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Picture Book Review – The Struggle Bus

 

THE STRUGGLE BUS

 Written & illustrated by Julie Koon

(Kind World Publishing; $18.99; Ages 4-8)

 

The Struggle Bus cover

 

 

From the publisher: Sometimes things are really tough. It’s just too hard. You’ve had enough. Grumble, rumble, bump and roar, the struggle bus is at your door. [The Struggle Bus] is a must-have picture book for any reader struggling with new experiences and managing emotions … Incorporating her experience as an elementary school counselor, Koon uses the accessible theme of vehicles to make this social-emotional concept perfect for the preschool and early elementary crowd. It’s also a great tool for caregivers to start conversations with children about acknowledging difficult feelings and facing fears.

 

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Interior art from The Struggle Bus written and illustrated by Julie Koon, Kind World Publishing ©2022.

 

From the inside of a grumbly-rumbly bus, readers travel through the process of helpless overwhelm to joyous triumph in this rhyming, growth-mindset picture book from debut author-illustrator, Julie Koon.

 

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Interior spread from The Struggle Bus written and illustrated by Julie Koon, Kind World Publishing ©2022.

 

Koon’s muted color palette soothes as she tackles the unsure (and at times overwhelming) feelings a child encounters when facing new challenges and learning we all “have what it takes to do hard things.” A repeated refrain invites the youngest listeners into the storytelling while ample back matter offers teachers and caregivers more information to use during classroom or at-home discussions. A delightful debut for both author and publisher, The Struggle Bus is a wonderful addition to the school SEL library.

  • Reviewed by Roxanne Troup

 

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Picture Book Review – Sylvia Finds a Way

 

 

SYLVIA FINDS A WAY

Written by Stephanie Shaw

Illustrated by Fiona Lee

(West Margin Press; $17.99; Ages 5-8)

 

 

 

When a tiny slug and her animal friends discover a beautiful garden full of delicious food, they attempt to fill their bellies using one of their strengths in the sweet picture book, Sylvia Finds a Way. Unfortunately, a vigilant gardener stands ready, and each animal BOUNDS, DARTS, or FLIES away with an empty tummy … until Sylvia comes along.

 

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Interior spread from Sylvia Finds a Way written by Stephanie Shaw and illustrated by Fiona Lee, West Margin Press 2021.

 

Confident in her own brand of quiet strength, Sylvia’s way teaches kids that there are different kinds of strength. And that often, the best way to solve a problem is not with physical strength, but with patience and words.

 

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Interior spread from Sylvia Finds a Way written by Stephanie Shaw and illustrated by Fiona Lee, West Margin Press 2021.

 

Stephanie Shaw and Fiona Lee’s depiction of this unlikely hero is sure to find fans among yoga and garden enthusiasts. Lee’s expressive art is a perfect complement to Shaw’s simple and satisfying story. The earthy color palette allows Sylvia’s “slime” trail of silvery, shiny gloss to take center stage, keeping even the youngest readers entranced. Throw in some fun yoga poses, and this book makes a delightful, interactive read-aloud. 

 

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Interior art from Sylvia Finds a Way written by Stephanie Shaw and illustrated by Fiona Lee, West Margin Press 2021.

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From School Library Journal: “Shaw’s evocative descriptions of the flora and fauna will engage young readers and the author’s note gives factual information about slugs and their value to the garden’s ecosystem … The balance between boisterous action and meditative zen makes this title a standout among yoga picture books. A fun, frolicking tale, and welcome addition to picture book collections, that sneaks in an etiquette lesson without feeling overly didactic.”

  • Reviewed by Roxanne Troup

 

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Picture Book Review – I Am Today

 

I AM TODAY

Written by Matt Forrest Esenwine

Illustrated by Patricia Pessoa

(POW! Kids Books; $17.99; Ages 4-8)

 

 

I Am Today cover

 

 

Matt Forrest Esenwine and Patricia Pessoa inspire the “next generation” to become the “today generation”
in I Am Today, an evocative story of a young girl standing up for what she believes in.

From POW! Kids Books: “While playing on the beach in her coastal town, a young girl comes across a sea turtle ensnared by a wire. Her town is home to a factory that has provided jobs for many of her neighbors, including her mother, but it has also been dumping garbage from a pipe into the waters…Unable to forget the sight of the struggling turtle, she inspires the townspeople to compel the factory to change its destructive ways.”

 

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Interior spread from I Am Today written by illustrated by Patricia Pessoa, POW! Kids Books ©2022.

 

A true picture book, the story in Pessoa’s lively art is never alluded to in Esenwine’s spare, poetic text.

 

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Interior art from I Am Today written by illustrated by Patricia Pessoa, POW! Kids Books ©2022.

 

Yet they pair beautifully to give readers a concrete example of how one life can make a huge impact for good.

In a recent interview with Esenwine, the author states that his inspiration for the book came as he was navigating the COVID pandemic with his children. “I was wondering how to help my children feel like they had some control of their life…I spent some time kicking around ideas, and the phrase “I am today” came to me. I thought about that for a while and realized that kids are always being told they are the “Future”…but what if a child doesn’t want to wait?”

This thought-provoking read-aloud would make an excellent addition to the elementary school classroom as teachers cover science and social studies topics like conservation and social change, but it could also be used as a writing prompt for persuasive essays during language arts.

      •  Reviewed by Roxanne Troup

 

 

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