Thursday, May 12, 2016

May is for Mothers (FAMILY magazine reviews)

Mothers (and fathers, for that matter) are our children’s most important teachers. The ones who read to their children, and share their love of books and reading, supply their offspring with the second most important ingredient for success as adults.    
          Ingredients for a child’s success:
1)    A parent who loves her/his child
2)    A parent who reads to her/his child
It’s actually true that children who love to read, often do not remember learning to read. This is because the child who has been read to usually begins to tell the stories s/he loves as if s/he were reading. S/he turns the pages, “reading” the words from memory. S/he knows these words; having heard them read and re-read.
            So, to all the moms (and dads!) who patiently read a story dozens of times, this may be boring to you, but it’s adored by a child who gets to hear the sound and rhythm of language again and again, developing an understanding of the dual treasures of time spent reading with a much loved parent. Try out any or all of these wonderful stories in honor of Mom. Happy Mother’s Day!

Sleepyheads by Sandra J. Howatt
Illustrated by Joyce Wan
            A crescent moon anchors both the story and each picture in this beautiful bedtime book. Illustrations with rounded shapes curve and comfort in seamless combination, with reassuring “s” sounds to lull little ones asleep. 
            Rhyming text steers readers through the moon-bright night. The featured animals are never named. But each one is called a “sleepyhead.” Such repetition quietly leads the child to name the creatures that inhabit this snuggly storybook.
            The pencil illustrations are colored digitally and, while it is nighttime, the darkness is warm and welcoming, not scary. The gentle invitation to “Look!” is used again and again. And, the light from stars and/or fireflies lights up each open page spread. It’s a comforting reminder that creatures and people all sleep under the same sky.
After following the rhymes and finding all the little ones “in houses and in barns,” the one still missing is “asleep in Mama’s arms!”
Beach Lane, $16.99 
Interest Level: Junior Kindergarten – Grade 1

Soon, by Timothy Knapman
Illustrated by Patrick Benson
            Raju, a baby elephant and his mother, begin an adventure when the morning is still dark and cold. His repeated question (different from the familiar, “Are we there yet?), “When can we go home again?” receives a patient response from his mother, “Soon.”
            Along this journey they encounter danger. First, they meet snapping crocodiles. Then, a snake comes slithering. And later, a prowling tiger roars toward them. Raju’s mother, however, knows exactly how to keep her little one safe. She “stamped her feet so hard, it made the ground tremble,” and she “blew her trunk so hard, it made the trees shake,” and finally she “reared up so high, she was as big as a giant.”
            When they come to the mountain, his mother tells Raju to hold on to her tail. At the top, the two share the beautiful view.
            Watercolor illustrations show sun-washed details. Face and body expressions are expertly matched with skillfully written text. Together, carefully crafted paintings smoothly blend the rhythmic flow of language with the subtle emphasis of repetitive phrases.
            Although the young elephant is tired and his feet hurt after returning home at dusk, Raju asks, “When can we do it all again?” Even the youngest children will know the answer.

Candlewick Press, $16.99 
Interest Level: Pre-School – Grade 1

Mama’s Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation
by Edwidge Danticat, illustrations by Leslie Staub
            Saya’s Haitian mother is in jail because the “immigration police” arrested her at work. Papa writes letters to judges, the mayor and congresswoman, and newspapers and TV reporters. But, no one writes back. Every week Saya and Papa visit Mama “at Sunshine Correctional, a prison for women without papers.”
            Saya loves the Haitian stories her Mama tells her about the beautiful wosiyol, a nightingale with a sweet song (also Saya’s nickname). She misses Mama deeply. And, there is some comfort for Saya when cassette tapes come in the mail. She can listen to Mama’s voice telling stories and singing the nightingale’s song.
            After one sad time, Saya writes a story herself, to help relieve her sadness. When Papa mails what she has written, a newspaper reporter prints Saya’s story for people to read. As a result, others get involved, helping to change this family’s story.
Bright oil paintings convey a sense of island culture. Also, folk art touches - like blue and pink nightingales – easily combine dream symbols with images from daily life. And, the expressive face of Saya’s stuffed animal, a monkey, both comforts and accompanies her.
Miami author Danticat was herself an immigrant from Haiti as a child. She writes with tenderness and conviction of a family torn apart because of a need for “the right papers,” as Saya calls them. This is an important immigrant story for our time.

Dial, $17.99 Interest Level: Grade 1-3

Other Great Choices:

Henry Finds His Word by Lindsay Ward
Dial, $16.99  
Interest Level: Pre-School - Kindergarten

Monster Mama by Liz Rosenberg,
Illustrated by Stephen Gammell
Philomel, Interest Level: Kindergarten – Grade 2

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