Are You An Echo?

Are You An Echo?  The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko

(David Jacobson, Sally Ito & Michiko Tsuboi and Toshikado Hajiri)

Chin Music Press

ISBN-10: 163405962X

ISBN-13: 978-1634059626

It begins with  a very simple question.

Who was Misuzu Kaneko?

For those who are not Japanese and/or who are not familiar with Japanese poetry, this question is exactly what it seems--a simple request.  However for those who grew up--perhaps in Japan, perhaps elsewhere- reading Misuzu Kaneko's poems, this question goes deeper.

And thanks to author  David Jacobson's clear and heartfelt narrative,  this book offers the intricate, fascinating and at times heartbreaking answers.

Jacobson's narrative follows contemporary poet Setsuko Yazaki's quest to learn more about Misuzu Kaneko's life and poetry, seamlessly blending storytelling and biography with samples of Kaneko's poems. Toshikado Hajiri's intricate illustrations add depth to Jacobson's clear descriptions, transforming this book into a touching memorial honoring Kaneko's art and life. 

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The truths revealed about Misuzu Kaneko's life are at once inspiring and devastating, making her beautiful, lyrical poetry--selections of which are included at the end of the book-- all the more touching and meaningful.   

"Are You An Echo?"  offers upper elementary readers and beyond  a poignant glimpse into Misuzu Kaneko's life, weaving history, Japanese culture, and the joys and challenges of a woman seeking to balance life and art--a not-to-be-missed treasure of a book. 

Newspaper Hats

Newspaper Hats (Phil Cummings and Owen Swan)

Charlesbridge

ISBN-10: 1580897835

ISBN-13: 978-1580897839

Most of us take remembering for granted.  We rush and bustle through our lives, pulling numbers and directions, faces and names out of our big brains whenever we choose or need.

But what happens when those we love the most don't remember US?  And how do we explain this to children?

"Newspaper Hats" explores these questions through the eyes and heart of Georgie, who knows that her Grandpa remembers many things--but not always her.

As Georgie struggles to follow her Grandpa's meandering past memories, she suddenly has a memory of her own, and follows it towards a way to connect with her Grandpa when words just aren't enough.

 

Author Phil Cummings and  Illustrator Owen Swan wrap the challenges and heartbreak of memory loss inside a gentle story aimed at offering hope and healing as Georgie learns that love is stronger than memory.  

"Newspaper Hats" shows us that sometimes the most gentle and quiet stories can also be the most powerful.  

 

by Christina Moorehead

Real Cowboys

Real Cowboys (Kate Hoefler and Jonathan Bean)

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

ISBN-10: 0544148924

ISBN-13: 978-0544148925

 

  Let's play a word association game.  I'll say "cowboy" and I invite you to grab the first three words that come to your mind.   Maybe you thought "Toy Story".  Perhaps your mind brought up images of horses, or 10-Gallon hats.  For those of us (like me) old enough, we might think of 1970's cowboy TV dramas like "Gunsmoke" or "Bonanza".    This book is all those things--and none of those things.    

 

Let's play a word association game.  I'll say "cowboy" and I invite you to grab the first three words that come to your mind.   Maybe you thought "Toy Story".  Perhaps your mind brought up images of horses, or 10-Gallon hats.  For those of us (like me) old enough, we might think of 1970's cowboy TV dramas like "Gunsmoke" or "Bonanza".   

This book is all those things--and none of those things.  

 

"Real Cowboys" combines Boston Globe-Horn Book award winning illustrator Jonathan Bean's beautifully layered illustrations with  Kate Hoefler's clear, poetic descriptions of cowboy life behind the TV images and movie magic.  The cowboys in this book work hard, feel deeply and face inevitable challenges with determination.  

"Real Cowboys" combines Boston Globe-Horn Book award winning illustrator Jonathan Bean's beautifully layered illustrations with  Kate Hoefler's clear, poetic descriptions of cowboy life behind the TV images and movie magic.  The cowboys in this book work hard, feel deeply and face inevitable challenges with determination.

 

  This book offers us a  quiet peek behind the popular myths of cowboys,  adding texture to our understanding of cowboy life, including pointing out that cowboys are as complex and diverse as the rest of us--men and women, boys and girls.  

 

This book offers us a  quiet peek behind the popular myths of cowboys,  adding texture to our understanding of cowboy life, including pointing out that cowboys are as complex and diverse as the rest of us--men and women, boys and girls.

 

You don't have to be a cowboy enthusiast to be touched by this lovely and moving peek into a way of life that is seldom seriously explored by adults or children.  Enjoy!      by Christina Moorehead

You don't have to be a cowboy enthusiast to be touched by this lovely and moving peek into a way of life that is seldom seriously explored by adults or children.  Enjoy! 

 

 

by Christina Moorehead

Home at Last

Home at Last (Vera B. Williams and  Chris Raschka)

Harper Collins Publishers

ISBN-13: 978-0061349737

ISBN-10: 0061349739

When I woke up this morning I already knew what book I was going to share.  Or at least I thought I knew.  But then I arrived at our little CTTCB office and opened a box of newly published books, and there it was, waiting for me right on top.

"Home at Last" introduces us to Lester, a young boy standing  on the steps of the children's center.  He is waiting--nervous, excited, relieved-- for his new parents.  And when Daddy Rich and Daddy Albert drive up with Wincka the dog in tow we,  the spying reader, are welcomed into the beautiful beginnings of a new family.

 

"Home at Last" simply and honestly gives us a peek into Lester's new life.  We are privy to Lester's lingering fears as well as to his fathers' new-parent frustrations.  At the same time we get to witness Lester's growing confidence and delight at finally having a family of his own again. 

Vera B. WIlliams and Chris Raschka, both Caldecott Honor recipients for their respective works, pooled their tremendous talents  to create a story that encourages young readers to expand and deepen their understanding of family.

"Home at Last" was Vera B. Williams' last creation before she died in October 2015.  I encourage you to take a moment to read this warm, funny, real tale of family love. 

by Christina  Moorehead

 

 

 

Can One Balloon Make an Elephant Fly?

Can One Balloon Make an Elephant Fly? (Dan Richards and Jeff Newman)

Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers

ISBN 9781442452152

 

Who doesn't love a good balloon?  Balloons are irresistible.  Inflated, deflated, filled with floaty helium or bouncy regular breath or giggle-inducing water, they are the stuff of imagination.  

 

In "Can One Balloon Make an Elephant Fly?" a little boy and his smartphone-distracted mom are at the zoo when their bunch of balloons inspires the boy to ask a question both whimsical and scientific:  Can one balloon make an elephant fly?

 

In classic distracted-parent fashion the mom tries to shut down the boy's persistent balloon-vs-elephant questions--until she suddenly puts the phone away. 

 

And then the magic begins.

 

So CAN one balloon make an elephant fly?  I'm sure you know already that I'm not going to tell you.  What I can tell you is that you may need to expect the unexpected in this whimsical tale that Dan Richards and Jeff Newman spread before us in jewel-toned primary colors and simple lines that match the crisp dialogue.  And don't ignore the tiny background details--I promise they'll bring more than a few smiles to your face!

 

Enjoy!

 

by Christina Moorehead

Bring Me A Rock!

Bring Me A Rock! (Daniel Miyares)

Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers

ISBN 978-1-4814-4602-0

 

http://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Bring-Me-a-Rock!/Daniel-Miyares/9781481446020

http://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Bring-Me-a-Rock!/Daniel-Miyares/9781481446020

Today you have the exquisite honor of a solo Bookyak by Christina wherein I won't so much yak  as I will give you a teeny taste of a delicious book.

Today's delicious book is "Bring Me A Rock!" by Daniel Miyares.  Miyares wastes no time in introducing us to the self-absorbed grasshopper king. 

The grasshopper king, in the finest tradition of Dr. Seuss' "Yertle the Turtle" and his tower of turtle minions, bellows out demands for his fellow insects to bring and stack only the biggest rocks in order to create a majestic throne.  

And then the smallest bug shows up carrying, of course, the smallest rock.  Well!  What do you think the grasshopper king had to say to that?   

Oh no.  I'm not going to tell you...remember, this is just  a taste.  Not the whole meal!  I heartily encourage you to speed over to your nearest library or bookshop to snap up this splendid offering by Daniel Miyares that offers a chuckle-worthy twist  on a well known tale.  For teachers, librarians and parents,  the crisp, vivid illustrations and perfectly matched text practically beg to be enhanced and explored via writing, art, science and outdoor exploration.

Enjoy!   

 

by Christina Moorehead

TREAT

 

TREAT (Mary Sullivan)

HMH Books 2016

ISBN 978-0544472709

http://www.hmhco.com/shop/books/Treat/9780544472709

http://www.hmhco.com/shop/books/Treat/9780544472709

 

 

C: I would like to start by pointing out to you the cover information: "Word and pictures by Mary Sullivan".   As in WORD.

 

S:  I have no word to describe how much I love that.

 

C:  Indeed.  I wonder if anyone caught that before actually reading this book?  It is a huge hilarious hint if you ask me.

 

S: The whole concept for this book is one that will be immediately recognized and appreciated by human and canine readers alike.  Also I like the antagonist shark on page 4.

 

C: When I first read this book I fell in love with the delightful battle between expectation and surprise.  I mean, when it comes to dogs and treats, there are 2 obvious outcomes (the dog gets the treat or the dog does not get the treat) and Mary Sullivan does not disappoint.  So as you read through it you think you know what is going to happen--which is nicely reassuring for young readers--but the path to what happens is wholly enjoyable and filled with unexpected whimsy.

 

S: It is glorious that much of the story is told through font.  Many books make the font obviously bigger and smaller for different emphasis, but to have the font upside down, fade into nothingness, appear inside a shark-shaped talk bubble and written with a polite flair--I don't remember a book with quite so much emotional range packed into the letters used to make up just one word.  

If a picture is worth a thousand words, I definitely think in this case a thousand ways of writing a word really adds infinitely to the worth of the picture.

 

C: I totally agree. Mary Sullivan certainly makes the most of that one word.  At first I considered "Treat" to be similar to wordless books, but I've since changed my mind--the difference IS subtle but it is there.  A wordless book is totally open, the action fed entirely by relationship between the images and the viewer.  This book however tells a tight little story where the connecting string is a single word that shapes the action tremendously. 

So what age would you match to this treat of a book? (See what I did there?)

 

S: I see what you did there.  Honestly I don't know what age I'd match this with.  This is one of those books that you could read to anyone and everyone would cuddle up to it regardless of age. I am 44 and I feel like cuddling up to my dog right now and reading it to him.  It would definitely give him some strategies to get more treats. 

The comic book frame layout suggests a slightly older readership than babies or toddlers, but any older than that and this book is fair game.  There is so much to talk about in each frame.  

Two words describe this book:  sweet and hilarious.  What would be your two words?  (And don't say "treat" and "treat".)

 

C: As we've discussed before with the book "Spot", people make the mistake of assuming that just because a book is wordless, it must be suitable solely for early readers or ESL students, and that is just not the case.  "Treat" is a totally fun read for any age person--and especially for dog lovers.

As for my 2 words (If I absolutely MUST limit myself to only 2), I'd say this book is doggone great. 

Hah. 

 

S: I especially like that the race of the characters in this book is simply a part of it without being THE part of it.  So many books are "default white" and so I really like that this book is not.  It's not making a huge statement or anything--the book IS about the dog after all.  However it is also not making the same statement that other books unwittingly make--that picture books are aimed at white kids. 

 

C: And this is where a little story about nothing more than a treat-loving dog (and his quasi-imaginary shark nemesis) is exactly what it should be--an adorable little tale where the humans in the story become any of us. 

Although I think I might just be more like the dog than the people...I do like treats.

 

S: Hallelujah. 

 

By Sue Conolly and Christina Moorehead

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

Spot the Cat

"Spot the Cat" (Henry Cole)

Simon & Schuster, 2016

ISBN 978-1-4814-4225-1

http://books.simonandschuster.com/Spot-the-Cat/Henry-Cole/9781481442251

http://books.simonandschuster.com/Spot-the-Cat/Henry-Cole/9781481442251

 

C:  So, "Spot the Cat"...

 

S: OMG. When I saw this book I knew that it was the perfect book for you. It's a mixture of cats, critical thinking and very intricate art. 

 

C: Not to mention that it is a wordless book, which puts it firmly into your repertoire. 

 

S: I have no words (ha ha) for how much I love this book. 

 

C: I always love books that have an interactive element. Even though this is a wordless book it would appeal to a wide age range. 

 

S: It's kind of like a “Where's Wally” but really, really beautiful. Also, for a wordless book there are SO MANY WORDS involved.  Can you imagine reading this book with a child? 

 

C: I couldn't put it down until I had found the cat on each page. 

        

S: If you had this book with an actual child, you might never get that child to go to sleep. 

 

C: True. As a classroom teacher I can see this being a rich, interactive experience with a large group, small group or individual child. Each page is like its own micro-story, sparking rich discussion. 

 

S: I was just about to ask you what you thought about this book for a classroom! I think this book is the perfect rainy day book, and also a great book for ESL learners because there is so much that can be said about each page. "Is this the cat?" "No, that one doesn't have a spot. It's this one racing across the street"... 

C: I only have one critique...but it is a big one.                                                                                                  

 

S: Hit me.

 

C: There are multiple wide-scale depictions of city streets, parks, train stations, but  little noticeable diversity depicted in the crowd scenes. I would've liked to have seen a wider range of ethnic backgrounds represented. 

 

S: That is a really good point. I was just about to say that I love the city scape, because it is at once very big (wide, vast buildings that go on for ever and ever), and also very small (the cat knows where it is going, and comes home to the comfort of the sofa). But you're right - there are different kinds of cats, but no different kinds of people, even on the really populated pages like the art museum and farmers market. Sigh. 

 

C: I think Cole did try to address this somewhat--on closer inspection there are women shown in what looks like hijab,  possibly some people who are meant to look Asian or African American. 

However the predominant impression of these wide-scale pictures is not obvious diversity. The reader has to search for the diversity almost as much as (s)he has to look for the cat. 

 

S: I don't know - I saw that too but I think he could have done more. Someone in a wheelchair would not have gone astray, either. It just seems a little bit cookie cutter. I know the book isn't about the people - it's aboutone boy and the cat. So perhaps he has  tried to keep a similar illustration style for people/cats to invoke conversation about sameness and difference. But what a missed opportunity then, to have people look so similar (which is not how it is in the real world). 

 

C: I agree. This said, I still think this book is delightful. If I were to use this in a Kindergarten classroom I would open up the discussion to talking about the people--use open-ended questions to see what the students do and do not notice about the people. I have done this many times using what I have seen as a challenging aspect or drawback in a book as a jumping off point for critical thinking and questioning. You wouldn't believe how deeply kindergarteners can dig! 

 

S: I think that's a really good point. I keep thinking that children will want to find themselves. So for example if you had a child in a wheelchair they would notice after a while that there are no people in wheelchairs. I think it could be a valuable conversation to have in class. If a book had no pitfalls it would be a less interesting conversation, wouldn't it? 

 

C: Absolutely. And this leads us to an excellent question: How much do we, as educators, librarians and/or parents, truly desire that quintessential "perfect" book? Is there such a thing? Or is a book, by its very being and definition, always going to be subjective and therefore always open to be critiqued? 

 

S: I get what you mean. I think this would be a great book for a certain type of reader, and not for others. When I think of my old ESL class (they were grades 4 and 5 mixed), some of them would have gone to town on all the action happening in this book and others would have been instantly bored. But I knew YOU would like it as soon as you saw it. You are just that special kind of book/cat/art nerd for whom this book was written.

 

C: Indeed. I give "Spot the Cat" the official BookYak seal of approval. 

 

S: You are the world's biggest nerd.

 

C:  And proud of it!  

 

By Sue Conolly and Christina Moorehead