Scarlet Ibis

Scarlet Ibis by Gill Lewis, Illustrated by Susan Meyer

Scarlet Ibis and cartoon sketch of children

BIBLIO: 2014,Atheneum Books for Young Readers: an Imprint of Simon and Schuster. 9-14.
REVIEWER: Gwen Harter.
FORMAT: Middle School
ISBN: 9781481449410

Scarlet and Red live with their mother in an apartment in London. Scarlet is the head of the house as she cares for both her autistic brother and depressed mother and struggles to keep child protective services at bay. Red has a fascination with birds that Scarlet readily encourages by watching the bird’s nest outside of his window, collecting feathers, and taking him to the zoo once a month with the help of some kind people.

Everything changes for Scarlet’s little family through a series of events that ends up separating them. Scarlet must adjust to living with her new foster family, Renee, Theo, Jez, and Avril. With the new family, Scarlet also goes to a new school and must learn to make friends, and sometimes with unlikely strangers,like the bird lady, Madame Popescu. Ultimately though,Scarlet thoughts are consumed with trying to reunite herself with Red.

Scarlet slowly comes to realize what may be best for her is not what she dreams of. In the end, everything works out just the way it needs to give everyone a future they deserve.

One Green Apple

One Green Apple by Eve Bunting

Girl in apple orchard book cover

BIBLIO: 2006, Clarion Books, ages 4 to 11, $16.00.
REVIEWER: Gwen Harter.
FORMAT: Picture Book.
ISBN: 978-0-618-43477-0

Farah is a Muslim immigrant going on her first field trip on her second day of school. The plot is driven by her differences from her classmates. Namely, her cultural differences such as the dupatta and the girl-boy intermingling and her inability to speak English. The children are elementary school aged, possibly around the age of nine. They are going to the apple orchard to pick apples and symbolism is used when Farah picks a single green apple instead of a red one like her classmates’ apples.
Farah interacts with a few people in the story. She is befriended by Anna and Jim, who were not afraid to talk to her because she was not just the new student but also different from them. Unlike her classmates however, the teacher shows an alternate reaction, frustrating Farah with her oversimplified explanations because Farah knows she is intelligent but has no way to communicate this yet.
This book is great for young readers, especially in a classroom setting because it allows for deep conversations about morals. Children will appreciate this book for its colorful and detailed illustrations and the relatable characters. The artwork done by Ted Lewin accentuates the touching realities of this story.

Interview with Eve Bunting

Flora the Flamingo

Flora the Flamingo by Molly Idle

girl and flamingo book cover

BIBLIO: 2013, Chronicle Books LLC, Ages 3 to 7, $16.99.
REVIEWER: Gwen Harter.
FORMAT: Picture Book
ISBN: 978-1-4521-1006-6

Flora and the Flamingo is a charming picturebook created by former DreamWorks animator Molly Idle. It is about a girl, named Flora, trying to copy the graceful flamingo in it’s complicated dance. The flamingo suspects she is doing so and he contorts himself in a way that causes Flora to lose her balance and tumble to the ground when she tries to mimic him. Flora is upset and embarrassed in her clumsiness and she is sad that the flamingo was so mean. Realizing he had made her feel that way the flamingo laments and helps her to her feet. Knowing that all she wanted to do was dance the flamingo shows her his dance and they dance a smooth and complimentary duet together. They finish their dance with a splashy finale and a bow.
There is a the catch. This book has no words, so the plot summary above is just one interpretation of the book. A reader will bring their own experiences to the story with them. Each one will interpret this story differently from their classmates much like any other book but it is especially emphasized in this picturebook because it is all up to the reader’s imagination. This is a great book to use when examining narratives in the classroom. It can also be used for a writing exercises. It allows for a lot of discussion about making friends and special talents.
As an author Idle tells the story solely through pictures. Molly Idle’s style is as unique and distinguishable as it can get. Her layered colored pencil sketches show a lot of dimension and flawless blending . As this book unfolds, like her other illustrated works, the reader is immersed in a whimsy, inviting, and especially in this case, humorous world of fantasy. As challenging as this can be, the Caldecott​ honor winner pulled it off through the use of several common illustration techniques.

More titles in the Series:
Girl and penguin covergirl and peacocks book cover

Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant

Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant by Jack Prelutsky

collage elephant book cover

BIBLIO: 2006 GreenWillow Books/ HarperCollins publishers, ages 4 to 8, $17.89.
REVIEWER: Gwen Harter.
​FORMAT: Picture Book
ISBN: 978-0-06-054318-1

Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant is a charming collection of poems written by Jack Prelutsky and illustrated using collages by Carin Berger. The short picture book has a total of seventeen different poems. Each poem showcases an individual animal object hybrid. The wording is at an easy to medium reading level with words such as “clamorous” “circumnavigates” and “proficiency” adding a dash of vocabulary. A quaint and useful touch is that each animal hybrid has a phonetic pronunciation guide for example “pan-thur-MOM-it-ur”. There are many ways to uses this book as a teaching tool. The rhyming is switches between the classic ABCB patterns and AABB patterns. There is a musical lilt to it and makes it easy to follow along and read independently. Entertaingly, Prelutsky’s love of music has influenced his poetry to the point where his poems can be performed as songs. The animals’ antics fit the objects of the hybrid well, such as the Splatoons calling out for syrup! It would be quite easy to keep young children absorbed in the details of the poems and the collages. This book would be a great start to an imaginative art project or daily writing exercise. The collages of mixed media of illustration and scrap paper is illustrative and adds a whimsy homemade feel. The collages contain subtle word art, for example the umbrellaphant is collaged out of what appears to be an arabic text and the shoehornets nest has a pattern of chinese characters. Poetry is painting with words and Berger did a great job at visually embodying that concept. This is a work with prestige. The Lee Bennett Hopkins Award is only given every three years! Jack Prelutsky is also very popular for his work Scranimals, a book the precedes Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant and hybrids animals with vegetables. He is the first Children’s Poetry Laureate the years 2006-2008 appointed by the Poetry Foundation.

Fresh and Delicious: Poems from the Farmers Market

Fresh and Delicious: Poems from the Farmers Market by Irene Latham, illustrated by Mique Moriuchi

Animals and fruit book cover

BIBLIO:2016, Honesdale, PA: Wordsong an Imprint of Highlights, Ages 5 to 8, $16.95.
REVIEWER: Gwen Harter.
FORMAT: Picture book
ISBN: 978-1-62979-1103-6

A collection with lots of short, succinct, and yet vivid poems make this book is as fresh and delicious as the title claims. Moriuchi created colorful intriguing illustrations with acrylics and collage materials. The poems vary in the type and style and the movement on the page with the words and the pictures is notable. In the beginning of the book there is a table of contents and as an endnote there are simple recipes using the food from the book. Each page highlights a fruit or vegetable, showcased by charming little animals. There is a lot of descriptive writing techniques which make this book great for practicing similes and metaphors for older students. This book also works as a good selection to talk about health and nutrition. I would recommend this book for read-a-long and for assisted silent reading because some of the words used are a little advanced to read independently.

Stanley the Mailman

Stanley the Mailman by William Bee

hamster on motor bike

BIBLIO: 2016, Atlanta: Peachtree Publishers, Ages 3 to 6, $14.95.
REVIEWER: Gwen Harter.
FORMAT: Picture book
ISBN: 978-1-56145-867-7.

Bee has produced another charming installation about Stanley the Hamster. Stanley acts as the town’s postman and delivers mail to all of his friends. Stanley’s day starts before dawn as he rides his scooter. Each friend opens up their mail which come as whimsical fun gifts or unfortunate truths like Hattie’s ticket. The book shows a lot of movement through the pages and actively engages the reader. The sentences flow and are very simple grammatically ideal for young readers. The digitally designed pictures are well thought out. The drawings are colorful, cute, and clean lines, along with a lot of sweet details. The cover of my particular book is pillow-y and perfect for tiny hands. I would recommend this book as a read-a-long book and for very beginning readers. This book is great as part of a career-themed Storytime and Stanley the Hamster as a series works perfectly as a quick grab for toddlers.

More titles in the Series:
hamster on a tow truckhamster on bakery vanhamster on bulldozerhamster on a tractorhamster on food truck
And many more!

Poems in the Attic

Poems in the Attic by Nikki Grimes

girl reading poem, book cover

BIBLIO: 2015 New York: Lee & Low Books, Ages 4 to 7, $19.95.
REVIEWER: Gwen Harter.
FORMAT: Picture book
ISBN:978-1-62014-027-7

This richly illustrated children’s book focuses on a seven year old girl visiting her grandmother for three days. She finds a box of poems her mother wrote about the places she lived as a young girl in a military family. Each poem the mother wrote is accompanied by the daughter’s reflection about the poem and her time with her grandmother. All of the poems are very reflective and show the fun each experiences, culminating in the daughter’s surprise book of poems for her mother. The mother’s poems are written in the Japanese style Tanka, and the daughter’s in free verse, both forms are explained in the back of the book. Each set of poems is set up with an oval cut-out illustration of the girl on the right and the mother’s memory and poem fill up the remaining one and a half pages of the two page spread. Zunon uses a combination of deeply colorful acrylics, oils, and collaging for each picture adding a sensory level to the stories the poems portray. This book can be used well as an introduction to poetry and the help children cope with moving, friends, family, and armed forces.