps pace. The curious reader then invests more, wondering . . . what will happen next?!
Finally Roger, who is “not reading now,” but pacing, decides to act. The dog must stay, while Roger who has “made up his mind,” delivers a beautifully wrapped package to Emily.
While the gift seems to have solved the problem, the story is not yet complete. The dog, it turns out, is not satisfied with Roger’s solution. And although it’s now raining outside, everyone in the story – Roger, Emily, and pooch – are now, not reading. But they are all smiling.
Eerdmans, $16.00 Interest Level: Junior Kindergarten – Grade 2
Where Are My Books? by Debbie Ridpath Ohi
Simon & Schuster, $17.99 Interest Level: Junior Kindergarten – Grade 3
Look! by Jeff Mack
Philomel Books, $16.99 Interest Level: Pre-Kindergarten – Grade 1
The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus by Jen Bryant, Illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Eerdmans, $17.50 Interest Level: Grade 2 +
The Princess and the Giant: A Funny Tale for Anyone Who Loves a Bedtime Story by Caryl Hart, illustrated by Sarah Warburton
Candlewick Press, $16.99 Interest Level: Pre-Kindergarten – Grade 2