I’d heard the buzz about Bluebird by Bob Staake, but deliberately steered clear of reading anything before I laid eyes on my own copy. I didn’t want a single word to influence my opinion of a book that was 10 years in the making. Then my review copy arrived and I dove in. Certain to be an award-winner, Bluebird (Schwartz & Wade, $17.99, ages 4-8) is everything I hoped it would be and more.
This emotion-packed picture book touched me the same way the 1956 film The Red Balloon did. I felt my eyes well with tears just like when I first watched the French classic as an elementary school girl in the late 60s. I’ve carried that movie with me over four decades and am confident Bluebird will have that kind of effect on children. Its moving message will stay with readers. Plus, reading this book feels so much more intimate and individual than watching a film and the artwork simply soars. Yes, it’s a book that has wings because as you read it and watch colors and tones change with the illustrations, your spirit lifts along with Bluebird and the boy he befriends. And though I said “read it,” it’s actually a wordless picture book with a most wonderful voice, one that shouts love and understanding. Great art can do that. Here are some of Staake’s Bluebird character studies:
Friends come in all shapes and sizes and so do bullies. There are several bullies who torment a young boy at the beginning of the school year. He feels alone and ostracized until Bluebird appears and makes it hard not to notice his friendly gestures. Set in Manhattan, the different frames of the story depict the nameless boy and his new pal spending a great afternoon together playing and then sailing a boat in Central Park as new friendships are forged.
The huge smiles on the kids’ faces and the light airy feeling of grays and blues on the pages convey a newfound happiness and joy. Then the grays darken as the boy runs into the bullies.
(A Staake sketch of the bullies in Central Park)
What happens next as Bluebird tries to help his friend may temporarily derail little ones, but that’s really the point. Bluebird is a conversation starter about friendship, loyalty and bullying. It’s also about loss and the healing power of community. I’m glad we waited 10 years for this powerful tale to take flight.
For more information and a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of the book, visit FlyBluebird.com.
-Reviewed by Ronna Mandel
The Passover Lamb (Random House, Books for Young Readers, $17.99, ages 6-9) is an upbeat Passover story based on a true event from author Linda Elovitz Marshall and one I found particularly touching. This heartwarming, unique tale features sweet yet subdued watercolor illustrations from Tatjana Mai-Wyss and is sure to be a story families will want to return to each Passover holiday
As Miriam checks on the farm animals before it’s time for the family seder at her grandparents’ house, she notices that Snowball the sheep is not acting like herself. Miriam’s parents realize that Snowball’s woolly coat must have hidden her pregnancy and though late in the season for a birth, it appears Snowball is due any moment.
It’s not long before Snowball gives birth to three little lambs, but her milk can only accommodate two. While Miriam worries about the hungry rejected lamb she’s in a quandary as to what to do. She’s finally mastered The Four Questions which the youngest child (when able to) recites in Hebrew and is eager for her turn. The questions – why do we eat matzoh, eat bitter herbs, dip our vegetables twice in salted water and dine while reclining – are a major component of the Passover seder, the answers being explanations as to why this night is different than all other nights. But how can she leave the abandoned lamb on its own?
It seems the decision is made for her when Miriam’s father announces the family will have to hold their own seder to be able to care for the new lamb, but Miriam is determined to find a solution to please everyone. She fittingly finds inspiration from the tale of baby Moses’s rescue and applies it to her very own situation. The end result is truly satisfying: a saved seder with the grandparents all because of one bright little girl.
Find out more about the author by reading this wonderful interview by Barbara Krasner.
Read about other recommended Good Reads With Ronna Passover books from previous years at these links:
A Sweet Passover
A Tale of Two Seders
Nachshon Who Was Afraid to Swim
The Yankee at the Seder
– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel
Ollie & Moon Fuhgeddaboudit! ($15.99, Random House, Ages 3 and up) is the second Ollie & Moon book by Diane Kredensor. This story combines photography with cartoon art and the reader is taken on a journey through New York City with two cartoon cats, named Ollie and Moon, of course.
As Moon takes Ollie on an adventure through New York City she makes a bet with her buddy Ollie, that she can make him laugh. But nothing Moon seems to do on this particular day makes Ollie laugh – not a funny hat, silly moves, crazy sounds, funny faces and not even goofy impersonations. But something out of Moon’s control happens that would make anyone laugh. Does it work on Ollie? Read the book and you shall see.
What I like about Ollie & Moon Fuhgeddaboudit! is that it provides a subtle geography lesson for kids, taking them through some key New York City attractions. The characters are cute and the story will make you laugh with your kids as you read it aloud together. It’s simply an amusing story little ones will love to read at bedtime or any time for matter.
– Reviewed by Debbie Glade.
It’s a Most Wonderful Time To Give Books as Gifts
Reviewer Ronna Mandel shares her selection of favorite books from 2012 to help make filling those stockings less stressful. There are really tons more I’d love to mention, so if you are hankering to expand your list, just click here now to browse through the covers on our Pinterest page for more ideas.
Most Original and Pro Mom Picture Book
The Insomniacs (G. P. Putnam’s Sons, $16.99, ages 3-5)
by Karina Wolf and illustrated by The Brothers Hilts.
What Color Is My World?:
The Lost History of African American Inventors,
($17.99, Candlewick, ages 8 and up) by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar,
co-written with Raymond Obstfeld and illustrated by Ben Boos and A.G. Ford.
Best Board Books to Teach Colors and Opposites
PANTONE: Colors ($9.95, Abrams/Appleseed, ages 1 and up).
Hippopposites ($14.95, Abrams/Appleseed, ages 2 and up) written and illustrated by Janik Coat.
Most Clever Follow-up Book
This Is Not My Hat ($15.99, Candlewick, ages 4 and up)
written and illustrated by Jon Klassen.
Most Uplifting Picture Book
Because Amelia Smiled ($16.99, Candlewick, ages 3-7) by David Ezra Stein.
The Mom 100 Cookbook: 100 Recipes Every Mom Needs in Her Back Pocket ($16.95, Workman Publishing) by Katie Workman with photographs by Todd Coleman.
LIAR & SPY ($17.99, Random House, ages 9-12) by Rebecca Stead.
Wonder ($15.99, Knopf Books for Young Readers, ages 8-12) by R.J. Palacio.
Best Young Adult (YA) Novel
Between Shades of Gray ($8.99, Penguin paperback; ages 12 and up) by Ruta Sepetys.
Best Silly Books for Preschoolers
Icky, Sticky Monster: A Super Yucky Pop-up Book ($12.99, Nosy Crow, ages 3 and up) by Jo Lodge.
Poopendous!: The Inside Scoop on Every Type and Use of Poop ($16.99, Blue Apple Books, Ages 4 and up) by Artie Bennett.
BabyLit board book series including Dracula: A BabyLit Counting Primer and A Christmas Carol: A BabyLit Colors Primer both by Jennifer Adams with illustrations by Alison Oliver ($9.99, Gibbs Smith, ages 1 and up).
A Boy Called Dickens $17.99, Schwartz & Wade, ages 4-8) by Deborah Hopkinson with illustrations by John Hendrix.
Hanging Off Jefferson’s Nose: Growing Up On Mount Rushmore ($16.99, Dial Books for Young Readers, ages 5 and up) by Tina Nichols Coury with illustrations by Sally Wern Comport.
WATCH IMAGINATIONS SOAR
At one time or another, surely you’ve wished you could be a bird soaring high above the earth, riding the wind and landing high atop trees and buildings. I certainly have. Falcon ($17.99, Random House, Ages 3 and up) written and beautifully illustrated by Tim Jessell is a picture book that takes us on a glorious journey of a regal falcon gliding over mountains, soaring over seas and diving between buildings in a big city. In real life, Tim Jessell has been a falconer, training these birds to hunt for prey for the past 25 years. He used his expertise to create this informative and visually engaging story that will capture the heart of every child.
The book starts with the vision of a boy wishing he were a falcon, and the rest of the story takes us through his perception of what that would be like. Throughout the story, readers learn about the places falcons go, what they see and how they live. The illustrations are spectacular and so detailed that you’ll find yourself taking a second look to see if the falcon is actually a photograph rather than an illustration. Read this book to your child at bedtime. The prose, along with birds-eye views in the illustrations will make your child want to fly too, and he or she surely will have the sweetest of dreams.
Debbie Glade is today’s reviewer.