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29Nov 22

Picture Book Review by Ronda Einbinder – The Smallest Snowflake

    THE SMALLEST SNOWFLAKE Written and illustrated by Bernadette Watts (NorthSouth Books; $17.95, Ages 4-8)       English author and illustrator Bernadette Watts brings her inspiration for nature into The Smallest Snowflake, a heartfelt story about a little snowflake who journeys to earth with the other snowflakes while holding her dreams quietly in her heart. Watts’ writing brings life to the small pieces of ice each sharing their excitement about their winter voyage. Flowing from the clouds, they see “fields and the orchards, the red roofs of farms, and the lovely city standing at the end of the glacial lake.” The verses read as human characters with each snowflake declaring where they wish to travel. The snowflakes feel relatable as if they are people sharing their dreams.     Watts empowers the snowflakes with personalities that flow through the story like beloved friends. We meet a snowflake who chooses to travel to a different land and settle on a tree branch, and another snowflake wishing to “watch the caribou and bear, the lynx and raccoon, and even the red squirrel who sleeps in that very tree.” The soft palette of brown, green, and orange are spread across two pages with a bear gazing at the tiny animals gathered on the tree. A blue sky covers another page overlooking the sea. It’s beautifully sprinkled with white snow flowing over the battlement of castle walls. Each page turn takes the reader to a new location. The snowflakes flow from jeweled domes to the golden pinnacles of St. Basil's Cathedral, while people are huddled together in the streets trying to stay warm from the frost. Many of the snowflakes keep traveling on. “The littlest snowflake did not have such a wide education as the others and knew very little about the world.” Watts’ white mountains are topped with snowflakes and birds flying through the pages. “I just want to be warm.”     It isn’t often that you think of a snowflake as wanting to be warm, but this earnest piece of snow is determined to find its place. When most of the snowflakes come to rest, the littlest snowflake continues to travel. She eventually lands on a windowsill and finds a home in a window box filled with earth outside a tiny cottage. It was here the little snowflake took her place. The little snowflake sees the burning logs and a kettle standing on the hearth. The home is warm and friendly. Watts’ words and drawings fill this story with joy and comfort, whether reading beside a crackling fireplace or tucked warmly in a bed. The yellow sun and blue sky are drawn on the final page as spring nears. The closing words read, “loved filled her heart with such warmth that she melted away with joy.” A perfect sentence to end with. This is a lovely read teaching kids to follow their destiny, even if their destiny is different from others. Reviewed by Ronda Einbinder  

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21Nov 22

A Welcome New Look at Thanksgiving – Keepunumuk

    KEEPUNUMUK: Weeâchumun’s Thanksgiving Story Written by Danielle Greendeer, Anthony Perry, and Alexis Bunten Illustrated by Garry Meeches Sr. (Charlesbridge; $16.99, Ages 3-7)       ★Starred Reviews - Booklist, Foreward Reviews, Kirkus A 2022 New England Book Award winner     From the publisher: Four Native American creators weave together the story of Keepunumuk, the time of harvest. In this Wampanoag story told in a Native tradition, two kids from the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe learn the story of Weeâchumun (corn) and the first Thanksgiving. The Thanksgiving story that most Americans know celebrates the Pilgrims. But without members of the Wampanoag tribe who already lived on the land where the Pilgrims settled, the Pilgrims would never have made it through their first winter. And without Weeâchumun (corn), the Native people wouldn't have helped. An important picture book honoring both the history and tradition that surrounds the story of the first Thanksgiving.   Review: This is the book I've been waiting for. This is the Thanksgiving story I've needed to read and I hope you'll feel the same way I do. It's a book to return to every year so the important perspective shared can become as ingrained in our culture as other holidays whose origin stories were incomplete. What I loved best was how the four authors and illustrator, all First Peoples, conveyed this fresh, honest look at Thanksgiving using the same storytelling tradition that has passed from generation to generation for thousands of years. This meaningful tale is presented from the point of view of the vital corn (Weeâchumun) and will pull readers into following along to learn how the first Thanksgiving came to be.     Keepunumuk begins with young Maple and Quill enjoying being outdoors in the garden. They are from the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe of Massachusetts. The rich colors hint at the time of year, one not only of a seasonal change but of a time long ago when the Pilgrims arrived. The children ask their grandmother (N8hkumuhs in the Wôpanâak language) about what vegetables to pick. She thinks corn, beans, and squash, also known to Native Americans as the Three Sisters, are a good choice. She also shares a story about what some call the first Thanksgiving but to the First Peoples it's always been known as harvest time or Keepunumuk.     Corn's voice came alive as it described how soon word went round that the Pilgrims planned to stay but were unprepared for the harsh winter. They suffered from a lack of food too. The corn, beans, and squash as well as animal friends including fox and rabbit, duck, and turkey grew concerned. Over the next few nights, Weeâchumun sent dreams to the First Peoples with a message: Bring me and my sisters to the newcomers. They are hungry and need help.     The First Peoples sent their leader to meet with the newcomers (see illustration above). Then he asked Tisquantum, also known as Squanto, to teach the Pilgrims how to…

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18Nov 22

Picture Book Review and Interview for The Great Caper Caper ‘Great Virtual Virtual Tour’

    THE GREAT CAPER CAPER Written by Josh Funk Illustrated by Brendan Kearney (Union Square Kids; $17.99, Ages 4-8)         REVIEW: Welcome back to the fridge, home of the popular food pair, Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast. It's an honor to be part of this virtual tour packed with passionate kidlit people helping to promote Josh Funk and Brendan Kearney's latest picture book, The Great Caper Caper, #5 in the Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast series!     When the story opens (see above illustrations), Sir French Toast awakens during the night only to discover everywhere is draped in darkness. But we're not talking about ordinary nighttime darkness. No this was the dreaded fridge light darkness. A glowing light leads the curious characters to Las Veggies where Lady P and Sir FT try to enter Las Veggies Tower but are initially held back by security. Soon they confront tower owner, Count Caper. "'I haven't stolen a thing,' he lied."     Adding to the urgency to recover the light, readers learn that Sir FT is scared of the dark. This convinces Lady P, in a nod to Ocean's 11, that she must assemble a crew including Baron von Waffle, Miss Brie, Tofu, Professor Biscotti, the Fruitcake, the Beets, and Inspector Croissant. No crummy collection of pros here.     A plan is hatched, disguises are donned, and solving the great caper caper is underway! Zero hour is scheduled to take place during the Tower show. The team, tasked with distractions, and more amusing antics involving Animal Crackers, and an asparagus accomplice, recover the stolen light. But, while celebrating their success, the food friends learn Count Caper's M-O was a relatable one, and it all boiled down to friendship. With a little introspection, the briny bud "sees the light" so to speak, and can now count Lady Pancake, Sir French Toast, and the whole crew as pals. Yet again, Funk and Kearney have delivered a readable, rhyming picture book that will entertain parents as much as the kids due to witty wordplay, careful plotting, and of course, the movie inspiration. From the minute I saw Las Veggies was the destination in this story, I was hooked, eager to see how the heist was handled. Multiple readings will be requested to study the whimsical spreads that Kearney clearly enjoyed designing. The Great Caper Caper is a fast-paced, funny, action-packed tale that children will love adding to their bookshelves.   Q + A: GoodReadsWithRonna: I asked Josh a few fun questions that popped into my head as I was reading The Great Caper Caper. Josh Funk:  Thanks so much for inviting me to chat! I’m a huge fan of Good Reads with Ronna! GRWR: Aww, thanks, Josh! You’ve described The Great Caper Caper as Ocean’s 11 in the fridge. It’s got the Las Veggies location, the crew of 11, the hotel vault to break into, and huge stakes. In this case, there’s a fridge light to recover…

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