Tag Archives: Diverse Books

Sparky!

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The narrator of this bittersweet story (a special favorite of my youngest) really, really wants a pet, but her mother keeps saying no.

I asked her every day for a month, until she finally said,
“You can have any pet you want as long as it doesn’t need
to be walked or bathed or fed.”
I made her promise.

Then (with the help of the school librarian) she finds a pet that actually fits the criteria: a sloth. When he arrives, she finds the reality of “Sparky” doesn’t conform at all with what she thought having a pet would be like.

While kids seem to focus on humorous aspects of the situation, adults will notice there is a lot going on here about what happens when expectations don’t match up with reality. Come for the laughter; stay for the loss, grief, and love (or is it the other way around?).

Author: Jenny Offill
Illustrator: Chris Appelhans

Home

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Where and what can a home be? Some of Ms. Ellis’ answers are conventional (for example, a nest), others are pure fantasy (see the picture above). Her drawings are deceptively-simple and peaceful–perfect for before bed. But what gives the boys the most pleasure is that every double-page spread in this book contains a dove. Sometimes the dove is easy to spot. Sometimes it is very well hidden. The boys always love finding it.

Author: Carson Ellis
Illustrator: Carson Ellis

Bring Me Some Apples and I’ll Make You a Pie: A Story About Edna Lewis

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In a 1989 interview with The New York Times, celebrated chef and author Edna Lewis said: “As a child in Virginia, I thought all food tasted delicious. After growing up, I didn’t think food tasted the same, so it has been my lifelong effort to try and recapture those good flavors of the past.” This book focuses on that childhood, those good flavors, and how the rhythms of growing and gathering food affected the day-to-day life of Ms. Lewis’ family.

The boys love this book; the pictures and lovingly-described foods keep them spellbound. I do have a few small caveats: the recipes included at the end of the book are inspired by Ms. Lewis, but are not her own; the speech of the characters is highly stylized (old poetry and rhymes about food make up much of the dialogue, which may take some getting used to); and we all agree the author of this book likely has never actually heard a whippoorwill (we have learned from camping that its call is anything but melodious–instead it is a dead ringer for an hours-long car alarm).

Author: Robbin Gourley
Illustrator: Robbin Gourley

 

Tap-Tap

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It was early on market day when Sasifi and her mama
started down the path to the main road. The sky was still
gray. Mama carried a big basket of oranges on her head.
Sasifi carried a smaller one.
“Will we ride in the tap-tap today?” Sasifi asked.
“No,” said Mama. “We will walk to market, the same as
always.”

Sasifi has just turned eight and is very proud that she is now big enough to help Mama on market day. But she would love to try traveling in a tap-tap (a brightly painted share taxi) instead of walking. This engaging book deftly portrays a way of life very different than our own (the boys wondered why Sasifi’s family did not just buy a car, which lead to an interesting discussion) and is gently humorous. My youngest especially enjoys it.

Author: Karen Lynn Williams
Illustrator: Catherine Stock

Little Elliot, Big City

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Elliot is a tiny, pastel-spotted, New-York-City-dwelling elephant. He generally works around his size limitations, but often goes unnoticed and is nearly overcome by loneliness (and cupcake cravings) until he finds “someone even littler than himself, who had an even bigger problem.” In helping this someone (an adorable white mouse), Elliot’s problems are solved. This deeply cute book manages to stop short of being saccharine and is very popular.

Author: Mike Curato
Illustrator: Mike Curato

Franny K. Stein: Mad Scientist series

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This series, about a slightly-diabolical genius whose science skills far outpace her social skills, has been making the boys HOWL with laughter. In a very happy coincidence, the poem generator above was part of tonight’s bedtime reading. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Author: Jim Benton
Illustrator: Jim Benton

 

How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World

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Making an apple pie is really very easy.
First, get all the ingredients at the market.
Mix them well, bake, and serve.

Unless, of course,
the market is closed.

In that case, go home and pack a suitcase.

The pie-craving protagonist travels to Italy (for wheat), Frances (for a chicken that lays “elegant eggs”), Sri Lanka (for kurundu bark), England (for a cow to provide milk), Jamaica (for seawater and sugar cane), and Vermont (for apples). Once the traveling is through, all she will have to do is:

mill the wheat into flour,
grind the kurundu
bark into cinnamon,
evaporate the seawater
from the salt,
boil the sugar cane,
persuade the chicken
to lay an egg…

Well, you get the idea. This book is thoughtful, colorful, and quietly funny. Perhaps it was inspired by the famous Carl Sagan quote: “If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.” (My youngest swears by the apple pie recipe on the last page.)

Author: Marjorie Priceman
Illustrator: Marjorie Priceman

The Odd Egg

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All the birds had laid an egg.
All except for Duck.
Then Duck found an egg!
He thought it was the most beautiful egg in the whole wide world.

Well after all of the other birds’ eggs hatch (in a sequence making clever use of paper engineering), Duck keeps faith in his egg. Ignoring the other birds’ overt skepticism, Duck waits and waits until his very special, surprising, hatchling makes a grand entrance. The boys really enjoy this book; it is sweet, short, and very funny.

Author: Emily Gravett
Illustrator: Emily Gravett

One Kitten for Kim

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Kim had a cat named Geraldine and seven kittens.
One kitten was striped like a tiny tiger. One was round,
and soft, and white as a snowball. Two were black as a
midnight sky, and three had black and white polka-dots
all over.

Kim thought that having seven kittens was fun. Kim’s
mother and father did not agree.

So Kim is sent out to give away six of the kittens. And he succeeds. There is only one complication: everyone who takes a kitten thanks Kim by giving him a different pet in exchange. This is a great book to read with early readers and non-readers, due to the subtle humor and repeated rebuses (pictures that take the place of words).

Author: Adelaide Holl
Illustrator: Don Madden

 

Miss Bridie Chose a Shovel

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She could have picked a chiming clock or a porcelain figurine,
but Miss Bridie chose a shovel back in 1856.

Miss Bridie chose the shovel from the peg in the barn, and
she took it to the dock, where she stepped aboard the ship.
She leaned on the shovel as she rocked in the cabin while
she lived on the ship on her way across the sea.

Miss Bridie flung the shovel with her pack on her shoulder
when she stepped off the ship in the harbor in New York.

This quiet, beautiful book covers most of a lifetime and is a pleasure from beginning to end.

Author: Leslie Connor
Illustrator: Mary Azarian