Something Beautiful by Sharon Dennis Wyeth

Summary: This moving picture book offers a shining testament to the ability of human beings to find "something beautiful" in even the most unlikely places. An African American girl initially sees only the ugliness of her neighborhood. There is "trash in the courtyard and a broken bottle that looks like fallen stars." On her front door, someone has scrawled the word "DIE," and a homeless lady "sleeps on the sidewalk, wrapped in plastic." Searching for something beautiful?"something that when you have it, your heart is happy"?she polls various neighbors. For an old man it is the touch of a smooth stone; for Miss Delphine, it's the taste of the fried fish sandwich in her diner; for Aunt Carolyn, it's the sound of her baby's laugh. When the girl decides to create her own "something beautiful," she picks up the trash, scrubs her door clean and realizes, "I feel powerful." Wyeth's (Always My Dad) restrained text is thoughtful without being didactic. She creates a city landscape that is neither too dark nor too sweet; and her ending is just right, with the heroine's mother saying that her daughter is her "something beautiful." Soentpiet's (Peacebound Trains) paintings are luminously lifelike. Whether depicting the girl running past a chain-link fence in a dark alley or Miss Delphine's patrons sitting beneath the rows of glinting glasses, the paintings focus on a community with characters so real, readers can almost feel the sunlight on their faces. All ages. Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Classroom Implications
: This book resonates with urban community members and echos the salient point of community action. It offers a different perspective to preserving our environment by marking the importance of preserving ALL environments. It combines concepts of community organizing, social action and environmentalism. I also like the cover because it implies finding beauty in personal identities, as well as communities. This is an important image for our students to see, view and discuss, especially in regards to how community identity mirrors personal identity.


Black and White by David Macaulay

Summary: Publishers Weekly: At first glance, this is a collection of four unrelated stories, each occupying a quarter of every two-page spread, and each a slight enough tale to seem barely worth a book--a boy on a train, parents in a funny mood, a convict's escape and a late commuter train. The magic of Black and White comes not from each story, however, but from the mysterious interactions between them that creates a fifth story. Several motifs linking the tales are immediately apparent, such as trains--real and toy--and newspapers. A second or third reading reveals suggestions of the title theme: Holstein cows, prison uniform stripes. Eventually, the stories begin to merge into a surrealistic tale spanning several levels of reality, e.g.: Are characters in one story traveling on the toy train in another? Answers are never provided--this is not a mystery or puzzle book. Instead, Black and White challenges the reader to use text and pictures in unexpected other writer for adults or children explores this unusual territory the way Macaulay does. All ages. Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Classroom Implications: This post modern text requires sophisticated reading strategies for students to synthesize the information presented in the text. Multiple plotlines interweave simultaneously and blend together using the actual text and the illustrations. One suggested teaching point is to assign groups of students one plot to follow, therefore kids can jigsaw the story together (this aids with synthesizing).


Just a Dream by Chris Van Allsberg

Summary: Two-time Caldecott Medalist Van Allsburg reaches a new pinnacle of excellence in both illustration and storytelling in his latest work. Since his first book, The Garden of Abdul Gasazi, appeared just over a decade ago, he has spun many strange and fantastic modern fairy tales, all of which spill over the edge of reality into magnificent dreamscapes. Here Van Allsburg introduces Walter, a boy who imagines the future as a marvelous time, with tiny airplanes that can be parked on the roof of your house and robots that take care of all your work for you. In the present, however, Walter is a litterbug who can't be bothered to sort the trash for recycling and laughs at Rose, the girl next door, because she receives a sapling for her birthday. One night, when Walter goes to sleep, his bed travels to the future. But he finds neither tiny airplanes nor robots, only piles of trash covering the street where he used to live, acres and acres of stumps where forests used to stand, rows and rows of great smokestacks belching out acrid smoke, and many other environmental nightmares. Van Allsburg renders each of these chilling scenarios in elaborate, superbly executed two-page spreads that echo the best work of M. C. Escher and Winsor McKay (creator of the Little Nemo comic strips). Walter and his bed land right in the middle of the action in each of these hallucinatory paintings, heightening the visual impact and forcing a hard look at the devastation surrounding Van Allsburg's protagonist. An awakened Walter, jolted by his dream, changes his ways: he begins to sort the trash and, like Rose, plants a tree for his birthday. Then his bed takes him to a different future, one where people tend their lawns with powerless mowers and where the trees he and Rose have planted stand tall and strong beneath a blue sky. Not only are Just a Dream 's illustrations some of the most striking Van Allsburg has ever created, but the text is his best yet. Van Allsburg has sacrificed none of the powerful, otherworldly spirit that suffuses his earlier works, and he has taken a step forward by bringing this spirit to bear on a vitally important issue. His fable builds to an urgent plea for action as it sends a rousing message of hope. All ages. Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Cross Curricular Connections: This is really a book with an environmental twist. This fantasy picture book would make a nice pair with Home or Window by Jeannie Baker.


The Sweetest Fig by Chris Van Allsberg

Summary: Grade 3 Up-Another quietly bizarre and stunning picture book from Van Allsburg. In this modern fairy tale, a Parisian dentist (a prissy and sadistic man who even hates his own dog) is given two magic figs by an old woman who tells him, "'They can make your dreams come true.'" Bibot scoffs. However, after the first fig proves to do exactly that (in a scene in which the dentist walks down the street in his underwear, and then the Eiffel Tower droops over), he realizes how precious they are. Night after night, he hypnotizes himself into dreaming that he is the richest man on earth. Finally, he prepares to eat the second fig. But his dog, Marcel, beats him to it, and the following morning, the dentist wakes up as the helpless pup under a bed, with his own face calling to him, "'Time for your walk. Come to Marcel.'" The Sweetest Fig is a superb blend of theme, language, and illustration, with a very grabbing plot as well. The writing is formal yet direct, using simple, deliberate vocabulary to match the elegant setting and mood. The shades of gray, cream, and brown and the calm, stable design enhance this mood. The angle at which readers view scenes is always intriguing and heightens their involvement. Most children old enough to read this complex book on their own will be fascinated and will return to it again and again. Van Allsburg at his best.
Lauralyn Persson, Wilmette Public Library, IL
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Classroom Implications: This text is great to teach point of view and perspective due to the sudden shift at the end of the book. It also lends itself well to characterization and cause and effect concepts.


The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsberg

Summary: This book is a collection of illustrations that resemble old photographs of surreal events and images. Each illustration has an accompanying title and quote that entice the reader to image a plot for the picture. The premise of the book is that a man named Harris Burdick dropped off a sample of his work to a publisher to consider publishing. The sample only includes illustrations with these enticing titles and quotes. The publisher discloses that the artist never returned again. The publisher finds this so compelling, he ends up making a book out of this mystery.

Classroom Implications: The book is set up with a long author's note to the reader, thereby creating a very "real" feeling for this fictitious book. I've used this book over and over when teaching short stories and have ALWAYS led on that the story is "real" with my middle schoolers. They instantly become intrigued with the mystery and look forward to writing stories that accompany the illustration and the quotes. This text is a fantastic wordless fantasy book that serves as inspiration for writing projects in the classroom!


Text Excerpts:

Home by Jeannie Baker

Summary: K-Gr. 3. This wordless picture book with exquisitely detailed collage illustrations speaks eloquently about urban conservation. Every double-page spread is a view through the same window, a view that changes over a generation, beginning with a couple expecting a baby and continuing as the baby grows up, is courted, and is married in the neighborhood street. At first the sprawl and smog nearly smother the view, but gradually the place changes. The community brings back a variety of local plants, and by the time the young woman's own baby is born, trees block the billboards, there are birds on the roof and in the sky, and cyclists and a bus can be seen on the roadway. Suddenly, there's a glimpse of the river in the distance, a dragonfly on the windowsill, and the full moon shines at night. Unlike some collage art, the technique here never gets in the way. The details show and tell a story about the small things in one neighborhood--their fragility, strength, and connection--and their power to make a difference. With each look at the pictures, there's more to see in the crowded neighborhood that is transformed into a wild and beautiful place. Hazel Rochman Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Classroom Implications
: This is a great companion piece with Baker's other book, Window. It takes the opposite look at development and the environment. It starts with an urban decay of a scene. With time, care, and community effort, the city-scape transforms into something beautiful. It would also be a picture book to support Paul Fleishman's book Seedfolks, which is based on social action, community and gardening.


Zoom by Istvan Banyai

Summary: From Booklist:Grades 3-8. Beginning with a close-up of a rooster's comb, each picture zooms out to give a more distant perspective; for example, the "camera" zooms out to show increasingly distant figures of children watching the rooster. Then, a large hand appears, showing that the scene was not depicting a real farm, but a toy farm set. But zoom out a few more times, and the scene reveals that the picture of the girl playing with the farm set is really on the magazine held by a boy, who's sleeping in a chair, which is by a pool, which is on an ocean liner, which is out at sea--no, wait--that picture is on a cruise-line poster on the side of a city bus, but that picture is on a television screen in the Arizona desert . . . and so on until the earth is shown from above, growing smaller with each turn of the page. The final scene is one white dot on a black page. Clear-cut paintings outlined in ink appear on each right-hand page; the left-hand pages are black. Not a story, but an "idea" book, it makes the viewer ask, "What am I really seeing here?" This clever picture book could be intriguing..., depending on the viewer's frame of mind, but children will find it worth a look. Once, anyway. Carolyn Phelan

Sequel Information: Re-Zoom
Summary: From Publishers Weekly:Re-Zoom resumes, or more accurately, reprises, the layout and nothing-is-as-it-seems perspective of last season's Zoom. Featuring detailed drawings backpainted on animation cels, this text-free volume opens with a red-on-blue cave painting that, with the turn of a page, becomes a detail on a wristwatch. The next spread reveals that the watch belongs to a young man doing a rubbing of carved hieroglyphs... and so on. To surprise his audience, which may already expect the sequence of pictures to expand to infinity, as in Zoom, Banyai toys not only with spatial relations but with time and with cultural referents: people in 19th-century garb, admiring an image of Napoleon, turn out to be on a movie set; a woman in traditional Japanese dress sports a yellow Walkman. There are nods to the arts as well. A black-and-white Alfred Hitchcock and a blue bodhisattva sit astride a thundering elephant, and a dejected-looking Picasso rides the New York City subway. The finale-which leaves readers in a subway tunnel as the train's red taillights recede-may not be as mindbending as Zoom's outer-space flight, but is nonetheless a clever solution. All ages. Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


The Other Side by Istvan Banyai

Summary: Grade 6 and Up–There's nothing mundane or predictable about Banyai's wordless picture book. As in Zoom and Re-Zoom (both Viking, 1995), the illustrator takes his audience on a visual journey that begins with a nearly blank page that, when turned, reveals instructions for folding a paper airplane. On the next page, a girl in her high-rise apartment practices her cello and a paper airplane can be seen outside her window. Readers flip the page to see the girl's building from the outside looking in. Paper airplanes are everywhere, thanks to a young neighbor one floor up who has been practicing his folding skills. Each pair of pages, front and back, presents inside and outside views, and although the scenes are not obviously linked to a larger plotline, they are connected through reoccurring images, colors, and themes. This is a challenging book, one that allows for creative speculation. The graphite-rendered artwork is quirky as well as infinitely interesting. Not everyone will get the sly humor, or be prepared to indulge in a book that demands such work. However, those who give it a try will be drawn into a thought-provoking, whimsical world. It's a book that begs to be talked about, and teachers will find it a useful tool for discussions about point-of-view and perspective.–Carol L. MacKay, Camrose Public Library, Alberta, Canada Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Notable Information: This text would be most efficiently used in an upper grade classroom. The way the story builds off of the perspective shifts is highly complex. It is a highly usable text to teach perspective, point of view and symbolism. The Other Side would also pair nicely with a writing activity based around the perspectives of the text. Students could also develop complex conceptual ideas that could become literary essays.

Text Excerpt:


The Red Book by Barbara Lehman

Summary: Kindergarten and Up: In this wordless mind trip for tots, Lehman develops a satisfying fantasy in a series of panels framed with thick white borders. The effect is of peering through portals, an experience shared by the characters as they independently stumble across enchanted red books that provide them with a videophone-like connection. Though wordless picture books often seem to be the province of fine artists indulging in high-concept braggadocio (as in Istvan Banyai's 1995 Zoom), Lehman's effort ensures child appeal with an unaffected drawing style and a simple, easy-to-follow story line about a friendship forged between a city girl and a faraway island boy. The message about the transporting power of story will moisten the eyes of many adult readers, but children will most appreciate the thought-provoking visuals, in which characters' actions influence the course of their own storybook narratives--likewise affecting the larger "red book," cleverly packaged to mimic the shape and color of its fictional counterpart. Ideal for fueling creative-writing exercises. Jennifer Mattson Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Classroom Implications: This post-modern, book within a book, plays with perspective like Flotsam or Zoom. The Red Book deconstructs the common picture book motif, where the characters seem to affect and create the story as the pages turn. The wonderful teaching point this book carries is that character's actions influence the course of the story. This is an essential element of reading and writing to expose students to in the classroom. Kids in the upper grades can take advantage of this wordless text and use the pictures to create their own story.


Window by Jeannie Baker

Summary: Grade 1 Up-- A mother, holding her newborn son, gazes out the window of his room at lush vegetation, tropical birds, a pond, a kangaroo. Ten double-page illustrations following show the development--during a 20-year period--of the area outside the window. As Sam (the baby) grows older, the land is cleared, a road is built, then a farm. A housing development goes up, then takes over a hill that was once green with lush growth. Development becomes suburb, then city, complete with billboards, high-rises, noise pollution, litter, and overpopulation. Sam marries and moves to a new house in the country, where the final window scene shows him, holding his baby, staring at a sign announcing, "House Blocks For Sale". Words are unnecessary, as Baker's carefully rendered collage scenes explicitly detail the situation. Varying symbolic objects on Sam's windowsill (and the cracking and peeling of paint on the wall) add to the book's message. Baker's meticulous collages, formed from natural materials, clay, fabric, and real hair, are so detailed that they require many viewings. A final, short author's note explains the inspiration for the book: ". . .by understanding and changing the way we personally affect the environment, we can make a difference." This unusual, exceptionally well-crafted picture book might be a good way to begin. --Susan Scheps, Shaker Heights Public Library, OH Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Curricular Connections: This text can be used in a science classroom where students study the effect of development on indigenous ecosystems. It is a crucial outlook and environmental perspective that should be support with today's youth.


Maus a Survivors Tale: My Father Bleeds History by Art Spiegelman

Summary: Some historical events simply beggar any attempt at description--the Holocaust is one of these. Therefore, as it recedes and the people able to bear witness die, it becomes more and more essential that novel, vigorous methods are used to describe the indescribable. Examined in these terms, Art Spiegelman's Maus is a tremendous achievement, from a historical perspective as well as an artistic one.

Spiegelman, a stalwart of the underground comics scene of the 1960s and '70s, interviewed his father, Vladek, a Holocaust survivor living outside New York City, about his experiences. The artist then deftly translated that story into a graphic novel. By portraying a true story of the Holocaust in comic form--the Jews are mice, the Germans cats, the Poles pigs, the French frogs, and the Americans dogs--Spiegelman compels the reader to imagine the action, to fill in the blanks that are so often shied away from. Reading Maus, you are forced to examine the Holocaust anew.

This is neither easy nor pleasant. However, Vladek Spiegelman and his wife Anna are resourceful heroes, and enough acts of kindness and decency appear in the tale to spur the reader onward (we also know that the protagonists survive, else reading would be too painful). This first volume introduces Vladek as a happy young man on the make in pre-war Poland. With outside events growing ever more ominous, we watch his marriage to Anna, his enlistment in the Polish army after the outbreak of hostilities, his and Anna's life in the ghetto, and then their flight into hiding as the Final Solution is put into effect. The ending is stark and terrible, but the worst is yet to come--in the second volume of this Pulitzer Prize-winning set. --Michael Gerber
Classroom Implications: This book adds a new dimension to a Holocaust study. The graphic novel provides a different angle, a new lens, for students to examine a subject that they may already know a lot about.

Persepolis by Marijane Satripi

Summary: Satrapi's autobiography is a timely and timeless story of a young girl's life under the Islamic Revolution. Descended from the last Emperor of Iran, Satrapi is nine when fundamentalist rebels overthrow the Shah. While Satrapi's radical parents and their community initially welcome the ouster, they soon learn a new brand of totalitarianism is taking over. Satrapi's art is minimal and stark yet often charming and humorous as it depicts the madness around her. She idolizes those who were imprisoned by the Shah, fascinated by their tales of torture, and bonds with her Uncle Anoosh, only to see the new regime imprison and eventually kill him. Thanks to the Iran-Iraq war, neighbors' homes are bombed, playmates are killed and parties are forbidden. Satrapi's parents, who once lived in luxury despite their politics, struggle to educate their daughter. Her father briefly considers fleeing to America, only to realize the price would be too great. "I can become a taxi driver and you a cleaning lady?" he asks his wife. Iron Maiden, Nikes and Michael Jackson become precious symbols of freedom, and eventually Satrapi's rebellious streak puts her in danger, as even educated women are threatened with beatings for improper attire. Despite the grimness, Satrapi never lapses into sensationalism or sentimentality. Skillfully presenting a child's view of war and her own shifting ideals, she also shows quotidian life in Tehran and her family's pride and love for their country despite the tumultuous times. Powerfully understated, this work joins other memoirs-Spiegelman's Maus and Sacco's Safe Area Goradze-that use comics to make the unthinkable familiar. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Notable Information: This text has the power to convert the non-reader of graphic novels to an avid one! Reviewer after reviewer will testify that he or she sat down to begin the book and didn't get up until they finished. Middle and high school students can experience this, too. By starting them off with reading American Born Chinese, some will be ready to move onto this heavier, more mature text. The text is highly political while still managing to focus on the individual growth and development of the narrator. The reader has to rely heavily on reading between the lines of this text, as well as the illustrations in order to gain the full understanding of the story. Therefore, graphic novels, such as this one, create a rich environment to work on the tough reading and thinking skills of inference and interpretation.

Text Excerpt:

Sequel: Perspepolis II
This sequel begins where the first left off and chronicles the older years of Marji's life. This sequel presents a different subset of issues and best suits high school readers. Be advised: if this book sits next to the first one, the reader will immediately pick it up to find out what happened where the first left off!


Monsters Are Afraid of the Moon by Marjane Satrapi

Book Preview: From the Publisher: Poor Marie! Every night as she climbed into bed, she got a visit from three monsters. They only came out in darkness, so she knew they must be afraid of the light. Marie took a huge pair of scissors, and cutting the moon out of the sky, hung it right in her bedroom. No darkness, no monsters!
Her plan worked perfectly, or so she thought . . . but without a moon in the sky, the village cats were in total darkness! They began bumping into everything, and winding up in the hospital. With no cats to chase them, the mice ran amuck. Finally the king found Marie: "You must return the moon to the sky!" he said. But Marie wouldn't agree--not until she was sure those monsters were gone. How could the king make things right for everyone? A delightful tall tale for bedtime or anytime.

Book Review: Children's Literature :Marie has fun all day, but the nights are another story. For then, "three of the scariest monsters who ever lived would come out from the shadows" to torture her. One night, Marie decides that the night monsters must be afraid of the light. She decides to bring the moon, which lights up the night, into her room. After she cuts it out of the sky and puts it in a cage over her bed, the monsters no longer bother her. But with the moon missing, cats all over the village have accidents in the dark, while the rascally rats begin to ruin the town. The Cat King negotiates with Marie. For the release of the moon, Marie receives a cat to guard her bed every night. The charming, imaginative story finds appropriate accompaniment in the very simple illustrations that need few details. Black outlines amusingly depict Marie, the melancholy felines, and the happily cavorting rats. The Cat King is properly regal; the three monsters are a multicolored trio of grimacing bullies whose sharply pointed shadows are menacing. The final picture is a peaceful view of a sleeping Marie and a cat with a watching eye open, and the moon back in the sky.

Notable Information: This protagonist is reminiscent of Marji's voice in Satrapi's graphic memoir, Persepolis. Both are scared of the dark as little girls. This may be an interesting component to read across the two texts, imagining what the monsters might symbolize for the author after reading her memoir.


One Grain of Rice by Demi

Summary: Grades 5-8 In artwork inspired by Indian miniatures, Demi fashions a folktale with far-reaching effects. The raja of a rice-growing village orders his subjects to deliver to him the bulk of their harvest; he will keep it safe should a famine occur. A few years later the harvest fails, and so does the raja: "Promise or no promise, a raja must not go hungry,'' he intones. When a young village girl, Rani, returns to the raja some rice that had fallen from baskets laden for his consumption, he offers her a reward. Her request is seemingly modest: a grain of rice on the first day, two grains the next, four grains on the third; each day double the rice of the day before, for 30 days. The raja, though, doesn't grasp the power of doubling. Day 21 garners 1,048,576 grains of rice; on the last day it takes fold-out flaps to show the herd of elephants necessary to convey the rice to Rani, who feeds the masses and extracts from the raja a promise to be more generous. This gratifying story of the disarming of greed provides an amazing look at the doubling process, and a calendar at the end shows how the reward simply grew and grew. (Picture book/folklore.) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

Cross-Curricular Connections: Math is obvious counterpart to the instruction or reading of this book. Kids become captivated by the story, therefore captivated with the concept of doubling. Students can hypothesize around other aspects of their lives that my benefit from doubling, such as reading or writing.


Buddha by Demi

Summary: Grade 4 U: A graceful account of Buddha's life, from the prophecies preceding his birth to his death at age 80. Demi is attentive to historical information, legends, and the long and dearly held beliefs about Buddha. She describes his protected royal youth, his search for a way to end suffering, his enlightenment, and his compassionate teaching of the basic tenets of Buddhist faith, the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. The book also includes several parables, such as the well-known "The Blind Men and the Elephant." In characteristic vibrant colors and shimmering gold, Demi has painted visually engaging illustrations rich in Buddhist symbolism and artistic conventions. The pictures often overflow their gold borders or are set entirely outside their frames, as if floating beyond the confines of this life. The blended, gentle-hued watercolor backgrounds contrast with both the stark white of the pages and with the precise, detailed figures and scenes. The lovely, simple, descriptive language, together with the design and illustrations, combine dynamically so that the whole book is much more than the sum of its parts. Some readers will treasure this title, some will ponder on it, and all will learn from it. Susan Middleton, LaJolla Country Day School, CACopyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Notable Information: This piece of narrative nonfiction blends the effect of narrative writing with the information content of nonfiction. The illustrations and language adapt a complex subject into something accessible for younger readers. This nonfiction selection would pair nicely with other stories by Demi or Zen Shorts.

The Greatest Power by Demi

Summary: K-Gr. 3. This companion to The Empty Pot (1990) continues the story of the life of Ping, the young emperor who wants to bring harmony to his kingdom. Ping sends all the children in the kingdom on a year-long quest to find the greatest power in the world, telling them, "A wise person must be able to see the unseen and know the unknown." The boys believe the power is great weapons; the girls, great beauty; the students, great technology; and the practical children, great amounts of money. When the children come to show the emperor what they have discovered, the last child in line, a little girl named Sing, remembers Ping's words. She presents a lotus seed as the powerful force of eternal life, and Ping names her the new prime minister. The text and the handsomely designed, richly colored artwork, which is touched with gold leaf, are set within a circular motif that reinforces the idea of eternity. As usual, Demi ably combines striking artwork and a meaningful story, with quiet dignity and wisdom. Julie Cummins Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Classroom Application: This book has been critiqued by some reviewers to be too conceptually heavy for young readers. The book can be modified and presented in a more concrete way by using it as an instructional read aloud: the teacher focusing on heavy inferring and interpretation as the story unfolds. Students can use their prior knowledge of The Empty Pot to uncover the meaning of this text.

This book is great to be read critically because gender and other classification stereotypes are used to create the story (i.e. the girls saying that beauty is the greatest power).


The Empty Pot by Demi

Summary: Grade 1-3-- When the Chinese emperor proclaims that his successor will be the child who grows the most beautiful flowers from the seeds the emperor distributes, Ping is overjoyed. Like the emperor, he loves flowers and anything he plants bursts into bloom. But the emperor's seed will not grow, despite months of loving care, and Ping goes before the emperor carrying only his empty pot. The emperor ignores the beautiful blossoms brought by the other children and chooses Ping, revealing that the seeds he handed out had been cooked and could not grow. This simple story with its clear moral is illustrated with beautiful paintings.

Each page contains a single picture, shaped like a stiff, rounded, paper fan and framed in celadon brocade that subtly changes pattern from one spread to the next. Isometric perspective, traditional Chinese architecture, and landscape motifs are combined with Demi's fine line and lively children and animals. While all the landscapes featuring the emperor and the other children are in brilliant red, gold, and purple, the scenes involving Ping alone are predominantly beige and delicate green. Ping is almost always shown as a solitary figure in contrast to the busy groups of running, smiling children, reinforcing the portrait of him as a quieter, more contemplative person whose values make him a worthy heir to the emperor. A beautifully crafted book that will be enjoyed as much for the richness of its illustrations as for the simplicity of its story. --Eleanor K. MacDonald, Beverly Hills Public Library Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc

Notable Information: This is a beautiful book to teach theme and the moral of stories. In this story, Ping stays true to himself and in the end, is rewarded. IT is a remarkable story that children and adults will latch onto and want to read again and again.


Shh! The Whale is Smiling by Josephine Nobisso

Summary: From C. Penn "WordWeaving" (Greenville, SC) - Author Josephine Nobisso and illustrator Maureen Hyde bring enchantment to the play of shadows and wind deep in the night in SHH! THE WHALE IS SMILING. As a fierce wind blows outside their home, a sister comforts her brother turning fear of the cold dark into a warm, safe place of imagination. Flying in their bed to the sea, they join a whale swimming among bubbles in a world of their marvelous creation.

The fear of the dark, wind and storms is gently confronted in this imaginative story for children. The dark becomes deep water, movement the swimming of a whale, and wind a part of the mystery of the sea, thereby replacing the fearful with the imaginative. A delightful tale, with fabulously realized illustrations, SHH! THE WHALE IS SMILING comes very highly recommended.
Text Excerpts:

Moonflute by Audrey Wood

Summary: Grades 3-6 In this long bedtime mood-piece, a little girl, Firen, accuses the moon of taking her sleep; she resolves to "go out in the night and find it.'' Outside, a moonbeam lands in her hands and becomes a magic flute with which she flies through the night. She encounters creatures of town, sea, and jungle in a dreamlike sequence illustrated in deep greens, blues, and violet. Firen herself has a pixie-ish, flower-fairy look, and is silvery-shiny with moonlight. Susan Patron, Los Angeles Public LibraryCopyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Notable Information: This is another dream-like fantasy text that can open the doors into the genre of fantasy. The text is long and more like a short story with illustrations. With this in mind, it makes a stronger text to use in the upper elementary grade classrooms.


When the Sun Rose by Barbara Berger

Summary: As in her earlier Grandfather Twilight, Berger has created a picture book dreamscape, full of radiant colors and intriguing possibilities. Alone with her doll in a playhouse, the young narrator receives an unusual visitor who comes calling "in a carriage bright as the sun." The visitor's consort is a lemon-yellow lion who dines on blueberries and cream as the two girls play dolls and paint a rainbow. At day's end, the visitor departs into a glowing sunset, promising to return. Berger's skillful blending of the metaphysical and a child's inner life make this an inspired work of art. Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Notable Information: This makes a good book to deeply talk about the lasting effects that friendship can have on people.


Alphabet City by Stephen T. Johnson

Summary: Grade 1 Up: Beginning with the A formed by a construction site's sawhorse and ending with the Z found in the angle of a fire escape, Johnson draws viewers' eyes to tiny details within everyday objects to find letters. In this wordless tour of sights from Times Square to the Brooklyn Bridge, he invites young and old alike to take a new look at familiar surroundings, discovering the alphabet without ever looking in a book or reading from a sign. Conceived in the tradition of Ann Jonas's work, especially The Thirteenth Clue (Greenwillow, 1992), Johnson's pastel, watercolor, gouache, and charcoal paintings are much more realistic than his illustrations for The Samurai's Daughter (Dial, 1992); in fact, they are almost photographic in appearance. Some of the images are both clever and incredibly clear, e.g., the E found in the sideways view of a traffic light. Others, such as the C in the rose window of a Gothic church, are more obscure. Nevertheless, all of the paintings are beautifully executed and exhibit a true sense of artistic vision. While parents or teachers might assume from the title that this is a traditional alphabet book, they should be encouraged to look at it as an art book. It's sure to inspire older children to venture out on their own walks to discover the alphabet in the familiar objects of their own hometowns. Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan, LaSalle Academy, Providence, RICopyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Notable Information: This is a fantastic mix of art, alphabet and wordless picture book! Best used with students already accustomed with the alphabet. Kids can play hide and go seek with the city of New York!


The Disappearing Alphabet by Richard Wilbur

Summary: Grade 2-5-Each of these delightful poems, one for each letter of the alphabet, speculates on the disasters that would occur should that letter suddenly disappear. Wilbur is known primarily as a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and former Poet Laureate of the United States, although some of his poems have been published in books for children, notably Opposites (1991), More Opposites (1991; o.p.), and Runaway Opposites (1995, all Harcourt). The poems presented here were first printed in The Atlantic Monthly magazine. A series of rhyming couplets of varying lengths, they range from the innocently whimsical to the cleverly sophisticated. Diaz uses computer-generated illustrations to add just the right touches to the verses; the images are lush and playful at the same time. This is not an alphabet book for youngsters just learning to read, although children would enjoy hearing it read aloud. More importantly, it invites older children to play with language as it engages their imagination. A winner that belongs in every library.Linda Greengrass, Bank Street College Library, New York City Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Notable Information: This is a great mix between poetry, mystery, and the alphabet. A great pick for an advanced alphabet book in the intermediate grades.

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The Hidden Alphabet by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

Summary: PreSchool-Grade 2-From the black book jacket with cutout openings for each letter of the title to the vibrant, painterly strokes of yellow on the endpapers, Hidden Alphabet is a visual delight. A black mat frames an object on each page. When it is lifted, each of these objects becomes a significant part of the letter's negative space (e.g., two balloons form circles to make the openings in the letter "B"). This clever trick of changing viewers' perspective from foreground to background will keep readers turning the pages to see the other optical illusions this pictorial byplay produces. Because of the way they are formed, the letters are not always completely conventional in shape. This may challenge very young children to identify them, but readers of any age will enjoy seeing a mouse turn into an "M" made of cheese with a few tiny chunks nibbled out of it. Seeger's interesting word choices-arrowhead, inkblot, olive, partridge, quotation mark, yolk-and her sophisticated paintings make this a fascinating artistic experience as well as a learning opportunity.Laurie Edwards, West Shore School District, Camp Hill, PA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Notable Information: I suggest using this book with children that are already accustomed to their letters. This book provides a unique twist on captivating the letters artistically, as well as pairing them with words not normally paired to represent the sound of the letters. This book won the award of the Ala Notable Children's Books for Younger Readers.

Miss Spider's ABC by David Kirk

Summary: Celebration is among Miss Spider's friends, and this primer shows party preparations in progress from A to Z: "Bumblebees blow balloons./ Caterpillars circle/ dragonfly decorations." All sorts of insects assist, from moths whose white- and black-spotted wings resemble velvety floor-length capes to termites who tote colorful wrapped presents in their mandibles. At the end of the sequence, Miss Spider floats in on the back of a striped Zebra butterfly and receives a welcoming shout of "Happy Birthday!" from the buggy assembly. Kirk (Miss Spider's New Car) sets the activity in a flowery garden and a hornets' nest; he substitutes gently waving antennae for paper streamers in the closing scene. His dew-bright oil paintings glow with the fluorescent yellow-green of fandango-ing fireflies, shades of backlit midnight-blue and lush lavender-rose hues. Each oversize letter of the alphabet appears near the text, so that readers have an easy reference point as they scan the vivid artwork. Devotees will detect their returning favorites: Holley hides among the "smiling spiders" taking shelter beneath the red roses, and May and Ike greet the termites beside the "very vivid violets." Kirk's witty rhymes and the ever polite Miss Spider's hostessing talents are absent this time around, but the juiced-up, color-saturated illustrations are thrilling all the same. Ages 4-7. Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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The Graphic Alphabet by David Pelletier

Summary: Most alphabet books for pre-readers and early readers set out to make the somewhat abstract idea of letters as clear and as clearly linked to words as possible. In The Graphic Alphabet, graphic designer David Pelletier has created an alphabet book that aims to explore letters for their beauty and complexity as design elements as well as help teach kids how to read. His "A," for example, stands for "avalanche," and with its normally pointed top tumbling down the right diagonal, the letter doesn't just stand for the avalanche, it becomes the word. Pelletier is equally ingenious throughout. And while this might not be the best book to make the concept of letters concrete for youngsters, it will certainly help instill in them a sense of wonder about letters and words.
Notable Information: This book is a tad too sophisticated for younger students just learning their abc's. The author, a graphic designer created this alphabet book in 1996 that"had to retain the natural shape of the letter as well as represent the meaning of the word", by using good design. Thus, this is an excellent text for older students interested in art or graphic design. This book won the Caldecott award for illustrations and art.

The Turn-Around, Upside-Down Alphabet Book by Lisa Campbell Ernst

Summary: PreSchool-Grade 2–Children who are tired of staid concept books will welcome this one–it literally turns the alphabet on its ear. Each page contains a large block letter enclosed in a square that, when viewed from a different direction–left, right, or upside-down (hence the title)–transforms into an entirely different object. For example, when "J" is rotated clockwise, it becomes, in turn, "an elephant's trunk," "a candy cane," and "a monkey's tail." Some designs, like "O," are easy to spot (bagel, owl's eye, fried egg); others, like "K" (picnic table, a mama duck with two ducklings, Martian's antennae) and "W" (two fish, a cat casting a shadow, a mountain stream), present more of a challenge. With touches of humor and a great deal of creativity, Ernst fashioned this book out of cut paper and surrounded each block with a thick black border that sets off white words. Children will enjoy tilting the pages to see the transformations and will be motivated to come up with ideas of their own.–Laurie Edwards, West Shore School District, Camp Hill, PA Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Notable Information: I would use this book with students already familiar with the alphabet system. It proves more rewarding for students to manipulate the letters and see things differently. This book also received the award for Ala Notable Children's Books for Younger Readers in 2004.


Life Doesn't Frighten Me by Maya Angelou

Summary: Grade 3-6-A unique book that combines the words of a renowned African-American poet laureate and the primitive, modern paintings of a young Haitian-American artist. With lines of verse that shout exuberantly from each page, a young voice rails against any and all things that mean to do her harm. Whether they are "Shadows on the wall/ Noises down the hall" or even "Mean old Mother Goose/Lions on the loose"-to one and all she responds- "they don't frighten me at all." In the middle, the pace and intensity quicken as "I go boo/Make them shoo/I make fun/Way they run." Despite the scary things around her, the poet's determined courage remains. The art provides a jolting counterpoint to the optimistic words, reflecting a dark, intense vision. Violent splashes of color bleed and drip one into another, and white letters are scratched into black backgrounds. Stark figures with grotesque features face off against one another. Symbols such as arrows, birds, crowns, and letters emphasize the artist's anger and sense of irony. The choice of the paintings, taken as they were from an extant body of work, give levels of meanings to a poem already strong with images of its own. A powerful exploration of emotion and its expression through the careful blend of words and art. Jane Marino, White Plains Public Library, NY Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Classroom Implications: An idea for this book would be to pair it with other Maya Angelou's poems. Her poetry tends to be widely popular with middle school aged girls. This would be an excellent way to see her poetry different due to the picture book format.


Homemade Love by bell hooks

Summary: PreSchool-K-Evans's wonderful illustrations raise this paean to parental love a notch above the ordinary. "My mama calls me girlpie. Her Sweet sweet. Daddy's honey bun chocolate Dew Drop. Homemade Love," says the small African-American narrator. The story line is minimal: her parents love her, even when she does something wrong, and their love supports her, even at night. The rhythm of the words, the smoothness of the text, and the positive message all combine to make a lovely read-aloud, despite a slightly treacly premise. Evans's folksy paintings, done in bright primary colors, are wonderful, with an appealing, dark-skinned, large-eyed little girl wearing dresses decorated with patterns that reflect the story. The artist fills up the pages so completely that readers only see the parents from the waist down for the first half of the book. When the child breaks something, her sorrow is evident, and after everything is all better, "kiss kiss," she goes outside and does cartwheels in the flowers, exuding happiness and a zest for life. An appealing addition for most collections. Amy Lilien-Harper, The Ferguson Library, Stamford, CT
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Classroom Implications: This book does not as strong of a story line as previous books by hooks, yet it still captures the love shared in a family. This story is about unconditional love, a subject that many students can identify or disidentify with based on their own experiences.


Skin Again by bell hooks

Summary: Kindergarten-Grade 4–As they did in Happy to Be Nappy (1999) and Be Boy Buzz (2002, both Hyperion), hooks and Raschka have created a verbal and visual celebration. This time the subject is skin, both what it is and, more importantly, what it is not. "The skin I'm in/is just a covering./If you want to know who I am/you have got to come inside/and open your heart way wide." While the message comes across loud and clear, the author's deft handling of language renders it gently persuasive rather than didactic. Raschka's impressionistic pictures amplify the theme as they shift from large, bold cartoons showing the outside of both white and black children, and then move to the inner patchwork of thoughts and feelings that make up "real" individuals. The illustrations will invite lengthy study, as Raschka shows the children passing through the various boxes as they reach inside to know each other and then come outside to see skin again with fresh eyes. Whether shared with a group or one-on-one, this is an excellent vehicle to initiate discussion on a sensitive and perennially important subject.–Grace Oliff, Ann Blanche Smith School, Hillsdale, NJ
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Classroom Implications: The poet and the artist who created Happy to be Nappy! (1999) and Be Boy Buzz (2002) take on another big identity issue with exuberant, playful imagery that will open discussion. The simple words spell out the overt message ("If you want to know who I am / you have got to come / inside"), and the pictures move from big, full-page portraits of kids with various skin colors to patchwork-style pages showing all the shifting bits and pieces inside each individual. Raschka's images, in many colors and shapes, shows everything from active children; winging birds; and a smiling snake to arms reaching out and dancing feet. The art vividly celebrates history and the realism, fun, and fantasy inside each one of us--the dreams of "all the way I imagine me." This is about skin color, but it's also about diversity within a group and within one child, and about finding the story inside the stereotype. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


Be Boy Buzz by bell hooks

Summary: From Publishers Weekly
This stunning volume celebrates all things boy. The creators of Happy to Be Nappy set the stage with the bold opening sortie: "I be boy" appears on the left of the spread, paired with a deceptively simple layering of rectangles in blue line that pulsates on the page; opposite, a thoughtful-looking fellow, all elbows and knees slightly bent, seems poised for action. This spare, poetic riff on young manhood plumbs the delights and contradictions of what it means to be a boy particularly an African-American boy in a brief handful of sentences and with a few well-placed pastel lines that imply motion and emotion. From boys soaring ("All bliss boy") to boys sulking ("All bad boy beast" here Raschka conveys the mood with just the right-hand side of a furrowed brow, and two arms seemingly blocking readers from view), at play ("I be boy jumping") and at rest ("all think and dream time"), the words pinpoint boyhood's unflagging energy and exuberance, vulnerability ("Hug me close. Don't let me down") and attitude. Hooks's rhythmic blend of brevity and eloquence launches Raschka's trademark visual haiku. His series of watercolor and pastel portraits set off against a warm cappuccino backdrop conjures fingers and toes, features and squiggles of hair from simple sweeps of his brush, and evokes characters suffused with humanity and tenderness. The graceful design visually balances the spare text, lively portraits and geometric graphics which harmoniously orbit the spreads. This life-affirming book will have readers as much "in love with being a boy" as are its own utterly irresistible characters. Ages 4-8. Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Classroom Implications: This book poetically celebrates masculine identities. The language is descriptive, the images vivid, and the message clear: love all and every side of you! A nice addition to have in the library, especially for young male readers.


I Love My Hair! by Natasha Tarpley

Reviewer:BeatleBangs1964 (United States) -
The narrator of this tale is a bright, beautiful little girl who is proud of her naturally thick curly Black hair. She, like most folks find combout sessions quite painful, but her very wise mother tells her why she is lucky to have such beautiful, thick, naturally curly hair.

Keyana, the child narrator describes the care her hair requires; her mother rubs coconut oil into her scalp to help the comb glide through it. Her mother applies rich poetic descriptions to Keyana's hair; she tells Keyana every time she corn rows it, it is like planting a beautiful garden; when she combs it out into a big, beautiful Afro, it is a globe as round as the world that contains everybody; she tells Keyana she can spin it like silk the way their ancestors spun silk on a loom. Each description is accompanied by a lovely picture showing the mother's vision; for example, when she applies the silk comparison, Keyana is drawn with her beautiful hair being spun on a loom.

Keyana herself celebrates her natural beauty, hair and all and takes pride in the myriad of hairstyles her thick, curly hair will allow her to try. I like the way she said that the hair styling sessions were a time of mother-daughter bonding and the illustrations are first rate.

This is a book all parents and educators will want to use to promote self pride among all children, particularly children who are black. This book celebrates the beauty of being human. It is for everybody. I love this book!

Classroom Implication: This book pairs nicely with Happy to be Nappy and Nappy Hair, both books that praise African and Black American hair. This read aloud approaches the subject gently and could spark a nice conversation of what it means to celebrate identity.


Happy to Be Nappy (Jump at the Sun) by bell hooks

Summary: Grades 1-4 Renowned feminist and social critic bell hooks takes on... hair! "Hair for hands to touch and play! Hair to take the gloom away." This rhythmic read-aloud is, on the surface, all about hair: nappy, plaited, long, short, natural, twisted, "soft like cotton, flower petal billowy soft, full of frizz and fuzz." Comb through the surface and find a celebration of childhood and girls and the freedom to express individuality. The rituals implied in the book are rooted in the traditions of hooks's own childhood, when "doing" hair was just as much an excuse for girls to laugh and tell stories and just be together. Going still deeper is the much-needed message encouraging girls to love and accept themselves (and others) just the way they are. In bell hooks's first venture into children's books, she wisely teams up with Caldecott Honor-winning illustrator Chris Raschka (Yo! Yes?, Mysterious Thelonious). Raschka's bold paint strokes on a color wash background are strikingly original--a perfect match for the exuberant text. This beautiful picture book will surely make any reader, young or old, happy to be nappy--and anyone who raved or ranted over Carolivia Herron and illustrator Joe Cepeda's Nappy Hair will welcome this joyful, celebratory book. --Emilie Coulter

Classroom Implication: A critical book at this time, bell hooks advocates for self-love and acceptance of individuality. She works to reclaim a term that has been used derogatorily and breeches the subject delicately through poetic texts. This picture book could pair nicely with identity-based novels, such as The Skin I'm In.

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There Is a Flower at the Tip of My Nose Smelling Me by Alice Walker

Summary: From Publishers Weekly
Walker (The Color Purple; Finding the Green Stone) praises the surroundings that fortify the human experience. In her vision, people do not work their will on the things around them, but rather the people and the universe influence each other: "There is a flower/ At the tip/ Of my nose/ Smelling/ Me./ There is a sky/ At the end/ Of my/ Eye/ Seeing/ Me." Vitale (When the Wind Stops) paints great swaths of sunset sky that glow from the horizon, illuminating the serene face of a dreaming girl who looks as if she would be at home anywhere. "There is a dance/ That lives/ In my bones/ Dancing/ Me," reads the text, as the heroine, charged from within by streams of incandescent energy, leaps and sways in swirls of sunlight that stream out from her fingertips. "There is a story/ At the end/ Of my arms," Walker concludes, "Telling/ Me!" Now a rainbow falls over the girl's face, and creation holds out marvelous possibilities. Smaller versions of herself surround the girl in a frieze: in these miniature images she flies, dives into the waves with a fish and climbs the leaves of an enormous white flower to kiss its face. It's less a story than an illuminated prayer"an expression of gratitude for one girl, all humans and the whole of the cosmos. All ages. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Classroom Implications: In the author's note in the back of the book, Alice Walker writes that this book began as a thank-you note. Students would really latch onto this concept. This text extends the idea of gratitude and shifts to a more universal way of looking at things. Middle school students may use this as a mentor text to inspire a new kind of writing that originates from a different, more universal perspective.

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