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Review: Grandpa Green (2011)

Grandpa Green by Lane SmithGrandpa Green

In honor of Grandparent’s Day yesterday, I re-read a favorite Lane Smith picture book, Grandpa Green.  Lane Smith is most notable for his illustrations (like the ones in James and the Giant Peach and The True Story of the Three Little Pigs)  but he has also written a lot of great picture books, such as John, Paul, George, and Ben and The Happy Hocky Family.

In this book, a great-grandson recalls the events of his horticulture-loving great-grandfather’s life.  The simple, straightforward sentences delightfully capture a poignant mood as the child fondly tells his great-grandfather’s story and honors his legacy while traipsing through topiary bushes with his wagon.  The beautiful shades of green that pop off every page are pleasing to the eye and make it clear why this book was a Caldecott Honor award winner.  I also appreciate the literary references when Smith writes about how Grandpa Green became ill with chicken pox and how “He had to stay home from school.  So he read stories about secret gardens and wizards and a little engine that could.”  In fact, the more I have read this book over the years, the more I have appreciated it.  It’s the perfect picture book for a little one to cozy up with Grandma or Grandpa and read together!  Someday, I would love to have students (or my own kids) write their own version of Grandpa Green for their own grandparent.  It would be the most meaningful and heartwarming present.      -Marika

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Review: Fish in a Tree (2015)

fishtreeI want to share this book with every teacher that I know.

This is the story of Ally, a bright young girl who has creatively managed to fool a lot of people. Her poor behavior at school hides her truth. She can’t read.

This is also the story of Mr. Daniels, a teacher who sees Ally’s potential and finds a way to reach her.

The irony is that the kids who this book will speak to the most are not likely to be kids who pick it up to read. This book would be a great title for teachers to read aloud. It would appeal to a wide variety of ages, and I think could do well in grades 2-5.

Ally’s determination and optimism send a positive message to readers on the power of hard work and perseverance. The kindnesses shown by Mr. Daniels and by some of Ally’s classmates illustrate how simple acts of caring can change a person’s life.

I highly recommend reading this book, and sharing it with kids in your life!

-Erin

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Review: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore (2011)

Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris LessmoreThe Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce

I feel like I have read a lot of really great books lately, and a lot of those really great books have been picture books for children.  But no book that I’ve read lately (or ever, really) has affected me as emotionally as The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore which I stumbled across for the first time this week.

What an amazing concept for a book!  Morris Lessmore is a man who loves stories, and is even writing his own life in a book, “one orderly page after another”.  His story is overturned and the words of his book scatter everywhere.  Not knowing what to do or where to go, Morris wanders aimlessly until he is rescued from his daze by one amiable book.  He follows that book and is led to more books who begin to give a new purpose and joy to Morris’ life.

There is so much about this book that is simply wonderful.  The symbolism of Morris’ life represented by the book he is writing is powerful.  The profound way the book tells the story of Morris’ entire life is spellbinding.  The word choice is impeccable, and the pictures evoke an odd mix of feelings, both of tenderness and amusement. More than anything, the message of this story is so, so important!  Books can and do have power in our lives.  They inspire us and bring us wonder. They help us connect to other people.  They help us find purpose in our own lives.  They make us happy.

If I could, I would make sure every teacher had a copy of this book in their classroom, every parent read this book to their children, and every librarian displayed this book in their library.

And….. as if the book itself were not enough to make it worth a read, there is also an app (Imag.N.O.Tron) that you can purchase for $.99 that makes reading The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore quite remarkable.  I won’t even try to explain the app, I would just recommend purchasing it.  It’s worth the money!

Finally, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore was the inspiration for a short film, which is also fabulous.  But, you don’t have to take my word for it, just ask the Academy.  The movie won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in 2011.  You can watch the entire movie here, but (like always) I would recommend reading the book first!   -Marika

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Review: Last Stop on Market Street (2015)

Last Stop on Market StreetLast Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena

He wondered how his nana always found beautiful where he never even thought to look.

CJ and his Nana travel by bus to a soup kitchen after church on Sundays.  CJ has lots of questions for his grandmother and her answers are insightful and wise. I like this book more and more each time I read it.  Nana’s optimistic view of life is inspirational, for both me and CJ.  The pictures by Christian Robinson are simple and engaging and I love how De La Pena uses the story line to take the reader’s attention in one direction and then how the picture on the last page of the book can completely change the readers’ perspective.  This is a fabulous book to read out loud to children and I will be seeking out a copy to add to my personal library.   -Marika