Reading Picture Books With Children

May 22nd, 2019 · Books

The Whole Book Approach in READING PICTURE BOOKS WITH CHILDREN focuses on helping caregivers and educators use the art and design of picture books to enhance meaning and encourage an interactive experience for each child. Educator Megan Dowd Lambert, in association with The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, leads readers through the parts of a book — the cover and jacket, the type, the size and shape, and page design — and how each can help create a more meaningful experience when sharing a picture book with children.

While some of us will assert that we already do this, ad nauseam, with the young people in our lives, the author’s attention to each section asks us to slow down, take another look, and deeply consider if what we are doing is conscious or a default. Considering the amount of times children will ask for the same picture book again and again, the Whole Book Approach makes sense and will help children fully experience books even as the adults in their lives stay sane while deepening their appreciation for the artistry that goes into even the most seemingly simple picture book.

A particularly poignant moment that demonstrates the Whole Book Approach beautifully appears in the Visual Overtures chapter regarding endpapers. The author admits, “I didn’t realize how very much I was missing until I slowed down enough to let a child expand upon this observation [about colors in the endpapers].” The child pointed out, and the other children agreed, that the colors at the end of Eric Carle’s Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? include the colors of all the animals in the book, in order. This is something that Dowd Lambert had never connected. She learned the basic philosophy for what she explains as her Whole Book Approach: Slow down, listen carefully, and allow children to voice their observations completely.

While some caregivers will find this approach too heavy-handed for everyday attention, others, and definitely preschool and elementary teachers will see its usefulness in fostering observation, risk-taking, detail-oriented description, and enjoyment of a picture book as a visual and narrative experience. The language is accessible to parents and caregivers, whether or not they have an education or art background. And the varied examples of picture books throughout the text will help homes and classrooms build their own libraries with rich and diverse stories.


Review by Kristin Wald


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Seashells: More Than a Home

April 15th, 2019 · Books

SEASHELLS: MORE THAN A HOME by Melissa Stewart is a detailed and informative picture book appropriate for reading aloud and for children who enjoy learning about nature and science on their own.  As the title suggests, the pages share the myriad ways seashells serve the creatures that live within them. With two sets of text, one version in larger print and another with more detail in smaller print, this is a book that will grow and continue to entertain over time.

Children will marvel at the travel, strength, protection, and usefulness different seashells provide. The illustrations, by Sarah S. Brannen, are creative accompaniments to the text, and they often use comparisons to other animals to highlight the abilities of seashells. Portrayals of various sea creatures like scallops, oysters, and more show action and emotion artistically without anthropomorphizing in a cartoonish manner.

The main text of the book is followed by an explanation of different kinds of seashells, as well as an author’s note and an illustrator’s note.  We are confident that Seashells: More Than a Home will be a beloved addition to any bookshelf or collection. Highly recommended.


Review by Kristin Wald

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Bambino and Mr. Twain

April 10th, 2019 · Books

BAMBINO AND MR. TWAIN by P.I. Maltbie is beautiful picture book about a journey through the grieving process, helped along by a sympathetic cat. It uses language and scenes that younger readers will find accessible and even relatable. With gorgeous collage-influenced pictures by Daniel Miyares, the moody, rich tones of the beginning of the story slowly give way to the brighter colors of spring and finding motivation to heal from grief. Aimed at ages 5-8, we believe Bambino and Mr. Twain could work for slightly older readers as well.

More text-heavy than many early elementary picture books, this story of a cat’s companionship, and the sudden loss thereof, will appeal to children who have a special stuffed animal or house-pet. All through a sad winter following the death of Samuel Clemens’ wife Livy, the family cat Bambino sits with him and mourns with him. And it is a sudden departure on Bambino’s part that prompts an end to Clemens’ self-imposed exile from society.

Lovers of literary trivia will enjoy the storyline as it explains how Samuel Clemens began wearing white suits as well as anecdotal background on his daughters and home life. The author’s note at the end of the book reiterates the storyline in condensed form and provides additional detail about Clemens’ relationship, both working and personal, with his wife.

Overall, Bambino and Mr. Twain is a lovely picture book that addresses the difficult topic of loss and mourning without falling into morbidity or a saccharin approach that condescends to the reader. Highly recommended.


Review by Kristin Wald

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Beyond Words: What Elephants and Whales Think and Feel

April 7th, 2019 · Books

BEYOND WORDS: What Elephants and Whales Think and Feel is new adaptation of Carl Safina’s 2015 bestselling book is aimed at younger readers, ages 10-14. The first half is devoted to the Lives of Elephants, and the second to Killer Whales, or Orcas. Thankfully, the adaptation doesn’t oversimplify the descriptions or the topics, and the volume (the first of two) maintains the balance of deep research and loving observation.

The first part of the book, Lives of Elephants, includes topics like family, play, grief, and communication. Using dialogue and a journalistic style of pondering questions and then answering them based on observation will appeal to young readers and reluctant readers. While not image-heavy, the photos includes are wonderful and emphasize elephant generations and the people who work to help them.

Part two, Killer Whales, includes sections of the social lives of Orcas as well as singing and sonar, as well as the effects of captivity on the animals. The section “Defying Explanation” is especially interesting, and it is sure to prompt conversation amongst readers. As with the first section, while there are not many photos, they are well-chosen and suit the text.

Beyond Words is readable, informational, and interesting volume is highly recommended for children interested in animals in the wild. The conversational and journal entry style also lends itself well to reading aloud, which is a wonderful way for families to connect over a shared interest.

Review by Kristin Wald

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