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Throwback Thursday: Olinguito Speaks Up/Olinguito alzo la voz by Cecilia Velástegui

Olinguito Speaks Up/Olinguito alzo la voz by Cecilia Velástegui
with illustrations by Jade Fang 
(Libros Publishing, 2013, $19.99, Recommended for ages 4 and up)

Olinguito-Speaks-Up-cvr.jpgThe recent discovery of the Olinguito, a new species of mammal resembling “…a cross between a cat and a furry teddy bear …” prompted Ecuadorian author Cecilia Velástegui to write a contemporary children’s fable about respect for others and for the world’s wildlife.

Shy Olinguito helps forgetful Tómas, an ancient Galapagos tortoise, recall how he ended up far from his native island and in Ecuador’s cloud forest. Due to Tómas’ memory loss and confusion, the other animals think his stories are “tall tales” and tease him. Olinguito finds the other animals treatment of Tómas disrespectful and sets out to help Tómas prove the truthfulness of his stories. With Olinguito’s support, Tómas reveals the twists and turns that took him from his island home to the cloud forest.

While the story focuses on its moral: “honor our elders and cherish our wildlife,” Velástegui uses the fable to gently point out the threats to the diverse wildlife referred to in her story. Through the long-lived and widely traveled Tómas, Velástegui hints at mankind’s devastating impact on the nature. In his narrative, Tómas refers to several “friends” who are now “gone” or “rarely seen” such as the Pinta Island (Galapagos) Tortoises, the Galapagos Petrel, and the cloud forest’s Harlequin Frogs.

Despite the dismay readers will experience over the loss of the many and striking species, the book ends on some positive notes: Olinguito shows young readers the importance of respect for others and the natural world and of standing up for friends who are being bullied or teased. Again, through Tómas, children will learn that some species, such as the Galapagos Pink Land Iguanas, are thriving and that other new species, such as the Galapagos deep sea catshark have been discovered.

Additional front and end material includes a brief note on the discovery of the olinguito, a “Facts/Datos” page, a colorful map of South America dotted with cheerful symbols marking significant cultural, historic, and wildlife locations, and photos of an olinguito and a giant tortoise.

As the book is bilingual, the layout consists mostly of two page spreads. On the left are the English and Spanish versions of the story. The right side features an accompanying illustration. Occasionally, illustrator Fang takes advantage of the expanse of the two page spread to create an illustration that floats across both pages. The illustrations contribute to the story, realistically capturing characteristics of the animals in the misty and diffused light of the cloud forest.

Primarily a fable, use this picture book with younger children as bibliotherapy for social and/or emotional issues around respect, aging, friendship, teasing and bullying. This book could be used with older children to introduce them to South American geography and ecosystems, threatened or extinct or new animal species, and the effects of exploration, colonialism, and development on the natural world and indigenous people. Needless to say it could also be used with children as a springboard for writing their own fables.

Visit the Olinguito Speaks Up website for more author info, facts, and a book trailer.

The author won First Place in Adventure Fiction at the International Latino Book Awards for her adult novel Missing in Machu Picchu.

– Reviewed by Dornel Cerro

You Are (Not) Small by Anna Kang

You Are (Not) Small
written by Anna Kang and illustrated by Christopher Weyant (Two Lions, $ 16.99, Ages 2-6).

You-Are-Not-Small-cvr.jpg

A plump, purplish bear-like creature is merrily blowing dandelion seeds across the opening page of this clever, humorous picture book. Enter one large, fuzzy orange-brown foot, stage right. “You are small,” says the new critter to the weed-clutching little one.

This innocent observation kicks off a spirited dialogue between the two. “I am not small. You are big,” purple critter retorts. But the larger one gestures to his pals, noting that he is one of many, all alike. Then more purple ones appear to back up their buddy as well.

Tempers flare, and the dialogue becomes an argument. (Sound familiar, parents?) There are pointed fingers, angry frowns, even insistent shouting. The size debate escalates until BOOM! A huge hairy paw crashes down, followed by diminutive pink critters with yellow parachutes. Fear not, the last line will guarantee laughs from every reader.

You Are (Not) Small is a short, simple book with text that could work as an easy reader, and illustrations that are engaging enough for the youngest picture book set. Readers of all ages will absorb the meta-message about keeping things in perspective and learning to appreciate differences without necessarily comparing them.

This is a great picture book for those who feel small or tall due to their relative ages or statures. It will spark fun conversations about the way we see ourselves and one another. The thickly-outlined, expressive animals are appealing in a Muppet-like fashion. They all share tiny round ears and large oval noses that make them appear to be related despite their differences in size. At just 91 words, this is a short and funny bedtime book choice with (not) a little kid appeal!

Click here for a very cool downloadable growth chart.

– Reviewed by Cathy Ballou Mealey

      Where Obtained:  I received a review copy from the publisher and received no compensation.  The opinions expressed here are my own.

Knuckleball Ned by R.A. Dickey with Michael Karounos & illustrated by Tim Bowers

Knuckleball Ned is reviewed by MaryAnne Locher.

Knuckleball-Ned-cvr.jpg

Knuckleball Ned by R.A. Dickey with Michael Karounos and illustrated by Tim Bowers, Dial Books for Young Readers, 2014.

What do you get when a Cy Young award-winning pitcher, best-selling author, father of four, and children’s literacy advocate teams up with a seasoned illustrator? A home run!

Knuckleball Ned by R.A. Dickey with Michael Karounos and illustrated by Tim Bowers (Dial Books for Young Readers, $17.99, Ages 3-5), tackles the always timely, tough subjects of bullying and self-acceptance in a way that preschoolers will relate to and understand. Bower’s colorful illustrations done in acrylic paint, opaque washes, and finished off with airbrushing achieve the rounded heads of the characters and lend humor to a serious subject.

The first day of school is about to start and Ned is nervous about making friends. You see, Ned has wobbled “for as long as he could remember.” He’s off to a bumpy start as he jiggle-joggles down the aisle of the bus, knocking into all the other balls. Sammy the Softball, by far the largest ball, offers Ned a seat and the two become fast friends.

When The Foul Ball Gang, a trio of rough and tumble bullies, cause nothing but trouble for Ned and his friends, Mrs. Pitch, their teacher, has her hands full juggling all the different types of balls in her classroom. Everyone seems to know what kind of ball they are, except for Ned. Besides Sammy, there are Fletcher and Fiona Fastball, Connie Curveball, and Ned, who has been cruelly dubbed a knucklehead by The Foul Ball Gang. When The Foul Ball Gang steals Connie’s shoes and tosses them high into a tree, all her friends attempt to help get the shoes down – unsuccessfully. All but Ned, that is. Sammy launches Ned off a seesaw and he sails seamlessly through the branches where he retrieves Connie’s shoes.

“Ned! I know about balls like you,” cried Connie. “You’re a knuckleball!”

Ned decides he loves being a knuckleball, especially when it allows him to save the day and be a hero.

This Tee Ball and Baseball season, why not pick up a copy of Knuckleball Ned? You’ll certainly score points with your little ones who perhaps will be entering school for the first time in the fall, discovering who they are and where they’ll fit in.

The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig

The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig (Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $16.99, Ages 6-9), with illustrations by Patrice Barton, is reviewed by Ronna Mandel.

 

The Invisible Boy book cover

The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig with illustrations by Patrice Barton, Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2013.

Parents, how many times have you volunteered in your child’s school and noticed an invisible boy? They’re not easy to see, I know. Like Brian, the main character in Ludwig’s touching and thoughtfully written new picture book, The Invisible Boy, they fly under the radar in schools all over the world.

Illustrator Barton’s drawn Brian in muted grays and white although everyone else is in color. Unlike Brian’s imaginative artwork (wonderfully rendered in kid-style by Barton) depicting Super Brian, he’s not a superhero “with the power to make friends” wherever he goes. Nope. Kids like Brian are the last ones chosen for sports teams, they don’t get invited to parties, in fact other kids don’t even think of the Brians as having feelings. They’re often overlooked in the classroom because they’re quiet and so well-behaved. Typically the teacher has to devote his or her time to dealing with the whiners and the yellers.

The Brians in schools everywhere tend to slip between the cracks like the Brian in this tale. So when a new boy named Justin comes to school and eats Bulgogi with chopsticks, he’s a perfect target for ridicule by the others. “There’s No Way I’d eat Booger-gi” says one nasty kid who, of course, gets a laugh. I thought I’d cry when Ludwig wrote of Brian, “He sits there wondering which is worse – being laughed at or feeling invisible.”

And while Brian may frequently get ignored, he’s smart. So smart that he puts a note in the cubby of new boy Justin, with a drawing of himself eating Bulgogi, “Yum!” The two boys hit it off at recess, but it’s clear Justin’s already made another friend, Emilio, who says it’s his turn to play tetherball. But Justin is kind and doesn’t leave to play with Emilio without first complimenting Brian’s artwork. When Brian wants to partner with Justin on a special project, Emilio holds Justin back. “I’m already with Justin,” says Emilio. “Find someone else.” I could feel my grin spreading when the image of Brian begins to shift from grays and white to greens and blues when Justin tells him the teacher says the special project group can have three people in it. As the friendship grows, and Emilio accepts Brian, too, a once lonely boy becomes visibly happy and colorful.

The Invisible Boy includes important back matter with questions for discussion that parents and teachers can use to prompt kids about the topic of bullying. There’s also recommended reading for adults and kids. With bullying being so prominent in the news, it’s great to have a resource like The Invisible Boy to enlighten youngsters about the pain and heartache of being ignored or ostracized.

  • 2013 Junior Library Guild Selection
  • Starred Review, School Library Journal
  • Featured in USA Today
  • Back-to-School Read Pick by Scholastic Instructor
  • 2013 NAPPA Gold Medal Winner

 

 

Follow Your Heart

DorothyI’m so glad I recently broadened my book review horizons to include titles by Spanish publisher, Cuento de Luz, as I have enjoyed each and every title I’ve read so far. This publisher’s books deliver powerful messages in delightfully subtle ways.

Dorothy: A Different Kind of Friend ($16.95, Cuento de Luz, Ages 5-7) by Roberto Aliaga presents readers with a story about an unidentifiable furry animal girl who befriends a not-so-popular girl in town, named Dorothy. Dorothy is big, clumsy and very different than the others. The bully girls in town all hang out together and tease the protagonist when she hangs out with Dorothy, saying very cruel and hurtful things about her. Will those harsh words be enough to make the protagonist drop Dorothy as a friend? Read the book and you will find out for yourself.

There are so many children’s books about being bullied that it is impossible to keep up with all of them. But what sets this book apart is that the characters are unique and the message is delivered in muted tones, leaving the reader with a lot to think about. The illustrations by Mar Blanco are both colorful and adorable, highlighting the uniqueness of the characters. In the end, we must all follow our hearts, no matter what others tell us to do, and Dorothy: A Different Kind of Friend shows us the way.

– Reviewed by Debbie Glade

Brave and Mighty Little Chick

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tlc tour hostChick-o-Saurus-RexGood Reads With Ronna is excited to be part of the Chick-O-Saurus Rex  (Simon & Schuster, $16.99, ages 4-8) blog tour. This new picture book is a collaboration by husband and wife team Lenore and Daniel Jennewein.

If you saw a tree house you’d want to go in, wouldn’t you? Well so did Little Chick. The only problem was the bullies, Little Donkey, Little Pig and Little Sheep, keeping him out. They announced, “This is a club for the brave and mighty. First you have to prove you belong.” Not exactly a warm and welcoming requirement to place on poultry.

Chick-O-Saurus RexBut Little Chick was up for the challenge despite the mean behavior of the taunting trio. While other chickens might have been discouraged, Little Chick persevered. He wondered if somewhere in his family tree there might be proof of a brave and mighty chicken and posed this question to Father Rooster. Together they perused a family album for hints of bravery and might in their lineage.

When a photo shows Grandpa Rooster unearthing an ancestor’s fossil (yes, fossil), Little Chick is eager to pursue this clue. Could our Little Chick be a descendant of dinos? Several weeks pass before a Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton is dug up proving Little Chick’s mighty heritage. He takes off for the tree house to share his discovery, but finds the bullies being preyed upon by a hungry wolf. With a scary battle-cry of “Cock-A-Doodle-Dooo!,” and a frightening fossil clutched in his fist, Little Chick chases the wolf away, is proclaimed a hero and permanently changes the bullies’ opinion of one so small.

Lenore and Daniel Jennewein

Lenore and Daniel Jennewein

This winning book is infused with subtle humor (perhaps adults will have to explain the chicken-dance craze reference to youngsters, but the picture of Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Grandpa crossing the road should be easier to catch) and adorable illustrations that make it mighty good human entertainment.

– Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

National Disabilities Month and National Anti-Bullying Month

I could not let October end without mentioning this delightful picture book that brings the whole point of National Disabilities Month and National Anti-Bullying Month home.

13293234281Written sensitively by Robert Kroupa with stunning, detailed illustrations by Hannah E. Harrison, Just Like You ($16.99, Seven Legs Press, ages 4-8)  is a meaningful story of two friends – Henry, a deaf mouse and Boris, a disabled spider. Together with all of nature’s other creatures, these pals inhabit Piney Forest but live alone in a little tin cottage. Teased and goaded constantly because of their differences, Henry and Boris find comfort in each other’s company, but deep down wish for acceptance.

When a raging fire begins to wreak havoc on the lives and homes of the very creatures who mock and bully Henry and Boris, they don’t hesitate to find a creative way to alert everyone of the danger. Because of their heroics, the two are welcomed into Piney Forest. Finally, their wishes come true. The friends are appreciated for who they really are and all they have to offer!

“Because now we all see

that it really is true.

You are just like us,

and we are

Just

Like You!”

Proceeds from the sale of this book will be distributed to a pre-selected charity. Buyers can choose from the following: HollyRod Foundation, PACER Center, Art of Elysium and the Starkey Hearing Foundation. Find out more at http://www.JustLikeYouFoundation.org.
Ronna Mandel reviewed Just Like You.

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