The Great Big Hug

November 25th, 2019 · Books

The topic of consent comes up with young children and adults alike. Sometimes parents and educators have a hard time helping preschoolers understand how to both understand what is important for others, and how to communicate what is important for themselves. A new book helps with these sometimes difficult discussions! THE GREAT BIG HUG by Isy Abraham-Raveson is a simple and sweet story about two friends who learn that communication is key to a healthy relationship. Elephant is confused when Meerkat says OUCH! when Elephant hugs him. He wonders if he is too big to be friends with Meerkat and runs away.  As he travels and meets lots of animal friends who have different reactions to Elephants tickles and hugs, Elephant realizes that everyone likes different kinds of games, and that’s okay.

The Great Big Hug’s style may seem overly direct and simple to adults, but the message is a good introduction (and frankly, a needed reminder) about consent and communication from which all ages could benefit. Elephant’s hurt feelings and slow realization is an example of how someone can “do better” when they have learned how they affect others.

Each of the animals with whom Elephant interacts has a different type of reaction to hugs and tickle games. Elephant’s responses, a combination of self-pity and self-blame, are both realistic and sympathetic. The illustrations are expressive despite their lack of detail, and the watercolor/collage-style look that Todd Hall employs works well with the text.

THE GREAT BIG HUG would work well as a read-aloud in classrooms and for families to read together when discussing bodily autonomy and respecting others’ boundaries. Highly recommended.



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Plastic Sucks! by Dougie Poynter

November 10th, 2019 · Books

Climate change and the effects humans have on its rise has been a media and community focus all over the world. Young people have been leading the call for positive change, and they’ve been demanding that their parents and grandparents pay attention. Even so, the enormity of the problem can feel overwhelming and hopeless. The new book PLASTIC SUCKS! by Dougie Poynter acknowledges that, but it also follows up with small and large impacts individuals can have every day. This informative, realistic, and energetic book makes sure to emphasize the gravity of how plastic affects our eco-system in all ways even as it infuses every page with optimism and ownership of making a positive difference.

PLASTIC SUCKS! is divided into sections that explain what plastic is, how it affects daily life (in good and bad ways), what types of plastic are the worst offenders, and what each of us can do to minimize its impact on wildlife and the future of the environment. Scientific information is condensed into digestible sections that don’t overwhelm or condescend. There are also “Meet the Experts” interviews with various environmental activists and scientists throughout the book. While there is a solid balance in genders represented, hopefully the next edition will feature more “experts” from varying ethnic and racial backgrounds. Overall, the sections come together to provide a supportive and inspiring response to the devastating impacts young people have grown up hearing about.

A particularly encouraging aspect of this book is the many suggestions for everyday impacts readers can take now and on an on-going basis. Instructions and tips for beach cleanups, how to minimize plastic in the kitchen and bathroom, tips for plastic-free excursions and lunches, and even a template for contacting local groceries and stores about plastic use are sprinkled throughout. Every topic is surrounded with background for why it matters, tips, and encouragement for when plans don’t work perfectly. Poynter shares his own journey, work, and successes as a way of letting readers know that change, even huge change, is possible on an individual level. Poynter’s successful efforts in banning micro plastics in the UK is a highlight.

Vegan families should be aware that beeswax paper is mentioned as an alternative to plastic wrap and sandwich bags.

PLASTIC SUCKS! is aimed at 8-12 year olds, and the illustrations suit that age group well. In stark green, black, and white, the simple graphics are easy to follow and they emphasize the information without seeming hyperbolic. They are also fun without being cartoonish in their attitude towards the subject matter. Both children and adults will learn a lot from this book, and everyone will be inspired to do better when it comes to plastic use.

Highly recommended.




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The Help Yourself Cookbook for Kids by Ruby Roth

November 1st, 2019 · Books

THE HELP YOURSELF COOKBOOK FOR KIDS by Ruby Roth is a joyful adventure in assembling snacks, creating colorful drinks, and exploring new flavors and textures in food. The vibrant combination of drawings and photographs of both ingredients and techniques makes the recipes even more appealing. 100% plant-based, each recipe is described in plain language with a kid-focus, and most include just a handful of ingredients.

Ruby Roth, the author of V is for Vegan and That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals, opens the cookbook with an introduction to her eating philosophy and a summary of ingredients with which children may be unfamiliar. There is also a “Kitchen Safety” section and a note to caregivers that acknowledges discomfort with children in the kitchen, but encourages grown-ups to help make cooking both fun and healthy.

Snacks like banana Power Towers, basil Leaf Poppers, and kale Dino Rolls are both easy and tasty. Granola Crumble, Mushroom Jerky and Broc-O-Tree Bisque are easy, but require some use of the oven or stove. For slightly more involved recipes, Roth always includes an “adult alert.” This allows children a level of autonomy, but makes sure they stop and look for help when needed.

Aimed at the 6-12 year old age group, The Help Yourself Cookbook for Kids is a fantastic introduction to cooking for children. It will help adults in a food rut re-ignite their love of playful food as well. Highly recommended!


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Future Engineer

October 18th, 2019 · Books

FUTURE ENGINEER by Lori Alexander and illustrated by Allison Black is the second in the Future Baby Series. Like Future Astronaut, the board book juxtaposes grown-up engineers with babies playing to compare their similar traits. “Engineers as questions” is met with an adorable image of a baby asking “Why? Why? Why?” And then, “Engineers draw their ideas on paper and computers” is depicted opposite “Baby draws on paper. And other places, too.” The baby, by the way, is scribbling on the wall with a very happy smile on their face.

Allison Black’s deceptively simple illustrations are expressive, engaging, and utterly adorable. The multi-ethnic characters are shown in full baby play mode, and even the shock of blocks falling is shown in bright colors and with surprise rather than sadness. In addition, the adult engineer, whose project has also fallen down, mirrors the baby’s expression wonderfully.

The last two pages of the book have facts about what different kinds of engineers do. The examples of what engineers make are familiar and relatable to a young child: rockets, televisions, toothpaste, and bridges. Overall, a colorful and fun introduction to engineering and how children really are future engineers.


Review by Kristin Wald

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