A Penguin Named Patience: A Hurricane Katrina Rescue Story

February 13th, 2015 · Books

9781585368402_FCReview By HOMA WOODRUM

I received A Penguin Named Patience from Sleeping Bear Press as a review copy. I’ve never seen a picture book that ties in with Hurricane Katrina and it must be a sign that I’m getting older when books are made to explain events to children that may not have been alive at the time they actually happened (in this case, August 2005). Take away the reason the titular Patience the penguin and her compatriots were relocated from their home exhibit to one in Monterrey, California and the book still makes sense. Which is to say, though this is a book that has a basis in actual events, it isn’t meant to inform the reader about the Hurricane as much as share a vignette of evacuation and return.

The illustrations are charming and the story straight forward – penguins are flown across the country when it is no longer safe for them to stay at New Orleans’ Audubon Aquarium of the Americas. Later, the penguins are able to return. The book mentions the names and personalities of the penguins but while attributing feelings like confusion or happiness to the penguins would inspire empathy in the reader, it leaves unanswered the question of why the penguins’ home is presumed to be the Aquarium. I don’t think it is problematic for veg families as a snippet of the penguins’ lives and considering it is based on real life events, but I wanted to mention it nonetheless.

Ultimately, the thrust of the story is that Patience worries and waits and eventually is brought home. In the Author’s Note at the end of the book it states that Patience died in 2006, the year following the events in the book, at the age of 25 (while the average age for a female African penguin, per the note, is 15.1 years). I found the note an important addition to the story so I’d recommend the book for ages 6 and up so they can get the most out of the story behind the story.

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Martin & Mahalia: His Words, Her Song

February 11th, 2015 · Books


Martin & Mahalia is a book that wants to be read out loud. Andrea Davis Pinkney combines history, biography, and poetry to tell a story of two influential people in the Civil Rights Movement: Martin Luther King Jr., civil rights leader; and Mahalia Jackson, “Queen of Gospel” music. With artful illustrations by Brian Pinkney and colorful text in varying sizes, it reaches towards spoken word and song, emphasizing the power of words and music. The collaboration between author and illustrator cleverly reiterates the partnership between Martin and Mahalia. Colorful and casual, the story plays up the strength and positive impact Martin and Mahalia made and takes a brief journey from segregation to the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, a defining moment in civil rights history.


Brilliantly and artistically written and illustrated, it evokes emotions while telling an amazing story. The Pinkneys added a note from each of them at the end which fills in biographical, historical, and personal details that were not included in the main story (like last names, other well known people in the civil rights movement, Presidents, and inspiration). A list of additional reading and discography follows as well as an illustrated timeline.

Ages 6 +.

The publisher sent a copy of this book for review.

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Vegetables in Underwear

February 6th, 2015 · Books

VeggieinUnderwear_CVRReview By JESSICA ALMY

I love this book. It all starts with the title, I think. I love the whimsy and humor of picturing vegetables in underwear. This may be the case where you really can judge a book by its cover. If you’re not giggling when you read the title and see broccoli in red briefs, this probably isn’t the book for you. Everyone else, read on!

Using simple language and bright, eye-catching illustrations, this book’s got a straightforward theme:

I wear underwear.
You wear underwear.
We all wear underwear!

Don’t call them underwear? No worries, the book helpfully supplies a bunch of synonyms: Drawers! Undies! Briefs! Underpants! Each is shown on a vegetable of a different size and shape: pea, carrot, celery, corn.

For a child transitioning from diapers to underwear, this book provides encouragement in a very upbeat, humorous, silly way. But kids who already have the potty mastered may also enjoy this book, as it highlights a bunch of awesome vegetables. In addition to the aforementioned classic veggies, this book also depicts onion, eggplant, radish, mushroom, squash, turnip, potato, and a variety of baby veggies.

My only hesitation in recommending this book is that it’s a classic picture book with paper pages, which may be too delicate for some early-adopters of undies.

Ages 2-5.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher.

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Beautiful Moon: A Child’s Prayer

February 4th, 2015 · Books


This lovely book is more about empathy than religion. A boy awakens in the middle of the night to realize he forgot to say his prayers. He kneels and prays for people without homes, for an end to war, for the sick to be healed, and for the hungry to be fed. In turn, the book turns to people in each of those circumstances, showing that they all live under the same beautiful moon.


Vegetarian and vegan families will find much to like in this simple, beautifully illustrated picture book. I found the boy’s prayers resonated deeply with me and made me ask myself whether I am doing enough in my life to bring peace and justice to the world. In this way, the boy’s prayers are my own.

The book touches briefly on two animal themes. In one image, a couple is looking at bare cupboards,

longing to see them stocked
rice and beans,
noodles and peas,
chicken soup and cereal.

And at the end, the boy prays for his loved ones, which include his grandmother, mother, father, sister, teacher, and “Mikey, his turtle.”

This book, received as a review copy from the publisher, is for children ages 3 to 7.

Tell us in the comments: what techniques do you use to cultivate empathy in the children in your life?

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