In Chirri & Chirra In the Night, identical twins, Chirri and Chirra, hear the sounds of drums and flutes coming from the forest just as the sun is setting. Off they go on their bikes to “take a look.” They first discover an enchanting, “… black cat drink stall!” There the sisters drink multiple delicious full-moon sodas. As they drink they sprout cat tails, whiskers, ears and enhanced night vision. “They can see everything now, even in the dark.” The magic has begun! Next, their cat guides pick flowers that “Chirri and Chirra have never seen before to make necklaces for them.” The cats tell them “these will be your tickets for the festival.” Continue reading
WOW Recommends: Berry Song
Berry Song by Michaela Goade is a celebration of the land, the indigenous people and animals that live on the “island at the edge of a wide, wild sea.” Goade grew up and lives in the Tongass National Forest which is the home of her Tlingit ancestors. The story takes place in that Forest. A young girl tells of how her Tlingit grandmother taught her to harvest what they needed from the salty ocean gathering herring eggs, seaweed and netting silvery salmon. “And in the forest… we pick berries. …The berries sing to us, glowing like little jewels. We sing too, so berry–and bear–know we are here.” As they sing they say the names of the multiple kinds of berries that they harvest. Their songs encompass the variety of ways the forest “sings to us, through misting rain and whoosh of wing, the sweet smell of cedar and the tickle of moss.” Continue reading
WOW Recommends: The New Rooster
The New Rooster by Rilla Alexander is a universal and fanciful story about the challenges of communicating when many different languages are spoken. The story starts on the title page when Rooster, clutching his roller bag, parachutes from a plane. He has come a long way for his new job in a new country. We notice on the front endpapers that he has been hired to give the wake-up call at the ZZZ Hotel. But when he crows just as he had back home, no one is aroused. Even when he yells at the top of his lungs no one gets up. Repeated efforts until 3 p.m. fail to get anyone out of bed and the rooster figures he is out of a job. He realizes that he will need a good breakfast if he must make the long journey home. When the delicious smells of his cooking finally arouses the hotel guests they share a breakfast and chat. “They didn’t understand every word they heard, but they tried their best.” The ending will leave smiles on listener’s faces as this book makes a terrific read aloud. Don’t miss the punch line on the back endpapers — “Did you know the Rooster speaks pig latin?” Continue reading
WOW Recommends: Blue
Blue by Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond with illustrations by Daniel Minter is an informative and unusual nonfiction book. The beautiful illustrations extend the text that describes varied aspects of the color blue; the complicated history, impact on art, science and much more.
That history started way back in time. “As early as 4500 BC, diggers found blue rocks called lapis lazuli in mines deep below Afghanistan’s Sare-e-Sang valley.” Early sources of the color came from crushed rocks and “in the belly of a certain shell fish.” Later, dyers produced blue from the indigo plants. “In parts of Africa, some merchants used strips of indigo cloth to buy people, and sell them into slavery. … In this evil side of the trade for blue, landowners around the world abused or enslaved countless people just so they could grow more indigo.” In 1905, scientist, Adolf von Baeyer, won the Nobel Prize for “creating a chemical blue.” He made that achievement after forty years of trying. Continue reading
WOW Recommends: Luli and the Language of Tea
Luli and the Language of Tea opens with Luli coming into a preschool classroom with children from many cultures and countries. Their parents are attending an ESL class next door. The text reads, “The playroom was quiet./ Luli couldn’t speak English./ Neither could the others./ All around the room, children played alone.” Continue reading
WOW Recommends: Beatryce Prophecy
In this review Kathy Short and Marilyn Carpenter share their responses to The Beatryce Prophecy by Kate DiCamillo with illustrations by Sophie Blackall.
MARILYN: As soon as I finished this book, I eagerly read it again. With the first reading, I found the plot most engaging. On the second reading, I admired the author’s craft. The story takes place in the Middle Ages during a time of war. Five characters carry the story. First, the reader meets a monk, Brother Edik, who has written a prophecy about a girl who will unseat a king. Next, we are introduced to a cranky and fearsome goat, Answelica, who has a major role in the story as a protector of Beatryce, a young girl that Brother Edik finds ill, wounded and bloody curled up next to that goat, fast asleep. It turns out that the child has experienced a horrific trauma that has left her without any memory except that her name is Beatryce. As Brother Edik comes to know her he discovers that she can read and write which is dangerous because there is a law that says that no girls or women can read or write. Brother Edik shaves her head and disguises her as a young monk. Continue reading
WOW Recommends: I Dream of PoPo
Blackburne, the author of I Dream of PoPo, and Kuo, the illustrator, capture the close bond between a girl and her grandmother in rich text and detailed illustrations. Their story starts in Taiwan where they share precious times together rocking, walking in the park, celebrating New Year’s, eating special foods. Then, the girl and her parents move to San Diego, California. Popo sends the child off with, “Call me every week and tell me about your adventures.” The child reports that she is learning a new language, but misses Popo’s noodles. The granddaughter learns English, “the words form easier on my tongue.” But when she visits Popo the Taiwanese words feel “strange in my mouth.” Yet their hugs are “as tight as before.” When Popo is sick, her granddaughter sings to her and says, “I wish I could reach across the ocean and hold her up.” The story ends with the child dreaming about her Popo. Continue reading
WOW Recommends: Sweet Pea Summer
Sweet Pea Summer is the perfect book to enjoy reading aloud during the summer. A young English girl tells the story of a summer when her Mom had to go to the hospital, and her Dad takes her to be with her grandparents in a country village. Of course, the girl misses her parents and has trouble concentrating on her reading, or her art because she is worried about her mother. Then Grandpa suggests that she help him in his large garden full of flowers and vegetables. Grandpa gives her the job of taking care of his prized sweet peas. She also has the opportunity to enter the sweet peas in the village flower show at the end of the summer. Continue reading
WOW Recommends: The Cat Man of Aleppo
This true story of The Cat Man of Aleppo will always remain in my heart. In this time of the virus and difficult challenges, this true story is an inspiration. A note from the Cat Man, Mohammad Alaa Aljsleed, in the beginning of the book says, “This is a story about cats and war and people. But most of all, it is a story about love”. His love for cats and how he cared for them after the terrible destruction of the civil war in Syria is the focus of the story. Continue reading
MTYT: Picturebooks That Highlight Kindness
Marilyn Carpenter, Eastern Washington University, Spokane, WA, Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH and Jean Schroeder, The IDEA School, Tucson, AZ
As we end this month, and 2020, there is more to say about kindness. There is still more to think about in respect to both small and large decisions and actions made. The decisions we have made as individuals, as communities, as societies, will be written about and scrutinized for many years to come. A lot of it will be negative, sad, and horrific. We must remember, however, in the hopes that we will learn to do better as we move forward.
It should also be remembered that throughout this year there have been countless acts of kindness, and those must also be allowed to shine. They, too, have much to teach us. While we focused on novels from areas around the world, we end this discussion with a list of picturebooks for considering kindness and the potential for it.