I’d heard the buzz about Bluebirdby 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.
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:
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.
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.
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 byTim Jessellis 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 childwant to fly too, and he or she surely will have the sweetest of dreams.
Everyone has their favorite JUNIE B. JONES book and now you can have a chance to win a special collectors’ edition of the first book in the series, Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus filled with never before seen material!
Has it been 2o years already? Wow, I feel old. It seems like yesterday when we were living in Frankfurt, Germany and my best friend in America mailed my daughter several copies of Junie B. Jones books. Both my daughter Gemma and I were instantly hooked. Is that how your children felt, too?
I’m so excited that Random House Books for Young Readers is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the beloved JUNIE B. JONES chapter book series, written by Barbara Park and illustrated by Denise Brunkus and so Good Reads With Ronna decided to do a giveaway in honor of this milestone anniversary. To enter for your chance to win one of three copies (plus a cool promotional JBJ mini school calendar June -December 2012) click here now for entry instructions and rules or scroll down to enter, too.
Available as of yesterday, April 24, Random House has published a full-color, jacketed hardcover edition of the first book in the series, Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus. Filled with never before seen material—including full-color artwork and photographs, a behind-the-scenes peek at illustrator Denise Brunkus’s sketch pad, and a conversation between Barbara Park and Junie B. Jones herself—this special collectors’ edition is a must-have for Junie B. fans of all ages! The book has 96 pages and retails at $14.99.
With over 52 million copies in print in all formats and translated into more than a dozen languages, the Junie B. Jones series first burst onto the literary scene in 1992, and has been keeping kids (and grownups) laughing—and reading—ever since. Twenty years and 30 books later, Junie B. Jones has become a staple in classrooms across the country and been featured in USA Today, Time Magazine, and on the Today show. Author Barbara Park says “I’ve never been sure whether Junie B.’s fans love her in spite of her imperfections . . . or because of them. But either way, she’s gone out into the world and made more friends than I ever dreamed possible.” Junie B.’s unique take on the world continues to strike a chord with all who read Park’s laugh-out-loud funny stories and this special collector’s edition will bring fans and new readers back to the very beginning—Junie B.’s first day of kindergarten.
The anniversary of the series will be celebrated this summer, as the ninth annual JUNIE B. JONES STUPID SMELLY BUS TOUR rolls into 15 cities across the country, bringing Junie B. to life for her fans via a theatrical performance penned by Park herself. Also check out the debut of Junie B. Jones’s new website. VisitJunieBJones.comfor tour information, Junie B. activities and more.
And, the wait is over! JUNIE B., FIRST GRADER: TURKEYS WE HAVE LOVED AND EATEN
(AND OTHER THANKFUL STUFF), the latest book in the series, will be available August 2012 wherever books are sold.
Get the latest updates and news from Random House Children’s Books!
TO ENTER – We are giving away three (3) copies of Junie B. Jones special collectors’ edition, a full-color, jacketed hardcover edition of the first book in the series, Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus, plus a promotional JBJ calendar as well (this is a small school year calendar June-December 2012) This giveaway ends at midnight on Wednesday, May 9th, 2012 with three (3) winners selected on Thursday, May 10th. Winners will be notified by email so be sure to include your name, address, (no P.O. Boxes please) and phone number in an email to Ronna.L.Mandel@gmail.com. If you follow instructions below you can have as many as four chances to enter!
Please write Junie B. Jones 20th Anniversary Giveaway in the subject line. For a chance to be the winner of one copy of the book, please leave a comment on the blog (one or two word comments will not count towards extra entry) and also LIKE Good Reads With Ronna on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter @goodreadsronna for an additional entry to the giveaway. If you don’t provide an email where you can be contacted your chance to win is forfeited.
You can earn one extra contest entry each by LIKING the Random House Kids page on Facebook and by following them on Twitter @RandomHouseKids
This giveaway will run through midnight on May 9, 2012 (PST). Winners will be chosen using Random.org from all valid entries and notified via email. Winner will have 48 hours to contact us at Ronna.L.Mandel@gmail.com before another winner is chosen. Giveaway is open to U.S. (18+) residents only.
Good Reads With Ronna did not receive monetary compensation for these reviews. Three (3) giveaway book items worth a total value of $14.99 each will be provided by Good Reads With Ronna courtesy of Random House Books for Young Readers. There is no $ value for the promotional calendar. The review is in our own words and is our opinion. Your opinions may differ.