Thursday, May 4, 2017

It's Fun to Say, "It's Mother's Day!" (FAMILY magazine reviews)

Although these Mother’s Day books have been on the scene since the late 1980’s, the collective delight from both children and adults in the sharing of these well-told, much-loved, beautifully written, and enchantingly illustrated stories seems never to fade away. The enduring appeal of these captivating tales is not lessened by their focus on our beloved mothers. Have fun sharing with your own beloved young ones.

The Mother’s Day Mice 
by Eve Bunting 
illustrated by Jan Brett
            Illustrator Brett dresses her characteristically appealing small animals in colorful clothing to balance author Bunting’s lively story, set on a cool early spring morning. Three brave mouse brothers set out to find the finest gifts for their mother. Their search is a dangerous one: readers see a hidden snake, a prowling fox and a swooping owl.
            The underbrush, ferns and toadstools appear large, painted skillfully to suggest a mouse’s perspective. The ripe red strawberry is large enough that Middle Mouse sets it down to take a rest. The dandelion fluff ball looms over Biggest Mouse.
            Littlest Mouse wants to get honeysuckle from the cottage where cat (midnight black with a menacing, brilliant red mouth) lies yawning. But Littlest changes his plan when he hears someone playing “Twinkle Little Star” on the piano inside. Ultimately, his gift, a song they all can sing together, is the most surprising.
            This tender story is sweet, but not syrupy. Its carefully detailed illustrations, expressive language, and the animated pleasure of the mice that delight in their thoughtful gifts make this tuneful tale an utterly satisfying picture book to share.

Clarion, $5.95 (paperback) $15.95 (hardcover)
Interest Level: Pre-School – Grade 2

Hazel’s Amazing Mother by Rosemary Wells
            Author-illustrator Wells timeless animal characters are cuddly, but still get into trouble. Hazel, the title character, is a young badger who makes a wrong turn during an errand. Three bullies, led by Doris, a large beaver, surround her and her doll, Eleanor. They knock the stuffing out of poor Eleanor, and ride the doll carriage down the hill. It splashes into the pond.
            When Hazel calls, “Mother, I need you!” the magical part of the story is set in motion. Wells’ whimsical ink and watercolor illustrations pop with color and action. Hazel wears a bright yellow shirt that makes her stand out on each page. As the bullies tease her, the sky darkens with a raincloud.
            Hazel’s mother is blown by the wind and rain across town, grasping a picnic blanket. She arrives in time to direct the bullies’ clean up.
            As the chastened bullies complete the tidying, the sun comes out and the clouds slip away. Hazel’s mother finishes the repairs on Eleanor, and they enjoy their picnic before returning home. Love powers this fantasy for young children, charming Mother and child pairs who read this cheerful picture book, daydreaming imaginative rescues of their own.

Penguin, $5.99 (paperback) $16.00 (hardcover)
Interest Level: Pre-Kindergarten – Grade 1

Koala Lou by Mem Fox, illustrated by Pamela Loft
            In this surprising tale, with animal characters familiar in Australia, author Fox creates a captivating book as a gift to her native country. A baby koala, loved by all (including an emu and a platypus), is loved most by her mother. “Koala Lou, I DO love you!” her mother says, again and again.
            But, as new siblings are born, her mother gets busier, and doesn’t “have the time to tell Koala Lou that she loved her. Although of course she did.”
            Koala Lou decides to enter the Bush Olympics and “compete in the gum tree climbing event.” When she wins, she imagines her mother will “fling her arms around her neck and say again, ‘Koala Lou, I DO love you!’”
            Lofts uses a bright palette, snuggly animals, and energetic movement in her illustrations. Each double-page spread is loosely arranged within a frame, although parts of the painting escape from the edges and spill across into the text. This dramatic method ties the reader intimately to the tale.
            Koala Lou begins training; jogging, lifting weights, doing push-ups; even hanging from a branch with one claw. And, of course, climbing the tallest tree she can find. “Over and over and over again.”
            Yet, in spite of her planning, and training and hoping, Koala Lou comes in second. She goes and hides, crying her heart out. When she creeps back home, her mother is waiting for her: she flings her arms around her neck, and says the words Koala Lou has been longing to hear. This warm-hearted ending to a universal wish is a memorable conclusion.
Harcourt, $7.99 (paperback) $17.99 (hardcover)
Interest Level: Junior Kindergarten – Grade 1

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