Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Bibi's Bookshelf


Baby Penguins Everywhere! by Melissa Guion is visually adorable.  An adult penguin is alone and she sometimes feels lonely.  Until one day she finds a magician’s hat floating in the water.   Before she knows it, one by one, baby penguins come out, some with juggling balls and chains of scarves—all of the paraphernalia a traditional magician would use.

As much as I love the illustrations, the story is a bit too “on the nose” for me.  The lesson meant to be learned by the little reader, or the child hearing the story, is that sometimes mommies want to be left alone.   But it is so blatant.  It seems more like a book an adult wants a child to like more than a book children will innately like.  Where the Wild Things Are wasn’t a book that adults liked but children loved it.  They still love it after so many years.  And adults now remember it from their own childhood with fondness.  I cannot imagine that this adorable book will have the same sustainability because of the overly obvious moral message. 

The Art of Miss Chew by Patricia Polacco is a story inspired by the artist/author’s own experience in school and the encouragement and support she receives from two teachers—one who recognizes the young girl’s artistic talent and another who realizes the learning struggles she is having.  Both go out of their way to get her the help she needs.  

I mostly loved the book but I have to confess that some of the grammatical errors annoyed me.  I realize that I can be a bit of a “Grammar Nazi” and I do try to be forgiving when I am reading most books but I am less forgiving when it comes to a children’s book.  Little children love to have stories read to them over and over again.  When a book has careless and obvious grammar errors, I dread the thought of a child having these mistakes read repeatedly.  Perhaps I am being irrational but I truly do prefer very precise language in children’s books.

Having said that, I also have to admit that the story brought tears to my eyes.  It touched my heart.

Rotten Richie and the Ultimate Dare by Patricia Polacco is a story about an older brother who loves hockey and a younger sister who loves ballet.  The two have a typical sibling rivalry and one day dare one another to see how hard other’s extracurricular activities can be. 

This is, of course, a common trope often seen in situation comedies on television.  What elevates this from the typical is that this story is inspired from Polacco’s own experience.  In real life, the two benefited from a mother who encouraged each child to participate in the other’s life by going to games and recitals.  And this strong bond is hinted at throughout the story and infuses what could be a trite experience into one that is infused with love.  Although the conclusion is a bit too contrived, I still enjoyed this picture book and wish Bibi had a chance to have it read with her. 

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